Thursday, August 27, 2009

Roadside Kitsch to Rugged Landscapes: Photo Review of Creative Highways 2009

Now that we have had time to look over the hundreds of images Ryan took on our Northwestern tour this July, we have hand-picked six that stand out as truly capturing the story of the Great American road trip.

Ironically, all these photos were taken within the first quarter of our trip, when we were most hungry for creative inspiration everywhere we looked. We are excited to see these images come together to represent our experience.

What are your favorites?

"Ben Biking" in Sparta, Wisconsin

Jolly Green Giant, Blue Earth, Minnesota

Picnic Shell, Badlands, South Dakota

RV in Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming

Summer storm on the Snake River Plain, Idaho

Bivouac camping at Smith Rock, Oregon

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Creative Highways Project: Closing Remarks

(posted by Larissa)

These last few weeks since we returned from our trip have had us immersed again in our domestic/business lives: sales calls, laundry, marketing, reorganizing, socializing with friends and family, weddings, budgeting, and so on. We have easily allowed the time to go by without collecting or writing any closing thoughts about our epic Northwestern tour this July.

Did we actually just do that? Did we really drive for 7414 miles in our tiny car, with our fairly large dog, and a few spare belongings?

Yes, we did. And though it seems but a blip in the grand journey of life, its importance to our creativity, emotional and physical health, and lives is paramount. We will never feel the same sense of freedom we did on that trip - no children, no major liabilities or responsibilities (aside from a small business) waiting for us at home. We may never feel the same sense of patriotism we did when traversing the vast expanses of our country's geography. We will not as easily feel the spirit of the road in our bones, even if we write about it and try to capture it in photographs. "I don't want to lose this sense of spirit we've been reminded of on this trip!" I exclaimed while on a beach in Idaho overlooking one of the deepest river canyons in the Northern hemisphere. I haven't lost it, but I find it harder and harder to really grasp now that I'm back in the East, amidst my tasks and responsibilities. And it may get harder unless we seek it out in new ways, again and again.

When we wrote a summary of our Creative Highways Project on our website prior to our trip, we described our purpose as "searching for the last bastions of Americana." What does this mean, and is Americana really disappearing? I believe our search uncovered more than a yes or no answer to this question.

In essence, Americana is reinvented every day in this country through greasy diner culture, RVs crawling along precarious precipices, 5 cent coffee in Wall Drug, SD, being recommended a live reggae event by a Japanese sushi chef in Boulder, Colorado, and streaming indie rock via satellite radio in the middle of the Utah desert. Americana is a clash of tradition and contemporary artifacts and associations. It is at the same time disappearing as it is being recreated.

What does Americana mean for each of us? Where is that sacred space of nostalgic national identity we each hold in our hearts? For us, we searched for the "last bastions" of Americana but found, in many ways we did not expect, that Americana is alive and well. We found it exists for the collective as well as within our own individual experiences. So, it is what you see outside your car window, or from a high mountain trail, and how you see it in your heart and mind simultaneously.

Americana is the essence of all great traditions, fads, oddities, rituals, songs, poems, vistas, highways, and ideas that make up this great country, all rolled into one word. Americana is what we make it, and it's always there to experience whenever we want.

For now, we see it every morning when we look out our farmhouse windows at the mist shrouded hills of Pennsylvania. We find it around a table at an Irish pub, passing the guitar, and swapping stories and songs. We hear it in the strains of church bells floating up the road, and taste it at our favorite Mexican taco joint, with all the 'fixins.

We found it on the road, and we discover it again and again right here at home.

Thanks to all our friends that greeted us along our route this July - you are our Americana, and our true inspirations!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Creative Highways: The Last Leg

We are sad to have our road trip come to a close. We have seen many joys and beautiful things and people; we even had our endurance tested to a certain extent, living out of a Honda Fit for a month. It was surprisingly easy and simple. The simplicity of it all is something we will take with us back into domestic life. Paired-down meals, living quarters, and belongings have reminded us that living with only the bare necessities can enrich our lives and teach many lessons. We are better able to live in the present moment, without being bogged down by petty busywork and material items that we really don't need. This is just one of the many gifts this trip has bestowed upon us.

Here is a selection of images from the last few days of our Northwestern road trip for the summer of 2009:

Sadie has now settled in to her spot in the car. She naps as we drive for hours, occasionally poking her head up front to check in. She's a seasoned traveler, and knows when it's time to rest, and when it's time to play.

A stop at Shoshone Falls State Park in Twin Falls, Idaho to meet up with our friend, Katie. It was blazing hot down on the Snake River plain in Southern Idaho, but it was great to see my old roommate and friend (though I'm still kicking myself for not getting a photo of the two of us!).

Elegant Aspen and Lupine greet us on our way through the Manti-La Sal National Forest and Joe's Valley in central Utah.

Joe's Valley also affords fun bouldering opportunities along the San Raphael River. Ryan makes a move on this river-side boulder. The water was the coldest of all the Northwestern creeks and rivers we visited. As desert-hot as it was that day, we couldn't manage to get in past our feet.

Larissa traverses another boulder down the way.

At our bouldering spot, Ryan performs our ritual of car cooking that we did so many times during the month. Just pick a spot along the road, pull out the camp stove, and go to work. On the menu that morning: Migas, a Tex-Mex concoction of eggs, corn tortilla, salsa, and cheese.

Along Highway 70 in Utah - not how rest stops look in Pennsylvania.

Then, it was on to Colorful Colorado! We drove over Loveland Pass, one of the highest paved drivable passes in North America at 11,990 feet in altitude.

In Boulder, we completed our long-lost search for a sushi roll we ate 9 years ago, when we were first dating and Ryan was attending Colorado Mountain College. We found it at Sushi Zanmai: the Green Hornet Roll - still the most delicious roll we've ever had. We were extremely pleased that our memories had preserved the experience of eating that roll so precisely. We had a grand time drinking Katana sake and talking with our friendly sushi chef. Larissa also had a delicious sake cucumber martini. We finished the evening with live reggae down the street at the Draft House. It was our last big hoorah on our amazing trip.

Larissa and Ryan savor the last moments of their road trip trail running and hiking near Loveland Pass in Colorado. See you next time, Rockies!

All photos © Chace + Smith Photography

Coming up: Closing Remarks from our grand American tour!

Creative Highways: This Is What Sand Makes Our Dog Do

On the Salmon River, camping in central Idaho on our road trip, our dog Sadie neurotically dug hole after hole in the sand at our camp spot. Every day she got up, stretched and "got back to work" on her holes - important work to be done. If only our daily tasks were so simple and focused!

See her in action: