Friday, May 31, 2013

Montana - Day 3...

Because of the issues with my truck, I wasn't going to be going anywhere for a few days. My buddy Chris Rausch was kind enough to throw me the keys to his truck while he was at work every day, so I could be mobile. On Wednesday, I spent most of my time blogging about Tuesday and driving into Missoula, but Thursday was a photo day for me. Now, anyone who visits here even occasionally knows that I'll sometimes include a photo of my truck. Well, since she's having open heart surgery, I thought I'd include a picture of Chris' truck:
 
Chris' Ford F-350 Super Duty.
Because it's Montana, that's why..
 
I'd decided to stay local, more or less. Chris told me about some cool areas to shoot on the other side of the Bitterroot River, so I packed up the gear into the truck and made my way to the east a bit. 
 
Montana's a bit different than other places I've shot, but I suppose that's something I'll experience daily on this trip. There are enough rivers, lakes, creeks and old barns to keep a photographer busy for weeks. If I had to break down anywhere, I'm glad it was here:
 
Montana is called "Big Sky Country" for a reason...
 
My first stop was right along the Bitterroot River. Rivers are always good. I stopped at a "fishing access" area to get right up on the water:
 
The Bitterroot River...
 
A small pond near the Bitterroot River in Florence..
 
I shot for a bit, then climbed back into the truck and continued down the Eastside Highway, which runs parallel to the Bitterroot. This is where the photo ops began to present themselves, and took advantage of them:
 
What's not to like about an old barn?


A barn, with the Bitterroot Mountains in the background. Lewis & Clark
described the Bitterroots as the most difficult part of their journey...

An old stable which has clearly seen better days...

A horse giving me the stink-eye...

A stream located within the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge...

In the town of Stevensville, I found an antique shop which had honest-to-goodness antiques. There was some really cool stuff at the Creamery Antique Mall:


This little Indian motorcycle was sitting outside for only 2,200.00...
 
This Harley-Davidson Sprint was $5,000.00...

Not sure what this is, but it sure is old...
This was a cool little kitchen set, not too unlike the one we had when I was growing up in Hauppauge, New York.
But this one was $1,200.00...

These skateboards weren't antiques, but they were pretty cool.
The one on the right was 6' long and was priced at $600.00...

A spare $1,100.00 and this unrestored baby would've been all mine...
 
Well, this IS Montana...

A cool old license plate collection...
 
Right out in the middle of nowhere...

I'm pretty sure this used to be a restaurant. And a train...

After spending the better part of the afternoon shooting, I figured it'd be a good idea to get some food in me, so I made my way back over tho the Bum Steer, where Chris has a fresh batch of pulled pork just waiting for someone to pay attention to it. It was ridiculously good: 


Fresh pulled pork...

My buddy Chris Rausch on the right, with his son Matt...

The Bum Steer in Florence, Montana...
 
And for those wondering, this is where I've spent the last four and a half days. There are worse places to be:
 
The Rausch Estate. An honest to goodness log cabin...
 
The day ended well. All I could do was wait for the shop to get the transmission for my truck, and get me on the road.
 
And that day will be Saturday...


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Montana - Day 2...




After a good night's sleep, I did some photo editing and then went down to my buddy's restaurant for some lunch. The guy's a crazy good cook, and he made me a bacon cheeseburger from the dark side. We shot some pool, had a beer, and then I asked where some good photo ops might be. He recommended Kootenai Creek (pronounced, if you believe the locals, "Koot-knee Krick").

I hopped in the truck and drove about six miles south, to the turn-off for Kootenai Creek.

There were other cars in the lot, but I didn't see anyone. Two of the cars had kayak racks on top, although I never did say them, either. I grabbed my gear and headed up the trail.

As you approach the trail head, there are a number of signs which alert you to the various things to keep in mind when hiking in environments like this. There was one, in particular, which grabbed my attention:


I'm pretty sure that meeting up with either one would represent
a dramatic change in how your day was progressing...

But they weren't all so serious, either. Folks up here love their dogs, and they're plentiful on the back country trails. I guess, then, that this is only fitting:

Humans pay no mind...

Basically, the idea is to stay safe. This isn't a bad idea. After all, out here, you can get seriously hurt. I'm not talkin' "I think I sprained a knuckle" hurt, I'm talking "medivac" hurt. So, it's good to keep the basics of safety and sanity in mind. As I'd be carrying gear with me, I decided to take it slow and easy.

The Kootenai is, to me, anyway, a lot more than a creek. Or even a krick for that matter. It was flowing strong, and I heard it as soon as I got out of the truck. I was eager to head up and get some shooting done. I grabbed the 5D and my tripod and hit the trail.

If this is a "creek", I'm Julius Caesar. Creeks are shallow, slow moving waterways that guys like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer would go fishing in. I don't know what this would be called, but it sure didn't strike me as being very creek-like:
 
Kootenai Creek in Florence, Montana...
 
This was moving a little too fast to be a "creek"...
 
Kayakers love this stuff...
 
Standing on a rock outcropping over the creek, about 60 feet up...
 
I would've liked to have continued up the trail but, after about a mile or so, it started to train. I didn't have rain gear for me or the camera, so I thought it best to head back to the truck. I made a right onto Highway 93, down to the town of Stevensville. There wasn't a lot there, but I recall someone mentioning the Bitterroot River, so I thought I'd check it out:
 
The Bitterroot River...
 
Not far from where the picture above was taken was this pristine little lake. I was diggin' how the trees reflected:
 

As far as I could tell, this lake actually has no name... But it probably does...
 
After walking around for a while, I walked back to the truck and drove back to my buddy Chris' restaurant. We shot pool for a bit and had a couple beers, and then I decided to head back to the house. I was tired, and I wanted to get a jump on editing photos. So, I climbed back in the truck again, started it up, put it in "REVERSE" and...
 
Nothing.
 
The truck didn't move.
 
I put it back into "PARK" and then back into "REVERSE". It did nothing at first and then, with a loud clunking sound, it started to back up. I shifted it into "DRIVE", and heard a sound that I normally don't associate with a transmission which is in good repair. It sounded horrible. Once it would shift out of 1st gear, though, it was smooth sailing. When I got back to the house, I backed into the parking spot and, when I stopped the truck, all I could hear was the sound of metal scraping on whatever metal scrapes on to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
 
Thankfully, Chris knows a guy here in town who's a great mechanic. Even though he's giving me a nice deal on the work, the reality is that I hadn't exactly budgeted for a new transmission. But it is what it is, and no amount of worrying is going to change the reality that I'm going to be in Florence until Saturday morning, instead of Kansas City, Missouri, which was the original plan.
 
Now, with all that said, I'm actually pretty fortunate. I'm fortunate in that I made it to Florence. I'm fortunate that it happened here, and not, say, 150 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota. I'm not shelling out eighty bucks a night for a hotel room. This is where friends come through.
 
I'm not yet sure just how much this is going to impact the "photo op" aspect of this trip. Yes, I still have a good amount of time to get to Pennsylvania. But I'd hoped to spend that time; those three weeks, shooting my way across America instead of worrying about when I'll stop and for how long. I'll adjust my itinerary as needed, though. There are things which, frankly, I have no intention of missing. Some places can be set aside for another time.
 
The bottom line is that, when my transmission went, I was deflated. Big time. But the important thing, I believe, is to not quit. I had a goal when I left Portland, and I need to do what I can to try to stick to the plan which will, hopefully, get me to that goal.
 
So I just won't quit...


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Portland To Florence...

My plan was to leave Portland at 6:00am and, to be honest, I impressed myself by actually getting on the road by 6:20am. I bid farewell to Carrie and Eric, my two dear friends who put up with me living in their basement for the last week, and climbed into the Explorer.
 
Ah, yes, the Explorer. I don't believe I've mentioned it, but the ol' girl needed some attention before embarking on this trip. For the last few months, it had been doing this thing where, after about 300 miles or so, the engine temperature would start to climb. I'd been dealing with it by just adding coolant every 300 miles, but I didn't really want to be doing that across the United States and, besides, something was definitely wrong and needed attention. So, some $1,208.22 later, I had a new thermostat, thermostat housing, serpentine belt, and some various sundry things which just made me feel all warm and fuzzy about having addressed.
 
She's runnin' like a champ.
 
 
 
The TomTom GPS unit, which had failed me so miserably on my trip from San Diego to Portland, has decided to begin working again. I wouldn't buy another one, just because it's mildly clumsy, but I have this one now, and it's working, so that's good enough for me.
 
I punched in "Florence, MT - Center", and pulled away.
 
The road, my TomTom, and Boo...
 
The start of the trip was was wet. I'd checked the weather forecasts, and it actually looked as though I would be stuck in rain until I got to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
 
No bueno.
 
I'd deal with it, though, simply because there really wouldn't be an option. As it turned out, though, the weather began to clear just before I crossed into Washington and, with the exception of an occasional drop here and there, the weather remained clear for the entire trip to Florence.
 
In the six months I spent in Portland, I never ventured past the small town of Hood River when driving on I-84. This would be a first for me, and I was surprised at how different the topography was, once I cruised past Hood River and into eastern Washington, compared to Portland and points west:
 



 
 
 
 
The road gone by...
 
The road went by quickly enough and, thankfully, there was no rain to contend with. It wasn't long before I found myself having passed completely through Washington and into Idaho:
 
And those driving into the State for seven miles will never feel welcome, apparently...
 
I've been telling myself that I need to force myself to stop and do some shooting. When I'm making good time, though, I want to continue making good time. I'd stopped only for gas and lunch, but pulled off of I-90 when I got to the town of Wallace, Idaho.
 
I'd had several people tell me to stop off in Wallace. "Oh, you're a photographer? You have to go to Wallace!"

Who was I to argue?
 
Wallace is an old mining town in the panhandle region of Idaho. It's mining heyday was in the 1890's, when Wallace was the third most populated city in the State. Now, it's largely a collection of antique shops and, for its population of only 784, a lot of bars and restaurants. "Funky" is a word I would use to describe a lot of what's here:
 

This used to be a bus. Then it was a diner. Now I think it's a bus again...
 
These boys take they huntin' serious...
 
Seriously... It's right here... 
 
An old Texaco gas station sign. The old Texaco gas station is long gone...
 
A restaurant with an identity crisis...

Not quite like Vegas...
 
Walking along, I came upon the Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum. It's a small museum with a lot of memorabilia from when Wallace was a thriving mining town:
 
The Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum... 

The Telegraph Office inside the depot...

This was the women's waiting room (they were not permitted to wait with the gentlemen back in the day). The flag above the door is one which was flown during President Theodore Roosevelt's visit in 1903...

The view from a second floor window in the depot...
 
Now, if you find yourself saying "Huh, what a quaint little town. They should film a movie there", you would not be the first person to say that. In 1980, portions of the movie "Heaven's Gate", starring Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken, were filmed here and, more recently (the summer of 1996), Wallace served as the fictional town of Dante's Peak, in the movie of the same name, which starred Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton.
 
As I wandered through the quiet, almost deserted streets, I came upon Wallace Brewing: 
 
Wallace Brewing...

I walked in, and was surprised to find that I was only one of two people in the entire place, the other being brewer Chase Sanborn:

Brewmeister Chase Sanborn...
 
Chase was an affable enough guy who cheerfully served up a rather tasty pale ale:
 
The "Dirty Blonde Pale Ale"...
 
Chase and I began talking, and I'd asked about the movies that were filmed here. While he wasn't here for "Heaven's Gate", he was here for "Dante's Peak. That movie used locals for extras and, in fact, Chase is in the movie. He told me he played the News Director standing behind Pierce Brosnan in the gymnasium scene.
 
Now I gotta' go watch that movie again.
 
Chase invited me to walk around and check things out, so I did. As I walked among the huge brew tanks, I found a placard with "The Beer Prayer":
 
I can only imagine the beer version of "Hail Mary"...
 
When I came back into the main room, Chase was talking to some folks who, like me, had pulled off the interstate and wandered in for a cold one. You could tell he was enjoying this. It was obvious that he loved talking about beer and Wallace and movies. He was a great guy, and he's probably one of the reasons people say "You have to go to Wallace".
 
Chase Sanborn chatting up some customers...
 
After buying a t-shirt and finishing my beer, I bid farewell. I did, after all, have a little bit of a drive in front of me, and needed to get back out on the road. I got back to the truck, fired the engine, and pulled back out onto I-90, still some 130 miles from Florence.
 
It wasn't too long before I was passing into Montana. The drive was good and the roads were clear and, as you can see, there was nothing but sunshine. I was crossing the state line and making the final push to Florence:
 
Welcome to "The Treasure State"...

Sure, it's the end of May; three weeks before the start of summer. Why do you ask?
 
As I always do, I looked for things to shoot. I saw a sign that said "Natural Pier", and decided it was worth checking out. I never did find that pier, but I did find a cool, old single lane bridge which, to look at it, you'd swear would collapse under the slightest strain. Not so. I drove across, parked the Explorer, and grabbed my camera:
 
 
 
 
 
It was dicey...

The view from mid-span. The water was crystal clear...

Railroad tracks on the south side of the bridge...

The St. Regis River...


I made a left...
 
I didn't stop after finding that bridge, and I made my way into Missoula, and then into Florence, before too long. I found my buddy Chris' restaurant, and pulled into the parking lot. As I did, a little bit of rain started to fall, but it was okay. I'd had a great drive without it, so I couldn't complain now. I pulled my jacket on and walked to the door of the Bum Steer, and the end of 11 hours in the truck and my first day's drive...
 
At the Bum Steer in Florence, Montana...
 

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