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Monthly Archives: July 2011

I drove straight across Texas. I didn’t stop for much, but I was traveling along minor roads and it was fun to pass through towns with populations of 200-300 people.

I stayed overnight in Hope, Arkansas. Anticlimactic, yes, but I did get stopped just before the Arkansas border for not having a light on my camper plate. Geez. 20 questions later, and I got a warning and my freedom.

The next day I drove straight across Tennessee. I really like Tennessee. First Memphis, then Nashville, and I stayed the night in Knoxville. I stopped in Hurricane Mills to visit Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and Kitchen.

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Kitchen first, I was hungry. I had a hickory smoked pork sandwich with fries and turnip greens. Delish. I got some crap at the gift store and then I drove out to the ranch.

NOW, I love Loretta Lynn, but what is going on here?! The museum is completely weird and has more clothes and costumes of her friends on display (Roseanne Barr’s apron? – I remember the episode) than there is of her stuff. There is an entire wall devoted to her family photos – nieces, nephews, grandkids – sweet, but… AND an entire wall devoted to Bush/Cheney – Yowza.

Photos are not allowed in the museum. I went to the gift shop and weirder than weird – it appeared that there were random items purchased at a flea market (?) that were all signed by Miss Loretta Lynn herself. The barefoot sales clerk assured me that everything was authentic. I’m talking strange unrelated items like old salt and pepper shakers. My favorite, and I’m really kicking myself for not buying it (or at least sneaking a picture), was a John Deere tractor butter dish signed “Love You, Loretta Lynn”.

I left with only one item – a Crystal Gayle tour t-shirt

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I drove through the rest before ending back in Boston. I stayed my last night in the camper (for a little while, at least) in Allentown, PA.

Thanks, everyone, for all the enthusiasm and support for this project! It’s turned out to be an incredible experience. Stay tuned for more handyman projects and adventures. In the very near future, I’ll be documenting my Boston loft renovation. Down South this winter!

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I left San Francisco (sadly, without Sophie) and meandered down the coast.  I stopped in on friends in Laguna Beach and spent a relaxing weekend before I started my journey back East.  I made a quick stop in Phoenix, AZ to visit an old Boston friend – it’s really been a few years?!

Next stop, Marfa, TX.

Marfa is a town in the high desert of far west Texas.  I’ve been dying to visit, especially after my friend, Anthony, returned from his adventure with rave reviews.  I’m staying at El Cosmico – a fabulous RV park and camp site.  You can rent one of their amazing RVs, pitch a tent, or squat in your own camper on the premises.

Taco and my trusty steed

I’ve been riding my bike everywhere.  There are tons of little galleries, shops and restaurants and I’ve had a blast just tooling around.  The population is a great mix of old and young, native and transplant.  Frama for coffee in the morning and then I took a drive out to Balmorhea State Park (about an hour east of Marfa). It’s located on the San Solomon Spring and there is a fantastic spring fed pool that is the perfect respite for 95 degree heat!

After taking a dip at the park, I drove through Fort Davis and got a delicious sandwich at a farm stand, some beers for Taco (and me) and some local organic coffee.  I was also randomly asked to join a roller derby team (no, I was not on skates).   Then I picked this up at a thrift store for $1 !   Double album with one of my favorite Burt Bacharach tunes!!

I returned to camp for a siesta and then headed to Padre’s for some home cooked gumbo and a margarita.  This place used to be a funeral home!

After dark, I headed to the Marfa Mystery Lights Lookout.  The sky is soooo big and clear, every star is visible.  The mystery lights are theorized to occur for different reasons:  car headlight reflections, camp fires, swamp gas, static electricity – I like to think they’re aliens.

I had booked a tour for the following day at the Chinati Foundation – a modern art museum, founded by Donald Judd in 1979.  It was once the site of Fort D.A. Russell.  Most of the art here is on permanent display.  It originally was designed to house the art of Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, and Dan FlavinCarl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, David Rabinowitch, and John Wesley now join the ranks as well as a handful of artists in residence.

I met up with 3 guys who were staying at El Cosmico with me – we were unintentionally rendezvousing at the same places and decided to tour around together.  We’re all headed in opposite directions.  Happy Trails, boys!

Donald Judd

Donald Judd

Carl Andre

Dan Flavin

Dan Flavin

Dan Flavin

Claes Oldenberg and Coosje Van Bruggen

John Chamberlain in the old Marfa Wool and Mohair building

John Chamberlain

After the tour, we stopped at Food Shark for lunch and a crazy, torrential downpour!

Back to camp for an outdoor shower and siesta and then I biked down to a new restaurant, The Miniature Rooster.  So delicious! I had shrimp and grits with a poached egg plopped right in the middle.  They’re famous for chicken and waffles, but it looked like an entire chicken atop a pile of waffles and Taco doesn’t like leftovers.

After dinner, I HAD to have a drink at El Paisano Hotel bar.  The cast and crew of “Giant” (Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean) made this their headquarters in the summer of 1955.  The hotel opened in 1930.

Goodbye, Marfa – I’ll be back!  Onward and Eastward…

I approached San Francisco at rush hour – ugh. I made it through the mountain passes between Reno and the California border with little struggle. Once I made it off the highway to my exit, I experienced the thrill of the San Francisco hills with Taco in tow. Thank heaven (and Noel Sr) for those new shocks!

I parked by Golden Gate Park. You can kinda, sorta do that around here. Hippie vans and campers litter the streets – the cops have their work cut out for them. I’m in the Sunset section of San Francisco visiting an old friend from high school. Heather and her partner, Wendy, are expecting a baby and I’m building a desk for Wendy so that she can move her office out of the new nursery.

The girls cooked a fabulous meal upon my arrival and we caught up on the last 20 years late into the night. The next morning, I moved my camper out in front of their house to the delight(?) of the neighbors 😉 thanks!

The previous night, Sophie scoped out her new digs and I have yet to find her. I had steeled myself for the worst before we set out on this journey. Sophie is getting on in years and her health has been slowly declining. I figured she would be happiest with me and maybe selfishly thought she would enjoy the adventure in her golden years. She loved Boise and was the happiest I had seen her in some time. I can only hope that she found some peace. I moved my truck back to the park with some food and her belongings and Heather, Murphy (the dog), and I continue to scout in the hope of finding her. I’m missing my best friend of 14 years – she’s seen me through a lot. I love and miss you, Sophie…

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I worked the next few days on the new office. I visited with friends and checked out some of the local shops. Devil’s Teeth Baking Company was a notable stop. The Pittsburg Pub was a fun little watering hole. Macbeath Lumber turned out to be a gem of a find. I was looking for just the right veneer to match some existing wood in the office. Macbeath had it and more – A one stop lumber yard.

Best of all, Heather and I got to hang and reminisce about high school and growing up. Some very difficult times that sure are hilarious when you look back on them!

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I hope Wendy will be happy with the finished piece! She took off to Boston on business, a couple days after I arrived. I enjoyed my stay in San Francisco. I hope to come back soon. Thanks  Heather and Wendy!  You completely spoiled me!

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I left Boise by noon and with all systems in good working order. I stopped in Winnemucca, NV for dinner and a little rest. The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca was established in 1898 and is listed in the register of historic places. It was once a stopping place for area cattle ranchers and sheep herders. They specialize in Spanish food – there is a large Basque population out in these parts.

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I sat at the bar flanked by construction workers and Ruth Rockillina (Rockillina is her middle name). Ruth’s long time boyfriend is the head chef, so I asked her what her favorite dish is. She replied, without hesitation, that the King’s Ribeye is the best by far – so tender that you don’t even need teeth (she showed me her toothless gums to prove it).

I couldn’t argue with that testimonial. My teeth and I ordered the “Ribeye Lite”. Lori, the bartender, asked “Are you sure, hon?”.

First course: Soup AND a salad AND baked beans.

Second course: a chorizo and hominy dish (so good), carrots and mashed potatoes.

A ribeye the size of my face appeared before me with a platter of fries.

I got about a quarter of the way through the steak when I sheepishly asked for a take-away bag. I wasn’t even aware that bread pudding was part of this deal. The steak was as good as Ruth promised and I look forward to eating it for the next several meals.

I chatted with the guys at the bar. They all wanted to know who I was and what brought me to Winnemucca. I told them what I was up to and we talked a little shop. I was then pronounced owner of the biggest set of balls in the room and beers would have kept coming my way had I not graciously declined and hopped back into the truck. Martin Hotel = rad.

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Earlier that day, I reserved a lot at Chism RV Park in Reno. This park opened in 1927 and is purported to be Reno’s oldest. I arrived after dark and fell promptly asleep.

The next day, I took some time to repack the camper and tidy up. The facilities at Chism Park are pretty nice and I even did some laundry. I left Reno at noon.

California, here I come!

I’m back in Boise to finish the projects I started – a wall of bookcases for Noel Sr’s studio, and a pantry/laundry/work space for Noel Jr. The cabinets are assembled – it was time to mill the hardwoods for the doors, drawer fronts and face frames. The bookcase is entirely maple. The pantry is mahogany, with maple interiors.

I’ve been using the CNC router at the shop more and more and I like it. I was around to spy on and sometimes assist with jobs in production – from signs to wine racks, concept to finish. The sweetest application for this machine has been to cut out little dinosaur party favors for Alisdair’s 4th birthday party.

Alisdair’s mom, Julianna owns and manages a shop with business partner, Chelsea. Bricolage is a boutique full of inspiration and fabulous gifts – and it’s in the process of moving to the Webers’ studio compound in August. Also part of this conglomerate is Boise Art Glass. Great things are happening and the crew is gearing up for First Thursday – a gallery walk for the public to check out and support local artisans.

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Later in the week, I assisted Noel with work at a new restaurant.

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I love Boise. There are lots of great shops and restaurants. The Flying M Coffee House is one of my favorite stops. I think Noel and I spent a little too much time at Red Feather and Bitter Creek, and I adore the Modern Hotel and Lounge. People are fantastic, the sun is out until 10PM, and retreats into nature are just minutes away. We worked day and night – we broke production for Boise’s finest.

It’s challenging to work with my portable tools and produce fine carpentry – I don’t have the systems and controls that I have at my shop. I make it work and I like the challenge. I was counting on Noel to fill some voids in my portable arsenal. A tool neither of us has is a jointer! This machine planes rough lumber on two sides at a right angle. Having two sides at a perfect 90 degrees allows you to cut the other two sides to form square/rectangular pieces. I planed the faces of each plank and used the CNC router to true up the edges so that I could make doors and glue up pieces for drawer fronts.

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While I was milling lumber, Noel was making a form to cast a concrete sink surround for a cast iron, enameled work sink.

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The maple slabs were cut to fit around the concrete slab. All wood surfaces were hand rubbed with boiled linseed oil.

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Noel Sr. also has a rough maple slab as a countertop, but his had a big split at one end and it was just a few inches too short. To lengthen the board, to attempt to keep the board from splitting further, and to give the open end of the built-in the natural edge that the rest of the piece has, I came up with this and I hope for the best. You just can’t control how a giant slab of solid maple will behave over time. Give it room to move.

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Both guys need to get glass for their doors. Noel Jr plans to sand blast his. I’m looking forward to seeing both projects completely finished and put to use.

I spent the fourth of July in Boise – Noel and I caught the parade after a delicious brunch. Then we biked around to a few celebrations. Lawn explosives!

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I’m sad to leave, but I must keep truckin’. I had a blast in Boise. Thanks Noel, Noel & Lucy for a wonderful stay! Noel Sr made an appointment for my old truck to replace the squeaky serpentine belt and put new shocks on her rear end. Now I don’t look like I’m about to take off into the galaxy! Thanks again!

Now, off to San Francisco. I might stay in Reno along the way…