When Nature Fights Back: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles   7 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

What a weekend.

Hang on kids, this one’s going to get bumpy.

I’m breaking format for this Special Edition; there was just too much happening this weekend to do a normal Board Chronicles for our event. I’ll cover the basics tomorrow; in this post I’ll cover, to quote Paul Harvey, the rest of the story.

We had such a wonderful plan.

The problem, you see, is that our out-of-control hobby – doing these craft fairs – results in us working 7 days a week. Day off? HA. Evening out? HA. We have to make more product. We have an event to prepare for.

Except … that’s no way to live. Right? You need to enjoy yourself now and again. Both Velda and I do these events, as you know, to scratch another itch, if you will … to actually talk to living humans face-to-face (in my case) and to have them talk oh-so-enthusiastically about your products (in Velda’s case). We do this for the fun … except, sometimes, it just feels like we’re working all of the time, and not enjoying anything.

Mammoth LakesSo this weekend was about getting some enjoyment while working a new event. We love the mountains, and this event at Mammoth Lakes was recommended to us. It sounded like a great escape, so we thought we’d make a weekend of it. Have some privacy. Get away from it all. Enjoy the mountain air.

That was the plan. Those were our expectations. And, as you know, expectations can kill you.

We had relatively low expectations for the event, honestly. We wanted to break even. Pay for our hotel, pay for our event costs and travel costs … and leave with a smile on our face. With me?

The event was the 44th annual Mammoth Lakes Fine Arts & Crafts Festival.

The erudite MrsM recommended we use airbnb, which we enthusiastically embraced. I searched for available lodgings for this weekend, and found Chantal’s home:

We booked it. We did this not knowing that there was also a foosball table in the suite we were booking. I mean, c’mon, have you ever stayed in a room with a wonderful foosball table?

The loveliest Foosball table I have ever used to beat Velda at a game she does not understand.

The loveliest Foosball table I have ever used to beat Velda at a game she does not understand.

It’s probably true that we came late to the party … we didn’t apply for this August event until May 30, and received our confirmation on June 1. When we then searched for lodgings IN Mammoth Lakes, the prices were, uh, significant. Chantal’s home looked lovely, and even though it was 20 miles out of town and still a bit pricey, it seemed to fit with our over-all goal of enjoying the weekend.

We were all in. I booked Chantal’s master suite for the weekend. Velda began planning menus for us to enjoy at both the event in Mammoth Lakes as well as at Chantal’s home, which is in Swall Meadows – about halfway between Bishop & Mammoth Lakes, CA.

We received the event instructions on July 25, and I dutifully printed them and put then in my event instructions pile … to read when it was time to get ready for the event. I read the instructions on Wednesday, August 3. I had other things to do in the interim … like finishing the 99 boards that you’ve seen pictured over the last few days. But I digress.

There I was, reading the instructions with Velda the evening of August 3, and something caught my eye on page 2: the producer did not provide event security. At all. This open-air event had no one protecting your booth in the wee hours, and the producers clearly stated they were not responsible.

Whoa.

I’ve never done an outdoor, multi-day event that didn’t provide security. Wowzer.

I kept reading.

And that’s when I got hit. Hard. The letter said:

Bears have been known to walk through the site at night. Please do not leave anything fragrant (food, lotions,
trash, chapstick, etc.) in your booth that might attract their attention.

Now, I’ve been trained by professionals about bears & smellables. They cannot be in the same place, or the bear will have them.

  • Mrs M’s display … 100% smellable. I mean, that’s the purpose of her products!
  • Mr M’s display … 100% smellable. I coat every board in beeswax. My booth would have to smell like a honey pot to any wandering bear.

We were going to have to strike our display every night, and set it up every morning. Our 7-hour daily event just became an 11-hour daily event. Our vision of a getaway weekend in a mountain retreat seemed to be slipping away.

But, we were already all-in. Non-refundable payments in full were already sent. So, we embraced the situation and resolved to make the best of it. When I arrived for set up, I confirmed that our understanding of the details was 100% correct. Oh, one of the artists generally sleeps at the event site to provide “security,” but the ursine population was a constant problem … which is why every garbage can in Mammoth Lakes has a lock on it.

Wha’cha gonna do, right? We were already all in.

Our first night at Chantal’s was great. Quiet. We went to bed early, anticipating our early set-up for day one.

Friday was a total surprise for us: most 3-day events have a Friday that’s a snooze at best. I hoped we would sell enough to pay our hotel bill for one night, and had low expectations of actually doing that. Fridays were always slow, slow, slow.

Except for this one.

Sales on Friday were over $1,000. Incredible! We have never done that well on the first day of a 3-day event. Fabulous. With smiles on faces, we packed all of the smellables back into the trailer, and headed for Chantal’s for grilled burgers, and a tête-à-tête on the patio.

We got on US 395 and headed south … and there was a large, 2-rotor helicopter carrying a big orange thing over the highway in front of us. Odd. We knew there was a fire somewhere; they must be doing water drops on the fire.

Yup.

Smokey does not mess around. When he says the danger is extreme, believe him.

Smokey does not mess around. When he says the danger is extreme, believe him.

We got to our turn-off, and there was a CHP officer there to tell us the road was closed; we would have to go the long way ’round to get to Swall Meadows. Lower Rock Creek Road had been closed, due to the Rock Creek Fire, now burning on about 10 acres with 5% containment, Velda found. No worries. The new path to our room was a few miles longer, but GPS is a wonderful thing. No worries.

We got to Chantal’s and relaxed a bit. I poured a Woodford (of course) and Velda poured her new obsession, a small batch, handmade Lavender Honey mixer with Vodka. We got the groceries together, and trooped down to the patio to enjoy our dinner. Once I helped Velda figure out how to turn a BBQ’s gas valve to “On,” the cooking got started.

By the time we were eating, there was smoke in the air. And Velda never burns the BBQ, so the smoke was from a more sinister source. Breathing outdoors became a bad idea.

No problem, we finished & went upstairs to rest up for the big day of vending that was ahead of us. I went to bed early, but Velda was dealing with nerves & stayed up reading.

At 10:30pm, the local Sheriffs began knocking on the doors in the neighborhood, advising everyone to evacuate. The winds had shifted, and the fire that was nearly contained at 7pm was suddenly breaking through the fire lines. Swall Meadows (which had partially burned just 18 months ago) was threatened. We had to get out.

Get. Out.

11pm. Fleeing a fire. Homeless. Hotels were already known to be sold out due to the “Bluesapalooza” event going on, concurrently with ours. And set-up for the next day’s event began in 8-1/2 hours.

OK, go.

Velda got a very large adrenaline rush (not a good thing) and transformed into FrenziedVelda. If you’ve ever been around FrenziedVelda … well, you know what I’m talking about. If this is a new idea for you, all I can say is be afwaid. Be vewy afwaid.

I advised her that we would be going to Bishop to look for a room for the night, and she followed the Jeep/trailer in her Honda. She assured me she was OK to drive, and when faced with the choice of making her ride with me or allowing her to drive herself, I took the coward’s path & let her have her way.

We headed south. I turned into the first motel we came to, a Motel 6. Sold Out. OK, I was ready to move on. I told asked FrienziedVelda to stay at the entrance, and I drove forward in the parking lot to turn around. And I came to a dead end. The only way out was to back the trailer out. Back about 40 yards, do a dog leg right around the pool, and then back up another 200 yards. No problem. FrenziedVelda will help me.

But, FrenziedVelda. Where is she?

Gone.

Well, OK, then. Nothing to do but to get to it. I am by no measure an expert at handling a trailer. I haven’t been comfortable with something attached to a hitch since I nearly broke the hay wagon tongue attached to the tractor and FrenziedDad nearly bit my head off.

But I digress.

I commenced to backing, and got about 70% done before FrenziedVelda showed back up. She’d secured us a room across the street at the Vagabond Inn. We were lucky: it was the last room they had. Only $219 for the night. Or, rather, for the 6 hours we had left in the night.

FrenziedVelda then helped me back up a bit, and put her car in the road with flashers on to clear the way for me. That got the attention of a passing cop, who spoke briefly to FrenziedVelda and then immediately started telling the drivers of all passing cars to stay far, far away from this developing incident.

With Officer Friendly’s kind help, I was able to extricate my rig from the Motel 6 parking lot from Hell, and turned to get gas and find solace in another parking lot. As I was parking in an abandoned grocery store lot near the motel, FrenziedVelda called to say I should come directly to the Vagabond Inn. With a little prompting, she even asked the clerk where I should park since I was pretty sure Officer Friendly had departed this area as quickly as possible once I was clear of the parking lot from Hell.

I parked the Jeep in the designated “trucker’s lot,” and walked to FrenziedVelda. She had the room key, as well as the suitcases & such in her car. We got to the sumptuous clean room, and unpacked. We found that in the chaos that created FrenziedVelda, a few items had been left behind.

Like her shampoo. And her hair brush. And her makeup.

And my comb. And my shampoo.

And my bourbon.

Things went downhill from there.

We turned out the light, agreeing to get up for breakfast at the conveniently located Denny’s next door at 6a, in order to be at the event by 7:15a for setup.

Sierra Nevada 01

This may have been quaint in the ’50s as room decor, but today it was just annoying.

We got to Denny’s, homeless again after a few hours of tossing and turning at the unfortunately-named Vagabond Inn, and I volunteered that I’d found another hotel, in Mammoth Lakes, for the next 2 nights: the Sierra Nevada Resort. Only $199/night. Sold. I made the reservation on my tablet, and we drove back to the event for Saturday set-up.

Saturday sucked. Sales were oh-so-slow all day. Every vendor said they were down to Friday. The energy was down; the crowd was there but it just didn’t feel like anyone cared. Saturdays are supposed to be the best day! What’s happening?

In the end, however, the day went well. Sales for us were up 35% over our spectacular Friday, so we had no complaints. About the sales part. Oh, and FrenziedVelda eventually went away, so that was good unbelievably excellent, as well.

At the end of the day, we loaded all of our wonderful smellables back into the trailer, and left it parked right at the event. At this point, I was clear that if a bear wanted to tear open the trailer so they could eat a bar of soap, then I would let’em.

I then drove the Honda to our motel resort. The online booking was correct; the room fee was $199. What I had not seen was that there was a resort fee of $25 per night as well.

Resort fee. You know, so we could relax during our getaway weekend.

Mammoth Mogul, formerly known as Ixis Mogul. But you knew that, right?

Mammoth Mogul, formerly known as Ixis Mogul. But you knew that, right?

We loaded into our new home for the next 48 hours, relaxed a minute … well, sort of. The problem was the guy in the room across the courtyard had a direct view into our room if the curtain was open … which it needed to be if you wanted to survive having no air conditioning in the room. So, privacy or cooler temperatures. You choose.

Soon after we gave up on choosing between that rock & the hard place, we went to dinner. Velda had selected a nice Mammoth Lakes restaurant called The Mogul. Note this is not the Mammoth Mogul of Sonic the Hedgehog fame, which Velda was almost certainly unaware of when she selected the restaurant.

Why this restaurant? It was a peace offering. You see, they sold Blackberry Pie a la mode as a featured dessert, and even though Velda won’t make me such a dessert, she was offering to let me buy one.

And I did. But first, there was a Bulleit on the rocks … which was the best Bourbon they had (sigh). But the dinner got better, starting with a wonderful Caesar salad with whole anchovies. Then, a Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola butter. Yum.

Thank you, Velda. After the weekend we’d had … so far … this meal was a singular treat. The singular treat.

Once the meal was over, though, it was off to Von’s to buy emergency replacements. Here’s Velda’s actual shopping list:

  1. brush
  2. shampoo
  3. comb
  4. liquor

Sunday, we started with a totally unsatisfying breakfast at Carl’s Jr, since Velda’s carefully planned menu was still at our evacuated airbnb home. We got to the event site on time and began our 3rd 2-hour set up for this 3-day event.

Generally, I expect Sunday sales to be about 40% of a Saturday/Sunday event. This Sunday’s results did not disappoint, thankfully, and we eventually had sales that surpassed our expectations. Our 3 day sales were … well, that’s what I’ll discuss tomorrow in the official event review, in the next episode of The Board Chronicles.

For now, though, how do you think we’re doing against the stated goals for the weekend? Here they are:

  1. Have some privacy.
  2. Get away from it all.
  3. Enjoy the mountain air.
  4. We wanted to break even: pay for our hotel, pay for our event costs and travel costs.
  5. Leave with a smile on our face.

By my count, we’re 1 for 5, or worse. Perhaps using vending as an excuse for vacationing was not our best idea….

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7 responses to “When Nature Fights Back: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

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  1. I am still laughing…..with you….not at you!!! Steve

    Steven Harbstreit
  2. I believe you’ve heard “The best laid plans of mice and men” line before . . . sorry your weekend mostly sucked but glad you got out w/ everything eventually!!!!

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