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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” 
                                     Jack Kerouac, On the Road

A few days ago I was watching an old rerun of Britain's Top Gear television show. I'm a fan of both the British and American versions, and usually spend a couple of hours a week watching one or the other. You might say I am a fan of anything "Automotive", and watching a program with car enthusiasts who ought never to be allowed near one is a fun way to spend some down time. I know, in my heart, that I'm one of them, and so get a vicarious thrill of watching them screw up in ways I'm fully capable of matching.

A rough section of Route 66
A foggy road in North Carolina
On this particular rerun, actor Patrick Stewart -- he of Star Trek and X-Men fame -- was the subject of a popular segment entitled "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car". In the segment, (inexplicably relabeled "Big Star, Small Car" in the American version -- are our attention spans too short for the longer name?), a  celebrity is put behind the wheel of an economy car and set through the paces at Top Gear's race track. It's both humorous and competitive, with stars as A-List as Tom Cruise and Ryan Reynolds on the leader board.

Open Road
Stewart, who is a fine actor...you can tell because he speaks with a very authoritative British accent...was opining on his love of the open road, particularly of a long, lonely drive through the desert. it's a passion I admit to sharing with not only Mr Stewart but many thousands of other people. Those of us in the Southwest are blessed with an open expanse just a short drive from even our most urban neighborhoods. And for me one of the most truly relaxing and invigorating things to do is to climb into my bright red Hyundai Genesis Coupe and head out into the nearby Mojave Desert for a few hours tooling around largely empty roads, dropping into some out of the way diner and photographing the adventure for my archives and this blog. It's a way to retreat from the modern world and to recognize your standing in this vast world. (Hint, unlike your boss The World doesn't give a damn if your expense report is a few days late. It's too busy being much more zen about the universe than you are.)
New York, Seventh Avenue

Las Vegas' famed Strip
And for me one of the best things to do while traveling is to hit the open road. Yes, I love cities, but to truly understand a place you have to dig your toes into the sand, metaphorically speaking (and sometimes literally). One cannot accomplish this poolside at a 5 Star hotel. Even in New York, you learn so much more about the city by walking through the Village or Soho or the Upper East Side or Little (and growing littler) Italy than you will in the lobby of Trump Tower. 

So when I travel, I often get away from cities and try to experience more of the countryside, the environment surrounding the city to help put that destination into a better context. Recently I've blogged about our trip up to Santa Fe, Taos, Sedona and all of the open road between them. Our friends flew out to meet us and flew back to LA, missing, I think, some of the more fascinating parts of the trip.
BC's Sea to Sky Highway

In my life I've managed to drive in extreme conditions in most areas of the country. Alaska, Hawaii, across the mainland five times. Up and down both coasts. Out to Key West, Hana, Carcross (in the Yukon) and up the main coast to Boothbay Harbor. Out Cape Cod. Circumnavigated Lake Tahoe. Both sides of the Napa Valley. Internationally I've driven through the Loire Valley and between Paris and Giverny; we've been the length of Anguilla, and all around both Saint Martin and St Barth. 

The Columbia River Gorge
There is a feeling, a sense of adventure to being on the open road, but the fun extends into cities as well. Every major city has at least one, usually more, "legendary" roads to follow. Here in the LA area we have the advantage of filmmaking to push our roads into the popular culture. Sunset Boulevard. Hollywood. Mulholland Drive. Each of them conjures an image of old Hollywood and an era on the early to mid 20th century. Las Vegas has The Strip. San Francisco has Lombard Street. Ironically, Washington DC has Pennsylvania Avenue. New York, of course, has Broadway, 7th, Madison and others. London has Fleet Street. Paris the Champs Elysees. (I've driven them all save Fleet Street...London may be the last city in which I ever want to get behind the wheel. Give me a cab and I'm happy, and let the driver handle the pressure. The same goes for Rome which has the added challenge of utterly incomprehensible roadways in addition to crazy-assed drivers.)

Driving Lake Tahoe

But the point is to get out of the hotel and explore. For me that's the open road, but at the very least rent a car and go out of the area. Find a historic site a few miles from where you live and go visit. Grab the kids and head for a picnic in the nearby mountains. They'll hate it, but at least you can inflict nature on them -- make sure you're out of cell range and you'll score double points.

Today is supposed to be a real scorcher here in the City of Angels. 

Maybe I'll grab the keys and head down the Pacific Coast Highway a bit. There's always an adventure somewhere.

On the OPen Road

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