Category: Road Trips

Walking With Ghosts in The Desert

Walking With Ghosts in The Desert

The Goldwell Open Air Museum sits just outside of the northeastern entrance of Death Valley and at the edge of the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada. I’d seen photos of the sculptures that grace the grounds many times online. But, seeing the ghostly shapes of Albert Szukalski’s pieces in person caused a visceral reaction – somewhere deep inside, things felt off kilter. The figures possess a powerful and strange voodoo.


The Last Supper – Albert Szukalski

I find this figure to be particularly haunting.

What an incredible gift to have, to be able to make people feel something with your art.

New Year’s Day with Beggars in Death Valley

New Year’s Day with Beggars in Death Valley

On New Year’s Day, I awoke in Las Vegas. The rest of the world was still asleep after a long night of reveling. As I rode down the strip towards old Las Vegas and the Freemont Street area, a less-than-glamorous film stuck to everything. Once outside of the fantasy bubble of a bazillion-dollar casino hotel, the empty streets seemed gritty. After visiting a few sights scattered about town, I hit the road towards Death Valley. After two nights with a million of my closest friends in Sin City, it was time to get back to nothing.

My ride into Death Valley wasn’t without company, however. I met a car full of young women who also stopped to take photos at the park sign. They didn’t speak very much English, but they were able to convey that they were excited to see me alone on my motorcycle. I guess some things are universal. Women who ride motorcycles kick ass in any language.

I also met these two wily beggars. They were hovering around the roadway, waiting for cars to come along. As a car slowed, they’d move in closer. They must get a lot of food that way. I didn’t feed them but I enjoyed watching what they were up to. Seeing animals, especially ones not typically in your environment, is a simple pleasure.

After the hustle of Las Vegas, being nowhere felt wonderful. It was a perfect way to welcome 2017.

New Year’s Eve in the Valley of Fire

New Year’s Eve in the Valley of Fire

On the morning of December 31st, 2016, when I awoke it was still dark. I was in Las Vegas. I hadn’t planned on being there for New Year’s Eve, it was just the way that my trip unfolded. Though it was a holiday, it was an easy place to get a room and I ended up staying for two nights.

It felt as if I’d personally brought rain to the desert. I arrived among the shimmering signs and the bustle of Vegas in the pouring rain on New Year’s Eve-eve. By morning, there was still dampness pressing down but at least the rain had stopped.

Because of pre-celebration preparations, the strip was scheduled to close to traffic on the afternoon of the 31st. Being an early riser on east coast time worked to my advantage. I was able to head out at 0’dark-thirty, see some stuff and get back before anything shut down. My destination for the day? Valley of Fire State Park.

At first, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see the luminescent colors of the rocks in the sunshine. But, that disappointment faded when I saw that the fog brought its own special drama to the landscape. Nothing is perfect and plans deviate from your daydreams. You just have to learn to see beauty in new ways.

Snapshots from Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park

 

Random Odds and Ends from Kansas and Missouri

Random Odds and Ends from Kansas and Missouri

My route back home to Long Island from Catoosa, Oklahoma in October of 2016 bumbled along Route 66.

At the time I remember feeling like I was moving too fast, that I wasn’t taking enough time to linger. I don’t know why that happens but it does. You long for time away and then while you’re in the midst of it, you won’t slow down to savor it.

Looking through my limited selection of photos through Kansas and Missouri, hindsight tells me that I did it wrong. I hurried too much.

While traveling along ’66 in Illinois, I saw a vibrant blue Selz shoe wall ad in the town of Chenoa. While this one doesn’t quite compare aesthetically, it was still nice to see. This faded ad was in the town of Galena, Kansas.

Cars on the Route and the inspiration for Tow Mater.

I don’t know if I was delirious from dehydration or what, but the signs along the road for Uranus Fudge Factory cracked me up every time. To protect and serve Uranus.

Remember That Time I Rode to Oklahoma?

Remember That Time I Rode to Oklahoma?

In October of 2016, after completing the Void Rally 11 in Fredericksburg, Virginia I set off towards Oklahoma with the goal of seeing the Blue Whale of Catoosa. I know, I know. It’s ridiculous. But, that seems to be my specialty.


Straight as an arrow along Route 66 in Ok.

Swing and a Miss

With follow-through clearly being one of my shortcomings, I never did finish writing about and posting pics from that Oklahoma trip. On the heels of that, I didn’t finish posting photos and notes from my December 2016 California road trip. Hell, I don’t think I even finished up posting photos from my trip through Illinois in 2015. And then there is the little matter of finishing up my open Ask Me Anythings. I don’t even have a viable excuse.

Chances are you don’t care one way or the other so I’m not sure why I’m dancing around like this. I’m just going to shut up and post some pictures from Oklahoma.

Catoosa, Oklahoma

When you build something up in your mind as a pinnacle there is something of a coming down when you reach it. Because I was so focused on seeing the blue whale, I didn’t really have a plan for what I would do after that. Catoosa was the turnaround point of my trip, that much I knew. But there wasn’t anything penciled in after that. And so, I just stayed on Route 66 plugging away back towards Long Island.

Foyil, Oklahoma

Might big front yard turtle. They also had a “watermelon” propane tank back by the house but I couldn’t get a good snap of it. You’ll have to take my word for it and go see for yourself. This was a stones throw from Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park.

Chelsea, Oklahoma

Rush hour in Chelsea. Small towns like this are so far removed from my day to day reality. There is something about their spartan population that appeals to me. The life that I imagine is lived in such places tugs at my heart, every damned time.

Vinita, Oklahoma

This is a former Phillips 66 “batwing” station.

It’s been a minute since I’d seen one of these completely intact!

Commerce, Oklahoma

Another quiet town.

My interest in petroliana probably strikes some people as strange. Perhaps it is. I’m inclined to take a photo of an old gas pump or station more so than a tree. There is probably something psychologically telling in that. Perhaps we’d best leave it alone.

Afton, Oklahoma

The feeling of being far away from home was acute here, for some reason. When traveling on my own, there are times when my excitement is tempered by missing my family. Sharing photos is one thing but being able to turn to someone and speak about what you’re seeing is something else altogether.


The feeling that some of these smaller towns are kept afloat by Route 66 travelers is real. For me there was a mixture of wonder and melancholy. It was almost like, thank goodness you came to see it because it might not be around much longer. While that may not in fact be true, it was something that I came away with. They’re hanging on by the grace of nostalgia and hope.

Onward towards Kansas…

Posts from My October 2016 Oklahoma Road Trip

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