Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm back

Let me start this New Year’s blog entry by recapping the last road trip of my 2008 season. I historically end my art festival season with an extended road trip to AZ. for shows in Tempe and then Tucson. Even though many of my fellow traveling artists are staying closer to home because of their fears of a down economy, I always make money on this trip and this last one was no exception.

I was actually up about 5% in Tempe over the same show in 2007 but off 10% in Tucson. What I did notice from both shows though was the even though my customer count was higher (more actual individual sales written) the higher prices pieces sat un-sold by and large. That was one thing I noticed about the AZ. economy. People still came out and purchased art but they spread their Christmas shopping dollars out more. Instead of buying 2 $75.00 pieces they bought 5 or 6 $20.00 items or 4 to 5 $35.00 gifts. Basically the same dollars spent just spread over more gifts. Either way, I felt fortunate they spent with me because many of my friends reported sales down 40-50%.

Traveling is always an issue for artists that do the circuit. Add to that the fact that on this trip I have to drive 1800 miles home through some of the worst weather states imaginable, and one can see why making a living like I do is NOT for everyone. There was a winter storm warning in and around Flagstaff on the Monday I was to be traveling through on my way to my first stop in Salt Lake City. Reports of highway closures with up to 2 feet of snow made me decide to seek an alternate route. I Googled mapped a new and safer way (I thought) around this storm though Las Vegas, which then was to reconnect me back on I-15 north then up to Salt Lake City. This was going to add about a hundred miles to my trip but I gambled that this detour was worth not getting stranded in the snow in Flag.

My first surprise was that Highway 93 out of Phoenix towards Vegas looks like a main road on the map but in reality isn’t much more than a 2-lane desert highway. By the time I got to Wickenburg I was already calculating how much time I wasted on this new route. Because I had never been through Las Vegas before I kept telling myself to just think of this as a site seeing trip and to chill out because my season was over and other than wanting to be home in the worst way, an extra day driving in this area of the country I’ve never been in before was better that the hazards of the storm in northern AZ.

I knew that this route took be near Hoover Dam and had a vague recollection that I might even get close enough to see it. In fact, not only do you see it, you drive right over it, cool! As I neared the dam itself, you can’t help but notice the signs warning you of travel delays. I thought, it’s Monday, they are probably working on the road. What the road delay signs really meaning is that some higher up in our government still feels that this historic dam would make a great terrorist target so official looking guard types stop and randomly search vehicles going over the dam in both directions. By now it was raining rather hard and these guards standing out in the rain looked as if they rather be any where else than where they were so as I approached my turn in line to go through the checkpoint I decided to curb my almost always kidding nature and revert to using words like yes sir and no sir. I was happy to see that they weren’t requiring every vehicle to be searched but only seemed to be diverting 1970’s models VW buses and old converted hippie type school buses to pull over and show their contents. That really made me want to ask the guard about they’re use of stereotypical profiling but alas, I kept my mouth shut.

He did however ask what was in the canopy of my truck and when I told him I was an artist traveling home from my last show of the season he actually did want to make sure I wasn’t fabricating the whole story so he made me pull over and open up the back. Once he saw that I was carrying dozens of boxes filled with my art as well as my entire canopy and print bin set up, he gave me a break from not empting it’s contents and doing a more thorough search. It might have had something to do with me saying I had over $20,000.00 worth of art that absolutely could not get wet or he was just being cool but either way, I was back on the road and just a few minutes away from getting my first site of the famous Hoover Dam.

To be continued….

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