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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.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Feasting on Asphalt

 "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."
-- Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future


“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.” 

(Yeah, two quotes. Just felt like it, that's all. I think the Alton Brown quote is funny, and there's nothing saying he's not related to Emmett Brown, now is there?)

Okay. Roads. Yes, again. Roads. 

All due respect to Doctor Brown: here we are in 2013 and we're still very much reliant upon roads.

And that's a good thing.

BC's Sea To Sky Highway
Any regular reader of this column knows that I am a real lover of the Road Trip. Give me keys, a full tank of gas, my trusty Nikon and a full day off of work and I am extremely content to wake up early and hit the road for some adventure somewhere. Usually it's slightly planned. At least a general destination, so that I don't find myself at the end of a short road facing the Pacific Ocean, wondering where to go from there.

But the open road is the central way to genuinely get a feel, a taste, for a place. You can't get that from 30,000 feet, you can't get it by hiding away in the luxurious interior of a fill-in-the-blank luxury hotel. (With the sole possible exception of Las Vegas, being inside a hotel, no matter how elegant and refined the accommodations might be the story is not the hotel...no matter WHAT Samantha Brown may have said about it.) (And Samantha is the very first in line to explore a neighborhood outside the hotel walls.)

"I know we parked the car here SOMEwhere!"
So the open road is the bigger brother to the urban street and alley. Instead of exploring neighborhoods, you're exploring entire countrysides. Or even much larger vistas depending upon how adventurous and ambitious you are. Whether it's a short drive down the coast (or through a forest, or desert or wherever you are), pick a smaller out of the way road and just explore.

Some years ago I was working on the cover for a music CD, and the band involved wanted a photo of a road as the inspiration. They showed me a ample of the sort of thing they were looking for, and I spent the next few weeks wandering around Southern California in search of the perfect image. They ultimately selected one of them as the cover image, and a couple of others as interior illustration...leaving me with literally hundreds of raw images as part of my permanent archive.

True isolation along Kelbaker Road
But what it did for me, as a photographer and now travel writer, was to inspire me to pursue the open road from an activity standpoint as well, frankly, as a photographic subject. Not only do I enjoy the drive, but it stimulates me as a photographic artist. Not only shots of the roads themselves, but what you find along the side of them as you wander.

On a (relatively) recent trip to Hawaii, friends of ours insisted that despite the relatively frequent reference to Maui's northwestern coast as being "unpassable except by 4WD", the road did indeed go through and was worth a look. So we took a day and drove north along Maui's highway 30 passing spectacular coastlines, cliffs, mountains and some of the post picturesque towns in the Islands. The lifestyle we found there was considerably more laid back and not driven by tourism...a refreshing change, though I love Maui as a whole, tourists and all.
Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge

(I'm guilty of doing touristy stuff, too, I just have to build my own adventure into it after buying my shotglasses at an ABC Store.)

Without the willingness to explore and have an adventure, this beautiful part of the Maui coast would still be a mystery to me. In fact, on our next visit we've vowed to hit the southern road on the east part of the island. We've stopped twice at a region called the "Seven Sacred Pools", after being assured the road further on is in unpassable condition. After our experience elsewhere, I think we're going to test that theory and see how far we can go. Again, just part of the adventure.

Maui's "Impassable" northern coast
The best drives I've taken include such well-known sprints such as the classic Road to Hana in Hawaii; Skyline Drive in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park; the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler, in British Columbia; and Florida's famous Highway 1 down through the Florida keys. These are all tremendous adventures, and certainly worthy of your time.

Between roading and offroading...
But I'm more, *ahem*, focussed on the out of the way, more isolated drives which prove to be more of a personal adventure and voyage of discovery. Give me a few hours on Kelbaker Road through California's Mojave Desert; or down Highway 504 to Mount St Helens; or up the other Highway 1 along Maine spectacular coastline.

(There are Highway 1s all over the place, most of them worthy of exploration.)

Getting out and on the road is, perhaps, a more uniquely American ambition that almost anywhere else in the world, though it's certainly catching on. Our twin loves of restless movement and our automobiles comes together on a road trip like yellow cake with chocolate frosting -- a simple but wonderful combination.

And in the case of a few hours behind the wheel you can (metaphorically) both eat your cake...and have it, too!

Drive on.

 Give me keys, a full tank of gas, and my trusty Nikon

1 comment:

  1. I love Alton Browns humor too. Great blog. Keep traveling on.