I got Betsy back!

Who is Betsy? Betsy is my iVan.  As in iPhone, and iPad. She’s the go anywhere, do anything Volkswagen Westfalia camper van that we bought back in  ’87. She was less than a year old and barely used. We promptly left on a three month trip around the Western United States and Southwestern Canada. What a honeymoon! We both loved our time camping and roaming about, but it was enough to last Thea a lifetime. She still likes shorter excursions, usually for business or family visits. I’ve continued to take Betsy on occasional hunting and fishing trips around Arizona and New Mexico, plus a couple of trips to Yellowstone.

A couple of years ago, we decided it was time to sell her. We were so busy with the galleries and commissions and just life in general, and she was getting very little use, other than as an around town car. Oh, it hurt, but we let her go. Our friend, Jane, who bought her, called recently and said she didn’t have time to do all the camping she’d planned. She had put quite a bit of money into mechanical repairs, but was really getting little or no chance to use Betsy. She knew how much we, I especially, had missed the old girl, and wanted to know if we’d be interested in trading art to get her back. In a heart beat!

Now what to do? I still never seemed to have time for anything but work. I had started my blogs A Farnsworth A Day, featuring a painting every day, and another blog, When a Painter Snaps, featuring a photograph a day. I started having more fun with my work and being more creative than I had been in years. But I’d let the creative side of living slip away. Having Betsy back reminded me how much I’d been missing  life on the road. Trip after trip got postponed or delayed or just plain written off. I’ve long since had my fill of snow and cold weather, I’m homesick for just about every place I’ve ever been and most places I haven’t. I love travel, crave springtime weather, and am quick to remind others that life is short. It ain’t a dress rehearsal. The only way I can see to enjoy reincarnation is to live many lives within this one we’ve been blessed with.

I’m hitting the road!

I get antsy after about three months in one place; crazy after three years. I had been in this studio for three years. It’s the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a couple of pretty good ones. But it was time to move on. Then our daughter, Rosa, came to work with us and we had rented out the Taos house. So I signed up for another year. Then the renters moved out, Rosa decided she wasn’t in love with Santa Fe, and moved to Flagstaff, and Thea realized that she wanted to spend more time in Taos. Year four was coming to an end. Betsy was in the driveway, quivering with excitement. I took her to the best VW mechanic in town and got her checked out. She’s been given a clean bill of health and declared roadworthy! ( I took her for a spin on a dirt road and she literally jumped up and down with excitement!)

So I gave notice that I wouldn’t be renewing the lease. The house was sold within a week or two, and I have to be out by March 1st! Betsy and I will be leaving on that day. (Sooner if possible). I don’t know yet where we’ll go first, but it will be toward warmer weather. Arizona, California, Mexico, Florida? We shall see. Meanwhile, I will avoid that which scares me the most, stagnation! I’m off to see the world! And to seek fresh inspiration for my work. No more relying on a working vacation every two or three years. Enough of this recluse I’ve become. Enough of going but rarely, always work driven, and dashing back to the same old grind. Might as well have been working a job all these years. At least I might have a pension to loose.

Oh, I’ll still be working, alright. I’ll be trading a sixteen hour a day grind for sixteen hour days of excitement, adventure, discovery and, best of all,new images and inspiration. I know, there will be problems along the way, wrong turns, upsets, etc. Just the same as when I don’t go anywhere.

I have no itinerary, and I don’t want one, but I do have a plan:

I am giving up my home and my studio and my office, not to mention a kitchen that I have really enjoyed. But they are replaceable. Not just now, but at some point in the future. Maybe.

All the things that I love and enjoy, and that inspire my work, if they don’t fit in Betsy or the Taos house, I will have to put in storage and do without. For a while. Or longer. The rest I’ll sell or give away.

Now, a look at the bright side. I’ll be trading a yard four feet wide (my studio is part of a compound; think condo. A big yard around me, but only four feet of it under my control) for a yard that has in it miles of wild flowers, hills, mountains, lakes, streams, rivers and oceans. Trees, from scrub juniper and Manzanita to Ponderosa pine, to giant Sequoia and Yucca, from Cottonwood to Willow to Oak and Cypress. And you should see my cactus. Whoooeee, the cactus. Prickly Pear, Luther Burbank, cholla, maguey, ocotillo, cardon and mighty Saguaro.

And look over there, right outside my window and open door… Sunsets, sunrises, the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Cortez, the Gulf of Mexico, Monument Valley, and Canyon de Chelly, Hopi Country or over here, the Grand Canyon, and Copper Canyon, back in the far corner, see ‘em? The Pyramids of Mexico, and there’s Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, the Rocky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Keys, Everglades, Appalachians and Catskills, and Calgary and Baja and the Gulf. And when Betsy needs a rest, there will be the Andes, the Great Wall, the Gobi and Sahara and Spain’s Pueblos Blancos and the land of the midnight sun and Paris and Bordeaux.

And the cities, the towns, the back roads and the dirt roads. With as little Freeway driving as possible.

I’ll get to spend more time with family. I’ll see friends I haven’t seen in years. And I’ll make new friends. Lots of new friends. All over this country and all over the world.

I’ll see art. Lots of art. In studios, in galleries, in museums, and in the homes of my collectors and friends, and in the homes and studios of other artists whose work I admire.

I’ll camp free in the woods and in the deserts, fish a lot, maybe hunt a little,  rent houses and apartments and lofts and rooms and sheds in towns and cities, sleep in a hammock, follow the weather. Sell, trade and barter.

I will have a shot at clawing my way out of debt.

I will go and grow and learn and paint a painting every day.

And I’ll photograph and teach and share and blog and write a bit. And LIVE the rest of my life!

I hope to do some interviews along the way, tell a few stories, share some of the things I’ve learned, or will learn, maybe raise some questions, walk more, a lot more.

I will get to know my country and my world a little better, and I will share it all with you.

And when the weather is nice and it’s on my path, I will go home to Taos and Thea. That, too, will be an adventure. It might even be my vacation. When I’m not roughing it and Thea’s not busy, she will join me along the way.


I invite you all, friends, family, collectors and anyone else who’s interested, to follow along and experience these adventures with me. I hope to see you along the way.

Your comments, ideas, suggestions and questions are always welcome here.

22 thoughts on “Betsy

  1. John – I’m glad you got Betsy back. . . I remember Betsy chugging thru the Canyon de Chelly sand and sitting in the shade that only Betsy could provide – chatting about watercolor and why you only had three tubes of paint. . . Well – you said – every color in the universe are in those three tubes. . . That shaped every painting I have done since. . . Now you have another three tubes of magic – Betsy – the road – and wanderlust. . . Good luck my friend – stop by my studio on the river when in Taos – can’t wait to hear about and see your upcoming adventure . . .

  2. Sir: May I have the pleasure of notifying the Mayor that Thee Master, John Farnsworth may visit our humble but historic village of Frederick, Maryland? It seems fitting, in that you would be sharing the footprints of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln and cuzbro.
    We offer you a room&bed (with kit’n privileges) a block from the center of our circa 1745 town. And we are 40mins from Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry, Baltimore and D.C.
    So… “Come East, Young Man! Come East!!!”
    Horace Greeley-Hill

  3. John,

    Should your wandering bring you to the east coast, we would love to have you visit us here on Cobb Island, Maryland on the Potomac River. In the meantime, I look forward to reading about your travels and seeing your amazing work online.

    Your “cousins” a-time-or-two-removed-in-law,
    Marcia Keeth & John OLoughlin

    1. Hi, David, thanks for your comment. I apologize for the delay in responding. My email was down for a week or more and I’m just now getting caught up. I hope your holidays are joyful and prosperous. John Juanderlust

  4. Well I’m glad to see you got Betsy back as one of my earliest memories was from the time you took me to the Grand Canyon and I’m not sure but was that the time you took me to the O.K. corral? Oh and i will never forget running beside Betsy while trying to climb in. lol .. Thanks for all the wonderful memories Grandpa , hope to see you in Indiana soon

    1. Hi Johnny, it’s so nice to hear from you! YOU are the source of many of OUR favorite memories. Especially our trip to the Canyon.

      I hope to see you before too long.

      love, Grandpa

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