Road Trips…From Beginning To End

When I was young and my mother and father proclaimed that on Sunday afternoon, we would “go for a ride”, I could not rest until Sunday.  My parents also treated my sister and I to many great vacation/road trips.  Roaming America (and Canada) with our car, exploring whatever we might find.  After I reached 16 years of life (driver’s license) on any given day, my pals and I would just jump into one of our cars and drive.  As teenagers, some of those drives can’t be recanted on this family friendly blog, but we called them Road Trips.  Until fairly recently, I continued to take road trips. My years of auto racing photography had me traveling quite a bit.  I always tried to just roam a little bit extra on every trip and see what I could find.  I was already a nature photographer/lover and that was always a part of it.  Those small pieces of Americana, like old diners and or gas stations were admired and patronized whenever possible. When nature photography took over my life I had many great road trips to locations within about 800 miles.  Everything over that mileage I would fly and rent a vehicle.  That was not enough of a road trip for me so I decided that all of my photography trips would be by motor vehicle from start to finish.  That began some of the greatest trips I ever took. I would often start those trips with an all night drive on our Interstate Highway system.  On the remainder of my photo trip I would use the back roads whenever possible, but I needed to make time in the beginning so a solo (usually) all night drive on the super highways was in order.  I cannot tell how much I came to look forward to those all night marathons on the “interstate system”.  I loved my 2 a.m., restroom, gas  and sandwich stop in the middle of Nebraska or Kansas or North Dakota.  I enjoyed watching the people at the stops and on the highways, and I wondered who they were and where they were going.  Epiphanies are born in the middle of the night on long drives on a highway.  Decisions are made.  Resolutions are achieved.  Everyone should experience that. My return trips from western destinations were very fruitful whether I chose a state highway, or a rural two lane (or sometimes dirt) as my route.  I have visited dozens of national wildlife refuges and state wildlife areas on my return trips. As the scenery settles into that flat green surface that so much of the world is made of, I had birds and other little critters to make up for it.  Often times I visited  those places at the wrong times for peak activity, but my brain received a check mark for a return trip.  Usually I never revisited those wildlife areas but that’s okay, I had already turned my return trip into an adventure. I was in South Dakota making a slow trip back home to Wisconsin.  I had located a NWR on a map.  It lived on the Nebraska border in a remote area.  As I started down the road to the refuge a sign told me that I was driving through a Lakota Sioux Indian reservation. After an hour of dirt roads I finally came to the reserve.  A nice mix of prairie and wetlands with small hummocks of forest.  The wildlife business was slow and I never made a picture.  The temperature was 40 degrees and I wondered if that could produce opportunities for me.  Every negative produces a positive. I almost wrecked the car on the narrow dirt road.  I was trying to miss something on the road.  I stopped and sure enough, it was a Prairie Rattler trying to warm up in the sun.  After I finished making images I wondered if I should remove it from the road. Maybe I wondered if I could remove it from the road. This back entrance to the refuge had not been used in years so I decided to “let sleeping rattlesnakes lay“. I finally found my way back to pavement and resumed my trip east.  I fiddled with the radio dial and finally settled on an a.m. station.  A young man came on the radio and took a music request,  The request was Lynnard Skynnard’s Simple Man and that song never sounded so powerful.  I savored the lyrics to a song I had heard many times before. I spotted a gas station up ahead and quenched my car‘s thirst.  I stepped inside and bought five miniature and clearly homemade, venison tacos.  I loved the homelands of Native Americans before casinos popped up on each and every one.  The gas stations now are shiny and better that what you find on the big highways.  Something’s lost when something’s gained. I remember these and other events like they were yesterday.  Whether alone or with others every road trip teaches you something. Can’t make a long trip?  Take a road trip around home. When I was around home and planned a whole day of photography, I would make “the circle”  I would start before sunrise at a favorite spot along Lake Michigan south of my home.  I owned the sunrise.  I would head south into that neighboring state they call Illinois.  Illinois Beach North and South.  Maybe a deer at the north unit and some dragonflies at the south.  On to you guessed it… Bong State Rec. Area.  Probably birds maybe a turtle or two. Then came Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary.  Some flowers, some birds.  If it was autumn my next stop would be Petrifying Springs County Park for some landscapes and fall macros.  If not I headed back to the shores of Lake Michigan. North of home this time.  I would finish with some waterfowl or maybe an historic lighthouse.  Finally darkness fell and another road trip was complete. No matter where you live, there are road trips to be had.   They exist right in your own part of the world. The first four images below were gifts of road trips, both near and far.  There is something waiting for you, around every corner.  The final image is of the Chief Joseph Byway in Wyoming, and is a wonderful road trip in and of itself. Red-tailed HawkRtail70 048 Abandon adobe ranch along a rural road in New MexicoSlides3 059 Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel, literally alongside the road.DSC_6467 In autumn, in many locations (like this one), a short road trip and a place to park your car are all you need to bring home treasures.  Landscapes do not have to be big to be “grand”.DSC_7126FallPets08 005 Sunrise.  Start your trips early or stay out late.Cranes 002 The Chief Joseph Byway, WyomingDSC_0374 Every road trip is a journey.   You will find many treasures on that journey.  Keep your eyes, mind and heart open and you will be rewarded. I wish each of you many fine road trips in your life. Have a great day and God Bless,                                                                                                       Wayne

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3 Responses to Road Trips…From Beginning To End

  1. ron says:

    I don’t remember the year, but in the late 80’s, Wayne and I started our road trips. They were short at first, usually half day. I would show him my circle around home and he would show me his circle…..a lot of mutual treasures. Then we started over night jaunts and long story short, we ended with a couple of 7-8 thousand mile trips. What a story each ended up being. The things we saw and photographed. The friendship we developed, and the fun we had. Having said all that, we each did our own thing as well. Wayne has often tried to emphasize that it is not the destination or what one returns home with in the camera, IT IS THE JOURNEY or as he calls it here….the roadtrip. Even if only a couple hours, the roadtrip is a spiritual awakening. Use it as such, even if you never hoist the camera to your eye.

  2. Pingback: 600 | Wayne Nelson's Earth Image's Blog

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