2017-01-09 The Progression of a Painting

This Painting was taken from a Photograph I took on my Iphone while visiting Big Bend National Park.

The canvas I started with was already painted once. I didn’t like the original work, and had painted over it with some blue paint I had on my pallette. (You can see the original color on the bottom 1/4 of the picture). I squished a couple blues around and then started adding some interesting cloud formations.

Working from the Photograph as reference, I worked the clouds some more and the tinted the sky with reds, browns and yellows a little more than it really was..

Then I used some Browns and Purple to sketch in the horizon.

And worked forward a little with some contrasting color for an underpainting blocking in the colors and shapes.

Once satisfied with the placement of shapes and composition, I started working the mountains in the background a little.

The Red swath in the foreground will be the trail, and I added some color for the grasses etc.. constantly working back and forth letting areas of paint dry a little while I worked a different part of the canvas.

Flicking and splattering paint, I just keep moving forward while refining the background at the same time. Working in the grasses and bushes in the foreground, adding some color to the pathway..

Flick and splatter, flick and splatter… add a few branches in a lighter color so it pops in front of the dark stuff.

Refine the cactus shapes in front, and add some more rocks and gravel to the walkway..

At this point my feet were tired, so I called it a day.  Now I’ll add a coat of clear over the top to make the colors pop and study it for awhile to see what else needs to be done…
OK, so it’s a tad more colorful than reality… What can I tell you?
…Texas is a little too drab in January for my liking.


…and finished:

2016-12-25 Christmas Trip to Big Bend

Christmas Trip 2016

We had wrapped up all of our family Christmas festivities on Christmas Eve, so after de-winterizing and loading up Tony, we were off on 40 Across Arkansas and Oklahoma,

Through Oklahoma City and down the 44 Turnpike to Wichita Falls in Texas. The road got smaller (but less windy) traveling from Wichita Falls to Abilene, which, according to Waylon Jennings is “the Prettiest town I’ve ever seen. Women there don’t treat you mean, In Abilene.”… hmmm, I guess Waylon didn’t get around much. :-)

Jennifer googled a restaurant open on Christmas day and we ended up at Sunrise Chinese restaurant (which sounded an awful lot like “sofa” according to the Asian Man on the other end of the phone).  It was mayhem when we walked in the door, with seemingly all Chinese speaking employees, and 8 or 10 customers standing round the front door waiting for their to go orders. We went in and sat down in one of their torn up, 1980s vintage bright orange vinyl dinettes… I went to use the restroom and in the minute or two it took me to get back, Jennifer had already made friends with table across from us, and found out the food was no good. We decided we’d leave while the gettin was good, and we jumped in the Van and drove back a couple blocks to a Szechuan place we had seen on the way there. As we got out of the car a look of fear came across her face as she realized she had left her wallet in the Chinese restaurant we had just left. We hurried back to find it laying on the bench seat right where she had left it.  Emergency averted!

Ended up at Szechuan….  and it was exceptional. Just split an order of veggie fried rice and some appetizers, but it was all very tasty. The bartender told us it was their busiest day of the year, but we were still seated in minutes, and the service was good. Great atmosphere, but still felt casual. beautiful fountains and landscaping in the parking lot.

Pulled in to Abilene State Park (which only had maybe a dozen campers in 100 spaces) around 9:00. The Wagon Circle camping area, was just that… A big circle (around the Bathroom building ) where apparently campers and RV’ers all park side by side in rather tight quarters looking at the bathroom.. Very strange indeed, and in my opinion, NOT the best way to set up a campground… We found a nice cozy spot in the “tent area”, which is quickly becoming our preferred section to “camp” in. With Tony, we rarely need “hook ups” and he is small enough to fit in any camping spot. Tent areas are almost always more spacious, further apart from each other, AND usually about 1/2 the price of the more crowded “RV” spots.


Woke up about 6:00 after another great sleep in the T. Got up and made some coffee in my new Deluxe Oversize Insulated French Press (Xmas gift from Jennifer). Messed around on the computer and Facebook, looked at options for Big Bend…

We took a short walk round the nature trail in the park, filled up the water tank and were on our way.

More long, scenery deprived miles through Texas towards Big Ben. There are dead wild hogs laying on the roadside here, as there are deer in the Ozark Mountains. And there are even MORE dead deer along these roads than there is there. We haven’t seen vultures, buzzards, or anything else feeding on them as they do in Arkansas though…

We arrived at Big Bend National Park just as the sun was setting; awesome jagged dry cliffs sticking out of the flat dry gravelly soils…. Found the campground and drove around in the dark looking for an open campsite; the place was packed full, and we took the last empty spot we could find (which actually had a “reserved” tag on it)… Found a better site with no tag, and moved there, but before we got set up, the campers occupying the site showed up, so we switched back…

12/27/16 TUESDAY

Woke up after another great nights sleep at the Rio Grande Village Campground in Big Bend. Saw a large Bobcat strolling down the road, and a couple hundred feet later, a unaccompanied girl walking down the same lonely road. We were planning on taking a hike to the Hot Springs, but stopped at the visitor center to find out campsites were getting rarer and rarer.

The entire Park was filling up; even the “primitive” sites that were accessible by road were all reserved. We were told the Chisos Basin Campground was full also, which word has, is the most scenic campground in the Park. Wanting to drive the road up the mountains to the campground anyway, we headed that way to hike a trail and check on the off chance that a site might be available.

Sure enough, after making the loop a couple times, we made friends with a charming Volunteer camp host name Kay, who finagled us into a site to share at the “group campground”. See picture of the awesome view from our windshield at the campsite.

We tried to Level out Tony a bit, and headed down the trail to the “window”. The window is a scenic look off where water pours out of a deep canyon, and into the valley of the Rio Grande.

The painting results are on the next post

Awesome views and Rock formations! The skies were a bit cloudy on and off, the weather was perfect for the 4 mile hike.  Took off about 11:30, returned at 2:30, made sandwich and relaxed in our new “anti gravity” chairs taking in the view…

Jennifer played Sudoku and took an additional mile long walk up to the store. I struggled to put this gigantic majestic mountain view onto an 11×14 canvas…

The air cooled quickly as soon as the Sun went down and we both showered in Tony. Jennifer made delicious steak burritos with sauteed peppers and onions.

We always talk about how quickly we could get used to life in Tony for long periods of time. Neither of us are too sure we would have an interest in living Fulltime in an RV without a home base, but extended travels would be a dream come true. It’s really been somewhat of a life long dream for me; traveling in a B Van, painting my way from place to place. We both love to hike, experience new places and people, and even to drive. Jennifer appreciates the “downtime” reading, cooking, doing puzzles or just enjoying the scenery while I paint. We cherish our time together. Life is never better than when you are in Love.

WEDNESDAY 12/28/16

After Toast and grapefruit, we drove over to Castelon and by Cottonwood on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Stopped and a did a quick hike to Burro Mesa pouroff, and then another just down to the Rio Grande.

Drove along through the desert looking at this huge rock face cliff that goes on and on for miles in Mexico. At the base of it, is the somewhat unimpressive Rio Grande River. A small, fast moving milky muddy colored river.  Took another hike up over a bunch of rock steps and down to the Rio Grande at the Santa Elena Canyon; lots of people, but the canyon itself is the stuff movies are made of (and I’m sure they have been). As Jennifer said, “This place would be really peaceful if there weren’t so many people”.

Since the park campgounds were reportedly full, we decided we’d head north and out of the park. To mix things up, we took Tony through the desert on his first posted “4 Wheel Drive Only” Road.

It was nearly 2 hours of packed gravel, loose gravel, lots of washboard and a couple little dry stream bed crossings. The van handled it easily as we plodded along at 5 or 10 miles an hour. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we stopped to view an old mexican “farmers” homestead called Lunas Jacal. They say he raised goats, but how he could have farmed ANYTHING here is beyond me. What possesses a person to live in a place like this I’ll never know. This man lived here (at one time with 6 children), till he died at 108 years old…  108 YEARS old… Water nowhere to be seen, very little vegetation, no visible wildlife spare a few birds, and barely a tree to speak of. The temps reached above 80 degrees, and in the full sun it was beginning to feel hot on the 28th of December. I can’t imagine being here in the summer when they say temps hover around 110 degrees, much less LIVING here, for a hundred and eight years, early in the 19th century, in a 4’ tall mud house, with six kids, and no water!

We continued on to Study Butte and the Terlingua Mining Ghost town, which was something worth missing. Though we didn’t give it much of a chance; it looked to me to be a bunch of old collapsed stone walls, the ruins of a early 19th century village. The disappointing part is there was no easily visible accounting’s of the history or what was going on. It was a bunch a scattered rocks.. We did visit a little Artist’s Co-op that was interesting. So we carried on another 100 miles or so north, and ended up in Alpine Texas. We asked some local guys at a True Value Hardware store for the best Mexican food in town, and they sent us to a jam packed, understaffed, place called El Patio that served “too hot to eat” Salsa and stale chips.. The actual meal was OK.

Note to self: Dont ask the helpful hardware man for gourmet food recommendations…

We stopped at Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davies for an overnight, shower in the morning (Thursday the 29th) and took off through the Barilla Mountains, for a long and desolate 3 or 400 mile drive through the “hill country” to Fredericksburg.

THURSDAY, December 29th.

Fredericksburg was all decked out for Christmas..

Fredericksburg seemed 3 or 4 times bigger than it was the last time I visited.

We met up Cathie and Kevin who are fellow Travato Owners and had some great german food and a couple drinks at the Bavarian Inn.

We were told to stay at enchanted rock state park and had hoped to do some bike riding there, but the park was full. One of my handy phone apps said there was a Lady Bird City Park/Golf Course/Airport just a couple miles out of town. Once again, the RV park was pretty much full (and cramped and ugly), and Jennifer got the Hostess to give us a “tent spot”, which was an huge open grassy field (looking down on the crowded RV park).

FRIDAY, December 30th

We were on to Austin where we rode bikes around Lady Bird Lake in Downtown.

We have come to discover a certain odd charm to Urban Bike riding. We are both people watchers, and there is no better place to do it than in City Parks and along bike trails.

After our ride, we stopped by for a short visit with Robert and Chaka at their recently remodeled home in Austin. Beautiful place with great energy and a nicely landscaped city garden in the back yard.

For a change of scenery (and culture) we visited Austins 6th Street Music and Party District:

Tony fit right in… 🙂

Several locals recommended Esthers Follies, and it is a NOT TO MISS attraction if visiting Austin! It’s a Vaudeville styled, homegrown, non stop, singing, dancing, acting, comedy, music and magic show that kept us laughing for an hour and a half straight.

After the first song of the show, we never stopped laughing long enough to take a picture. I honestly could not hold the camera steady enough between belly laughs with the several attempts I made to take snapshots!

After the show we visited a couple too crowded bars, listened to some live music too loud, and had a couple overpriced drinks, fun stuff. People watching the folks all gussied up and out to have a good time, mixed in with the many homeless people roaming 6th street, is interesting to say the least.

Jennifers long time friend, Natalie, was on her way back home to Austin from Arkansas, but invited us to “driveway surf” at her house just a short distance from 6th street. In the morning we got up, had breakfast, and made a stop at a City Park and Barton Springs with Natalie and Kiko to walk the dogs. I’m not really cut out to be a City guy, but our quick visit makes Austin seem pretty cool, as far as cities go.

Dallas skyline on the way home…

Another great trip with perfect company and a flawless performance from our Trusty traveling Travato!

Life is Good!

2016-09-23 Richland Creek Wilderness Area: Twin Falls Devils Fork

Last year we took our Old 97 Dodge Van to Richland Creek Wilderness area for the weekend to hike to Twin Falls, Devils Fork Waterfall. We managed to pass the little fork in the Creek and ended up at Richland Falls.
This year, we did it a little more comfortably, in Tony (the Travato), and I finally made it there (I think this was my 4th or 5th attempt to find this elusive spot).

Its a 2-1/2 mile hike (good workout) up Richland Creek in to the wilderness area. The entire hike is beautiful, and scattered with wonderful little holes of water to stop and swim in for a bit. The water is turquoise and amazingly clean and clear.



Here is the fork to look for; A right angle turn in the creek to the left, and this huge angled sycamore points the way to Devils Fork. The creek looks dry at the point it enters Richland, the water is underground.


I’ve seen the water higher when determined photographers make the hike in and get those awesome shots of thundering waterfalls, but that would probably entail a lot more “wading” and river crossings than we were up for. It was perfect for us; the water was high enough to fill all the swimming holes, yet low enough so we did not have to worry about currents.img_6481-2


img_6472-2Saturday night we had visitors at the campsite to share steak, salad and baked potatoes over the fire. With Birthday cake to boot.

dinnerHappy Birthday to me.

Another awesome weekend in the Ozarks with this fine lady.

Sunday, we sat down by the river, and I worked on a plein air of the Richland Creek campground swimming hole while Jennifer read a book. 


Fall is coming, so I helped Mother Nature color the trees up a bit more..


Maybe I’ll finish it tonight..

The Final result is on the Next Post

Life is good.

2016-06-03 Mesa Verde, Taos

We stayed over night at the Navajo Dam Campground (which is huge, and was near full, some 300 campsites, mostly fisherman)

And Headed to Mesa Verde in the Morning.


This is another one of those places that is hard to describe in words and pictures. It is an area of near desert the Pueblo Indians had settled in for some 600 years back at the time of Christ.


Supposedly, they were successful farmers in this dry and arid climate.  As the water dried up, and other resources became thinner, they moved down the sides of the cliffs for shelter from the sun and winter.


The access to these cliff dwellings was rather treacherous (and though improved, still seemed pretty dangerous to me by todays tourist standards)



Both Jennifer and I were very nervous watching tourists (and ourselves) standing just inches from sheer cliffs while the guide gave her narration.



But it is definitely another -not to miss- attraction. There is a great museum, with plenty of information and artifacts, and cheap tours of several of the dwellings (of which there is something like 600 in total).  There is also, a “drive along tour” on the topside where you drive to a dozen different closely dispersed destinations, and stop and view different archeological sites and ruins; the tour chronicles their 600 years of occupying the area and gives much insight on there different dwellings an lifestyles over the course of time. Amazing place. Amazing society. Lots of open mouths walking around in wonder..

Steering towards home, we stopped briefly in Taos to walk some of the art galleries and shops; though still very touristy, this town had a much better energy for me than Santa Fe. The oldest occupied American Indian Pueblo is also nearby, which we did not have time to check out.



We also viewed some Green homes made of mostly recycled and repurposed materials. There was an entire subdivision of these “Earthships“.. All solar and self sufficient; Pretty cool in a past life, but currently I am happily into my “Roadship”.


The area east of Taos was interesting and would warrant another camping visit.




Heading East , the scenery once again became barren and boring..



It’s always a thrill to come home to the green green grass of home.





2016-06-02 Telluride Co.: Americas Most Beautiful Drive

Thursday Morning we made the loop from Ouray to the North, through Ridgeway, and around to Telluride.



A stroll around town, and a bike ride up another great city walking/biking trail along the San Miguel River..13344642_1197545300270046_7176320411746781126_n


This one had some history, with Kiosks along the highway. Those zig zags up the mountain is a switched back road to the mine (still covered with Snow in June). They are used as Jeep touring roads now, and no doubt lead to the trails which connect to Ouray… The two towns are less than 10 miles apart as the crow flies, but divided by 10000 ft plus peaks.IMG_5969

There is a (free) Gondola that takes you up and around in to Mountain Village (a mini-Aspen).IMG_5951We skipped the typical crowded commercial campgrounds in town, and found the Sunshine Campground State Park just South of town a couple miles. 
The view from our “sliding doors” was awe inspiring. So much so, I whipped out a quick little painting.13325494_1197544506936792_7129407875650486571_n


I’ll finish this up when I get home..


Sunshine Mountain


2016-06-01 Million Dollar Highway, Ouray, Perimeter trail

This trip just getting better. The Million Dollar Highway or San Juan Skyway takes you from Durango to Ouray with ridiculous switchbacks, drop offs and cliff side “hanging” roads..

IMG_5764Passing Silverton again..IMG_5797

While Jennifer was driving through the beautiful Mountains, we spotted this waterfall and pulled over to snap a picture.  Jennifer was just going to stay in the Van. I walked over and was trying to get a picture and then she meandered over.  We were parked on a downhill grade, and I asked her if she put the emergency brake on (Aly was still in the car). She got a very concerned look on her face… 🙂


I just had to include this picture of her running back to the Travato before it started to roll down the highway… 😀





We rolled into Ouray about evening and thought we’d check for the off chance there might be an open space at the amphitheater campground.. There were several; but only for “small vehicles”.








Good thing we got our “little Travato”!

We tucked her in and got this view for the evening…  IMG_5864IMG_5876
Woke up to a view of Ouray below us.

Had a Cinnamon Bear come visit us in the morning too, but didn’t manage to get a picture..

Jennifer made pancakes and sausage in the morning and we were off to explore Ouray..   on foot.IMG_5882

Somehow, we got off trail, which mama wasn’t real comfortable with 😉 , (that hill is a lot steeper than it looks in this picture).


IMG_5880 IMG_5900 IMG_5896We walked to downtown, did some poking around, and then hiked the “perimeter trail”, which is a 5 or 6 mile trail that completely circles the entire town on the mountainside.IMG_5938IMG_5901 IMG_5902

IMG_5908 Encountered just a bit of rain..IMG_5917


IMG_5926…and even got to do a little gold pannin’ to remind me of my prospectin’ days, before returning to camp 🙂
13332930_1193545103991540_4664232408359238898_nAs if that wasn’t enough for one day, we jumped in the Van and headed to town, had some delicious HUGE burgers at Maggies Kitchen, and soaked our bones in the Hot Springs.

This was a good day!


2016-05-31 Durango and Silverton Railway: Americas Most Beautiful Drive

I’ll let the pictures tell this story.

You jump on a train in Durango, take a 2 hour ride up to Silverton, spend a couple hours shopping in town, and take a big tour bus back down the highway. Unbelievable scenery all the way. Scenic overload.  It’s baffling how they ever managed to get this narrow gauge 45 miles thru the steep canyons along the Animus River, much less that it was built in 1881!  in less than a year! ..Mind blowing.

Most definitely a “bucket list” item…  Words, and my feeble attempts at photography with an iphone from a moving train, can not describe how awesome this ride was.IMG_5654



IMG_5678 IMG_5679






Coming in to Silverton:IMG_5732


IMG_5737Silverton was cool; as far as “at the treeline, old mining towns, turned tourist towns” go…  I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be so welcoming in the winter months.

And the ride back in the Bus was “just” more beautiful snowcapped mountains.. You just put the camera away after awhile.. Many on the bus just fell asleep from “scenic overload”.. 🙂



2016-05-28 Santa Fe NM. to Durango Co. The most Scenic Road Trip in America.

Go West Old Man!

Colorado here we come.. Just days before leaving for a trip out west, I found this web page describing “The most beautiful drive in America”. It was exactly the drive we had been planning, but in reverse order. As it turns out, it IS definitely one of America’s most scenic drives!

To get there we had to cross through one of the “most boring” drives in America; across Oklahoma and Texas. I won’t bore you with any of those pictures (because I didn’t take any) 🙂

First Stop was Santa Fe New Mexico, where I figured out we was gonna have to get out of this town real fast if I wanted any money for the rest of the week ….








I DID find these handmade ladders though… How cool would THAT look on the back of my space age Travato?  🙂




..and there was plenty of awesome architecture to look at.  There was a mass going on at this catholic church, and the doorman politely decided we were tourists and were not really interested in confessing our sins..




We headed on to Lake Abiquiu which Jennifer remembered from an earlier trip. The landscape is dry, sandy, but none the less, impressively large..


We arrived after dark and the campground was full but the sweet camp host lady let us pay for a couple showers, and then sent us to the “corral”, which is an overflow lot. No bathrooms, no showers, no charge, and no… people!  My favorite kind of campsite!

This was our view in the morning. Substantially better than the rows of campers in the campground..


And just a short morning walk away was the lake.IMG_5567

The Lake seemed a bit out of place to me in this desert country,

IMG_5556and Jennifer thought the same of the sIMG_5555ome of the local plant life.

Next on the Agenda, was an increasingly pretty and mountainous drive to Durango Colorado,IMG_5579

IMG_5581where there just happened to be a festival and big bike race going on. (and some drumming)

In reality,IMG_5583  there was                 more than one bike 🙂 ,             … but that’s all I got on camera..

We met some Facebook Friends (and Fit RV Travato RV blogging legends 😉 ) at the United Campground on the outskirts of Durango; Your typical commercial campground I guess. The place was clean and well kept, and in a great location, just about a mile from downtown with the Animus River in sight. The Durango/Silverton Railroad literally runs right through it.  The sites are close together, and there wasn’t much privacy, but there were shade trees, and it was not near as crowded as many of the gravel parking lots they call “RV Parks”.  The hosts were wonderfully friendly and helpful, and they had a laundry room and other amenities we didn’t make use of.  They didn’t have fire pits or grills; which I found odd, being used to State and National Parks, but they did offer portable grills you could take to your campsite and return later. Aly found the pool.. (surprise, surprise).


With plenty of daylight left, we unhooked the Bikes and took a ride down the Animus Trail, which is a Beautiful, Multi use, paved bike and walking trail that runs along the river, right through town and on South of Town about 6 miles.


Its a great trail, with lots of entertainment along the way..



James and Stefany turned out to be great campsite mates, and we shared dinner, and some wine in the evening and listened to James’ (until now), unknown talent of “Dog calling”… IMG_5628

Had a good peaceful nights sleep, and went back to town and had an excellent hearty breakfast at the old time, family run, and extremely busy Oscars Cafe. Obviously, THE place to go for a big breakfast in Durango. IMG_5631

Picked up our tickets for tomorrows train ride,IMG_5646

and then headed up into the mountains on a gravel road to a campsite more our style..IMG_5639

Took an excellent bike ride up the Hermosa trail which was just about the limit of our proficiency level at Mountain Biking .. (that translates to: “we spent some of the time pushing our bikes”)  🙂 But it was a good work out, the scenery was awesome, and we all gained a little more skill after 5 or 6 miles on this trail. We never did make it all the way to Hermosa creek, as after a long constant downhill, it was becoming evident that coming BACK UP that hill wasn’t going to be as much fun!  Turns out this trail network goes clear across the mountains to Telluride… File_000 (2)File_004



Happy Bikers..

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