Peter and Donna Thomas have been making fine press and artist's books for over 40 years. When they started, as craftspeople at Renaissance Faires, they fell in love with the graceful beauty of "gypsy wagon" caravans that other vendors had made to sleep in or use as booths for selling their wares. In 2009 Peter and Donna built their own tiny home on wheels, designed after a typical late 19th century Redding Wagon. This blog documents their trips around the country, taken to sell their artists' books, teach book arts workshops, and talk about making books as art; as well as to seek out and experience the beauty of the many different landscapes found across the USA.

Peter and Donna started their business in 1977 and made their first book in 1978, so from 2017-18 are traveling to celebrate 40 years of making books with shows in a dozen libraries across the country. See the schedule on the side bar to find if they are coming to a town near you....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Little Gypsy Wagon on the Prairie

Highway 14 across South Dakota and Minnesota is known as the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Highway” and that is how we drove through these states. We went from the Badlands National Park rugged landscape:


to a comfy recreation area in the capital city of Pierre, SD, where we camped on mown lawn next to a swimming lake on the Missouri River. We swam at sunset to cool down in what is hot to us, but was only in the 80s. Pierre is where we met the little highway on the prairie, the mostly 2-lane highway 14.

Now I have to tell you how we are met in these heartland small towns. We get lots of looks, but people are careful to only glance quickly at us two aging hippie-types in this very curious trailer? Or is it for the circus? Or perhaps for some upcoming Shakespeare thing? We are parked in the McDonald’s parking lot (free internet) posting blogs or trying to keep up the book business and what an odd picture we present. I sometimes feel self-conscious as I slip from truck seat to caravan back door in my flowing pants and flying gray braids!

But then when someone stops to talk, it is because they really LOVE the wagon and have to know how we got it. All agree that the world needs more color and creativity when it comes to RVs. Here is an RV with a giant pheasant on top! (The pheasant hunting capitol of the world is on HWY 14.)

On Highway 14 you can buy vegies from a farm stand where a WHOLE CASHBOX of money is there for you to put your money in. Not just a slot, like in California. I am writing a thank you note on the whiteboard for the tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onions and corn.


One more story. We camped in a State Park in Minnesota, down in a hollow by a slow moving river, surrounded by leafy cottonwoods. The ranger said nonchalantly that IF we were to have any severe storm warnings, THEY WOULD LET US KNOW and the safe place would be the big stone CCC-built bathhouse. OK, fine. They will “let us know”. Well, at midnight, the wind whipped the cottonwoods, thunder and lightning happened simultaneously (no “counting out” how far away it was) and the rain came down in tablespoon-sized drops. Folks ran to their cars and waited and watched. It quieted and we all went back to sleep. In the morning we casually asked if it was always so fun at night camping in Minnesota. The campground host said, “Didn’t you hear the warning? We stayed in the bathhouse for 3 hours.” Apparently they forgot to tell our loop that we needed to move. Oh, also that we were supposed to tune into the radio for the announcement.


Kathryn said...

What an adventure! You must have found the camera again. I knit part of a sock at the farmers' market yesterday and thought of you.
All my best,

Velma said...

you're getting closer to canton. yay!

Bonnie K said...

I just noticed from your schedule that you will be in Buffalo, NY on Sept 1st at the Western New York Book Arts Center, which is in my "neck of the woods". Yippee!!! Hope to see and hear you then.