Giving Thanks

This is a day when we stop and give thanks.

We have a tradition here in America of getting together with family for a feast we call Thanksgiving. More people travel at this time of year than any other time to be with family. This year, with the coronavirus wreaking havoc on our lives, traveling is a challenge.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. It is a time to give thanks and to share the blessings of the harvest, although for some it also signifies the conquest of Native Americans by colonists.

For our family, Thanksgiving is about family and counting our many blessings. This year we decided to celebrate early with a get-together on November 21, a few days ahead of the official holiday. With the challenges we faced this year there was much discussion about how we might manage the risks of COVID-19. We decided that an outdoor event in Aunt Sue’s backyard would be appropriate, taking precautions to wear masks when we weren’t eating, and to designate one person to be the server. We used a counter top roaster to cook the turkey; when it came time to transport it, we simply put the whole roaster in the trunk of the car for the drive to San Jose.

Our daughter and her family joined us with a homemade apple pie. Our son and his family had been staying with us the previous week, so we considered them to be in our social bubble. When it came time to carve the turkey, Sue pulled out a set of carving knives with elk antler handles that go back three generations.

Our spread of food included turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish (a recipe from my mother), kale and feta cheese salad, pomegranate and persimmon salad (from Sue’s garden), squash, rolls, and homemade apple pie for desert. Yum!

And, of course, Aunt Sue had to indulge the dogs with a bit of turkey.

After we had sufficiently stuffed ourselves on the delicious food, it was time for a walk. On our walk we passed a frog that seemed to wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving.

I wish you well on this day. And amidst the many challenges you may face, I hope that you can take a moment to find something for which you, too, can give thanks.

The Mojave Road

The Mojave Desert is a huge swath of land in the Southwest corner of the United States, much of it located in California. It occupies close to 48,000 square miles and is noted for the Joshua Trees that grow only in this desert. The Mojave Road runs across part of the Mojave Desert and through the Mojave National Preserve, a unit of the National Park System. The road was originally a trail for Native Americans stringing together a series of watering holes and providing a route for trade between desert and coastal dwellers. Later it became a route for Spanish missionaries, explorers, and settlers from the 18th to 19th centuries. Today it’s an iconic four-wheel drive road. We spent four days driving the road with a caravan of Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers.

For part of the tour, I had a GoPro camera on the dashboard of our truck. Here’s four days of touring condensed into 10 minutes. Make sure to watch the water crossing at 8:52.

Our tour started at 7:30 a.m. on October 8 in the parking lot of the Avi Resort in Bullhead City. There we met our tour guide, Bob Wohler of the Off-Road Safety Academy. Bob gave us a briefing and provided a radio for each truck to use for communication while touring.

Once we were off the pavement, we stopped to air down our tires. I’ve driven off-road periodically for over 20 years and this was the biggest eye-opener on the trip for me. Less air in the tires gives a much smoother ride. As Bob would say, sympathy for the passengers, sympathy for the equipment, and sympathy for the environment. Our tour passed a number of interest points, the first being Fort Piute. Then it was on to our campsite for the night at School Bus Camp, noted for an abandoned school bus that marked the location until a few years ago when it was removed.

There are numerous points of interest along the road, including a tin can into which you can drop a penny for good luck, the Mojave Mailbox where you can sign your name and leave a comment, and a collection of gnomes and frogs. You just have to see it to believe it. The terrain ranges from sandy flats to rocky road to a dry soda lakebed, traveling through some magnificent Joshua Tree forests along the way. The road has worn down at several points so that you are driving in a canyon so narrow that the vegetation is brushing against the sides of your vehicle.

Once across the soda lake you arrive at a pile of rocks. Bob had instructed us to pick up a rock earlier in the trip, and this is where the rocks are deposited—at Travelers Monument. There is actually a monument buried under this pile of rocks. If you scramble to the top of the pile you can read the plaque. We were sworn to secrecy regarding the words so you’ll just have to plan a visit to read it yourself.

A highlight of the trip was the lava tube, and also the water crossing at the end. We ended up driving the last section of the road from east to west because we helped some travelers who got their vehicle stuck in the sand. Time was an issue, so we took a detour to Afton Canyon Campground for our last night. The next morning two rigs decided to cross the Mojave River with Bob’s coaching.

More photos are available here, and I’ve made a few select images available as fine art prints in my art store.

We logged 180 miles on the tour, some of it on side trips off the Mojave Road. Elevation ranged from 500 feet at the start of the tour to 5,700 feet at the high point.

Have Your Kayak and Eat It Too

Treve with cake to celebrate his 70th birthday.

On Saturday, March 14, we hosted a party to celebrate my 70th birthday. The cake was noteworthy. We commissioned the cake through our local Lavender Bakery & Café on Solano Avenue. They not only created a work of art but also delivered it to our door. Since kayaking is my go-to sport at the moment, I wanted to have a cake with a kayaking theme. Chocolate cake with layers of vanilla butter cream filling and fresh raspberries, not to mention the fondant frosting – a work of art.

We had about 30 people at our home, which was quite a turnout given the advice to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 health risk. We were quite ambivalent about hosting the party; now, as of March 17, we have a “Stay at Home” order in place so we’re staying close to home. The guidelines say that getting outdoors is an “essential” activity, so we’ll be getting out in our kayak, bicycling and walking the dog at a distance from others, but no group activities.

Take care of yourselves wherever you are; reach out to friends and stay connected.

Pandemic – by Lynn Ungar

At the event we held on Saturday, March 14, to celebrate my 70th birthday, a friend and fellow artist gave me a copy of this poem by Lynn Ungar, printed on paper she had made from Abaca Fiber. The poem seems appropriate for this season.

We too are now limiting our social contacts, but that won’t stop us from reaching out on social media. Stay safe and stay in touch.

Fifty Photos

Fifty Photos

If you’ve been following my blog, you may recall that in December I posted an entry Postcard from the Past. In that post, I mentioned my upcoming 70th birthday and my plan to create a book representing 50 years of photography. Here it is. My birthday gift to myself. A collection of fifty images culled from my film and digital archives.

We’ll celebrate with an unveiling of the book on Saturday, March 14, with cake, champagne and friends. I’ve posted a gallery of the images in the book. Take a look here.

It has been quite an adventure going back through my archives, with many hours spent reviewing film negatives, selecting images to scan, and getting them ready to print. In the process, I rediscovered many long-forgotten adventures and stories yet to be told. You can expect to see more in the future.

I welcome any questions or comments.

A New Year and a New Decade

Looking forward to a New Year and new adventures with the opportunity to provide inspiration and insight into the wonders of the world. We’re about to hit the road again for a ten day road trip through the deserts of Southern California and contemplating this quote from John Muir:

I’d rather be in the mountains thinking about God, than in church thinking about the mountains.

No Spectators

“No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” is an exhibit currently running at the Oakland Museum of California in Oakland. The exhibit runs through February 16, 2020.

Treve with one of the Burning Man art pieces.

Burning Man had its origins in 1986 when Larry Harvey and Jerry James built a human effigy and burned it on a San Francisco beach. The fire drew a crowd of 35 people. Since then the event has moved to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where it now draws over 70,000 people from all over the world.

An entire city rises out of the dust of the desert and provides a canvas for experimental art installations. Some of those art pieces along with a glimpse of the history and culture of Burning Man are on exhibit. Burning Man is governed by ten principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy.

Having not been to Burning Man, I found the exhibit quite enlightening; I recommend it to anybody with an interest in culture, art and creativity.

The ultimate goal of Burning Man is to encourage the culture of creativity. -Marian Goodell

You can view more photos from the Oakland Museum exhibit here. Burning Man now has a network to facilitate and extend the culture that originates with the Burning Man event into the larger world.

If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. – Leonard Cohen

Postcard from the Past

In March of 2020 I will mark 70 years. To celebrate that event I’m going back through 50 years of photos to put together a collection that represents my adventures with the camera. I ran across this photo today and my first thought was that it looked like a postcard from the last century. It’s not a postcard, it has been buried in a file cabinet for 40 years. This is an image I captured in 1979 in Angelmó, Puerto Montt, Chile. I’ll be sharing more of my adventures as I work my way through my files. Who knows what treasures I’ll find buried in these files. Stay tuned.

Bunny Foo Foo

Bunny Foo-Foo at Hall Wines

On Monday, November 11, I had a reason to drive to Saint Helena, 50 miles north of our house in Albany, California. Saint Helena is in the midst of the Napa Valley. A client asked me to scout a location for a photo shoot. Rather than drive up and back alone I took my wife Joann and we combined the work trip with a dinner date.

Joann did some research ahead of our visit. Being that it was a Monday a few restaurants were closed and we thought it best to plan ahead, select a restaurant, and make reservations. We settled on the Farmstead restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch, a farm-to-table restaurant with a general store, cafe and tasting room.

After the client meeting we headed to Farmstead. While driving north on Highway 128 we were struck by a giant bunny leaping out of a vineyard; Bunny Foo Foo at the Hall Wine Tasting Room. The late afternoon sun glinting off the bright surface of the bunny was arresting. We stopped to grab a few snapshots. From there it was s short drive to Long Meadow Ranch.

With time to spare before our dinner reservation we took advantage of the tasting room and wandered the grounds while we sipped wine. Dinner was fabulous. I had the special of the day, bacon wrapped meatloaf. Joann had trout. I’ve never considered meatloaf to be a gourmet item, but with our waiter’s recommendation I’ll have to say this dish was out of this world.

Halloween Paddle

Thursday, October 31, found me on the water again paddling with several of my BASK buddies. One of the members of the group, Steve, decided to embellish the map of our track. See the image below.

We launched from Point San Pablo Harbor. Point San Pablo is at the north end of San Francisco Bay, separating San Francisco Bay from San Pablo Bay. It’s also on the route for ships going up the Sacramento River. Once on the water we headed for deeper water out towards the shipping channel hoping to hitch a ride on the flood tide. At Point Pinole Regional Shoreline we found a beach where we landed for lunch.

We paddled in near-perfect conditions with little wind and smooth water. After lunch we gathered around to sing Happy Birthday to two members celebrating October birthdays, Susan and Jen.

On our return with the current still flooding we paddled closer to shore, taking advantage of an eddy to carry us back in the direction from which we came. Over the course of our paddle we covered 9.4 miles.

Back on the beach we put put our boats on our cars, changed out of our dry suits into our street clothes and gathered up at Nobilis restaurant for snacks and drinks. Point San Pablo Harbor is a sleepy little yacht harbor with a funky collection of houseboats and public art. While not on most people’s tourist roster, it’s worth the visit, even without a boat.

You can view more photos here and view the track and stats here.