Sunday, August 31, 2014

The roads less traveled....

One of the biggest enjoyments that I've had while taking my photographic trips, was discovering the highways that took me to the places that I photographed.  Often, the highways themselves became the highlights of the trip.  And since many of the trips I took were with my dad, who had traveled those highways himself with his parents and with our family, several of these highways and roads carried with them wonderful stories.  For example, the road going north out of Grants, New Mexico up to Cortez, Colorado - highway 491 - was the road his parents took in 1922, coming from Colorado to California.  My dad told us stories of how his father, driving their Ford Model T, had to back up one particularly steep hill, since, in the Model T, reverse had better torque than 1st gear.  And sure enough, as my dad and I drove up that road 70 years later, he pointed that very hill out to me.  

There were other stories associated with other roads, and as I have traveled, I too have found roads to evoke memories and emotional responses.  And often, both in my memory and visually, I "return" to these roads, because they are either roads that elicit a sense of peace, or they are roads that bring back my own fond memories.  And so here are my "Top 5" roads (and these are in no specific order):

Jalama Beach Road, Santa Barbara County, California - I "discovered" this road on one of my yearly Central California Coast drives, and every time I go up there (which has been a while), I make sure I take this road.  It's 20 or so miles of 2-lane paved road that takes you to Jalama Beach, a wonderful, open stretch of beach where you can surf, fish, and camp.  But it's the drive through the ranch land, with the open pastures and California oaks that make this drive so pleasant. Recently I found a YouTube video of some motorcyclists taking the road from the beach to Highway 1, and I just sat there, transfixed, as the pastures and the oaks whizzed by.  Of all the roads on my list, this one is closest to home and easiest to get to.  

Coastal Drive, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Klamath, California - this was a road that my dad and I "discovered" on a trip that we took all around California in 1989. As we were heading up towards Crescent City at the Oregon/California border, we found this drive, and immediately were greeted by old oaks dripping with Spanish moss.  Eventually you end up on road that drives along the edge of the cliffs over the beaches.  This road takes you through stands of alders and oaks, with pine trees mixed in.  I returned to this road in 1998, and photographed the image that I have here, taken just after the setting sun peeked out from under some clouds.   

Million Dollar Highway, from Cortez, Colorado, to Telluride, Colorado - this road in particular has strong memories for me, since my dad was born in the small town of Dolores, which is along the highway and about 20 miles north of Cortez.  The last time I was there in 1997, the cabin where my dad was born was still there.  As you head north from Cortez you're greeted by several high peaks - the "14's" as they are called, because many peaks are over 14,000 feet in elevation.  But for me, the road was where dad and I discovered a small stand of aspen trees that still had their leaves on them, even after a recent snow had knocked all other aspen trees leaves to the ground.  We called this one spot "the Magic Place", and I plan to return there soon to disperse some of my dad's ashes.  

Highway 128, from Highway 70, Utah, to Moab, Utah - this road was another "discovered"
by my dad and I on our last full trip together in 1994.  We had come from Colorado, having stayed overnight in Grand Junction, and were coming down highway 128 to head towards Moab.  The beauty of this road is that it hugs the Colorado River for a ways, and you find yourself in these wonderful valleys carved by that ever-flowing river. We stopped along there as the afternoon waned, and took some photographs before heading into Moab for our hotel.  Often I return to this road because it is not traveled by the tourists, but by the local ranchers and others who are heading to the magnificent Cathedral Valley.  

Santa Rosa Creek Road, from Cambria, California, to highway 41 - this road, more than any other, has a draw for me, and any time I am on the Central Coast of California, I MUST take this road.  Back in 1969, my family rented a motorhome, and we drove this road through the beautiful ranching country that it services.  This is not a highway, but a road - in some cases it's single lane, rough pavement.  But it takes you up to the crest of the Santa Lucia range behind Cambria and then back to highway 41, which can take you back to Highway 1 to the west, or Paso Robles to the east.  I have taken this road again with my dad, and by myself.  But it was on this road that I proposed to my wife, on an area carved out by a switchback. You can see that switchback here, on the right side of the image.

There are so many other roads that I have traveled, many with my dad, and many on my own.  I think of the road through Santa Margarita, just north of San Luis Obispo, that takes you east to the vast Carrizo Plains.  Or the wonderful highway 12, going from Bryce Canyon National Park east through the Escalante Wilderness area, Boulder, and then over towards Capital Reef National Park in Utah.  There's the wonderful stretch of highway 89 from Shasta, California, all the way down through Carson Pass and Monitor Pass, where you eventually come out on highway 395 north of Walker, California.  All these roads mean so much to me both personally and photographically.  And I must return to them, not only in my memory, but in reality.

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