What once was a tarantula hobby-related blog called Kiss My Big Hairy Spider, became a Pikey’s story when I hit the road in January 2017. KMBHS had 142 posts that were mostly of interest to arachnoculturists, and it was time to move on. My nomadic travels abroad and all over the southern US, as well as my retirement from the pet trade and keeping reptiles & arachnids, required evolving into something broader and much more current and relevant. The Blogger version of PIKEY: Shunpiking and Boondocking; the Gypsy Life saw 68 entries before I moved my blogging once again, this time here my own website. Now the blog has no name. The calendar pages keep turning and now it is October 2018 and I’m still on wheels. My journey and journal continues.
Autumn has set in here in the Chiricahuas and the mornings are brisk. Still, the ectothermic creatures are active and so are those with internal furnaces. This morning, as I walked down to the Visitor Info Center to make phone calls after being informed that there was a fire up-canyon near the Southwestern Research Station, a young of the year Sonoran Gopher Snake crossed the little trail that connects my camp at the corral with the ‘VIC’. I brought it with me as I talked with various people regarding the fire. The local who originally entered my camp to notify me said something about a possible evacuation of the canyon. I wondered if I hitched my Wheelhouse up and headed out into the foothills whether I would just keep going. Then I wondered just how long it would take to break camp since I have now been stationary for about six months. At this point, I’m homesteading.
But a gypsy must wander …
Tangentially related to my Pikey spirit, it is Irish Music Week here in Portal, Arizona. I was unaware until a few days ago, but apparently it is an annual instructional camp for Irish Music players that’s been jamming at the mouth of the Chiris for going on ten years. I kept the VIC open late on Friday so 20 or so students to come by, and it turned out that the woman who runs the camp used to be a VIC Host like me. Guess that’s how a remote hamlet in extreme southeastern Arizona became home to the event. Thursday afternoon I attended a dinner at Portal Cafe where the eight or so instructors performed for a crowd that included the 40 or so students of the camp as well as just about everyone from the Portal-Rodeo area.
As this year charges to its end, I reflect on how different it has been to the first half of last year, when the Pikey blog began. In 2017 I had a Trip Log and it documented my wandering, something that is absent from 2018. I was back and forth from Florida in January, first without a Wheelhouse that had yet to be delivered. My first night inside my shiny new RV was January 29 near Lake Park, Georgia. But on February 9 I was off to Borneo and Malaysia so my Trip Log shows my RV life being put on hold as I traveled back to Chicago to fly to Dubai and Kuala Lumpur before arriving in Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo on February 11. I returned to the states at February’s end and was camped back at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in south-central Florida by March 4, returning to where I had spent those first days of February. Next was a trip to the Everglades before returning to KPPSP for the end of March and then pushing on across southern Texas for the entire month of April. The beginning of May 2017 saw me bounce around New Mexico and Arizona chasing Brent Hendrixson and his field arachnology students, but once they moved west toward California in mid-May I headed to the Rodeo, New Mexico - Portal, Arizona area to see the Ashley’s Chiricahua Desert Museum. I knew Bob and Sheri Ashley through the IHS (International Herpetological Symposium) and their NARBC (National Reptile Breeder’s Conference where I had been exhibiting my tarantulas and holding my own Arachnogathering), and I wanted to see the reptile exhibits and museum they had built at the crossroads of New Mexico’s Highway 80 and the road that leads into the Chiricahua Mountains. Not counting a brief visit to Chicagoland June 23-July 10, I wouldn’t leave Rusty’s until mid-September.
This year I left Chicagoland in mid-April and headed right back to Rusty’s RV Ranch north of Rodeo, NM, the wonderful RV Park in the San Simon Valley between the Chiricahua and Peloncillo Mountains where I became sedentary on May 15 during my 2017 travels. That’s when a one week booking became a four month stay. Having stored my winterized Wheelhouse at Rusty’s since mid-September, I drove straight to Rusty’s and resumed living there as if I’d never left. I had arranged to be a volunteer host at the Cave Creek Canyon Visitor Center just west of Portal, Arizona in the Chiricahua Mountains starting June 1. I booked one month and then in mid-May, since my work at the visitor center began soon after arrival instead of June, I relocated into the canyon where there are four RV sites for VIC volunteers and, occasionally, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) road crews. Two host couples where already occupying two sites in the main area below the VIC so I was offered the USFS corral site above the VIC. Initially apprehensive, I quickly learned that it was paradise. My own gated RV site surrounded by at least five acres of fenced in land with spectacular views has since become my homestead. The USFS has limits on how long a volunteer can remain camped here (3 months), but Friends of Cave Creek Canyon asked for a special dispensation to allow me to stay longer. And here I am in the second week of October, sipping dark coffee against the morning chill.
But a gypsy must wander …
As I mentioned in my last entry, my end-date this year is undecided. But I better make up my mind. I have until the beginning of January to get back to Chicago and, since I have the opportunity for at least some income here, it may be that I stay until mid-December or so. I probably wouldn’t have a chance to earn anything back in Chicago, especially since I don’t really want to try to get a job for a month or two and quit on New Year’s Day in preparation for spending January in southeast Asia.
In closing I guess I should mention the new tarantula mini-documentary I made. On October 2 I made a trip up to the Gila National Forest north of Silver City in Graham County, New Mexico. This is the southeast of the discontinuous range of perhaps America’s most handsome tarantula, Aphonopelma marxi. A high elevation tarantula from the Colorado Plateau of the United States’ Four Corners region (Utah, Colorado, Arizona & New Mexico), my filming site was among tall pine trees at nearly 7000 ft. elevation.