Friday, October 07, 2005

The Earth Ship, eastern New Mexico, late September 1999

Rolleiflex twin-lens camera (f/3.5 lens), Fujichrome 50 speed film, early morning.

In late September and early October 1999, I rode a motorcycle -- my 1985 Suzuki GS550E -- from Chattanooga, Tenn., across the south to Texas, up through New Mexico and Arizona, and back on a northern route through Colorado and Kansas.

In eastern New Mexico, about 20 miles from Texico (on the Texas border), I stayed for a day and a half with the Grundy family. They lived in a small travel trailer with a cabin attached, and had been working for several years on this earth-sheltered home.

I slept in a tent in the scrub-covered yard -- part of a 240-acre lot they owned -- but was awoken early by the Grundys' small herd of goats who were nosing around my tent. I took advantage of the time to do some exploring and photography around the small ranch, including this shot on an old Rollei twin-lens medium format camera.

Mr. Grundy worked a few miles up the road at a quarry of some sort, as I recall, while the missus stayed at home to care for the house, goats, cows and dogs. Good people.

Longest train I've ever seen came by while I was taking pictures: Almost 200 cars full of coal, with five locomotives.

Meeting people like the Grundys is one of my favorite things about traveling by motorcycle and camping. I came upon their little place late in the day after a long, hot run from southwest Texas, squirmed my way through the sand up to their cabin, and was offered dinner and a place to sleep. I elected to pitch my tent in the yard, but they were willing to let me share their home even though they'd just met me and didn't know anything about me.

Sometimes I'm tempted to expect the best of people. So far I haven't made that critical alteration in my expectations, however. I continue to expect the worst (or at least slightly negative) and I continue to be pleasantly surprised whenever people are better than I expect. Does that make me a cynic, or a negative person? I don't think so. I just like surprises.

Brad, Chattanooga Star and Tennessee River

My buddy Bradley next to the Chattanooga Star, a boat on which I worked on the Tennessee River, serving as a deckhand and occasionally as a waiter on dinner cruises.

[Nikon FM, 50mm lens, approximately f/8, 1/30 second exposure. No specific data recorded. January 2000.]

Brad and I shared a house in St. Elmo, a historic part of Chattanooga, for something under a year. We rode motorcycles together, we share a strong admiration for Tom Waits -- and he was a groomsman at my ill-fated wedding.

Some few months after this photo was taken, we both began working as deckhands on the M/V Bearcat, a towboat on the Tennessee River. Most physically demanding job I've ever had, and I've had more than a few. The eight months or so I was a deckhand (traveling between Knoxville, Tenn., and Decatur, Ala.) gave me a chance to get back in shape after a few years of physical deterioration, but they also provided me with the opportunity to shoot quite a few photos of river life. I'll post some of them later.

Best to you, Bradley. Hope all's well. Get that old Honda running. Let's ride!

Oh, and "Hang on, St. Christopher."

[I'm currently listening to Brahms Concerto No. 2, with Van Cliburn on piano, on vinyl.]