I might have just as easily titled this post “A Week of Excuses.” 🙂
Kathy & I have returned from our jaunt to the NC coast. I did a little bit of photography, but not nearly as much as I had intended. I came back with a few decent photographs, but since photography wasn’t really the main purpose of the trip, I’m not disappointed.
– It was HOT and HUMID! The kind of humidity that makes your glasses (and camera lenses) steam up when you go outside, even at 7:00 in the morning! The low temperatures at night were in the low 80s, stretching to the upper 80s/low 90s during the day. I’m not a fan of heat, so that made it tough.
– I’ve been battling a recurring sore leg, which was not helped by walking on sand. So we limited our beach walking a bit which limited my photographic opportunities.
– Mostly we were spending time with family and friends and generally relaxing, so it was overall a good trip.
Now we have a few weeks to rest up for our next adventure. Coming soon! 🙂
Our recent travels took us by way of Lexington, Kentucky today. We decided to stay a couple of nights in order to take advantage of being close to several of our favorite distilleries. It isn’t possible to visit all of our favorites in one day, so we visited the newly-opened Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown plus our perennial favorite, Maker’s Mark. Needless to say, some liquid souvenirs – and a few photographs – will be accompanying us home. 😉
While Kathy & I were in Wisconsin visiting our friends Jeff & Mary Pat, Jeff, his son Luca and I left the ladies at home and headed to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois. The museum boasts a huge collection of rolling stock of all varieties, from horse-drawn cars to vintage steam locomotives to more modern diesel-electric engines. It was a great place to make photographs, and while I took some photographs of entire engines and cars, it was the the little details that really appealed to me – in this case what I’ve come to refer to generically as “Rust and Peeling Paint.” It is the details that are “about” a place, taken “at” at place that I love to photograph.
We spent several hours there and had a chance to take a ride on a vintage electric “Interurban” train car (much like a trolley but larger and faster). It’s the kind of place where you can find something new with as much time as you have. A few hours was plenty for us, but it wouldn’t be a bad place to return to some time in the future.
Kathy & I had some time to kill yesterday on our drive to Wisconsin, so what better way to stretch the 6 hour drive into 8 hours than to look for photos? 🙂
Earlier in the day we had encountered the tail end of some of the soaking rains that passed through central Illinois in previous days and were treated to beautiful skies as the storm clouds broke up into what I call “Ansel Adams Clouds.” It was quite a treat. We detoured down several side roads and came across some interesting scenes, including extensive wind farms and old barns. Quite a nice day to extend a trip on a nice day!
I am trying to shoot exclusively with my prime lenses on this trip, but in a last-minute moment of weakness I tossed my 16-80 zoom into a bag. I’m going to try hard not to use it, but it is with me in case the need should arise. Interestingly, I started off the day with my 23, but at one point realized that I needed to switch to the 35. My first though started out as “oh, I don’t want to bother changing lenses.” But then my sensible side said, “you idiot, if you need to change lenses you change lenses!” So I did. I also remembered to put on my polarizer! 😉
I’m back at the computer and trying to finish up my photos from our visit to the southwest. I’ve recently posted new galleries to my Adobe Portfolio site and am continuing to add more as I go. It feels like I’m only halfway, but I think I’m a little further along than that!
We visited Saguaro with our friends Cheryl & Mike, over the course of two days. The park is divided into the West and the East, and we visited the East on a cloudy afternoon, and the West the following day with sunshine and blue-sky. The sunshine and blue sky made all the difference in the world in appearance, quality of images, and not least, the heat! It gets warm in the desert, although not nearly as warm in April as later in the summer!
The Red Hills Visitor Center in Saguaro East was especially picturesque, with the lattice roof casting dramatic shadows at mid-day. Interestingly, I’ve seen very few photos of this, although I managed to make more than a few of my own! Maybe I just didn’t look in the right place.
Anyway, here is a sampling of my photos from our visit. There are more to be found on my Adobe Portfolio site.
When we first started planning our visit to the Southwest, I was attracted to the idea of visiting all or part of Route 66, that legendary highway from Chicago to LA that marked the beginning of the car craze and gave rise to the whole road trip mystique that persists in the US to this day. A lot of photographers have documented portions of this iconic road over the years, and I wanted a chance to see and photograph parts of it myself.
In doing our research, it seemed that a lot of the guidebooks are directed at people who want to travel every last remaining inch of the road. There are lots of people who do that, and we ran into some of them, with their Official Route 66 T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers and guidebooks. There were a few caravans of classic cars, motorcycles and other assorted vehicles. But there seemed to be plenty of people like us, just attracted to the few remaining places that contain the nostalgia of the old “Mother Road” and wanting to see what it was all about.
It wasn’t our intention to travel the whole route, or even all of the relatively small stretch we visited (we started in Oatman, AZ and kinda followed it as far as Yukon, Oklahoma. After inadvertently finding ourselves on a 25+ mile long stretch of dirt road that “used to be” Route 66 at the New Mexico-Texas border I was glad weren’t expecting to cover the whole thing. For the most part, the portions of the original route that remain are well marked with “Historic Route 66” signage. But some parts are lost to time and conditions, and hardly suitable for travel by the people who live there, much less by tourists seeking to reconnect with history.
Sorry to say, but Momma’s showing some wear and tear these days, in my eyes. I’m not sure what I expected with Route 66, but I came away from it a bit disappointed. Maybe I was just 50 years too late, but it felt a lot like just another string of towns abandoned by time and the diversion of car traffic by freeways and bypasses. Yes, there are pockets of apparent prosperity, mostly in towns that have other means of economic support but also in places like Tucumcari, NM where a handful of wonderful businesses hang on due to their owners’ efforts and longstanding reputation. But mostly, we drove for miles and miles to get to a place or a thing, looked at it and said (or thought) ‘huh.” The glory of Route 66 lives on in memories or the imagination, I guess.
I didn’t set out with a “shot list” or really any kind of preconceived notion of what I’d find to photograph. I wasn’t looking to make my own definitive guide to Route 66 or even publish a comprehensive collection of photography. I wanted to see what we found and to let that determine the direction I would take with my camera. I shot some landmarks, photographed some abandoned buildings and other remains of the past. I made some nice evening photographs of the lovely motels in Tucumcari. And we drove right on by a fair number of places, partly due to time constraints but also due to lack of visually interesting subject matter.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. So don’t take my word for it! There is plenty to see and photograph, just know that there are places where what there is, isn’t what it used to be, and that you may have to drive a long way between those places. And in many parts of the route, especially in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, there ain’t a lot more to see! Fortunately, there are National Parks and other landmarks to break up the drive. But as far as Route 66 itself is concerned, get what you can while the gettin’s good.
We did it and I’m glad to have had the time and opportunity to check it out for myself. There are a few places I won’t hesitate to go back to, and a lot of places that will be lost to time before I have a chance to return. Everyone will find something there. It all depends on what you are looking for.
In 1978 a couple of Waco, Texas locals were searching for arrowheads and came across a large bone. They took the bone to a scientist at Baylor University, who identified it as a mammoth bone. A Baylor undergraduate started an archeological exploration of the site in 1979, uncovering 5 mammoths over a 2.5 year period. In the following years, another 16 mammoths were discovered.
The area is managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the City of Waco and Baylor University, and became a National Monument in 2015 under President Obama.
The site is much smaller and much less dramatic than Dinosaur National Monument in Utah that we visited last fall, but interesting nevertheless in that it is one of only a few places where prehistoric remains in situ can be easily viewed by the public. A building erected over the site provides viewing access while providing access to students and scientists for further study of the area.
The place was also practically deserted on the day of our visit, making it even more attractive to us! 😉
When Kathy & I travel we don’t come home with a lot of “stuff.” A few things for the kids sometimes, or a keepsake for the bookshelf at home. But one thing we do like to do is bring home liquid souvenirs. We enjoy stopping at distilleries or wineries, sampling their products and bringing some home. It’s another way to extend the vacation, an ounce or two at a time! 😉
On our recent trip through Texas, I had identified two distilleries I wanted to visit: Balcones Distilling in Waco, and Garrison Brothers, in Hye (near Fredericksburg). I had hoped to pick up some Texas tequila, but these two distilleries only make brown liquor – whisky and rum at Balcones, and whisky (but very good whisky) at Garrison Brothers. The tequila distilleries appear to be further south than we went, more like Austin and San Antonio. Perhaps another time.
Balcones makes a number of different bourbons and rye whiskys, including one whisky made from blue corn. It has a very interesting flavor, very sweet with hints of corn tortilla (my taste, anyway), fresh bread and brown sugar. We brought home a bottle of that along with a bottle each of their cask strength rye, their Texas single malt pot still whisky and their cask strength rum. Those big boys will make good old fashioneds and Manhattans once the weather cools back down.
At Garrison Brothers, they make bourbon. And only bourbon. Several different kinds, something for everyone who likes bourbon. We brought home a bottle each of their Small Batch and their Single Barrel. A little on the pricey side, these will occupy the “occasional shelf” in our cabinet!
Every distillery has its own story, and we always enjoy hearing them. It’s fun talking and listening to people who are passionate about their craft, whether it is in Kentucky, Texas or Barbados. We’ll be ready for some more the next time we head out!
I thought I would post some statistics and random comments on our recent Southwest road trip. I want to do a map but Google Maps limits the number of waypoints I can do at one time, and Location History doesn’t let me choose a date range and we went over a month end. I could do a series of maps, but then it would be a (another) project in Photoshop to layer and stitch them all together. Later, perhaps…no more projects right now! 😉
Distance: 6,355 miles in 23 days. While that averages to “only” 276 miles per day, several were and felt much longer due to days where we drove less. Our Northwest trip last fall was 8,000 miles, but somehow didn’t seem as long. Go figure – too much time on Interstates this time, maybe?
Photographs: 3,473 for me, 708 for Kathy plus a few on my phone. Kathy keeps my point & shoot handy for out-the-window burst-mode shots of “Welcome To X” signs and other interesting scenery. Plus surreptitious photos of me. 🙂 She got photos out the window as we cruised The Strip in Las Vegas which I am anxious to see. Might make an interesting slide show!
Weather: The only drops of rain we saw were in Arizona, of all places, and on our last day through Tennessee. Our friends in Arizona are experiencing beautiful blooms in their backyard garden from an unusually rainy period.
Travel: We made our reservations further in advance this time than we have done on our last few road trips. As our dates began to gel, we started finding “no availability” in a few motels where we wanted to stay, so we decided to hedge our bets a bit and go ahead with booking. We weren’t sorry.
Anyone who feels like or tells you it’s too soon to travel is watching too much TV. People are out in force and it shows in a lot of places. We didn’t go anywhere with excessive crowds. The Grand Canyon was probably the most peopled, but the shuttle buses are running at reduced capacity and, because we were there on a Monday, things were a little quieter than normal. Funniest paradox was that there is no social distancing happening in the gift shops! 🙂
Services: Pretty much everything is open. Some fast food restaurants in some locations, which we often rely on for potty stops, are drive thru only. So we started relying on larger convenience stores (love Love’s truck stops!) and gas stations.
The biggest frustration for us was the motel chains that still advertise (and charge for) a full hot breakfast but then hand you a paper sack with a granola bar, apple and bottle of water. Have a nice day! They’ve also stopped providing daily housekeeping, which isn’t a big deal for us but is for some people. When restaurants are open everywhere, how much longer are hotels going to use “Covid” as an excuse for reduced service?
Gas was expensive but available everywhere, although I’m glad we got home when we did. Our last fill-up was in Tennessee on Monday, and I have about a half tank left. Hopefully this latest mess will be resolved soon so I can refill!
People: People were generally friendly everywhere, but I think the friendliest ones might have been in Arkansas. We stopped at a visitor center there, and a really nice lady started handing me samples of Made-In-Arkansas products, and before I knew it I had a bag full of fig jam, brown mustard, Little Debbies (Arkansas – who knew?), maps and brochures.
Someone is going to ask so I’ll say it here. Most chain restaurants and motels still ask people to wear masks, and for the most part people do. Independent places, especially in Texas and Oklahoma – very few masks. We went with the flow, and if they asked we complied, and if they didn’t we went without. No big deal, and no more commentary.
Volunteers in the National Parks are treasures. Nice people doing what they love for free (or sometimes a free campsite).
We had several occasions where people asked us to take their picture, which I did in exchange for them taking ours. Worked out great and I never worried about someone taking my camera. Except for the guy in Las Vegas, who I handed Kathy’s camera. 😉
Annoyances: Oklahoma. That state loves toll roads, and they require exact change but don’t tell you how much. Who carries change these days? What we found out later was that if you keep track of how much you owe and send them a check (check?) before they send you a violation notice, you are in the clear. But who has time to find that out while scrounging for change? Yikes, what a mess.
Traffic: Aye yey yey…trucks and RVs. By necessity of distance and time we drove more miles on Interstate highways than we typically do. More and more trucks hauling more and more stuff. Some of it important like food, but much of it just more stuff that I fear is destined for all of the self-storage places we see everywhere. And RVs galore. Many of them stuffed to the gills with overburdened trucks that can’t hold the speed limit, Greyhound-sized behemoths towing SUVs full of the crap that won’t fit inside, golf carts, 4-wheelers, motorcycles, you name it. Needless to say, we didn’t see anything to convince us to take up the RV lifestyle. We like our little Subie just fine, thank you!
I’ve gone on way too long, but will write more about individual stops as I go through the photos. Needless to say it was a fantastic trip, and we look forward to hopefully crossing off the New England states this fall, then on to Hawaii! 🙂
Kathy & I made our return trip to Southport, NC this past Thursday & Friday to get our second round of the Covid vaccine. Kathy fared pretty well (so far) but it really kicked my butt. Not unusual I suppose, but I had been very optimistic that my experience would be a non-event. Not so.
The weather this time was conducive to spending time in town and having dinner at one of the many waterfront restaurants there. We spent a little time walking around after dinner before finally needing to escape what I can only imagine were sand fleas. Pesky little buggers who like to get in your hair and other places you don’t want bugs. Yuck!
We depart on Sunday for our latest road trip – a journey to the Southwest through Texas, southern New Mexico & Arizona with a return via parts of Route 66. We should be gone about 3 weeks and I’ll likely be posting my “postcards” as we go.