Archive for Dec 13, 2010

jessica courtney Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But Drab
No sooner did I return from Oregon (see post immediately below) than I got myself a much-needed haircut – SuperCuts, as always – repacked my bags and found my way to San Francisco
International Airport to board an American Virgin airplane. Destination: Boston, to visit my daughter Jessica (left) and her partner Cortney, and, not incidentally, to seek out fall-color photo ops.

When the hardwood trees back east were at their peak color, in mid-October, I was knocking about Bend and environs. Productive trip, and I am glad I went there when I did, but it came at the expense of what I had hoped might result — a portfolio of killer photos of Mother Nature dealing us earthlings a dazzling palette of foliage hues.

Knowing that any remaining color would lie north of Boston, I set sail in Jessica’s BMW 330i (nice car!), thinking I might get all the way to Burlington, Vermont, before every last motel bed was spoken for and I would perforce be relegated to curling up on the backseat of the Bimmer.

(Had I done so, it would not have been a first-time experience. A couple of years ago, motoring up Hwy. 395 in California along the Nevada border, I wound up sleeping in a Mazda wagon. Price was right, but a Tempur-Pedic the floor is not. Fortunately for me, I did not freeze to death and natural predators – black bears rushed readily to mind – left me alone.)

From Boston (more precisely, Dedham) I battled morning commute traffic on I-93, across the Massachusetts border. Not far into New Hampshire (“Live Free Or Die”) did I observe what I had feared – ain’t much fall color left this far north. Nevertheless, I was committed to soldiering on to Burlington, even if it meant I was relegated to taking “non-color” photographs. Lots of old barns in these parts, I tried to reassure myself, as if to start rationalizing the cost of the trip.

Noon was approaching, and I thought it a good idea to take a break from driving and treat myself to lunch. This I did, stopping at a tiny General Store in Manchester. Grabbing a turkey-and-provolone on a Kaiser roll and a cup of lukewarm coffee, I continued north on 1-93 to the junction of I-89, which, according to Google Maps, would lead me west and into Vermont.

As I drove I kept my eye peeled – as I always do – for worthy photo ops. Although I did spot a few barns, all of them were far enough removed from the highway as to make them less enticing than they might have been otherwise.

An hour or so farther north on I-89 I stopped at a converted old railroad station in Randolph Center. The sign in the window read “Espresso Drinks,” and that was enough to make the leap of faith that the drinks might actually be drinkable. Wrong.

I ordered a “dry cappuccino.” The barista, a young gal, fiddled with the machine long enough to make me anxious about what I would be served. As she was making it, I could tell that whether drinkable or not, I would be served a latte, not a cappuccino, which contains less milk. Turns out it didn’t really matter because the milk was so oversteamed it tasted caramelized. (Having made more than a few foo-foo drinks myself, I can smell caramelized milk a zip code away.) It was so bad that I asked for a remake, something I rarely do, but I didn’t feel like shelling out $3.30 for something I would pour down the drain, not my gullet. She obliged, although she didn’t seem too eager for a redo. The encore I got was at least drinkable, a Zagat-rated effort it was not.

I crawled back into the car and, peering at the still-leaden skies,

old barn east coast Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But Drab I started to wonder whether the trip might be a bust. Then I spotted, tight by the road and within a stone’s throw, an old barn that fairly spoke to me. I pulled to the shoulder, sauntered (trespassing, of course) into a thicket of waist-high grass, until I was within shooting range. Although the purplish-gray skies left something to be desired, I nevertheless squeezed off a few shots. What appeals to me about the one shown here are the color contrasts and the fanned barren tree branches against the building.

Camera back in its bag and wanting to see Middlebury College in Middlebury, I hung a right, westward, onto Hwy. 125. Just south of town sits a lovely, verdant satellite campus that is home to the famed Breadloaf Summer Writing Programs, named after the nearby Breadloaf Mountains. All of the buildings are frame and painted an attractive pale yellow.

cabin east coast picture Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But Drab All except one, a very old and very vacant log cabin that looked very out of place. I ask, is this an archetypal log cabin or not?

After meandering through the campus – as expected, very attractive – I stopped at the public square for guess what. Right, a cappuccino, at a mom-and-pop place jammed with laptop-riveted college students jamming for mid-terms.

From Middlebury I took Hwy. 7 north, toward Burlington. By now it was pushing four o’clock and the sun was setting. Just as I was resigning myself to writing off the day’s efforts, driving over a knoll I spotted an old truck near the road and squatting in front of some nicely colored vegetation. Obviously, Mother Nature had heard my prayers. I clambered out of the car and hopped across the street. As I squeezed off a series of shots from different angles, I thought of Ansel Adams and his famous “Moonrise Over Hernadez” photograph. Racing against a rapidly setting sun, Adams climbed onto the roof of his station wagon and – determining that there wasn’t even enough time to get out his exposure meter – captured the scene. Was it worth the effort? I’d say so. Today, “Moonrise Over Hernandez” originals sell for $100,000 and up. Adams’s heirs remain grateful.

international harvester old truck photo Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But DrabAlthough I seriously doubt that any of the photographs I took of the International Harvester truck will fetch serious money – heck, I’d be grateful if I sell enough to keep me in cappuccinos for a while – here is one I like. But for the vegetation, it would be just another photograph of “abandoned art.”

With the sun now tucked away for a good night’s sleep, it occurred to me to start looking in earnest for a place to hang my hat.

Farther up Hwy. 7, in Shelburne, a ‘burb of Burlington, I encountered a skein of motels. Eeny meeny miny mo. Because I have stayed in them in the past and with ample satisfaction as a customer, I cast my fate with Holiday Express. Now past seven o’clock, I inquired at the front desk if there was any room in the inn. Answer affirmative. Told I qualified for an AAA discount of $15 – wow! – I took the “key” (they’re all plastic cards these days) and ambled to my room.

Driving to the rear of the motel, I passed a restaurant. Ravenously hungry, after depositing my suitcase and camera bag in the room, I walked over to the Lake View Bar & Grille. Surprisingly uncrowded. Not necessarily a good sign. The chow was surprisingly tasty, the waitress friendly and attentive. Once back home, out of curiosity, I checked Yelp reviews of the restaurant. Mostly thumbs-down. Maybe I lucked out, maybe my hunger biased my assessment.

When I arose in the morning, I looked outside. Raining cats and dogs. Rats, cursing to myself, this trip is cursed. At the front desk I got directions to Hwy. 100, then dashed through the pitchfork rain to the car and scampered off.

sheep ranch old barn photo Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But DrabI wasn’t all that eager to be taking Hwy. 100, for just last summer I traversed it while back East for my son Andrew’s graduation from MIT. Unless one is willing to drive miles and miles in search of the road less traveled, Hwy. 100 becomes the default choice.

This rerun of the same route, combined with the unabating rain, washed out my hopes – slim though they were – of making up for yesterday’s slim harvest of photos. Here’s a shot along Hwy. 100 from last summer. It’s of a lone sheep grazing. I like it a lot.

Not far from there I stumbled upon a red barn, the more inviting to me photographically because an old Chevrolet truck was squinting at me through the wide-open door.

old truck photo chevy Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But Drab

Throwing in the (soggy) towel, I retraced my steps – 89 to 93 and, finally, back to Boston, where I was greeted by Jessica, Cortney and their four animals (two gigantic Great Pyrenees dogs and two cats). If you can believe, they have since acquired a third Pyrenees, a puppy named Darwin. Cute. They say they wanted the new baby – their first, due in February – to have her own dog. Yes, it’s a girl, already named – Kennedy it is. Cute. Hope Kennedy likes animals.

I took Jessica’s car a second day, heading into southern Massachusetts, thinking that the odds of catching fall color might be improved. They were not. Believe me, it was not for lack of looking that, eight hours and 300 miles later, I return to Boston, proverbial tail between my legs. The dogs had nothing on me.

On Sunday I had one last chance. Cortney, Jessica and I pushed off together, all looking for photo ops for Tom. Ironically, we didn’t have to drive far to find what may be the best shots of the entire trip, a weathered red barn built in the 1700s. It was located not on a ranch or farm, but smack dab in center of a residential neighborhood in an enchanting bedroom burgh named Holliston. It oozed “colonial times.”

Of the dozen or so pictures I took of the barn, here are my two favorites. Can you say “fall color?” Fall color indeed. How fitting that what I consider my two best Rural Americana shots of the entire adventure were in a decidedly urban setting. Fine with me. I take what I can get.

fall color old barn photo Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But Drabfall color old barn photo2 Missed Peak Fall Color, Though Trip East Anything But Drab








Photography-wise, not a bountiful harvest, to say the least, but the opportunity to spend time with Jessica and Cortney – and the five animals – more than compensated.