Saturday, March 15, 2008

My first extended trip of the season

WARNING: long post ahead.

I’ve been attending art festivals in Arizona for a number of years. Although these shows take me 1800 miles from home, they have always been worth my time and the expense necessary to do them. Typically I do the fall shows in both Tempe and Tucson AZ. but for the first time I will be doing those same two shows this spring.

I just finished doing some gas mileage calculations and discovered that with gas nearing $4.00 a gallon pulling my trailer will add over $400.00 to my expenses. Because I use my 6’ x 12’ cargo trailer to both carry my booth, art and supplies to enable me to set up my mini art gallery at various art festivals PLUS use it as my mobile hotel room (I sleep, eat and bath in it) leaving it home usually isn’t an option. Even though in the previous years that I’ve “moteled it” I always found the cheapest accommodations I could, usually Tom Bodett’s Motel 6. But now that my home away from home rolls with me behind my truck I’m going to be hard pressed to leave it behind.

Packing what I normally take to shows under the canopy of my 2005 Chevy Silverado truck and NOT in my trailer is going to take some serious planning. I used to do it but since I started pulling my trailer I’ve become used to the extra room and thus have not been as careful with what I take and what I leave at home. If I revert back to my set up prior to using my rolling print bins, I can take 6 2’ x 4’ tables to support my framed prints instead of my large rolling bins that I couldn’t lift into the bed of my truck. This will save a ton of room.

If I also only frame as many images as I think I’ll need for one show instead of two, I can take hundreds of un-framed prints with me and cases of glass and then frame what I need for the second show between the festivals. That way I will save half of the room I would need if I made up my entire inventory at home. A little more work but that way I can do these 2 shows without my trailer.

This trip will have a few additional benefits that all traveling artist should be taking advantage of, namely, book shows close to family or friends you’d like to visit. Not only can you write off the expenses you accrue with these visits because your main reason for these far off trips are to conduct business at the festival but you may also be able to save additional money by staying with these folks.

That’s exactly what I’ll be doing this time. I have a son, daughter-in-law and two grand kids that live near Salt Lake City Utah. By leaving early in the morning on my departure day I can make it to Idaho Falls in a long but doable driving day. This first stop is about 550 miles from my home in Sandpoint, ID. By leaving my trailer home, I’ll need to book a room for the night, which will cost me about $45.00. The next day I’ll have a causal drive to my son’s home.

After spending the night with my family I’ll drive into Arizona as far as I can make in one long day of driving and then I’ll need to book another motel room which will run about the same as in Idaho Falls. The next day’s destination is Mesa AZ. which is where my other son and his family live (starting to get the picture?) Mesa is only 15 minutes from the Festival of the Arts in Tempe so I’ll be able to return each night to stay with my family and NOT need to stay in a motel.

Between my show in Tempe and the 4th Ave. show in Tucson I will also be staying with my son saving over $200.00 in lodging fees plus giving me opportunity to play grandpa to my 1 ½ year old grand son. I can’t wait.

The 4th Ave. show is another 3-day affair so I’ll be heading south towards Tucson on Thursday morning which will give me ample time to set up my booth that afternoon. For that night plus the next 3 I’ll need to call Motel 6 home once more which will set me back less than you might think. Tucson offers some of the best lodging prices anywhere in the country. The 4 nights there will only run about $130.00. The age and condition of the Tucson Motel 6 is less than I’d like but I am only sleeping and bathing there so I hate to spend more than I need to for this.

Monday morning I’ll start my long trip back to Idaho and even with a long day of driving I usually only make it to southern Utah. Chalk up another nights stay and expense but this time the Motel 6 I use is one of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in. Go figure. To keep the night’s lodging consistent all over the country, Motel 6 must some how subsidize the newer and fancier hotels because the difference between the one in Tucson and the one in Cedar City UT. is night and day.

The next day I easily drive back to son #1’s house in Salt Lake City, spend another day or two playing grandpa to my two other grand kids then it’s back on the road. After about 10 hours behind the wheel I pull into Missoula MT. and hook up with a friend and old neighbor of mine from when we both lived in Santa Cruz CA. We catch up on old times while consuming a few adult beverages and get a good night sleep without forking over and money to the hotels night clerk.

The next day I say goodbye and head home. It’s only a 6 hour drive which is a piece of cake so I’m driving back to my mountain ranch home before dark.

Because this trip will keep me on the road for nearly 3 weeks and if I needed to stay in motels the entire time I could easily spend close to $1000.00 on lodging alone. By staying with family and friends I reduce this expense to under $400.00, which coincidently is what I would have spent on the additional gas to pull my trailer.

Planning shows you do that allow you to take advantage of my couch surfing plan will not only save you money but allow you to write off your family trips too. Believe me, this can be one of the best benefits a life as an artist can have.

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