Friday, December 21, 2012


While traveling I have been doing my best to keep track of how much I spend. I keep receipts for everything and record them in my day planner at the end of each day, with the exception of this month because I've been staying at my folks place. I wanted to give myself an idea of how much I spend on certain things, ie. food, gas, lodging, so that I can budget better in the future. So, I share this information in case anyone out there is thinking about embarking on this kind of adventure.

Nova Scotia to Oklahoma

Accommodations: $133.18
Entertainment and Touristy Things: $69.71
Food and Drink: $449.55
Supplies and Maintenance: $439.37
Gas: $921.39

The first month on the road I stayed for free most nights so my accommodation costs were quite low. I spent 4 nights in Highland, NY when I had the concussion, 2 nights in Ardmore, PA at a friends, 3 nights in Maryland at a friends house, and 4 nights at other acquaintances I met while traveling. All for free or trade. Most other nights I parked on the side of the road or at truck stops. $300 of the supplies and maintenance went to a new battery and exhaust repair for my van.

Oklahoma to California and back to Arizona

Okie (new expenses after adopting my dog): $235.00
Accommodations: $211.50
Entertainment and Touristy Things: $667.86
Food and Drink: $502.50
Supplies and Maintenance: $1377.71
Gas: $650.00

I spent more money on campgrounds the second month but it was also the month where I was given a free cabin at the Grand Canyon for 4 nights, stayed on BLM land outside Zion National Park and parked outside a friends place in Phoenix for a week.  My maintenance costs were the highest in October because I had to buy new tires at a cost of $750 and had some other work done to the tune of $450. Also, the entertainment category is quite high because I bought a season pass to National Parks  and treated myself to a new tattoo.

Arizona to Florida

Okie: $52.68
Accommodations: $135.04
Entertainment and Touristy Things: $221.50
Food and Drink: $373.48
Supplies and Maintenance: $117.39
Gas: $669.00

I started November off sick and still parked in Phoenix for 4 days. I spent 3 free days in Austin, TX and then 8 days couchsurfing  in New Orleans. I was also invited to stay at a friends in Panama City where I visited for 3 days and then headed down south to Florida where I am now.

Although I tried to be diligent and organized I can tell by the total spent over the three months I must have missed recording some expenses. It's off only by a couple hundred based on what I started with and what I have left in my bank account. The expenses recorded above equal $7236.86.  My goal now is to head back to Nova Scotia in February and exhibit some new work with hopes of financing my next adventure. Looking at my costs listed like this I'm sure I can do better, especially in the entertainment and accommodation categories. I will be heading out next time with more art work and a better plan for bartering.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's been a while...

Staying with the 'rents in Florida has given me a much needed chance to get some work done, not only for people who donated to my travels, but also for Argyle Fine Art back  home in Halifax. Sometimes I need a break from my computer though so I decided to head to Sarasota to visit the Ringling Estates. Diane, in Gibsonton, told me about the Circus Museum there and I absolutely needed to go. It's not that I'm even a big fan of the circus. I haven't been since I was a small child. I actually have a thing for old circus poster art and the underground culture of the circus life.

Hitting the road again, even for a short trip, immediately makes me happy. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy here as well but there is just something about driving that puts me at ease right away. I already know I like driving but it wasn't until this trip I realized being behind the wheel of my van is one of my happy places. The roads look a bit different when you’re not on the move all the time. The glowing arches of a McDonald's is now just a sign for fast food, no longer symbolizing a place where I can connect my laptop to the rest of the world. Walmart parking lots are back to being a place where people park to shop and not a potential free sleeping destination. Things seem different when you have a home base.

I spent five hours at the Ringling Estates but didn’t manage to see it all. The estate includes their winter house, an art museum, circus museum, and a library amongst other small buildings. Because John Ringling's wife, Mabel, was keen on art they collected many pieces from Renaissance and Baroque painters as well at statues and sculptures from Europe. He wanted to learn as much as he could about the arts and ended up with an art library more complete than anywhere else. I have plans to go back and spend the whole day there soon since I didn’t manage to visit it this time around.
My favorite part of the circus museum, besides the original poster lithographs, was the miniature circus replica made over a period of 50 years. I’m a sucker for a good miniature scene.
mini5 mini1
mini2 mini3
posters1 posters2
woodwork side show paintings
cart3 cart2
cart1 canon
cart detail3 cart detail4
house3 house 1
I am currently adding up all my expenses for the last three months on the road. My next post will give you a sense of what it might cost if you are thinking about doing something like this. Stay tuned....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's time to get down to business.

I've been at my folks place in Florida for a week now and have begun editing my photos and putting together new works to send home to Argyle Fine Art. I am feeling very fortunate to be at a place in my 'career' where I have a gallery willing to take my art. It really is a dream come true.

When I first arrived I tried to dive head first into making new work. I tend to put unnecessary pressure on myself, especially when people have already paid for pieces I haven't actually made yet.  Well, as you can probably imagine, I had a bit of a panic attack. I can't expect myself to go from being on the move every day for three months to immediately churning out new work. So after taking a couple of days to run some errands, eat oranges from the trees out back and easing into staying put I am now back on track. I am getting some commissions done and there will be new stuff at Argyle for the Pre-Shrunk show in January.

Spending time organizing the hundreds and hundreds of photos I've taken isn't all business though. The past three months have all blended together and sorting through my pictures brings back memories I've already forgotten. I have lots of time for reflection and in a month will be back on the road. Before I left I assumed many things. I pictured myself foraging through the woods for greens to eat, camping by rivers or lakes for weeks on end and making extra money washing dishes or doing odd jobs. I have done none of these things. The romanticizing I did about this journey is just that, romantic and unrealistic. The realities of traveling are completely different, for me at least. Yes, I'm sure I could have done all of these things but it's not who I am. I think part of anyone's success in life is knowing who you really are and not who you want to be. I'm not the kind of person who feels comfortable walking into a place and asking for work. Larry the hitchhiker is. He has taken many little jobs along his way to keep going and is perfectly comfortable doing so. He would approach people for rides or ask for help and was almost always met with kindness. I admire what he's doing but, as I said, it's not me.

I've had to discover who I truly am, accept it and work within it. I am not someone who is going to walk across the continent. I don't want to sleep in a tent in the woods for weeks on end or rely on knowing what's edible in the forest. I want my perked coffee in the morning and a hot meal at night. I like my small creature comforts. It's hard for me to admit I'm not as worldly as I like to think I am. I know it's all relative and some would disagree with me. I guess what I'm trying to say is I now know what my limits are and what I'm comfortable with, even if it's not what I thought before I set out. No matter how well you think you know yourself there's always more to know and spending three months on the road by yourself will surely bring some new things to light.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Part 3; saying goodbye to the hitchhiker

Once in a while I meet a person who has a profound impact on me. Larry the hitchhiker is one. Don't get me wrong, I have met many wonderful people whom I hope to have lasting friendships with and I don't wish to belittle our interactions by any means. Sometimes though, your path crosses with someone who changes your outlook on life forever.

Larry is a 35 year old divorcee who got tired of his desk job and decided to head to the Everglades from Kansas...on foot! He was tired of feeling like he was trapped, sold all his belongings and said so long to his friends and family, not knowing if he would return. He is almost completely off the grid. He has no phone or watch and only checks in when he passes a library to let them know he is still alive.  I thought I had made a simple life for myself living in a van and then I meet someone like him who has chosen the most basic way of traveling. What I was considering roughing it was luxury to him. Perked coffee instead of instant, drinking from a mug and having fresh vegetables in a meal was a real treat for him and I was happy to share.

We talked for hours about the way the media presents the world verses how we have experienced it. We shared stories on the generosity and hospitality of complete strangers and how amazing it is that people are so trusting. We gabbed and gabbed about the lives and friends we left behind and what we hope for our future. Then we would travel in silence watching the towns whiz by. He was always up for doing anything or nothing at all, appreciating both equally. Nothing seemed to bother him and we traveled together like we were old friends. We also shared the same feelings of sincerely wanting to remain single. Neither one of us are bitter about love or relationships, I truly do love love, but both understand that our nomadic choices do not include another person. It was especially nice for me to not have to worry about the awkwardness that sometimes comes from hanging with guys. We were just friends. It was wonderful.

We had a great last day together in Gibsonton where we had breakfast and then sat by a river basking in the sun for most of the day. In the evening we went to a chili cook-off at the towns fair. I was to head east to my fathers and him, south. I drove him to the edge of town where we hugged and said our goodbyes then he disappeared into the woods. As I drove away I could feel a real sense of loss and got a bit teary eyed. This was partly because I knew I may never see him again and partly because he was off on another adventure and mine was coming to a stop for a while. I miss him but I know this is how things go on the road. Paths cross and then diverge but I am left with wonderful memories.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Part 2; swimming with manatees & drinking with carnies.

In the morning the hitchhiker and I wake early and make coffee. I perk my coffee in an old perk given to me by a friend. Larry usually lives off of instant so it’s a big treat for him. While I’m packing up the van he brings me the only thing he has that resembles a birthday cake, a strawberry newton,  and tells me to make a wish. This small gesture means more to me than he knows.
birthday cake
Packed up and ready to go, we head into the small town of Crystal River. A friend informed me about the opportunity of swimming with manatees there. The first place we find is way too expensive so I decided not to give myself that birthday present. Funny how things work out. I turned onto a side street to get us traveling back in the right direction and in front of me is another dive shop. I think, what the hell, I’ll check their prices. Right off the bat they were much nicer than the first place and so eager to have us join in. Their price was extremely reasonable so I sign us both up. Needless to say Larry is up for it.

By this point I’m literally jumping for joy and can’t wait to get my wetsuit on. Neither of us have ever done anything like this before. Once out in the water we are told to spread out and simply float on the surface, letting them come to us. Manatees are amazingly big and graceful animals. They are friendly and curious about us. I have no photographs to share of this experience but the memories and images in my head will never fade. I can tell you they feel like an elephant, with rough skin and bristles. Our guide made sure I had some quality time with one of them for my birthday. He called me over and showed me if you rub their belly they will roll on their back for you. I believe I also got a kiss from one. What a wonderful and peaceful way to start my birthday day.

From there we drive and drive further south down the coast. My folks asked me to pick up some Danish schnapps for our Christmas dinner at one of the towns along the way. I was having trouble finding the store so we pulled over at a Krispy Kreme to grab a coffee and ask for directions. At the liquor store I go for my wallet and it’s not there. It’s at Krispy Kreme, seven miles back!! Needless to say I am not impressed with myself. I had just taken out a bunch of money and not only that, I have everything I need in my wallet. Speeding back, Larry is convinced my wallet will still be sitting in the bathroom. He says, “someone as nice as you ought to have racked up enough good karma. It will be there.” And it was. All the money still in it.

For my birthday I wanted to be at a place called Gibsonton, otherwise known as Showtown America. It has a long history of being the vacation spot of carnival workers. I loved the idea of being in a small town with an interesting history to celebrate getting one year older. Gibtown looks just like any other nondescript small town along the highway except for this bar. Even if I hadn’t read about this place years ago I would have stopped to take photos. I won’t go into a lot of detail here about the history of the place but you can follow the link above or watch this video made by Seth Gadsden.
showtown front showtown1
Showtown ovals showtown side
showtown door
Painted to look like a half-door.
showtown door2
Another fake door. It's hard to find the real entrance.
showtown chef
Gibsonton has been described as a rough place, and maybe it is, but I can say we were welcomed with open arms. Ok maybe not right away but as we struck up conversations with Kim the bartender and Mr. Ozark, third generation owner of Showtown Bar, they became curious about us. Why were we there? Where were we from? Did we know the history of the town? It was fun to see the look on their faces when I told them I’m from Nova Scotia and this guy to my left is a hitchhiker I picked up the day before. Four beer in I hear the DJ announce, “This one goes out to the birthday girl, Angela, who turns 21 today!” 50 Cent, In Da Club (it’s your birthday) comes blaring out of the speakers.

I couldn't have asked for a better birthday on the road. I had a fun and interesting person to celebrate with and I was where I wanted to be. Before the night was over the owner of the bar took this shot of Larry and I. It's the only one I have of the two of us.
showtown drinks
Next, saying goodbye to my new nomadic friend.
To be continued……..

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Part 1; picking up a hitchhiker

I arrived in Florida on Sunday and made my way to Panama City to visit my friend Peggy, whom I met in Tucamcari, NM back in October. I stayed with her and her partner for a couple of days in a lovely little bayou village, relaxing and drinking wine. I was welcome to stay as long as I liked but my goal was to be in a certain place for my birthday, but more on that in a bit.

Okie and I got back on the road on Wednesday, heading down the west coast of Florida to eventually work my way east to my folks place. We had a fairly uneventful day of driving and ended it with a stay at the Holiday Campground just outside of Panacea. In the morning we took our time getting back on the road. About ten minutes after starting out on a long stretch of pavement with nothing on it but trees, I passed a guy walking wearing a big straw hat and lugging a very full backpack. He didn't stick out his thumb as I passed but he turned his head around in enough time to meet my eyes. Something struck me at that moment but I kept driving. The feeling lingered so a mile down the road I made the decision to turn around and see if he needed a lift. I know everyone is cringing at this moment and trust me, I NEVER thought I would even consider picking up a hitchhiker as a solo female traveler. Peggy and I had talked before about picking up hitchhikers along our travels and she had only done it once. It's something she doesn't regret and I can see it in her eyes when she tells the story. Her experience isn't what made me turn around though. After all, he wasn't technically hitchhiking since he didn't stick out his thumb for me.

I pulled over and called to him, "Do you need a lift?" He accepted and threw his pack in the back. Not for a second did I think my life was in danger or threatened in any way. It goes back to what I said about trusting your instincts. Something just told me to go get him and see what adventures ensue. It was the best decision I could have made. Don't get me wrong, I don't have plans to keep picking up vagabonds but I'm sure glad I invited this one along.

Larry Gust, or Shaggy to his friends, would be with me for the next three days. We both had the same route south planned.  He had been walking from Kansas with a destination of the Everglades where he wants to work for alligator tours or with reptiles in some capacity. He had been alone for two and a half days so he had lots to talk about. His stories regarding the kindness of strangers almost brought me to tears. I mean, I thought I had some amazing stories, and I do, but I am floored by what he has received from people. One example; He was walking on a country road in Missouri and came upon a woman gardening. She was curious as to why he was there and where he was going. They began to talk and before he could blink she was making him food, doing his laundry and offering him a shower. He left there with food in his pack and $20 in his pocket and this is not an isolated incident for him. Another time a man stopped to see where he was walking to and just so happened to be taking a load of army gear to donate. Larry ended up with a new pair of boots and a meal. These are just two examples from the many stories he told me.

The whole day was spent driving down the coast, stopping to go for walks and getting snacks. We were immediately connected and traveled with ease together. His infectious laugh and gift of gab was a welcome addition to my little hobo family. We traveled until dark and I offered to let him set up his tent at my RV spot. We toasted to us meeting with vodka-spiked Gatorade and went to our beds for the night. The next day would be my birthday and he agreed to spend it with me in Gibsonton, but more on that in the next post when I'll write about us swimming with manatees and drinking with carnies.

to be continued......
Larry and Gorilla. End of day one.