Lee & Bobbi’s Wicked Pissah Adventure

My Cross Country Trip to New England

As many of you already know, I have re-located from sunny Southern California to snowy New England to be with the love of my life, Bobbi Lane! This past November we embarked on a grand adventure driving across country in my Technopod RV, now dubbed “Priscilla,” taking all my belongings to Bridgewater, MA, just south of Boston. Along the way we stopped and visited with my family and our friends. So… in this, my first blog post of the year, I tell the story of our travels:

Farewell to LA –

I have had a lot of mixed feelings about leaving Los Angeles, my home for all of my adult life! I had been telling myself for years that I really wanted to “get out of Dodge,” leave the traffic, and general congestion behind. However, Los Angeles was literally the place I grew up, had a career, and it is the place where most of my friends and family live. I had several “going away” parties, and I was sad to see so many friends who would no longer be available at a moments notice, once I had moved. I had even grown found of recent acquaintances at the RV park where I spent most of the last year in preparation for my move.

Balboa RV Park

The Balboa RV park in Van Nuys wjere I spent the last several months before moving.

The last photo I took in Los Angeles was with my iPhone when I went downtown to have a farewell dinner with Julia Dean and Brandon Gannon of the Los Angeles Center of Photography – I walked around the neighborhood and snapped this shot of the Los Angeles Theater:

Los Angeles Theater

The Los Angeles Theater – one of the classic old movie theaters in downtown.

A new chapter in my life was about to open. I was excited, and frankly, a little scared! I was going to be moving across country to unfamiliar territory, moving in with a new woman, meeting many new people, and dealing with a whole slew of unanticipated problems. But first, the trip itself was going to be a real adventure traveling through areas of the country that I had never been. I was ready however, and Bobbi flew out to join me so I was not doing it alone!

First stop – Zion National Park

Watchman campground

Watchman campground at Zion National Park in Utah

I have been to Zion several times, but Bobbi has not, so I decided to go into full support mode which was to set a precedent for the whole trip. I did not take as many photos as I normally would because I was more concerned that Bobbi have a good time – I did all the driving and handled logistics for the park visit. We arrived in the late afternoon as the sun was going down, and it was cold! Not much snow on the ground, but very cold none the less – mid teens at night! The only thing we had to warm up the RV was a small electric heater…

My little electric heater

My little electric heater

This littler heater would be important many times during the trip. My propane heater did not work, and in fact, I had to disconnect the propane entirely when my propane line dropped on the freeway leaving LA. We expected that once we got to the southern states we would have an easier time with the temperatures – this was not the case however, so the early cold was a harbinger of things to come!

outside Priscilla

Cold in Zion – outside Priscilla

Zion is very majestic and I brought along my little GoPro to capture a sense of it in video from the vantage point of the hood of the RV.

Sometimes though, you can discover a whole world by looking down – this satellite-like image was taken on a walk along the river:

River close-up

Looking down reveals a world unto itself, with intense color contrast between the red rocks, blue sky reflected in the water, and green moss!

My best scenic shot was taken from the same walk, catching the reflection of the canyons in the river:

Scenic reflection

Scenic reflections

We spent two days in Zion and left early in the morning to begin the next leg of our trip, but not before snagging a few more shots:

Majestic Peaks

The majestic peaks of Zion just behind the visitors center, early in the morning.

On the other side of the tunnel leading out of the park is the amazing Checkerboard Mesa, an area full of interesting rock formations – here is a quick glimpse from the hood mounted GoPro:

A Drive Through Arizona on the way to visit my Family in Colorado

Our next stop would be in Durango Colorado to visit with my sister and step-mom for Thanksgiving, this was a long drive through very scenic country, and as I was doing all the driving, I didn’t get many photographs. We did stop just outside of Page Arizona to get a few shots from the bridge over the river south of Lake Powel:

Dam

Past the dam is Lake Powel – taken from the bridge over the Colorado River

Over the Colorado River

The other side of the bridge. This area appears briefly in the movie “Natural Born Killers”

We drove a long time through Indian lands in Arizona – through towns with names like Kabito, Kayenta, Dennehotso, Tec Nos Pos… We stopped at a tiny roadside out cropping of eroded rocks call “Baby Rocks”:

Baby Rocks

Baby Rocks, named more for the shapes which suggest little people.

Finally we passed into Colorado, through the Four Corners area, where the four states: Utah, Arizon, Colorado, and New Mexico, come together. We had a steady climb into the Rockies before finally arriving at my step-mom’s house just outside of Durango Colorado!

A Family Thanksgiving in Durango

Priscilla in Driveway

Priscilla, parked in the driveway of my step-mom’s place, with a view of the back 30 acres of her property

I have visited my family here many times over the years, my sister is now living with my step-mom in her large estate. We had a great time, but again, I did not take many photos – a few walks around the property, and visits into town were all I managed. Bobbi did quite a photo shoot for my sister and her music partner at Baker Bridge, famously used for the scene in Butch Cassidy, where Paul Newman and Robert Redford jump off the cliff – the drop is not nearly as impressive in real life. You can view a gallery of the shoot here:

http://www.varis.com/Yvonne-Cook/

My sister Yvonne, and her music partner Cook, performed a little concert for us after Thanksgiving dinner:

Yvonne & Cook

Yvonne & Cook

Not too much snow at this point in Durango, but a chill was in the air – winter was on its way.

patchy snow covered meadow

patchy snow covered meadow on the property.

After 4 days, it was time to go. We headed south to New Mexico to visit friends near Santa Fe – You can get a glimpse of the gorgeous Durango property in this video taken as we left and drove down the long driveway:

New Mexico and Santa Fe

Our next stop was in Santa Fe, where we stayed with David Michael Kennedy, just outside of town. David is a long time friend of Bobbi’s, a famous photographer who often teaches at the Santa Fe Workshops.

DMK

David Michael Kennedy or DMK as Bobbi like to call him.

David was a very gracious host and a great photographer now best know for his gorgeous platinum prints! It was a real pleasure to hang out with him at his studio, seen here:

Davids print studio

Davids print studio in his home

Everyone we visited on this trip was either a photographer or a musician, and we requested that everyone who hosted us, take our photo, and we, in return would photograph them. I’m including some of the portraits of us at the end of this post. As usual, I did not take as many photos as I would have liked – here’s one of the central plazas in Santa Fe at night;

Santa Fe at Night

Santa Fe at Night

We spent a little time at El Santuario De Chimayo – a fantastic little church, know for its “holy dirt” that cures illness!

El Santuario de Chimayo

El Santuario de Chimayo

After spending time with David we headed further south, just outside of Albuquerque to visit with Karen Kuehn. Karen is another famous photographer, a good friend of Bobbi’s, and someone we hung out with at Burning Man. She lives on a farm with all kinds of animals, horses, sheep, a donkey, and many dogs. We had a great time in Karen’s hot tub…

Post sunset in the hot tub

Post sunset in the hot tub

…and Bobbi took some photos of Karen with her dogs:

Karen with her dogs

Karen with her dogs

After a great time with Karen we finally started our journey east in earnest, and headed for Texas. We were determined to get through to Austin and then on to Dallas to visit with friends before heading to New Orleans. Instead, we got stuck in Fort Stockton Texas, sort of the middle of nowhere, West Texas…

Fort Stockton, Texas – Breakdown and Race Against the Weather!

Just after passing Fort Stockton, Pricilla decided to have a bad fuel pump, and we had to limp back to Fort Stockton for repairs! We had to wait over night for a part and we decided to stay in a motel rather than rough it without an electrical hookup…

Sunset in Fort Stockton

Sunset in Fort Stockton

The following morning we were in for a surprise! The weather had been fairly mild on our trip so far. The temperatures had been steadily climbing since we left Zion, and by the time we got to Fort Stockton it was 75°. However, overnight a serious cold front moved in and the temperature dropped to 30°! This was going to be the pattern for the rest of the trip – cold weather was chasing us the whole way!

Fortunately, we found some good old boys in town who knew a thing or two about RVs and we had a reasonably successful repair. Good thing, because I am hopeless with motor vehicles of all kinds…

Under the Hood

I have no idea what I’m looking at here!

Good Ol Boys

Our Hosts in Fort Stockton

We managed to escape Fort Stockton by late morning, in a vain attempt to out-run an approaching storm. Fortunately, we made it to Austin, and the comfort of the company of our friends Stewart and Louise Roholt…

Stewart & Louise

With Stewart and Louise in Austin, Texas

Stewart is a photographer and musician and we had a great time sharing – here is a quick little clip of Stewart playing my hang drum for the very first time:

We had lost a day in Fort Stockton, so unfortunately, we only spent one night with our great hosts. The original plan was to attempt to make it to Dallas to visit with Tony Corbell, but we got a surprising text video message from Tony:

IMG_2063.MOV

… showing 3 inches of solid, white ice covering his front yard and street. Apparently most of the off-ramps into Dallas were closed due to the ice on the roads! The RV is not the easiest vehicle to drive on the best of days, but we were not about to tempt fate on icy roads. So we headed south towards the gulf in an attempt to find a warmer climate!

Louisiana & New Orleans

After a brief overnight stay in Lake Charles, we made it to Lafayette, where we stopped to visit with Debbie Caffery, another famous photographer friend of Bobbi’s. We had a great little visit with Debbie and Bobbi shot some great portraits of her.

Debbie Caffery

The beautiful Debbie F. Caffery

Next stop New Orleans…

New Orleans

We stayed 3 nights in New Orleans in an RV park right across the street from the French Quarter, and though the weather was unusually chilly, we had a blast!

French Quarter at Night

The French Quarter comes alive at night!

Our first night was magical, and we filled up on food and drink before running back to the RV, exhausted. The next day we walked around the whole French Quarter visiting shops, restaurants, and taking in the sites – there’s always some surprise right around the corner, like running into a wedding party parading down the street.

We had a lot of fun visiting art galleries and gift shops, mostly window shopping, but occasionally finding something irresistible – always something to photograph…

Mask

There were numerous mask shops with an endless variety of Mardie Gras masks

Bobbi & Alligator

The gift shops were hilarious, but you could get great Cajun food ingredients!

We were soon on a mission to find some great jazz music! It seemed like most of the clubs we walked into were devoted to contemporary “cover” music, some soul, some blues, mostly rock and country, but precious little that could reasonably pass for jazz. Until we found Fritzel’s right on Bourbon Street!

Jazz Band

The first band for the evening sets played very solid, classic Dixieland jazz – a fantastic 4-string banjo, and the rest were just incredible.

The first band we saw, the Shotgun Jazz Band, seen above, was sort of the warm up act for the house band, but they were incredible! Super solid group that were just swinging for a home run! Great stuff! When that finished they made a point of telling everyone to stick around for the next band, and they were right. Fritzel’s house band was awesome – here’s a little clip to give you an idea:

When it was finally time to say good bye to New Orleans, we mad a mad dash to Jacksonville, Florida

Florida

We really didn’t spend much time in Florida, nor did we get out to see  Jacksonville at all, but we did have a great time with our  hosts Deb & Rick Ferro – AND… it was warm! This was the only place on our trip that was warm, and it was quite a relief I must tell you!

Rick and Deb Ferro

Rick and Deb Ferro

Rick prepared an amazing Italian meal, and we were treated to the Christmas wonderland decor of their warm condo. Rick took us out to the pool area the next day for our classic portrait. Then it was time for us to head north, so we said good bye to the warmth of Florida and aimed for…

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston beach

The beach near where Rick and Gary live in Charleston

Our hosts in Charleston were Rick Dean & Gary Link, a great couple, and we had a fabulous time hanging out with them! Rick is a prominent wedding photographer and good friend of Bobbi’s. Rick and Gary were great hosts with a wonderful house full of fantastic art.

Rick and Gary

Rick Dean and Gary Link on the beach – I had now officially made it to the east coast!

One of the highlights of our stay was a really great meal and a night on the town in one of the trendier areas…

The Crew at dinner

Group photo at “SNOB”, a restaurant, Slightly North Of Broad street – it was really great!

We needed to keep heading north however, and so it was time to visit one of my old friends in…

North Carolina

We drove north and inland a bit to a little town just outside of Lexington in North Carolina to visit with an old friend of mine – Lee Spears. As I mentioned before all of our hosts on this trip were either photographers or musicians – Lee is the later, plus the amazing craftsman who made my hammer dulcimer!   Lee lives in a very cool (figuratively, not literally)  log cabin in a beautiful rural area:

Dinning Room

The dinning room in Lee’s log cabin

Besides music, recording arts, and luthery, Lee is an expert baker – he treated us to the very best apple pie I had ever had:

Lee's apple pie

Lee’s apple pie

We had a great time with Lee and I got to spend a little time making music during our visit:

Dulcimer

Looking at – and listening to – one of Lee’s instruments

A jam with the Hang Drum

A jam with the Hang Drum

Time was running out for us with more bad weather approaching. We again needed to head north to make it to our next stop before snow storms overtook us. So we headed into Virginia and on to Maryland…

Baltimore

Our next stop was just outside of Baltimore to visit with Theresa Airey, another famous photographer friend of Bobbi’s.

Theresa and her goose!

Theresa and her goose!

We had a great little visit with Theresa, and stayed overnight, after dealing with a failing master cylinder on the RV breaks – another setback that cut our stay a bit shorter than anticipated. All in all though, we had pretty good luck and had managed to avoid serious weather delays. Theresa’s place was very nice and warm, nestled in a beautiful wooded area.

Theressa's

Just outside Theresa’s house, see here in the background

We were now in a kind of mad dash to get home to the Boston area, and so off we went with one more stop in…

Connecticut

Racing against more snow we made it to Fairfield, where we met by our last host on our trip, Kate Eisemann, her Husband Bruce Mandelbaum, and son Will. One more, cosy night, great breakfast, and great conversation, and we were on our way to Boston. Bobbi shot this quick portrait of Kate & family, just before we left!

Will, Kate & Bruce

Will, Kate & Bruce

Bridgewater, MA

Our final destination was Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and we made the rest of the trip without incident. We were treated to some serious cold! Unusually cold weather that was to be dubbed the “Arctic Vortex,” frozen, crunchy, icy snow everywhere! We are now ensconced in a classic New England home – we are renting the 2nd floor from Bobbi’s friends Kevin and Judy, until the snow thaws and we can look for a place of our own!

The Bridgewater Estate

The Bridgewater Estate

The next morning we wrier treated to a rather spectacular display of ice crystals on the windows.

Ice on the Window

It was cold outside!

Ice crystals close up

Ice crystals close up

What an amazing adventure!

I have a gallery of my images from the trip, including more ice crystals, posted here:

http://www.varis.com/Galleries/galleries/CroosCountryTrip2013/

Portraits

Here are some more of the portraits from our trip, with some of us taken by our hosts…

Anne Varis by Bobbi Lane

Anne Varis by Bobbi Lane

Rick & Gary by Bobbi

Rick & Gary by Bobbi

 

Lee & Bobbi by Rick Dean

Lee & Bobbi by Rick Dean

Bobbi by Rick Dean

Bobbi by Rick Dean

 

Bobbi & Lee by Rick Ferro

Bobbi & Lee by Rick Ferro

At the computer by David Michael Kennedy

At the computer by David Michael Kennedy

Lee by Bobbi

Lee by Bobbi

Us with David

Us with David, by Fuji self timer

Bobbi by Karen Kuehn

Bobbi by Karen Kuehn

Lee & Bobbi by Debbie Caffery

Lee & Bobbi by Debbie Caffery

Lee Spears by Lee Varis

Lee Spears by Lee Varis

 

Bobbi & Lee by Lee Spears

Bobbi & Lee by Lee Spears

Bobbi has been so busy since we got back (she went off to do a travel tour in Myanmar) that she hasn’t had time to go through the thousands of photos she shot on our trip! Hopefully, I’ll be able to sit her down – after her trips to Dubai, India, and Venice – to sort through some more images and put up a more complete image gallery – stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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