Thursday, December 1, 2011

It’s that holiday season.

Courtney and I hosted thanksgiving dinner at our place. After last year’s boring turkey day in Savannah, I was thrilled to be able to have people over to celebrate. Mom and Nikki came over, as did some friends from the vineyard and some friends from the new place of employment. I cooked all day, and we ended up with a rocking feast!


Out of our kitchen the menu was:

-Roasted garlic/rubbed sage turkey breast

-Sweet bbq ham

-Mashed cauliflower

-Bacon wrapped dates

-Roasted root veggies

-Apple/sausage quinoa

-Birdie seed bars

And to accompany all this our friends and family brought:

-Mac & Cheese

-Chicken enchilada casserole

-Classic sweet potatoes

- Salad

- Flourless chocolate cake

- Espresso/chocolate balls

- A whole gaggle of wine.


As expected – everybody over-ate, had a good time, drank, and was merry.

I had a blast, and can’t wait to do it again next year!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oh hey, by the way. I made a book.


Yes, after much nudging from friends and family, I pieced together 120 pictures from the trip, and made a coffee table book out of it. I’m pretty proud of the result. Feel free to look at the preview (first 15 pages). It’s up for sale for $36.95+s/h. There’s no profit in it for me, just the fun of having something to hold in my little hands. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

But everything works out.

My bank account gets ready to run out, but dad sends me a check to keep me afloat. The day it arrives I get a call back from a restaurant. They want to hire me! And so now I’m employed, and trying to figure out how to be a server. And I’m having a blast doing it!


Other than that, I’ve been living on the cheap, so it’s lots of walking and exercise, enjoying the changing of the seasons as we go from summer into this:



Haven’t been doing much photography, nor have I been bouldering of late, due to dropping temps out in the woods. For now I watch the colors change, I enjoy cooking every night with my lady and our room mate, and simply live life. It’s a good thing.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Great, so I’m settled. Now what?

That’s the questions running through my head this week. I’ve settled my few belongings in our cozy home. But I don’t know what to do now. I need to find work, that’s for sure. I tell myself that I want to get into the food service industry. I want to wait tables. Why? Who knows? So I put in applications around town, I put on my nicest clothes and submit resumes along with smiles. At the end of week one though, I’ve not heard back from anybody. I’m not sure why this surprises me, why some part of me just expected opportunities to come crashing over me. I should have known that it wouldn’t be that easy.


Unfortunately, the wheels in my head begin to churn out the what-ifs. What if I don’t get a job? What if I end up having to do some miserable retail job to make ends meet? What if this whole thing comes crashing down because I’m flat broke in a few weeks? I become mildly panic-stricken at all the possible things that could go wrong. So I take a step back, I focus on the good things that come with unemployment. I exercise like a maniac, hitting the gym just as hard as I hit the rock. I cook frugal meals every day, and take my expenditures down as much as I can to maintain my meager bank account for as long as possible. I read books, and hike with the dog. I run and walk around this town which is so familiar to me. I soak in the fact that I am here again, after over a year of being a nomad.


And I wait.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And then… everything changes. (And oh, I found some photo-mojo!)

My co-workers throw me a going away party. I don’t remember much of it, so I’m sure we had a great time. Everybody having a headache the next day confirms this fact. Our boss lets us go home early, and so I give quick good-byes to all the folks I’ve come to know and admire over the last five months.


I go home and I pack all my stuff into the 4Runner, there isn’t much more than when I was on the road. I’m done half an hour later. Sister and I go out for our last dinner together, and after a nice breakfast and coffee the next morning I’m driving a familiar track to Prescott. As soon as I arrive I dump all my stuff in the living room, and immediately begin re-packing for a four day vacation in the north of the state. When I’m done, before I can even realize that I no longer live in Jerome, we throw everything into Courtney’s car and hit the road.


We quickly head to Lake Powell, to a camping area called Lone Rock, and setup camp with friends from Prescott and from Massachusetts. We are all headed different directions tomorrow, but tonight we congregate on the sandy shore of the lake:



The near-full moon provides a nice light by which to admire lone rock:



After cooking breakfast and packing it all in, we all get a late start out of the area. Our friends from Prescott are off for a few days of kayaking around the lake, while the friends from Mass decide to join Courtney and I on our next stop – slot canyons. Along the way we stop to check out the ‘Toadstool’ hoodoo formations along the southern section of Escalante:



And from there it was just a hop, skip and a jump over to the Wire Pass/Buckskin Gulch slot canyons. It was my first time into a slot canyon and I was super excited to try photographing it. We had a blast:





Once we got to Buckskin we trekked upstream along a muddy track that was thankfully created by people earlier that day. It was slick and a fall into the mud was always close at hand, thankfully nobody fell in.


Once the trail came to a watery end we turned around and headed back to the car, me snapping pictures all the way:



Once we were out, we parted ways with our Mass friends, as they headed up to Salt Lake City and we headed to a nearby campground for the night where, unfortunately, the restroom vents were blowing our way and made for a bit of a stinky night.


The next day, we didn’t know where to go. I wanted to go up into the Escalante monument, but road reports were grim. A big storm had closed one major road, and they didn’t know about the other. In Courtney’s little Toyota corolla we didn’t want to risk it. So we drove out to nearby Kanab, Utah, and grabbed some coffee at the local coffee shop / outdoor outfitter. We asked the great folks there for recommendations, and were pointed in the direction of Kanab Creek Wilderness. We looked up the area in a resource book and decided on the Snake Gulch trail, reported to have lots of petro glyphs and pictograms. Off we went, through the beautiful Kaibab Plateau, and down the cockscomb to the trailhead. The trail was level, and made for a gorgeous afternoon hike:



And soon we found little spur trails leading to rock walls. On these walls were some pretty awesome things:






We hiked about five miles in before the threat of darkness turned us around and we headed back to the car. By the time we got to the trailhead it was sunset, and since we were all alone, we opted to camp right there. Not a bad spot at all, and best of all – no stinky bathroom!


The moon was bright, and I tried shooting a few photos, but it quickly got cold and so we retreated to the sleeping bags.



The next morning we decide to call it the end of our trip, and turn southward once more. We stop in the Navajo reservation to snap a few pictures of a graffiti artist’s work:



And Courtney plays model for me:




From there we stopped into Flagstaff to have dinner with another friend, before finally heading home.  My new home, with the gal I love. Time to move into the next chapter of my life.


For all the photos from the trip, check out this link.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A step forward? It feels scary, so it must be.

It’s time for more change. I wake up in the morning and the sun is no longer burning at the horizon to greet me. The hot air balloons start their ascent from Sedona later and later in the day, and the temps are no longer what I would call searing. In short, the summer is drawing to an end. And with that end comes another – my adventure here in the Verde Valley.


I have a week and a half of working in the vineyard remaining. The harvest should be done, or close to it, by then which is the time I told myself that I should be moving on. And so I enjoy the remaining days, the picking of fruit which seems so easy compared to so many of the other tasks we’ve been given over the past five months. I joke with my co-workers about all the nonsense that we have done since I showed up, all the other people who have come and gone, and we joke about where we are all going next.


I joke that I will probably be back a week after I leave, out of money and begging to get a few hours a week to cover bills. And in all jokes there exists a nugget of truth. I don’t have anything lined up for the next chapter. I know I am moving to Prescott, moving in with my gal Courtney and her current roommate. I am excited about this, but at the same time terrified at the situation I am forcing on myself. No work, and no idea what is available out there. The day I move over we leave for a few days to go do some sight-seeing in southern Utah/northern Arizona. I hope that my photography mojo comes back to me up there, and that I can come back recharged and ready to rock the world. I hope that the ‘universe’ sends work my way in a timely matter. I hope that I don’t have to resort to doing computer work to make my living, although I’m not entirely against doing it if that’s what it takes to stay alive.


I’m scared, and I’m loving it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A year. It feels a lifetime.


A year ago today. That’s when I left. Left for what would end up being seven amazing months, tooting across the country on backroads, visiting everybody that I know. So today, I post a follow up, a recap, a something; because it seems like the thing to do on a one year anniversary.


I left without a real plan. When people would ask, all I could say was “I’ll go west till I hit water, then north till they won’t let me any further, then east till I hit more water, then south till I run out of road.” I left the details intentionally vague, especially to myself. I wanted an adventure, and you simply cannot plan an adventure. So I sold most everything I owned, piled what was left into the back of my 4Runner and left everything I knew behind.


Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? I sure thought so. But there were some logistics to square away before all of that. The biggest of which was money. I saved for just over a year, living a meager life and putting every dollar away until I had just under $12,000 saved up for the trip. In the seven months of being a wanderer I would go through every one of those hard-earned pennies, plus some.


And there is the mode of transportation to consider as well. I attempted to purchase a truck specifically for the truck, but after finding some major(ish) problems with it, I ended up deciding on taking my faithful, and aging, Toyota 4Runner. I can happily say that in the 25,000 miles I covered I never broke anything more major than an anti-squeak spring on a brake pad. I got lucky, for which I am eternally grateful.


There are also travelling companions to decide on when going out on the road for an extended period of time. It sure does get lonely out there, so having company along is certainly an attractive option. But what if personalities don’t mesh? What if, after a few thousand miles, an argument sends everything scattering to the wind? As most of you know, I dodged this bullet with one simple answer: take the dog. He never talks back, he listens most of the time, and is fairly non-judgmental.


And then there is the ‘stuff’ that you pack into your truck. Inevitably, you will pack about two or three times as much stuff as you actually need. Part of it is ‘being prepared’ for the unforseen, part of it is not really knowing what you need to be prepared for, and part of it is just an emotional attachment to having stuff. I can say that in retrospect – only six things are truly required for a young man going on a driveabout on a tight budget in this era:

- Fancy pants. Or rather – fancy underpants. The underwear out there that advertise anti-microbial, anti-odor technologies to be specific. Anything but cotton. I went with Ex-Officio boxer briefs. Two pair. TWO PAIRS OF UNDERWEAR FOR SEVEN MONTHS! You can wash them in a sink (like at the coffee shop, or public park, or in the freakin ocean), they dry in half an hour at sixty miles-per-hour, and if you stay on top it, you can have a clean and dry pair of underwear every day of the week. AMAZING.

- Laptop. We live in a hi-tech world. Whether you are a photographer who needs to edit shots and post them to the world, or if you just need to find a coffee shop somewhere in the town you find yourself in, or even figure out where you want to go next, a laptop is your gateway to information. It is also a great way to stay connected with friends since you will no longer have a physical mailbox. Plus, you know you want to keep up on the facebook gossip.

- Thermarest. Yep, an air mattress, the expensive and high-quality type. I did the first few months without it, and will forever regret the many uncomfortable nights I had due to the lack. Whether it’s just making the truck a more comfortable place, or keeping you off of the skeevy-looking couch of that person who seemed a little too eager to invite you over to their house, a thermarest is a must.

- Mess kit. If you are travelling on a budget, that means you are cooking in campgrounds, or public parks, or on your tailgate in the Laundromat parking lot (oh yeah, I DID!). So do yourself a favor, and get a small stove that burns hot and uses a standard, easy-to-obtain fuel. On top of that stove put a pot with a lid (yes a POT, not a pan. Pots are infinitely more versatile). When you are done cooking have a tupperware handy to eat out of (preferably snap-lids to keep spills to a minimum) and some type of spoon or fork to gobble food into your mouth with.

- Power inverter. Because you have a cell phone and a laptop that need to be charged. And it’s easier to do it while you sleep than depending on coffee shop outlets which may already all be taken.

-Flexibility. Not the limber-in-the-joints type, but the mental type. Realize that you don’t know how the world works, that some people are crazy, and that every time you come up with a plan it is bound to change. Learn to adapt. It makes everything easier.

So now that I have the essentials packed up, what do I do? Good question. I think one of the most important things to do is to connect with people. So I called every friend I have, and found out where they are living and if I could visit them. I mooched a couch from many family members. And then I found out that I really don’t know all that many people, and have a fairly small family. So when I couldn’t connect with people I already knew, I had to go out and connect with people I didn’t know. Some of these were friends of friends, or friends of my sister’s. Some were just random folks who’s lives happened to briefly intersect with mine in a meaningful way. But throughout the whole trip, it was the people who made the most impact on me.


But I couldn’t always connect with people. Let’s face it – I’m kind of a weird dude, and with the ever-growing facial hair, I looked like a man just come down from the mountains. I often smelled like it as well. And so I had to adjust to suddenly having a huge amount of free time. I read books. I read all four of the books that I brought with me, and then I re-read them again and again. Eventually I swapped a few of them out with other book-ish folks, thank god. I snapped photos, which was by far my largest diversion, and allowed me to open my eyes to what was going on around me. I walked a lot. The dog loved it. And I worked out. Because I’m addicted to exercise, and I can do it anywhere.


All of this suddenly seems a bit out of place. What the hell happened to the romanticism of going on a trip? It sounds like I just wandered around being bored and lonely. And I did, but I’d like to think that I did so with a purpose. See, I set out with a set of goals in addition to my six necessary items. Obscure goals that cannot be adequately defined. Goals like “self definition”, and “seeing some of this country”, or the ever-popular “figure out where to go next in life.” As idiotic as some of these may sound, if you keep thinking about them (and keeping those memories around via a journal or blog or something) you can start to guide yourself pretty reliably simply by asking if a decision will help you define yourself (or test yourself). If it will give you the opportunity to see something amazing. Or if it will help you figure out where you would rather be. All of these goals are fluid. Any concrete answer you make up for them lasts approximately three hours before you decide you have to amend that definition, and thusly by keeping them obscure you allow yourself to always move toward whatever it is you want without having to constantly come up with new goals.


This is what I did for seven months. And it allowed me to have some great experiences. It allowed me to see places that I’ve always wanted to see. It allowed me to see places that I never knew I wanted to see. It allowed me to gain a much greater sense of self, and self worth. It allowed me to realize that I will never know what I really want. And most importantly, it allowed me to know what whatever comes my way – I’ll be just fine.


So here I am, a year later:


I’m still testing myself and defining who I want to be. I’m still seeing new and amazing things, even if they are all in my backyard. I’m still figuring out where I want to go next. I accomplish all of these goals in my work, in my relationships, and in my play. Every day. That isn’t too bad.


And I still only have two pairs of underwear. Some habits die hard.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where’s that motivation?

It’s still not here. No motivation to shoot fun pictures. Sometimes I take the camera out anyway, thinking that inspiration will just hit.


I live with this view as my backyard:



I watch monsoons trail by at dusk, but for some reason it’s not hitting me. I get flat where I should get sparks:



I look through old photos and re-edit them, thinking that I might find the magic in the past:



But I find only an awe that I once shot those photos. And so I resign myself to waiting some more. Grabbing life-shots to try and remember this time. Bouldering out in the woods with my girl:



Random shots so that when I’m old, I remember what it was like to be young:



I wait and hope that the magic comes back. I hope that a bit of magic hits me next week, when I try to write a one-year follow up to my departure for travel. I hope a bit of magic comes my way when the time is right, so that I can make even more magic happen.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Something a little lighter than that last one.

Well the last post was depressing. Stumble, get back up, move on.


So what do I have on my plate these days? My sister has been on vacation in Italy, so I’ve been laying low in Jerome all week.


Health wise – I’m leaning more and more towards the primal lifestyle. It’s kind of rocking my world. There is a lot that goes against the conventional ‘fitness’ wisdom that I spent so much time trying to adhere to, so there are a few places that I still struggle. But I’m looking better than ever, and more importantly – I’m feeling better than ever. Even after an exhaustive day of digging holes, lifting weights, and walking the dog, I still have energy to do fun things.


Fun things – Like cook. Along with the change in exercise comes a change in diet. Now that I’m not confined to living and cooking in the truck on a five dollar a day budget, I’ve started to re-learn how to enjoy cooking. I’ve cut almost all the grains out of my diet. So no bread, no pasta, no corn-based products. I still grab the rare bagel, or slice of pizza, but it’s not often. With summer upon us here in the desert I’ve been shooting for lighter fare. Alongside the big hunks of meat there is generally fruit, lots of salads, plus I’ve been on a spinach and cauliflower kick of late, so those are making it in regularly.


Other fun stuff – Bouldering. My weekend exercise. Every weekend for at least an hour or two Courtney and I are on the rock. We’ve gone outside with some friends in Prescott and torn our hands up on the granite. We’ve gone out just us on some nice black basalt boulders by Thumb Butte, until they got too hot to hang out on. And we’ve also gone up to the climbing gym in Flagstaff with my friend Ben who lives up there, to crawl all over colored holds until our fingers were too sore to grip a pencil. I’m still really bad at the sport, but I’m starting to get better. Every time out gets me a little closer to the goal of feeling proficient.


Work stuff – I’m still in the vineyard, and I’m still thoroughly enjoying it. The temperatures are ridiculously high, and with monsoons here we see a bit of humidity as well. Lots of days digging holes, or spending all eight hours on my knees planting new vines. Sunshine that makes the new-hires drop like flies, and a grueling schedule with low pay that would understandably make most people run for the conventional jobs in an office. As bad as all of this sounds – I really do look forward to going to work every day. It’s such a nice change of pace from staring at computers all day, I can’t help but be thankful to be out there. As of next week our new install should be finished – 18,000 new vines in the ground, and I was a small part of it. Kind of cool.


But the vineyard work won’t last forever. My girl is over the hill, and seeing her only on the weekends isn’t something I want long-term. So after the harvest season this fall I’ll be heading over to Prescott to live with her, and hopefully find a job waiting tables, which is a job I’ve always wanted to try.


Things with the girl are obviously going well, since I’m planning on moving in with her. We have a trip planned for St. Louis in a few days to hang out with her family and friends. We’ll be out there for a week full of fun.


Ummm… yeah, that’s about it. Hope everybody out there in the blogosphere is doing well and enjoying summer time!

Monday, June 20, 2011


I realize that I don’t have many friends. The occasional friend 100 miles away sure, but nobody that I see on a regular basis. I’ve disconnected myself from just about everything since the road trip ended, and I’m not quite sure why.


I get up at 4:30 every morning to go to work, I spend eight hours sweating in 100 degree desert heat, then come home to hurt myself with the weights or with the jogging shoes. My knees haven’t stopped aching since I started working, and yet I don’t give myself a rest.


I tell myself that I need to do these things, even though I know better. I tell myself that I don’t have time to do social things in this new place in which I live, no time to go meet people, no time to go grab a drink with co-workers, no time to think. No time, because I keep giving it all away to nothing.


I live with my sister, but we are totally independent of one another, randomly existing in the same domicile for a few moments before one or the other of us drifts away again. Sometimes going out to grab a bite to eat when we are both too exhausted to cook.


Fridays find me rushing to Prescott to spend my weekends with Courtney. Saturdays we play around on the boulders near Prescott – wincing, grabbing, falling, and screaming as we learn a new sport. Sundays are the only day on which I try to rest. Generally an hour or two of walking the dog, possibly a lunch with mom where we both try to talk through our problems and end up hitting the same blocks every time.


My camera hasn’t seen the sunlight in weeks, I try to connect to facebook, but I realize all the posts I make just reflect the terribly repetitive nature of my current life.


I’m not unhappy though, which is the odd part. Perhaps a bit discontent, but mostly I’m just… nothing. I’ve disconnected from being anything for a while.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Not dead, just dead tired.

The summer time is here, and the work in the vineyards is getting hot. I haven't been up to much lately. Work all day, get home and jog/walk with the dog, lift weights twice a week, cook dinner with sis, pass out. Repeat five times a week. Weekends find me in Prescott with Courtney. I just bought my own pair of climbing shoes, so it looks like bouldering and climbing will be my new hobby on saturdays. Sundays I'm trying to lay low, relax, give the body a bit of a break.

That's about it. Haven't taken the camera out lately, haven't been exploring my new home, and really; haven't done much. I'm just trying to enjoy the heat as much as I can, find a groove within which to ride for a while, and see how the rest of summer treats me.

Currently I'm sick as a dog, so lots of sleep the last few days, and it feels like the sickness is finally ebbing away.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

After week one of hard work, what’s a boy to do?

The idea is that, on weekends, I’ll drive back to Prescott and spend time with my girl Courtney. And so Saturday morning as her and I prepare to get coffee we get an invite to a friends house. From there, we get an invite to go rock climbing. How can we say no?


She has a few friends driving up from Phoenix, and so after we meet up with them we all head out to a place called the “Promised Lands”. Thankfully, they have enough spare gear for me to be able to climb, and since this is my second time ever trying this sport, they take it pretty easy on me. I have a great time clinging to the side of a rock, wondering where the heck to put my hands a feet:



And then I scamper around with the camera, trying to taking pictures of the other climbers. Of course there was my favorite gal:




And her friend Kimberly:



And the crew from Phoenix:







All told, we spent about three hours out there before Court and I packed it in for the day. A great time, and a darn good group of folks to hang out with.

What’s next is work. True, actual, paying, work.

But before work, I head up to Flagstaff to see my buddy Ben once again. We drink coffee and tea, we walk around downtown and then we walk around campus. Good times with this guy:



We eat some good food, and we see some great graffiti:




And then it’s back to Prescott for a few days with mom and with Courtney. Then the first of May rolls around and I pack everything I own into my 4Runner once again.


Thankfully, it’s not a long drive. Just over ‘the hill’ to Jerome. I know somebody here go will not only give me a place to stay for a while, but is also willing to help me get some work. That person is Nikki, my sister. And so for a few days I putz around this little mining town until she hooks me up with some work in a field.


A field full of these:



Which, when you step back a bit, look more like this:



Yes, my sister got me work in the vineyards of Arizona. So, for a week now, I’ve been learning the ropes of skilled labor among the vines. Digging holes, planting vines, pruning, trellising, picking up rocks, and all sorts of fun stuff like that.


I'm working under the awesome sunshine, using my muscles, and sweating my butt off. And I’m loving it. I’m not really sure how long all of this will last. Definitely a few weeks, possibly a few months. When it’s done, I’m not sure what the next step is, but for now I know that I am enjoying the hard work, and hopefully making ‘enough’ money to float me through whatever comes my way.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A trip across the country

My friends asked me to help them move across the country. I had the time, so I of course said yes:



A house’s worth of stuff, trundling across the country:



When I’m not driving, Huey and I are enjoying the wind through our respective furs:



We stop ad dad’s house for a few days. Besides all the normal shenanigans, they have frogs causing all sorts of ruckus:



We left first thing sunday morning, and we were done unpacking the truck into their new apartment on thursday afternoon.  By the weekend the boxes are all unpacked, and the only thing left to do is hang pictures. We have dinner with Chris’ brother, wife, and son who are down from New Jersey. We stop in DC for a few hours, but it’s raining and so we aren’t really into it.


For the next five days I teach Chris how to be a man of leisure (since I’ve now had nine months of practicing this fine art). We drink coffee, we work out, we play tennis, we eat at local restaurants, and explore his new home. We turn off the GPS and get lost, and find back ways back to his place through the lusciously green landscape.


Thursday rolls around and it’s time for me to hit the road again. Chris drops me off at the greyhound bus station, and from there it is a long trip back to AZ. My cell phone battery runs out on the first day, which means no familiar voices to talk to. Since the phone is also my MP3 player, it means no tunes. I read books, but those run out by noon on the second day. So I talk to all the strangers around me. I get glimpses into their lives, as they get a glimpse into mine. Some are friendly, some are not. Some snore while they sleep, and others sleep not at all. Some are coffee addicts, and others are heroine addicts. Some are just hooked on universal love, and some are hooked on the road.


I arrive to phoenix on the third day, 54 hours after leaving my friend. I’m a total space cadet, I haven’t slept much, and the road has turned my brain to mush. Courtney picks me up with a friend, and we all go to get coffee. We run a few other errands before heading back home, where I promptly pass out. Another cross-country trip is done.


Now it’s time to figure out what’s next.