So… hell froze over and two photographers I admire (Joe McNally & David Hobby) teamed up to tour the country and lecture about off camera flash with small hotshoe flashes AND they were coming to Dallas AND it only cost $99. Cha-ching, I’m there!

This isn’t a full on review or trip report and I didn’t take many photos but it was definitely worth the price of admission plus the air fare I spent to go to Dallas and back on the same day (slightly more expensive than driving myself and tons easier). The photo above (click on it to see it bigger) shows about half ballroom that we were using at the Hilton Anatole, I believe there were 300+ people in attendance.

David shoots manual flash (mostly) and Joe shoots iTTL (mostly) and it was great to see them shoot while walking us through their thought process. Seeing how they build up the lighting in the photo, how they control the shadows and background was really really useful. You can only learn so much from books, seeing the process in person was the whole reason to attend.

The Massacre-ade Ball

Austin Massacre-ade Ball

Little Rock Bike Polo sent a whopping eight people to Austin, TX for their Halloween tournament (the Massacre-ade Ball). None of the Little Rock teams did particularly well but everyone seemed to view it as a learning experience. Notes were taken about what to do and what not to do with regards to running future tournaments in Little Rock.

I didn’t realize how fast bike polo is played on the tournament level, but I soon found that out. In my team’s first game, we played three girls in onesies (they were dressed as the Jamaican bobsled team) who came out fast and furious. I know I took an elbow to the ribs and didn’t actually realize we were playing an all girl team until nearly the end of the 5-0 match! Thanks for schooling us, ladies!

Some LRBP peeps were tired several hours into the first day and took to searching out soft spots for afternoon naps!

I probably had the worst injury of the tournament when I took an elbow to the mouth from an opposing team member when I came alongside him (in his blind spot) to stop him from scoring on us. At the same time he tried to take a shot (and his elbow found my mouf) his pedal wound up in my front wheel despite me having wheel covers on. Three spokes broken, huge gash on the inside of my lip and no goal for them!
Here’s an interesting photo-sequence (click to see bigger), taken by Darcie with my camera, which features yours truly turning too sharply and foot-downing, followed by my wheel getting run over by an opposing team member. Polo is a rather civilized game, so the other team member apologized for running over my wheel and I said it wasn’t a problem and we both rode off and tapped in.

Tucson Honeymoon: Day 10

This is a multi-part trip report… if you haven’t already, you should start with Day 1.

Start: Monahans Sandhills State Park
End: Home!

Daily Mileage: 679
Total Mileage: 2870
(I know that doesn’t add up but that’s what the final odometer reading said)

We wake up amid sand dunes but far from a beach. Monahans is a weird place. I take down the tent and pack up while Bryan sets up the tripod for photos. The visitors center rents discs for a dollar and sandboards for two. I take the last picture of our gnome, walking up a dune toward the sunshine. Tonight we’ll sleep in our own bed, at home.

There’s nothing out here: the speed limit’s 80 and that seems like a good idea. Dairy Queen has supplanted McDonald’s as the fast food chain of choice. We drive past miles and miles of scruffy, ugly pasture land and oil rigs. Odessa is dirty and sad-looking and Midland, while surprisingly large, isn’t much better. The businesses along the highway are all drill-rig and tank and pipeline suppliers. The sky is big, though, and blue.

Texas is interminable, never-ending. They’re proud of being the “Lone Star State” but don’t realize that this is nothing to be proud of: one star means BAD service. I drove a lot today but I don’t think it helped much. We pull out all our long-trip tricks: Gogol Bordello, They Might Be Giants, Shel Silverstein. And we’re not even in Arkansas yet.

We’re torn between not wanting to end a great trip, and the realization that a hot bath in our own tub sounds wonderful. Both of us have very sore calves, odd since we felt good for the whole hike: maybe that long downhill at the end is what hurt us. (I’m pleased and surprised that my shins and knees (which are often a problem) are perfectly fine; the combination of trekking poles, good boots, and insoles saved me.) We must look funny, each time we stop to get gasoline, lurching and hobbling around the truck on our sore legs.

j_Saguaro pano_FULL RES_7 pics_37
Click to see the panorama larger!

We arrive home before midnight. The house is fine, and so are the cats, in spite of our worry, or perhaps because of it. We unload the truck, close the garage, and go to sleep in our own bed.

Bryan told me the other day about a photographer who had assembled in one place a collection of his life’s best work, a hundred great shots. Averaging 1/100 of a second each, the whole set represented one second of his life. One second.

Is this the way all our lives work? Is it the tiny details that are important, rather than the big story? At the end of my life, will there be a hundred little bits of beauty, shifts in perspective, pieces of kindness and truth and love and joy, that will represent my life? Could there be a book of a hundred pictures that will let me say “Look at these: this is what was important about the person I tried to be?”

Here are the photographs I would include from this trip: The feeling of a pack on my back as walk into the desert. The sound of Mandy’s voice on the phone, eager and curious. The smell of bacon frying in a tent doorway. The sound of the snow falling on the trail past Juniper Basin. The way Bryan’s hand felt in mine as we looked out together at the purple mountains.

Thanks for reading!

Bryan taking photos and Aly warming her feet in the bathroom at Monahans Sandhills State Park.

Don’t forget to check out our Flickr page for more photos from our trip.

Also, let us know if you liked the “blog” format of our trip-report. If it goes over well, look for future adventures to be posted here at http://summerwood.blogspot.com.


Tucson Honeymoon: Day 9

This is a multi-part trip report… if you haven’t already, you should start with Day 1.

Start: Tucson, AZ
End: Monahans Sandhills State Park

Daily Mileage: 565
Total Mileage: 1984

Our hotel room smells awful and looks like an REI explosion, but we’re clean and fed and rested and all our gear is dry now. It’s worth noting that the Fairfield Marriott has an excellent free breakfast, complete with good coffee, lots of pastry choices, a self serve Belgian waffle maker, and all the peanut butter packets you can sneak into your tote bag.

Our gnome likes his morning coffee, and he likes Belgian waffles too

We head east on I-10, a little sad to begin the end of our trip. We take an almost immediate detour and spend a lot of time finding a good spot to take panographic pictures of Tanque Verde Ridge. We hop a curb at an office building and Bryan uses his new pano tripod head, and I take pictures of him taking pictures, and of cholla in the snow.

Bryan and his tripod, camera, and pano head

In places, the towns are an hour apart, which makes for a miserable McDonald’s line on a big travel weekend. We sit in an interminable drive thru; I attempt to use the bathroom but abort the mission when I count 34 other women in line. We listen to “Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” (by Nirvana) on the iPod and then give up on McDonald’s, getting back on the interstate. We’ll get some nuggets somewhere else.

Here is a quote from my travel journal, written while flying down I-10 at 75 miles per hour:

Soaptree yuccas are stupid looking plants, like wandering midgets with bad hair, drunken and lost, lurching through the pasture grass. Some of them wave toilet brushes above their heads. Are they trying to hail cabs, out here in the weird, lonely west? Do they know how ridiculous they look?

We wander through an outlet mall, then eat supper at Chili’s in El Paso, a generic choice but we’re grumpy and tired. We talk to Mandy and enjoy hearing her cheerful voice, a bright spot in the evening. She is interested in our trip and glad to tell us that she’s impressed her friends in Oklahoma by doing 168 sit ups.

For awhile we parallel the Mexican border, and after dark we enjoy the idea that we’re looking miles away to the south at the lights from another country. About nine o’clock we pull off the interstate with all the other traffic to drive through a border patrol checkpoint. It is unexpectedly scary but after our truck is dog-sniffed and we tell the officers that we’re American citizens, we’re on our way again. The truck stop in Pecos is nasty, and we’re tired and ready to stop long before bedtime.

We arrive at Monahans Sandhills State Park around midnight. The camping spots are all surrounded by dunes of soft, light sand. It’s already below freezing but it’s not windy. We quickly realize that the sand won’t hold tent stakes, so we pull out the North Face 4-season tent Britt and Debbie sent with us. We’ve never set it up but it’s simple and before long I’m sitting up inside it, a luxury after hunching over in the little backpacking tent. Bryan takes some photos while I pop a flash inside the tent.

The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!

It’s funny how we get accustomed to chill, and how much more comfortable good gear makes things. I think about the friends who’d never consider tent camping in winter, but I’m cheerfully ensconced in a cozy tent, snug and warm in my sleeping bag, dry socks, down booties and vest.

We all have strange little quirks, and I find one of mine: I can’t sleep with a cold nose. I find a handwarmer and open it, put it on my nose, and quickly fall asleep again. The stars are clear and bright on this last night of our trip.

A selection of additional photos appears below, for more photos from the trip checkout our Flickr page.

Bryan taking a set of photos of Tanque Verde Ridge

An old train in front of the mountains

Teddy bear cholla

New Mexican sign: Their road map spells “Flying” and “Missile” wrong, too

Some of the overpasses in New Mexico were really neat.

Yes, that’s a truck, in a truck, pulling a truck

Worst name for a car dealership? Ever?

West Texas’ answer to the Chik-Fil-A advertising campaign; at least the ranchers can spell.

Day 8 – Day 9 – Day 10