Friday, October 21, 2011

New England...

Mike Lille and I parted ways after our flight from St. John's, Newfoundland landed in Newark, New Jersey. We'd had a good week, and he was on his way home to San Diego while I was headed to Boston, Massachusetts to meet up with Monte Montefusco, another co-worker and, in the interest of full disclosure, my new boss. Monte handled the northeast before I was selected to take it, so it was good to head out and meet some key clients.

If you've ever driven through the Boston area, you know they love their tunnels. Everyone seems to know about the "Big Dig" debacle, but the truth is that there are plenty of tunnels strewn around the city:

A Boston tunnel...

I picked up Monte at his hotel on Monday morning. He'd flown in from Europe the day before, and I was surprised he stayed awake as long as he did each day. We made a whirlwind trip through the Boston area and then into New Hampshire. Driving up here at this time of year is great, especially if you want to see the fall colors:

The drive through New Hampshire...

Our trip culminated with a stop in a little town which can only be described as Rockwellian. Littleton, New Hampshire is exactly what you would expect Small Town USA to look like. It's a town of just under 6,000 people about two and a half hours north of Boston. It's got one main street which is lined with businesses of every ilk:

Downtown Littleton, New Hampshire...

One of the more impressive of those businesses is Chutters. Chutters claims to have the longest candy counter in the world, and it's not hard to believe that:

The candy counter at Chutters in Littleton, New Hampshire...

Chutters is also known for its' selection of fudge. There were no less than a dozen varieties available when they were there and, well, I just couldn't help myself.

Some of the fudge available at Chutters...

Littleton is a photographer's wet dream. There are old, historic buildings everywhere. The  Ammonoosuc River runs through it. It has a covered bridge. I only had the Canon G12 with me as we walked through town but, the next time I'm here, and have more time, the Canon 5D is gonna' get the call.

The Ammonoosuc River in Littleton...

Thayer's Inn, as seen from the covered bridge over the Ammonoosuc River...

Walking along Main Street, there's no shortage of historic buildings to shoot. One of the most imposing, though, is the Littleton Post Office and Court House. It almost looks out of place:

The Littleton Post Office and Court House...

We had dinner with some of our better clients who are in Littleton, and then decided that we would drive back to Boston that night. We'd both be flying out the next day. Once again, I'd be parting ways with my colleague, as Monte was headed for some down time on Long Island, and I was headed home to San Diego.

The time I had to shoot in and around Littleton was far too short. I could've spent, quite literally, days exploring the town and the surrounding areas.

That's gonna' have to wait, though...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

West To East...

We left Springdale Friday morning for a relatively short drive to Corner Brook, Newfoundland. We were thankful we had decent weather, as we'd had just about enough of the rain. Unfortunately, up here, the rain is never really too far away.

Leaving Springdale, there were a few things which I took particular note of. First, the local Tim Horton's (think of Starbucks, but with better food) was so empty it looked like it was closed. There were only three cars in the parking lot. I've been to Tim Morton's all over Canada, and there's always a line at the counter, and there's always a line at the drive-thru.

The second thing I took note of was how Springdale seemed, to me, to be what I would expect a small town in Newfoundland to be like. There's nothing in the way of tourism here, unlike St. John's, so these folks make their living on the water. It's just a cool looking little coastal town:

Springdale, Newfoundland...

After getting out onto the Trans-Canada Highway, it was a matter of only a couple hours for us to get to Corner Brook for our show that night. We got settled in our hotel rooms, took a little break for a while, and then went out to yet another successful show. Dinner with clients (where Mike, to his great credit, tried the cod tongue) was enjoyable, and we found our way back to the hotel around 11:30pm. We wanted to be well-rested for Saturday's drive, as it would be a marathon trek from Corner Brook to St. John's; about 450 miles.

We figured on taking between eight and ten hours to make the drive, and that included rest stops, meals, etc.

The weather was, well, it wasn't good. It had started raining overnight, and it just kept comin'. There wasn't anything we could do about it, of course, but neither of us was really looking forward to making a drive like this in the rain. We would have to, though, as the clouds were riding a little low as we got onto the highway:


The Trans-Canada Highway in Corner Brook, Newfoundland...

Aside from the duration of this drive, it probably seemed longer because, for miles, there were stretches of highway that were simply straight, and they were straight for as far as the eye could see:


The Trans-Canada Highway...

We had gotten a hold of a cord to plug Michael's iPod into the Caravan's stereo, so we kept ourselves entertained by thumbing through his playlists. Being a singer-songwriter kinda' guy, he's got a lot of stuff by a lot of people that you've probably never heard of. It was all good, though, and it helped pass the time. It's not like we'd be picking up the Z90 Morning Zoo out where we were.

While a good portion of the drive was uneventful, a good portion of it was bordering on being a white-knuckle gut-check. Visibility would go from very good to almost nothing in no time flat:

For stretches at a time, visibility was almost nil...

Now, while driving in conditions such as those can be fun, this is Newfoundland. Bad driving conditions only get worse when you combine the conditions seen above with these:

No joke...

When we left St. John's for Clarenville, everyone told us to watch out for moose. We saw none. When we left Clarenville for Springdale, everyone told us to watch out for moose. We saw none. When we left Springdale for Corner Brook, everyone told us to watch out for moose. We saw none.

So, whadda' ya' think happened when we left Corner Brook for Newfoundland, and nobody said a word?

You got it. Moose.

Our first encounter was with a cow and calf. I'd have snapped a picture of them but A) I was driving (not that driving has ever really been an impediment to me taking pictures, though) and B) I was too busy trying to make sure I didn't hit a moose or end end up in a ditch.

Now, we were in a Dodge Caravan. As rentals go, it's a pretty good size. Unfortunately, it's also a perfect size to deposit a moose in the vehicle if you're unfortunate enough to hit one. The general rule of thumb is that, if you hit a moose, you're probably going to be killed. Ergo, they take these things very seriously up here.

Our second moose encounter was far less dramatic. It was a cow off in the distance, and it was never a threat to us. And, while we did have time to cameras ready, we were so far away that by the time we got to where the moose was, it had already trotted off back into the woods.

We finally arrived in St. John's, but it wasn't time to relax. In fact, we had to head back out again. We'd be going down to George Street to get Michael "Screeched in". He'd been looking forward to this, and we weren't about to let a little rain get in the way.

We walked into Christian's Pub about 9:30pm to get Mike signed up for the ceremony. When we got there, the bar was absolutely empty. When we arrived back an hour and a half later, the place was absolutely mobbed. It seems as though a Saturday night "Screeching In" is a popular event in St. John's.

While I won't go through the ceremony (Google it if you want to know), I'll show you one of the highlights. At one point during the ceremony, for some reason known likely only to the most aged of Newfoundlanders, attendees must kiss a cod. I did it last year and, dammit, I was going to see to it that Michael did it this year:


Michael Lille kisses the cod and becomes an Honorary Newfoundlander...

Mike with his certificate of Screechiness...

Sunday morning came way too early, as we had to catch a flight to Newark. Michael was flying back to San Diego from there, and I'd be flying to Boston. I don't get to fly home until Wednesday, but I'll have an opportunity to meet some new clients in my new territory.

I have one remaining scheduled trip into Canada, and then I'll be done. I'll go up once a year for a trade show, and that'll be about it.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Welcome To Mooseville...

With our business done in St. John's, it was time to start making our way across the province.

We'd been told that it was going to take the better part of three hours to drive from St. John's to Clarenville, but we managed it in just under two. Everyone in St. John told us to beware of moose and, in fact, there was no shortage of warning signs along the Trans-Canada Highway. Be that as it may, though, we didn't see a one:


The moose and the car are depicted to scale; you don't want to hit one of these...

This type of scenery was a typical sight...

The drive was uneventful, and we made it to our hotel in Clarenville and pulled into the parking lot.

When we pulled into the lot, my first thought was that I should've spent a bit more time looking for adequate lodging. The Clarenville Inn looked like a $30.00 a night hotel from the outside, and there weren't too many cars in the lot. That does not normally bode well.

When we checked in and got to our rooms, though, we were pleasantly surprised. The room were ridiculously nice.

We got settled, met in the restaurant for a late lunch, and then headed out for the show. It went well, and we were pretty pleased with everything overall.

Our next show is in Corner Brook, and there's no way in Hell I wanted to drive from Clarenville to Corner Brook and then do a show on the same day, so I scheduled a travel day in between. I managed to find a nice lodge in Springdale, Newfoundland, called the Riverview Inn.

This is, quite frankly, the nicest "hotel" I've ever stayed in. It's more like a lodge, actually, with two buildings each housing six rooms each:

The Riverwood Inn in Springdale, Newfoundland...

My room at the Riverwood; right on the Indian River...

After getting settled into our rooms, we decided to go out and walk around a while. The Riverwood Inn has a number hiking trails on the grounds, many which follow the Indian River. It's an idyllic setting, and one which, I'm sure, is played out throughout the province.


One of the many hiking trails at the Riverwood Inn...

We decided it was time to head out for some dinner and "refreshments", so we found a local convenience store and picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels, some coke and ginger ale, and then found our way to Kaitlyn's Family Restaurant.

Now, I've given our friends to the north a hard time concerning "Canadian cuisine" before, and I always try to do it in a good-natured manner. But, I mean, come on; cod tongue? Peanut butter or Cheese Whiz?

Where else can you find Cheese Whiz on a restaurant menu? And at such an affordable price?

And it was only fifteen bucks...

We finished dinner (we both opted for burgers), and made our way back to the Riverwood.

Now, one of the cool things about working in the guitar industry is that you tend to always have some pretty cool guitars around. We took up residence in the lobby of the main building, mixed some drinks, and broke out some guitars. I don't play much anymore these days, but it was good to be able to sit down with a guitarist as solid as Mike Lille and do some jamming. I just never do that anymore.

Of course, it wasn't long before I put down the guitar and pulled out my camera. Mike's website could use some new photos, so I figured I'd snap some. Truth be told, I'm a much better photographer than I am a guitarist, so I was more than happy to let Mike play while I shot way:

Guitarist Michael Lille at the Riverwood Inn...
As I sit here, it's a little after 9:00am, and I'm watching the Indian River flow slowly past my balcony. This has been a great trip so far. We're off to Corner Brook today, which is on the west coast of Newfoundland.

If we have time, we're going to look for those always-welcome photo ops along the way...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Head East...

I'm about as far east in North America as a person can get.

I arrived in St. John's, Newfoundland last night. It was a long trip from San Diego, to be sure, but the flights weren't bad, and I even enjoyed the bump to First Class out of Newark to Newfoundland.

The first thing I noticed was the cold. Damn. While it wasn't "cold", I guess, after coming from 70 and 80 degree weather in southern California, it was cold. I don't care what the Newfies say. I'm just not built for this.

This is my second to last regularly scheduled trip to Canada. I normally travel with either guitar wizard Marc Seal or Grammy Award winner Wayne Johnson, but since I'm turning responsibility for Canada over to Mike Lille, I figured the best person to bring on this trip would be, well, Mike Lille. He's a monster guitar player, and a Helluva' nice guy. I think he'll do well up here. I pick him up in about an hour.

Today, October 10, is Thanksgiving up here in Canada. Ergo, most businesses are closed. So, given that, I decided to head out and see what I could shoot. Mike and I will be driving across Newfoundland (twice) on this trip and, given that this is likely the last time I will ever come to Newfoundland, I decided to bring the Canon 5D. I was here last year, but only had the Canon G12. I wanted to up the ante a bit.

I decided to head down to George Street. George Street, if you're keeping score, has more pubs per square foot than anywhere else in North America. Seriously, if you ever needed a reason to visit somewhere; am I right?


Kelly's Pub, Christian's, The Brimstone, and O'Reilly's on George Street...

I walked around the waterfront for a little while. There were a lot of ships and small craft tied up to the quay, and the skies were starting to look threatening:








The skies were starting to look a bit threatening, so I decided to head up to George Street and find some shelter. And, oh, what's that? A pub?

Kelly's Pub on George Street in St. John's...

Kelly's Pub is a pleasant little pub, and I wasn't all too surprised to see it empty when I walked in. It was early, after all, and it was Thanksgiving, That said, there one was other person there, my new bestest Newfie friend, Anna.

And Anna had gifts:


Bartender Anna, with a pint of Keith's India Pale Ale...

I like places like this, and places like this are one reason I like to travel. I steer clear of the "touristy" spots and, instead, seek out the places the locals like to go. Kelly's is that kind of place, and there were, indeed, locals. They came in, one by one, after a little while, and a number of them cozied up to the bar where I was sitting.

One of those local was a gentleman named Donny. Donny noticed the pack of Marlboros I'd placed on the bar, and said "You're an American". After that, understanding anything Donny said was a task. A lot of people here have some very thick Scottish and Irish accents, and Donny was definitely one of those people. Still, he was enjoyable to talk to and, if his bar tab was any indication, he was certainly a local.

Donny The Newfie...

I sat with Donny, and a rotating host of other characters, for a while, talking about this and that, and about how I was tired of being warm and dry all the time in San Diego so I decided to come to Newfoundland. I thought Donny was going to toss a spleen he laughed so hard at that. I mean, I guess it's kinda' funny, but not that funny.

I finally decided that it was time to head out. I wanted to grab a nap before heading back out tonight. I bid them adieu (or whatever the Newfie word for "See ya' later" is), and stepped out onto a wet George Street, thankful that the rain had stopped.

It's going to be a long week; a good one, but a long one. I'm looking forward to the trip across the province, and to enjoying what will likely be the last time I ever come here... 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New York, New York...

After spending a few days on Long Island, it was time to head north. I lit out of my hotel by 10:00am and hit the road. I'd be driving "upstate", and had about a two hour drive or so, assuming I didn't hit traffic. I wanted to mitigate even that mere possibility, so I avoided the Long Island Expressway altogether. I opted, instead, for Northern State Parkway. Only passenger cars are allowed on the parkways so, at the very least, I wouldn't have to contend with too many tractor trailers while leaving the Island:


Long Island's Northern State Parkway...
Before too long, I found myself heading towards the Throgs Neck Bridge. When I was a kid, we used to go over this bridge every time we went to my Grandparent's house in Hopewell Junction, New York. Now, back then, I think the toll for the bridge was somewhere around a buck or two. Now, though? It's $6.50. The true shocker, though, was when I realized that this would be one of the cheaper tolls I'd have to pay on this trip.



On the Cross Island Parkway, headed towards the Throgs Neck Bridge...

I wouldn't be done with bridges for the day. I was on my way to Middletown, New York and would have to contend with the Tappan Zee Bridge.

And another steep toll.


Approaching the Tappan Zee Bridge...

One of the cool things about this new gig is going to be getting to see my Dad more often. Up until now, I've seen him once or twice a year, if I was lucky. He lives 20 miles from my biggest client now, so I suspect that I'll get to see him a lot more often. I'm looking forward to that.

I'd checked the weather for this area before I left San Diego and, from what I could tell, it was supposed to rain the entire time I'd be here. Thankfully, I lucked out, and had sunshine most of the time I was in New York. That is, of course, until I started heading towards my Dad's house. Then it got torrential:

And then the rains came...

I'd spent only a night at my Dad's before it was time to head south to New York City. I had to make a stop in Staten Island first and still try to make it into the city by 4:00pm to meet up with my buddy Monte near Times Square. It was about 10:00am when I said goodbye and pulled out of Dad's driveway.

I found my way to the New Jersey Turnpike, and travelled on to Staten Island. I met a client for a little while, and then excused myself back to the road.

I honestly can't remember the last time I drove in New York City. In fact, I don't think I ever have.

I found my way to the Holland Tunnel. $12.00, please:
The entrance to the Holland Tunnel...

Entering the Holland Tunnel from New Jersey...

Now, I don't recommend doing this, but I couldn't resist the urge to take a picture of the road, somewhere under the Hudson River, in the Holland Tunnel:


Inside the Holland Tunnel...
 When I pulled out of the tunnel, the first thing that crossed my mind was that I should try to get a picture of the madness that unfolded before me. And, just as soon as that thought crossed my mind came the realization that snapping pictures at that particular moment would probably one of the top three worst decisions I would ever make. I left the camera on the seat and fought the traffic.

After getting to my hotel, I had to go meet Monte. Having already had enough of driving in city traffic, I decided to walk.

It's amazing what you see when you're not driving. People watching in Manhattan is unparalleled. While there are certainly tourists and businessmen, there are also, well, "other" people. For instance, I'd heard of the infamous "Naked Cowboy". I had not, however, heard of the "Naked 70-Year Old Cowgirl":

Disturbing...

After averting my eyes, I peered out across Times Square, and was amazed at the sheer mass of humanity:

Times Square...
 I finally met up with Monte, and after dinner with our clients, we made our way back to hotel. I was happy to finally be someplace quiet, as the streets of Manhattan, well, aren't.

The next morning, Monte and I had to venture back to our client's shop, so we hopped on the subway and were on our way. The subway, if you've never ridden it, is pretty cool. There are, literally, hundreds of miles of track under the streets of Manhattan. It's the fourth busiest rapid transit system on the planet.

A subway train comes into the station below 42nd Street...

Turnstiles leading to a subway platform...
After a day with our client, we decided to head down to Soho for dinner. Monte decided it would be "Emilio's Bellato" near Little Italy.

Oh, sweet Jesus.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of a good meal. Well, Bellato upped the ante on that one. This is simply one of the finest tastes of Italian food I've ever had. From the wine to the antipasti to the homemade tortellini, everything was perfect. We finished dinner with tiramisu and a canolli.

This looks like the kind of place where you'd expect to see Robert DeNiro or Joe Pesci in, sitting at a corner table. Well, neither of them were there (I guess they hadn't heard we'd be in town), but Christopher Walken walked by on his way to the rear dining room.

And he didn't even say hello.

We finished dinner, and walked around Soho for a bit. This part of the city is very cool, with a lot of old buildings, including churches:

An old church in Soho...

While walking around, we didn't really pay attention to where we were, or where we were going. You come across some cool stuff when you do that. For Monte, the "cool stuff" came in the form of a Maserati dealership. Monte's a "car guy", and I found myself wondering if he was going to trip over his tongue while looking at these through the showroom window:

Monte's crazy expensive next car...

Now, of course, there are cool things all over the city. While we were waiting at a crosswalk, it dawned on me that we were looking directly at the firehouse that Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis bought to house their "Ghostbusters" business:

It looked a little different in the movie...

It's a good thing we'd already had dinner, or it's entirely likely that we would've been tempted by the greasy yumminess offered up by the myriad of streetside food vendors found not only downtown, but all over the city:

Hungry?

After walking around Soho for a bit, Monte decided to head back to the hotel, as he had an early flight to Dallas the next morning. I, however, wasn't done shooting. I decided to take the subway back up to Midtown to do some shooting in Times Square. The visual can't be adequately described, and I really don't think that pictures do justice that is the sight of Times Square at night:

Times Square at night...

One thing that I took particular notice of, the entire time I was in Manhattan, was how many cops were on the streets. I honestly don't think I can recall looking down a street anywhere on this trip without seeing a police car, a beat cop or, well, a cop talking on the phone while on horseback:

Hey, when you gotta' make a call...

I finally hit the point where I was getting a bit beat, and decided to head back to the hotel. I would fly out to San Diego the next afternoon, and wanted to get in a good night's sleep before having to brave the city traffic on my way out to JFK.

With all the travelling I've done, this trip has to go down as one of my favorites. Not only did I get to meet some great new clients, but I also got a chance to see some old friends and visit some family. When I think that the trip was topped off by two nights in Manhattan, well, I think I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better trip with which to start my new gig.

Well, at least until I come back to New York City...

Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...