Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Ride...

Initially, I figured I would take my car on this trip. It gets good gas mileage (upwards of 34mpg on the highway) and is certainly comfortable enough.

But then I started thinking about the last time I drove cross country, and I began to feel a little less enthusiastic about driving my own car.

See, last time, it was June of 2013, and I was driving from Portland, Oregon (population 645,000) to Poyntelle, Pennsylvania (population 20). I was driving my 1999 Ford Explorer that, at the time, was closing in on 200,000 miles on the clock.


She was good while she lasted...


As it turned out, I ended up spending five days and $2,400 on a new transmission while visiting my buddy Chris in Florence, Montana. I'll be visiting him again this trip. As I'm already tempting fate by leaving on April Fool's Day, I figure there's no need to needlessly exacerbate the problem by driving my own car. If my Malibu breaks down, I'm on the hook for the repairs. If the Explorer breaks down, I call Avis.

So, if a Ford Explorer was good enough to get me cross country last time, why wouldn't it be good enough this time? Instead of putting some 10,000 miles on my car in just over a month, I've decided to rent a Ford Explorer for the trip:


The 2020 Ford Explorer

It's certainly seen some updates over the years, so I think it's going to provide an adequate level of comfort, as well as offer plenty of room for suitcases and photo/video gear. There's an outside chance that my daughter might not be able to join me for the return leg of the trip, so I started to consider the Ford Edge. Then, upon further consideration, I decided that my ass is gonna' be in this thing for five weeks whether my daughter's there or not, so I'm going to want something spacious and comfortable.

The Explorer it is...

Sunday, January 31, 2021

After Seattle...

I'll probably spend a couple of days in Seattle with my daughter and her fiance' before Jessy and I make our way south to Newport, Oregon. 

We're going to be passing right through Portland, where I lived for six months. so I reached out to my old boss, who's now a real estate agent in Portland, and asked about possibly getting together for lunch mid-trip. We'll have to see how it goes, though. She and her husband are very Covid wary, so it'll hinge on what the state of the virus is in Portland come late April. I hope we get to see them.

But, aside from that, I need to start looking forward, beyond Newport and on to the trip back to Boston. This second leg will actually be the longest road in the United States. What makes it cool is that, with the exception of a few places where it merges with four or six lane interstates for a time, this road is two lane. This is the exact type of road that cross country drives were made for.


There's actually a website for historic US-20. Yeah, the road's got its own website, which you can find right here. That's a good thing, as it's chock-full of information about the road, the small towns along the way and the various sites you can see. Coupled with RGPS, my guess is that we're gonna' see a LOT of cool stuff.


I can't wait to hit the road...

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Planning Stages...

So, it can be a mildly tedious endeavor, this whole trip-planning thing. I know where I want to start, where I want to end up, and where I want to go between the two. The trick is figuring out how many days I can spend in each place I stop.

Initially, I thought the entire trip, St. Augustine to Boston to Seattle to Boston to St. Augustine, would take about three weeks.

I really do need to improve on my guesstimates.

This is what my calendar currently looks like:


Now, I know it's a bit tough to decipher, so let me help you out. The purple is my original guesstimate for the total trip. The orange sections are where I'll be during each segment of the drive. As you can plainly see, after two and a half weeks I'm still likely to be in Seattle. 

This is problematic if you think your entire trip is going to take three weeks. Consequently, I'll have to adjust the return date just a tad.

My daughter, who's not only a photographer but also one Hell of a videographer, is probably going to join me on the trip from Newport, Oregon to Boston. Once we arrive in Boston she can decide if she wants to fly back to Seattle or come to Florida with me. She'll be bringing here drone along, so I suspect a Dad & Daughter Road Trip video will eventually show up on You Tube.

The trip from east to west is pretty well laid out. I'll get to stay with friends in Boston, Rochester and Wooster OH, so I won't have to worry about paying for lodging until I get to Madison, WI. I'll have to spring for hotel rooms in Madison (one night), Sturgis (three nights) and Wyoming (two nights). The nice thing is that there a lot of really decent, inexpensive hotels strewn all along I-90. 

When I leave Wooster, Ohio (where I'll be visiting family), I'll drive through both Indiana and Illinois, with no plans to stop overnight. I will, however, be using the RGPS app (Really Good Photo Spots) along the way, and I'm quite good with pulling off for the right photo op. I was in both Indiana (South Bend) and Illinois (Chicago) last year, so if I don't spend a lot of time in either on this trip, that'll be okay.

By the way, just a reminder: RGPS freakin' rocks. I've used this app in Italy, Scotland and all over the eastern half of the United States. If there's something worthwhile to see and shoot, it'll be listed here!

My stop in Madison will be for no other reason than I'll need to take a break. While I'll be using RGPS and (I highly recommend both), there's nothing that's currently grabbed my attention enough to make this more than a one night stop. The Best Western East Towne Suites, at only $88 a night, looks pretty good for my first foray into paying for lodging. At the very least, I can see myself venturing out to capture some shots of the Capitol Building. It really does look pretty cool at night:


Photo by NBC15, Madison WI
Photo by NBC15, Madison WI

I'll pass through Minnesota during which, again, I'll be relying on RGPS for anything off the beaten path. However, I'm looking forward to finding those small towns which time seems to have forgotten. Those always offer photo ops to the nth degree.

The stretch from Madison to Sturgis will be the longest of the entire trip. It clocks in at right around 800 miles, so I'm figuring it should take me in the neighborhood of 12 hours. The speed limit on I-90 in South Dakota is 80mph, though, so that's certainly going to help.

Hotels in Sturgis start around $42 a night at the Days Inn (which actually looks pretty good for the money), but I'll likely up the budget a tad to stay at someplace like the Best Western. It's $75 a night, and Best Western has really upped their game over the last couple of years. The way I see it, $335 for a four night stay, which allows me to unwind and explore Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore and Deadwood, is a pretty good deal. 

The last time I drove through this area was 2013, and I really wasn't paying much attention to the "photo op" aspect of the trip. I'd suffered a transmission failure in Montana, and that put me about five days behind schedule, and I simply had to be concerned about the time crunch I was under. This time around, however, I'm banking on not suffering the same fate. I'm going to check out not only Sturgis, but Deadwood, as well.

As much as I don't want to, I'll have to stop somewhere in Wyoming. My guess is I'll probably opt for Buffalo, which is where I stayed the last time I came through here. I stayed at The Arrowhead Motel last time, but I think this time I'll opt for the Occidental Hotel which, in its 141 year history, has played host to the likes of people such as Theodore Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Ernest Hemmingway:

Photo sourced from the web

Oh, and not only will it be amazing to stay in such a historic hotel, but the Occidental is also considered to be the single most haunted place in all of Wyoming, so that could be fun.

The best part about the drive from Sturgis to Buffalo is that it's less than three hours. If I drove my regular six to eight hours a day, which is what I'm trying to average, I could be in Bozeman, MT by the end of the drive. But this will give me the opportunity to stop along the way and really check out the small towns along the way. Towns like Sundance,with a population of just under 1,200, is exactly the kind of small town I'm looking forward to visiting:


Sundance, Wyoming

Or maybe someplace like Beulah, Wyoming. It's got a population of only 33 and, from what I can find online, a single strip mall and a stop sign. But they also have the Buffalo Jump Steakhouse which looks like it could be a pretty good choice for lunch. 

The point is that I need to make time to check things out, meet the locals and spend time enjoying this. When you hear the term "wild west", well, this is what they're talking about. It doesn't get much wilder than this.

With the exception of two days, I should be able to keep the driving down to about six hours per day. Of course I could do more than that, but if I want to get out and explore and shoot and actually experience this trip, as opposed to simply just driving and going through the motions, I don't want to push too much too often.

Now, one of the things I need to be cognizant of is how Covid could affect my travel. When I did my road trip last year I didn't seem to be impeded too much, so I'm really not too concerned. Now, with that said, the reality is that Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington all have some form of travel restriction. I'm going to be largely unaffected by some of those, as I don't plan to stop in Pennsylvania, Illinois or Minnesota. The others? Well, I was in Ohio and New York last May and had no issues whatsoever. I guess we'll just have to see what happens. If I have to keep driving to get out of a state that wants me to quarantine, well, I guess that's what I'll do.

The only thing left for me to do now is decide on exactly which date I'm going to depart.

Oh, and then planning the return trip!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Prep Time...

Now, a trip as epic as this will, obviously, require some prep time.

Inasmuch as I could just pack a bag and hit the road, I'm going to try to map out some places where I absolutely want to stop. But, before that, I need to get to my starting point. I need to get to Boston. 

It's been a while since I've been to Boston; just shy of ten years, as a matter of fact. I had a little time to do some sightseeing back then, but I was in town on business so sightseeing took a bit of a backseat. I was able to make it to Paul Revere's house and Fenway Park, and I even got some really bitchin' clam chowder. 

But, in the end, work won out.


Me in front of Fenway Park...
Me in front of Fenway Park back in 2011. To this day, Bill Buckner's still my favorite New York Met...

I've got an old shipmate who lives not far from Boston who I hope to see while I'm there. Kenny and I were stationed on the USS Chandler (DDG 996) together back in the mid-1980's. Facebook got us reconnected about ten years ago, and we talk every so often now. It'll be damn good to see him.

Now, I'm going to allow myself two days in Boston, and maybe one night in Virginia and one night in Maryland on my way to Boston. Those, however, depend on the schedules of the friends I hope to visit. If they're unavailable I'll just keep driving. 

 But once I hit Beantown, the timer gets set for a departure within 48 hours.

Needless to say, there's not a great deal of preparation for the drive north. It's going to be one of those "get there when I can" things. But the next few weeks will be spent mapping out a loose itinerary for the drive to Seattle, points of interest, hotels, etc. I'll make hotel reservations on the fly during the trip (if I make them at all), but that's all I really plan. With the exception of any "must see" sights, everything will be fluid.

One of the things I hope to do is produce a couple of coffee table books with photos from the drives. The first book will be photos from the longest and third longest roads in America, and the second book will include photos from the second and fourth longest roads. I'm thinking a "Volume I" and Volume II" kind of thing.

After I drove cross country back in 2013, I produced a book entitled "Coast To Coast". In hindsight, I feel as though I made two mistakes with that book. First, I think I should've shot a lot more photographs than I did. Secondly, I think I rushed it with the photos I did have. I pulled the book off the shelf the other day and looked it over, and I was a little underwhelmed. I will probably use the title again, though, as the book isn't currently available anywhere and I have the only copy.

And, as of yesterday, there was a bit of a new development: When I leave Seattle to drive south to Newport, Oregon (to start the return drive) there's a possibility that my daughter will be with me. That'll be awesome, as she's a lot of fun to  hang with.

Oh, and if you're aware of any cool things to see along I-90 or US Route 20 from Newport to Boston, don't keep it a secret! I'll be acknowledging everyone who helps me out along the way, both here and in the book.

So, let the fun begin! I can't think of a single reason to not get started on this...

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Changin' Things Up A Bit...

As much as I wish it was different, it doesn't look like I'm going to be any traveling abroad in 2021. There are just too many restrictions in place, in too many of the places I want to go and, frankly, I don't see those restrictions being lifted to a degree which would make international travel attractive next year.

But, I've always said, there's plenty to see right here at home. All you have to do is go find it. So, that's what I'm gonna' do.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I love to drive; the longer the better. There's something about the open road which energizes me., and the more of it I can get the more I like it. So, keeping that in mind, next year I'm going to be embarking on some serious drives. My goal? To drive the four longest roads in the United States.

 I've been looking at this website for the better part of the last year, and I think it's time to start:

 The Longest Roads In America

 My first drive, I think, will actually be the third longest road in America. It's I-90, which runs from Boston, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington:


Credit: 4nadia/iStock
Credit: 4nadia/iStock


It's a little more than 3,100 miles and, if I was able to go non-stop, I'd probably complete the drive in about 45 hours. Of course, I'm not going to do that. A trip like this is wasted if you don't take your time. As I did back in 2013, I'll have my camera(s) with me for this trip, and around 400gb of memory, so photos will be plentiful.

My daughter lives in Seattle, so it'll be nice to get out there and visit her and her fiance for a bit (although I suspect parking's gonna' be a bitch!).

Once my time in Seattle is done, well, I have to get back to Florida. For that, I'll probably drive from Seattle down to Newport, Oregon. From there I'll head east along US Route 20, which happens to be the longest road in America at 3,237 miles. 


Credit: M. Kaercher/iStock
Credit: M. Kaercher/iStock

Much of this highway is still two-lane road, so it'll likely afford me a nice, leisurely pace. I'll stop when I need to, but it'll be nice to not have a time constraint around my neck. 

This route will take me back to Boston, after which I'll make my way south to Florida. Just those two longest roads equal about 6,350 miles. When you consider that I've also got to get to and from Boston, that adds another 2,400 miles to the trip. 8,750 miles on the road, and that doesn't include the driving around I'll do in the places I stop, or the 310 miles (roughly) from Seattle to Newport, Oregon. 

I'm going to start planning the trip now, but I'm thinking I won't embark on this journey until late March or early April. I figure the entire trip will take between two and three weeks; could be more, could be less. But, whatever it is, after over 9,000 miles in a relatively short time span, I fully expect the wheels to fall off the Malibu...

Friday, October 23, 2020

Looking Forward...

This whole Covid-19 thing has obviously sent us all into a tailspin. Trying times these have been, and there's no way to know when, once and for all, we'll be free from the restrictions we face because of it. All we can do is what we can do and try to move on.

Thanks to the pandemic, I shot my last paying photo gig on March 13. I didn't have another one until September 13; a full six months later. I went and got myself a "regular" job, but I haven't had one of those in seven years and, truth be told, I can't say I like it very much. Hopefully, as my shooting schedule starts to repopulate, I can go back to doing solely photography.

I've always found, though, that there's never a wrong time to look ahead. So, I've decided to do that.

With the holidays looming in the shadows, the new year is going to be here before we know it. For me, a photographer who loves photographing (among many other things) automobiles, the Mecum Collector Car Auction is going to be held down in Kissimmee, Florida January 7-17. Of course I won't be there for the whole thing, but I'll get my media pass secured and make plans to go down there for a few days. It's always a lot of fun, and you're sure to see cars you've never seen before and will never see again.

At last January's Mecum auction, the main attraction was the Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in the movie "Bullitt". It sold for the princely sum of $3.74 million. This year's main attraction? Carroll Shelby's personal 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster:



After that, I'm hoping my collegiate calendar fills up. As big a pain in the ass as it can be sometimes, the money doesn't suck and it certainly keeps me busy.

At some point, it'll be time to look at travel. This year I was going to take my daughter to Belgium for her birthday. Well, of course, that fell through. So, we're looking at that again for this year and, because we didn't go last year, I'm entertaining the idea of flying first class this time around. Yeah, it'll be a lot, but it's a long flight and, while a first class fare wouldn't be worth it from Jacksonville to Houston, it certainly could be for a flight from Jacksonville to Brussels.

I'm also hoping to see Spartan Race ramping back up their operations. Those are long, hot, dirty days, but they're also a lot of fun and the money's pretty good.

So, we'll have to see what happens in the upcoming months. Everything's up in the air, but that's part of what makes it so much fun!

Monday, June 29, 2020

This Damn Camera...

As an addendum to the Covid Road Trip entries, I wanted to mention that, with the exception of the tattoo shoots I did and my visit to Notre Dame, every picture I shot on that two week road trip was with the Fuji X100F:

My daughter bought one before she and I went to Scotland last year, and I was diggin' it.

My daughter Jessy with her Fuji X100F...

She said she wasn't sure if I'd really like it but, in August of last year, I went ahead and picked one up. I have to be honest, I love it. It's the camera I grab any time I leave the house. It's just that good. And I can't really complain about the images it produces.

It's right around $1,000, and I highly recommend it...

The Ride...

Initially, I figured I would take my car on this trip. It gets good gas mileage (upwards of 34mpg on the highway) and is certainly comfortab...