Category Archives: Nevada

Don't catch you slippin up

Zion, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Arches, Bryce, Vegas

There’s a part of the country I’ve been meaning to see for some time. Decided to swing out this Memorial Day weekend to check it out.

I’ve done two large road trips of the states and one of the areas that I have never made it out to was the Grand Canyon and all of those surrounding national parks.

Had the idea on Wednesday. Booked the flight and the car and swung out the following day.

Thu 05/24

Finished up work out in Times Square. From there it’s a commute home to Jersey City to pick up my gear and a quick 15-minute uber out to Newark.

I was initially going to pack my Osprey Atmos 50-liter pack for the trip. While going through my gear I grabbed an REI 22-liter pack that I was going to bring for day hikes and whatnot. Holding the pack in my hand made me start to question whether it would be possible to fit my entire trip in that small pack.

I’m going to need my camera gear, laptop, a variety of clothes. I end up fitting it all in. Tripod, two camera lenses, battery packs, chargers, down jacket that can keep me warm (it got into the 30s-40s at one point on the trip), rain jacket, toiletries (I don’t bring my shaver or cologne), and a clean pair of clothes for every day I’ll be out there. I also bring my small camera bag that has my body, two lenses, a couple spare batteries. I love traveling with this camera. It’s effortless.

The flight out is pretty much as expected.

I go to grab my rental car. I ordered the cheapest one I could get online. Usually the cheap models are good on gas and very practical with space and a small size for getting around and parking. They’re usually my preferable choice. I bought something called a “manager’s special” or something like that. It ends up being a Camaro SS. Which I’m pretty certain was the V8 (because the display showed this). If that’s the case it has 455 hp and 455 ft-lb torque. It certainly felt like that on the drive. The thing rips pretty hard. You need to be careful driving something like this in rear wheel. I was worried of even going sideways a bit in a straight line. It was not what I expected, but it was fun to be able to drive this around, ripping 0-60s occasionally, and flying past cars when I was passing them.

The plan for the night is the swing a little closer to Zion. I end up staying in St. George, Utah. Dinner consists of a couple cookies and a bag of chips. I end up eating terribly on this trip, usually alternating between gas station food, fast food, and occasional burgers.

When I get to the hotel it’s after midnight. The guy at the desk is really upbeat. I’m not sure if I’m just used to the coldness of New York, but it’s refreshing to communicate with people who are all super friendly. He tells me to check out the narrows at Zion. I tend to follow recommendations, as they usually point me in the right directions. I thank him and retreat to the room for some sleep.

Fri 05/25

The drive to Zion National Park is a quick one. I get into the park, picking up an annual pass for $80. It gets you access to many of the parks in the States, and you can share it with one other person. So, if you’re looking to roadtrip the states within the next year, let me know and you can sign your name on the other spot and see the parks for free. Most of the parks on this trip have a car entry of $20-$30.

The park is pretty full. I’ve heard online and also from the rangers that this weekend is a nightmare weekend. The traffic is supposed to be a disaster. The congestion and people are supposed to be unbearable. But really traffic was fine for me in the parks at all times. I’m not sure if it’s coming from the NJ/NY area or how packed Times Square can be, but it feels really empty out here. Touting numbers like 30,000-60,000 people in a 200 square mile park doesn’t seem like much when Times Square is getting 350,000 people in an area that you wouldn’t even use miles to measure.

Zion is a nice park. In my opinion it’s one of the ones that is famous because of its location to a larger city. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s popularity is due to the number of people around it. It’s the third most visited park in the States, with 4.5 million visitors.

There are some great views.

Rockin out
Rockin out

I hike out to the narrows. It’s the narrowest section of the canyon. You walk along a river and there’s no way to avoid the trail other than to get your feet and shoes wet. The rocks make barefoot crossing probably very unwise. There’s a lot of people in the area and I’m a bit lazy to get a good shot of it.

Nature and the photography of it has been something of interest for me when I was starting out taking pictures. These days I’m a lot less interested in taking pictures of this stuff. I’d kind of rather just experience it. Going into the trip I was a little worried I wouldn’t be inspired to take many good pictures, but I think I ended up with some.

I don’t really enjoy a lot of the travel and nature pictures that a lot of people love. I kind of really despise that whole wanderlust instagram culture of pictures. I guess in some ways some of the shots I took on this trip are intentionally disrespectful to some of those photographers. I did some point and shooting out of a moving car. I didn’t focus stack any images. I didn’t use a tripod in some scenarios where I should have. I thought I wouldn’t go through the small effort of merging panoramas in photoshop (but I did a few of those).

In addition to my displeasure and changing tastes with the camera, there are often just a ton of really amazing pictures on Google. Go search Zion narrows and look at some great pictures. I’m not going to waste time taking a picture that someone else has pretty much technically mastered. There sure is a lot of room for creativity and exploration even in a format as classic as landscapes, but if I can’t find that creativity then I’m don’t want to waste the time getting the picture.

With that said there are some pretty generic old school style landscape pictures in here. And if you see an area where a picture is missing or don’t understand why I didn’t take the same iconic picture that everyone else has taken of an area, it’s probably do to some combination of the previous thoughts. Just go google it (or don’t since you already know what it looks like).

I actually kind of dig this next picture. Although everyone on the bus had a camera, no one on the bus was taking pictures. I kind of really liked the half open window. The left side provides a cool textured purplish filter, and the right gives you the open air natural shot. The real beauty of this picture (besides the little bit of speaker off to the bottom right) is the two tiny rock climbers that are perfectly framed by the window. If you don’t see them you can click the picture and check them out. They are along the left side of the V.

Two rock climbers
Two rock climbers

Pointing and clicking. This is a reasonable shot. Sure, it could be more perfect by getting a secondary subject in there and getting somethings more in focus. But also, we have access to really high shutter speeds, so we should consider using them. There’s not much of a difference in this picture if it’s being viewed on a phone, and in the end it’s kind of not all that interesting. It’s a picture I would have liked a bit more many years ago but now it’s rather boring. I think it’s a much worse picture than the one with the two climbers.

Point and click
Point and click

And pointing and clicking some more.

La la la
La la la

Zion is a nice park. There’s a lot you can of course explore and see. I feel like I had a nice quick view of it and decide to swing out to Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is one of those super popular wanderlusty spots. You’ve seen the images before. Even still it looks amazing and it’s worth checking out since I’m out this way.

I get to the upper canyon at 3:50 PM and miss the final shuttle which is supposed to leave at 4 PM. Tickets were $60 per adult and half that price for children! I think that’s completely unreasonable. I think to take pictures you have pay even more. Prices online say $80 to take pictures that I don’t even want to take. To be honest I would have paid the price. I was here, I don’t think I’ll ever be back here. I went up to the ticket booth and tried to buy tickets but was told it was sold out.

There’s no way to visit the canyons without a tour.

So I was beat.

I guess I’m going to spare everyone the embarrassing irony of a white man complaining about how the Navajo are unfairly hoarding resources and making absurd profits off of them, but $80 for entrance is pricy. I just paid $80 for entrance to all of the national parks in the country for an entire year for that price. The national parks are well maintained and doing so costs a lot of money. I want them to be around for people to enjoy, and I am fine paying that money because of the enormous costs that they are.

To all the Navajo, get your money. I have nothing but love for you all. Thank you for allowing me into your land to enjoy the beautiful treasures that you have respected so deeply for so long. You are really the og’s of a lot of important things. President Woodrow Wilson gets credit for national parks (thank you) but for people like the Navajo it is core to the soul to be respectful of the land and the energy that surrounds it.

This isn’t really my country. This is yours. I’m a visitor here. Ahehee!

Since Antelope Canyon was closed for the day I decided to swing out to Horseshoe Bend. Originally the plan was to try to catch the sunset here, but it’s too early.

I park and start the pretty quick stroll out to the lookout. There’s a little dust storm going on but it dies down quickly. No amount of wind will really hold me back from checking this out.

There’s a lot of people standing very close to the edge. Kind of impatiently cramming their way into a picture spot. I watch this and give myself a little time to get accustomed to the height. I’m waiting my time to get a picture. I’m not looking to slip over the side. The fall from this height would be 800 feet and sure death.

For me it’s refreshing that this spot has not been Americanized (yet). There’s no railing here. Construction is underway off to the side to put up railings and make the place safe (and also importantly accessible), but it’s refreshing that there are cliffs in the States that aren’t guarded. Where common sense and logic are the only things keeping you one either side of the drop off.

I get pretty close to the edge, but far enough away that it’s safe. Again, I’m not looking for an incredible picture here. I don’t have to inch to an unsafe spot. I don’t have to get the best shot ever from here. There are already many on Google. And unless I’m doing something different I don’t feel like putting in the work or taking the risk.

A simpler picture will certainly do. Horseshoe Bend is gorgeous. It’s as beautiful as all of the instagram pictures would have you think it is. It’s one of the nicest views in the country in my opinion. The number of tourists that have visited this area has exploded over recent years. What may have been a local secret is out drawing people from around the globe.

About as close as I was willing to go
About as close as I was willing to go

The sun is beating down. No Antelope Canyon. A quick sight of Horseshoe Bend. It’s nowhere near sunset. I look at the map and my itinerary of things I want to see on this trip and think I might be able to make it to the Grand Canyon for sunset. Seems like a win to me.

I hop back in the car and zip off. This is what I came to see. And it’s sunset as well. The Grand Canyon.

First I point and click at some cool scenery on the way. I generally have been turning up some of the colors in my pictures. Lately I’ve been messing around a bit with muting the colors. I kind of dig overexposing as a technique. It helps to rip out a lot of color and add whitespace in a pretty beautiful way. I guess some people will say it’s just a bad or improper picture, but I disagree. I acknowledge how basic and wannabe it might seem as well. In a world of minimalism and bad photographers, there are few Michael Kenna’s.

Shot this from a moving car, it's ok
Shot this from a moving car, it’s ok

I make it to the south entrance with plenty of light still up. Pictures should be pretty good with this lighting. This next one is one of the first views I get of the canyon. The lighting really makes it a beautiful place.

Grand canyon
Grand canyon

It’s nice because it fades out a lot of the iconic Grand Canyon colors. I’m not looking to capture images that are already available. Just looking to mess around with whatever might be interesting to me.

It’s fun shooting into the sun. I love layered rock formations, and what they look like at various stages of lighting.

Ok, I can dig it
Ok, I can dig it

And here’s another one shot with a kind of disappointing cheap 55-200mm Sony stock zoom lens that I picked up used for $100. I figure the autofocus alone would have made it worth it at the price. But I guess it’s better to save the money for better glass.

Meh
Meh

Here’s another shot from a different location.

Do you wanna see my rocks?
Do you wanna see my rocks?

The canyon is beautiful. It’s worth going to, although there are some more beautiful views on this trip.

I swing down to Flagstaff for the night off of a recommendation and grab a brew at both The Annex Cocktail Lounge and Hops on Birch. It’s nice to be at a bar on Friday during peak hours and pay $3-$6 for whatever craft beer you wanted. Everything is so much cheaper (or more fairly priced) than back in nyc.

I retreat to the hotel and grab some sleep. I have a long drive tomorrow that I did not think I would be making any time soon. Train crossings can occasionally cause a delay.

Kids were throwing rocks at the train
Kids were throwing rocks at the train

Sat 05/26

Not being able to make it to Antelope Canyon really opened up the schedule. I had planned on spending all day at the Grand Canyon today, but after seeing a couple incredible vantage points during really beautiful lighting, I think I’m happy enough to move on.

The goal is to get out to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. It would truly be an unexpected and amazing experience if I can get out there on this trip. More on that later.

First up is Oljato-Monument Valley. It’s on the border of Arizona and Utah, and like with many things in this area, in and around the Navajo Nation.

Some more overexposing.

Meh part two
Meh part two

And some more point and clicking with some more typical colors.

Oh come on
Oh come on

And a classic wanderlust shot of the road of this area that you might have seen done a lot better someplace else.

Look at me, I'm roadtripping
Look at me, I’m roadtripping

Monument Valley is beautiful to drive through. But in this heat I’m not interested in poking around for any more hikes. I really want to get out to Mesa Verde.

And I do.

Mesa Verde National Park. I’m back in Colorado. One of my favorite places. Although this is south west Colorado. Seven hours from Denver or Phoenix. Six and a half from Salt Lake City. Eight forty from Vegas. Five from Albuquerque.

Unless you’re making an effort to get out here, or a random day opens up in your itinerary, I’m not sure you’re going to find it so easy to make it out here and back.

So why is Mesa Verde so special? You will see in a second. I remember I think a half dozen years ago seeing my first image of this park. When I saw it, I could not believe that this was in the States.

It seemed too old. Too foreign. Too beautiful. Too historic. Surely Google or where ever I saw the image was wrong. This couldn’t be in the US. This couldn’t be in Colorado. In some ways seeing that picture set me on a journey to see this place. To verify that is was in fact here.

The distance had always posed a logistical problem. Mesa Verde was something I wanted to see, but not directly go to. So the chance to make it out here in the middle of nowhere was a really awesome surprise.

The drive up the park is great. Like many of the parks out here it winds upwards and provides some gorgeous vistas. It’s important to look at green after you’ve been looking at red for so long.

Red to green
Red to green

And a better picture in black and white.

A bit better
A bit better

The burned trees create an ominous feeling as you get closer to one of the coolest things.

The history here is old. 7500 BC sort of old. Lots of different people have been in and out of the area since then. Some of the most notorious people in this area created some absolutely gorgeous cliff dwellings at the end of the 12th century.

Social and environmental instability and a series of droughts caused the area to be abandoned, with inhabitants moving to other local areas.

The story is a great one. The sight is something just as incredible. The place does exist. A place that to me looks and feels so foreign that it’s hard to accept it as American.

Sure, we do a terrible job at honoring Native Americans. The entire history of coming over and taking these lands was one of the true great tragedies of the world (there are many). But cave dwellings? Of this complexity and this beauty?

This is America
This is America

This is one of the coolest things that I never knew existed here. And I’m really happy I was able to make it out to see it.

I take some time to reflect on what I’ve experienced and swing out to Moab so that I’ll be ready to see Arches National Park in the morning.

There’s not a single room available in town for the night.

Looks like it might be a night in the car.

I head out to the Moab Brewery to grab a burger and a beer. The bartender asks if she can get anything else for me. I ask her if she knows of anywhere I can crash because there are no rooms available. She says she’ll check.

A girl to my right overhears. She’s done up a bit more than everyone else around here. Everyone else at the bar is in standard Western local/visiting national park casual clothing. She looks a little too good for this bar. Her makeup is done more than anyone else, and not in a bad way, it’s just that no one else is wearing as much.

We start talking. I work out in Times Square and live in Jersey City. She’s originally from Long Island. She’s down here from Salt Lake City, taking a break from work. She’s thinking about a transfer to Rutgers. She’s also roadtripping around for a week. This might be my only chance of not sleeping in the car.

Conversation goes well. She’s a brain surgeon. I think the brain is a frontier that we have not stepped very far into. I doubt we will ever be able to truly understand it. I ask her if she thinks we can ever fully understand it. She says probably within thirty or forty years. I appreciate the optimism.

We talk about science and art. I think science is a prerequisite of certain artistic exploration. I think art is a lot more important these days. Sure, it’s great to have the things that science can give to us. But if we didn’t have the beauty and inspiration of pictures or other art forms, I’m not sure if there would be much of a point.

Apparently there are no pain receptors in the brain. There are in the skull and the lining of the brain. But once you move passed that you are able to do as you wish and the patient will not feel pain.

When you’re operating on the brain trying to remove cancer, there’s a tradeoff to be made. You have to remove a large enough portion of the cancer, but there’s really not much of a distinction between the cancer and the brain. There’s no clear point of delineation. It overlaps and becomes a single object. If you remove too much the patient may not be able to function. If you don’t remove enough the cancer will still be there.

The way you operate is to first put the patient out, rip the skull open, and get to the brain. Then once this is done you wake the patient back up. Then begins a process of removing a bit of the cancer/brain, and asking the patient a series of questions. For example, you show them a picture of an umbrella and ask them what it is. You show them a simple math equation and ask them to solve it, etc. If they answer correctly and there is still more cancer left, then you slice off another piece and show the patient another card. You continue hopefully until the cancer is gone, but more often until the patient starts to fizzle out. They might struggle to tell you that the image in front of them is an apple. That’s when you stop. You can always remove the cancer. But can you leave behind a functional person? She says that’s an example of art in the science world. I’s probably agree.

Dinner wraps up. We say goodbyes. I ask if I can crash on her floor. She tells me she’s sleeping in her car tonight as well.

With that probably goes one of the better chances I have of not sleeping in the car. I retreat to the Camaro, drive over to a packed parking lot of a Super 8, pull the back seat down, and layout half in the trunk and half on the folded down row of backseats. I hope morning comes soon and I don’t get woken up by security or police.

Sun 05/27

Sleeping in a car is something I wondered if I would be doing on this trip. It was nice to go through a little character building experience, but to be honest I’m getting a little too old and bougie to continue enjoying such things. It’s great to be humbled, but it’s also great to sleep in a bed, and have a shower to start off your day.

The really good thing about this situation is that I wake up at about 5:15 AM. I swing out to a gas station to grab some food and drinks, use the bathroom, and brush my teeth. I wiped down my body the night before with one of those bath wipes that I picked up from REI. They are really amazing. One wipe is probably equivalent to 60-80% of a shower. To be able to have that in your pack is pure joy.

I hop back in the car and make the short trip into Arches. The sun is just coming up. The unfortune of not finding a room has allowed for some beautiful lighting, and an experience I would not have had if I would have woken up around 10 AM. There’s not even really any people in the park. It has worked out well.

Arches has some gorgeous red rock. It gives you those iconic Western scenes that you might expect.

Don't catch you slippin up
Don’t catch you slippin up

I take the hike out to Delicate Arch. It’s a nice little uphill hike. At the top there are some beautiful narrow paths along a cliff. Two steps to the left and all is over. The top near the arch has a beautiful view. It slopes downwards into a drop off. You have to be careful here.

I find a place on a rock and sit down in a crossed leg kind of basic yoga posture. Behind me is a sloping dropoff. In front of me and to my left is the arch, and to the right is a sloping dropoff. It looks like this.

Look what I'm whippin up
Look what I’m whippin up

I go through a sort of a flow. Sitting up straight. Lowering my shoulders. Relaxing my legs. Clearing out my mind. Palms up and open to whatever comes. I fade away from the people taking pictures.

It ends up being a great experience. I occasionally open my eyes and peak out to this beautiful view. There’s a bit of a strong wind that picks up. It almost feels like it can push me in either direction, down one of the slopes. At one point two tears well up and drip down my cheeks. I’m not so sure why. When you close your eyes and meditate the outcome is not so important. You don’t have to analyze and determine why. Just relax and let go. The takeaway for me is to just accept the good things in life.

After some time, I unwrap my legs. I come back to the beautiful world around me. Look around and soak up the view. And head back down the trail.

Tree
Tree

I get to the car and swing out to Devils Garden. There’s a longer seven-mile trail here, but I opt for one that’s an out and back that’s about two miles. It takes me out to Landscape Arch.

Yea
Yea

It’s a nice trail. Arches is a really cool park.

Flowers
Flowers

Since it’s so early I have enough time to make it out to Bryce Canyon National Park. As I’m leaving Arches there is a line of cars starting to form. I don’t mind driving during the blazing hot heat of the mid-day. Getting into parks earlier and later has provided some great lighting and has often meant low traffic.

The drives out here are sometimes as beautiful as the parks. There’s a rest area that comes up that I pull into to take a little nap. The Eagle Canyon rest area is just a pull off. The view from it is an example as to how beautiful and abundant the nature and scenery is out here. There might be ten people in the rest stop looking at this view.

Parking lot views
Parking lot views

I get to Bryce. It’s freezing here for some reason, so I grab my trusty down jacket and throw it on.

I make my way up and around the park. There are some good views of these orangish rock formations that extend upwards from the earth.

Bryce
Bryce

I end up taking some pictures for some couples at one of the overlooks. One couple is from San Fran but is looking to move out. One day they saw an unusual amount of NJ license plates in town. They made a decision that if the saw one more by the end of the day that they would move here. At the end of the night there was an NJ plate on a car blocking them from making a turn that they were trying to make. They played a game with fate, and hopefully they will follow through.

I rarely set up the tripod to take pictures of myself or have people take pictures of me. The couple asks if I want my picture taken and I say yes. It’s the only one I have from the trip. It’s not really framed all that well. Angling it down would have given a much better picture, but ho well. Hair is still growing and I have the beginnings of a travel beard going, yay.

Bryce with me
Bryce with me

After hanging in Bryce, I swing out to Las Vegas. The nature and the parks are going to be behind me. It was a fast sprint out to some amazing views. I really enjoyed the scenery and the hikes. Forgetting about the busy city life and connecting with myself and the world. But I’m ready for some busy city life.

I get to Vegas pretty early. It’s about 9 PM. There’s plenty of time to go do something fun. After the night in the car and the grind of the travel, I decide to just take it easy and grab some sleep in the hotel.

Mon 05/28 Las Vegas

I’m not completely certain I’ll be staying in Vegas for the night. I’ve been here before, and while it was fun, I don’t necessarily have to do it again. I’m not interested in the casinos, the shows, the strip clubs, the shops.

I want to look at art but I’m not sure I’ll be able to find too much out this way. I find out about a place called The Arts Center. It’s sitting in the middle of a cool area called the arts district that I would recommend poking around if you’re interested in something other than the expected Vegas experience.

It’s Memorial Day so I’m not sure if it’s going to be open but it is. About half of the artists are here. Bringing in pieces, setting things up. I talk to most of them and they are all very welcoming.

Photography of art can be a touchy subject. I don’t want to take any pictures of anyone’s work who isn’t there to allow me to. I personally think photography should always be allowed. Me taking pictures of your stuff and spreading the word just allows you a little bit more reach. Who really knows who’s going to come through here and potentially see your work from some art place out in New York City.

I take some pictures with permission. Mostly textures and colors.

Colors and textures
Colors and textures

This is a piece called Red Poppy Meadow by Raleigh French. He’s here hustling about the building.

This is a bad picture of a good painting
This is a bad picture of a good painting

And I get the okay to take a picture of a beautiful sink. It’s not an intentional art piece, but I think the mostly subconscious decisions that went into creating the colors and patterns that you see are beautiful. Good luck making something this beautiful with the conscious mind.

Mixed media
Mixed media

It was great looking at some of the pieces that I could get access to. It was awesome to be able to talk to the artists and pick up recommendations for what to do next. I figure this is the place to find out the right next direction. Although I’m not a local, I’m able to connect a bit from working in Times Square. There’s an understanding that I have with people from Vegas who understand the similar bizarro world that I live in. I leave behind a group of people putting in the work needed to build up a cool space and head out to check out more of the area. (also, what up Rob!)

Outside I start to hit my stride with pictures. I’m back looking at art and cityscapes. The inspiration to shoot is back in a way that was lacking in the parks. The parks were meant to be explored and enjoyed, not really photographed by me. But give me some art or give me a city and let me poke around.

Cadillac looking pretty dope.

Back on my grind
Back on my grind

And although this next picture might not look like anything special, the key is in the holes that run along the bottom third of the picture. It’s not great, but it’s not as bad as you think it is.

Some good things going on here
Some good things going on here

I love some of the muted tones and colors that are out here. I think this picture is awesome. I love the mix of textures and materials and patterns and colors.

I feel it's fadin
I feel it’s fadin

I swing over to Makers & Finders Coffee off of recommendation. It’s a great place to pick up a cup. They’ll make the coffee however you want. I end up getting a cup of drip. It’s nice not drinking pretentious coffee.

A girl to my left sees my camera and asks what I’ve been taking pictures of. People out this way seem to just talk to you. In nyc people generally leave you alone. Out this way people see you and get to chatting.

She’s originally from Philadelphia. She writes a lot on paper. She’s reevaluating and figuring things out. She used to take a lot of pictures, but she doesn’t any more. She, along with many other people, have recommended container park.

We finish our cups of coffee after a while. I ask if she wants to hang but she says she has errands to run. It’s strange. You can have really good conversation with people here and they don’t want anything to do with you. Just a chat and keep it moving. Who chooses to run errands on Memorial Day? Not me.

We part ways and I swing into some of the antique shops. Antique shops are actually pretty cool. You can find some really awesome quality things at very reasonable prices. For example, you can pick up some sick cups or glasses for the same price as you would pay for some lame stuff from a store. It’s fun strolling around. It reminds me of my childhood hunting around the shops with my pops looking for those hidden gems.

Stuff: the series that should be
Stuff: the series that should be

I also swing into Las Vegas Oddities. It’s a store that has all kinds of strange and cool things. It provides for some decent pictures.

Legs for days
Legs for days

Some of the stuff in here is rather wild.

Roar
Roar

Afterwards I swing out to container park.

Don’t swing out to container park.

I heard is was a bunch of shipping containers that have been converted into food trucks and little art shops and things like that. Sounds like a really cool place. But when you get there it’s been super commercialized and it’s targeted towards kids. It feels like Disney or something like that.

I swing out to check out Fremont street off of recommendation. I’m not sure if I missed it but I didn’t see anything particularly interesting out this way.

I swing over to Atomic Liquors. I was out here the last time I was in Vegas. I’m hoping to catch the Warriors vs Rockets game 7, but the only thing on is the Vegas Golden Knights Stanley cup game 1. It’s being played live down the street and there’s a bit of a buzz around the city for the game. Cheapest tickets to get in were $700. They end up winning the game. The bartenders pour out a couple complimentary shots throughout the game for the entire bar for anyone watching the game. The shots pair well with a glass of KBS.

After the games I book a hotel. I just want something to drop my stuff off. Somewhere in the downtown. I’m not feeling the strip this trip. I thought I might swing over to it and mess around with pictures. But I’ve rather enjoyed the time I’ve spent keeping it lowkey in Vegas.

My hotel ends up being a casino with a brewery. I wasn’t planning on betting but if I found myself at a roulette table I’d put a $100 on black. I’ve done this two or three times before. I’ve never won. I usually watch the wheel and wait until red shows up, and then I’ll bet the next spin. This time I don’t wait. There’s no reason to. If you’re going to throw your money away you may as well get it over with. The wheel spins. The ball is rolled. It ends up on black. That just paid for my entire day here in Vegas (the hotel was only $50). It’s the first time I’ve hit. We’ll see what happens the next time.

I go step outside to grab a picture of some lights in the Vegas night. It’s kind of obligatory to get a picture, and the lack of lighting out this way forces me to take a picture that I rather prefer to some of the other lit up Vegas shots you are accustomed to seeing.

All of the lights
All of the lights

I grab a burger and a beer and retreat to the hotel to pack up for the return home. The 22 liter and the small camera bag pack with ease.

Tue 05/29

I hop in the car one last time.

Back to the rental car drop off.

Back on the plane.

The flight is mostly uneventful. I spend the majority of it going through and editing all of these pictures.

It’s a mostly full flight minus the seat next to me. It was nice to have a little extra room.

The one thing that was cool to see on the flight was the Grand Canyon.

From the ground I think it is just ok. You can get a feeling for its size and stature.

But from this high up you really see how amazing it is. It’s enormous. And beautiful. And this is the way to see it.

This is really crazy
This is really crazy

So that’s about it. It was great to swing into this pocket of the country that I have been close to, but haven’t exactly gotten to.

The nature was phenomenal all over.

Vegas provided another couple beautiful gems off of the strip.

It’s nice to have a break from the concrete jungle.

But it’s also nice to be back.

Jersey City feels like my home now for sure.

And New York City still is just as captivating as when I left it.

Walk by Myself: West Coast Road Trip Summary

So this writeup has been a long time in the making. A lot has happened since this trip that has made looking through this footage a long and difficult process. I kind of haven’t hated doing anything more than this video. It’s been emotionally draining looking through this footage day after day and reliving painful memories over and over again. I guess traveling can be painful when you lose your travel partner. Hopefully the end video gives some sort of justice to situation. I made it the best I could.

In addition to dealing with the whole emotional journey of the break up, I decided to record my own song for this video. Getting the recording equipment, learning recording software, writing music, and mixing it all together has been a process that has taken some time.

I was able to finally make my way through the footage and write a song that I was happy with. It was certainly not the video I had planned to make when I was shooting this trip. But I think there was enough footage that I was able to present a story that ultimately is true to where I was, where I am, and where I will be going. It’s kind of interesting to go through footage that you thought would look so much like one thing, and piece it together to look like something else. I guess my world was ripped apart and I had to pick up the pieces of this footage to tell a different story than I had anticipated.

Outside of the video, here is the rest of the standard road trip conclusion notes. It would be difficult to bother writing this up had I not had the majority of it completed.

First question I generally get asked is what was my favorite place. I can try to overgeneralize this answer but if you are really interested it’s probably best you read through the write ups from the trip.

The most beautiful single view was of Peyto Lake in Banff. A picture I took on this trip of Peyto Lake scored me over 200,000 views, which is my most viewed photograph ever. I think this is the second most beautiful nature view I have seen outside of the view at the top of the hike of Preikestolen in Norway.

My favorite park was Yellowstone. Cliche, I know. There’s a reason why this is the first national park in the world. This park is perfect. It doesn’t have the over the top views like you may see elsewhere in the world, but it is the most well rounded park I have been to. It has great landmarks. It has amazing animals. Diverse terrain. It’s huge. The layout is just right.

The most surprising nature moment was walking the Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail in the Redwood National and State Parks. The sun was setting and based on recommendation from the park rangers we took this hike. The 1.4-mile trail is short and easy and gives you a great view of the Redwoods. On this specific day there were low lying clouds that floated among the tops of the trees. You’re walking on this trail with your head craned upwards, staring at these enormous trees that extend into the heavens. The beauty of this place was unexpected and we caught it with some amazing circumstances. Sometimes on the trip you will have some spots that are worse than you imagined and sometimes you get some unexpected gems that stir your soul.

Crater Lake was solid. It’s a great park because you can drive right up to some amazing views, and there are a bunch of great trails that you can take. If you don’t know about Crater Lake I’d recommend giving it a look. It’s a huge gorgeous lake inside of a volcano.

As far as the cities I have to say San Francisco was my favorite. San Fran offers a lot. There’s a great touristy waterfront. It has its iconic spots. The food and drink is class. There are many diverse areas to hang out in. And not that it matters too much, but the residential and business sections for locals seem pretty cool as well.

The biggest surprise city for me was definitely Vegas. There’s the new Vegas, the old Vegas, and then the Vegas suburbs. The new Vegas is fancy. The old Vegas is gritty. The suburbs are awesomely authentic and nothing like the rest of Vegas. I recommend checking out all three of those places.

Seattle was a better time than I thought it would be. It’s definitely worth spending a day at the market and the Chihuly Museum.

Portland is a must stop but it was frustrating. Everything was spread out all over that city. It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, probably because it’s so hyped, but it’s still a great city. Once you figure out how to navigate its quirks I imagine it would be a top spot.

You probably don’t have to go to Salt Lake, but I didn’t explore there much. Just grabbed Thai food and made plans to go to Vegas.

Another question that I get asked is how much it cost. I have again summarized the costs so that you can see how much a trip like this might be, and where the individual costs are coming from. I am sure there are some costs that I have overlooked but it is not necessary to give exact costs. One of the flights was paid for with credit card miles so it’s not included here. The costs are for two people and they are divided per person in the following chart. More or less travelers would affect these numbers in predictable ways. Everyone planning a trip will have to pay a little more for certain things but also a little less for certain things. Travel offers an infinite amount of options and ways to customize your trip so that it works for you.

West Coast Road Trip
West Coast Road Trip

As always this cost is just an example of this one specific trip. You can probably do the same trip for $700 or $70,000. Along the trip there were a lot of travelers who were simply hitchhiking their way across the country, spending their nights where they ended up, and eating simply. There were also plenty of travelers paying thousands of dollars for meals and expensive alcohols and driving fancy cars and shopping at expensive stores. Use this chart to give yourself an idea and feel free to move the numbers up or down to suit your trip. For example, we ate whatever we wanted and stayed at nice places. Just these two costs alone came out to about $5,000 or two-thirds of the total cost of the trip. If you eat and sleep cheaper then you can quickly cut off a bunch of the costs.

Normally this is where I would probably give some advice on the trip or talk about takeaways. I kind of can’t do that so easily since it has been so long since the trip. And with the changes to my life my memories will be recalled differently and my emotional response to certain events will be different. I had an awesome time on this road trip and an awesome time traveling this metaphoric road with my favorite travel buddy. I have had the best of times and have many great memories. Surely this isn’t the end of the road that we wanted, but we certainly never thought we would venture off on such a great trip at the start of it all.

Unfortunately I kind of arrived at a path that I did not want to go down. In life there are many important themes and ideals that you strive for. How important is love? How important is happiness? Which is more important than the other? What about comfort, success, family, work, friends, money, innovation, philanthropy, social impact, education, music, experiences, etc.? Everyone has different weights associated with all of these different topics. Maybe family is more important to you than money. Maybe success is more important than happiness. Maybe the opposite is true, etc. What is right for you is different than what is right for other people, and that is fine. For myself I guess I value truth very highly. I can’t imagine anything being more important than the truth. I arrived at a road where I had to choose truth over something that was also very important to me. I had to choose truth over love.

This whole topic of travel and truth and love reminds me of one of my favorite poems and I will end this post here. Its words have always resonated with me and it cannot be more appropriate at the moment. It is a poem called “The Wayfarer” written over a century ago by fellow Asbury Park local Stephen Crane.

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”

I wish you courage in your travels,
Joe

Typical Yellowstone

Road trip 4: Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California

All good things must come to an end. And for this trip, the end is sadly here. It’s been a wonderful time traveling around. Have definitely had a busy return from Canada. Since then I had my picture of Peyto Lake viewed by over 200,000 people. It is now the most viewed picture that I have ever taken, and I think it’s one of my better shots. Peyto Lake. Shout out to reddit.

2-Sep Glacier, MT

Coming off the previous two days of Jasper and Banff, Glacier was the next national park. I actually ended up grabbing a yearly pass for the national parks at Glacier because I would be visiting so many that it was cheaper that way. I never could justify buying a national park yearly pass in the past but with this trip it made sense.

Our trip to Glacier was a fortunate one. As we pulled up to our place to stay the night before we smelled and saw the haze of smoke in the air. Upon checking in the lady told us about how there were recent fires and they only just opened up the highway that we drove in on.

The fires led to the closure of the Going-to-the-Sun Road which drives from East Glacier to west Glacier and is really the core road you take to visit Glacier’s beautiful views and destinations. Luckily for us the road had reopened and we were able to take the drive.

The drive leads to stunning views such as the following.

Driving through Glacier
Driving through Glacier

Here’s a picture of Lake McDonald just outside of the Lake McDonald Lodge where we stopped for a quick bite.

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park

After driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road and stopping at a few places to walk around we headed off for the trip to Yellowstone. We stopped for dinner at Casagranda’s Steakhouse in Butte, Montana. With the amount of cattle out here it was pretty necessary that I had a local free range ribeye at some point.

Local free range ribeye
Local free range ribeye

After dinner we finished off the drive to West Yellowstone without any problems.

3-Sep Yellowstone, WY

I’ve been looking forward to coming to Yellowstone for a long time. It’s a place you hear about all the time and wonder if it can live up to the hype. Overall, Yellowstone was the most complete day of nature that I had on the trip. It’s beautiful from the moment you enter. Everything about the park feels right. Everything seems in place. The wildlife is incredible. The views are great. Here’s an example of a typical Yellowstone scene. Bison are abundant and can be seen throughout the park at many portions of the park. We saw them at many ten different locations, sometimes as close as a few feet away.

Typical Yellowstone
Typical Yellowstone

And here’s a zoomed up shot because these guys are awesome. I really hoped to see bison on the trip but didn’t think it would be as easy as it is in Yellowstone. At times the bison blend into the background and look and act like large rocks. They have an ancient presence and aura amongst themselves.

The great bison
The great bison

The geysers and hot springs are spread throughout the park. They give the park an otherworldly sort of vibe. The hot springs seem like something from another planet. Old Faithful went off just as we were walking up to it which was perfect timing.

Old Faithful
Old Faithful

There are many great views of the park. This is Artist Point.

Yellow stone in Yellowstone
Yellow stone in Yellowstone

Another very different looking spot in Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Springs. The hot springs on this occasion were home to a silly elk that felt like hanging around and posing for pictures.

King of the castle
King of the castle

You have to be careful driving in Yellowstone as there is so much wildlife that it often overflows into the roads. Here are some sheep.

Jaywalkers
Jaywalkers

After finishing both loops we tried to make it in time to check out the Grand Tetons but it was dark and another storm was rolling in. We headed down to Jackson to spend the night, and decided to leave Grand Teton for another trip.

4-Sep Salt Lake City, UT & Las Vegas, NV

We grabbed a coffee in Jackson and got on our way. We were debating spending time in Jackson before heading to Salt Lake City but the vibe of the city through me off. Some people seemed really nice but some people seemed really annoying. Like the guy who couldn’t pay for two coffees because he couldn’t find a card other than his American Express. Of course you can’t use American Express. You can’t use that card anywhere. I almost wanted to just pay his tab so that I could get to my espresso sooner but he eventually found some other card to pay for it. Or maybe I was annoyed by the girl who asked what a cold pressed coffee was, and after the barista told her she asked if she could have a half cold press and half drip coffee. Nooo. That’s not how it works. The barista said she couldn’t do that and eventually she ordered a drip coffee. Who knows what it was but we got out of Jackson and headed out to Salt Lake City.

We got to Salt Lake City and Summer Jam was going down. The Game and some other artists were performing. We talked about going but passed in favor of some Thai food. While eating we decided to head out of Salt Lake instead of spend time trying to find something to do. Our next stop was Las Vegas so we decided to zoom out of Salt Lake and make the drive out to Las Vegas and spend the night out.

We got into Vegas around 12:30 AM, just after midnight thanks to the time change. We took turns trying to nap in the car so that we would be ready to hang out in Vegas. Those couple hours were the only driving I didn’t do on the trip. It worked well enough. We checked into the Venetian thanks to a sweet deal from Hotwire which was an awesome stay.

Don’t really have many pictures from our time in Vegas because I didn’t want to carry a camera on me but here’s a pretty lousy shot of one of the halls we had to walk through to get to our suite.

Our hotel
Our hotel

We spend the night playing some roulette. Started to lose a couple bucks but fought our way back to make over 150% after tipping the cocktail waitresses and the dealers a bunch of our winnings. We walked the strip a little but mostly hung at the Venetian as it is one of the best casinos in the area.

5-Sep Las Vegas, NV

We got back to the hotel at 6:30 in the morning, but with a late check in were able to get plenty of sleep. We decided to spend the next day in Vegas over some southern food. Deviled eggs, biscuits, fried chicken, and grits.

Don't have too many shots of Vegas
Don’t have too many shots of Vegas

After fueling up we strolled the strip. We went in and out of shops. There was this one shop called Bauman Rare Books that had some sweet copies of some rare older books. I asked if they had any first edition Tolkien but they did not. The lady said they occasionally get them and they sell for $20,000 to $70,000 for copies of the Hobbit or the full Trilogy. I remember looking at these not too long ago and they weren’t that expensive but Tolkien is hot right now.

We went to the Bellagio and saw the water fountain show. There’s an Eiffel Tower in Vegas. Just like the faux works at the Venetian, the faux Eiffel Tower really makes you appreciate the real things. Vegas makes a good attempt but these works look cheap in comparison.

Fountains of Bellagio
Fountains of Bellagio

We decided to check out of the Venetian and head to the old strip. Everyone we talked to who visited or lived in Vegas told us we had to check out both the new strip and the old strip. So from the Venetian to the Golden Nugget we went.

We walked the old strip for a minute in search of food. In a sea of cheap looking buffets we stumbled upon Carson Kitchen, and with it, an entirely different Las Vegas. Carson Kitchen is an awesome local eatery with both inside seating and rooftop. It’s an example of what people are trying to do in the city. It’s an attempt to go from the flashy lights to a more subtle and authentic experience. The people working at that place all believe in what they are doing and we had a great meal there.

On recommendation from someone at Carson we headed to Atomic Liquors to grab a drink. It’s a dive bar with a hipster vibe three blocks off of the old Vegas strip. The flashy lights are there, but the locals are there talking about the various things they are doing to build the new Vegas.

We eventually made our way back to the old strip and back to the Golden Nugget. The differences between old Vegas and new Vegas are pretty apparent. Different people. Different vibes. Both worth experiencing. It’s flashy vs. gritty. Regardless, the money is won and lost in the same way. After a whole bunch of spins of the roulette wheel we end up calling it a night. It was around 3 in the morning and we had another drive in the morning.

6-Sep Death Valley, CA

In the drive from Vegas to Yosemite we didn’t have any destination picked out. We decided to head out to Death Valley. First we rolled back through the area near Carson Kitchen and grabbed some brunch at a place called Eat. It’s another local restaurant that has that authentic vibe that the area seems to be building on. Food is on point and the house coffee is even pretty awesome.

After fueling up went from one desert to another even more serious desert. Here’s a view of the valley from the peak at Dante’s View.

Death Valley
Death Valley

The drive around the valley looks otherworldly. The temperature seems that way too. At the hottest the thermometer in the car read 106 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature shifts around so quickly depending on exactly where you are. The high for the rest of the week was 115-117. Nights dip back down into the 70s here. I couldn’t imagine too many things living here but saw a pack of about four coyotes. No picture as I was driving but they seem like really cool animals.

7-Sep Yosemite, CA

Yosemite is the final stop of the trip. We wake up to the smell of smoke. Fires are back in the area. The haze from the smoke covers the whole air. The smoke definitely obscured the views of Yosemite but the visit was still beautiful. The park was packed for the Labor Day holiday.

The drive through the park is pretty subdued compared to some of the other parks that we saw but there is some wildlife around. We saw another bear. Apparently they are something to watch out for. This one pretty carelessly crossed the road a little while in front of us.

Bear
Bear

The drive through the park leads you to the valley. The iconic walls of the cliffs out here are gorgeous. Although the layout of the park is a little weird (they advise you to park in the Village and take busses around), you can still see some pretty awesome views.

Yosemite
Yosemite

There were some mule deer in the area.

Deer
Deer

8-Sep Fly back from San Francisco

So that’s about it. Have to be up in about an hour to head to the airport to head home. The trip has been both very fast in that we are leaving for home soon but very slow in that some of these memories seem so long ago. The trip was awesome. We stuck mostly to a pretty rigorous schedule and saw and experienced some of the greatest things this country has to offer. It’s a trip that I will draw inspiration and experience from for the rest of my life. I look forward to spending some time reflecting on the trip and getting back home to see everyone.

In case the beers get lost or break in transit, here’s what I’m attempting to bring home.

Hope these don't break
Hope these don’t break

Will get a final write up done when I’m unpacked and settled back home.

Cheers,
Joe