The Road Home... by deanna szuter

I drove hard to Little Rock, Arkansas and spent the night at Matteo's house.  He was performing that night, and I failed to muster enough energy to see it.  Instead, we talked for about 15min, and he left.. and I crashed in the van.  
Fortunately I get up around the time he goes to bed, so we got to spend about an hour talking while I woke up for the drive ahead.
I was suppose to drive on to Bloomington, Indiana to see my friend Hallen, who was also with the band/sarasota crew... but work had him come in on what was suppose to be his day off.  
Luckily, there is more than one road home, so I altered the route to take me to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.  Nice campsite, clean facilities, and lots of free firewood.
The next morning I was to hit the caves, but when I got up, it was raining heavily.. and just didn't want to deal with the whole tourist experience in those condition.  Maybe I was a bit leery of being subterranean with rain washing thru?   Yes, that had something to do with it.
I made it back to Canton safe and sound.  I already miss the road.  
Next trip.. GERMANY!

Austin by deanna szuter

The drive to Austin was pretty fast, considering it's about 8 hours.  2 of which Jerimiah drove.  That was a luxury moment.. riding shotgun in the Cherryacht.  Dropped of Jerimiah at his house, and made it to Cliff and Tali's place.  It was good just to chill the heck out.

My second day in Austin.  Damn glad to be back.  I'm only here because of the Cherryacht, and a dresser left behind years ago.  Here to get the dresser and chill.  I'm already chilled, so that leaves the dresser.  Purchasing a bed (head/foot boards, and rails) was also on my list of shit to do.  I wanted to get a Mexican style bed, and that's what I did.  Been eating tacos, went to the new Alamo Drafthouse at the old Mueller Airport location.  The place is amazing.  Life would be better if an Alamo opened in Ohio.  I know I could be the one to facilitate that, but restaurants aren't my game.  
Got to spend an evening with my Texas Mom.. Dr. Karen Artzt.  She broke a femur while on a cruise ship, so we ordered in, and just talked.  She demands my company in Bar Harbor this summer, where she has a house on the water.  
Finally, hooked up with friends at the ranch.  Sat around a fire, talked, laughed, and shared.  It was a good evening.
I didn't eat all the BBQ in town.  As a matter of fact, I didn't have ANY.  I didn't even go downtown, other than to Karen's place.  It was an unusual visit.  I was in my happy place, and I wasn't scrambling to do all the happy things I love to do while there. 
I think I'm over Austin. 
Didn't think I'd ever say that.
My town is changing fast.  I don't think it would be close to the same place if I tried to move back there in 10 years...  
 

Panhandle to Mobile, and New Orleans by deanna szuter

After leaving Sarasota, I made my way North along the coast.  While talking on the cell phone with Mom, I saw an exit for Gibsonton.  That's the winter home of most Carnies and Side Show performers! Of course I took that exit, and found a Carnie Museum. SCORE!  Many photos were taken, and you can see them here.

Farther up the coast into the bend of the Panhandle, I stayed the night at the Holiday RV Park and Campsite for one night to break up the drive to New Orleans pretty much in half.  Called ahead, made a reservation, and was given instructions on how to deal with check in after hours.  The camp host forgot to leave instructions, and was left with a groundskeeper who put me in a spot next to a mobile home that happened to have a herd of cats living under it.. mowing and screaming all night. 
The camp host also forgot that he said he'd be available to check me out by 8am.. and wasn't there when I left at 8:30.
On I went, deeper into Florida Swamp country than I've ever been before.  I noticed, while driving along, that the jungle on either side of the road was sort of cut off at that line about 20ft off the roadside.  Perpetual wall of jungle.  I imagine if it were neglected for a year, the jungle would swallow up the road.. and it would take to much longer for the area to be forgotten.  

I arrived at the RV Park in the French Quarter on Sunday around 5pm.  Jerimiah would be arriving about an hour later.  The first order of business was doing laundry, and getting a bite to eat at Mr. B's Bistro for dinner.  I love their Pear Cosmo, and Bacon Wrapped shrimp on a bed of the most creamy BBQ Shrimp.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.
Jerimiah had never been to New Orleans before, so there was a lot for him to see.  I warned him before he left Austin, that NOLA was not a place to be "a mark".  Not the town to be wandering around in off your guard.  Drunks are targets.  Anything easily taken, has already been taken. 
It wasn't until we left the RV Resort, and made the first turn to head to the Quarter, that Jerimiah saw what was actually going on around him.  He then admitted he sort of blew off my warning about the city.. but now says, "I get it.. seriously.. I had no idea."  Good.  
The second day was spent in some of the largest Cemeteries in New Orleans.  Spent about 4 hours shooting.  Saw things I've never seen before, including the Memorials below. 
Iron gates, zydeco, skinny tall doors, the smell of urine, loud revelers, trash, and slow walking bums.  All of it... I took it all in. 
My 5th time to New Orleans, and it didn't disappoint.  While waiting for Jerimiah to capture the things he was seeing in the cemetery, I noticed I wasn't shooting.  I had already shot these things a few times over...  and at that moment I decided I was done with New Orleans.  At least for the next 5 years or so. Other things to see.
 

Savannah, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota by deanna szuter

After leaving the cozy home of Warner and Reb in Atlanta, I made my way to Savannah.  Drove to the state park I intended on staying at, but.. unbeknownst to me, St. Paddy's Day is a HUGE deal in Savannah.  All lodging was booked up for days.  The helpful Ranger gave me 4 numbers and said, "These are a bit far out, but these are your best bets."  Another state park 40 miles out had one.. just one space left for that night.  Not the next.  I took it.  Then I called to get a spot for the next night.  An RV Park 30 miles in the opposite direction of Savannah had one spot.. so I took that.  Great.  Lodging scattered, but had.  Off to the Cemeteries.  
Fantastic subjects in the Bonaventure.  Bonaventure was the more wealthy cemetery, and had a lot of statue work I had not seen before.   I spent the better part of my first day in Savannah on those grounds.  Ft. McAllister State Park is where I spent the night.  Fine accommodations.. short stay.   
The next morning I hit the Laurel Cemeteries.  Both Laurel Cemeteries, North and South were more modest, with the South location being dedicated to Blacks, and North dedicated to Lower and Middle Class Whites.   I was having a horrible "spine day" and drove thru only. No reason.. just woke up that way. Being that there were no ornate statues or structures, I was able to just cruise the grounds while waiting for the pain killers to take effect. 
My second day parking spot was at the River's End RV Park and Campgrounds.  Crowded, well staffed, very clean.  When I arrived and took my spot, I hit the bed and slept for a few hours.  The pain was enough to make me think about abandoning the trip.  From here on out, the further I go, the farther from home I get.  I chewed more muscle relaxers, vicodine, and Ibuprofen... slept the night away, and woke up feeling like nothing had happened the day before.  See all the Savannah Cemetery Photos here.
And off to St. Pete to live the Dali Museum.  It was everything I hoped it would be, with the exception of the throngs of visitors.  Frida Kahlo exhibit was also featured there.. so BONUS.  Two of my favorite painters in one day.  Happiness.
Then, a bee line to see friends in Sarasota.  Always good to see old friends. 
My campsite for the night was at the Myakka State Park.  It would be good to go back there sometime...  Trails, canopy walks, and nice sites.  Interesting people. 
I camped next to Van that was all tricked out with spot lights, bars of lights down the sides, a satellite and other gadgetry on the roof along with solar panels.  Looked like the van from the movie "Troll Hunter" (if you haven't seen it, see it) and made me wonder what they might be hunting.  Gators?  Maybe.
A Man and Woman returned to the van.  When they saw me, they said they really liked my van. I then told them I was admiring all the DIY going on with their van, and asked what all the lights were for.  "Wildlife Photography", said the woman, and she wandered off to the other side of the van to do something.  The Man gave me the run down on the van, specs on the solar panels,  lights, etc.  By this time, the Woman walked down the dirt road toward the latrines.  The Man sort of kicked the dirt in front of him, acting coy, and then said, "My Wife doesn't like me to tell many people...  but... we actually are Big Foot Hunters."
I KNEW THERE WAS MORE TO THAT VAN than photographing birds and gators.  LOL!  
FYI: Big Feet living in the swamps are much more gentle than their North Western cousins who are known to be more aggressive.  Who knew?
Off to see friends, and catch up.  Had a great time at Pat and Karine's place.. got to see Joe for the bonus round.  
The next day in Sarasota, I experienced the Ringling grounds, museums, and history.  The larger "main" museum was full of wonderful works from all over the world, with many I had seen in books, and had no idea that they were housed here.  Just a great day of roaming around the Ringling Estate. You can see all those photos here.
That evening was spent with the rest of the boys.. Clayton, and Frank.  We then went to a club to see Joe play, and he was unaware that Clayton was in town.  The look on his face when he saw Clayton was worth the price of admission. (it was free)
Haven't seen those men in about 30 years, and it was a damn pleasure to have the chance to hang with them all again.

Atlanta by deanna szuter

Yesterday getting from Old Car City to Atlanta was, what I believe to be, a death defying trick.  There were several fender benders pulled off to the left, and one on the right.  This created bumper to bumper traffic.  I was hunkered down in the center lane behind an 18 wheeler and right then decided I could take all day to get to Warner's house.. not in a hurry at all.
 Looking in the rear view mirror, I could see that all of the big trucks were also in the middle lane, so I knew I was in the right place.  
Traffic would come to a stand still, then start to creep.  Right lane, and left lane loosen up a bit with the middle still creeping.  Right and left lane start hauling ass and a moment later you see dozens of tail lights, cars slamming on breaks, cars surging to a stop with bumpers inches apart. And not just once. But at least a dozen times over 30 miles.  
Once in the neighborhoods, things chilled out a bunch.  Some of the areas around Atlanta reminded me of Austin, and Boulder with the Cottages or Doll Houses everywhere.  Little eclectic neighborhood pockets.
My friend Warner and His Wife Reb drove me around for most of the day checking out all the graffiti and murals. Gorgeous stuff out there, and we may have seen half of it?   It's very inspiring, and after being in an area without such an abundant creative pulse, it was energizing. I get the same feeling when I'm in Austin, or Ft. Collins...  
See all the images here.

My second day in Atlanta I spent the morning sorting and editing images from Old Car City, and from the day of wall art.  Once I was up to speed, I headed out to the Atlanta Aquarium.  It's a bit spendy... so Warner and His wife declined to go.  They'd already been there and done that, and I was happy to check it all out at my own pace.  
It was very crowded, and there was a 15 min wait in line to enter.  
It's hypnotic.  Impressive.  Beautiful.  The Whale Shark tank is the thing to experience.  
You can see all the images here.
 

Georgia on my mind... by deanna szuter

Yesterday I drove 5.5 hours from Canton, OH to a micro RV park in Virginia called "Interstate Campgrounds".  It is best described as a Apartment complex with a courtyard, and that courtyard holds 8-10 RVs.  Off season, so the pool was not open.  It also meant the bathrooms were not open. Luckily I just bought a portable toilet for the van.  LOL..  *sigh*  But, for $20, I got electric hookup, and for the 15F night, I kept warm with an extension cord and space heater.  This is truely "Glamping" in terms of what I am used to. 
Today I drove 4.5 hours from there, to OLD CAR CITY, in White, Georgia.   Old Car City is a defunct salvage yard that is now a glorious tourist trap.   I'm glad I've been in yards before, because this would have been far too overwhelming on a first time shoot.  There were many cars I was familiar with, and have photographed many times, but, there were so many in tact emblems and hood ornaments on those cars that I have never seen before.  
The owner is probably in his mid 60s, spoke with a long Southern drawl, and dressed very casual in jeans and a T-shirt.  He had decided years ago he'd make more money charging admission to the yard, than he would parting the stuff out..thus, tourist trap.  
The main garage/office, I think, tries too hard to be junk eclectic. It's full of all sorts of things from Old Pinball Machines, random framed thrift store art, etc..  More junk than curiosities, but still worth the browse around inside.
Here are some thumbnails of my favorite shots from the day. You can see all the photos here.

It's almost time... by deanna szuter

The van is loaded.  Only thing that is missing from the manifest is my clothing, and myself.  I depart in a couple days now with predictions of my overnight destination reaching a low temp of 15f.  I am prepared.  
Until my tires kiss the tar on the highway...

2017 Road Trip of the South by deanna szuter

3 weeks from now I will hit the highway to a region of the USA I haven't been to since my early 20s.  It's not a vacation.  It's a roving photo field trip. Also notable: I've been "building" my van and specifically in time for this trip, I'll be utilizing my new screen doors and pull out bed for the first time.  
Planned stops: 

  • Old Car City: Non functioning Auto Salvage Yard
  • Atlanta: Doll's Head Trail, visiting friends
  • Savannah: Laurel Grove Cemetery, Wormsloe Park, Skidaway Park, Jepson Center, Paris Market
  • St. Petersburg: Salvador Dali Museum
  • Sarasota: Circus related things and friends
  • Gibsonton: Circus related things
  • New Orleans: Cemeteries, Architecture, picking up a friend who will ride from Nola to Austin.
  • Austin: Friends, Tacos, Rodeo, BBQ
  • Make my way back home...

The only time I'll be driving "hard" will be from Savannah to St. Pete so I can have ample time to explore the Dali Museum, but the rest of the trip will allow for random exploration.