Every family album is littered with fading photos of station-wagons and Winnebagos, artifacts of the 1970's and the splendor of the American road trip. A defunct vacation now, in the era of jumbo jets, few millennials could "like, handle being in a car for that long!"
Instant gratification, thin attention spans, and digital interaction have pushed the concept of solitude, and the scale of our earth into pocket-sized ideas. But what are we losing?
Studying at an art college nearly built to preserve the bygone and passé, one begins to feel very strongly about the loss of these cultural staples. So I did something about it.
Leaving the Atlantic ocean at Tybee Beach, Georgia, I embarked on my first great road trip back to my home near San Francisco. With co-pilot and Illustrator Grace Lackey, we queued a long list of cities unknown to us and packed an all-too-small red hatchback with gear and belongings.
To document our travels, there would be no more suitable medium than instant photography; it too saw heyday in the 70's and 80's, and brings back the natural social interaction of handing someone a physical picture. It became an event every day, utilizing the instant film, and, with a little help from a narrative, they tell the grand story of crossing states.
Our first stop after departing Savannah, Nashville boasts a new type of southern charm. With genteel southern architecture and a local-or-bust attitude, it was hard not to fall in love here. Of course, Broadway Street reminded us why were we leaving the south – honky-tonk.
We were fortunate to stay nearby in Franklin, where a good friend housed and taught us all about his hometown. I, a history nut, had my appetite for history sated in the beautifully haunting Carnton plantation grounds, this home-once-hospital stands in memoriam of the violent amputations of the Civil War.
Somewhere between beautiful Nashville and robust St. Louis, we found ourselves getting weary on the road. Looking for distraction, we noticed a small roadway sign, about ten miles before leaving Tennessee, for the Bell Witch Cave. I, a risk-taking type by my own definition, decided Missouri can wait a few hours, and deviated onto the most circuitous back road through farms and agricultural land for what seemed like 20 miles. After not seeing any further signage for this promised cave, I was about to turn back, when a tiny gravel driveway with a hand-painted red and white sign jutted out from the path.
Finally on the property of the Bell Witch Cave, we climbed out of the little hatchback–the only non-pickup vehicle in the lot at that point–and walked up to a small, hand built cottage with a large open, porch. In the shade, beside the door, sporting overalls, a worn t-shirt and a much-loved ball cap, was who could only have been the owner. We evidently interrupted his rant on "them artist types" who had been calling him to film documentaries on the property. As sore thumbs go, we did quite well at not sticking out, and had the pleasure of meeting the entire family who ran the profitable business of retelling the Bell family haunting (the daughter was the ticket-master, the wife: the tour guide.)
Overall an incredibly unique find, Grace and I enjoyed seeing the remnants of a long-established local oddity, and seeing how the eeriness of natural formations can often play well into the hands of lore.
After a hard, exhausted sleep we departed St. Louis for Chicago, and the hope of interviews in a very media-driven city.
After a meeting over an incredible opportunity within the John Hancock building, the promise of 360 degree views drew us to the top floor, where the architecture of the grand downtown spread before us.
Everything about Chicago was intoxicating; the buzz on the streets, and an aroma in the air unlike one I've ever been exposed to before–and I know it wasn't just the deep dish.
The Windy City is one of harmonious contradictions, and in that conflict, energy and intrigue abound. Perhaps thats what makes the craft of local firms and agencies so appealing?
Now, before I start up the evidently heated topic of which pizzeria is the true Chicago pizza, I'll say this: while walking around the area south of the Gold Coast, we found Giordano's naturally and without any recommendation.
As the noon rain began to fall on our last day in Chicago, we had already been searching for a hearty meal for an hour or so. After deciding on the picturesque quality of Giordano's for a photograph, we became curious of what real deep dish was like. Giordano's was an experience, to say the least; but our eager eyes ate more than our stomachs, and we left with half of a monstrously deep pizza.
We continued to wander down Michigan Avenue, pizza-brick in tow, the rest of the gently-drizzling afternoon. The lakefront was irresistible, even despite the dampness, so we ended up walking along Lake Shore Drive after exploring the Field Museum and Millennium Park.
We kept rumbling through the middle of the U.S. as we returned to Missouri to stage our full departure west. A close childhood friend of Grace housed us as we had the opportunity to explore an entirely new–and oddly divided–city. Criss-crossing the Kansas and Missouri border several times, we were given chance to savor a lot of the many restaurants available here.
On our last afternoon in K.C. we wandered through the downtown and sat in the shade near the J.C. Nichols Fountain and ate some candy from a local shop. It was a nice rest from the stress of packing and repacking every stop, and a chance to prepare mentally for the long drive to Denver the next morning.
On the morn of our departure from Kansas City, we stopped at Tous Les Jours Bakery to indulge one last time, in the pastries and croissants reminiscent of a Parisian Patisseries. Needless to say, the drive didn't seem quite as long with our stomachs full of cream and flake pastry.
I am continuously updating this section as more photos and recollections are processed!