+1 increase in trailer hauling

I am now tucked into a Motel 6 in Tennessee for the night. I left Base Camp on December 31 and have been making my way slowly west since then. The adventure began with a stop for a blanket fort party in Virginia for New Year’s Eve. Then down 95 to North Carolina to visit my godson, finally meet his younger brother, and catch up with my old college roomie. This afternoon I left them and headed due west on I-40. Memphis and a childhood friend are my goal, but since I have the Vardo in tow the going has been slow and nerve wracking. I made it a little less than half way before stopping for the night.

Mostly I am thankful that the Jeep and Vardo survived the Smoky Mountains Crossing! I definitely found myself chanting “I think I can” in a zen-like mantra as we slowly chugged our way over the tops of the steepest ridges.

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Really, I think I’d like to update my Official Gypsy Scorecard after today’s drive…

I am docking myself
-2 for poor route scheduling. Why did I think it was a good idea to cross the mountains in the rainy darkness?

But awarding myself
+1 increase in trailer hauling skills
+1 in aimless wandering, unlocking power of the snail with her home on her back
And
+1 in climb every mountain, because I had to take this route in order to visit as many friends as possible and they are totally worth it!!

So overall I’d say it was an adventure well accomplished.

I did consider sleeping in the vardo for the first time tonight…but I didn’t really “move in” I just loaded up, and I don’t even have a mattress for the platform yet. Plus these rooms are once again made possible by the generous support of Bill Hession and his Christmas gift of guilt free hotel glory! So instead I will be enjoying a night of grainy motel room tv and an itty-bitty shampoo bottle spa.

Gratefully yours from the road,

Aeri

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road-dog routines

After a long winter at home, I can see the road beckoning on the horizon, and my little heart goes pitter-patter with excitement.

I have spent seven months straight at Mamma Bear Base Camp this year, a practical eternity to a hopeless wanderer, and as the end of my stay draws near I feel the need to take a moment to reflect philosophically on the emotional roller-coaster  I have ridden.

Sometime in early June I arrived home fresh from a successful show season on the road, elated with the new developments, bursting with plans to conquer, and a little nostalgic for the thought of spending some quality time with family and friends.

Yet by the end of September the daily grind of normalcy was starting to take its toll. My part-time office job was pounding out new linear paths in the artistic labyrinth of my mind. Reconnecting with friends meant a parade of well dressed, first apartment-ed, newly wed, career focused fine upstanding young adults marching past. I even began to experience a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I could be one of those be-suited socialites. Should I be striving to become a well-coiffed, demurely mature, subtly fierce young professional, shattering glass ceilings with a single spreadsheet? Perhaps. I gave it some serious consideration. I brushed off my resume and rattled off a few cover letters.

My exciting life of art and travel seemed so foreign and alien so quickly that not even the arrival of my long awaited vardo could reconnect me with the colorful fairy I loved to be. It sat awkwardly in our suburban driveway, squat and bright with its purple walls and orange trim, and dared me to remember who I was.

vardo

The memories came back slowly. The disconnect was real. Days of khaki slacks and office coffee, car payments and the thought of real estate had made an adult out of me.

Then I woke up this morning and I could practically smell the wild sage and desert sand of Arizona. I found myself craving a WaWa Sandwich…a staple of highway nourishment.  I found I could actually focus on the thought of packing, an insurmountable mental block just a few days earlier.  I mapped my route and learned I had not one but two of my best friends directly en route and simply demanding a visit.

This is the balance I fight to maintain. When I am on the road I love so much about it. The color, the energy, the new friends I meet and the adventures and misadventures I have . But I miss my old friends. I experience such hiraeth; longing for a return to my college days when all my closest friends lived just around the corner. But those days are gone. My friends, fierce young professionals that they are, have carved niches out for themselves all over the world.

But for me at least, perhaps they are still just around the corner. It is just that my neighborhood has gotten a whole lot larger. A trip around the block lasts from late January to early June and takes me on a lap around the continental United States. A visit across town is more like a journey across the ocean and a crash reunion with ex-pats and euro-rats.

I know it won’t always be like this. So until the day that I find my own niche to carve out, I’ll just stay happy with my endless wandering, and content myself with my road-dog routines.

Here’s to stale coffee and sandwiches. To counting the miles, singing out your heartbreak and happiness to the open road, and going crazy one white line at a time.

Until the day we can all be together again,

~Aeri

vardo-a-go-go!

The Vardo. It is happening!!!

In one of the more absurd maneuvers of my life (so far), I have decided to trade Alice, the Jeep Cherokee, with a lovely little Rennie couple in Texas; in exchange for a fully built road worthy vardo!

 

If you’re new here, to catch you up to speed, here are some definitions you might need to know in order to understand the above sentence.

– vardo – n. a wagon first used by french circus folk in the 1800’s and later adopted by the Romani culture. See example below.

– Rennie- n. a name, endearingly coined by the culture itself, given to those employees of Renaissance Festivals.  Renaissance Worker was shortened to “rennie” to mimic the slang term for a carnival worker- “carnie”.

Now, I first pitched this beautiful vardo concept in an earlier post titled “Home Sweet Home?” And like anyone could have guessed, our four months to work on the project quickly turned to three, then two, then dwindled fearfully to one month. Would the vardo get shelved for another year? There would be no way to build it on the road.  woe’s me!

But wait! Fear not! There are other Rennies, experienced in the art of traditional vardo construction, and just hankerin’ for a little Jeep of their own! So with great excitement the planning has begun.  Check out our initial sketches! Very Professional, no?

Aerial view of the vardo interior
Aerial view of the vardo interior
Side view, with display shelves "opened"
Side view, with display shelves “opened”

 

So Exciting!!!

 

~Aeri

 

a very coleman thanksgiving

I know it’s a little late, but I had such a wonderful Thanksgiving this year that I just have to share it!

What's on the burner now?
What’s on the burner now?

I spent Thanksgiving in Todd Mission, Texas with my good friends Noelle and Al.  Noelle is another wonderful traveler who is touring the country with the most delightful little vardo in tow. To find out more about her story, you should really visit her blog- A Life Fantastic.

This was our first Thanksgiving as “adults;” and by that I mean, we weren’t with family, watching the game with the men, wrestling with cousins or dogs, and waiting for our grandma/aunt/mother to ring the dinner bell.  We were the chefs! Well, Al and Noelle were the chefs. I brought a case of beer, some carrots, and an eager appetite.

When I arrived I was first greeted by Tiny Puppy.  Cooper, a seven week old Australian Shepherd, is a tiny grey ball of cute.  A few more steps and I was in the living room: a tarped over space between their amazing vardo and their kitchen tent, complete with fat white Christmas lights,  an outdoor carpet and a camping couch.  There, I was greeted by Noelle and Al and given a culinary tour.  The warm scent of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air around us.  “That would be the pies.” Noelle said.

Pies?

This thing can heat like a convection oven! See the tiny pies inside? Yum!
This thing can heat like a convection oven! See the tiny pies inside? Yum!

Pies.

With only a Coleman two burner propane camping stove, and a toaster oven they put together a complete Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m talking turkey, stuffing, gravy, corn, carrots, cranberry jelly, rolls, mashed potatoes, AND home-made pumpkin pies.

All of the Things!
All of the Things!

I have a feeling that these two are amazing cooks anywhere, but they really proved that those little stoves are good for more than reheating Spaghetti-O’s and re-hydrating space food.  While the pies continued to bake in the toaster, Al prepared the turkey with fresh herbs and spices.  Then, while the turkey cooked we used the stove to make creamy mashed potatoes, buttery corn, fluffy stuffing, brown sugar glazed carrots, and gravy. Sorry gravy, ran out of adjectives. The scents shifted tantalizingly through the spectrum until finally the turkey was ready.  The rolls were thrown into the oven for a moment while the turkey basked in it’s own juices.  And then, only then, did Al deem Things Ready.

Cutting the roast like a pro.
Cutting the roast like a pro.

And boy was it good! It was amazing!

It was the best way to spend an evening with friends.

It drove home once again how thankful I am for the opportunity to live the life I do, with all its travelling. And it gave me a new chance to be thankful for good friends and warm homes, whatever the home may look like.

 

And thank you, to everyone who reads this blog. I hope you continue to get as much joy out of reading it as I get out of writing it.

 

Thank you!!

 

~Aeri

Buon Appetite!
Buon appetite!

home sweet home?

For my next trick, I’ll be taking you on a bit of a different kind of adventure. Things have been going pretty well for my costume boutique, Reincarnation Outfitters, and it’s time to consider some permanent (sort of) display space.  Up until now we’ve worked mostly out of a 10 x 10 easy up, which happened to blow away and turn itself into a taco/squished spider at our last event (Pennsic War, if you were wondering).

Do not neglect to stake and weight your easy-ups as soon as you put them up. They are easy-downs too. And easy-cartwheel-across-the-fields.

We still used it, don’t worry! But it forced us to consider the image we were sending by working with such a standard piece of equipment.  Most of the well traveled professionals use beautiful, sturdy, canvas and wood beam tents. Tents that run upwards of $3,000 and require the strength of several strong men to set up and take down.

You may have noticed, I am not a strong man.  Nor are there several of me.  So while I knew these beautiful Panther Tents were an option, I just didn’t think they were the option for me.

What I did think was-  Gypsy Wagon!!!!

Here’s an example of how cute they can be!

Officially termed “vardo” by the Romani who adopted them, these colorful, sturdy, wagons were used by the traveler cultures in the 1900’s.  But even before that, French circus folk used them in the early 1800’s. It is where they lived, set up stages, and sold their wares.  Now that is something I think I can get into!

The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. I talked to my Stepfather (Jeff), an extremely skilled carpenter; and he had even more ideas than I did. But between the two of us we agreed: a vardo is just what I need.

We will build one with a living space and storage spaces inside, and a false wall along one side that can open up into a sizeable display space with clothing racks and shelves.  I could set it up by myself, it wouldn’t blow away in a storm, and a retractable awning could provide additional coverage on rainy days.

With the winter almost upon us, I have landed at home with almost four months before I hit the road again. A lifetime by traveler standards.  So this winter, follow along as we build a colorful home for a fickle fairy artist like myself.

Tataa!

~Aeri