Sunday, December 01, 2019

Best intentions, and all that...

I'd really intended for this cross-country road trip to involve more stopping and taking pictures.

My trip out was initially intended to have two middlin'-easy eight hour legs, overnighting in Joplin, MO and Amarillo, TX, leaving me with a final day's drive of only about five hours to Los Alamos. If I blew out of Amarillo early enough on that last morning, the short five-hour drive (combined with the fact that crossing from Central to Mountain time knocked a virtual hour off my pace) should have allowed for plenty of pulling over to photograph whatever caught my eye.

As things turned out, the ice and snow that virtually shut I-70 down around noon on my first day on the road saw me holed up in a Holiday Inn Express in Vandalia, Illinois for two nights.

I was there two nights because on the first morning there, I turned on the TV to the network news out of St. Louis, and the morning commute was a soup sandwich. Slideoffs and wrecks everywhere. It wasn't supposed to get anywhere above the teens, temperature-wise, until that afternoon, which meant that the brine on I-70 and I-44 along my route wouldn't be doing much.

So on the way out, I ended up overnighting in Vandalia and then Oklahoma City, and promised myself I'd get some photography stops in on the way back.

While I felt like death on a Ritz pulling out of Los Alamos at 0500 last Monday morning, I parked the EOS 7D, wearing the 17-55mm f/2.8 lens, on the passenger seat. I had high hopes.

As it turned out, I got that one roadside shot of the Mustang with its headlights on in the predawn gloaming somewhere north of Clines Corner, New Mexico...and that was about it for the 7D on the trip.
Getting on I-40 eastbound, I rolled past signs for historic Fort Sumner, but I didn't know how far south of the interstate it was and how far off my time it would put me, so I passed, despite being a big nerd regarding the Billy the Kid mythos.

Similarly, I'd intended to get a photo of the Mustang in front of one or another of the classic motels on Route 66 through the main drag of Tucumcari, NM. I pulled off the interstate at exit 329, passed a deserted, graffitoed urban hellscape of abandoned gas stations and motels that looked like sets from Fallout: New Vegas, and found my way onto Tucumcari's main drag, the old Route 66...the Mother Road.

But it was 8AM in the early winter, so the sun was low and southerly. I was eastbound, which meant I was on the wrong side of the street to get any good light on the car and background. Did I mention I was sick as a dog? I pulled off in front of one of the classic old motels, left the Canon in the car, and grabbed a nasty iPhone photo as proof of life.

Back onto I-40 eastbound, I consoled myself with the fact that I was still way ahead of schedule. At the rate I was going, I'd likely hit Oklahoma City thirty minutes too early to even check into my hotel. No worries, I reckoned, because I could use that time getting some fresh photos at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo!
Cadillac Ranch in 2011
I hadn't been by Cadillac Ranch since 2011. It's a most un-tourist-y tourist attraction; with no signs to point you there and no parking lot, it's just out there in a field near the highway. Park on the shoulder of the access road and wander out. Maybe there'll be fresh spray paint cans, maybe not.

On the way out, Cadillac Ranch was typically fairly deserted. Coming home on Monday morning, though? There were at least twenty cars parked up on the shoulder of the access road and a steady stream of people coming and going. And the sun was still way southerly at 10:30ishAM of a mid-November morning. There was no way I was going to get a well-lit shot of the place, especially without a bunch of people milling in the frame. Plus, I still felt awful...

On to Oklahoma City.

One thing led to another, and I never did feel up to pulling over for a scenic shot. Scenic shots get pretty scarce northeast of Joplin, anyway.

I wound up yanking the EOS 7D off the passenger seat and hanging it on the coat hook when I got back to Roseholme Cottage. At least it got a good photo of Thanksgiving Dinner.