Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Little Things

By now you have become acquainted with my journey. The miles I drive. The things I see. The problems I encounter. They all play a role in some form or fashion.

But then there's the little things.

My Garmin GPS is a great tool. I would be "lost" without it. The downside is that it has its shortcomings. It would amaze you how much it mangles street names. Pineville Road becomes Pennyville. Pulaski becomes Pull-loss-sky. Any American Indian name like Chattahoochee or Eufaula is doomed. Once when I was in Union Springs I was told to turn right on Chunnenuggee Avenue. Ms. Garmin so mangled that that I started laughing. It's also a less than perfect directional technology. When choosing routes I can pick faster time or shortest route. Most times, once I'm in the flow of my premade maps, I will choose shortest route. The reason being I might luck out and find something I might have missed otherwise. That means it will take me over whatever it thinks is a road. That includes roads that do not exist. Shorter route also takes it so literally that it will send me down a dirt road to save 100yds.

Things look different when you see them in reality. I spent the summer of 2013 mapping out the entire state via Google maps and Streetview. I would scan mile after mile and if I spotted something I would drop down to Streetview and see if it was worth stopping. When I eventually make it to that place I originally mapped out it's different and the same all at once. The road looked flatter on the map or there's no place to park. I've also come to recognize where I am by things I've already seen. I will pass an old house and think "Oooo...I need to get that!". Then, once the slipping clutch that is my brain slips into gear, I realize I was heading southbound the last time I saw that house and had already shot it.

Gas station chicken. Don't knock it till you've tried it! Some of the best chicken I've ever had came from a small deli in a gas station. The Shell station in Dadeville, The BP on Lee County 240 and a Pure station in Marengo County all have great chicken. The chicken at the Chevron in Wilton, Alabama gets four stars!

I took this at dusk. The old Seaboard Airlines depot in Ft Davis. I was in a frenzy to get here before dark. It is much darker than it appears in the photo and the picture is too grainy for my taste. It still looks ok so thought I would share it but will probably have to revisit this soon.

This great old house is in north Montgomery on Goldthwaite St. It appears somebody was trying to save it but apparently has not been touched in a while. It looks beautiful and yet kind of ominous against the dark cloudy sky.

I live for things like this. Ok...perhaps a bit of hyperbole but, in my particular hobby, this is considered a clue in a modern archeological sense. An old Birmingham Post from June 1949 I found in an abandoned house just outside of Wadley. As it turns out this was huge national news about Alger Hiss and stolen atomic secrets.

I've passed this small building on US 231 north of Troy many times but never had time to shoot it. You can make it out better in the winter but in the summer it's a building-shaped kudzu masterpiece.

I shot this because I thought it was funny. Keep in mind I see humor in the strangest things at times. I just thought it was ironic that Alabama native Bobby Bowden, two-time winner of the National Championship in football, gets honored with a 50' bridge on Cobb's Ford Rd east of Prattville. To the best of my knowledge he has no connection to this area at all. Must be quite the honor! 

Then again it may be another Bobby Bowden entirely....

Saturday, January 31, 2015

My Story So Far

So where am I and what is my story at this point? The good answer would be getting close to where I need to be. And where is that? be perfectly vague I don't have a good answer. Guess that wasn't vague after all. As I have stated in the past I'm working on a book about my photos. I want as many as I can get so I'll have a pool of halfway decent photos that I can be proud of and showcase in a book. Much to my chagrin, I have this perfectionist streak that gets in the way. And that becomes a significant problem. You see, I'll go back and look at photos I shot two years ago and think they're not that good now. I will actually go past places I've been before and reshoot something all over again. It's kinda funny how much my opinion changes from one year to the next. No. Not funny. More annoying. I'm such a perfectionist that I'll do something repeatedly till I'm happy with it. The ironic part? Next year I'll think what I shot last year was mediocre at best.

I go into many places and see what there is to find. So you know, it's an unwritten rule among those of us who shoot in this genre that we only take pictures and only leave footprints. But some idiots (like me) go into places that make you think. Not about the history of where you are. Nope. I'm thinking if this collapses will I get hurt or worse? This place, named the (something) View Milling in Gallion, Alabama is fine example. I seriously debated the wisdom of entering this place. Now I look back and really can be stupid.

I do not know the name of this old school in Uniontown. Needless to say bad condition does not begin to describe it. It appears that there was an effort to tear it down and then all worked stopped. The main part looks like a skeleton of what it was. The old gym still stands but the floor is beyond repair. I shot this through the window of the gym of what appears to have been a snack bar.

I see a lot of things when I'm on the road. Some that make me laugh. Some that make me think. And then there's this. 

In the writing business this would be called a paradox.

I shared this while I was on the road a couple of weeks ago. To be honest I wasn't finding much to see in Boaz. I was a little ahead of schedule so I figured why not see if there's anything I could use at the outlet mall. The last time I was here was 1987. We went to the Black & Decker store and I got a toaster oven. Since I'm not much of an outlet mall person I never really had much reason to stop at ones I see when on the road. Turns out a lot has changed in Boaz in the last 28 years. It seems online shopping has not been kind to this place. I was a bit stunned when I saw how it is now. Oh, and I later found a better toaster oven at Walmart for $5 less.

I had previously found several things in Cleveland that I wanted to see. Turns out most no longer existed. But I did manage to find this old tractor. Minus wheels of course. 

I find it a little hard to believe I've already logged nearly 3000 miles this season. So far the only casualty was the radiator in my truck. But it's an old truck. A 1997 Dodge. It's been good to me and, as it turns out, radiators are cheap. 

Ok, radiators for an old Dodge truck are cheap. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Was Here And Then I Was There

For some unexplainable reason I look forward to the grind. Checking over my carefully laid out maps. Saving them as one format and then converting them to another so my Garmin will show them properly. Looking around my old truck to make sure I have the tools required for the task at hand. Then, of course, figuring out what time the sun comes up and how long it will take to get to the first of around thirty specific stops on any given day. It's all laid out and regimented. I debate where the most easily accessible McDonald's is along my route. A large sweet tea and a sausage burrito will be what gets me through the first few hours. These are the early morning rituals I do many times over the course of my abbreviated season. But then the typical opposing forces will begin to do battle. The warm bed that beckons me to stay just a while longer. The hunting around for appropriate attire. The fact that getting up at 4:30 AM just ain't as fun as it used to be. Who am I kidding? Getting up at 4:30 was never fun. Being a night person I could never understand morning people. I still don't. That's just crazy talk. My utmost respect to those of you who get up that early most days of the week to keep the engines of our economy running. I will never understand you but I appreciate those of you who can do that and not give it a second thought.

I spotted this house in northern Dallas County as I was headed further south and west. I was hoping for one of two things. Fog or a pretty sunrise. I got neither. It's actually darker out than the picture shows. The focus was a bit soft's too dark. The upside is the f-stop on this particular lens goes down to 2.8 so the auto focus is gonna lock on something somewhere. Unfortunately it was not this house but it's still a cool old house.

I run into some odd things in my travels. Obviously the quite old. But then there's the not so old but you don't see them anymore either. There is a closed school in Coxheath (Marengo County) on AL 10. There's nothing remarkable about the school. Just an ordinary closed school with little in the way of architectural significance. Then I found this. A complete Apple//e with optional floppy drive. Codenamed Diana, it was introduced in 1983 and had expandable memory of up to a whopping one megabyte! Needless to say it has had a hard life since it's creation some thirty years ago.

Down US 31 a few miles north of Greenville is old general store. Again there was nothing remarkable about it. Fairly typical frame construction. There was, however, a sort of enclosed bench out in front of it. I happened to notice some bottles inside and took a closer look. There were dozens of returnable soft drink bottles. Mostly Pepsi but I haven't seen this particular logo since the 1970s. And yet, here they remain untouched for at least the last 40 years.

I see more than my share of gas stations when I'm on the road. Countless gas stations. Most are old stores that added pumps at a later time. So, to find an original Pan-Am was well worth the stop. This one, about a mile south of Oak Hill (Wilcox County), still shows the outlines of the name Pan-Am above the door. Pan-Am was known for their art-deco style buildings. I did a cursory search for Pan-Am gas station photos to see if this one was listed. As it turns out I could not find a single picture (granted it was hardly what you would call an exhaustive search) of this particular one. It was a good find for sure!

Up in Cherokee County is the Jordan Gin. Apparently it has been closed for a while and little remains besides the normal buildings you see associated with gins across Alabama and I'm sure across the south as well. There are a few large cotton trailers slowly rusting away and I thought this one best represented the abandoned and forgotten aspect of a once vibrant part of Alabama's economy. To be sure, Alabama, being the Cotton State and all, still grows a lot of cotton but not like it did around the turn of the 20th Century. But then, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the state also grows significantly more cotton on fewer acres and is still its largest crop.

I am starting to see the light at the end of the analogical (yes, that is a word and I wanted something sexier than "proverbial". I could have also used axiomatic ;-) tunnel. My problem is I'm insatiable. I'm constantly asking myself:

"Do I have enough good examples of this or that?"

"Did I get enough pictures in (any given) County?"

Followed by the more mundane:

"Do I have enough gas to make it to the next town?"

"I wonder if that gas station has fried chicken?"

"Why did I make this map this way? I've doubled back on this same road twice now."

It's always an adventure...