Thursday, December 15, 2011

Patriotism



Carolyn McIntosh lives in Edmonton, Alberta and is a Canadian citizen.  She has just returned from an extended tour of the United States, with her family, during which she took copius (beautiful) photos and posted frequent travelogue notes to her blog. 

Her brief story, Patriotism, is really her reflection on Canada's neighbors in America. 

Normally the biographical sketch of the guest author is presented at the end of their story.  But for this week's post, I'm going to depart from that format because I think it's important that you know, in her own words, just who Carolyn is.   


I suspect you will really enjoy her very short piece, and you will LOVE her photographs. 





Carolyn 's Biographical Sketch:

Recently retired, I decided to make this chapter of my life about fulfilling dreams that had laid on the shelf due to the everyday busyness of life. After a 26 year hiatus, I picked up a camera again and decided that with my expiry date running out sooner than I would like (“Carolyn has recently crossed the half-century mark and feels she has at least a lifetime of learning left to complete her education.” --MA), I should accelerate the learning curve . . .. soooo the last three years have been about the relentless pursuit of photography and putting the knowledge to use by striking some items off my bucket list and capturing those moments and the magic that my soul felt when actually being on the spot and breathing the air where history took place.

The three month tour we recently took of the USA, including the South and Civil War History, was unbelievably profound and at times visceral. Annnnnd, I am a Canadian.

My previous working lives included that of wife/mother/homemaker, teaching Adult Education, Legal Assistant (Paralegal) and administration involvement in the property management field.

My husband Lynnwood and I have been married for 42 years . . .. and I am a much better person because he has been in my life. We have twins, 41, Michael and Michelle and four grandchildren . . . Aryana, Raquel, Sterling and Desiree. They make my heart sing . . one should always be a grandparent first.

Some of my proudest moments in photography were when I found out that one of my photos had been published in a National Canadian Photography magazine and also one of my Vegas photos was featured in the Air Canada flight magazine. When we are not travelling, I do commission work in the field of architecture. I love it . .. . ‘cause buildings don’t smile with their eyes closed or sit with their shoulders hunched!!!

National Cathedral, Washington, D.C;
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You can see more of Carolyn's work at the following links:
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Thanks for stopping here to view the latest post. What do you think of this story? Please leave a comment below for Bob and if you have a moment email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

Also, I'd very much appreciate a click on the green SU icon at the bottom of this post, to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work.

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography Site. Also consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family. Thanks again!
--
Michelle Alton
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PATRIOTISM...by Carolyn McIntosh

Lincoln's Hand.  Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

I have always admired the patriotism that the Americans have for their country, its flag and its national anthem.  Almost without exception when the National Anthem is played the men click their heels even if they are not in the military, place their hand over their heart, and sing with GUSTO.  Canadians could well adopt some of this gusto.  It appalls me when people don't stand, take off their hats and when they continue to chew gum rather than SING.  Although, I do have to say that our National pride was kicked up a notch when we hosted the Olympic Games.

I now better understand where this comes from.  Americans not only teach their school children their history, they take them to it.  If you think planning a trip in October to visit historic sites takes you away from the madding crowds, WRONG.  There were buses lined up as far as the eye could see taking these kids to see and experience where history took place.  In fact, if you are walking and are not quite sure if you are headed in the right direction, just look for the buses. 

Iwo Jima. Washington, D.C.

At Iwo Jima I have no idea how many bus loads of school kids were being brought to the site and they were getting history on the road.  The Old Post Office had a group from Kentucky and they were visiting Washington for a week.  Hooray for these kids . . . they will remember this part of their education for a lifetime.

It is my belief that Canadians think their history is boring and dull, however we have had some interesting figures in the past and we should know our own history. I don't think very many schools have week long trips to Ottawa or to the Plains of Abraham where some of our beginning history happened.  It would be more real if they did. 

Our children were certainly never offered this chance and I don't think it is a regular occurrence today.  That should change.  We know American history well, but I am not so sure we know our own as well.  I think there are a lot of people, including adults, who could not name all our Prime Ministers even dating back to the 1960's, let alone to John A. MacDonald.                                                                                                                                                                       

When I asked Tammy's Dave why he chose the military as his career, his immediate answer and without one second of hesitation was "Because I love my Country".  Plain and simple and from the heart.  I haven't heard that passion from many Canadians.

This is the flag that hangs outside their front door and this is not an uncommon sight.

Stars and Stripes...a stirring flag for sure!

When we first took our grandchildren to the United States for a road trip I wanted them to experience the culture of another country.  One of the first things I pointed out to them that was different from Canada, was the flag hanging outside the homes.

We Canadians should do more of that . . . I am proud to be a Canadian and we should display our pride more often.

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  All photographs by Carolyn McIntosh

Bonus Shots:

Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson

Robert E. Lee . . . The Gentleman Soldier and General

Loved this door of a church , just at the end of Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia

Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.

Blue Ridge Mountains. North Carolina

Smoky Mountains. Tennessee

The Oval Office.  White House

 Looking up the stairs to the Senate, State Capitol, Arkansas

From an "Amber Wave of Grain"   Wrigley Museum, Phoenix, Arizona





Key Lime Pie...to DIE for!
Bell Rock.  Sedona, Arizona


The Seals Barking at La Jolla, California

Crashing Waves.  La Jolla, California
Pink Flamingo, San Diego Zoo
Eye of the Elephant. San Diego Zoo
Panda. San Diego Zoo
Orcas in Unison.  San Diego Sea World
Sea Lion. San Diego Sea World
Snow on the Mountains. Somewhere in Utah
Santa
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Please Note:
*** This Blog Needs Your Story! *** { I'm Serious!} If you have a story to post on this theme, or know anyone who does, contact me, please! We have zero stories on tap at the moment. Give your imagination a stretch--your story can be about any sort of Relentless Pursuit, fact, fiction, poignant, or humorous. I'd love to hear from you and work with you on your story! We need to keep this theme going! If you have a few moments, please stop by my web site and have a look around.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratitude


Me, at Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas



To Be Grateful...


As Thanksgiving approaches and families in the United States get ready to travel to the homes of friends and relatives, or prepare to welcome friends and relatives for the Holiday, I will not post a "Tale of Relentless Pursuit" this week. 


Instead, I want to share with you an amazing video that was sent to all the members of our photo "meetup" club this week.  Sheryl's very close friend died suddenly, and though she was saddened and grief-stricken, her friend's passing had the "silver lining" of bringing into focus how grateful she was for every single day that they had shared together on this planet.


And around the same time, someone sent her the link to this video by award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer, Louie Schwartzenberg.  It is called, Gratitude, and I am happy to be able to share it with you. Though it will take ten minutes of your valuable time, it may just change your world in a beautiful way .

Wishing you and your families a warm, safe, and happy Thanksgiving. 

--
  Michelle Alton


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fish Tales...Part 2

Bob Cammarata
Even if you are already a fan of Bob Cammarata's stories
( On Snake Mountain , Next Stop OzWhen Mother Nature Lends a Hand and Fish Tales...Part 1) you are going to discover a new, fresh, and hilarious side of Bob in "Fish Tales...Part 2."

I find his writing to be like a precision tool--every word and phrase carefully chosen to produce the perfect result--and in this case, written with tongue placed firmly in cheek to create maximum enjoyment.  You won't believe the lengths he has gone to in Relentless Pursuit of "the shot!"

And even though this story is a joyful riot, I'm told (by "agent" Carolyn Fletcher) that the next one will knock your socks off!







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Thanks for stopping here to view the latest post. What do you think of  this story?  Please leave a comment below for Bob and if you have a moment email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

Also, I'd very much appreciate a click on the green SU icon at the bottom of this post, to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work.

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography Site. Also consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family. Thanks again!
--
Michelle Alton
___________________

FISH TALES…Part 2 (Anything for a Photo)
By Bob Cammarata

What do a fish, a camera, and a stick of chewing gum all have in common? The mind could easily become clouded in confusion trying to figure out how these three seemingly incongruous elements could possibly be linked together.  If I’ve piqued your interest enough to read on, the answer to this puzzling question can be found in this latest installment of Fish Tales.


If you’ve read Part 1, you know that much of what I’ve learned about photography can be attributed to my angling years, exploring and experimenting with various remote control gadgets and techniques in relentless pursuit of that perfect trophy trout or bass photo. You also learned that my infatuation was fueled by the need for action sequences to augment my “fish talks” and slide shows. Deep down within the recesses of my gut, I was also obsessed with the aspiration that one day millions of folks might be seeing one of my creations gracing the front cover of Field and Stream. Though that was a dream never realized, in looking back, it sure was fun trying.

In those days, one of the most prolific gadgets in my arsenal was my trusty Quantum Radio Slave.

Radio Slave Remote with Motor-Driven Film Camera
This versatile tool was acquired back in the late 80’s and accounted for most of my simulated action photos while fishing. With a cord linking it to my motor drive, it was possible to remotely activate the camera from up to 200 feet away.

It’s worth mentioning that a lesson painfully learned back then was that the clandestine nature of catch and release trophy trout fishing in local streams necessitated fishing alone almost all of the time.

So as one might imagine, attempting to shoot action sequences in the field while alone was truly beset with many challenges and learning experiences. Since in those days I was shooting slide film exclusively, my delete file was a large, ravenous refuse receptacle…who’s home was just to the left of my light table. (I called him “Mr. Happy”.)

The learning curve needed to be rapidly accelerated by the fact that every time my finger touched the remote trigger, it ended up costing me around 23 cents in film and processing.

Yeah,…Mr. Happy was one happy guy!

A Happy Feast
Among the many challenges incurred during what was an arduous learning process, composition was one of the easiest to overcome. (…after I’d fed “Mr. H.”. a few rolls of slides with only part of the fish showing, and/or, with my head cut off.)

I eventually learned to compose my scenes more effectively and economically by including a pre-determined, physical point of reference. If no such reference point existed, a stick was jammed into the stream bed where I would later be standing with my prized catch. As for the height issue…well, that was pretty much a guess.

Where's the Rest of my Head?

It was vital that the focus, composition and exposure were all pre-set perfectly since, if either was off by even the slightest of immeasurable margins, EVERY SHOT in the sequence would end up adding more sustenance to Mr. Happy’s insatiable appetite.

Another obstacle which needed to be addressed was the simple fact that the protracted set-up procedure had to be performed AFTER a fish was caught, so a fool-proof system had to be developed to keep the fish alive and healthy so it could be released once the brief photo session had concluded.

A small meshed laundry bag, which was carried in my fishing vest, was the perfect solution to this dilemma. After its capture, the fish was eased gently into the bag, which was then placed back into the stream.

This simple live-bag system actually served a double purpose. Not only did it permit ample time to set up everything and test-fire the remote, it allowed a larger fish a little extra time to recover from a long fight and regain its stamina before it was ultimately released into heavy current.

Released
In practice, the Radio Slave receiver would hang freely onto one of the tripod legs affixed with a little piece of Velcro. Since the trigger was so small and easy to conceal, it was common practice to hide it inside of a pocket on my fishing vest….where it could be covertly and nonchalantly activated. This system worked very well…sometimes!

Small Stream Action
The primary drawback was that one hand was always required to activate the remote trigger…leaving only one free hand to try to control a lively and slippery trout, which was usually pretty P.O.’d and intent upon escaping. More often than not, my prize catch would scoot out of my hand and disappear before I could get off a shot.

In an attempt to combat this all-too-common dilemma, I started shopping around for yet another gadget. A Wein SST Super Sound Trigger was eventually selected as the possible answer to my prayers.  With this newest remote-control unit, it would hopefully become possible to activate my camera by means other than by manually pressing a button…thus, leaving both hands free to control the action. Aside from attempting to grow another appendage, this seemed like the most practical course of action to insure that Mr. Happy’s much needed diet plan remained steadily on track.

From what I'd read, the sensitivity of the sound triggering mechanism could be easily adjusted to any level of sound from a whisper to a gunshot, and this nifty device could be accessorized to use that sound to activate a motor-driven camera.
And best of all, proudly listed among my repertoire of unique talents, is the ability to pop chewing gum in my mouth louder than any other civilized person I know. (…what can I say…. “It’s a gift”.)

So when the day finally arrived when my new sound trigger was delivered, I was that proverbial kid in the candy store as I quickly unpacked everything and installed the batteries. With everything set up at the house, and with a viscous gob of Juicy Fruit at the ready, a few “test pops” proved that the new system worked great. It would now be possible to use BOTH hands to control a slippery fish and use the gum to trigger the camera. It was perfect!

“Watch out now, Field and Stream!”

And so the new sound-triggering device and a pack of chewing gum made their way into the ever-growing list of accessories which comprised my combined, and already overloaded, fishing/photography gear bag. (Fortunately, a 5-pack of Wrigley’s didn’t weigh much.)

It was a few months later when I finally had the opportunity to implement the sound trigger for the first time in the field when I happened upon a real hammer while fishing for brown trout at one of my favorite local streams. (For the benefit of the non-fishers, the term “hammer” is commonly used to describe a  trophy catch…that Fish of a Lifetime.)

From deep within an undercut root ledge just downstream from an old rickety wooden bridge, the big brown rolled out and took a half-hearted swipe at my lure before vanishing back into the security of its lair. I estimated its weight at over 6 lbs. It was handsome male in full breeding colors and, by local standards…this was a REALLY big fish!

Before attempting another cast, I paused momentarily to fully assess the situation. This was a big trout…one of the biggest I’d ever seen locally. The autumn light was perfect and that wooden bridge surrounded by brilliant fall foliage appeared to provide the perfect background for a full-body shot of me holding this monster trout at streamside. But it would surely take two hands to handle THIS whopper!

Knowing that my new sound trigger was tucked away in my back-pack, I quietly backed up away from the behemoth’s secretive lair and hurried to get everything set up.
The camera and remote receiver were meticulously positioned onto the tripod and the scene was composed to incorporate that picturesque old bridge in the background. All of my prior “learning experiences” were being vitally tested as the aperture/shutter combination was set to insure perfect exposure. A critical focus point was pre-determined by poking a stick into the stream bed where, if premonition and providence prevailed, I would later be displaying my prized trophy.

But while assembling the camera gear and attaching the sound trigger, I noticed with dismay that my pack of gum (my “trigger”) was empty! Apparently, I’d gotten hungry on a few previous trips and had forgotten to replace the pack.

I figured…“No problem….Why can’t I just yell at the darn thing?”

So after everything was in place and all components were turned on, I gave a “test holler” near the sound trigger and was excited and relieved to hear the motor drive advance the film to the next frame. To insure that I would get at least a few good photos from this once in a lifetime session, I re-set the motor-drive to “continuous mode”. (This setting would start the motor-drive on the first sound, and the camera would continue to expose frames until a second sound turned it off.)

OK…now that everything was perfectly set, tested,  and ready to go, the only thing left was the attempt to actually CATCH this beast.

It took nearly a dozen perfectly positioned casts before the obscured trout finally rolled out of its protective root ledge to engulf my lure -- and the ensuing fight was on. The big brown was strong. It thrashed and cavorted with a fury against the pressure of my ultra-light tackle but was eventually subdued. Before long, an exhausted, but beautiful 26” trout was lying at my feet in the clear shallows. After briefly admiring this handsome specimen, I carefully eased the fish into my pre-determined position to get my photos. I kicked away the stick which was marking the position, dropped to one knee and posed photogenically, holding the big trout horizontally at the water’s edge.
I yelled a fairly loud ..“Hey..” but nothing happened.

So I tried a little louder  “…HEY”…and still nothing.

I remember chuckling to myself after briefly glancing around to make sure that there wasn’t anybody watching this inane fool kneeling in a cold creek holding a fish…and yelling at no one
.
Then I yelled louder still “…HEY ..”. But the shutter on the camera still wasn’t being activated.

I finally figured that the decibel level on the trigger was set too low, so my only viable option was to slip the fish into the live bag while I adjusted the sensitivity to a higher level.

As I was sliding the somewhat confused trout into the bag, I heard the sound of an approaching vehicle. This was truly bad news, since where I’d chosen to set up was in plain view from the bridge and I had to be very discrete, so as not to reveal to any of the locals what was actually residing in this tiny, obscure creek. I quickly secured the big trout in the live bag, then cowered behind a bush…hidden from view, as I waited for the vehicle to pass.

It was a fuel truck…and a noisy one.  The truck eventually came into view and bounced raucously across that rickety wooden bridge. The racket it made was loud enough to activate the sound trigger attached to my camera which, if you remember, had been set to “continuous”….and my motor-drive immediately began gobbling film at 3.1 frames per second! I jumped from my hiding place and quickly ran over to turn it off but it was too late. Buy the time I got to where the camera was set up, an entire roll of 36 frames had been consumed. To make matters even worse, I had no back-up rolls with me that day.

After the truck had long passed, I was standing there feeling somewhat dejected, but satisfied as I realized that I was staring down with admiration at one of the biggest trout I’d ever seen! Although I’d failed to produce a single photograph to document the experience, the memory of that magnificent trout on that tiny stream will remain indelibly etched in my mind.

…especially when someone offers me a stick of gum.

--
  All photography by Bob Cammarata

Bob Cammarata's Biographical Sketch

I am a Maryland photographer who specializes in nature in all its forms.
For as long as I can remember, my love for the outdoors has inspired me to capture nature's beauty and intrigue. My primary interests photographically involve traveling the country and getting up close and personal with subjects in nature. My travels have taken me to every corner of the U.S. and parts of Canada but the majority of my photography occurs less than a tank of gas away.
I prefer to shoot in full-manual 100% of the time because I believe that it affords the ultimate in control and accurately represents the challenges and rewards that this great art has to offer. I’m an active member of BetterPhoto.com and a regular contributor to their Forums and Newsletters. My photos have been published in business and travel brochures, on Bugguide and other popular wildlife sites, and many have been sold as fine art prints. I’m currently working on my first book, which should be completed some time next year.

I consider photography to be the therapy which keeps one sane in a crazy world
Feel free to visit my website at www.cammphoto.com


Bonus Photos…A few that didn’t get away!
(Note…All of these were shot using the Radio Slave Remote and were scanned from old Kodachrome slides.)

Flyrodding on the Gunpowder River

Falling Waters

Winter Trout Fishing
               
Landing a Nice Trout
A Hefty Handful
Brown Trout Up Close
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Please Note:
*** This Blog Needs Your Story! *** { I'm Serious!} If you have a story to post on this theme, or know anyone who does, contact me, please! We have zero stories on tap at the moment. Give your imagination a stretch--your story can be about any sort of Relentless Pursuit, fact, fiction, poignant, or humorous. I'd love to hear from you and work with you on your story! We need to keep this theme going! If you have a few moments, please stop by my web site and have a look around.
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Friday, November 11, 2011

I Might Have a Little Gas

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Art Rosch
Regular readers of this blog will recall the first story by Art Rosch, "It's All Downhill From Here."  And if you do, you'll almost certainly be hankerin' for another "hit!"  And if you haven't read "All Downhill...",  I highly recommend that you click the link above and read it to prepare yourself for the next amazing installment from Art.  [Be forewarned: Reading both stories in rapid succession might be dangerous for your heart!"]

"I Might Have a Little Gas," is the adventuresome sequel--another nail-biting story of the under-funded travels of Art, Fox (his gifted wife), and Yertle--the"Little RV that Could!"

Photos are fantastic, and you'll not want this hilarious story to end.  At least not yet!

 "I Might Have a Little Gas" also appears in Art's book, Avoiding the Potholes.

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Thanks for stopping here to see the latest post. I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. If you enjoyed this week's tale, I would greatly appreciate it if you left a comment (at the end of the post) for our author. And please email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog or anything else you'd like to share.

Also, to increase the blog's readership, click the green SU icon at the bottom of this post to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work. Sharing the link with your friends, family, and colleagues would also help a great deal.

If you have a story you would like to share on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you! Thanks again!

--

Michelle Alton

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Yertle in the School Yard

I Might Have A Little Gas - by Art Rosch
  (Copyright 2011)

Highway 6 is a hot eerie stretch of rocky desert and bare crags that joins up with 395 at Bishop, California.  This lonely road takes a northeasterly diagonal the entire breadth of Nevada before vanishing into the parched flats of Utah’s Great Basin.  Take my word, there is NOTHIN' out there. A “Flying J” truck stop appears about a hundred miles across the state. After that, there is only the town of Ely (pronounced E-lee) just a few miles from the Utah border.  Highways  50, 6, 93 and 388 enter and leave the town in a few confusing blocks.  It's easy to take the wrong turn, drive forty miles towards Vegas, then turn around and go back to Ely. It's like a Keystone Kops version of travel; the same people in the same cars and RVs pass one another again and again as they struggle through the little town.  We wave to the same kids in the same back seats until finally we get onto the correct route.

We had survived a plunge down the eastern slope of the Sierras with a loose steering column.  When we made it to Bishop,  God only knows why, we wanted to get onto 6 and put another fifty miles on the odometer before stopping for the night.

Sierras Eastern Slope
Rule number one about driving an RV:  DON”T DRIVE AT NIGHT!  It’s hard enough to control a bulky machine without messing with highway fatigue and caffeine nerves.  I see things that aren't there.  Jackrabbits the size of elephants come boinking into my path, only to be pieces of drifting newspaper.

We pushed out of Bishop after stopping at a Super K-Mart, where Fox and I got separated and I couldn’t find her to save my life.  This was before we had cell phones. I was reduced to calling her pet name.  I stood in the middle of an aisle full of hosiery and started crying plaintively, “Boo Boo!  BoooooBoooo!”  Everyone was certain I was retarded.  I mean, come on, here's a grown man, almost weeping with frustration, calling with his considerable lung power the primal sound of "BooooBoooo!"

I was beyond embarrassment. Where the hell did she go?  One second she was right THERE, looking at skin cream, and the next, she had vaporized into the merchandise, wandered off like an un-tethered toddler. This store is so huge  I might never find her, or wander for two and a half years before fetching up at Customer Service.
At last we were re-united by my wailing “Boooboooo!” until Fox used her bat-sonar to home in on me.

In the gathering twilight we packed our cartons of milk, loaves of bread and cold cuts into the RV called Yertle . We could have stayed right there at the K-mart, perfectly legal.  There were half a dozen RVs huddled in the corner of a parking lot the size of Rhode Island.

Why did we continue driving?  We were impatient. We had some na├»ve hope of finding a campground within the hour.  As I turned onto Highway Six, Fox got out the Campground Guide and searched, but there were no listings before the town of Ely, all the way across Nevada.  As I navigated the final stoplights of Bishop, a nearby driver began honking and gesturing towards Yertle.  I pulled over and discovered that I had been driving with the steps still sticking out of the camper.  Keep a check list, RV rovers!

For Some Reason We Could Never Find ANYTHING in Yertle.
After fifty miles, we came to the only other town on Highway 6. It’s a one-store town called Tonopah.   Fortunately, the store was open.  A very large Native American man confirmed that there were no campgrounds before Ely.  He offered the use of the school parking lot for the night.  “Lots of people get stuck out here,” he said.  “It’s okay.  Just try to be gone before school starts in the morning.  Nobody will bother you.  I’ll tell the sheriff when he drops by, tell him you’re back there.  If he sees you before I do, tell him Bear said it was okay.”

This kindness was touching.  We began to realize that we had met kindness at every obstacle on this trip, and that kindness came in all sorts of disguises, in the most unlikely places.
 
In the morning there was snow on the tops of the mountains.  Nevada is a washboard, an undulating series of mountains and valleys, and the roads cut straight across this ancient seabed.  At the top of each peak, the view spreads down the road ahead, which goes in a straight line for miles until it disappears into the next rise of the landscape.  I had never expected Nevada to be so beautiful.  There were huge clouds casting shadows upon the vast valley floors.

Nevada Washboard

It was about eight thirty before we had cleaned up, had some oatmeal and hit the road.  It was to be an easy day’s drive: a hundred sixty miles to Ely, where we would join up with our old friend, Highway Fifty, the so-called "Loneliest  Highway In The U.S.A."  At least, that's what the souvenir T-shirts say.  I think Highway 6 has it beat.

It was October; bright, clear, and warm in the valleys, crisp on the peaks. Yertle ran well, but I continued to be apprehensive.  It’s one thing to drive a car.  It breaks down, you call a tow truck.  An RV is another matter.  We were carrying our lives in the thing.  The water tank held twenty gallons. We had food and propane. There was no shelter on Highway Six, no trees, no shops or stations.  If Yertle broke down, help would be a long time coming

Endless Highway 6

Every hour or so, we’d pass a car, going the other way.  Everyone was going the other way.

Gathering my nerve, I hit the accelerator, and the old Chevy 350 gurgled forth, up the highway, into the brightening day.  My gas tank had been filled in Bishop.  The truck seemed happy.  Yertle was whispering, “Don’t worry, young feller, I’ll get you to Arches, don’t worry.”

I can’t help but worry, Yertle, I responded mentally.  It’s my nature to worry.

This was southern Nevada, an uncompromising landscape.  Sandstone blocks tipped by ancient floods and earthquakes littered the northern side of the road. On the south was nothing but miles and miles of tumbleweed and creosote bush. The stuff gave off a goldish earthen odor.  We were skirting the northern fringe of Nellis Air Force Base, with its gunnery ranges and atomic test sites
 
At fifty miles an hour, the noise from Yertle’s engine and wheels made conversation impossible.  There was nothing to do but drive, and look at the landscape.  Occasionally a vulture would mark the sky like a comma on vast blue paper.

The highway curves gradually northward, with occasional slow winding through the Toyabe National Forest.  This isn’t a forest as one thinks of a forest.  It's a sparse collection of low bushes and stunted trees, where lizards, voles and rabbits compete for the scarce resources.  We pushed north and east, and everything seemed okay.  Then, about fifty miles out of Tonopah, I heard a high whining sound from the engine.  Yertle kept on going, so I said my prayers and continued to drive.
 
We had entered a wide valley.  It looked like thirty miles to the next ridge.

Nevada Washboard 2

I was brought to alertness by a loud bang, and a nasty smell of burning rubber.  Yertle was running, but I had to pull over.  I was afraid to turn the engine off; afraid she’d never start again.  I got out and pulled open the hood.  Pieces of fan belt were shredded all over the motor compartment.  I picked them out, saving the biggest piece for reference.  Fan belt for what, I wondered?  How I wish I understood cars!  Then, as I inspected the various parts of the motor, I saw a thumb-sized hole, right through the metal rectangle of the I-don’t-know-what.  Pieces of this metal were strewn about.  It looked like a bullet hole from a high caliber rifle.  In fact it was a case of metal fatigue.  This porous, cheap material, this aluminum casing for some part of our vehicle’s innards, had met its deadline.
 
The engine was still running fine.

"What the hell," I thought.  "Let’s go until we can’t go any more."

We kept driving, praying for Ely.  Seventy miles to go.  Come on, Ely, come on.  About half an hour later, I saw a convoy of vehicles in the distance.  Two highway patrol cars were parked at the side of the road.  The officers were waving us to stop.

I was glad to see a human being, a person of authority.  To make that statement, “I was glad to see a person of authority”, is indicative of how scared I was.  I don’t have anything against policemen.  I have a significant resentment of all authority figures, always have and always will.  I learned that there are times when one might be thrilled to see a person of authority, and this was one of those times.

We pulled out onto a wide margin.  A mile down the road, an immense truck was hauling a gargantuan pipe, long as a freight car and wider than the entire road.  I took a chance, and turned off the engine. I got out of Yertle and approached the officer.

“Sir”, I asked respectfully, “can you spare a moment to look at our truck?  Something broke a while ago, and I don’t know what’s going on.”

The policeman was half my age.  He was short and compact, and looked like he could tear three phone books in half with his bare hands.  He glanced under the hood, while the monstrous pipe rolled slowly past our place beside the road.

“That’s your air conditioner belt,” he informed us.  “And that hole, well that’s your air conditioner.  Looks like the belt shredded and then popped the AC unit right through the guts.  Good thing it wasn’t the fan belt, or you’d be stuck out here.”

Greatly relieved, I thanked our benefactor, started Yertle and proceeded down the lonely road.

Things happen to people. Events are events, but our interpretation of these events overshadows the events themselves.  For me, the most important thing is to view life as a process of gaining understanding.  It doesn’t matter whether good things or bad things happen.  The process is the same.

I didn’t fully understand this crazy trip.  All I knew was that it had churned up a barrel full of anxiety in my guts.  Whenever I reached a point of relaxation, some new threat stirred all the sediment of fear that had begun settling to the bottom of my emotional bucket.
 
I asked Fox, several times, "Do you want to turn back?”

Fox is made of stronger stuff than I.  “No,” she always said, “We’re supposed to go to Arches.”

View from Our Eventual Arches Campsite


This tree may be more than a thousand years old.
I felt like such a "wuss."  Men don’t enjoy feeling cowardly.  It’s not a good man-feeling.  It’s a feeling that lurks in some small fetid bathroom down in my soul, a bathroom with a naked bulb worked by a pull-string with a knot at the end, a bathroom with old squeaky faucets that give out brown water.  It has a frosted window that’s jammed shut, with a paint job where the streaky white paintbrush overswept right onto the window and the painter didn’t care enough to scrape it clean.  That’s what my cowardice feels like, it feels like that cheap hotel bathroom and it’s not fun at all.  I was going to have to brace up.  That’s what the wise old samurai said to the Toshiro Mifune character in “The Seven Samurai”.  It’s become an in-joke for Fox and me.  “Brace up, Kikuchiyo”, we tell one another.  “Brace up.”

And Yertle, in spite of her geriatric frailty, kept reassuring me.  “I’ll get you there, sonny,” she whispered, “Stop worrying so much. I may be old but I’ve got plenty of miles left in me.”

Never once did I wonder if I was completely nuts, talking to an RV.  I was simply being swept along by events.
 
The landscape began to rise, as we came into another range of the Humboldt-Toyabe Forest.  I looked at the gas gauge and with a shock realized that we were down to a quarter tank.  Where did the gas go?!  The tank was filled in Bishop, only a hundred twenty miles down the road.  I had badly overestimated the mileage of which Yertle was capable.  That, and a headwind, had drunk our gas, and I had been so preoccupied, I failed to fill her up at the one and only truck stop between Tonopah and Ely.  I began to wonder if we were going to run out of fuel on some tricky mountain curve without a shoulder.
 
Compulsively, I watched the gas gauge, then chastised myself and equally compulsively avoided watching the gas gauge.  I forced my eyes to bypass the little meter as it quivered ever downward toward EMPTY.  Why weren’t we carrying a gas can with five extra gallons?  Fox had vetoed the proposition:  she had some terrifying vision of gasoline spilling all over the place and roasting us to a crisp.  I always obey Fox’s intuitions, but this time I was vexed.  ALWAYS CARRY EXTRA FUEL!  Is that rule number two or three?  The fuel consumption of the most innocent looking RV is a ravening dragon, an elephant sucking up fluids faster than they can be replenished.  Motor homes LOVE fuel, the way kids love candy or the way addicts love dope.  Gimme some gas! they breathe, panting with appetite.  Gimme some gas!

Thirty miles to Ely.  Okay, steal a look at the gauge.  It’s hovering over the little line that says, EMERGENCY!  hurry up and get a fill!  I’m calculating. Let’s see, if we are getting ten miles to the gallon, and we have three gallons, we can just get to Ely.  But if we’re getting eight per gallon, we’re in big trouble. That’s assuming there are three gallons.  There might be five; or there might be two.  Does the gauge read short when we’re going uphill?  Does it look fuller when we’re tilted downward?

Naturally, the headwind grew more powerful and our route took to yet another interminable climb up into the Toyabe-Humboldt Forest.  The road was Nevada-smooth, paid for by gambling taxes, well maintained.  But here, on the undulant highway, there was no shoulder, just a line of white fence posts, protecting vehicles from plunging down a forty foot cliff.  There was no place to get off the road.  Run out of gas here, around a blind curve, and some truck can come whamming along and crunch us like an old Pepsi can.

I spent the next forty five minutes waiting for the engine to sputter and die. I watched the side of the road for potential escapes, and watched the rear view mirror for the following eighteen wheeler that spelled our doom, like the monster truck from that early Spielberg movie, “Duel”.  The forest grew thicker.  There were trees here, big trees.  We saw signs touting campgrounds and tourist sites, in the southern approach to Ely.  They were little comfort to me.  The gas gauge quivered and teased me as it sat on Empty.  My heart was beating in every pore of my skin.  Why so scared, I chided myself?  Everybody runs out of gas at least a couple of times.  Yes, I responded, BUT NOT HERE on a curvy road with no shoulder. The last vehicle we saw was a FedEx truck passing us, going uphill in a no pass zone, like we were standing still.  People drive crazy in Nevada on Highway Six.  They think the roads are empty.  Crazy.

We came to a crest of the mountain range, and I thought with relief, "It’s downhill from here!  We can coast, we won’t burn our precious bits of fuel climbing laboriously up every steep curve of the road."  Alas!  After going down for a bit, the road turned upward once again.  The gauge was a on EMPTY.  I played games with it.  If I look at it from the side, it kinda looks like there’s more gas in it.  I leaned right, leaned left, but I wasn’t fooling myself.  Yertle soldiered onward.  I was running out of gas on a road with no shoulder, I had a shredded air conditioner belt and a fist-sized hole in the engine.

Dragon's Jaws

The road sign said, “Ely—12mi”.  And there we were, at the real crest of the range.  I put Yertle in neutral, took my foot off the gas, and coasted down and around the mountain curves.  At last, the ominous white fencing beside the road vanished. A few houses appeared.  Billboards advertised motels and gift shops, gambling casinos, banks and auto body garages.  More houses.  Ely!  My eyes were pealed for a gas station.  I made a left onto Ely’s main drag and made a beeline for the first gas station I saw.  Yertle coasted over the curb, I put her in drive, lined her up to the pump, and then….and then...ptttptttptt, shooo!  Yertle ran out of gas.

I now truly believe that Yertle was inhabited by a Grandmother spirit.
My conversations weren't with the RV.  My conversations were with the Grandmother who had come along with us, who had put herself into Yertle to preside over our fates and protect us from disaster.

Driving from San Francisco to Moab, Utah is a trip of about 1500 miles.

No matter what route you take, sooner or later you're going to find yourself climbing up the Colorado Plateau.  It's a grueling ride, especially in an underpowered vehicle.  The climb goes on and on for about seventy miles.

Trucks expire along the side of the road, blown tires litter the highway like cracked black eggshells.  It's a monster of a climb.  At the top, you can go to the Vista Point and read about what you've just experienced.  From this point forward, you are in THE SOUTHWEST, and the whole nature of the landscape changes.  It's an amazing experience."

Fox Talks to the Grandmothers

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  All photography by Art Rosch

Bonus Shots by Art







A Classic View of Nevada
Approaching Tahoe
The Sky from Ely


"Chief Sleeping Giant" in center of picture
First Sight of the Badlands


Truckee River
There's a Man Up There In Those Huge Rocks



Art Rosch's Biographical Sketch

Art Rosch boomed with the other babies of his generation in St. Louis, Mo. He was drawn to music as a child and learned trumpet and drums. As he got older, he became enamored of modern jazz. At the age of sixteen he set out on a pilgrimage to New York City to study with his idol, avant garde musician Ornette Coleman. This adventure led Art to associations with many jazz musicians.

He spent two years as the house drummer at Detroit's Artist's Workshop. His interest in writing and photography also continued to grow. After winning Best Story Award from Playboy Magazine, Art signed with an agent and began working on novels. He is still working on novels, memoirs and essays.

His photography has been featured in Shutterbug Magazine, where he is a contributing writer. One image, Lone Tree In Utah, won an important award from the United Nations. Much of Art's photo work is done at night. He is a passionate amateur astronomer and likes to explore the potential of long exposure photography. He continues to work from Sonoma County, California.

Art's photography may be viewed on his website and many of his writings can be seen on his "Blogazine."

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