About Me

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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.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Packed Up and On the Road!

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."  
                                       Helen Keller 

Okay, I've been remiss. I admit it. I owe you at least two blog posts I've been threatening to put up for the last two weeks. Yeah, yeah, life goes on.
Just a handful of things and I'll get round to it. I AM busy having a good time and documenting it visually. If you're not already doing so, follow me on Twitter for the most current up-to-date adventures and posts. @stevebarber_tt 

(continued below)

High above Los Angeles

Landing at SFO

Many martinis
The Southwestern sky
Offroad safari in Sedona
These last two months have seen a marked increase in my travels, which is gladly accepted and appreciated. Sand Diego, Del Mar, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Phoenix and Tucson, just to name a few. Yes, it's heavily Southwestern, but any time on the road or in new lands is a good thing.

I "discovered", for instance, Albuquerque's reverence for its Route 66 past. There are several sections of the city which are breathing new life into the strips of hotels, motels and formerly cheap diners which marked the roadway's life during first half of the 20th century. Likewise I was drawn to find chocolate in the small New Mexican art town of Madrid (MADrid, for you tourists). The shop is appropriately owned by a man named Harvey Shugarman. 
Of course it is.


In the next two weeks we're heading up to the Morro Bay area of California for a weekend of wine tasting and general falderal, and my work will take me to Las Vegas and Phoenix....and possibly El Paso if the wind blows just right. My little red car is getting quite the workout these days!
So to keep you interested and coming back, here are a handful of shots from the adventures year to date. Stay tuned. More chocolate, pictures and falderal to come.

Aloft over Albuqerque
Rock climbing in Red Rock Park

Sopapillas in Santa Fe

Truck stop (and terrific huevos rancheros!)
Sedona's Church of the Red Rocks


Joshua Tree Nat'l Park
Sunset in Malibu
Aboard the Midway in San Diego

Disneyland and California Adventure!

Monday, August 12, 2013


“Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.” 
 Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

One of the first things you'll notice about this world is that it's big. Really, really big. Not big in a "compared to the rest of the universe big", or even compared to the rest of the solar system. Not that big. But it's big. Trust me on this. Really big.

And part of that bigness, at least when considered from my state of being relatively small compared to the Earth, is that it constantly has places I want to go and things I want to do. And for someone who is essentially a Raman* (*it means wanderer), this is a good thing.

I have been to a lot of places and done quite a few things that were on my Life List of accomplishments. But there are still quite a few left. And what we have discovered, at least in the last decade or so, is that there are two ways of approaching these lists: either ":someday I wanna" or "okay, let's do this thing".

Guess which method notches the bedpost?

So it stands to reason that I am usually asked "what next?"Where are we going, and what are we going to do once we get there. And what is it we want to do that we don't have planned yet (whittling that list down to a single page, please). I am headed to ABQ today, and may do a side trip up to Santa Fe...but I don't think that really qualifies other than as a short road trip.

In the next year and a half, through the end of 2014, we have a variety of longer travels planned. I will undoubtedly be covering the Southwestern United States pretty extensively in my full-time profession, visiting all of Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico on a regular basis. That this includes some of my favorite places doesn't escape me, I simply get to put them in a separate "business" column when making plans.

For much more adventurous traveling we will be getting back to the Vancouver/Whistler areas for an extended week some time in October. Our intent, at least at the moment, is to ride a halftrack up the side of the mountains, and at a later date zipline down the slopes near Whistler. Nothing firm is planned for Vancouver, but since it's one of our favorite cities in the world I'm certain we'll find something to keep us occupied.

Then, roughly a month later, we'll be in Annapolis, Maryland for Thanksgiving, with side trips and get-togethers in D.C., Williamsburg and Maryland's eastern shore.

Next Spring...at least in the Northern Hemisphere -- we're headed down under to Australia for visits to Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Perth and a hop over to Auckland. Then two weeks in Hawaii in about a year from now.

Plus a handful of day trips to Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, and and San Diego.

All of which you will see reported here, no doubt.

It's a life on the road...but somebody's got to do it.

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