May 18, 2017 – Middle of Nowhere

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If I could, I would live my entire life on the road. I’ve been told that I can be a frustrating travel companion, always wanting to take the longer route, avoiding the interstate, and stopping constantly to take pictures. The obsession with ‘making good time’ has ruined travel for a lot of people – for me, it’s the diners, the gas stations, the random encounters, the getting lost of it all that means the most.

I make frequent stops and I ask a lot of questions, and I always have my camera with me.
There’s a lot to see out there and I’m just the kind of guy who finds boring things, like today’s image of the day, to be really interesting. But when you’re the kind of guy who can fill ninety minutes fidgeting with a few paper clips and a rubber band, or folding index cards into paper footballs, then photography is one hell of a great passion to develop; there’s never a dull moment because there’s always something new to discover.

Today’s image was made in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t take notes. I’m pretty sure this is somewhere in unincorporated areas of Western Kansas, but this could be New Mexico, too. That whole region looks the same, really, and driving through it feels like an eternity. But it’s the perfect stretch of road to turn on the radio, roll the windows down, and let your thoughts drift. There’s nothing more glorious than flying down the road with only your thoughts (and maybe your camera) to keep you company.

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May 14, 2017 – After The Tornado

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I wouldn’t ever expect most people to have their thumb on the pulse of what happens in small towns in the middle of Kansas, but today’s photograph comes from a little place called Greensburg. In May of 2007 around nine o’clock at night, an EF5 tornado tore through the city center. Estimated at 1.7 miles in width, with winds in excess of 200 mph, it was later confirmed that ninety-five percent of the entire community had been destroyed by the tornado.

The above photograph was taken on November 1st, 2012, more than five years after the devastating storm. A tremendous amount of rebuilding has been done, but there are whole grids of roads that used to be housing subdivisions that are, today, just empty lots with foundations not entirely different from this one.

I drive through this town every time I return to Kansas City from my Arizona home to visit family. I stop at the same gas station every time I pass through.

Greensburg, twelve days after the 2007 tornado.

After the tornado, the Greensburg city council passed a resolution stating that all city buildings would be built to ‘LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum’ standards, making it the first city in the nation to do so. Greensburg has been rebuilding as a “green” town, with just the right name to support the decision. At this point in time, the city’s power is supplied by ten 1.25 MW wind-turbines, which can been seen blanketing the plains outside of town.

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March 28, 2017 – Storm on the Salt River

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Last night we found ourselves somewhat stranded. Cracked radiator on the short drive from dinner in Show Low, Arizona to nearby Pinetop. Angry hissing under the hood when we arrived, with an engine running hot. This morning was a scramble of phone calls and worry, trying to get the vehicle repaired so we could get back on the road, and back home to our jobs, our lives, our responsibilities.

Dark clouds descended in the early hours of the morning, dumping sleet and snow and unexpected cold. Thrift store jackets kept our unprepared asses (somewhat) warm, and we huddled against the circumstance, resigned to what was being thrown at us. And out of the frustration and cold, an unbelievable number of kind and generous people entered our lives, sparing us long walks through the snow, giving us advice and warm food, and wishing us luck on our return journey.

Sometimes bad luck is just good luck in disguise. This short little trip didn’t go as planned – not in any way. Instead, we were thrust, vulnerable, into the arms of strangers, only to be reminded how wonderful and kind people can be. We got the Jeep repaired and made our way back south, with the winter storm on our tail. The snow turned to rain, but the dark clouds were chasing us all the way through the mountain passes and rugged canyons. The image above is the salt river canyon, right around the time we finally outran our shabby luck.

We drifted into Tucson at sun-down, purple light igniting the back-end of Mount Lemmon. It felt like we’d been gone for two weeks, instead of just two days. It was a ride. But it always feels good to get back home, even though we spend most of our time wishing we were away.

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March 26, 2017 – The Road To Globe

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In another diversion from ‘Mexico in March,’ I need to break from the theme for my short little trip to Pinetop, Arizona. But hey – in an abstract kind of way, this territory was, once-upon-a-time, Mexican territory anyway.

On the long road north through Oracle and Catalina, the state route winds through a series of small mining towns, the first of which is a nearly-dead little hamlet called Mammoth. Several years ago, the smokestacks from the local smelt were dynamited and razed to the ground. Aside from local sheriffs patrolling the main roads and taking advantage of speed traps, there isn’t much here to speak of. Abandoned cars, heaps of illegally dumped garbage, and two gas stations represent most of what remains.

Once upon a time there was industry here. Today, it’s a way-station, a dusty relic from the early years of the twentieth century. Double-wide trailers and rusted pick-up trucks dot the landscape; plywood panels obstruct the busted windows of the failed and abandoned old-world businesses.

It has been about fifteen years since I passed through this territory. Even though the garbage, collapsing buildings, and general despair, I think this is a uniquely beautiful place. The trailers are rotting beer cans in the desert, corroded and sinking into the earth. The unforgiving landscape is slowly reclaiming the territory. The cops are bored and the locals, even more-so. But the expanding valley, stretching out to the north, still provides some of the most glorious sunsets a human being can witness.

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March 21, 2017 – More Mexican Coke

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I wasn’t joking with yesterday’s image-of-the-day. Try as one might, there’s no way to avoid Coca-Cola while traveling through Chihuahua, Mexico. In addition to the plague of sugar-infused, diabetes-inducing shit-water, this image also points to another serious problem south of the border: stray animals.

Stray dogs are common in the small towns in northern Mexico. There are few services to spay and neuter these animals, so they wander, wild, through the cities, rummaging through trash bins and begging from the arrival platform at the train station. It’s a different experience altogether. Local children are taught to keep these animals away, and for good reason; feral cats and dogs are unpredictable and they carry disease. On the surface, it seems cruel and awful to watch five-year-old children kicking dogs in the face, but what they’re really doing is making sure they don’t touch the feral animal and expose themselves to illness.

Beyond the poverty I’ve seen in Mexico, it’s the necessary neglect of wild dogs that breaks my heart.

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March 08, 2017 – Mexican Streetside

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For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of this small town. Somewhere about a hundred and fifty miles south of the port of entry in Naco Arizona (Naco Sonora). Cracked facades and faded paint jobs are common in these little towns. On the surface, these places appear inhospitable – and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories – but I’ve never had a negative experience in these places. People are friendly, the bodega owners are more than happy to take your money, and there’s always at least one fantastic restaurant or taco cart.

When traveling through the smaller villages in Mexico, there’s no “I just need to find a McDonalds” option. You pretty much have to trust the local food. Either that, or eat nothing but flamin’ hot cheetos and drink nothing but coca cola. And what’s the fun in that?

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January 11, 2017 – Clouds

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I moved back to the desert for a reason. This is one of many.

There’s a quality to the light, to the landscape and skies, that amazed me when I first moved here sixteen years ago. I love the monsoon rains, the mountains, the clouds. They say that nature does all of the hard work, and all you have to do is be there to capture it. There’s some truth to that. But it’s so easy to take our experiences for granted. When we see the same landscape, the same sky, the same friends, the same lover – when we see it every day, we appreciate it less.

Being an artist is recognizing this tendency, and never taking anything for granted.

This is all temporary, and it’s all incredibly amazing. I love being here, and I am in love with life.

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