Fred and Jim’s Excellent Misadventure

My friend Fred got a new toy for his birthday. For the last couple of years he’s been lusting for a SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). If you’re not familiar, those are off-road buggies powered by snowmobile engines. In Congress, they’re all the rage and have all but replaced golf carts.

Last month some folks in the park sold their home and advertised their SUV on the local bulletin board. It was just the one he was hankering for, so he kilt it and brought it home for Deb. Her only comment was the smoke coming out of her ears. She looked like her power supply burnt up. It’s bright yellow Can-Am, so I tagged it Tweety, after the villainous cartoon canary that brought grief to Sylvester the cat.

Fred was all excited when he brought it over to show me. The first words that came out of my mouth were about him being forced to sleep in their trailer. After a ride around the block, we concluded that it needed a shake-down cruse. After comparing honey-do lists, our first common free day was last Thursday. We decided on a route that circled the house and would never be more than ten miles away. We were going to drive up to Stanton (a mining ghost town that is now an RV Park) then stop at the old Octave mine and finally drive the back roads home. I could bring my camera and get some shots along the way. The whole trip would take about three hours and we’d be home by dinner.

On Thursday, I cleaned my camera, charged up spare batteries and noticed that the memory card door was open, so I made a mental note to put a fresh SD card into the camera and pack a couple of spares. Fred showed up right on time at half past two. After some last-minute adjustments, including a heavy sweater and packing water, we set off.

Along the sides of US-89 there are trails that people use for SUVs and ATVs. That way they aren’t obstructing highway traffic. We drove the north-bound trail to the gas station to top off the tank. By the time we reached the station, the novelty of riding in the open and jostled about had already grown thin. There’s no heater, no doors and the only thing keeping you inside are the seat belts and a couple of strategically placed grab bars. After getting gas we had to drive the highway for another couple of miles before turning onto the dirt road that goes to Stanton. We watched the mirrors carefully for traffic and pulled to the shoulder to let cars go by.

When we reached the Stanton road, Tweety was in her element and we sailed along at a decent clip. It’s only a half-dozen miles to the ghost town and I worried that we were too early for the ‘magic light’, but we pulled into the RV Park to check it out. There are a few dwellings remaining, surrounding a Saloon (serving as an office), hotel and the remains of the old brick opera house. I wandered off to reconnoiter the buildings while Fred stopped at the office. He found out that it isn’t a park at all, it’s a mining association. Like a timeshare, you buy into the place and in return you can park your RV and work any of the claims that the association owns. Because he registered as a guest, they gave us permission to hang around and shoot some pictures, so I went for my camera and when I pulled it out of the bag; I saw that the card door was still open. I forgot to pack film; so much for the photo shoot.

We soon were off to the Octave Mine. As we drove, I made mental notes of photo locations. I also noticed that the area was crawling with prospectors working active claims. The area along the Weaver Range had several productive gold mines in the 19th Century, but they had all played out by the 1920s. Even so, along the road were gates with “No Trespassing” signs. Being very protective, when a miner’s sign says “violators will be prosecuted,” that usually means shot.

Since we didn’t have to stop for photographs we set out to find the road that would lead us home. To keep us from getting lost, I brought a topographical map and my GPS. We used them to navigate the maze of trails that crisscross the area. We would go till we found an intersection, take a reading from the GPS and find our place on the map. We sort of could figure where we were but the map and GPS seemed to disagree by about a thousand yards. By using our heading and the terrain, we could interpret our site on the map. We drove by a windmill and cattle tank (a lovely shot), we used as proof that we knew we weren’t lost.

According to the map, all we had to do was go north from the windmill a hundred yards, turn west on a jeep trail, drive south through Antelope Creek for a quarter-mile and the road we were looking for would be on the right. We’d be home early.

We quickly found the trail which led down a steep bank into a creek bed. As you’d expect, there wasn’t much of a road down there. Just intermittent tire tracks along the boulder strewn ravine. Tweety’s ease in traversing the rocky path impressed us. We concluded that this thing would go anywhere. About a mile later the trail climbed up the bank heading south and skirting a low hill. We’d missed our road, so we turned off and headed back north only to find ourselves back at the windmill.

Fred drove around for another hour searching for a way out of the maze. We were losing light and the temperature began to drop. I was glad I’d put on a heavy sweater under my jacket. When we drove by the windmill for the fourth time, the sun was almost down and we stopped to check the map. We conceded and gave up our search. The map showed that the road north would take us directly to the main Stanton road, so we decided to go home that way. Although the map said this was a major trail, it was just a couple of ruts that wove between the creosote and cactus. We could at least follow it even after we had to turn the headlights on. We dodged some cattle along the way and passed an occupied trailer.

It was dark when we drove up to the fence clearly marked “No Trespassing.” The road had come to a dead-end. We got out and looked around. Beyond the house in front of us, we could see Stanton and our road home. We backtracked a bit and discovered that the real road turned to the right which we missed in the dark. It led down a steep hill so I took the flashlight and walked in front of the buggy. At the bottom were two concrete pillars with a padlocked cable stretching between them. A sign hung in the middle which said “No Trespassing,” but that was on the other side. Aargh, somehow we had gotten on private property and it was dark in mining country.

Fred turned Tweety around and we drove back over the hill and then descended the other side. I’m not sure we were on a road, but we saw tracks which led to another locked gate and warning sign. We tried to find another way but instead just drove in circles. We couldn’t find the way in. We stopped for a while to strategize. My GPS lays cookie crumbs so we used that to retrace our steps. We decided that we had to return to the windmill and take the long way back. Fred suggested that we stop at the trailer we passed and ask for help. With that, we started re-tracking the GPS dots.

When we reached the trailer it was dark, but there were dim lights coming from inside. Fred stopped the buggy and I got out. I didn’t want to frighten anyone so as I approached the home, I held the flashlight on myself. Ten yards away I stopped and yelled, “Hello! Hello! Is anyone home in there? We need some help. Hello!”

A dog barked and that’s always a bad sign. I repeated my cry. Then Stephen stumbled out of the front door followed by a black and white puppy. “Yes officer, how can I help you?” he slurred. Were he driving, he would never have passed a breathalyzer test. Though he was fully clothed, judging from his tossed hair and disheveled clothing, we must have woken him. I moved closer to avoid having to yell. I introduced ourselves and explained our plight.

“I am a retired Air Force Commander,” he started then veered off into a paragraph of disjointed sentences. “I’m here to help you. Are you military?”

I explained that Fred was an Air Force veteran and I was in the Army, but that was long ago. “No matter,” he went on, “once military always military.” Then he let out another batch of seemingly unrelated sentences. Fred walked back to the buggy and started it.

“You said you could help,” I almost pleaded.

“I can, but your friend is rude,” he observed.

“He’s tired and frustrated, as I am. How can you help us?”

“Come inside where it’s warmer,” he said picking up the pup then stepping back into the trailer and although Dueling Banjos played in my head, I followed.

The inside of the trailer was only a bit wider than our Casita, but longer. A galley was on the left and a mattress filled the right. Neither had been recently cleaned. On the counter were two open cans of beer; a brand that hasn’t been sold in Phoenix for decades. Dishes piled up in the sink next to a rusty stove. There was a neat pile of roaches (the joint kind) in a saucer next to the door.

He tried to start another round of military conversation, but I was getting frustrated by then. I was about to give up, but instead, I cut him short. “Look, I’m tired, hungry and, frankly, a bit scared. You said you could help, but you’re not. How can we get to the Stanton Road and go home?”

“Where did you come from?” he asked.

“Congress,” I replied.

“No. I mean, how did you get here?” He was trying to analyze.

I again explained how we had taken his road, but when we went further, it was a dead-end.

“You see,” he started, “you take this road all the way and it makes a right turn down the hill.”

“Yes, but there’s a locked cable across the road,” I responded.

“I’m a retired Air Force commander and my job is to look after this land for the mining company,” he explained.

“How does that help?”

“I have the key!”

“Oh great,” I thought. How are we ever going to pile him into his truck and get him to unlock the chain? He could barely stand, let alone drive. Meanwhile Fred had shut off Tweety’s engine and was now standing behind me. “Can you come and unlock the cable for us?”

“No.”

I started again to beg his mercy, but he cut me short. “I’ll draw a map and give you the secret.” He got a sheet of paper out and began a loose interpretation of a map. I watched as he drew the road, the curve, the concrete and wire. When finished he explained, “From this pillar, about ten steps due north, is a tree stump. On the east side there is a rock at the base that covers a hole. Inside the hole is a chew tobacco tin with the key inside.”

I reached inside my pocket but couldn’t find my money clip, so I turned to Fred and gestured that I wanted some money. He handed me a five dollar bill and I turned and pressed it into Steve’s palm while shaking it. We expressed our gratitude and nearly tripped over the puppy as we ran out of the trailer.

Once we started the three-mile journey, I yelled to Fred, “If we don’t find this key, we are not stopping back at his trailer.”

He yelled back, “If we don’t find a key, we’re driving through the gate.”

Once the cable was in sight, I got out and walked to the pillar. I looked to the sky for the North Star and began to step off; one, two, three, four, five . . . OMG there was actually a stump, and the described rock. I pointed the flashlight on the rock and moved it revealing a hidden hole. In the desert, you never stick your hand into someplace you can’t see, so I pointed the light and saw the green Copenhagen tin and took it out. Inside was a little brass key. Allll-right Stevie!

I opened the padlock and dropped the cable so Fred could drive over it. After locking the cable and putting everything back in its rightful place, I jumped into Tweety and we drove twenty-five yards to what now had become the Greater Stanton Freeway. We stopped so Fred could call Deb and give her the good news. “How long will it take to get home?”

We didn’t talk much on the half-hour drive home. I noticed that I had gotten cold, so I buried my hands into my jacket pockets and tucked my nose into my collar. There wasn’t any traffic on the highway, so Fred coaxed every mile-per-hour that Tweety would go on the paved road. The knobby tires screeched at a pitch that sounded like constant phone ringing.

It was 9:15 when we arrived at my house and after unpacking my gear, Fred drove off. From what I hear, Fred can keep his toy. He just can’t go out with me ever again. Oh well; such is life.

Till then . . . jw

March 4th Art Show at Wickenburg Ranch

Next Saturday, Wickenburg Ranch will be hosting an exhibition featuring the  Wickenburg Art Club artists. I managed to weasel my way into the show. I’m planning on having one of my latest images on display. I hope you stop by.

Date Creek Yucca
A Yucca plant in the plains of the Date Creek Range.

The exhibition will be open from 10am to 3 pm although we don’t get to set up until 10. I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to get there early. It is being held in the ‘Art Barn’ (whatever that is). Rick, the club’s vice president, told me that this is the second year we’ve been invited to put on this show. The promotion department liked it so well, that they invited the club back.

To get to Wickenburg Ranch, take Highway 93 like you’re going to Las Vegas and when you get to the big round-about (the one with a giant spur in the middle) take the road to the east. At the guard gate, tell the attendant that you’re looking for the ‘Art Barn’ and they will give you directions.

Till then . . . jw

New Video Project – Record Racks

Regular readers of this blog already know that I’ve been trying my hand at making videos. I’ve published ten of them on YouTube so far. All but one of them have been autocross recordings using a GoPro as an in-car camera. The other one was a time-lapse session of the gang raising our car port so that we could park The Ritz under it. That video is the only one so far that’s gotten more than a hundred views because it appeals to a broader audience. (If you’re curious you can view them here.)

I’ve finally come up with a story line that I can use to make my first video in earnest. It happens to involve two of my other interests; music and woodworking. My video will be ‘how-to’ on making some record racks (yes Virginia, they still make records).

To give you some background, I a fair sized record collection. I bought my first album when I was in high school and I’ve been adding to it ever since. I started storing them in a neat system designed by Per Madsen that he sold as part of his RACKIT system. His clever designs efficiently solved media storage while fitting together to make an attractive media center which put our stacked cinder-block shelves to shame. As I collected more records, I’d just order another rack and add it to the pile.

Per Madsen facks loaded with records.
The Per Madsen style racks store up to a hundred records neatly. Yes, they are in alphabetical order.

Out of the blue one day, I got an email from him saying that he was going to retire. He said that he wasn’t going to make any new units and that all of existing stock was on close out. I bought up all that I could use and then they were gone; that was over a decade ago. In our old home, I bought some IKEA shelves that worked, but those didn’t fit in our new home.

We’ve been in this house over a year now and Queen Anne has harped about the two unpacked boxes of records still in the dining room. After staring at my media center one evening, I decided that if I couldn’t add more storage horizontally, I needed to stack them higher and decided to make my version of the Madsen racks. I have enough woodworking equipment to replicate everything but his joints. I believe he used hidden glued dowels, but I can get around that with another type of joint that’s at least as strong. Another big advantage in making my own is that I don’t have to use red oak. I can use any hardwood that I want.

There are abundant videos on YouTube featuring craftsmen far more capable than I. It amazes me how some of these guys (and women) produce intricate wood pieces, sometimes without seemingly measuring. I guess that comes with experience. So, my video will be how a journeyman goes about making multiple pieces of furniture that have to precisely fit together.

Per Madsen's rack design.
The rack design is two strong rectangular ends connected by rails along the bottom and back.

The first step in this project will be measuring and dissecting Per Madsen’s design and make some working drawings. Then I’ll need to come up with an outline of the steps. Finally I will lay out a storyboard of the shots before I actually do any filming. I’m guessing that it will take a month to shoot but then there’s post processing, so give me till summer before I post it on YouTube. My goal is to have a video that gets more than a thousand views. I’ll update the blog with progress.

Till then . . . jw

Wickenburg Gold Rush Days

Next weekend is Wickenburg’s big annual celebration, Gold Rush Days. The festivities take place beginning Friday the 10th through Sunday the 12th. If you picked this weekend to drive to Las Vegas, you might consider an alternate route, because fair goers will pack downtown. However, if you’re at a loss for something to replace football, come on up and join us. The predicted perfect weather is for clear skies and highs in the 70s.

There are multiple activities during the weekend anchored by the carnival area wedged into the open space downtown west of the main traffic circle. Arts and crafts booths are scattered among rides and people selling food that can’t possibly be good for you. Fred will be showing off his classic Chevy truck at the parade and car show on Saturday. There’s a Senior Pro Rodeo at the rodeo grounds and more vendors on the pedestrian bridge over the Hassayampa. It’s a great excuse to spend a day exploring our little hamlet.

Cow skull and posted sign on a fence gate.
A tree-lined drive blocked by a gate decorated with a cow skull and Posted sign.

As for me, I’ll be working indoors at the local artist show inside the city library. I’m entering two photographs for judging; Posted and Salome Motel. The show is open to the public from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm except Sunday when it closes a half hour earlier. I will be acting as host Sunday morning. That means I will be answering questions and handing out ballots for the people’s choice award. If you stop by then, I’ll even fill the form out for you so at least I have a shot at winning something.

Salome Motel
The town of Salome was once a major stop on the road between LA and Phoenix until the Interstates changed all that. The tower on the town’s motel recalls times long gone.

It’s supposed to be a fun event to entertain our winter guests before they leave for destinations north. It’s the most excitement we get in this otherwise sleepy little town. I hope you come up and join us and if you come Saturday, be sure to say hi to Fred (I might even be hanging around taking pictures). I’d love to have you stop by the library Sunday and see the works of the talented local artists. Or, as the queen would say, “Y’all come, ya’hear.”

Till then . . . jw

Los Algodones, Baja California

The Queen and I took time out of our busy schedule to make our quarterly dentist visit this week. Normally you’d think that would take maybe an hour or two at the most. For us, it’s more of a commitment than that. As seniors, our dental insurance is nil to none, so upon recommendation of a couple of friends, we found a good dentist in Algodones . . . Mexico, and that means an overnight journey to Yuma. Both of us got an addatoothtome, so on the first appointment was for a root canal and then an impression to send off to the lab overnight. The next day was for fitting the crown.

It’s been an abnormally wet year for us here in the desert, so when we left Monday at daybreak under a cloudless blue sky, we felt as if we were wasting a good work day. The rains kept us cooped up all weekend while we have outside projects we’ve put off for dry weather. Instead, we were on the road for three hours for an appointment at 11:00 am.

As the sun came up we saw patches of fog, something we rarely get. The evening breeze pushed the ground fog to the base of the low ranges like they were door-stops. The dark hills popped out of the strands of white. South of Quartzsite I couldn’t take it anymore and pulled off the road to snap a shot as we passed through the KOFA (King of Arizona) Wildlife Refuge. Even so, we made it with time for breakfast before our appointments.

Ground Fog and KOFA Range
A rare sight in the desert is ground fog, but after a cold rain it collects at the feet of the low ranges. Here a ocotillo is foreground to the fog at the KOFA Range

Los Algodones is a retirees’ equivalent of Disneyland. The downtown commerce area is an eight block square along the east bank of the Colorado River. It’s an extremely tiny border town when compared to Juarez, Nogales, Tijuana or even Mexicali; sixty miles to the west, yet it’s still a Class A border crossing. That’s because of the large amount of foot traffic. There is some vehicular traffic crossing there, but most people pay the six dollars to the Quechan tribe to park in their huge parking lot and walk across.

The dominant feature is a multi-story steel beam structure like an unfinished building. It’s been unfinished since we first visited some twenty-five years ago and most likely won’t be different in the next twenty-five. Then there are the hustlers. Unlike Tijuana, they’re not trying to get you into one of the girly clubs (of which there are none); they’re working for the dentists, eye doctors, pharmacies or liquor stores. That’s right; the doctors got pimps. After you wander the town a bit, you realize the town is a medical amusement park. Within a block you can get glasses, a tooth implant, new hearing aids, a sombrero, and have a margarita for lunch while you’re waiting for the lab.

As a younger man, I never would have gone to a doctor in Mexico. I had heard the horror stories of shoddy work and surgery disasters, so why the change of heart now? It’s a combination of economics, a referral and desperation. We need dental work, but couldn’t pay what the local dentists where charging . . . even with insurance. So, if I had a problem with a tooth, out it came. After retiring and hanging out with other like-minded geezers, we heard some good stories and then got a couple of strong referrals.

On our summer trip, I broke two crowns, so when we got back, we scheduled an appointment to investigate. As we sat in the tiny waiting room, people our age surrounded us claiming our dentist was the best. The first exam was simple consisting of digital x-rays, tiny cameras, and some poking and prodding. Within fifteen minutes they printed out a chart of my mouth showing the work that I needed including the cost by tooth. Then they went over the x-rays and photos so I could clearly see what they were talking about. After that, they cleaned my teeth and then I was done . . . $25.00. When we left the office, we both had our charts and it was our decision about which teeth to work on and when to do it. All of the prices were less than what our co-pay would be in the States.

As always, the devil must have his due. What you save in money, you pay with time. I already pointed out, the waiting room is crowded with patients that are loyal . . . to a fault. Your 11:00 am appointment only means you’ll be seen sometime after that. If you need to see a specialist, they call an escort to take you there, where you can sit in another waiting room that always has one less chair than people. If you’re lucky, the TV has Discovery Chanel in Spanish, otherwise it will be CNN. If your visit requires replacement parts, the lab will have them ready tomorrow, always tomorrow. If you count on getting back on the road at a decent hour, give it up. You will only have enough time to grab a Big Mac at the Yuma Mickey D’s before the three-hour drive home in the dark.

Western Arizona is one of the weirdest places on earth. It’s all low-lying Sonoran Desert dominated by creosote bushes, Palo Verde trees, and an odd saguaro here and there. It also gently slopes downhill towards Yuma, the lowest place in the state. It’s also the warmest and driest part of the state, both winter and summer. No one lives there.

Yuma Crossing
All of the historical travel routes crossed the Colorado River within 300 yards of this spot. That includes the ferry, railroad, the first Ocean to Ocean Highway (US 80) and the current freeway (Interstate 8).

While driving to Yuma in September, we counted twenty-five empty RV parks along the road. Quartzsite, the halfway point of the trip, was a ghost town with most of the stores closed. On Monday’s trip they were all packed to the brim with people from Montana, Alberta, Idaho, Saskatchewan, Washington and British Columbia. They all come down to the warm desert and camp out under the stars. Except for an occasional Costco run, they never go into Phoenix and the Phoenicians aren’t aware that these people are out there. After all, who goes to Quartzsite? The campers also go to Algodones for doctors, prescriptions and booze.

On the Immigration Service Website, it says that the Algodones Customs Station averages over two thousand pedestrians a day. I’ve been there on days where you could walk right into the custom-house and be on your way two minutes later. This week there were over four thousand people waiting in line to cross the border. The line curled back from the custom-house and several blocks down the street. For over an hour we marched a step or two at a time, while chatting with our neighbors and carrying one bag of prescriptions and another containing one bottle of Kahlua or tequila.

Towards day’s end, the street vendors grab an armload of goods, abandon their stalls and make their way to the line waiting at customs. They form a gauntlet imploring you to buy a poncho, sombrero or a giant carved wooden turtle. On your other side, old women dressed in black hold a swaddled infant and offer Chiclets for spare change. They move on if you smile and softly say, “No. Thank you.” If you dare feel the lace or try on a hat, you’re dead meat until you agree on a price. Being a Baby Boomer, I can tell you that they’d really make a fortune selling street tacos and Margaritas to-go along that exit line.

Till then . . .

jw

New Winter Showings

As we approach mid January, I’ve already made progress on one of my New Year’s resolutions which was to get my photo work on display in a gallery or show at least four times this year. Last Tuesday, Anne and I took a framed print down to the Wickenburg Art Center (WAC) for  display and sale in their gallery. I posted an article last month about having my work juried so that I could take part in local events. A side benefit of the jury process is that I can hang some work in their gallery.

The framed print that we have on display is the 4:5 version of Kluane Lake and Ruby Range that I shot this summer while in the Yukon Territories. It was one of the prints that I submitted for jurying, and since it was ready to go, it was an easy choice.

Kluane Lake a Ruby Range
Kluane Lake and Ruby Range – A framed 20×16 print now on display at the Wickenburg Art Center.

The Wickenburg Art Center gallery is at 188 S. Tegner Street. That’s two blocks south of US60. Tegner is the Wickenburg old main street and the light immediately west of the railroad underpass. If you’re in the area, stop in and enjoy the work local artisans have on display.

My next project is to get two prints ready for the Gold Rush Days Fine Arts Show in February. Those will be on display in the Wickenburg Library from February 10th through the 12th. I haven’t decided what to submit yet and perhaps you can help. I need to have the photos printed and framed by the beginning of the month and I think they should have a common theme. Should I submit two images from our trip? Maybe a couple of the local landscapes would be better; or how about a pair of old buildings as a submission? Which two of my images would you like to see hung on the wall? Let’s hear your comments.

Till then.

jw

New Subscription Button

After this week’s Newsletter/Post, there was still a lot of confusion about how to sign-up for automatic email notifications. It seems that the process was too convoluted and difficult to follow. I’m sure my directions didn’t help, mostly because what I see on my screen (as an admin) is different from yours.

New subscription button on the right —————————>

So with a little Web research, I was able to find a subscription  widget and put it in the top of the right column. Now you won’t have to root around looking for boxes anymore. Simply type your email and click on the button. When you do, you will receive an (Oh my!) Email confirming your subscription.

Thanks for your patience while we all go through this learning experience.

Till then

jw

Resolutions and Revisions

Another new year is here bringing hope that finally, this one will be ‘our year’. It’s a clean slate; a fresh start. That’s why so many resolutions begin with a new year, and they’d probably be more successful if we didn’t have to drag so much of last year’s baggage with us. We at least have to give it a try . . . besides, if the resolution doesn’t make it to the first weekend, what’s the difference?

Snow on the Weaver Range
The Weaver Range white with snow on Christmas morning.

This year ends in a seven, and those are the years I dread. It means I’ve survived another decade. I’m beginning to run out of those. At best, I can count the ones I have left on one hand; at worst, one finger. That’s why I have to put a lot of thought into my New Year’s resolutions.

Top of the World Highway
Clouds kiss the mountain tops along the Top Of The World Highway.

As I’ve written before, the Queen and I have gone through a lot of changes in the past year. We’ve retired, moved to a new town and took a trip years in the planning. Now that the dust has settled, I have more free time. After several months of pondering, I’ve decided to use that time to focus more on my photography. I have a new freedom to go out shooting more often and if you’ve visited my Web Site recently, you may have noticed that it’s been under going several revisions.

Merritt Pass Palo Verde
The after-glow of a sunset lights a Palo Verde tree in Merritt Pass.

For almost seventeen years now, I’ve been publishing this newsletter and my subscription base, although small, has been very loyal. Some issues have been easy to write, especially when Anne or I do something outrageous that make for a good story. When that happens, my fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up with the words coming out of my head. The newsletter seems to write itself. Other times, I’ll stare at a blank screen for hours while trying to think of something to say.

Date Creek Range
The Date Creek Range at sunset on Christmas Day

During our trip last summer, I tried my hand at blogging. It started off shaky, but after I got the hang of it, it became easier. I found that I could come up with something to write about and do it more often than on a monthly schedule. Some topics were whimsical while others were more somber.

I’ve discovered several advantages in using the blog format. It allows me to write without scheduling constraints. I can communicate when I have something to say, whether it is daily or weekly. I can cover a broader range of topics. There is a built-in mechanism for you to respond and leave public comments so you can see other people’s reactions. Search engines index the blog articles, so readers can Google (Yahoo or Bing) our discussions (you won’t believe how many people want to know about Chicken Alaska). Finally, the blog is open to a world-wide audience.

Wenden Sunset
Sunset near Wenden Arizona December 2016.

With those arguments in mind, I’ve decided to move my regular newsletters into my blog pages. This will be the last regular newsletter I send via email. After that, I will only be publishing news on my blog. At the end of January, I will drop this email list and close my Emma account.

I am publishing this exact newsletter, word for word, here and on the blog, which you can see if you click on this link. I would be very much honored if you followed. If you would like an email notification when I publish a new article there is an easy way for you to sign up. At the end of the article, scroll down to the section titled Leave a Reply.

Sign Up Instructions
Check the second circled box, click the circled button, enter your email address and you’re all done.

At the bottom of the Reply section:

  1. Check the box that says “Notify me of new posts by email”
  2. Click the POST COMMENT button. That will trigger a new dialog box where you enter your email address. You’re welcome to add a few words in the comment box, but it’s optional.

I hope to see all of you on the blog, but if that’s not your choice, I’d like to thank you for being a loyal subscriber these years and maybe we’ll meet On the Road.

Till then

jw

Learning Video

Yesterday, I posted a new video on YouTube. In August 2015, I bought Adobe’s Premiere Pro, a video editing software, and since then, I’ve been trying to learn how to use it. A lot of photographers complain about how complex Adobe’s Photoshop is, but Premiere Pro is way more challenging.

This is my tenth post on YouTube and the first since April. All but one of them is about the amateur car racing that I do. It’s a natural subject for movies. Besides, I can rationalize making the films as a tool to improve my driving skills.

One of the cameras that I own, the Sony A7r, shoots video in ultra high-definition, that’s the format on newer TVs now. So, last season, Jeff (who was co-driving my car at the time) and I bolted it to the passenger side headrest. I made a clunky bracket out of wood that held the camera securely; although there’s still some vibration. We filmed several events with mixed results and gave up on the Sony because we couldn’t get the metering or microphone to work correctly. Instead, I picked up a used GoPro off eBay. It’s a small video camera made for shooting action videos. The focus is set, there are very little other adjustments, and at one tenth the weight of the Sony, the camera mount is now overkill.

Shooting in-car video is very common on YouTube. Mostly, they’re a record of the driver’s best run. They have a beginning title, and the film clip . . . that’s it. They’re of little interest to anyone except the small community of autocrossers.

Because I was learning film making techniques, I wanted to go beyond documenting a single run. I tried to make simple stories out of my videos. With each new video, I added new refinements. I learned how to do fade, cross fades, titles, end slides, and as hokey as it sounds, I worked on creating my brand . . . a simplified interpretation of the MGM lion, as it were.

For this video, I made off-screen commentaries to help make the story-line clearer. To do that, I wrote little scripts and then recorded them using an audio program. After editing the snippets, I inserted them into the video at the proper places. As a result, I see improvement although there is a lot more work to do. If you care to see my new video, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/YdeNB7kr98s

I welcome any comment you have . . . it is a learning experience after all.

Till later . . . jw

New Image 12/07/16

This morning I added another image to the New Work section of my Website. It’s called Rental Canoes at Lake Louise and I took this photograph in June this year while on our Alaska journey. I originally published the picture in the blog entry; Lake Louise – Alberta. This is the official edition as processed on my office set-up.

Rental Canoes at Lake Louise
Red rental canoes tied up at Lake Louise’s dock. Since the day is rainy, there weren’t many takers.

This image is a cluster of red rental canoes tied up at the Lake Louise dock. It rained off and on during the day and only a few hearty souls ventured out onto the lake. In the background is the swanky Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise. If you travel to Alberta Canada, Lake Louise is a must stop, and if you have the where-with-all to spring for a room and/or meal at the hotel, you won’t be disappointed; highly recommended.

Till then – jw