Camper Update #3

Holy moly I’m so disappointed in myself for taking so long to update. Sheesh! Every single time I do this and I never learn. Things with the camper didn’t go as planned so it made it hard to want to update. But just because they didn’t go as planned and it was really frustrating on so many occasions it was still an incredible experience and I loved it. I thought that I was going to be more hands on in the renovating process but it ended up being way beyond what I could do. This is mainly because it needed to be gutted so it took a skilled handyman to be able to get it back just to walls and a floor. Now that it’s at this stage I can get to work, building and learning and making plenty of mistakes. I documented some of what the camper went through to get to this point but not as well as I would have liked. Like I said, I wasn’t very involved, it was mainly my dad and our handyman, Randy, working extremely hard and running around town every day trying to get all the parts and get everything in working order. I have never been a fan of the “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong” mentality but it seemed every step of this process gave us trouble. And I really had my heart set on leaving Orlando by the end of April so being in a time crunch did not help. I had a camper kick off gathering at Mead Botanical Garden in Orlando on the 25th. I have no photos!? But it meant so much to me. I should snag some photos from other people and do a post about it. The plan was to leave Orlando on the 25th, camper in tow, and head to south Florida to visit with Blake’s family for a couple days before taking off. But the camper still needed a couple days of work on the 25th so my mom, stepdad Ryan and I headed to Blake’s without it. It was a short but wonderful visit. I planned a very last minute meet-up in Fort Lauderdale and wasn’t going to be surprised if no one showed due to the lack of notice and threatening storm clouds but I was so very happy to meet and get to know the handful of people that came to hang with me and my mom. We sat under a pavilion in Snyder Park and painted mini terra cotta pots and planted some zinnias in them. We got back to Orlando on Tuesday and tried to leave but the camper wasn’t ready until too late in the day so we decided we’d leave the next morning. But just before I was going to bed my dad wanted to take the camper for a drive around the block just to see how it felt and when we hooked it up to my Subaru the lights didn’t work, extremely frustrating considering they worked earlier that same day. My dad took it to Uhaul at 7:30 the next morning to get fixed and he was there until 3:30 with no progress and finally took it to another place. It took all day but the camper was ready to go by 5:00 and even though it was late in the day we still left town because I was too anxious to wait any longer. I had planned on taking my time through Florida but since the camper still needs so much more work we had to head straight to Pensacola. My grandparents live here and my grandpa’s garage is his workshop with all the tools we’ll need to build out the inside of my home on wheels.

So I started this update May 3rd and today is May 13th. How has it only been 10 days?! Feels like weeks. I don’t feel like I properly thanked my dad for helping me get the camper ready to leave town. He had new wheel wells built and reinforced the trailer. He also had a storage box built to sit on the bumper I’m not sure where I would have stored anything without it. Since I’m having a hard time recalling everything that was done to get the camper ready and I definitely can’t remember the order in which things happened I’m going to caption all the photos instead of trying to sum everything up at once. Also, my “underwater” camera broke when I took it underwater… so I’m currently camera-less so iPhone photos will have to do for a little bit.

We spent a couple days in Pensacola visiting with my grandparents. We unloaded the camper into their garage which was a decently difficult job considering all the pallet boards we hauled with us. After a couple days there we realized we didn’t have all the tools we needed to get the job done (or started rather) so we drove to my uncle’s houseboat/barge in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The bottom floor of his home is a fully equipped workshop so we parked the camper in his driveway and were ready to get to work. I’m in absolute awe of what my uncle has created.

So, it’s June 2nd?! Haha okay. I’m not even going to try to continue with one long blog post, it’s been too long and we’ve done too much. But the most important part of this is to let ya’ll know my plan. Even though we finished building out the camper it’s still not done. I wasn’t really ready to do meet ups without the camper finished. We were overpacked so it was always cluttered and I haven’t decorated it or built the shop. I’m spending the month of June in Summit County and while I’m here I’ve got a ton of work to do (in between hiking of course). I need to get all the business parts of the camper in order, work on new merchandise, finish decorating the camper and make an itinerary for the summer. I’m going to be on the road July and August and I’ll post where I’ll be and when. I think most of the meet ups will be at campgrounds, where we can hang out, make campfire meals, craft and get to know each other. And if you guys want to camp at the same campground that would be awesome! Then I’ll come back to Colorado for a couple months and then go back on the road for an extended period of time. I know it seems like I’ve just been traveling and not doing meet ups which is what I have been doing haha but it’s just because the meet-up part of this adventure hasn’t started yet.
Anyway! Here are some photos though I’m missing so many moments I wish I’d captured.

I do want to do a more detailed post about the camper build out which hopefully I’ll actually do when I get some photos from my mom.

Ripping out all the old wood and all fiber glass insulation. I knew I shouldn’t let it touch my skin but I couldn’t quite bring myself to wear sleeves in Florida heat so… I just dealt with the rash.

DSC_7223Handyman Randy helping me pick out which wood we should use for the floor of the camper.DSC_7259Gutted! I did most of the wall removal, Randy cut the floor out and my dad scrubbed down the walls with some bleach. The bottom floor layer you see here was similar to particle board, it was pretty rotted so we replaced it with those sheets of fake bathroom tile, pretty lightweight and water resistant.DSC_7260

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DSC_7282Picking where I want lights and outlets to go. This part was intimidating!DSC_7284

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DSC_7289Testing stains. I thought I’d stain most of the pallet boards but I ended up loving them how they were but still used the few boards I tested. DSC_7295My dad and I sanded as much rust off the metal trailer frame as we could and painted it with rustoleum. DSC_7301Some of the nails harvested from the pallet boards.DSC_7353My younger brother, Connor, helping me with the pallet boards. His help meant so much to me! DSC_7356I attempted to polish all the aluminum trim with a Dremel tool bit which proved to be extremely difficult. It appeared to be working but it was hard to get it consistent. And what was worse than the trim were all the screw heads which were rusted almost black. I don’t know anything about anything so chances are I was going about this all wrong but I came up with what seemed would be a decent solution. I taped off all the windows and spray painted all the trim with metal primer and then sprayed it with rustoleum silver aluminum metal spray. I was pretty happy with the outcome, it’s chipped in a few places already but otherwise it’s okay. DSC_7360

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DSC_7363Keeping me company while I work.DSC_7515

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IMG_1624Replacing all the window screens.IMG_1631Bunk #1! This bunk was Connor’s idea and I love it. Two of the bunks are decently hidden, which was the goal. I want the store to be the main focus and have it be pretty open on the inside. IMG_1659Pressure washed the camper before painting it, removing almost all the old teal paint. IMG_1618Dad removing rust from the roof of the camper.IMG_1677Was very thankful to have my dad, brothers and Blake help me paint the camper. We were in a super rush so it’s not as perfect as I’d like but it was awesome to get it done and have help. I’d love to get it professionally painted one day but I can’t afford it at the moment but if this turns out being something I do for a long time I definitely hope to get it done.IMG_1701

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IMG_1723A little bit of a tight fit getting the camper into the warehouse to paint.IMG_1724Finally used my scroll saw again! Working on some display pieces for the camper shop.IMG_1235Blake’s momma and my momma.IMG_1777

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IMG_1794Fort Lauderdale meet up :) IMG_1808

IMG_1810Last minute Ikea trip. IMG_1820What the inside of the camper looked like when we left Orlando -_- hahaha way overloaded and totally unfinished.IMG_1826

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IMG_1860Good coffee and vegan food in Pensacola at End of the Line Cafe.IMG_1864Pensacola dog beachIMG_1901

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IMG_1918Gulf Shores! The hottest, muggiest, buggiest place we’ve been but I can not put into words how much I enjoyed building out the camper at my Uncle’s. IMG_1927

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IMG_2007We left the windows open in the camper overnight and it appears we had a visitor.IMG_2009

IMG_2014 1Sketching and planning.IMG_2021

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IMG_2038Took apart the pallet boards, removed the nails, sanded the boards, split the boards with a bandsaw to reduce weight, cut them to fit with a jigsaw, wood glued and screwed. Hardest part by far of the camper build out but the part I’m most proud of. IMG_2052

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IMG_2089More dirt than tan.IMG_2097

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IMG_2137Testing some ideas for the floor.IMG_2133

IMG_2135Building bunk #2, this one folds up to the wall. IMG_2136

IMG_2138Back to Pensacola for another meet up.IMG_2142

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IMG_2154I had so much fun this day! Met some wonderful people and Rosalina and Jordan surprised me!IMG_2251After Pensacola we headed straight to Louisville to pick up Rhianna, a friend from New Zealand. We’ve known each other for years online but this was our first time meeting and her first US trip! We picked her up on the 12th and she’s been hanging with us since. IMG_2185

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IMG_2195We camped at a darling campsite halfway between Louisville and Lexington Kentucky. For some reason the only photo I took is one of the pups out the camper window? IMG_2207We drove over to Lexington to spend the day with an old friend, her boyfriend and her beyond precious baby boy. I love her and her little one and I’m so happy I got to spend some time with them. IMG_2235

IMG_2241Somewhere in Kentucky picnic.IMG_2260

IMG_2257Asheville! I went to twitter and asked if anyone in Asheville had a place the camper could live in for a couple days and a lovely human, Nancy, told us we were welcome in her driveway. We were so excited to find Rosetta’s Kitchen, a late night delicious and affordable vegan option in Asheville.IMG_2286

IMG_2285Short hike to some waterfalls outside of Asheville, North Carolina. IMG_2289Sliding Rock! It wasn’t open for the season yet but you could still slide down it, which I did… twice. Dang cold and so much fun.IMG_2294

IMG_2295Climbing wall in Nancy’s garage!IMG_2318

IMG_2321Spent the second half of the day getting a tour of Asheville from Nancy. She took us to White Duck Taco Shop, one of my favorite meals of the trip so far. IMG_2325Fascinated by The Spoon LadyIMG_2328

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IMG_2351From Asheville to Nashville. First stop is almost always the dog park. IMG_2385

IMG_2387I was so excited to find out that my friend Michael was visiting Nashville while we were there. He was staying with my friend Chris and Chris’s wife, Alyce, both absolutely wonderful people. I loved getting to catch up with all of them. Alyce and Chris were generous enough to let us park outside of their charming house for a couple days and one morning Alyce brought us vegan muffins?! IMG_2400

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IMG_2434Not sure which was more entertaining, watching my mom figure out line dances as they were happening or watching her pose with corny horse decor. Loved both. IMG_2462After watching my mom have a blast line dancing we quickly made our way over to Two Boots for some vegan pizza before they closed. We were walking through the parking lot and I was absolutely smitten with this VW that was parked there when the girls inside seemed just as excited to see us as I was to see their van. They said they’d just been talking about how they were bummed I didn’t do a Nashville meet up haha, they were adorable and awesome and I was so happy to have met them. Hopefully I’ll see them later in the summer when I come back through! IMG_2470

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IMG_2475Rhianna capturing golden Melon moments.IMG_2463

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IMG_2495We picked up another traveler! Hi Caitlin, here’s a Melon for your lap!IMG_2506After driving north to pick up Rhianna and Caitlin we headed back to Gulf Shores to finish building out the camper. The pups had to spend most of the time in the house because snakes and gators lurk in the water. For being so well behaved my mom treated them to some peanut butter pup ice cream. IMG_2522Burritos and margaritas after an absolutely exhausting work day.IMG_2538Momma working on potting the plants while I build the plant shelf.IMG_2565 1

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My uncle and his wife, Teri, recently added a bee box to their list of awesome projects. I could never really thank them for providing me with the opportunity to finish my camper but I made some little wooden bees to put on their bee box as a thank you. IMG_2594

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IMG_2614After a couple brutal and fun days of camper work in Gulf Shores we headed over to Fontainebleau State Park where Rosalina and Jordan treated us to a campsite and joined us for a campfire dinner. It felt like the first real night of camper camping and got me so excited for when I finally get camper stuff figured out. IMG_2636Snagged this photo of the camper from Caitlin.IMG_2682Hanging in New Orleans with mom, Rhianna, Caitlin and Rosalina.IMG_2640I don’t have any photos but before leaving New Orleans we went to Rosalina’s house and Jordan gave me a haircut and Rosalina dyed my hair. I’m so excited about having them as friends! We left New Orleans late that afternoon and headed to Baton Rouge to get dinner with my mom’s cousin and his partner. Right as we were pulling up to dinner we noticed the lights on the camper were out. Earlier that day Jordan had pointed out to me that the bottom part of the camper hook up plug in thing was damaged because it was mounted too low and by the time we got to Baton Rouge all the wires had been severed. We backtracked to New Orleans in the morning to a Uhaul that had the correct part on hand and could replace it. As soon as that was fixed we started to work our way to Colorado. We only got as far as Shreveport, Louisiana when a pretty bad storm rolled in. The sky turned black so quickly and the wind picked up and we ran inside a gas station with the pups right as the storm hit. We camped out in the bathroom with the pups for about an hour and a half as the worst part of the storm rolled through (a tornado hit like 15 miles away). I got caught with the pups and had to put them back in the car. We ended up spending the night in the parking lot there that night. IMG_2782

IMG_2801We made it to Denver on the afternoon of the 27th and went straight to Strange Grounds, a dog friendly coffee shop I adore on Broadway. I had requested a favor from my friend Madi to help me put on a little birthday surprise for Rhianna. Madi and I became friends last summer and I’m hoping she’ll join me on the next leg of the camper adventure, she’s an exceptional friend and artist. Madi and her friend Brooke decorated this little corner of the shop with the cutest decorations! (another thing I don’t have photos of -_-)IMG_2860

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IMG_2866After coconut macaroons and brownie bites we went to Madi and Brooke’s apartment to dye my mom’s hair. IMG_2879Some stunning flowers in my cousin Rob and his wife Robyn’s yard. I stay with them whenever I’m in Denver and having them close to Summit County is such a big part as to why Colorado is starting to feel like home. Rob is my mom’s first cousin and I never knew him or his wife growing up and I’m so so happy we’ve changed that. IMG_2896Denver Crema Coffee House, in love!IMG_2950Drove up to Estes Park to see the Stanley Hotel, didn’t expect to see so many elk!IMG_3024The drive through Rocky Mountain National Park was unreal. The road had been closed earlier that day but I thought we should drive as far as we could just for fun and when we got to the gates of the park we found out they’d opened the road an hour before we got there. The entrance fee was $20 or $40 for an annual pass so I went ahead and bought the annual pass, I’ll be back!IMG_3182

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IMG_3107The next morning Caitlin, my mom and I woke up at 4:45 am so we could grab some voodoo doughnuts before taking Caitlin to the airport. Sad to say goodbye :(IMG_3197Melon knew we were going to the Breckenridge dog park from blocks away.IMG_3229Gordo, my new 115 lb friend.IMG_3234Loveland PassIMG_3304

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One of these days I’ll be better at documenting!

Camper update #2

One crazy week since my last update. It feels as if I haven’t stopped moving. A couple times a day I break for food and watch an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and then get right back to work. I’d like to be on the road by the end of April and there’s so much that needs to be done between then and now. I’m in a much better mind set now than when I was writing my last update. I’m extremely excited by our plans and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks of working to make everything come together.

We continued to gut the inside. Nothing comes out easy. Blake and I managed to get the kitchenette out and then Blake and my brother got the benches and shelves out. I harvested the stove and the sink. I won’t be using them for this project but they’re too dang cute to toss. And even though the “refrigerator” had a cute door it was worthless and so it had to be thrown out. I also kept some of the hardware. We filled my dad’s entire truck bed with camper guts. My dad, Randy, had handyman Randy come over and take the floor out. I wish I could do all these steps myself but when I tell my dad I want to he just tells me I’m being hard headed and why not let someone do it who knows what they’re doing. And he’s right but I just want to make sure that I’m taking note and learning so in the future I could do these things myself. It was better for Randy to take the floor out because we needed to keep the stringers (2x4s supporting the floor) intact and he knew about where they’d be placed and cut around them. I bought a couple wire brush drill attachments to get some of the rust off the outside and make the aluminum look better. The bits work well but it’s going to be a long day doing all the trim. We only practiced on a small section but I’ll get out there and do the whole thing in a couple days. I thought that I was going to sand the curved walls and ceiling and paint them but when I started sanding I noticed that there was damage on every panel so we may as well replace all of them. We found wood at home depot that’s flexible enough to use in it’s place. So in order to replace the walls that meant the existing walls had to come out. I under estimated how difficult it would be, not realizing these walls were tucked behind the adjacent walls, and I went out there sort of unprepared but determined. Even though it was hot out I should have worn sleeves because my skin did not like the insulation that was hiding behind those walls. There were a couple times that big sheets of the insulation would fall on top of me after ripping a wood panel from the ceiling. And I wore a dust mask but I should have coughed up the money for a better quality one because after getting those walls out my throat was itchy and sore. But ripping all that out was extremely satisfying. And the biggest plus to taking those walls out is now we know where our support boards are so we won’t have any problems making sure the new furniture is secured in place. We also have to take the other two walls out which I’ll probably do tomorrow. This also gives us access to the electric which allows us to move any light fixtures if I want to. I have to have all the walls and any lingering debris out of the way by Tuesday because Randy is coming back over to put in the new walls. Hopefully he won’t mind if I assist him and learn. The two walls that have rounded corners but don’t actually curve, those are going to become reclaimed wood walls! After Randy puts new wood on I’ll paint them a dark color to prep them for pallet wood. Yesterday my brother and I spent a couple hours tearing apart some pallets. It was so much harder than I thought it would be. All the nails are threaded and rusty which makes them extremely difficult to pry out without splitting the wood. We were able to salvage about 60 boards. We figure I’ll need about 100 but I’ll fill in the rest with wood from Home Depot and I think I’ll still get the same effect, if not we can salvage some more boards. Before working on the pallets with my brother, my dad and I dropped the trailer off at David’s Trailers to get a new axle and electric brakes installed. It was hopefully my biggest expense (besides the trailer) but one that wasn’t optional and I’ll feel so much better towing the camper knowing we have that. I just noticed I spelled brakes wrong 5 times in my previous post?! Breaks!? Ugh. Anyway, we were able to pick the camper up today and so it’s back in my driveway ready for more work.

I’ve also spent a ton of time this week shopping for supplies. Even though I’m not leaving for 6-8 weeks I want to have everything ready to go as soon as possible. In order for me to be able to really focus on art for the camper I need everything else out of the way otherwise it’s going to clutter my mind and distract me. I think I’ll be able to store a majority of my supplies in my Outback which is exciting because that means the camper will be able to have a more open floor plan. I’ve been buying different storage containers and testing them out to see which ones are the best fit. I referenced an RV packing list online and I’ve been buying everything from tissues to lighters to pots and pans. I’ve still got quite a bit more to pick up but it’s a good start. My to-do list for this weekend includes ripping out the final two walls, sanding and staining all the pallet wood and buying the rest of my packing list and organizing it. I’m going to hold off on packing clothes and toiletries until the end but it’s not too early to have everything else organized and ready to load into the car and camper.

I’ve got plans for the layout of the inside but I’m going to hold off on sharing those since my sketches are sloppy and there are some elements that I want to keep a surprise. I’ll still be posting plenty though :)

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Walking through the garden department for inspiration is a must.

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Organizing/packing all my art supplies for craft meet ups!

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Thanks for reading these update posts. I know they don’t flow very well, it’s not very easy for me to explain and recap everything. Hopefully these posts will get more interesting as the renovations continue.

Camper update #1

March 5, 2015 I got home last week after spending a month in Philadelphia with Sam. I had planned on doing a lot of art and camper sketches while I was there but surprise surprise, I didn’t -_-. I did one drawing and a lot of brainstorming, better than nothing I suppose. As soon as I got home I started working on filling beanie orders and I just finished up yesterday so I was finally able to get out and work on the camper. I’m slightly bummed about how today went so it’s hard to write this but I know I need to. First thing I did was take out all the curtains and cushions and open all the windows. It currently smells pretty stale so I need to work on getting rid of the stinky. All but one of the windows open. I ripped the carpet out and since I couldn’t get the rusted screws to budge on the toilet I ripped that out too. If this camper was solely for traveling/camping then I’d leave all the amenities in but since it needs to have a little shop in it some things have to go to make room. This also means taking out the wall for the bathroom. My Uncle Mike came over today, he’s a carpenter/handyman (can answer all my obnoxious questions), to look at it and advise me on changes I want to make. I told him I wanted to take the bathroom wall out and he just attacked it and had it out within an hour. I didn’t realize that the wall was so flimsy. I told him I wanted to save it in case I ever wanted to put it back in but now that it’s out and I realize how unstable it is I’ll probably toss it.  Before I throw it out I’m going to trace it so that we have the curvature of the wall in case we need anything else to fit that curve. Mike also helped me get the propane hooked up and the gas stove works perfectly. After Mike left, my dad and I went to the tag office downtown and we were able to get a tag for the camper! Ahhh, it’s so exciting to leave the DMV and have accomplished what you went there for. After that we went to Napa auto parts with some trailer questions. My subaru is able to tow up to 1,100 lbs without trailer brakes and up to 2,700 with trailer brakess. The camper is probably close to 1,000 lbs now so having brakes installed is a must. Napa couldn’t help us so we went to Northern Tool and they carry all the supplies we will need to add brakes. Parts plus labor will probably come to about $600. I didn’t make any purchases today, just scoped it out. We continued to work for a couple hours after we got home. We were told that the refrigerator was a propane refrigerator so we left the propane on for a couple hours waiting to see if it was in working condition. We were careful and didn’t smell any leaking gas. A couple hours passed and it wasn’t cooling so I turned the propane off and lit one of the gas burners to burn off whatever was left. Part of why I loved this camper was the charm of the kitchenette, all of the original appliances are in it and they’re teal and adorable. I was under the impression it was all working, I think the guy who sold it to us was too. So when I continued my refrigerator investigation to discover it’s not a refrigerator at all I was quite disappointed! It’s just a cooler, it connects to absolutely nothing. It has a small condensation drain and that’s it. That was bummer #1, bummer #2 was when we tried to fill the water tank and the inside of the camper flooded quite a bit. We went through a bit of trouble to disconnect the water tank, we wanted to see if the leak was on the bottom of the tank. We get it out and there’s no leak which means the leak must be somewhere on the copper piping. When we tried to get the copper pipe out the nut would not budge, everything is so old and rusted into place. All of today’s discoveries/learning curves are part of the project and overall nothing was too terrible but just the combination of things not working, a couple minor injuries (both Mike and my dad cut themselves and there’s little bits of blood splatter in the camper which is a bit unsettling haha and I whacked my head real good on the corner of the cabinet) and the current state of the camper was enough to discourage me a bit. This morning the camper was cute and now it looks like a total wreck. I’m actually going to wait and post this tomorrow so I can get a photo of the inside in the daylight. I think the biggest bummer at the moment is it’s seeming like we’re going to end up gutting the whole thing and the reason we didn’t get the cuter Shasta camper in Hampton, Georgia was because it was gutted and I was too intimidated to take on a totally blank canvas. But the tear drop shape of the one we ended up not getting was significantly cuter! I love the old shastas. I like the one I have now too but I don’t think the outside is as charming but I’ll work on it! I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to take the kitchen out but it’s looking like I probably will. March 6, 2015: I got up this morning and went straight to work in the camper. It needed to be cleaned and organized before anything else could be done. I forgot to mention it in yesterday’s post but when we were investigating the plumbing we found a rat’s nest in the cabinet below the sink. It was only visible once we had pulled out the drawer so that’s why we hadn’t seen it before. I’m not very squeamish but the smell was repulsive to me. I just used a shop vac to clean it up. After I cleaned up the camper a bit I attempted to take the kitchen out. I decided last night that it wasn’t worth keeping in. I started with the connecting wall that was the bathroom wall. I took out all the screws but wasn’t able to get the wall to move because of the raised flooring for the bathroom. I’m too intimidated to tackle that by myself. It’s where the black water tank is stored and I just want to make sure I do everything correctly. I removed the wooden box that was covering the wheel well. I originally thought that I wouldn’t be replacing a lot of the interior wood but I think I will, even the parts that are in good condition like this box still smell old and stale. I spent a long time trying to get all the screws out of the kitchenette, they were hard to get to since they are inside of the cabinets. A couple days ago when I first started working on the camper I realized I had to make a trip to Ace Hardware for a drill bit. Almost the entire camper is built using 5/32 clutch screws. I wasn’t able to reach the screws behind the propane stove and I’m not sure how to properly disconnect the propane (I think I know but it’s too risky to not be 100% sure) so I’m going to wait and be shown how to disconnect the propane then I’ll have to remove the stove to be able to get the last couple screws out. After my failed attempt to single-handedly remove the kitchenette I just sat on the bench near the door and stared at the camper trying to figure out what I’m going to do to it. It’s nearly a blank canvas! It’s intimidating but exciting. It’s important to me to have at least two bunks, three if I can figure out a way, as well as quite a bit of counter space. One of the most important parts of this journey is documenting so I need to be able to easily set up my computer and scrapbook and work without feeling crammed. The rest of my evening will be spent brainstorming, sketching and looking at other campers trying to get ideas of what I want to build. Expenses: Camper: $2,000.00 Gas to and from Georgia: $143.25 Drill bits & face masks: $9.14 Tag and registration: $312.00 Running total: $2,464.39

istopmotion_392730944_56 Cleaning out the roof window/vent

IMG_9910  Mike taking the bathroom wall out

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camper_332  The box/insulation the cooler was in

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DSC_5617  I looked out of the camper window and saw Melon in a tree

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DSC_5082Plumbing under the sink

DSC_5076  Bathroom wall and “refrigerator”

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The next project… Camper blog no. 1

This is the part I hope you read and then the rest is just all the clutter in my head there for your consumption if you choose:

Ideally I’d like to be on the road in May. I live in Orlando so that will be the starting point and I’ll most likely start with the east coast. I’ll update when things get closer, but I want to start hearing from you guys! I want to hear where to stop, where to hike, where to eat, what to do, etc! Anything that you think is special or intriguing from scenic detours to charming shops to dog friendly coffee shops to local markets or fairs. Or a craft you’d like to do together! I don’t want this to feel like a shop on wheels but more like summer camp on wheels. This is much more about pulling up to a charming park with stuff for pb&js and a bin full of art supplies and having a picnic/craft session with whoever wants to join. Comment and share your ideas and thoughts!

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Continue reading

Apron photo shoot

Photo shoot!
All photos by Sam DeSantis!
Shot with a Canon 5d mrk II and 35mm 1.4

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Photo shoot!
All photos by Sam DeSantis!
So maybe one day I’ll learn to correctly estimate the amount of time and money it will take to bring an idea to life. Just like with the aprons, I totally under estimated what this photo shoot would require. Sam flew down here for two weeks just for the photo shoot and we worked every day and still barely finished. It’s been a while so I don’t really remember what other ideas I had for a photo shoot but this is the one we chose. I had some sketches and some sources of inspiration but for the most part it was something that came together as we went along. We started with painting the backgrounds. We bought some 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and painters tape. Another learning curve, we should have bought the more expensive tape (Frog tape?). I wish I had done some research, I usually don’t buy the more expensive product because I don’t believe that just because it’s pricier means that it’s better but in this case I was told after that it actually does make a huge difference. We painted the boards a cream color then put the tape down. Because I knew the paint would seep under the tape I insisted that we go back and use something sturdy to seal the edges. Using the caps of our chapsticks we rubbed along the edge of the tape. Our wrists still never completely healed from cutting out the iron-on ribcages in 2011 and certain movements, such as this, cause them to get inflamed. Oooooh ouch haha. It hurt but it was worth it because the stripes came out clean. The best part of the photo shoot was picking out all the glass. I love apothecary jars and candy jars. I can’t even recall all the places we went looking for glass pieces. A lot of places carry the same styles so it took a bit of searching to get a variety. TJ Maxx and Marshalls ended up having the most affordable pieces. I bought candy in bulk, I tried to get quite a bit in white so it could be used in all four shoots and then at least one thing in each color scheme. It was a bit tricky to find candy that I liked aesthetically that was also the right color. It was also a bit of a challenge to find twine that matched each color combination but I think the colors we chose turned out nice. We picked up some little die cuts from Joanns to make the tags for all the jars. It took a bit longer than I anticipated decorating each of them. We used Elmer’s glue and painter’s tape to attach all the tags to the glass. We scoured the house for a variety of cardboard boxes and wrapped them in kraft paper, creating levels was a very important part of pulling together the whole set up. One day we spent 13 hours in the kitchen, baking macarons, cakes, and meringues. Once all the pieces were ready it took quite a while to get them how I liked them. We were shooting in natural light and we were moving as quickly as possible to finish before sundown. We would get one set up and as Sam was photographing it I’d be prepping the next color scheme. There were a few mistakes, like with the pink and orange shoot we used black straws and one of them was facing the wrong way and we didn’t realize until after. We ditched the straws after that, I don’t think they looked as nice as I hoped. You learn as you go and in our case we didn’t have time to go back and correct things. It wasn’t until the second color scheme that I learned that I should look through Sam’s camera and go through and tweak everything. Just because it looks good to your eye doesn’t mean the camera sees the same thing. It was hectic and moody and we were running on no sleep but it was a blast. I’m beyond pleased with how this turned out.

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a few iPhone photos
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Aprons!

Aprons!
All photos by Sam DeSantis.
I had no idea when I came up with this project that it would be anywhere near as difficult as it has been. This project has pushed me and tested me. A couple of years ago I was turned on to a site called Kickstarter. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect I wish I had approached my funding differently. My plan was to raise funding to have 100 aprons manufactured, this would require more money than any previous artistic endeavor. I budgeted $20.00 per apron to have them fabricated and so set up my Kickstarter with a goal of $2,000 in 30 days. The response was astounding. My project was %116 funded in the first day. I couldn’t believe it, the support had me in tears. At the time it was still my plan to open a bakery in Orlando and the aprons were part of this vision. I won’t be continuing these aprons though. After these 100 that’s it. If the confectionery does have aprons they will be a new design. There were many design variations and several attempts to reach out to seamstresses. Though it didn’t seem like a good thing at the time, I’m glad hiring a seamstress didn’t work out. I was so naïve and completely oblivious as to how tedious and time consuming my design was. I could never have afforded to pay anyone to produce these. Around fall of last year I was feeling pressure to get this project out of the way since I knew I had to finish it before I could start something else. So I flew Sam down and we got to work expecting it to take a month. A month?! What was I thinking? I made a super rough mock up of the apron, refusing to make a clean and final version because I’m too stubborn, which eventually came back to haunt me and created multiple problems. I wish I had been journaling more throughout the process. We started last October so it makes it a little difficult to recall everything in the right order. And before I get started I have to put super extra emphasis on what an amazing best friend Sam is. I cannot possibly thank her enough. Her help on this project kept me sane. Best ever, seriously. (This thank you is not adequate, I could probably write a novel but I’ll spare you guys) So whenever I refer to we I’m referring to me and Sam (she flew down here multiple times throughout the last year).
Once it became clear how time consuming this project was going to be I became less focused on just making 100 aprons and more focused on producing something that I would be incredibly proud of and would be a staple item in my portfolio. Every detail mattered. Any complaining I do in this is to point out learning curves and the difficulties that go with doing your own thing and trying to run your own business. I never want to sound ungrateful or too picky, but when you’re putting out something that represents you then it’s important that it lives up to your standards and you’re proud to have your name on it. I’m beyond amazed at the support I’ve had so far. It has made things, like this project, possible. My expenses in this project came to about $8,000, I spent more than double my budget. After we had spent so much time I didn’t question spending money on details that mattered to me. I didn’t want to compromise on the aprons, the packaging or the photo shoot. It is such a blessing to be able to do what I do and I love that others are inspired by it. But sometimes I get messages that imply that what I do is easy or that it’s much better than a 9-5 desk job. In order to be a successful artist (which I don’t consider myself yet, still striving!) you will make pennies an hour, your body will ache and you’ll struggle to balance your work life and personal life. There is nothing glamorous about sitting at a sewing machine for 12 hours a day or using tools for such extended periods of time that even months later your wrist still hurts. I cannot thank my dad enough for allowing me to live at his house and turn one of his rooms into a studio. It took my dad quite a while to support what I do and understandably so. Parents worry about their children, they want you to have a stable job and there is nothing guaranteed or stable about a child pursuing an art career. It wasn’t until I had some strong sales that my dad was able to put his worry aside and since then he’s been unbelievably supportive. The photo shoot set was left set up for a few weeks because, well.. because I really loved it and didn’t want to take it down haha. And I sat down to apologize to my dad since it was kind of in the way and he started to explain the Yiddish term kvell and how every time he looked at the set up he would feel that way and he got teary eyed. It was adorable. Anyway, I just wanted to give some insight on this project. I know many people are going to accuse me of over charging and I can’t help but defend myself some. I’m hoping based on my previous price points people realize I’m not focused on having a huge profit margin, just trying to cover my expenses and some of my time. If you’ve read this far and keep reading thanks for listening to me blab haha.

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If I were to make a list of my skills sewing would not be on there. I can work a sewing machine but I know diddlysquat about sewing techniques, fabrics, etc. My mom isn’t a seamstress but she knows a whole lot more than I do and she was a lifesaver with this project. I would tell her my plan and she would make suggestions that saved us so much time and trouble. And she was the first one I showed the photo shoot photos to because any art I ever do is primarily to share with my mom. Anyway, We made our first apron related Joanns trip (I wish I’d been keeping track, I’ve been there probably close to 60 times this year and I feel like that’s a low guess) to pick out fabric colors. I wanted to do four color schemes and after quite a while of pairing up colors I was finally happy with four sets. And the ruffling began. Oh my goodness gracious. This part of the process definitely took the longest. We would buy all the fabric left of the bolt, wash it, dry it, roll it back onto the bolt, cut it in 5” x “44” (width of the fabric) strips, fold them in half, create a ruffle stitch (which is a long stitch with loose tension) half an inch away from the open end and then ruffle them by pulling on the thread. I bought some 2’x4′ sheets of plywood and a bunch of pieces of pvc pipe to create some temporary ruffle shelving since I didn’t want them to get squished. A pretty big mistake we made while doing ruffles was not making a list of all the fabric color names. We’d go to Joanns to buy more fabric and not realize until we got there that we forgot to bring samples with us. It’s not even funny how many times we did this. Maybe a little funny. I’m not sure how long it took us to make 1,200+ ruffles but it felt like forever haha.

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During the ruffle process we were also working on other apron aspects. I knew I wanted the skirt to be black and off-white stripes. I could only find one type of fabric that had wide enough stripes and was the right colors, it happened to be an outdoor fabric. This fabric is great for body but for some reason when I washed it the black came off in some areas. I wasn’t happy about it but there wasn’t much I could do. I bought 54 yards, washed, dried it and cut it to size. I then took the pieces to a local screen-printing company to have my deer doodles printed on the white stripes. There was some miscommunication and instead of printing four different color schemes all 100+ pieces were printed pink and orange. Yikes. I enjoy supporting local small businesses so even though the mistake was their fault it was hard for me to complain, but because of the cost and not being able to work with the mistake I had to. They were very easy to work with and they fixed the problem. They replaced the fabric but it was sent to me before hand so I could wash, dry and cut it. There are some inconsistencies in the printing but for the most part I’m very happy. I think the type of fabric and printing on a size they haven’t printed before made it difficult for them. Some of the deer aren’t centered on the stripe (some even overlap onto the black) and some of the skirts have paint smudges. You never order just the right amount of anything since you have to leave room for these little errors. I was able to take out most of the messed up ones. I’ve always been a huge fan of custom woven tags, they have a little pack of the cutest ones you’ve ever seen at Joanns and I admire them every time. This was finally my chance to splurge and get them made. I designed them and ordered them through Stadri Emblems. Often times when ordering in bulk you don’t have the option to order a few more than you need since they usually increase by 50 or 100. But most of the time companies will add a few more anyway. Thankfully this was the case with the woven tags because quite a few of them weren’t folded in the middle and they cut off the graphic. It became an ongoing joke that with every step there was either something wrong with a product or I would make a mistake. I don’t think any step of this whole process went without some sort of minor problem. We double folded the edge of the skirts, ironed them and hemmed them while sewing the woven tag into the hem. Then we created two ruffle stitches across the top to ruffle them to the proper size so they would attach to the tops more easily.

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One of my biggest regrets of this whole project is not creating a finalized mock up in the beginning. Because of this I didn’t realize that due to how we were creating the ruffles I was limiting the size of the apron. Fabric generally comes 44 inches wide, so when we created our ruffles we only made one cut, using the 44” as our length. When we ruffled the fabric it shortened it to roughly 15”. And from that a few more inches were lost by the time they were sewn to the top piece and trimmed down. This forced the aprons to be a certain size. I would have liked them to be a bit bigger and I was so discouraged when I realized I couldn’t do that. I’m super against companies like American Apparel making little clothes and labeling them as one size. I think that’s so insulting. So when I found out I was guilty of doing that I was so disappointed and embarrassed. So, to continue with the process, we cut rectangular panels that the ruffles would be sewn to. I would work with one color at a time so I wasn’t constantly changing out the thread color. Then I created a stencil for the top piece, traced it onto the panel side of the ruffle top pieces and stitched along the lines. Once the shape was created I trimmed them down. The next step really tested me. I spent 7 hours one day working on one top. I would try to sew the bias tape along the edge, not like how it turned out, take the stitch out and try again. This was another time when I was regretting not having made a mock up. I wasn’t sure where to go from here. I couldn’t imagine getting it to work and I couldn’t come up with any other solutions. I stepped away from it feeling defeated and then tried again the next day with a better attitude. I was able to make it work. It is the least clean stitch on the whole apron. I don’t think I’m 100% satisfied with the bias tape on any of the aprons. It was difficult to get the bias tape to wrap around thick, uneven layers of fabric and if it looked good on one side then it wouldn’t look good on the other. Even doing it 300 times (3 pieces of bias tape per apron) I would mess up one in every 5 or so and have to start over. There was a bit of celebratory dancing that happened once that step was over. Since I didn’t want to use ribbon the straps were a bit of a challenge, they weren’t so much difficult as just time consuming. We cut them the same way we did the ruffles, only a bit smaller in width. Stitched them along the open edge, used some string and safety pins to turn them inside out then ironed them. So here we were, with all the elements, and no clear way to assemble them all together. There’s no easy way to describe how I attached the skirts to the top. Stitched this to that and that to this, flipped this that way, tucked that there, pinned that ruffle to that ruffle, color A on the top, color B on the bobbin, zig zag stitch and voila. Added the four straps and that was that. Difficult difficult lemon difficult (not claiming that as my own though I wish I could). There’s still a bit of apron process blogging I’d like to do but not until everyone has received their apron. I don’t want to spoil the packaging. Novelty in packaging is in my top three favorite things and I had so much fun with it! I’ve always wanted to focus more on packaging but never been able to justify the costs.

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These last few are photos from my phone or nikon and don’t look as pretty as Sam’s haha
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And a huge thank you to Madison, Vanessa and Ruth for helping! And also to Lea and Keira for sewing advice.

Colorado Road Trip! Part 1

All photos by Sam DeSantis

(I’ll occasionally be uploading film photos or video I took but for the most part all photos will be Sam’s)

I visited Colorado last month with my family and when I got home I was in a serious post-Colorado funk. Even though I’m incredibly happy with where I am and extremely thankful to be able to do what I do I still occasionally fight the urge to go live in a cabin in the woods. I was sort of daydreaming about spending September back in Summit County and it was one of those daydreams that you have just to sort of help prevent you from acting on impulse. Since Sam was already going to have been at my house for almost 5 weeks I didn’t think she’d commit to an additional five if we decided to take this trip. So I hadn’t straight out asked her and then one day I kind of slipped it into conversation to see if she’d want to go and she looked at me like I was crazy for thinking she’d even maybe say no. And even after both of us decided it was something we wanted to do we still went a few days without committing. There were a handful of excuses to not go, all of which I was later mad at myself for making. Then we had this moment while we were eating bagels at Panera when we both committed to the trip and it was this minute of not being able to stop smiling and sort of laughing and hoping no one was watching because they would be beyond confused as to what we were doing.  I found affordable lodging near Frisco and went ahead and booked a week, waiting to book additional weeks once we were there and knew we liked it. We had a ton to do before we were able to leave. I’ve done lots of traveling but never anything like this and I was surprised at how hesitant I was. Even the day we were leaving I was questioning it and felt like any moment Sam and I were going to look at each other and change our minds. I know that there are lots of reasons many people can’t take trips like this.  But I want to include the financial side to hopefully inspire others and let them know it’s possible to travel cheap.

Day 1:

We packed everything we needed for five weeks and headed out Monday morning.   The route we took to Colorado took a little bit longer than the suggested route but we had places to stay if we went this way, starting with my grandparents. When we were about 20 minutes away from their house I called to let them know we were coming.  It was a struggle all week to keep the surprise from my grandma.  Squeezed in a short but wonderful visit with them.

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Day 2:

The next morning we had plans to drive to Tyler, Texas but my grandma told me it was too ambitious. She called my uncle who lives about six hours away from them but still on our route and asked if we could stay with them for the night. We made it to the small town in Louisiana around seven.  My cousins, 4 and 2, showed us their chicken coop and did some running around outside before it was time to eat dinner. It was nice catching up with family that I haven’t see for almost a year. Before going to sleep I stamped one of my favorite quotes onto a white shirt. Materials used:

Black acrylic paint

Alphabet stamps (example: http://www.joann.com/image-tree-rubber-stamp-set-antique-typewriter-lower-alpha/prd31631/)

White shirt

However I was talking while stamping so I stamped “If you look down in down”. Easily fixed with some white paint but embarrassing nonetheless.

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Day 3:

 

The next morning Beth made us eggs and toast for breakfast. She had made pear preserves, which were delicious, and she gave us a jar but I forgot them on the counter. Ashleigh took us out back to collect eggs but there weren’t any yet so she looked at us and shrugged her shoulders after seeing the empty nests. We talked for a while before leaving around noon. The drive to Tyler was less than four hours which was nice because we got to fit more visiting time in. Before we got to Max and Sherri’s I put the onesies I had made for Lucy in a little box. They were a thank you gift for letting us stay with them. Their two story pink house with kitschy lawn décor was easy to spot. I’ve seen many photos of their house but they hadn’t done it justice. It is the cutest, most retro, artsy, kitschy home I’ve ever seen. I am smitten. We sat in the living room for a couple hours catching up and being entertained by Lucy.  They took us to Stanley’s, a barbeque place near where they live. After a couple more hours of talking while being mesmerized by Lucy we said thank you and goodnight/goodbye since we would be leaving before they got up the next morning.

 

The onesies were made using the same process I use here: https://vimeo.com/30253698

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Day 4:

We made the two-hour drive from Tyler to Dallas and met up with Chad for a quick hang out.  From there we headed to Oklahoma to finally meet Kait and Scarlet. We had always wanted to but never thought the opportunity would present itself. We parked out front of their house and Kait came out to greet us. Cody’s band was about to practice so there were half a dozen people or so inside with Scarlet bouncing around. She moved so fast it was like a cartoon character with speed illustrations following her. Kait’s friend Bobby drove Kait, Sam, Scarlet and me to the lake for a little bit of swimming before it got dark.  Scarlet would yell compliments at any wildlife she saw. “Hi you beautiful seagull!” “Hi beautiful baby deer!” It was gloomy for the duration of the swim and when the rain that we had been watching hit the other side of the lake made it to us it was time to load into the car.  We drove to a cute part of town to a bubble teashop where Bobby grabbed drinks for us as we waited in the car. I’ve never inhaled a taro boba so quickly.  I took a photo with Scarlet and began the process of posting in on Instagram and she added an emoji caption. When we got back Kait heated up a pizza for us and we sat on the couch talking and occasionally being distracted by the oddness and inappropriateness of the sequel to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  Scarlet was still watching Haunted Mansion videos on my phone until I had to deny her the entertainment due to a dying phone battery. Kait had Sam and me join her for Scarlet’s bedtime story. After a handful of Shel Silverstein poems we said goodnight and gave goodnight hugs.

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Day 5:

I woke up a little after 7:30, half an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off. It doesn’t take a lot of sniffling or movement for Sam to wake up too. On waking up Sam and I remembered that at one point while we were sleeping I woke Sam by saying “I’m just trying to balance this here” while placing my phone on her face. We were lucky enough to see Scarlet before Kait walked her to school. We weren’t awake enough to think about taking an instax.  Kait was back by the time we were finished packing and she made us coffee. She insisted on packing a bag of snacks for us to take on the road. More thanks and hugs before taking off on the longest drive of the trip. We were on the road by nine. The first few hours of the drive weren’t too terrible. We knew it was going to get very desolate after Wichita so we stopped at another Panera even though we weren’t hungry yet. We stocked up on bagels and embarked on the drive through Kansas that made us a little crazy. Before we hit I-70 we drove through a windmill farm. It started out with only being able to see about a dozen and then as we drove over a hill there were windmills for as far as we could see. It was absolutely stunning. They’re massive. After the windmills everything seemed small while I felt like a giant. The homes looked small, the billboards looked small. It was the 500 miles from Newton to Denver that really took a toll on us. The sky was overcast all day, which I was thankful to not have the sun in my eyes or beating down but made it seem as if time was standing still. We drove through landscapes that didn’t change under a sky that stayed the same for seven hours.  Though not entirely true, the clouds changed.  At one point they looked as if the sky was covered with a memory foam mattress that had been poked. These clouds transformed into shapes that looked like eyes watching us. We made it through Tornado Alley to Denver safe and dry regardless of the flooding in Boulder and the lingering superstitious doom of Friday the 13th.  As we were getting into Denver I handed Sam my phone to have her direct us to Rob and Robin’s. I had previously placed a random pin in Denver just as a time estimate. Somehow Sam directed us to the purple pin instead of the red pin. We parked in front of the house at which the purple pin was placed upon. It was in a neighborhood and completely capable of being where they lived. We rang the doorbell a couple times, and as if we weren’t nervous enough the idea that this possibly wasn’t their house made us even more nervous. I realized I didn’t recognize the street name and we speed walked to my car and drove off quickly, both of us so thankful no one answered the door. We were only about 15 minutes away from the red pin. The barking dog let them know we were there and Rob met us out front. I thought I had met Rob (my mom’s cousin) when I was younger but he said “nice to meet you” so I suppose we hadn’t met. He welcomed us in and we met Robin in the kitchen. They were so easy to talk to and so friendly. Rob was putting a beautiful homemade pizza into the oven.  We talked about our journey, Colorado plans, and my mom’s journey. Perfect weather allowed us to eat outside. I felt so incredibly happy being there: the weather and the city and family I’ve never met feeling so much like family. Robin offered us Häagen-Dazs bars for dessert, which is only worth mentioning because at one point I dropped part of mine and almost ate a moth when I mistook it for a piece of ice cream.

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To be continued!