From the mid 1980s until a few years ago, at this time of year, I would likely be on my annual trip to the southwest. A chance to get away from the cold and snow, and tour (and photograph) America’s great southwest. Those trips began with an airplane ride, and then a week or two of road trips by automobile. Eventually the time spent on the road became so important to me, that I quit the airplane rides and started my road trip from home. I never regretted that decision. Of course portions of those “get away from winter” trips, were spent high in the mountains of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, meaning that winter still played a role. Spring road trips were usually spent in the near south. The Smoky Mts. of Tennessee/North Carolina, and then on to Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas. Summers were spent traveling the American west from Colorado north, and autumn was “always” reserved for northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. I didn’t get to each of those trips every year, but I squeezed in all that time and money would allow.
A few great trips were taken with close friends, and the rest were just me and the open road. I know that’s difficult for most people to understand, but for those of us who are addicted to it, it is important to do most of those trips alone…..just the road, the mountains, the desert, the prairie, the forest, the wildlife, the flora, and ourselves. You know…..alone. Well, and a few people along the way. Even for someone who is relatively quiet like myself, there are those people along the way. That’s part of the road trip. People are the most dangerous animals you will meet on the road, but they are also the most interesting. They are a part of every trip. Proceed with caution, but you will find special people, who have insights for the taking, you just need to recognize them. Those of you who are regular visitors to this site, will remember (perhaps) and entire article I wrote on just those people.
Still, most of your time is spent alone. Alone, except for nature and the road. There are epiphanies to be realized at 1 am on a mountain road, or 4 am on an Interstate Highway. If like me, you often drive for long, long, long hauls at a time, you will absolutely, no doubt about it, find yourself talking to yourself. I guarantee it. Eventually you may begin to answer back. There are times when you need to stop and car sleep. For me, that always depended on what kind of answers I gave.
If you are on a long trip, and there are people you know who live along the way, by all means recharge your batteries with a stop with someone who matters. Take a day or two, and re-examine what it means to hold an entire conversation, with someone other than yourself. Once your energy has been regained, resume your road trip. Just you and the road.
I always loved the trip back home. This is when I toured many of America’s national and state wildlife areas. I found every historic old town or fort the country has to offer. Then came that state line. Welcome to Wisconsin. Now understand, I love Wisconsin. I was always happy making the majority of my images right here in “good ole Wisconsin”. The problem was, it spelled the end of my road trip. I mean, only 150 miles left. By this time, that seemed like a short walk. Buts alas, it was time to come home. Within hours I would be at my faithful local spot, Bong State Park, looking for pictures and pretending I was a thousand miles from home. Well, before you know it will be autumn, and I will resume my passion for the road, this time in the northern forests of Wisconsin and Michigan.
A few tips from someone who made the majority of his trips with no cell phone/GPS. Take road maps even though you have GPS capabilities. Road maps do not need to be charged, they aren’t at the mercy of solar flares, and while they might tear, they don’t break. Be smart around people. There unfortunately are bad people in the world, but your trips will teach you that most people are good. No matter how many phones you have, no matter how good your car (or rental) is, learn how to change a tire, carry jumper cables and learn how to jump a battery. These two things can save you. If you are about to take a scary wilderness road, through the dirt, gravel and mud, check your phone and make sure all is well, and check every so often to see if there is service. Even after the invent of cell phones, I never did those things. I made it back unscathed in every instance, but there were several extremely close calls. I kind of lived for those close calls because it left me with a great story, but if one of them turned out bad, I might feel different. We are all different, I can drive for days at a time, but if you cannot remain alert, stop and rest. Sometimes if/when you car sleep, you are better off at truck stops and other busy places where help is near. Personally, I felt better car sleeping in the deep country or even the wilderness. When you stop for gas (and a potty break), look at your tires for impending flatness, or possibly strips of rubber peeling off. On good clear highways under favorable road conditions, get accustomed to using cruise control. It allows you to change your physical position as much as you want, and helps a lot to prevent fatigue. Even if you drive all day and night, stop at a roadside park or some place every so often, and get out and walk around.
We’ve all heard the saying do as I say and not as I do. I was not always good at taking all of those precautions that I state above. Fortune smiled on me but don’t let a great road trip become a bad one.
All of the pictures below were made during road trips. None was made close to home, and none were made on trips that began with air travel. They are a tiny fraction of my road trip pictures, and were picked totally at random.
The Badlands, South Dakota
Wild Burros, Custer State Park, South Dakota
The town of Scenic, South Dakota.
Bighorn Rams, Wind cave N. P., South Dakota.
Bighorn Ewes and kids, Custer State park, South Dakota.
Theodore Roosevelt N. P., North Dakota
Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Theodore Roosevelt N. P., North Dakota
Female Sharp-tailed Grouse, Theodore Roosevelt N. P., North Dakota
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
The Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wyoming
Old barn, The Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Grand Tetons, Wyoming, B & W
Thermal area, Yellowstone N. P., Wyoming
Bull Elk, Yellowstone N. P., Wyoming
Either northeast Utah, or southwest Wyoming.
Dinosaur N. M., Colorado.
White-tailed Jackrabbit, Colorado.
White-tailed Prairie Dogs, Colorado
Along the road in Colorado.
The San Juans, Colorado
The Black Canyon of The Gunnison, Colorado
Great Sand Dunes N. P., Colorado
The Sneifels region, Colorado
The Maroon Bells, Colorado
Rocky Mt. N. P., Colorado.
Pika with cache, RMNP, Colorado
Young Yellow-bellied Marmots playing, Colorado
Water Pipit (alpine race), RMNP, Colorado
Valley of The Gods State Park, Utah
Monument Valley Tribal area, Utah/Arizona
The Sonoran Desert, Arizona
Big Bend N. P., Texas
Canyon Lizard, Texas
White Sands New Mexico
American Avocets, Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico
The Mingo River, Missouri
Red Fox hunting, northern Minnesota
Male Sharp-tailed Grouse courtship dance, northwestern Wisconsin
Starret Lake, Nicolet National Forest, northeastern Wisconsin
Smith’s Rapid’s Rapids Bridge, Chequamegon National Forest, northern Wisconsin.
Wilderness road. Chequamegon National Forest, northern Wisconsin
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, along the Mississippi River, Wisconsin
Mississippi Red-bellied Slider, along the Mississippi River, Wisconsin.
Thank you and make a trip back to visit us again, Wayne