TRAVEL BLOG

My route Online

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This is my basic route that will change to go meet people and see various places I learn about on the road. Everything is tentative and very non time sensitive.

Florida

Oregon


Day 1-Tallahassee 5-11-15

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I left after work on Monday, and after visiting my grandparents, I hit the open road bound for Tallahassee. It wasn’t long before i hit my first rest area camping spot on I-10. I set my alarm for 2 and just cancelled it till 5. It was 9:30 am when I reached my friends Mike and Seasons house. They had plans for lunch at a newly opening buffet place that was trying to pass as an higher class PoFolks. I had salad. Mike asked if i wanted to go trail riding later. I was being lazy but said in my normal self “why not”. I borrowed his other bike which I’m not accustomed to. Keep in mind that I’ve only been street riding for the last 14 years and we were going to some serious trails. Here is the website: Cadillac Mountain Bike Trail. I did pretty good keeping up and only ate it one towards the end. I had a lot of fun and  it really has some nice sights including all the junked out Cadillacs that give the trail its name.


Georgia and South Carolina May 18, 2015

Gainesville to Tybee Island Georgia

Gainesville to Tybee Island Georgia

So I’v been absent for a few days, but I’m back internet land. I spent most of Friday driving from Gainesville, Florida to Buxton, North Carolina. I took backroads and saw very little traffic, making a pleasant drive. Around 3 pm i pushed into Savannah, Georgia. which is a really cool town. But, being away from the coast for a few days, I wanted to see the ocean. The drive to Tybee Island was a long two lane marshland trek, ending onto the strip which is only a miles long. There are little street beach accesses all along but i elected to go to the boardwalk/pier area complete with $2 an hour parking. The waves where choppy not very big, but warm, much to my surprised. I snagged 40 minutes of surf, packed up, snapped a few shots of the pier and started to make my way to The Outer Banks of North Carolina.

South of The Border

South of The Border

Tybee Island Pier

Tybee Island Pier

It was 5 pm when i left Tybee, so i knew it was going to be after midnight before i reached the Islands, so I would have to miss the ocean in South Carolina and just pass through. In fact i didnt even realize I was in South Carloina until i started seeing signs for South of the Border, which is a tourist truck stop city with so much neon you could see it from space. This is where i would do my last leg stretch before reaching the camping spot in OBX. I spent about 20 minutes taking pictures and shoved off again.


North Carolina, May 20th, 2015

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Ah, The Outer Banks. The barrier islands of North Carolina. Home of the first flight by the Wright Brothers, and the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. For the duration of the post “OBX” is short for the Outer Banks, so you might see it on bumper stickers on occasion and now you know what they mean. I was on a surf mission, like always. I left Tybee late, 5pm, knowing i would get into the outer banks after midnight no matter what time i left. i made good progress passing through South Carolina and into North Carolina. Instead of the usual back roads ive been taking, i hit interstate since it was dark and there was nothing to see at night. I reall wanted to go a coastal route but because of my later departure, I had already made a weekend trip for my buddy Neil to plan out being on the island. I finally hit the road that turns off of I-65, and thought that i didn’t have far to go but that turned out to be 2.5 more hours. It wasn’t until 4am that i rolled in to the campground. There is a shorter route that involves taking a ferry from the south of OBX, but it was going to stop running before i got to it, so I had to take the long way.

Neil had been there for a while and had already reserved a site, and made camp. He was glad when i got partially due to having forgot a sleeping bag and I had a blanket. This is really a nice time a year since the days are warm and the nights are cool; perfect weather to most people. We set alarms to get up by 8:30. Four hours is enough sleep to surf on really.

The next day we got up and went to the Infamous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Last time i was here, it was being moved from the first groin jetty, 2,900 feet inland, and 1,500 feet from the shoreline. You can read more about it Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This is the first time i would leave Shadowfax alone in a public place. I was pumped to surf, since ive seen pictures over the years of OBX, and had surfed there in 99′. I had never been to the old lighthouse site which is now a pretty good surf break. I put on my full suit an ran out to the ocean expecting it to be cold. It was as cold as the gulf water got this year, but was way warm for my 5/4 hooded wetsuit. Fun waves and a small crowd on mostly beginners, so i got plenty of rides from the little pulse that faded with the outgoing tide a few hours later.

We had decided to go get lunch a check a few spots up north in Rodanthe, as well as meet up with my friend Martin from Perdido, Florida, who now lives near. The three of us met up at secret spot (in surfing, you disclose good uncrowded surf breaks, therefore calling them secret spots) and hit the water. Super fun wave until wind from the south disorganized the form. Afterwards, we all went back to camp and grilled out and turned in. The next day we broke down camp and checked the old lighthouse site again. It was even better than the day before so Martin and I paddled out while Neil called the brothers Nowitsky, who were checking spots up north. Mike and John are Neils brothers-in-law and ive know them both for a while but hadn’t seen either of them in a while. I broke out my water housing and shot about 30 pictures until the waves started to get fickle. Hungry and tired we went north back towards secret spot, stopping to eat (once again) at El Fagon Mexican Restaurant. Secret spot wasn’t working well and it was Sunday evening already and everyone had long drives back to Virginia Beach, Jacksonville NC. and Wrightsville beach. Mike an i went back to the lighthouse where i took all the Infrared photos while he surfed. We packed up after sunset and i said goodbye to OBX, next stop, Virginia!


Virginia, May 20th, 2015
After spending the weekend camping and surfing in Cape Hatteras, I embarked on the 2.5 hour drive to Virginia Beach, Virginia. I had been there before but many years ago. One of my older friends and surf buddy Neil and His brother in law Mike live there. We got in at 11:30 and went straight to sleep after the long day. The Next day Mike, his daughter and I went around checking the waves while his oldest son was at school. Virginia Beach from what i remember is a tough place to be a surfer because there are so many surfers when it gets warm, and there are very limited places to surf. For example, after Memorial Day, you can’t surf anywhere 11-4pm everyday from 5th st. to 40th st., and on weekends 11-4 from 1st street all the way down to the end of the avenues. Thats three spots for all the surfers. Ridiculous! At least in Florida we can surf anywhere besides a few select life guarded areas.
There was a small amount of waves, but a thigh high shorebreak called for skimboarding. I traded off beach duty with mike so he could catch a few waves. He told me that the surf doesnt really get that good often and so you have to get it when you can. Sound familiar, Gulf Surfers?

We ended up dawn patrolling (getting up at dawn to surf before school, work or wind) the next day and catching an evening session in which i discover high tide large shorebreak for skimboarding.
I was surprised that i could wear a springsuit and that the water was warmer that i had thought.

On Thursday I loaded up Shadowfax, gave him a good wash, installed a horn (a necessary evil) and pushed off for Maryland. Soon after leaving i encountered The Chesapeake bay tunnel and bridge, or tunnels and bridges rather. I wanted to go to Chincoteague Island in Virginia and Assateague Island in Maryland. As soon as i left the last tunnel, the rain started from the grey threatening sky that were present since i woke up. I came in the parks gate, bought a national park pass for the year that will allow me free entrance to all national parks, drove the beach route a little ways and left for Maryland. The rain continued.


Maryland, May 24th, 2015

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After leaving Chincoteague National Park, I made my way to Assateague National Park which Shares the same island, but is the Maryland side. I got in at night into the campground and set up camp in the wind and rain. This was the first time i was to test out my awning, and putting it up in the wind was a pain but i made it work. I had never performed a practice run with it so i was truly winging it. It was a cold 52 degree night, but my two sleeping bags kept me warm in my rolling condo.

The morning i woke to not a cloud in the sky with crisp west winds blowing towards the ocean. This island is known for its wild horses, so off i set out to find them on my bike. It was on site down that i would find them and as the rules go i kept my distance because after all they are wild and were known to charge, kick and bite as the signs informed. I managed to dodge all their advances, as well as not get stuck by cactus that littered the dunes while shooting photos.

The campground had a checkout time of 11 am, so I packed my steed and headed to the National park portion of the island to spend some beach time. Upon arrival i was overjoyed to see an uncrowded beach with thigh-to waist high shore break well suited for skimboarding.
My new thing is to not try the water temp out before just charging a wave-just to add surprise. I was surprised that the temp was too much lower than the Virginia waters i had been in two days earlier. I snapped some water shots with my waterhousing, and even saw a horseshoe crab, which i have seen since i was around 8 years old. I met a Boyscout troup leader that informed me that if i was a boyscout past or present, i could stay in KOA campgrounds for 5 dollars nation wide. I missed that one. As the day started to grow long, I ate some lunch that consisted of bananas and PB&J sandwiches from bread i got from the campground store, packed up and left, headed for Delaware.


Delaware, May 29th, 2015
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At around 4 pm, i packed up and left Assateague State Park for Laurel, Delaware. It wasn’t very far away and my buddy Jared who i had met and shot surf photos of lives in Laurel. His family said it was cool to camp on their property, but i would be sleeping inside on this night instead. I was across the Delaware before i knew as there is a town of Delmar that is in both Maryland and Delaware. I stopped and bought a crock pot for $5 at the dollar store for cooking as i travel. I arrived and pulled into the wooded and grassy lot next to Jared’s house. They have a really awesome house that his dad had built himself. His dad is the kinda person that’s done a lot of different things in his life which is what i kinda aim for. I got to meet Jared’s mother and sister as well as his girlfriend Kerry, who treated me to a dinner of Greek salad and fries! I tried to cook rice in the mini crock i bought which turned to rice mush but i knew the thing worked. Later on that night and the next day we exchanged stories, and i learned that the area was widely know for its watermelon which is my favorite fruit of summer.
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I wanted to see the beach in Dewey beach and possibly get some water time in so i left early as it was Memorial Day weekend and the beach was going to be nuts. Eastward bound, i clearly noticed that i should’ve left earlier, but as with everything in my journey, the fun is getting there; kinda? I have a friend i know from skim boarding that lives in Dewey Beach so i messaged him and set out trying to find parking. I drove around and it was a madhouse of frat boys. The park ranger at the Tower state park informed me that to find free parking, especially on this weekend was a golden rarity. So i headed back toward the mayhem and found some meter parking near a hotel and checked the beach. Wind! Its been windy for the last three days since i left Virginia Beach. Worried that i wouldn’t be able to skimboard i looked over the dune line and saw a few kids with boards and investigated. Talking with the lifeguard, i was given the green light as the water was too cold, and i just had to give walkers and waders about 100 ft of room. More crowed days at this area have a 10-5 no surf/skimboard rule; seems like a pattern of how it is up north. I re-fed the meter at .25 cents per 10 minutes, and skimmed for an hour, took a few pictures and chatted with the kids and lifeguard. The city provides tether ball and the lifeguards are in charge of attaching then ball to the pole, which is kinda funny that people steal tether balls. I can only imagine that there is an underground market for elementary/middle school games.
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I washed off, rearranged my gear and was about to shove off when i look over and Mr. Matt Adams himself walks up. I had magically parked in front of his house without even knowing. He is a talented Filmographer whos work can be seen at http://www.openapertureideas.com/. After a brief reunion i said goodbye to the madness of Dewey Beach, and headed for New Jersey.


New Jersey, May 30th, 2015
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New Jersey gets a really bad rep. Mainly because of that stupid ‘Jersey Shore” show in which the stars of it aren’t even from Jersey. My experience there was nothing short of awesome. I elected to save the $38 ferry ride over, and drive around, because A) its cheaper, and B) I’ve got the time. I was going to my friends Travis and Kathryn’s house to camp out for a few days. There surf forecast was saying there was to be waves, but there were tons of things to do besides that. Their house was about as much as a surf pad as I’d ever seen, which is awesome. Besides surfing, they are both photographers (Katheryn Walters Photography) and so i had met them years earlier when i was living in Costa Rica.

I pull into the compound, passed awesome gardens and floral arrangements, and up to a fire pit area, to rest my steed for a few days. They live a little inland and most of the interior, like every state is more farmland like. Over the next few hours, we catch up, talk surf stories, check the surf forecast and I got a Cape May tour complete with a map of things to see. For sunset we visit the famous Cape May lighthouse where i learn of about the sunken concrete ship the S.S. Atlantus, that sticks up out of the water. We spend the sunset taking pictures, return to the compound, have a nice dinner and hang around the fire pit. With not much surf in the forecast, tomorrow will be an explore day.

With Travis at work and Kathryn doing family stuff, i set out for the cape with may handy map. I wanted to update this travel blog and take some Infrared photos, as well as ride around on my bike. I Drove around for a bit trying to search out parking, finally landing my craft in a rare, close to the bay, free parking spot. I peddled around looking for a coffee shop that didn’t exist as i was using one of those Apps that show open Wi-Fi connections that was pinging an older connection. Stopping in an antique store and talking to the clerk, she recommended a restaurant that was a block away called Gecko’s. They had the free Wi-Fi and a pretty good south western menu that kept me gong while i interneted. Afterwards, i rode my bike around taking pictures of buildings and such, checked out the bay and saw a few kids surfing in the 30 mph wind chop. The wind was constant the whole time i was there, and from what i heard, its never like that.

The beach in Cape May has these white pebbles that are called Cape May Diamonds, as well as different kind of sand than the other barrier islands. The beach at the Island we went to fly kites had a real fine sand that quickly coated everything in the high wind. The dune line was littered with the skeletons of Horseshoe crabs and there were dredge pipes from the re-nourishment project that under way. Much like the gulf islands, the ocean constantly threatened to take the land back with all the houses on it, hence the sand replenishment.

One of the nights, Travis took us to the Wildwood Boardwalk, which is like a Coney Island type deal, but we managed to catch the sunset from the top of the Ferris wheel. We had funnel cake and played alot of ski ball, and some other games, as Travis told me of his adventures as a youth growing up there.

We had been anxiously waiting the return of waves, and upon checking a few spots, it was go time. We needed to get some nourishment so we went to a local restaurant, Big Wave Burrito. We had Acai bowl while watching surf video and staring at all the relic surfboards that lined the ceiling. The surf was choppy, very choppy from all the wind, but i’ve never been one to complain, and it was almost to warm for my 5/4 fullsuit. Most of the beaches have a series of jetties and so you position your self at the ends and catch the waves breaking down the point. I got a few fun ones and met Loudini, a local legend. I snapped a few Infrared photos, and we returned to the compound.

I woke up well rested and happy from the surf the day before, said my farewells to Travis and Kathryn and the dogs, and headed toward my next stop north in Point Pleasant.
Another Pensacolian was living along my path for the summer, and coincidentally, she was a surfer as well. I met Juliana at the tennis club that she would be working at the whole summer giving lessons. She had only been in her new summer home for a few days and had yet to surf. She is one of the best womens surfer on the gulf coast and one of the better surfers in Pensacola. I was thinking about the temp of the water around the cape an hour south so i assured her that it was warm. She had only brought a spring suit and a 2 mil at that. I gave her my long sleeve spring which is my old 3/2 mil full with the legs cut off, to wear over her spring suit. As we were suiting up i saw kids kinda staring at her and smirking in the “whoa, you are crazy kinda way”. there was a storm approaching so i figured our session wouldn’t be long. We hit the water and it was low 50’s which is colder than the gulf usually gets, and so Juliana’s face said it all. She hung tough despite the temp but ultimately it was the imminent threat of lightning that made us end the day of aqua fun. I did manage to catch a few small wave but could see the potential of the spots greatness.

Our plan for food, hinged on my cooking on my camp stove, since their gas had not been connected yet. The only problem is that i had failed to purchase the butane cylinders for the stove, thinking that i would find them down the road. After shopping for food, and going to 3 different place for the gas, Kmart provided the much needed cooking fuel. Not long after dinner was finished i when to my truck to sleep, as the next day i would be driving into the Heart of the Big apple. So the story continues there.



Connecticut, June 9th 2015

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It was a dreary morning when i left for the New England states. I had no real destination but to pass through Connecticut as there was no real surf to speak of there, only possible scenarios that would allow a tiny window through which swell would pass that depended on what seemed like a planetary alignment. Long Island and Massachusetts blocks it all and the Long Island sound didn’t even have a beach in the sense that i am accustomed to. I pulled into a parking area in Milford, Connecticut, ignoring the residents only sign as the weather was rainy and overcast, producing an empty beach. Upon stopping and making a light peanut butter and honey burrito, i was heading to East Greenwhich, Rhode Island. First i needed gas and maybe a drink for the road. As I was setting the gps, I felt a bump against my truck and realized that the lady parked next me had clipped my bike that was secured to the rear cargo rack. She proceeded to just drive off until i yelled at her while checking for damage. She returned and was assured that there was no damage, and i got the ole ” sorry, I didn’t know i hit anything”. My day was going downhill and Connecticut was telling me to hit the road.  Rhode Island was close and i wanted to visit it in the daylight with the possibility of surf on the horizon.


Rhode Island, June 9th 2015

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I was experiencing unusual-for-the-season New England weather as I rode my trusty steed into Rhode Island. My friend Todd, who I know from Costa Rica gave me advice on where to check for surf. I Made it to coastal area of Narragansett, Maine as it started to rain. I found a spot that allowed free parking along a seawall to catch our breath from the drive. I hit up the visitor center for some local history and learned of a great fire that destroyed many of the older Victorian homes that are now hotels. I visited a surf shop called Warm Winds that had more boards in a shop than I’ve ever seen. I poked up and down the coast trying to find a spot that my be bigger or better for surf, even the Point Pleasant Lighthouse, which i heard was one of the better spot s, before i gave up and headed to New Greenwhich, Rhode Island. Todd has a cool apartment in a tiny village of a classic New England town and long the way i saw fishing boats as well as signs advertising clams for sale and things of the like. I pull up to the house and around back as the temperatures started dropping. Catching up on the details of my trip, we went out for taco night and a local bar in the sleepy town. Todd is from Florida like me, and moved up to Rhode Island about the same time i left Costa Rica so his winter experiences were much like mine. He told me how brutal the winters there are. For example, This past winter, there was no where to put the snow they were plowing. They were stacking it parks like mountains until those were full. The roads became one lane snow labyrinths that didn’t thaw until a few months ago. Luckily i had a few sleeping bags since it was like a Florida winter that night as i turned in.
Todd had a work meeting as, he is a business owner, so Mirka, another friend from Costa Rica made me an awesome bagel with vegan cream cheese and cucumbers and volunteered to show me around town for a bit. She is a talented jewelry maker and you can find her items for sale at Body Adornments by Mirka. We walked around and i had my first Birch Beer and took a few pictures. I wished them both farewell and thanks for the hospitality for i wanted to go to make it at least New Hampshire that evening and it was getting late in the day.


MASSACHUSETTS 1ST PASS

Leaving Rhode Island, i was thinking about going all the way to Maine, but that wouldn’t be fair to Massachusetts or New Hampshire. I didn’t realize at the time that i would be spending more time in both, as i am writing this a week or so after the travel through day. (yes I am a bit behind). You would think i have tons of time to blog, but between driving and walking around taking pictures and looking for places to go, searching for camping out spots and hanging out with people, I have very little time to write. I have to make time by staying put and utilizing my friends busy times.

One thing was for sure, i wanted to avoid Boston in high traffic time. Upon looking at a map, a path through Boston was necessary but i would time it after rush hour. A close area was Plymouth, Mass. so i decided to just drive around near the place that the Pilgrims had landed many years ago. I imagine them sailing around these capes looking for a good place to camp out and start their new lives. Hunger was in me so i pulled into a neighborhood that led to a small parking lot before a wooden bridge that went a half mile over a shallow flat to a peninsula that jutted out. I can’t figure out the name but i know the name of the bridge is Powder Point Bridge. It was there that i made lentils soup, and cleaned my surfboard and truck up a little and just relaxed. I hold a belief that when you are in a tight living space, keeping it clean and organized will be better for your moral. After talking to a few people who use the area for exercise purposes, I felt it was time to try to get through Boston.

Boston was at first thought easier to navigate than i had imagined. The traffic in the opposite direction of me was gridlocked as my truck flowed effortlessly northbound. Thinking “look at all those suckers” soon turned into “oh crap, im one of them as i hit the equal amount of traffic leaving Boston northbound. All in all it wasnt that bad, and managed to wriggle free of the slow grip of the city to emerge on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border.


NEW HAMPSHIRE 1st PASS,


MAINE,

It was a new day and the Kennebunk 24 hour service plaza was bustling. Having just settled for the night, I felt a neighboring car door hit the side of my rolling condo. Some people are just jerks. In fact, the perpetrator made no attempt to remove his door that was against mine until i yelled “watch it asshole” and started to arise from my cocoon for a confrontation. He left pretty quickly, without any more words said. Inside the service plaza, hot water was free, so i made coffee and a few other assortments of dry-add-water-to-make-it-come-to-life foods. My destination for the day was Acadia National Park, which had heard of but didn’t realize its magnitude. I do this thing, if possible, where i try not to research passed very basic info like how to get there, so i am completely surprised and haven’t formed any expectations of a place.

This is where I first hit hills as well, feeling the 400 lbs. of extra weight in the back. Luckily i have it all distributed in the right places to maintain balance and traction. Are following the gps instructions I realize that although being inside the park area, I had never passed any kind of gate or guard. Stopping to get a bearing, a nearby road with a sign saying the name of some site in the National park color and symbols. The road was 25 minutes and very winding. After passing many scenic overlooks along the way, the top of Cadillac Mountain reveals itself. Being the highest point in Maine, and along the eastern seaboard, you can see a near 360 panoramic view of all the surrounding islands. The crowd wasn’t much of a factor as headed the signs warning to explore but stay on the granite or designated paths. Also, since i had failed to get any kind of parking pass for the lot, consulting the gift shop employees was reassurance that just placing my park pass on the dash until passing a gate would suffice.

After firing off various angle and panoramas in both color and infrared, down the mountain i went, stopping at all the scenic overviews i had passed. I had not visited the coast yet in Maine, much less felt to cool water. After finally reaching a gate with a guard and utilizing my pass which saved me 25 USD; she directed me to Sandy Beach, which was indeed what it was. The tide was out so i climbed on the rocks and played with kelp as there were only tiny waves about ankle high. But me being me, i ran back to my transport and changed out. There was a sign that said not floatation devices and under that, no surfing June 16th – to some other later date, so my intentions fell into “grey area”. Besides it was cold, i was just going in shorts and not making a day of it. It was nice to “run around” as i call it. Despite the water being 51 degrees, I wasn’t cold at all. An outside water faucet provided me with a shower from the salty northern waters and i was on my way along the snaking coast line once again.

It was getting dark and i was hungry and heading to Belfast, Maine, to meet up with some old Pensacolains. David and Kate lived in a cool old house turned into apartments much like the ones we’ve resided in, back in Pcola. As a matter of fact, Davie and I lived in the same building at different times. We walked down to the beach from thier house and told stories and skipped stones. One of the stories was local history in that Belfast was a huge chicken processing area in the northeast and until the later 50’s, they dumped all the remains of the chickens in the water. The harbor would be stained with the blood and the water was full of sharks and the smell drove everyone away. An old timer had told Davie of his accounts while diving with an eel with a head the size of a horses. I found this article http://www.memoriesofmainemagazine.com/mid.html, which details the history alittle more than i can. They both work at the small self sufficient brewery Marshall Wharf Brewing Co., which is a must stop if you’re into beer. The building is super old and still has marks from when i caught fire way back when. It was there that I had the best Ginger Beer I’ve had to date. I didn’t get to shake the creators hand, but I am indeed a fan. After going to the farmers market, hanging out the Brewery, and riding my bike around, settling into the cafe at the Belfast Co-op was much needed. Upon writing this, I am still about two weeks behind on writing this blog, so their internet and food kept me from starving and being hopelessly behind. One of the days, Kate, David and I yard sale shopped as thier entire street turned into a mile long yard sale I revisited the co-op again before leaving to stock up on supplies and left just before noon. I didn’t want to leave Maine quite yet, as i would be passing into New Hampshire. Reid State Park was perfect! It had a nice sandy beach, with a tiny wave that was on the right tide, clear water and virtually empty. The guard gave me a discount because I knew the Florida state song. Its two beaches kept my busy with shooting until dark, and lentil soup was ready when I took a break from the beach. I showered and prepped for the road ahead.


NEW HAMPSHIRE REVISITED,

After spending another night in a rest area, checking the surf report gave my the bug to surf as there was 2-3ft surf in the report, and i was only 2 hours away from Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Full Speed ahead; well..at 60 mph anyway. The previous visit was to a cold and rainy deserted beach. This was a warm, sunny and insanely packed day. I drove around for about and hour looking for free parking or even a pay spot with access to the beach, with no luck. Feeling defeat and about to call it a loss, I saw Zapstix Surf shop and decided to check it out. Another core surf shop complete with the owner, Mike, being a shaper and present as a source of knowledge. We talked for a few minutes, and then I asked the question. Where is a good place to surf around here. He pointed me to the right area and after thanking him and getting a couple of stickers, I left to take a dip. The north end of Hampton beach has this seawall that curves around a few miles that is all meter parking. The crowd was mostly longboarders due to the size of the waves but ranged from beginners to the older crowd. Surfing for only as little as an hour improves my wellness 1000%, making whatever cold or crowd and the fact that my partially numb fingers would work as i struggled to get my wetsuit off, completely worth it. After eating a sandwich and returning by board to its dry storage state, I said hasta tarde to the Atlantic Ocean and set sail for Concord, New Hampshire.

Many of you may or may not Know that I was married for a brief time, and that i remain good friend with my ex-wife. I would be visiting her mother and stepfather in Concord. It had been about 13 years since i saw them. They were living in a different place than my last visit, and i got lost thanks to “senora recalculating” (gps). We caught up, and they showed me their collections. Sarah has been an avid collector of Pez candy dispenser (there was a rumor that ebay was stated because of pez) and has an impressive collection. Scott has a museum of sports and other memorabilia in the basement, just loads of cool stuff that any collector would go nuts over. I was leaving the next day but we stayed up talking and watching tv, which i have been known to marathon watch thanks to netflix. I missed Scott in the morning but his part shop he owns with brother that sells heavy machinery equipment was right near the Vermont border that i was heading to. The shop was amazing, having everything i love about parts warehouses. Scott floated me some hose clamps that i hope will not be used on my journey. After thanking for the hospitality, I returned to the asphalt trail with Vermont on the horizon.


VERMONT,

Vermont. I had been there before but it had been 15 years, and during winter, so I was excited about all the waterfalls and such I would be seeing. My friend Liz from Pensacola lives there, and i hadn’t seen her in 13 years or so. She was at work at the Brattleboro Coop when I got into town, but being hungry, it was the perfect place to be. The plan was to camp somewhere when she was off. There were other things we had to do first. For instance, one day she had to babysit, and afterwards she spent the entire amount she made taking me out to a fancy vegan restaurant for lunch. Another day we went to a river with some cool rocks and shot about 200 pictures and went swimming. Then the day came to decide where to go and we chose Bash Bish Falls in Massachusetts which borders New York so much that the two parking lots for the falls are in different states. After spending a few hours playing around at the falls, we decide that we better find a camp space before dark. The ranger at the Mt. Washington state park gave us a map showing where primitive camping is allowed. After a 20 minute drive around due to construction blocking the more direct route, we arrived at Mt. Everett State park, only to meet signs that say “no overnight camping permitted”. Unfazed by this, I pull in just to give the place a look over and we determine that inside would be perfect for spending the day when we wake up. It was almost 8 p.m. and the gates will be closed and we had found evidence of camping in the gravel area outside the gate. Liz made a good point that we should not be there when the person who shuts the gate shows up in case there is a issue with us making that our sleeping area. I agree and so her and Gizmo, who is her 100 lb. Dutch Shepard/Lab, hop in the back and I drive as far as the other entrance to Bash Bish Falls that is closed from construction. Since it is a dead end and nearly dark, I felt the urge to shower off; I don’t know why. I bathed in the mountain stream and although it was freezing, there was something awesome feeling about it. At about 8:30 we return to the gate and it was still not closed so we made camp anyhow. There were no lights anywhere and all you could here was the sounds of the forest, except for the grunts of Gizmo because she was trained not to bark, and there were the occasional rustle of leaves in the distance. Feeling worried about bears and her being chained to the cargo rack, we decided to get her in to the back with us to sleep. The space in the back with 3 was super tight and I woke up a few times with dead leg from Giz laying on my legs.

The next day we awoke to see that the gate was still open from the night before. What was the point of the sign? Anyhow, we drove into the park and picked an area that was right on the lake with a picnic table and all. We backed up and made a day camp. I filled up my bucket for washing clothes and hung my two surfboard leashes out as clotheslines. Liz concentrated on finding dry wood for a fire to cook on 30 ft. away from our spot. We cooked and ate, washed the dishes up, and relaxed. Off in the distance, a rock sat on the bank of the shallow lake. I wanted to swim to it so, armed with my swim fins and the ridiculously large $9 Harbor Freight survival knife, i made the swim. Gizmo joined me once I was on top of the rock, and after a few minutes, we swam back through the shallow muddy water. My clothes were drying fast, and having seen a trail from the rock in the distance, my interest had been piqued. Following the trail to a clearing, it was discovered to be part of the Appalachian Trail. So i can at least say that I’ve hiked it, even though it was only a portion. The number of kayakers that had come and gone in the spot that we unknowingly day camped at was a launch area, were slowing down and we packed up camp and left. I had gotten misdirected and drove 20 minutes around the wrong way to return to the falls at Bash Bish once again. There ware a few photographers there to shoot an engagement, who had seen the sticker of my website made by my buddy Sam at High Seas Design House. I always liking to talk about the photographic arts with others in the craft, so one of them had a project documenting the entire border to the south by Mexico. He was a traveler like me but kinda had more of mission than just rolling around. We dodged their shooting area as I was lost in my world of shooting until the shadows started to grow long, and the three of us decided to return to Vermont.

The next day, Liz had suggested to go the farmers market before she had to work. I was a little reluctant but glad i did. As she drove i saw a yard sell with a bundled up mattress at a yard sale. We stopped and it turned out to be a futon mattress with a cover for $5. Score!!!! After Liz went to work, I looked for a place to clean my truck. I found a car wash, that according to an internet search, had many locations around Brattleboro and seemed to have the car cleaning game on lock. I arrived at the right location to find that they had a radio van there and was giving away drinks, and car detail gear since it was their 10th anniversary. Upon constructing the cabinetry in the back, I unknowingly left a space that is the average width of a twin mattress, or in my case futon. I peeled the cover of my new bed and went to the laundry mat, where a nice lady helped me with trouble of buying a card for the machines by using hers.

After a day spent at the car wash, laundry and Co-op, Liz told me about a house show, were bands were playing in memorial to a friend they had all lost. It was still light when we got on our bikes and made the 5 mile ride into New Hampshire, where we rolled through the dark back roads to the house. The place was full of friends and welcoming people as Liz introduced to many of them. The basement was set up for the bands to play and i watched a few, while reminiscing seeing a few basement show in my travel but never in Florida of course. One of the rooms, narrow and long, had a legit mini ramp for skating in it. I love taking pictures in Infra of skating and although it was inside, the incandescent bulbs produced enough light for my camera. All the pictures from that night will be in the Vermont section, due to it being so close to Vermont. We left the show and made the ride back that was mostly down hill on the return.

I managed to get much of the music on Liz’s computer copied to a hard drive and vise versa, before she had to work. I planned my route through New york, and into Pennsylvania, ate lunch and said goodbye to Liz, starting my journey south.

I had just about made it out of Vermont when i noticed a tower on a hill through the trees. Navigating through the old roads, it revealed itself as a park. The tower, Bennington Battle Monument, was constructed from 1877-1879; is the tallest building in Vermont, and from the top you can see New York and Massachusetts. After seeing a map, and having lunch, my trek through the three covered bridges in the area began. In the end, I entered New york feeling that I had seen much of Vermont that many don’t.


PENNSYLVANIA,

 

After a few hours, the town of Ashland appears. Pennsylvania is a large coal state as can be seen by the drives through many of the small towns. I’ve not seen as of this point of my journey, the look of poverty in the structures. Abandoned, run town buildings, and homes in need of repair were common along my route. Centralia is one such town but has a worse fate than many of the others. Centralia has since the 60’s, had a coal mine fire burning out of control under its soil. Over the years the town has been abandoned to only a few buildings and 8 residents, with the rest of the town being slowly reclaimed by the land. I met a fellow traveler from Florida by the entrance to the destroyed former highway. He showed his truck mods including the helper springs installed on the rear leaf springs to alleviate the sag of extra weight in the trucks’ bed. After photographing around town, the nature repossessed lands and the cemetery, it was time to move on. I couldn’t help but think that the residents of the cemetery will be the last inhabitants of the town and will be abandoned soon by the living, making it a true ghost town.

My cousins Kenny and Paula, and Addison and Brandon live in southern Pennsylvania in a town called Chambersburg. He’s the police chaplain there as well as a pastor and an avid motorcyclist. I learned a few thing of the towns history including that it was the only town completely burned by the confederate army for not paying a ransom. More can be be read here Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. We went to a lake COWANS GAP STATE PARK, made by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created by Roosevelt to provide work during the depression. We swam and played on the sandy beach and then went to a cool lookout spot for photographs. Along the highway we stopped at a farmers market where i got a pint of cherries. I was also able to easily install helper springs to help with the weight in the bed. Paula fixed me a whole bag of food from their pantry in addition to a few dinners at night. Brandon, Addison and I had hours of Nerf gun wars and basketball, and right before i left i taught them the subtle strategies and game play of Foursquare. Right before i left, my great uncle Adrian and his wife Brenda came by to see me off. Nothing beats spending time with family and friends.
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WEST VIRGINIA

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It wasn’t long before I passed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia, but even shorter and I was in Maryland, and then Virginia. The rain had met me at the border of West Virginia and would follow me south. Along the way I made the turn westward to climb the Appalachians that separate the two states, on the route to Lost River state park. I followed what i thought were direct roads and soon discovered a maze of mountain trails with no other cars in site. I quit following the gps and just went on a gravel road that seemed to climb the entire Appalachian trail in the misty air. At one point i reached the top, and according to my phone maps, i was on the line of Virginia and West Virginia. Then the decent, until after passing the appropriate roads, I arrived into the park. It was completely empty of people, and as i walked around,  deer would scatter from all over. It had well maintained facilities but the fact of it being a weekday and rainy, kept the human population at a minimum. After eating lunch and resting, the road was calling, and i meandered back to Virginia heading south to catch some more photos before my brief arrival into Tennessee, and then North Carolina.


North Carolina 2nd pass,

I headed to Asheville to meet up with my friends Maggie and Andee. Both spent time in Pensacola but didn’t know each other. After negotiating the afternoon traffic and the rediscovery of southern heat, rolling into Andee’s apartments and seeing her was a much needed sight. We caught up at a local cafe were we both did much needed work. Andee is a freelance writer http://andeebingham.com/, and has a long list of credentials, as well as being a prominent Feline topic writer. After a while we met up with Maggie and went to have ice cream at a place called The Hop, which is exciting to me since they make their own vegan ice cream. Still, out of all the vegan ice cream i’ve had Caitlin Choi makes the best. After dropping off Andee, the journey to Maggie’s house was a scenic but crazy one too. I realize that I drive slow, I get that, but traffic on the sides of the mountains is too fast for me, plus im in no hurry. Her house was on a few acres in another town called Marshal 40 minutes from Asheville. The house itself was old two story all wood interior and really nice. Marshal has a population of about 700 people so we didn’t do much around there except eat at the local cafe, but we did go to a river that has a 7 mile trail which neither of us wanted to go the whole length. One day we went to neighboring Hendersonville for and annual antique show that was a mile long. There we met the proprieters of a leather shop. The son lived in Cocoa beach and was real instrumental in creating skateparks in the North Carolina smaller towns to give the youth something to do instead get into trouble. That night Andee, Maggie and I met up for dinner, and after fighting downtown Asheville traffic, we decided to leave the downtown area and eat. After hanging out at Andee’s house for a bit, back we drove into the country. There is something i really enjoy about being in the middle of nowhere at night. Its the dead calm and quiet. Ive never been a city person. This is why; you can’t escape the noise. The next day, in between the rain storms, I managed to change the oil, marking my 5000 mile on my journey. The next stop would be South Carolina and then Atlanta, so i needed to do it then. I awoke the next day to sunny skies and open road, said goodbye so Maggie, and directed south to the corner of South Carolina to spend more time there since i had passed through it at night on my way up. The journey continues!

 
SOUTH CAROLINA 2nd PASS, July 6, 2015
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The drive to South Carolina was party familiar since i initially went to Asheville before going to Marshal. Not really knowing a park i wanted to see in particular i just looked for one on route to Atlanta. Driving down a few roads that seemed to lead nowhere, and even finding where a park was once that is no longer, I stumbled upon Keeowee Toxaway State Park. There was no one there when i arrived in the parking lot, which is awesome. I had from 3 to dark to hike around the 6 mile or so loop that turned into 12. After following deer down the trail for a mile, a natural bridge with a tiny waterfall became my photo subjects. This was the first time i felt southern heat. I left before Florida was summer hot and up north had been unseasonably cool, but today was 93 with no wind, and south humid. In addition, i was going up with a bunch of camera gear. Luckily by now, my gear had only strengthened my hiking ability with only minor imbalance. At one of the bends i heard a sound id never heard before, and saw a cat like animal running. It wasnt a deer, I could tell be its run. I thought maybe a mountain lion but theres no reports of them in the area so i don’t know. I walked around the bend to finally drop down to lake level only to incline up to Raven Rock lookout that shows a clear view of the lake. from there it was only another hour back to the truck where i showered, had some sandwiches and took of for Atlanta.


GEORGIA 2nd PASS,

Atlanta is where my friend Barbara lives and would be the furthest south i will be for months. It was the first time i had seen her in two years and we had plans of of swimming holes like i always do. If It hadn’t been mentioned, iv’e at least dipped a toe in water in every state. We had two days from which she was off work. Barbara is one of the Tattoo artists at Timeless Tattoos in Atlanta.

After a night of catching up, we awoke to plot a course to watertime relief from the trafficy Atlanta heat. We decided on Tallulah Gorge State Park which was a mere 2 hours away. I enjoy driving. I really do. That fact is necessary to take on an endeavor such as this 50 states trip. The windows were down and the wind just felt like a hair dryer on hot blowing on you. When you want to swim, you want to swim. There was no such thing there. Only 5,384,329 steps down to the edge of the waterfall with cool pools of water, with NO SWIMMING. It was, nevertheless, a really nice park and i enjoyed it as well as hanging with Barbara out of the city. That night we went to Rusans, a sushi restaurant that has really cheap veggie rolls. I hate eating at places and feeling hungry when i leave, but this wasn’t the case here due to price.

Our swimming hole quest continued the next day to Amicalola Falls State Park where we saw a picture of swimming holes on the internet but found that there was in fact no swimming there. Frustrated, we drove another hour Unicoi Lake State Park, only to find the swimming area was occupied by 200 screaming teenagers that were bussed in. It was 5 pm too. Don’t kids have school or something? We then drove along the lake after scouting a trail to see that there may be a more secluded area. A parking lot on the other side had a boardwalk going down to the water that appeared deep and clean. “Would it bother you if i jumped off of the dock here” I asked Barbara. “No, please do” she replied. So off i went. There were no signs that said it wasn’t allowed. So, i accept that as permission. Afterwards, I scouted down the other side of the dam by the parking lot and discover the stream on the other side was cooler and at least waist deep. Not quite a swimming hole, but it was hidden. On crossing back over the dams’ road, i could see the lake side had an area that was perfect for swimming. The concrete angled you off into the deep area and it was free of rocks and sticks, unlike along the river. As I am swimming, Barbara just jumps in fully clothed, which surprised me. I had given up on trying to convice her in. Not quite the swimming hole success but, it was swimming. We then went to the other side and found that it was a huge day use area with an open field that went back along the creek and probably connected to a big river eventually. I played in the slippery cold creek on the other side of the dam and even got Barbara in that as well. All in all, I explained to Barbara that its not the environment that makes a place nice to me, but the company in which I share it with.

We returned to Atlanta, giving Barbara a new mission: finding a swimming hole close to Atlanta that was free and not overrun with people.
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The next leg of my trip would be short since i was only going to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I loaded everything back into my truck after saying by to Barbara as she rode off on her motorcycle and rode off myself. Hopefully I get out of Atlanta without too much traffic.


TENNESSEE,

Leaving Atlanta during the middle of the day probably wasn’t the best idea, I thought while setting my gps for Chattanooga. I drive pretty slow and found myself struggling to keep up with traffic. Managing to get out of the city without any problems, the journey to Tennessee would be just a few day stop before crossing into northern Alabama. I arrived a my friend Sara’s place in Chattanooga in the early afternoon. There’s a number of free things to do there, one of which is going to the creek. Suck Creek is its name, which despite the name, it was a very nice place to beat the summer heat. There were a few other cars at the one spot we pulled up to along the highway. A little walk over the rocks, passing man made dams to pool the water and you come up to a waterfall. The water flow from the main feed was non existent, and the water fall was stronger than usual so we deduced that someone or something had diverted the river. We heard later that it was diverted to provide relief from the trashing of that part of the bend. Afterwards, Sara took me to another free place at the foot of a bridge where people just hang out on the edge of the Tennessee river and told me of some of the history of the city. There was a huge flood and the downtown was underwater in the early 1900’s. That part was rebuilt over the old building s in the mud and you can still see doors and windows sticking out of sidewalks and such, as well as basement doors inside buildings that lead to nowhere.

Later, we went to The Honest Pint to watch the circus troupe that Sara was friends with. Subterranean Circus is their name and on that particular night they were performing in an extravaganza with other acts on the bill. We stayed through the circus but left to visit The Pickle Barrel. I had their fried pickles which were pretty awesome. As I was watching one of the live acoustic acts upstairs, a familiar face walks through the balcony door. It was my friend Aaron from Orange Beach. I had to do a double take out of the shear coincidence. He is a pilot and was on layover and had been to Chattanooga before as i have not. We briefly caught up since it was late, and he made an offer to treat me to breakfast.

The next day Sara and I met him for brunch at the Bluegrass Grill, which was very decent. Afterwards we walk over to a distillery where yet another friend from Pensacola, Christina, works in the sales floor. Tennessee Stillhouse is open across from the Choo Choo, and gives tours almost daily. We said goodbye to Aaron, or maybe “see you down the road” in my case, and then went with a few of Sara’s friends to yet another part of Suck Creek. Swimming holes all about when you couldn’t buy your way to one near Atlanta. We were getting into the afternoon and there was a music fest happening at Sluggo’s Vegetarian north that i would be missing, sadly, but I needed to get going. I had set a mini time line top make it to Chicago by the 4th of July. After a quick fluids check and rearrange of the truck, I routed my way to Huntsville, Al.


ALABAMA,

Huntsville, Alabama is only a short distance from Chattanooga so i was there before i knew it. My reason to visit there was to meet a sister that i had never met in person. About 2 years ago, through facebook, relatives from my dads side of the family started contacting me. Kristina had just contacted me about a year ago. It a funny thing with me that I’m never nervous about meeting anyone. Its not that I’m confident or anything like that. Its more that i see everyone as my equal and that they are just like me so automatically its like seeing an old friend. I was however excited about meeting her. Its always good to have family. I arrived and met the family and neighbors and we all hung out on their back porch which is where most of the time being home is spent. Joel, Kristina’s husband and I hit it off pretty well. I had previously only passed through Huntsville so the next day Kristina took me hiking at Monte Sano State Park. The weather wasn’t looking great but we weren’t discouraged to walk around for a bit. At one point she showed me the trail head that starts a 4 mile hike. I said, “If you’re up for it, I’m up for it”. So we started the 4 mile loop trail that goes down ending in a dry rocky creek bed. The trail was slippery from it being in a tropical area with a canopy so the sun doesn’t penetrate full force on the forest floor. At one point on the way back we got a little mixed up and my phone’s map directed us the right way. Afterwards, she tried to show me a part that had three caves that were built into a quarry wall. The place that had once been open to the public was now under control of the land trust of Huntsville and North Alabama, and was closed off, only available through private tours and the concerts they hold there. The next day we went out for a nice lunch. I was leaving that afternoon to meet another sister in Clarksville, Tennessee that i had never met in person as well. In addition i had many states to cover before making to Chicago for the 4th of July. I told Kristina and the family that i would be back on my loop toward Florida next year some time. It had been rainy weather off and on and i hadn’t had a chance to straighten up my house so when the first covered gas station arrived i took the opportunity to do so. Clarksville wasn’t far and i would be there just after dark.


TENNESSEE REVISITED

 
After a short drive, I arrived in Clarksville at my sister Melisha’s house. She wasn’t there but at the store buying food to feed us. I’m partially vegan besides my love for cookies, chocolate, basically anything sweet. She is vegetarian so there wasn’t much needed. Matt, her husband was there and let me in. He, much like myself, was a tradesman, and also like me, worked in flooring. He would be at work most of the time i was there on a really big tile job. I hate laying tile. Its dirty and screws up your knees. When Matt went to bed, Melisha and I stayed up late talking about life and such and our childhoods. I’ve never known our father, but she partially grew up with him. I don’t talk about it much because there’s not much to talk about other than after 4 years old, i never saw him. So i just don’t say much about it. The next day we drove to Cummins Falls State Park. Now i know that rivers and swimming holes are becoming a reoccurring thing, but keep in mind, I’ve been away from the ocean for about a month now and my gills are drying out, and freshwater isn’t really a substitute but it will do. I do love a good waterfall though. Cummins Falls did not disappoint. From the lookout point, you could see it was packed with people. It was also free so no wonder there was a crowd. The hike down to the falls was a game of me trying to not get my shoes wet as jumped from rock to rock. I always loved the game, “the floor is lava” as a kid so this was my adult version? Eventually I was forced to remove my shoes. Across the pool of deeper water, there was a bridge of rocks allowing you to get to the far side from the lookout. the rocks were quite slippery even for a person with good balance and i almost went down a few times. Ducking under a few overhangs i got a simulated surfing barrel, making me miss the ocean even more. Ill be on the west coast before i know it so ill enjoy the time away. On the way back i met still two more sisters that are younger. We hung out at thier apartment for around an hour or so. We were both getting hungry and tired so we returned to the house in Clarksville and made dinner before going to sleep. They live in a neighborhood that is backed against a creek so you hear the sounds of the wild all night.

The next day we decided to go to one one of the many cave systems in Kentucky. Diamond Caverns in located right next to Mammoth caves that I had visited the previous year. I agreed that Diamond was one of the more spectacular system because of the formations, as well as the smaller tour sizes. There are tons more things to do in Cave city but it was later and 2 hours away so we returned to Tennessee. The next day we hiked the creek trail that runs behind their house. We had a coyote encounter and many spiderweb stops as well. For some reason my eyes are very attractive for bugs. On the way back we had the encounter that I call my white rabbit. Strix varia. I hear them at night, rarely can find them. Only twice in my photography era have i gotten my lens on one. And this Great Barred Owl was 60 yards from us. The canopy was too dark for me to get a clean shot hand holding my camera but this is the second best encounter I’ve had. He was quickly annoyed with my angling to get a better shot and flew up higher out of my sight.

I had been having a slight oil leak that i found when i left Clarksville, and had determined that it was the seal on my oil drain plug. Checking it when we got back showed that it was indeed the problem and now all my trucks oil was secure. We went out to eat later that night and discussed my future return to visit her again and Kristina and family as well. Melisha’s daughters were away at the grandparents in Indiana so she was picking them up after her teacher orientation at the school she will be working at. We had breakfast and said goodbye the next day and i got lost on the open road that is United States.


KENTUCKY OHIO INDIANA MICHIGAN

 

Now this is where my trip gets crazy. Anytime i have a deadline in travel, it becomes a cram as much distance and events in as possible, as well as inadvertently take the most indirect route. I’m gonna call it “lost directional driving”. You know what direction you are heading but not really. Ive been seeing lots of nice sights like this, and at the same time, a high amount of wrong directions making my path not possible to map so these two graphics are an estimation based on direction alone. I did however make it to a part that is the La Brea tar pits of the east called Big Bone Lick State Park. Though its not tar but mud, There was a small trail showing where they found the bones of extinct mammoths and other beasts. It was raining when i got there and all the rivers were swollen, but a break in the rain allowed a photo session with the parks resident bison, in which according to the park worker, were wide spread through the region before almost being hunted to extinction. The rain came back and i was thinking where to sleep and eat. I found a rest area off the Ohio turnpike to camp. I awoke to the picknic table alarmclock. (kids at the picnic table running around being loud) as intended and packed up camp. My intention was to cover the distance of three states and arrive in Chicago that evening.

Ohio has never been a state that i had interest in visiting. It has no ocean for on thing. the other, i just don’t know anything about it as being a nature state. Looking on the map, i did notice one state recreation area that was due north on my route. Grand Lake St. Marys State Park. I made the drive around the entire lake before settling into a parking area on the southeastern shore. Evidence of all the flooding was there as you could see the waterline well above where the present water level was at. I attempted to build a fire in the grill to cook lunch but, the wood from the ground was too wet and i broke my lighter. That 9 dollar survival knife came with 4 jokes disguised as matches. After those were done never producing a flame longer than a 3rd of a second, the butane stove came out. The flint striker saved the day and i was soon boiling water for coffee and eating hash browns lakeside. My bike was calling to ride so i secured my daycamp and went for a mini ride. A canal ran along side where i saw aquatic creatures of all types. Two beavers made a grassy feild appearance and snakes shared logs with turtles. I entire lake and canal was full of algea with signs warning not to swallow the water. After an hour, I felt that i was satisfied with my lake experience and still had a ton of driving to do. I left heading north for the Ohio/Michigan border.

Once i reached the border, the direction was the Ohio turnpike, and then the Indiana turnpike. I looked at my ticket after the toll plaza. No way was i going all the way across Indiana on the turnpike due to the price. Off i went on the many back roads that snaked back and forth under the turnpike and over the border of Michigan. Stopping for gas near Shipshewana, I noticed Amish or Mennonite largely populated the area. I find them strangely fascinating and admire their holding onto their beliefs in today’s modern society. Many times I fought the urge to take pictures of them. I wouldn’t mind spending a week in a community like this. As it was growing darker, the sun shined is brilliance through the smokey haze that been carried over through the jet stream caused by Canadian wildfires. I was looking for an obscured vantage point in South Bend, Indiana to take photos but ended up in a maze of detour traffic roads before popping out on the other side of the town in darkness, en route to Chicago.


ILLINOIS 


Ah, Chicago. I was just there a year ago to visit my sister Saffron. I was there three years ago as well for the same purpose. Anxiously she kept texting me to find when i was going to be there. She has a busy schedule being a successful business owner, in addition to having made lots of awesome plans. Arriving at her house would be the docking of the mothership (my truck) for a week. As a pet walker/sitter, people pay her to sit at their houses while they are away. Its like staying in a hotel; no, better than staying at a hotel. This particular client was very nice and also lived on the second floor with a view of the lake. There where original Warhol and Lichtenstein prints as well as signed Jay Adams skate decks which were pretty impressive. I like their style. Day one would be a whirlwind of activities in addition to it being Independence Day. At 7 A.M., there was free Tai Chi and yoga in Millennium Park. We participated, well, I did my best. For someone who participates in coordination activities, I have zero coordination sometimes. That weekend was also The Grateful Deads’ last performance and they were playing all three days of the holiday weekend. Random Deadheads would stumble into the grassy area with sleepy attempts at Tai Chi, not much unlike my awkward tries.
 

After returning to the clients place to walk Mozart, the little lord of the manor, we went on our next adventure; a river kayak tour of the city. After a 20 minute explanation of how to use a life jacket, Saffron, Eddie and I went on the river tour. A few of the people were completely inept at kayaking which slowed the pace a bit, but it allowed me to take pictures. Although the tour was really about architecture, there wasn’t much talk of it, but more of history of the various landmarks. For example, The Morton Salt building, the Montgomery Ward building and even the Trump Tower as well as many of the bridges that crossed the river were seen, along with all the pollution. Humans really disappoint me sometimes. Immediately afterwards we had o race back to Mozart’s house to eat and then our next adventure; Trapeze lessons. A first for me as well as for Eddie and Saffron.

It began with ground school, which was explanation of what we will be learning, commands and techniques. I was nervous, not because of the height, but because we will have to shift from hanging to putting our legs over the bar to hang from them, and being not so flexible, I would get caught up. As i watched the others, my fear became irrelevant and upon my turn, I had no trouble at all. I was a little too anxious many times and erroneously did maneuvers too fast. The ending of the lessons was swinging, joining arms with one of the instructors on another swing and releasing the swing with your legs. I failed miserably on my first attempt, but got it on my second. Sister and Eddie both got it on their attempts, the same as the whole group. Overall it was really fun and Highly advisable that if you are ever in Chicago,The New York Trapeze School is loads of fun.

The fireworks were already everywhere as we picked up supplies. We were spending the celebration in a Mexican neighborhood, Eddies family. Forget about the way most people shoot off fireworks in their neighborhood. This neighborhood was a warzone! all the back alleys were blanketed in gunpowdery smoke and sparks and explosions filled the air. I hand shot many of bottle rockets. Usually things quiet down by 10. Not here. Still going strong after midnight. The day eventually won against our energy levels so we returned to Mozart’s.

The next day, Saffron had chartered a sunset sailing trip on the lake, but it was only the two of us. I had remembered my friend Diana lived there so I invited her and her friend Matt to join us. The sun was out to set over the city as the light breeze took us on a loop a few miles from the dock. It was a peaceful end to the day after the 4th.


Over the week, I managed to catch up with this travel blog though at the time I am writing this, I am a week behind. Also i was able to research my route up to Minnesota. In addition, purchasing my flight to Juneau was the last piece of the puzzle for the Alaska section of this journey.
I hadn’t been out into the city alone yet, so i took Saffron’s Ventra card and ventra-ed out. I started out just walking around. I wandered back to the lake to find that there was actually a tiny wave that would’ve been fun for skimboarding if they allowed it, which they didn’t.  After a while, walking around  got old and i wanted to ride the rail. It was however 5 o’clock and really busy on the trains, so i decided to have my one meal eating out at The Chicago Diner in Logan Square. Tasty and affordable and not those tiny portions that many places give you.

Saffron met me there and we returned to Mozart Manor. They have every movie watching internet channel there so i finished up the first season of True Detective as well as getting Saffron into Sherlock. The next day We went to Saffrons home base where the mothership was located, loaded up and set a course through the rest of Illinois all the way to Missouri.


MISSOURI

Mark Twain Lake, and then leaving at dusk for Iowa. Mark Twain Lake had a long drive all the way around to the top to enter the park from the north. I cruised around to the boat launch only to find that like some of the other states, Missouri had received a bunch of rain as well. The water was dirty and the level was high so i decided that swimming was out of the question. Instead, I found a picnic area that besides a few vans that would leave soon, it was completely vacant. I did some laundry and prepared a lunch in the new old crock pot that my cousin gave me. After laundry had dried, i went on a walk but the mosquitoes wanted lunch of their own so I took a few shots and packed up and left. I elected to go to the lake because it was free, not too far south, and the other things to do in the south were caves and i was trying to make time for Minnesota. Maybe on the way back Missouri.


IOWA

Independence, Iowa was just on the other side of the border with Missouri so i made a quick photo stop of the old rail depot before arriving in Decorah. The Ice Cave, so aptly named is actually the tip of an underground glacier, and unlike what most internet descriptions, it did not have ice in it. I later found out that the heavy rains that the area had gotten the past weeks were enough to seep into the cave and melt the ice. It was however very cold. I spot many photos, and in 30 minutes, both my hands and feet were numb. Around the corner was Dunning springs, a waterfall that comes from the same underground spring that feeds the cave. The water was cold enough to make fog over the stream. Up at the top of the waterfall were a few paths leading to a muddy cave that i foolishly slipped around in resulting in muddy clothes, bag and tripod. One of the great things about this place were the friendly people who both local and nearby, were curious about my adventures, as well as suggestive to other nearby locale. Another really nice benefit of the Decorah parks area is that all these places were free to go to. They were also very clean, no litter anywhere. One the suggestions that i took was to The Palisades, which was a winding trail that lead to an overlook of Decorah. I spent the sunset up there waiting for the sun to pop out from the clouds. Afterwards, I routed a course into Wisconsin, but first i’d cut into Minnesota.


WISCONSIN

 

Leaving at sunset, I was going on a tip that there were many great things to see in La Crosse, Wisconsin. There was even a rest area on the border of the two states so i thought it was perfect. But there was one problem; actually many of them. For starters, that rest area was closed. The second problem, Mayflys. I had never seen them or even heard of them. Apparently they mass hatch in swarms that shut down roads because of their oily masses smashed on roads cause accidents. At streetlight after streetlight i hit walls of winged clouds. It wasn’t until I got away from my 2nd crossing of the mighty Mississippi that another rest area gave me a safe haven to examine the carnage. One can only imagine the terror they cause to the local residents. Beside the obvious bumper, grill and windshield, my radiator had taken significant coverage. So much so that i was surprised it was still functioning to keep my engine cool on such a hot humid night. Its a funny thing about the geography here, a state away in Chicago and its 58 and windy, there at the rest area was the hottest i had been trying to go to sleep. After i managed to slip into it, I was awoken by the fury of the atmosphere not being able to hold any more moisture. This was by far the worst storm i had been in. I have road out many sever storms, even more hurricanes than i can count, and i have never seen that amount of lightning. I climbed out of the back and went into the rest area since i thought there could be a tornado at any moment and i was not going to be one of those people killed in there tornado tossed car. The storm subsided and i returned to my newly rinsed and cooler bedroom. The next day i had remembered the brochure rack in the rest area had something interesting. Sparta, Bicycling Capital of America  is all I needed to see, and it was high gear to the Monroe county town. Rolling into the town center i was very ealry, so parking was abundant. In front of the courthouse, two hour parking would be enough to walk around and check out the downtown area. “Sparta’s claim as the “Bicycling Capital of America” is based upon the first rail bed in Wisconsin to be converted to bike trails between Sparta and Elroy.” (taken from the website) is not only a claim to fame, but it seems the town is more than just words. The Deke Slayton Museum is not only the bicycle museum but the space museum as well, with Deke Slayton was one of the first astronauts in the Mercury 7 mission. Be sure to check out the many articles on loan from NASA if you are there. The whole time i lived near Cocoa Beach, i never went anywhere near NASA. There is also a customized road bike that was donated by the owner on display (the Wisconsin gallery has pictures).   Upon leaving the town i looked in the town map and had missed the most famous landmark, Ben Bikin. Ben Bikin is a 30 foot statue on the main road in a park at one of the trail heads. Sparta has over 32 miles of converted train track to bike trail so if you go, bring your bike and $4. More info can be found at Elroy-Sparta State Trail. After a few pictures of the trail information center, I rolled off to cover the rolling hills, en route to St Paul,Minnesota.


MINNESOTA 

Around 10 years ago, I helped a couple or friends, Tigger and Ally, move to St. Paul. I was only there for a day or two, and only got to see Minneapolis St. Paul. Tigger had taught me sound engineering (another skill i have) a while back when he and Ally lived in Pensacola. Now they have two kids and like all parents, there is kids activities. As I rolled into town, Tigger texted me to meet them at a ball park where there youngest was playing the last t-ball game of the season. Its a funny thing about watching t-ball. There are no outs, no losers and no winners. The parents haven’t reached that yelling out of their own competitive instinct. It actually quite funny. There were kids running all over after the ball, kids sitting down watching the action, even 10 second long hugs at home plate. Probably the last time the kids who participate in sports will have true fun without feeling pressure to win. I don’t know, maybe, maybe not.
After the game, we all went back to the house and i went to the super target, which was kinda a mistake for me since i just zone out in stores and end up walking around for an hour looking at everything. Too may choices. The basement. This is where i would actually sleep tonight. Every once in a while on this trip, i want to sleep in a real bed, and not just lodge up in truck. In addition, I love basements and hot showers. Awaking the next day, Tigger and I played catch up on writing and such. He is a writer for Minneapolis ask a bouncer column. Ally is a midwife, and having to work most of the time besides it being her birthday, so that day we went out to eat with her parents and all. They were all planning to leave to go on a long road trip to Kentucky, then Michigan and back to Minnesota, so everyone was scrambling a little to get everything done and hang out with me in the process. We all me friends at one of Minns. 10,000 lakes that in the city are everywhere. Keeping true to my at least dipping a toe in a body of water in every state, i went for a swim. I’m not a huge fan of lake swimming but it was nice getting wet. There was a life jacket caper, where Jakie lost the life jacket only to be found by a guy in a canoe. Nothing lost that day ensures water fun for Jakie

Having never made plans other than just hang out with people when i’m in their towns, I happened across the site for the Triple Rock social club which is a venue in Minn. I had been their before, and they have an excellent selection of vegan options. On their calender of events, Rocky Votolato! His music has been on my weekly playlist for about 16 years both with his former band Waxwing, and solo stuff, but in all that time i had never seen him live. Expressing interest in seeing him live, Tigger said he might be able to arrange a night out. After reaching a point of things getting done for the evening and, Ally getting back to the house from work, and Tigger making a few calls, we head into town.  Pulling up to the back, we pass through behind the scenes. Its been years since i worked in a venue, so the feeling of belonging , and even the urge to do some task beyond just a patron has left. It was a Thursday night and not very crowded but we came in on the first opener,who I can’t remember his name. I’m bot a music critic but Tigger has been a reviewer and a one point during the night mentioned that aging punk band musicians start solo careers. I think most front men of bands do that a one point. Tigger had arranged me to be on the guest list which was very awesome, since I am on a budget. The second opener was Dave Hause, who was a great fit for the the bill. He had been there before and many in the crowd seemed to know his work. In between the acts, I re-met the owner of the Triple Rock, Erik.  We remembered each other from the last time i was there. From outside, the sounds of the first song had started. I hadn’t heard the new album that Rocky had put out but he played a few from it and much more of his older stuff. Upon hearing the new stuff, there is more of a full band feel and less acoustic than his previous stuff but the live versions were all acoustic. He plays a working class folk style and is probably my favorite singer songwriter and hid live performance further cemented that.

Friday came and I was leaving that day and where Tigger, Ally and the kids. There was lots of chaos but in the midst of all, everything got done and we all loaded up our vehicles and went to watch Kira’s soccer game in the rain. I took refuge in the huge castle ship dragon of a playground during the rain that overlooked the field. After the game we said our goodbyes and drove west into the sun.

After a massive but refreshing torrential downpour, the sun came out just in time for me to enjoy finding a rest area as the sun set. The next day, I continued west, I now had about 3.5 weeks to make it to Portland so I could afford to take my time. I elected to check out another one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Maplewood State Park wasn’t far off the Interstate, and seemed quite enough to relax and explore. Making the loop down to the swimming area, I selected a shady parking spot to make lunch and do laundry. Afterwards, I broke out the bike for a loop of the park all the way to one of the many other lakes, returned to home base and prepped for the long journey to western North Dakota. From here on out, all the destinations become further apart. Into wild country I go!


NORTH DAKOTA

I made it into North Dakota a few hours and into the rest area to spend the night. The next day, awaken by the wind shaking the truck, I set forth, west. The air was dry and summer causing the western flow of prairie wind, 30 mph worth. This greatly eats into my gas mileage with the end result of only getting 20 mpg instead of 29.  Arriving in western North Dakota midday, and into Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I elected to back country camp which has rules as such:

Backcountry Use Regulations

  • Overnight parties in the backcountry are limited to a maximum of 10 persons without horses, or 8 persons and 8 horses.
  • Backcountry camping is prohibited within 1/4 mile of roads and trailheads and within 200 feet of any water source. Campsites must not be visible from any roadway or trail.
  • Open fires (wood, charcoal, etc.) are not permitted in the backcountry. Cooking must be done on a self-contained stove fueled by a commercial product. Use of stoves may be restricted in times of high fire danger.
  • All trash and other material packed in, including toilet paper, must be packed out. Burying trash is prohibited.
  • Do not wash dishes or use detergents in water sources.
  • Bury human waste in a shallow hole 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source. Carry out all toilet paper.
  • All plants, wildlife, natural, and cultural features are protected. Do not disturb or remove them. Collection is not permitted. Hunting, feeding wildlife, and chasing or harassing wildlife, including approaching wildlife on horseback, is prohibited. Fireworks are not allowed in the park.
  • Pets, bicycles, and motorized equipment are prohibited in the backcountry.

Know where you are and where you are going. If you plan foot or horseback travel into the backcountry, know your destination and the route you plan to follow. Although some trails are marked, it is easy to confuse a designated route with a wildlife trail. Carry a topographic map and compass. Do not rely solely on GPS units. Leave your trip itinerary with someone so they can contact the park if you are overdue. Cell phones do not work in many areas of the park or surrounding localities.

The park was fairly large and i drove around nearly the entire loop before deciding to find a camp area. Having 4 hours before dark, getting in a hike was the idea. The trails were  marked with line-of-site markers that were just 4×4 poles buried in the ground.  The trail, which was just bison trail started off easy and became harder, crossing over muddy creek beds and through waist high sagebrush. I soon became misdirected by an unmarked trail intercepting mine, and I was trying to find a way around a gorge. The markers also tend to get knocked over by bison scratching up against them. I wasn’t lost, but i wasn’t on a trail. Seeing the ridge by where I parked near the trail head, I was racing sunset to get back to set up camp and take photos. I managed to get back and successfully make both camp and dinner, as well as take photos.

It was the first time i tried star trail photography, which is a series of long exposures or just one really long exposure best done in a small moon sky with no light pollution.

It got cooler as the night went on with the sun finally disapearing from the horizon at 10:30 pm. After sleeping for a few hours, I awoke to the sounds of coyotes fighting within 50 yds of my camp, and once more to bison walking by on the trail not far away.
Morning came and sunrise was better than the night sky.

Packing up camp, and checking the map, it was determined that there were still areas of the park i hadn’t explored. Just north of the main park area was the Petrified Forrest. I made the trek down the dusty road across the numerous cattle gates to the trail head. About a mile in you come across the remains of what was a great marshland replaced by a grassland desert.

The hour was getting larger and so was my hunger, and after a quick dinner, the 50 states of wander parade rolled south to the lower Dakota.


SOUTH DAKOTA 

 
Heading south into South Dakota, passing through Sturgis sounded like a good idea. After all, I had never been there and always wanted to see it, knowing quite a few bikers. It was a few weeks before the annual Bike Week, and already the town was prepped with signs and tents and accommodations for the hoards of bikers that would descend on them.

I drove the town all the way up to Deadwood. One thing that I am not fond of is when an older town has new buildings that try to look old but are just bad fakes, nice try.

Returning to the Interstate, I found a nice rest area to pass the night with the next day going to Wall Drug and then the Badlands. If you’ve never gone to Wall drug, you should. Its a lot more than a tourist area. Hundreds of historical photographs line the walls show it from its humble beginnings of just a place to get free water in the middle of nowhere. I would be going back through on my way to Wyoming so i didn’t stay around too long. I bought a few supplies, got my free ice water and 5 cent coffee (even paid for a few others’ coffees) and headed east.
After a rather short drive, I made it to The Badlands National Park. It was truly a spectacular sight. Miles of what looked like rain carved sand and clay mountains. I would be doing night photography here again so i left the park and got fuel for the truck and supplies for staying up all night. Hitting the many scenic overlooks, I determined the proper place to set up shooting for the night and morning. Although i am finally understanding what it takes to make a good star trail shot, it really helps to make sure your camera is in focus before starting the 4 hour process of multiple shots. After my last set of long exposure shots, the sun was showing light on the horizon so, i took a small hike to the backside of some of the hills that i had explored and got many more photos with the rising sunlight on the red cliffs. Having shot all day and night, it was time to go west to Wyoming, but first back through Wall Drug and Sturgis. I wasn’t paying attention to the gps, and made a wrong turn and ended up on the road that takes me through the middle of nowhere and into Deadwood. I stopped to make dinner in the Eagles Cliff trailhead, near Spearhead, South Dakota, and made my way to Deadwood and out to the Interstate through Sturgis, essentially a giant loop into Wyoming and the night.


WYOMING MONTANA WYOMING 

The drive to Yellowstone wasn’t that bad, just across the entire state. But with that being said, it is across a vast amount of National Park land. I drove well into the night passing The Devils Tower that i wanted to see but I missed the turn and was too tired and wanted to find a rest area. After finding one and camping out the night, proceeded to cross the Bighorn National Forrest which is where the first snow covered peaks I’ve seen on mountains are. I stopped so much and chatted along with people that i thought it wouldn’t be night till i reached Yellowstone. Making it through the uphill climb of the of the Bighorn mountains was a challenge of patience for the people following me since i would go 40 top speed sometimes. Im not trying to push my truck too hard. I made it over the canyon lined road through the flats and eventually into the area before Yellowstone which Is Shoshone National park. This whole are seems to be a series of parks connected to another park which is how the whole world should be. Entering into Yellowstone, there was a ranger station where the ranger was from New Jersey. He advised to be bear aware and there was no camping vacancies but the areas outside the park have some. He also said it was ok to just shoot night photos and find places to rest in the morning. So, I did just that. I drove most of the inner loop stopping along all the points until it got dark and as a huge storm approached, scratching any nighttime photos. I was getting tired and with bad weather i wasn’t going to stay up all night so I started to look for somewhere park for the night.There is no authorized overnight parking spots but i blended in with a few vehicles in parking lot at Tower Junction which can be seen in the north east loop of the park on this map:
This map also serves as a guide for the Tetons as well. Awaking in the morning, since I was close to Montana, going there was the best idea. The rainy weather had cleared out. Stopping along the way to take a nap and make food, I awoke to a tour group looking at white sheep high up on the mountains. They moved on as did I, until I was in Montana. There was a clearing off the road across from campground. Pulling in and up by a creek seemed nice to spend part of the day. It had a nice view of the backside of the Beartooth mountains and the creek was cold for my shower swim.
The Be Bear Aware signs were here as well and I guess with a name like Beartooth, the warning was valid. Having not seen a bear besides the one dead in the road, I was loosing my bear concern. I heard there were 600 bears in the park and given the immense area, it amounted to one bear per 30 sq. miles. After a few pictures and a snack, Custer National Forrest was the next destination. Although the gps never expressed, the journey was to be the most mountainous of my trip. The road would pass back into Wyoming and then into a mountain pass that reached high enough that i was in snow through the many  switchbacks.
After playing in the snow and at a rest area filled with chipmunks, the downside of the accent brought me into Custer National Forrest nestled in the gorge of the mountains. Poking around there and finding nothing but pay campgrounds, sunset was coming forcing me to find a view for it. Racing to the top of all the hills, I came across a lone van parked in a parking lot off the road, and decided i would catch the sunset, sleep and sunrise there. Its the kinda quite that is spooky, as wind howled through the night. The temperature dropped to the low 40’s as my truck shook in the night. Another photographer had my idea.Another photographer had my idea. He was up and at it before me. Afterwards, heading back to Yellowstone, I completed the loop to the south and sight saw till dark, leaving the park and entering the Grand Tetons National Park. Stopping by the camp store, I was near a free camping area but couldn’t quite find it until an employee cornered me while i was driving around and pointed me in the right direction. I pulled into the first camp after checking 4 others with the election of safety in numbers. There were only 4 actually camp sites with 2 other vans parked around for the night so i joined in. The following morning, laundry was done and breakfast cooked as a plan for more star photography to be made in a scenic north direction. The Tetons are in a smaller park but they are more grand than any of the Yellowstone mountains. A lake borders them to the east and Idaho to the west. Exploring further south, an angle in the road provided a fairly quite northern view and so i set up the camera just out of the reach of my passenger window. I know it sounds lazy but when you are shooting 15 minute exposures, having a seat in the warmth, reading a book is better than standing around waiting for animals to walk up you. As it happens, in the quite night, one of the elk i had been watching in the distance made his way over to my truck. I held my breath as he walked up to my truck, sniffed it and started licking the hood. He moved away after a few tastes and the click of my camera in the night. After about 3 hours of shots, the more than half full moon had lit the sky too much for what i thought to be good star shooting, so i retired a parking area in the very south of the park. I would be going into Idaho the next day but only after one more stop.
After awaking early for photos of sunrise on the Tetons, the road took my through the resort town of Jackson Hole. My friend Dana lived worked there for a while but had told me of a standing wave in the Snake river that people surf on. With his directions, the winding river guided me along until the parking lot for the rapids appeared. I climbed down the trail and saw the cold water boiling over the rock bottom. There was no one there but i knew the whitewater rafting tours I passed upriver would arrive before long. A few photographer setup on the makeshift tarp-office across the river in anticipation of their targets. I napped on the rocky bank briefly before being awaken by the shrieks of the tours. The water level was too shallow for me, so i decided that i wanted to ruin my board on ocean waves and not river rocks. Back to Jackson I went to climb the 10 percent grade pass in the Tetons which was the highest grade Shadowfax climbed yet. With a top speed of 40, the magnificent white beast drew a line of slow but steady rhythm until breaching the pass. Soon we would be in Driggs, Idaho and one more state closer to all 50.

 


 

IDAHO WYOMING IDAHO

We made it to an area the had a rope set up for repelling into a 15 ft. drop, but no harness or any other climbing gear was brought and i was freezing as it wass. We squeezed our way back trough and shimmied the wall over another drop off and back to the cave entrance and took a few more goofy photos. Dana and Tina are also photographers as well as avid hiker/bikers, so the three of us were in our elements. Dana’s photos are here! We all returned to eat a good dinner as i’ve been eating re-hydrated soup and potatoes for 10 days now.

The next day was rainy and cold, and snow storm actually dusted the top of the mountain in the view from the T-Square ranch that Dana maintains. Many times we were on the border of the two states and had to keep asking where we were. Later as sun was setting, we went to these hot springs that i describe as an auditorium with a pool that taps into a hot spring filled with a hundred kids. There was however an outside smaller pool that was warmer. I love hot springs. Florida doesn’t have them. The next day we ran around town and thrift store shopped. I scored a shirt, left one and a hat. A bigger cooking pan and cutting board were also my purchases; enough with cutting on plates. Dana took us to his work and we rode the ski lift to the top of the hill for photos of the mountain and the bike trails. Next time i’m riding a bike down. Having to work the next day, we went to sleep early. I was headed west to a park that i saw on the map called Craters of the Moon National Park. Tina confirmed it was awesome, so I had to go. Before I made my way west I met my cousins at Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, who live in nearby Salt Lake City. I’ve seen them every summer the last three years in Pensacola, so it great to get to see them then as well as on my future loop through Utah. The springs where collected into pools of varying temperatures with pebble lined bottoms in some. Along side the pool area was a river that could be traversed with inner tubes with a drop down rapid that made a few people loose their tube on occasion. After dinner, they headed back to Utah, and I headed west to my new rest area dormitory.

Craters of the Moon was in the desert of Idaho, hot and windy. Dry as well. The ranger stressed to bring two gallons of water per day in my decision to back country camp. The entire area is volcanic rock and sagebrush and its animal inhabitants. After hiking the first crater loop that was not a loop, but ended at a windy road back to entrance, i prepped food to carry to the Echo Crater, which is about 4 miles from the parking lot. After the sun got low, it was time to make the trek. All my cameras, a tripod, camping gear, food and water added up to about 40 lbs, so after 3 miles i was feeling it. I raced to catch sunset on a crescent shaped butte a mile passed Echo crater into the part that had nothing but a few footprints and animal trails. That night as I photographed the moon then slept, the only sounds i heard were the coyotes and with. True solitude.

The next day after breakfast, the hike back seemed shorter and with more life as rabbits raced across my path. Arriving in the parking lot, the promise of rest but another 10 hours of the road to Portland which was to be broken up over 2 days, lingered. Idaho had been fun but it was time to move on. Good thing i sleep well.

 


OREGON 

Ive been back in Oregon for two days as these words are written. Hanging out at my buddy Shaun’s work, drinking coffee, using internet, I edit photos of our Alaska trip while looking at Hawaii tickets and the Oregon coast surf report. I like the Northwest. I can get used to the cold. The coast is friendly and since its sunny, everyone seems to be in a good mood. The vibe in the water is more brotherly than many places I’ve surfed. There is a break id love to visit but it is so localized, that I’ve read you should bring a gun to defend against guys throwing rocks. Not my scene. Today after work we are heading to surf Oswald State park, or somewhere near. We had been going a few times a week before Alaska since i got here. I even met up with an old photo buddy from California, Kurt, who I met in Costa Rica year prior. He was there with his wife and son, all surfing. Ive got the rest of the week to figure out my EGR valve that i purchased yesterday. I will attempt to clean it first, and replace it if needed. My rear tires are getting worn so i will rotate them in Utah. I hear my clutch bearing grinding when it is cold when i first start up. It will need changing before long. But other than that, everything is running good. This is the longest stationary of the journey so far. I’m slowing my roll, taking time to relax. I’ll be going to Salt Lake City next week after I make a dip up to Washington. Wild fires are everywhere in the northwest right now. The skyline was filled with smoke in Portland a few days ago, creating an eerie sunset.

A few weeks back, before Alaska, Shaun and I camped with our friend Daniel, his wife Miki and son Darwin. Daniel lived in Pensacola for a while before joining the circus to show the world his talents. He has since had a career in tv and film and was the host of Superhumans. He also holds a few Guinness world records for contortion. He is also a gifted engineer, and after seeing some of his creations, i think that we will be seeing his creations in the near future. We all went to the beach after picking a camp site. I climbed rocks and took pictures while we all enjoyed the warm summer afternoon. Coastal Oregon is rocky with small sand beaches all over. When i was growing up, my favorite movie was The Goonies. It was shot in Astoria and other parts, just north of where we were sitting. Shaun and I did go up and get pictures at the Goonies house one day.

We returned to camp a moved to a quieter spot along side a river and only 5 bucks. There were no park rangers or guard gates but just open country. I really like that about up here. All the parks are more open to enjoy. After dinner we enjoyed a show of the bats swarming on insects, feasting, over the river. The next day we all returned to Portland, and for the next few days, I just hung out at the Shaun’s work, and got supplies for the trip to Alaska.

Fast forward 10 days and we return from Alaska. We got in around 10 at night, unpacked the boards and suits, and then crashed. Shaun had work the next day, and i had alot of pictures to go through. Over the next few days, we made a few trips to the beach, camped where had camped earlier and caught fun waves.

There had been wild fires all over Washington and Oregon and a burn ban was in affect so there were no beach fires that i like so much. On one of the last few days in Portland, I finally meet up with my friend Mary, who i thought lived in Reno. Their house was about a mile from Shaun’s, in the same neighborhood basically. I hadn’t seen her in about 6 years, and it was good catching up. I barely saw her husband Joe. He was at work, then at a cross country meet since he is a coach.

The next day Shaun was going to the coast. I was leaving after lunch with Daniel, Miki and Darwin. I was awaken by Shaun early as he handed me a bag of awesome stuff for the rest my trip. Portland was done for now, as i will be returning in a few months. I did not count nor take any pictures of Washington on our way to or from Seattle, so my plan was to drive east along the Columbia river until I-84 made its turn south towards Idaho and grab shots along the way. I left at 5


ALASKA 

Alaska, The final frontier, at least according to their state motto. I had been in Portland for 10 days surfing at the coast, getting acclimated to cold water. I had enlisted my buddy Shaun to go on the trip with me. He camp surfs the coast all the time so he was somewhat a pro, and I was the novice only camping in tropical conditions. The few days before we left, supplies were gathered and gear was packed. Traveling with a surfboard can be difficult due to both the size and fees that you get extorted with. Luckily Alaska Airlines are great about the fee. Twenty-five dollars each way is at the extreme low of the board charge spectrum as some airlines charge 200 per board each way. I’ve been charged by Taca Airlines, an additional bag fee of 50 dollars, and then 50 dollars for a surfboard/ oversize bag fee. That’s 2 fees for the same item which they argued wasn’t the case. Our boards were separated by a sheet, then our wetsuits were placed on each side with the hoods covering the noses. Then my tent wrapped the boards, followed by my sleeping bag, then a tarp and finally the whole deal was wrapped with shrink wrap. We both managed to cram the mass into a board bag and get it zipped up. Logistically convoluted but cheaper, we drove to Seattle from Portland at 10:30 pm with a 6 am flight.

The flight was a short one with a rather bumpy landing. I don’t fly well, but bumpy landings are common for me from the years of of flying into the central valley of Costa Rica. Where to now? We had a day before the ferry left. It only runs once a week, and I booked the flights with a day buffer in case of delays. We hitched a ride to the Fred Meyer, a grocery store, where eating of delicious food and supplies were gained. Nolan, a traveling dentist I had contacted on Couchsurfing.com had offered his yard to camp in. He already had a full house of other couchsurfers. After manly failed hitchhiking attempts, we discovered the road we were on was a dead end. we walked along the highway until a lone tour bus in a parking lot gave us a ride the rest of the way. Nolan’s house was situated on a lake with a veiw of mountain peaks and the Mendehall Glacier. He told us to make ourselves at home which included a hot tub. Later his other guests arrived from hiking and left again. They were from France and Spain, working in the us and traveling. The next day, they gave a ride to the ferry since the bus system doesn’t run to that part of the town, something i think is a benefit for the taxi drivers only.

Aboard the Ferry Kennicot, we could relax and settle into our 17 hour journey to Yakutat. It was like a less luxurious cruise ship, but the food was good, and there were ample places to stretch out and dry our gear. The Kennicot was finished in 1998 from Moss Point, Mississippi. I remarked that through 6 degrees of separation, i knew someone who worked on it. The gulf coast and coastal work is a small community. We hit open water around dark and settled in for the night in one of the rear decks but could feel the gentle long period 3-5 swell rock against the port side. Morning came quickly, as the ship settle into the dock in Yakutat. Many people were continuing their journeys north. We, along with a few other disembarked into the misty morning. Yakutat, although having 700 people, was a very spread out town. In fact, its one of the biggest boroughs in Alaska as far as land area. With no phone service, and no map we wander a few minutes before coming to one of the only grocery stores in the area and gained directions. Alaska directions are a bit exaggerated in the sense that 1 mile equals 5 miles. We hoofed it for about 45 minutes towards the gravel road that leads to Cannon Beach, before a guy that works at one of the lodges gave us a ride the last quarter of a mile. As we started down the “mile” long gravel road, it soon became evident that we were indeed in bear country. I wasn’t so worried that the lined with berries and a canal with spawning fish for bears to eat, but i still kept a heavy guard. We passed numerous areas with bear scat and a fish belly before reaching the bridge over the creek that ran along side the rode. Spawning fish were everywhere. Reaching a pavilion and seeing the beach, we had made it to Canon beach.

I had read there were camping spots but not sure where, so we walked south before coming to the conclusion that the sites my just be clearings for a tent. Initially, we picked a spot along the dune line on the beach surrounded by the many logs of former trees that the unforgiving coast had placed there.

We started to build a shanty of log cabinesque design, until a passerby informed of an actual site that was a few hundred yards from us. Retiring our project and relocating to Camp Awesomehawk, as we call it from the awesome hawk-crow battles that take place there.

The camp was a wooden deck, with a fire ring and a picnic table. It was perfect and somewhat secure feeling to me. Shaun made a camp in the nearby trees. With camp established, it was surf time. Upon hitting the water, I was overjoyed that it wasn’t as cold as i thought, and with 68 degree sunny weather, I could work on my face tan. I shot a few photos of Shaun surfing before switching it back. For the surfers who read this, Canon Beach is a sand bottom beach break that i swear is the polar opposite of Esterillos oeste, in Costa Rica.

Black sand beaches backed up against a rain forest, very tide dependent and subject to afternoon winds. There were other spots, many of them. But the swell was dying through the week, and then picking up with stormy conditions so we stuck at the spot we camped in surfing 3 times a day. One low tide dusk session I shot Spl watershots of Shaun on my board, and the sunset.

On day 3 I was low on food and wanting to look around town, so we made a plan to go and be back for incoming tide. With our last resort bear defense weapons in hand, the long gravel road was an area of swift travel despite the 360 degree scenic view.  At the end of the road, hitchhiking, we were picked up by Jim, a boat pilot who stays in town between ships. Jim offered to show us around town along with Steve, another boat pilot. We visited the local surf shop Icy Waves Surf Shop. The shop was actually an addition to the back of the house. The owners had started the shop for their 7 kids who surfed and to serve the small surfing community there. We didn’t meet Jack, but his wife Laura was there to help us and tell us of a few spots and the best time to surf and other local information. Yakutat is one of the friendliest surf communities ever. Afterwards, Jim and Steve took us to the point to see if it was breaking. The swell needs to be bigger to wrap into the bay but the clear air and sun made for great pictures of St. Elias, the highest peak and the highest coastal mountain range in the world with 7 of the highest ten peaks. (http://www.leonardslanding.com/wilderness.htm).The Hubbard Glacier, larger than the state of Vermont, and the Largest in the world also sat in the distance. I mindsurfed and shot lots of pictures, thinking how great this place would break on the right swell.

Afterwards, Jim and Steve took us to the grocery store, and then all the way back to our camp. Shaun and I had tried to coax them into surfing with us a few times and they just kinda laughed. I truck pulled up with a family that were going berry picking. They showed me all the wild berries that I could eat. Which was many, but the wild blueberries were the best. I returned to see Jim standing on the beach watching Shaun and Steve in the water surfing. Awesome! I love it when people just go for it. I got my camera and took a few shots.

 

The family i was picking berries with informed us of a high wind advisory so we took the warning and redesigned our camp. Abandoning the platform in the open, we wedged many logs in between trees to form a three-sided wind block. Pitching the tents and securing the tarps made a tight squeeze in our space in the ready for battle Camp Awesomehawk.

The next day, a huge fog bank rolled it as we were surfing, indicating the last of the sun and good weather for awhile. As i was surfing, something bumped the bottom of my board and blew a bunch of bubbles under me. We had been seeing sea lions all week so i assumed it was one playing around but paddled away with it seeing to follow me. I paddled in out of being spooked and with rain lingering, threatening to wet some gear we left out at camp. And so it began. After our last campfire meal, we retired into c amp to awake with a light drizzle. The drizzle mixed with very small surf amounted to 2 days of sitting in the tents, reading and sleeping. The winds picked up and the surf grew into choppy overhead wind slop. Excited, i went out and coaxed Shaun into not letting me surf alone. We were kinda wet anyhow, so why not be in the water right? We both got beat by the washing machine with Shaun receiving the sharp end of his fins through his wetsuit. Formulating a plan for extraction, we went to sleep, damp and hungry. We woke the next day to even windier conditions, but broke down camp to post up at the pavilion at the end of the gravel road and seek a ride into town. After trying to dry as much of our gear and pack it away, we made a quick meal. Shaun secured us a ride with a nice lady and her sons who took us on a small tour of the town as well. People here love to show off their town.

She dropped up off at a coffee shop called Fat Grandma’s where we dried, warmed up, had snacks and heard stories from the owner. She let us hang out until after she closed. It had a free library that was filled with Surfers Journal magazines. After a few more hours the ferry was coming and along the way we saw another local surfer who in a sort of way seemed like he would’ve taken us on his boat to surf if we weren’t leaving.

 

The Kennicot arrived, and we quickly got hot meals and set up a mini gear drying camp in the upper back deck. It was an overnight trip arriving at 3 the next day. We would be voyaging through the roll of short period storm waves along the cost until 8 in the morning warned the captain.

We reached port an hour early for what would be a day in Juneau. After hitching a ride to the airport by a nice couple Jans and Daniella, we stored or gear and hiked what was supposed to be a mile down the road to Mendenhall Glacier.  Although impressive, Much of the trail was closed to floods, and it was starting to rain, and we had had enough of being in the rain for a while so a return to the airport to pass the night was the plan.

Alaska Airlines put us into the blue sky the next day with clearing conditions, landing into Seattle with a clear view of Mount Hood. We had survived. Our Alaskan adventure was over, for now.


WASHINGTON

 

I saved Washington till after Oregon and Alaska, although I had passed into to fly to Alaska. I didn’t really count it in our trip up there from Portland on the flight to Alaska. I wanted to go north to Glacier National park, but the wildfires have kept me from really wanting to travel that far north just for one park. In addition, i will be returning to surf the coast in a little while anyway. I did however want to take the road that leads along the Colombia river. I started out on I-84 and made the cross over the river at the Bridge of the Gods, that has a more impressive name than what it actually looks like. From there the road got way more interesting. Curve after curve and tunnel after tunnel, it wound around until i started seeing the evidence of wildfire on the hills along the road. I stopped to take a few pictures along  Horsethief Lake that is along Lewis and Clark’s trail. Nightfall was coming and i wanted to at least get close to Utah as i still had the lower half of Idaho to pass back through. Idaho, if you recall from my earlier blog entry, is arid and windy in the southern part, and not my favorite drive. But alas, it is a direct path, and later in the year so it will be cooler.

Nope, still just as hot. I’m not complaining about the heat. I like it. Its dry heat i don’t like. I don’t have a thirst mechanism to tell me to drink water. I have to consciously remember to drink fluids. Humid heat reminds me because of sweat, but dry air just evaporates it with no evidence so i end up dehydrated without realizing it. That with no A/C and the hair dryer wind and dust over 6 hours makes me wish steamy coast. Ill be inland a month or more so everyday ill be dreaming of me element, the ocean. On to Utah…


UTAH

See this map above? The entire south of Utah, like many of the west states, is just a series of connecting parks and wildlife area. This is where the west succeeds over the overcrowded east. It is newer as far as being part of the country, but the government could have set more land aside for public use way back then.
Coming into Utah, surrounded by mountains, I was hit with lots of crosswind. My great uncle and cousins like in the Salt Lake area, so i would be spending a week with them before picking up my friend Amanda and doing a 4 day park extravaganza ending with her departure in Denver.
I saw my first tumbleweed and contemplated picking it up as a passenger, but, a tumbleweeds gotta roll, just like me. I arrived at my cousin Ryan’s baseball game in progress. The live just north of Salt Lake in a town that appeared to be brand new. Its just how it looks but there were a lot of newer buildings as part of the sprawl of the city. While the kids were in school we did a few short day trips on the motorcycles. My uncle Ed, Tom (my cousins husband) and their friend Jeremiah Just completed a 2 week ride through the northwest states and Canada all on BMWs. I hopped on the back of Eds as we cruised the HOV lane down I-15 and into the switchbacks of Nephi Canyon. Now I really want a motorcycle. If they plan on doing a long ride to the Arctic circle, I want in.  A few more days of hanging out intenetting, relaxing with family was what i needed to prepare for the next 4 days.
Amanda’s flight arrived around 9 in Salt Lake. The plan was to drive south as far as we could before i got tired and find a rest area. Around 1 am, we pulled into a rest area and slept till mid morning. We probably should have got up earlier, since we were headed to Zion National Park, and it was Labor Day weekend. Entering the park area, we discovered there wasn’t parking inside the park available but shuttles that ran inside every 15 minutes. After looking on a map, we decided the with the day that we should do a good bit of “The Narrows” trail, which is 15 miles long through a slot canyon that is an active river bed, complete with rocks and up to waist deep water. I figured that this trail wouldn’t be as crowded because of the elements. I was so very wrong. It turned out to be the most crowded trail in the park, leaving me to only capture 2 or 3 photos without someone in the shot. I wore the wrong shoe for this as my hiking shoes that already hurt my feet, took on water, causing them to weight about 10 lbs each. I’ve either work converse or vans shoes my whole life so wearing any other shoes make my feet hurt after a few miles. Also, I’m allergic to socks and those hiking shoes stink after a day unlike my vans low tops, so they were at least getting a further de-stink (I had washed them in the shower on the ferry in Alaska).

At all times on the shuttle you could see about a thousand feet up, the ant like people on rim trail of “Angels Landing” a very dangerous trail according to many sources. Ill most likley do it on my way out of Colorado.

Returning to the trail head and rinsing out our shoes, the lines for the park shuttle had grown to three buses of people long. Luckily there were plenty of shuttles so not much wait time elapsed. Our second Trail was just under 3 miles round trip, as we discovered while enjoying a coffee at a visitor center across from the start of it. It was Emerald Pools, which consisted of 1.5 mile staircase like assent around a few waterfall pools and into a sheer faced rock grotto  with an emerald pool. words can describe it accurately so ill just leave it with this picture:

We thought we might be able to reach another hike for sunset, but in canyon land, all the hikes are longer than 2 miles, and much longer if you want to get a high viewpoint for sunset. Deciding to make our way to the nearby park Bryce Canyon National Park, we would have an early jump on the tourists by waking up before dawn to catch the sunrise. A rest area provided a near park sleeping, and making food area.

The alarm went off at 5 am and 2 minutes later, the journey continued. The park is open 24 hours so after consulting a map, we picked a good vantage point to catch the sunrise on one of the many viewpoints of the Hoo Doo’s( the red/orange colored spires that the park is known for).  We were not alone as people rushed to beat the approaching sun for that sunrise opportunity. After getting the shots and a quick breakfast, the most intense trail was the choice of the day in the park. The Fairyland Loop Trail, which included parts of some other trails extended 8 miles, with many elevation changes from canyon floor to peaks. It was perfect as we got most of the cooler morning light with very little others around. Much the contrast to the previous day. Having felt we caught the best part of the day and the best trail, we left to head east. I wanted to get star trail photos in an uncrowded park and put Denver closer than the 8 hours drive. We had the whole next day but I didn’t want to be driving on a deadline. There was a long winding drive through Escalante, which means Stairway, and with grand veiwpoints the terrain was changing to more mountainous from desert. Descending east, Capitol Reef National park sadly didn’t get enough time from us as it was dusk when we arrived, and the clouds have been present at night. From what i saw, another visit there is mandatory. We found the Colorado Welcome center just after dark, ending our Utah adventure and starting Colorado’s.


COLORADO

After dropping off Amanda, i posted up at a park near my friends Cincere and Nicks house until they got home from work. After 4 days on the road, it nice to see friends and take a hot shower. Denver would be a time to slow down for a minute and find some work. Both Nick and Cincere work everyday and have meetings often after work so I would see them later in the evening. I spent many days posted up at Starbucks, editing photos and looking for work on craigslist. Nick got me some work for a lady that he occasionally does odd jobs for, including restretching carpet that was pulled up from heavy rains that flooded basements in the city. I also answered a craigslist job for vending In Mile High Stadium during the first Broncos game.

The temperature was the hottest its ever been on opening day in the stadium so i was definitely going to do well. I parked and got on the employee shuttle bus to check in and fill out some paperwork. After familiarizing myself with he stadium, I found the service room i would be operation out of. The other vendors then described the procedure to me and said id get the hang of it. I would be selling Squishies which is frozen lemonade. The price was 5 dollars each and i was on 15 percent commission. Each tray weighed about 25 pounds and held 24 cups which i would balance on my head. I got to keep tips but paid 120 dollars for each tray sold. We worked the Isles on the lower row where the ticket holders had money. Another group worked the upper levels. The nice thing was that most of the time i was selling much of my tray in the hallway because people didn’t want to stand in line for other drinks. there was only 12 of us for the entire stadium so it was really easy to keep out of each others way. I would sell until i had 4 left and return to the service room and then return to just passed the area i left off. After 3 hours i had sold 7 trays including being stuck in the halls during halftime. I ended up making about 50 in tips and waiting for and over 100 dollar check. not bad for 3 hours of watching a football game and walking around.

The second craigslist job i took involved being an attendant in giant inflatable hamster balls for 5 hours. I got to the festival a little early and helped inflate bouncy castles. There where two balls and one of them has a slow leak so i had to inflate it a little after every other customer. I would take the 5 tickets from the kid and let them roll around often having to push them most of the time. It was a workout but the weather was nice and there was a time limit of 3 minutes so i would get a minute break to fill the deflating ball back to capacity. Afterwards i helped the crew pack all the inflatables up into a trailer. In the end i made a little money and a few new friends.

The next day i was working yet another football game selling Squishies, but this time, at a college game. The Rocky Mountain Showdown, is a bitter rivalry between Colorado State and Colorado University. The college kids were ruthless with their taunts and name calling throughout the halls and there was even an occasional shoving match. I started off selling on the college student levels and not doing very well despite it being hot and only 4 of us vendors. College kids are cheap and only want alcohol to begin with. Then, i found the gem of the upper levels where A) there were alumni and B) it was far away from concessions and worth the money to pay instead of making the walk. The only problem was that the ramps to get up to the upper seats was half the circle of the stadium away and up 3 escalators. The trip there took about 12 minutes but i would sell out pretty quick. I managed to sell 6 trays and then get out as the game went into overtime. I made a dismal 15 dollars in tips but on the way to my truck, found 40 dollars in the parking lot. It comes and goes.

On one of her days off, Cincere took me to the top of Mount Evans and Echo Lake. It was a long windy drive to the top where we saw pristine mountain lakes, mountain goats and great views. The leaves were starting to change and the colors showed up highlighting in the sunlight amongst the forests of evergreens.

I was near Nebraska, and wanted to cross it of my list, plus i had a few days until another handy man job back in Denver so i went on a mini road trip to Scottsbluff in my previous writing. Coming back into Colorado, i landed in Rocky mountain national park for the day and hiking around bear lake to photograph the aspens changing into their fall colors. Outside of the park, my first bear sighting as a mother and cub bolted across the street and scrambled up the embankment.

I returned to the rest area that Amanda and i had resided in earlier in the month. Looking for more adventure, i made a trek to the lop of Berthoud Pass. At the top i was snowed on as it was 7000 feet up. The top had a number of building i assume where linked to some kind of communications and from what i read later I was on part of the continental dived trail that goes more than 3000 miles from Mexico to Canada.

The next day, I met up with my friend Desi that i haven’t seen in like 12 years. Shes a Denver native, and wanted to take me on a hike to St. Marys’ Glacier. Its in a way an old local knowledge spot that in the last few years has become well known and now they have a pay parking lot and bathrooms and such. we walked upward a half mile to come to a pristine lake with a mountain backdrop. The air was clean and warm, and the glacier was reduced to a dirty patch of ice high up on the mountain that with a small climb, could be reached easily. I took a few pictures and played with the icy snow.

 Afterwards, we went to another scenic part near Denver that is a well known concert venue called Red Rocks. There was an event going on so much was blocked off but we managed to gain access to alot of the area.

The third stop of the night was at a Mexican restaurant called Casa Bonita. Its in a strip mall but i think the strip mall was built around it since its been there for so long. The front resembles an old west building. Inside is a long hallway to a register where you can only enter if you buy a dinner. Once inside, there is a pool with  dinner shows where actors fall into it, a haunted maze and an old west photo booth, as well as other things. A lone guitarist plays familiar songs such as “Funky Town”.

IMG_2863

The final stop was a trip to lookout mountain that is exactly as it sounds, a viewpoint that overlooks Denver. The various spots were crowded with cars of people catching the night view of the city. It was getting late and i was heading back to Utah in anticipation of the Full/Blood/Super/Eclipse moon in a few days, so we said our goodbyes and the 35 mph climb over the mountains left Denver in the rear view mirror.


NEBRASKA  

 

Near Colorado lies the state of Nebraska. Although there are a lot of corn fields, a few more extreme landmarks exist. I didn’t plan on spending time there but, Scottsbluff did cross my radar as a nice place to visit. Leaving Colorado through the north and crossing in to Wyoming again, the bluffs of Nebraska marked the horizon with beacons of rock.  Scottsbluff National Monument closes at sunset so i had to hurry to get a good look around. It has the only tunnels in the state supposedly, and there is both car tunnels and a foot tunnel.

I spent a few hours walking around the trails taking photos of the surrounding towns and plains. As the light was growing dim, I made my way to the entrance of the park to see that a decent angle of the park aligned with the preferred northern direction for star trail photography. So once again i set up to spend the next few hours on the side of the road with camera on tripod. After an hour, my old nemesis, clouds, showed up and ruined the party, not before i got a few shots to stick together to become my color shot of Nebraska. Afterwards, the camera party made its way back to Colorado for a few more days until heading back to Utah.


UTAH AGAIN

 

I returned to Utah, with all intent to photograph the supermoon/eclipse from inside Arches National Park. Arriving the day before to scout shooting angles, i  carefully explored most of the arches, finding a back country camping spot behind the Window arch. Arches quickly took the title of my favorite park. I think it was all the curves that resembled the ocean. In the quest to find the perfect angle for the eclipsing moon, the perfect vantage point for a rising nearly full moon made itself evident through the low clouds.

Behind the Window Arch, The bright moonlight illuminated the backside of the towering rock, leaving me to be the last one photographing before setting a camp site up on the stone floor of the desert in between patches of biological crust soil. On the following day, I made a hike careful to not touch the delicate organism filled soil, to the top of a lookout that faces a different angle of the most famous arch in the park, Delicate Arch. After resting and reading and more research on the moon rise path. I joined 3 other photographer on what we called the best vantage point to catch the rare celestial event with the backdrop of the arches.  We all clicked away, and made various shop talk about our trips and gear and stuff we get into. I enjoy the comradery like this. I packed up and left Arches feeling like mission accomplished. I returned to Layton to visit my cousins once again. On one of the days we visited the site of one of the Olympic winter games that still functioned even in the summer.  The countries’ Olympic team trained there daily, doing flips and spins into swimming pools with jets that created bubble to soften the impact. While in Utah, I celebrated turning 40, changed my oil and had my tires rotated.  A pretty good birthday that i got to spend with family.

My next stop was Zion National park again. I had wanted to hike a trail called “Angels Landing“. I was told to be one of the most intense hikes in the national park system so i was ready. The trail wasn’t though. Boarding the shuttle that goes “The Grotto”, which is the starting point, the shuttle driver announced that it was closed for the next few day for repair. It was then that i decided to do a few other hikes that i hadn’t done when i was there the previous month. It was in one that the perfect slot canyon that runs north and south crossed my eyes. The nights were scheduled to be clear, the moon was waning and i had discovered the perfect north direction foreground for the Star trail photography i had been attempting in the recent months.
Waiting for the day to wind down, I parked my truck as close as i could, put on extra clothes for the nights cold, packed my gear and got on my bike. It was a 5 mile ride uphill, then a mile hike to Echo Canyon in the Observation Point trail. I had set everything up when i realized that i had the wrong camera. The night was a further failure as i returned to my truck, realizing that i left my keys by the bike rack at the trail head. I broke the rules a bit to drive back to retrieve my keys but, i picked up a few weary hikers from a group that had just came out of the longest hike in the park. They were grateful for the ride and gave me 20 dollars to continue my adventures.

The next night, I repeated the process; this time checking to see that i had the necessary gear. I set my camera to do a one 30 second exposure, to pause a second, then to do another one, and repeat until i decided that it was enough. Four hours later, I was finished.

It was 1a.m. and the next day I was going to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. I once again found the peaceful rest area a few miles from the Canyonland junction and crashed for the night. The next day would be a long adventurous drive.


ARIZONA

Upon entering Arizona, I passed into my 40th state. A landmark! When i was younger, my family and I saw the southwest on a trip to California, including stops at the Grand Canyon. The 3.5 hour drive was fast and the traffic light. Summer was ending and normal life was calling the tourists back home to their respective lives. This is my life now. Fully immersed in the road. It had been some time since id seen my mother ocean but i was counting the days. I had a line drawn to visit a number of parks and arrive in California.

The very first parking area i pulled into was the South Rims’ Desert point watchtower. It faced north, clear sky, fully moonless sky at this point. It looked like my night was reserved for another date with the stars. Same process as before though this time i had company. Mainly others shooting the Milky Way. I was also fairly close to my truck so i could walk to it when i needed a snack and leave my camera to do its work. As i was finished, leaving, a park official was clearing the parking lot of people trying to sleep in their vehicles.

The edge of the park was near so i left and found a roadside turnout, sleeping undisturbed till the sounds of cars going by stirred me. After lunch, the transit system of the park dropped me off at the last stop in which had an awesome trail descending to one on the floors in a western section of the canyon. I wasn’t intending to go as far as I did, but the lure of what was around the next bend kept dragging me further until I realized I had to beat the last bus that leaves that part of the park. Hurrying, I huffed up the 2000 ft of incline with a few moments to catch my breath, making it back to the top with a few minutes to spare. I found a rest area outside of Flagstaff to pass the night.

I made a mistake in confusing Lake Havasu with being where Havasu Falls is, and just found a day use area called Catfish Paradise. It was very hot and dry. I was relieved that i had filled up with water. Needing a break during the heat of the day, a tree provided shade for the back of my truck where i read and and ate, while laundry dried on the front of my truck in an hour. The pound was green and i had read warnings about swimming. An inquisitive roadrunner peered into the back of truck and then posed for a few pictures.

I could see California on the other side of the lake. Early in the afternoon,I got a text from my buddy Johnny who is the owner of the Blonde Johns Boardshop in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The word was that the swell was pumping. I rerouted my course to take me through Las Vegas and to San Clemente. The race is on!


NEVADA  

Las Vegas, the city of lights, was going to be a touch and go photoshoot. I’m on a mission to surf, its nighttime, why not. I reached the city limits greeted by the wall of neon, made a gas stop, and sought out a parking spot with a decent view that i didn’t have to walk far to get to. I drove around for about 20 minutes before a came to an interesting beacon. Going all on sight and knowing nothing of this landmark the Stratosphere Las Vegas, according to Wikipedia is:

“The property’s signature attraction is the 1,149 ft (350.2 m) Stratosphere Tower, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States,[1] and the second tallest in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. It is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River[2] and also the tallest structure in Las Vegas and in the State of Nevada.[3] The hotel is a separate building with 24 stories, 2,427 rooms and an 80,000 sq ft (7,400 m2) casino. The Stratosphere is owned and operated by American Casino & Entertainment Properties.”

I set up some long exposures to capture the tail lights of the cars in the foreground with the tower in the background.
I got back into Shadowfax, and made tracks. Next stop, sunny California.


HAWAII

I chose Kauai because of a few photos i had seen and it seemed quieter. I didn’t want my first visit to be just about surfing, and especially not to be caught up in the touristy areas. I had seen alot of that.
Leaving San Jose wasn’t too bad. I parked at a car park off site of the Airport and they shuttled me to Departures. It was early, and although I am not a fan of flying and really not a fan of getting up early, it was ok. We touched down after a semi-turbulent flight into strong headwinds, but we were on time. I had arranged to stay with a Couchsurfing host for the first 4 days so I called him when i was in baggage. My surfboard came out fine and at 25 dollars, Alaska is the king of cheap bag fees.

Rick, the gentleman who hosted me, arrived shortly and after a brief visit to his house, showed me a few points around the east side of the island. We saw the Kilauea Lighthouse which is the northern most point in Hawaii, well actually the tiny island just north of it is. We saw a few other areas that only locals know about. I was way tired from not having slept and flying always gives me a headache so we returned to his house.

His house was amazing, big windows overlook the gardens in the front and the orchards in the back. The lower parts of the walls were vented with screens to let fresh air flow. I miss that. I’m not a fan of AC and you don’t need it here. I had a whole room with a large bed and a bathroom to myself. He advised me to take oranges and avocados from the trees out back. In a few closets there where snorkel gear, boogie boards and just about anything you needed available to enjoy the beaches. I borrowed some old flip flops since my one pair of shoes were getting haggard. I awoke by 7 am and prepared to do a few hikes. Since he is retired and is home a lot, Rick has a simple rule that you should leave the house by 9am, to explore or whatever and not hang around. I was only here for a week so i wanted to cram alot in. Packed and ready, I headed to the walmart which is also the bus stop in Lahui. Sleeping Giant was on the agenda today, and was a short walk after the bus to Kapa’a. This is one of the wettest places on earth, so the hiking trail was a mixture of slippery mud and sticky mud. Different levels separated the two with the slicker mud being in the shadows of the trees. I managed to wander off the main trail like i do often, only to find myself clinging to the side of the mountain with a diminishing trail in front of me, forcing the retreat. The rest of the way to the top was way easier than the dead end path and i paused a few times to take photos. On the decent, I saw another side trail that produces an arch that i hung out in a ate lunch while a rain shower passed by.

The rest of the decent was cake and I wandered through a neighborhood a bit before popping out by a little beach. It was just north of Lydgate State park, the water was cool, inviting and kinda private. All the beaches are public and condos and other buildings must provide access paths to them. Florida could learn a few thing from here. It was a lower tide and there was a natural tide pool. I spotted a Moorish Idol in it with other reef fish and immediately made plans to return with my water gear.

I made a pretty crucial learning mistake in thinking that things are closer than what the are, and another in thinking that there would be a bus stop walking back. It was really far, and no bus stops for miles. Ill back up a minute and explain the bus system. They are Microbusses, really nice but not very frequent. They run every hour and on the weekends every two, so you really have to plan out the connections or there is a lot of waiting around. From what i heard, they had tried to streamline the bus system and made it worse in the process. Also there is no map anywhere that i could find written or on the internet that showed bus stop locations. Other than that, they were really nice. I walked for hours and it got real dark and there is no side of the road in most places. I was forced to hop a guardrail when i heard the sound of reflectors being ran over behind me. Along a good portion of the walk back, there was a golf course, so i walked along the border of it. In the short version of this portion of the story; it sucked.

On day three I decide to go to another hike suggested to me by another Couchsurfer. First i would make a trip to the thrift store for a smaller backpack. Afterwards was a bus to bus to finally arrive at Shipwrecks Beach to do the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. I immediately recognized the beach as a skimboard spot later confirmed by the internet. I made a plan to return with my board. But onward with the trail. Being one of the less strenuous of the trails as it wound along the coast with its dirt sand cliffs dropping off to lava rock. There is one part they call Cathedrals,

maybe because of the rock formations but i heard it was also that they would do a church service on the beach there as well. At the end there was a limestone cave that i heard about but it was closed except for certain days of the week. After spending a few hours walking it, i decided to head back to avoid the possibly missing the last bus back to Lihue. The crazy thing about getting there is that were dropped off the bus at a hotel entrance and instructed to walk through the hotel and the pickup for the bus was in the multi passenger entrance to the hotel. Making it there with plenty of time to spare, I made it to mt connecting bus and back to the final stop of walmart.

The next day I had planned to do a few things that wouldv’e been easier if it was a weekday, but being the weekend, the bus system was half the efficiency it usually is. Instead of the every hour stops it makes them every 2 hours, which dramatically lengthens anywhere you want to go. My other dilemma was my skimboard. The bus doesn’t allow surfboards but boogie boards are fine. A guy at the bus stop said it would be fine. I didn’t wait though since the next bus was an hour and forty-five minutes away. Deciding to hitch a ride, i set out on foot with my thumb in the air. Ive had very good luck hitching a ride in the past in many different countries and was told it was easy. In addition id been giving people rides on this trip so it was my turn to tap into the honey well. No one was stopping, not even trucks. I walked for about a mile in the direction i was heading and even positioning in a good pullover spot. Nothing. After an hour I gave up and took the walk of shame back to Ricks house. Travel tip #248: Always have a plan B for your day that is easy to execute. It makes for a much easier time. My plan B was to hit that tropical fish tide pool. The wind was much lighter and the sun was bright so seeing the fish was easier. After spending an hour chasing them around, the looming countdown to the last bus called the shots. I wasn’t about to risk that walk again.

The day was Sunday, check out day, and pick up the rental car day. I left earl and thanked rick for his hospitality and headed to the airport. As i was walking i found a cell phone on the ground and called the last number, arranging for the owner to pick it up at the counter of the rental car agency. Also as i was walking up to the airport, I saw a couple that i saw back by the walmart a few miles back. I approached them to find out that they were camping at a place near where i was going and that i wold possibly be camping there as well. The car I had rented was economy car, which they gave me a chevy volt.

We somehow squeezed my surfboard into the front, them into the back and our bags into the back hatch area. They were all for going to the beach at shipwrecks for a few hours. I skimmed a whole 45 minutes till my hip started acting up and then i shot some shore break barrel pictures.

Afterwards we went to the Salt pond county park which is where the camping is. I had forgotten to get a permit for camping that is required for all camping on the park but a ranger came by and permitted me on site. Another Couchsurfer, Chris, came with a fellow traveler who camped there the night before and we talked and watched the sunset.
sunset picture

Chickens roam wild here so if you are lucky, the roosters start crowing at 4 am. The hang out in the trees so if you camp under them, a guarantee of no sleep is what you will get. They are useful though as they prey on a venomous centipede. One day I watched a chicken running from a bunch more with a huge tortilla in his beak, so to me the whole thing is humorous. The next day camp was folded up and goodbyes were said as i was going to the other side of the Island. After two unsuccessful trips to two different permit offices that were closed although they were allegedly open, I drove to a little beach that Rick showed me on the first day. The wind was light, and the waves were consistent, not crowded, clean and looked fun. I hadn’t surfed yet and was weary of the size on the north shore that had been 20ft +, as well as the reputation of Hawaii in localization of surf spots. I talked to a local guy on the beach for a minute and the brief friendly conversation assured me that I was welcome there. Managing to snag three hours of waves before the wind came on and chopped up the place, the volt was packed up, following the coast to the north shore of Kauai.

 

I drove all the way to the end of the Kuhio highway which ends at the start of the trail to the Na’Pali coast. I turned around and found the park where i would be camping in. The surf was forecast to get to 30 foot, and i had seen a lot of big waves breaking outside with no one on them. I waited for the ranger until 9 pm before i went to get dinner for the night. Afterwards I returned and set up camp in which the ranger never came by to issue me a permit, so I broke down camp and left to check out the other county park which i would be camping at.

 

Every park in Kauai closes for one day a week to clean the grounds and also to make sure there are no homeless camps set up permanently. Many people live there full time in tent due to the high cost of living and ideal weather. A huge limestone cave was open to the public so i spent a few hours photographing it. As i watched a ranger telling a guy to break down his camp for cleaning of the park, a wall of crystal clear water exploded onto a sand bar in front of a body surfer who had just swam out. Locking my camera into its protective SPL case, I swam out an shot more barrel pictures with the body surfer. It was still early in the day and i wanted to meet up with my friend Morgan for a surf. She had been living out there for a few years after moving from Florida, so she knew most of the surfing spots. The swell hadn’t hit yet but i paddled out with her in the small waves in Hanalei Bay,

surfing for few hours before she had to go back to work. The swell increased and i surfed with her once more before she had to go back to work once again. Deciding that the waves weren’t as important as the view of Na’Pali coast, I raced the sun to get to a viewpoint that i was happy with for the sunset. The trail was muddy but with not much in weight in my bag a progressed swiftly back in the near dark conditions. The bodysurfer, Jangee, was making spaghetti and offered me some as I chatted we him and the other residents of the campground. The weather was looking rough so I said goodnight and set up my tent. At about 3 am, the sky unzipped, which was normal for the north side of the Island. Awaking with dawn, I was permitted to camp by a ranger that arrived as I was packing up. The storms had brought choppy waves and it was my last day.

My flight left at 1, so i had enough time to catch one more session of waves at the spot on the east side of the island. The winds that were on the north side were on the east side as well and with no one out in the shoulder high sloppy turquoise waters, i was reminded of my home break on the gulf coast. And with that, Kauai sent me off with a nice farewell.


CALIFORNIA PART 1 OF 4

Its been many months since i first cracked the border of California. Ive saved this part since its been intricate and i wanted to forget as much as possible (just kidding). I had planned to be in California in a few days as I was in a small day use area at Lake Havasu, but I received a call from Blonde John informing that the surf was absolutely firing. I said id be there late in the am, packed up, and took a route that would take me through the city of lights, Las Vegas. Rolling across the border and into California and then another into Nevada, I had intended to quick in and out with a few photos. Nevada was one of the 2 states i had left to cross in my lifetime, but on this trip, it was number 41. After driving around, about and through the strip, i got a few photos and quickly left. I pulled up to the Blonde Johns house about 2 am and climbed in the back and went to sleep.

He had rented a house in San Clemente, a few blocks from T-street. T street( short for Trafalgar) is a funny animal. In the morning, all the parents drop the kids off and wait for them to surf. The groms earn their Physical Education credit for school by surfing.

Where was this when i was a kid right? Also a mere 2 miles away are the playground waves of Trestles, named for the train tracks that run along the beach. Trestles was once off limits due to it being right next to Camp Pendelton. The story goes that President Nixon was taken back by the perfection of the waves here that he got it declared a national treasure and turned into a state park. I really like this wave since it breaks along a series of points and even though it ca n be quite crowded, I have always got alot of waves.

It was good to see some of the crew from back home. I have to thank Blonde Johns for letting me hang around most of the month. After a long road, a few solid weeks of great surf in the California sun did me well. Life on the road can wear you down and little things like a hot shower mean the world to you. I made a few trips south to see friends and check out San Diego, as well as surf more well known breaks in Cardiff, such as Swami’s. I visited my buddy Allan and his family. Hes from my old neighborhood, and had a few days off to show me around San Diego.

Towards the end of the month, everyone was leaving to go back to Alabama, so i went to the mecca of skimboarding, Laguna Beach. Pulling up along the highway parking that is free at Aliso Beach, The roaring sounds of shorebreak rumbled. It was bigger than i was used to and not skimboarding for a few months, i had adjusted to surfing so i ran for a few waves before abandoning my board for my camera.

Getting a few shots, I decided to leave for it was Halloween eve and i was headed to East Hollywood to rub elbows with stars. Actually, I was visiting my buddy Tom and his girlfriend Amber in their new house. I was invited to go with them to a party, and to my luck they had a box of former Halloween costumes that i mixed to form a random non costume. Afterwards we ate at the famous Hollywood restaurant Canters Deli, the has been frequented by many stars over the years. A very fine show of Hollywood by my friends indeed.

I headed then to Los Angeles, to visit my step fathers dad and stepmom, who are both in their 90’s. It was a nice visit just relaxing and hearing all the stories of old Chicago and LA. After a couple of days, I headed back toward the coast to work my way up the PCH ( or Highway 1).

 

The PCH, short for the Pacific Coast Highway, is known for its winding stunning beauty that stretches south to north through most of California. I end up completely following it south to north and back, including in the southern portions where it splits and becomes other roads and becomes the PCH again.

Over the next couple of weeks, I work my way up surfing along the coast. The Ventura to Santa Barbara area took a week with me hanging with a few friends i hadn’t seen in a while. Johnny, a friend from Alabama has a band there called Afishnsea the Moon.

They are really great artists  and have a cool community going there in the hills of Carpenteria over looking the surf break known as Rincon. After a few days of waves and sunsets, I headed north.


CALIFORNIA PART 2 of 4

I had a few weeks to play with until i went to Hawaii, and thanksgiving was in the mix and I had planned to spend it with family. My Stepfathers brother, Eric lived in San Jose, California, and i had booked my flight to Hawaii out of San Jose, sop i would spend the holidays with him. But first, I had a date with the waves in Santa Cruz.
I had been to Santa Cruz many years before but never surfed. My friend Taryon lived out there and returned my text as i was taking photos of Steamer Lane, the famous Santa Cruz surf spot.

An interesting fact is that in this area, the modern wetsuit was developed by O’neil, and believe me, it was a good advancement. Taryon showed me a few places as her house was directly between several excellent surf breaks. It had been raining so i was weary of surfing due to runoff pollution. But after talking to a local, i was convinced to surf The Hook. The Hook was normally crowded but there was a higher tide that many people passed on but i didn’t hesitate to scramble down the stairs to time my paddle out from the little cove inbetween sets that smashed into the wall there. I caught a few waves until it got crowded, making the decision to head north a good one.

Johnny had pointed to me a number of fun surf beaches on a map. I had decided to spend the day at Sand Dollar Day Use Area. Its a fee parking area, but along the highway is free. I really liked this beach. From up on the cliff to the south, you could see all the way across the crescent beach.

After surfing and shooting a few photos of waves i headed north to catch the sunset at the Cuyocos pier. They had a car show weekend going on and the whole town was full of classic cars, great timing i guess.

I was nearing the land of the large trees as i passed through Big Sur at night to find a roadside camp spot. The next day, with the solemn goal to go see the redwoods, the weather had changed shortly after visiting the Drive-Thru Tree Park.

It was now raining and since the forecast didn’t look any different for 10 days, Oregon was on the map. I would revisit my friends up in Portland again, but his time from the southern route. The wind was howling around 35 mph, and the surf very rough. Meandering up the coast of Oregon passed Astoria, crossing into Washington. After driving Halfway up the coast of Washington, It became apparent that this was indeed the northwest weather that was typical, and after a day of trying to take pictures in the rain only to be chased back into the truck, I returned south to spent a few days in Portland. On the first day i was there, on a hike, my camera fell out of my lap when i stood up out of my truck, breaking my fisheye lens in half as well as the battery door off the camera. It was going to happen one day. I realize that i use the fisheye lens a great deal. I bid on another on ebay and won. I also bought a new battery door and another 50mm lens to replace the 18-55mm lens i was using. The surf fell to a manageable level and the sun came out after around 5 days of complete crapweather. Leaving at night Shaun and I caravanned to get up early for surf. After a few hours, cold and tired but surf fulfilled, we parted ways and I headed back South.


CALIFORNIA PART 3 of 4

Returning to California for my 3rd time, I was ready for warmer temperatures and more adventure. I had a few weeks until I went to Hawaii so I took my time and surfed a few spots in northern California,and slept on the cliffs parked in the moonlight on the coast.

Thanksgiving was approaching, and my step uncle Eric lived in San Jose so I paid him a visit. While I was there he gave me a few days work on his landscaping crew. It was relativity easy work and i enjoyed working and talking with his crew of guys who where all family from a small ranch town in Mexico. Uncle Eric showed me around town one day when it was clear as we went for a drive in his restored classic galaxie.

Thanksgiving came and we went to my step cousins April and Heather’s house and had a great day. It was nice to be with family although distant. After a few more days at my uncles, I made my way back to Santa Cruz to meet up with my friend Barbara. She was in Santa Cruz/ San Fransisco for a few more days and it was her first time there and she had a convoluted schedule, and since i had no agenda until a few more days, i would join her until it was time to park and go to Hawaii. I met up with her of our friend Taryons and together we all went to Golden Gate bridge park.

We walked around on the bridge for a bit and then had lunch and returned to Santa Cruz. The next day Barbara was checking into a hotel in Japantown so I drove her there and after she checked in and got settled, we took to the city. Having told her about a Mission burrito, and uber driver dropped us off at one of his favorite places. Afterwards we walked up to see the graffiti of Clarion Alley before meeting up with our friend Ryan.

He works a a bike courier there and had to go off to work but later we met him at his house and he showed us the trail to one of the best views of the city at night.

It was late, and i had a 7 am flight out of San Jose. I dropped off Barbara at her hotel and rolled to the the airport and with my already prepared bags in hand, boarded for Kauai for the next ten days. Ive already wrote about Hawaii a few entries back so the next post will be the 4th and final part of California.


CALIFORNIA 4 of 4 F

A week in Hawaii went by pretty fast, leaving me with the urge to go back soon. Christmas was approaching and i had made a secret plan to surprise my parents that were visiting my sister in Chicago for the holidays and stop back off in Utah to see my cousins  since the train came through anyhow. But first i had a week or so to regroup and hang out with my uncle for a few days and work for him which helped out alot financially.  I had found a storage facility in San Jose, to store my truck in while i was in chicago. The day came and i parked, took an Uber, then a bus, then the Bart and waited for my old friend Ted to pick me up as i stayed at his house. Ted is super awesome, and has just opened a little bar called The Little Hill Lounge , so if you in the El Cerito area, drop in and say hi. The train ride was inadvertently vital to my photography project that this trip was centered upon in the aspect that i had lost Infrared photos on Missouri and had very few photos of Nevada. I also got to see real snow, a Chicago Christmas that my sister went all out for planning, and snowboarding for the second time ever thanks to my cousins.The three weeks went by fast. Before i got back to San Jose i received an email that my truck had been bestirred from its rest after confirming with a call to Public storage that i had been burgled. The main cost i had accrued was the passenger window. There was nothing of value taken except clothes. A few more days hanging out in San Jose and i return to my Mother Ocean.  This time i would spend a little more time on the coast. It was chilly at night and warm in the day. Morro bay was a cool area where i met up with my buddy Ray for a few days. From there i went south and finally got to experience the point breaks of Rincon  and C street in Ventura on big winter swells.

The crowds were a factor and i soon found myself frustrated with not catching enough of the pacific perfection. The swell tapered off and i went further south back to San Clemente, San Diego and then back to San Clemente where i camped out for a few weeks going back and for from Laguna beach, T street and Trestles. I finally got to skimboard west street which is known for its wedging shore break.

Winter was in full effect and the storms were sweeping across the country so i had a plan to follow behind a cold front to get the good clear weather it leaves. Leaving the coast i headed into the desert toward the Salton Sea.  The Salton sea is actually the largest lake in California and midway to Arizona. I stopped of at the Cabozon Dinosaur statues for some quick photos before heading to Slab City.

Finally I reached One of the last places that i wanted to visit in California, Joshua Tree. I had wanted to go to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks but the snow had roads closed. I had been timing the weather already but I arrived in Joshua Tree during a storm and left to hang out in rest area till the next day. I had wanted to do Star Trail photos there when it cleared up and the forecast was looking good. After resting, having lunch and scouting a scene, i met a few people who were boldering (climbing bolders). I joined them and did well for my first time. As darkness fell so did the temperatures. I was about 200 photos in and had gotten into the second sleeping back when i fell asleep. I woke up after what had to be about 20 minutes, and felt cold on my face only to realize that it was snowing on my and the clouds have came. Oh well maybe next time. I packed up my gear and left, spending the night in a rest area a few hours away.

The next day I headed to Arizona. On the way i noticed that along the road ran a railroad track that was elevated and in the rock part i could see names and other graffiti written using rocks of darker colors, sticks and whatever else was found. It went on for many miles as is known as the Highway 62 rock graffiti. It ends at Vidal Junction when California becomes Arizona.