I am recently returned from a six-day road trip that took me from Dallas back home to Lafayette, Calif.

As was true of my earlier trip back East — this occasioned by the graduation of my son Andrew from MIT b-school — I hauled back a fetching crop of fresh images of both Rusted and Rustic varieties.

I flew to Dallas, where Andrew, having driven there solo from Boston, met me at the airport at midnight Monday. After hanging our respective cowboy hats and boots at a “budget” motel (no complimentary shampoo, no microwave, one bar of soap), we shoved off, arriving a seeming lifetime later in Santa Fe.

Just past Amarillo, Andrew, my navigator/spotter espied a come-hither old barn on a frontage road off the Interstate. We hurriedly took the next exit, doubled back, and voila, said barn in Nikon D5000 crosshairs.

old barn in field picture Road Trip from Big D to Left CoastNothing special about the barn per se. What made it out of the ordinary was the setting – solitary building in huge field – and washed in the ever-welcome glow of late-afternoon sun. The barn is shown here.

As I was in the process of shooting (and simultaneously warding off menacing mosquitoes), an old Ford pickup pulled up behind our car, which was parked at the edge of a narrow, two-lane country road. “You boys OK?” said the man as he emerged from the cab. “Yes, we’re fine. Just taking a few pictures, do you mind?” “Not my barn. Go right ahead. Just thought maybe you were lost or the car was broke.”

He introduced himself by name – Jimmie Swindell – and related that he’d spent his “whole life” in the area. “I remember that barn as a kid.” This wasn’t yesterday, as he plainly qualified for Medicare.

Jimmie’s truck was a non-collectible1956 Ford. When he purchased it second-hand in 1967, he said, it already had traversed 100,000 miles. It looked as battle-scarred as did he. Nice chap, though. When I finished shooting, the three of us shook hands, and Andrew and I were back on the road to our destination.

Of the literally hundreds of old pickups I have shot in the past couple of years as I travel near and far, the vast majority are either Fords or Chevrolets. Hardly surprising, as the vast majority of pickups ever manufactured in the known world are one or the other.

As we headed the day following from Santa Fe toward Durango – lovely old mining town overflowing with charm and character (and nary a fast-food outlet!) –

rusted old truck chevy photo Road Trip from Big D to Left CoastAndrew spotted a 1957 rust-mottled blue-and-white Chevy pickup perched alongside Interstate 25 just north of Taos. But for my lynx-eyed son, I might have missed it. I am glad I did not, in spite of a too-close encounter with the resident “security” dog, which appeared to be a Pit Bull mix. Enough said.

As I entered the driveway to the property (privately owned, of course), he started barking his head off and showing his incisors. When I opened the car door, he approached, bark unabated and teeth still OMG visible. Just as we decided this might not be worth risking life and limb, the property owner appeared out of nowhere. He didn’t look all that friendly either and, worse yet, a second dog, also growling, was at his side.

Rolling down the window, I told him why we were there and that the sentry hound was performing his assigned duties admirably.

“Oh, that’s Prince,” he said. “He’s really not all that unfriendly. Bark definitely worse than bite.” Did he say BITE? Yikes! He instructed Prince to “shut up,” and he obeyed. The other one continued barking until the master, Johnnie Parker, told him to chill as well.

tom photographing old truck picture Road Trip from Big D to Left CoastAfter explaining my intentions, Johnnie said, “Come on and take your pictures. I’ll watch the dogs. They’ll be fine as long as I’m with them.” Not all that reassuring, but I took a leap of faith in exiting the car, camera in hand.

The truck (“not mine; belongs to a friend,” said Jimmie”) was parked in the front yard (flattering to call it a yard). In the distance behind it stood the glorious mountains of northern New Mexico. The clouds in the azure sky looked as though someone had PhotoShopped them in, so artfully formed and positioned they were.

Here is a second photo of the truck, this taken by Andrew as I did my thing. I was so absorbed I didn’t know he was taking pictures of the guy taking pictures. After shooting the truck, we were back on the road to Durango, where we spent the night before shoving off to Telluride. Telluride is famous as ski hangout for the glitterati, who make tabloid headlines just by being there.

Near Durango, we spotted a barn not far from the road. As Andrew was taking pictures of the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign nearby, I captured the barn. Like the one we encountered the day before in Texas, it was aglow in the descending sun.

old barn in mountains picture Road Trip from Big D to Left Coast Unlike its counterpart, behind it stood the majestic Rockies. Can’t PhotoShop THEM in!
Our final overnight was in Sedona, Ariz., famous for its own stunning scenery – rugged, reddish cliffs that look chiseled, which, I reckon they are … by Mother Nature over the past zillion years, give or take.

At 3:15 a.m. the day following, we were finally home after a loooooooong drive – 938 miles in all. Andrew’s venerable 1999 Subaru Forester performed like a champ, and doubtless was less exhausted than were we when we swung into my favorite driveway.

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