Sunday, August 11, 2013


It was August and I was riding down from British Columbia in, down to the Bonneville International Speedway in Utah.

I spent 6 or 7 weeks up in BC. I had a great time up at a lovely picturesque little campsite on Box Lake just outside of Nakusp. A small campsite, about 9 or 10 spots, and of those spots 2 or 3 are camping trailer friendly. The winding dirt road that leads downhill to it through the forest from the main Hwy 6 is very twisty and full of potholes, just like a forestry dirt road should be. 
Box Lake campground is a government run site. A two week stay is the maximum  you can drop your anchor for. Most of the campsites views of the lake are hidden by trees, a few have an uninterrupted view of it. These three or four lakefront sites are gorgeous. Late in the evening as the sun starts to set and the snap, crackle and pop of your fire has settled down to give off a picture perfect red orange glow, the lake, the silence, the smell of the forest. Priceless. 
For everything else, there's Mastercard.

Even though the lake is stocked with trout, eating them is not recommended. 
Likewise for swimming. Not recommended due to leeches. But if it's early spring before the leeches start, you should be fine. Writing about Box Lake BC makes me yearn to go back now. It's one of my top 5 spots on my trip so far. 
It's primitive camping, no showers or running water and 2 pit toilets. There's a campsite in the town of Nakusp right down by the harbor that I used to go to, and for $5 got a hot shower every few days. Unfortunately, I lost most of my photos from that trip. I had them on Picassa, and they got deleted when I switched from a PC over to Mac. 

I broke camp and left Nakusp somewhere about the third week of August and headed south, down toward the Canada/US border, fully intending to make the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials that were taking place at the Bonneville International Speedway or "The Bonneville Salt Flats" as most everyone calls them, down in Utah. I'm kicking my self right at this moment because I'm looking back through my files and have absolutely no, NONE, Zero, Zip, Nada, даже не один, photos of the trip from New Denver BC down to Bonneville in Utah.
700 miles of that 1200 mile ride were spectacular, especially the stretch coming south from Bonners Ferry to Missoula in Montana. If you have a motorcycle, just go. Do it. Ride north from Missoula, then ride back south again. Stop. Repeat. Trust me, you'll want to. 
If you have a car?. Well, ditch the car and get a motorcycle, or a sidecar. 
You cannot truly experience a spectacular stretch of road like that in a car, you just can't. The continuous flow of air all around you, natures natural air conditioning. The connection to your journey on a motorcycle is something car people lose out on and never get to feel. Unless they're weekend motorcyclists, then they get to experience for a few days what it's like.

And I don't have any photos. 
What can I say?. A little upset I am the more I think about it, but at that time in my trip, the blog, the documenting, none of that seemed to have the importance to me that it has now. Had I the foresight then to photograph and file away my shots for use at a later date, well, that would have been the right way to do it, wouldn't it?. 
Ahh, I remember what happened now. I had an external hard drive that just stopped working on me. It died after I arrived in Wendover. With all of my photos on it. 
Modern technology, dumbing down the human race in earnest since 1977.
Amazing, isn't it?. We have all of these electronic "gadgets" that supposedly make our life easier, and instead they're turning people into frustrated, robotic idiots and morons who, for the most part, can't find their way anywhere without the aid of an iPhone or a GPS. No more "turn left at the red building with the broken window and go down until you see the....". 
Nobody even needs to ask for directions anymore. Less and less social interaction. More and more social isolation. 

Since then, I've had another hard drive die on me. With pictures on it too.
If this were the days of film, I would still have all the negatives. Maybe.

Photography that says something. Media that matters. 
Provocative images that make you take pause as you see them for those first few seconds. Take a minute or two. Images that draw you into them, that take you by the hand, lead you over into their world, experience their magic moment and feel what the photographer was trying to say to you, right at that very moment, frozen in time.

Provocative Photography.

Photographs that aren't perfectly square or do not always ascribe to the rule of thirds or any other rule other than the fact that you took it because you were moved by what you saw and wanted to shoot it that way in the moment. That moment right before you pressed the shutter button. Takes years to learn I now see. The more I find out about photography, the more I realize just how much I don't know. And this is the age of digital photography. Easy. A breeze compared to the days of film. The days when being a photographer actually meant something. Now it's iPhones with HDR apps, an instagram account and you're in. 

Just last Friday I picked up my new patch designs from Kaisu at K and K Embroidery here in Rovaniemi. This is the third iteration of them, and the fourth for "Dads patch". 
I'm very happy with how the designs turned out and also about the fact that all of the merchandise that I have made so far is all designed and made right here in Rovaniemi by locals, printer, graphic designer and embroidery firm, and not out-sourced to India or China. That's  one of the reasons that my sticker sets are not $5. In all honesty, when you factor in postage (it cost about $1.75 per set to mail because of the weight), 3 postcards and 4 stickers, the whole set costs me nearly $5 to make. I'm not in the sticker or patch business. When you buy a sticker set or patch from me, what you're really doing is showing your support and appreciation for my efforts and work in putting together the photography and articles that you read here every week or so on, and as a bonus you get a sticker set thrown in. Sticker, patch and some photo sales are the only way for now that I have to support myself, so your purchases are very important to me.
The new patches are going to be limited edition collector patches only, especially the "Black Edition" #17 Dads Patch.
The patches won't be going on sale for a fixed price but will be donation based. Each patch will have its own minimum donation amount on a new PayPal sale button which will go up in the next few days. Like the stickers, I am not designing and making these to be a mass produced $5 or $10 patch, but will keep them exclusively for financial sponsors, donors and trip supporters which will include monthly subscribers. To become a monthly subscriber, please check the "Subscribe" button at the end of this post.

#17 Dads Patch, "The Black Edition" is a very special patch for me, and hopefully I have been able to convey just how special in my explanation below  of the meaning and significance of the #17 in my life today.

The postmark of the Santa Claus Post Office in Napapiiri, a gift from Santa's Elves for me.

For those who buy my sticker sets, I mail them from the official Santa Claus Post Office, a 10 km ride from Karu MC just outside of the town of Rovaniemi. Pay attention to the postmark when you get your set, it's unique. Not everyone has the ability to get all the way up here to Finland to see the Santa Claus Post Office, so while I'm still here it's just something a little extra that I like I do. If you have kids, let me know when you order your sticker set and I'll include a special "Santa's Elves" brochure telling all about the Elves and the post office.

Design #1. The Official WTHIM Trip patch.
The entry level supporter patch for motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike. 

#2. The Keep Calm patch. 
When all is crashing down around you, you're a bit stressed out and need a ZEN moment, this is the patch to have with you. 
It's got the Juice.

#17 Dads Patch.
"The Black Edition". 

The story of #17, Dads Patch.

Now, even though I'm a Hockey fan, I'm not a superstitious guy in the slightest. 
I don't believe in ghosts, don't have any motorcycle lucky charms or "Guardian" bells (only $9.95 + free shipping, what a deal !!) hanging off my bike anywhere, and don't believe in the bogyman or the tooth fairy. 
However, since I arrived here in Rovaniemi in Finland, the official home of Father Christmas (just type "Official home of Santa Clausinto Google if you don't believe me kids) I can confirm that Santa Claus is real, and I also have the pictures to prove it

When I finally came out of rehab after a 7 week controlled detox and I was a little more clear headed and cognizant, I was talking with my Mum one day and she happened to mention to me that the day that I checked into rehab was January 17, the same date that my father died back in 1990.
Ok, in and of itself, not a reason to become a believer instead of an atheist, but still, a one in 365 chance of happening. Not bad odds considering. Better, much better than your odds of winning the lotto. 
Now, my Dad was also an alcoholic but joined AA in the late 60's and was sober for the last 26 years of his life up to the day that he died.
Fast forward 2 1/2 years later, July 2011 I believe, and I'm down in a beautiful town in Arizona called Sedona, and I'm high up on a plateau somewhere around the Slide Rock State Park area. 
Sedona, another beautiful spot in the SW corner of America, Red Rock Country. A little touristy, but well worth the time to visit. 
There's a dirt road a few miles out of Sedona (can't recall exactly where right now) that winds it's way up to the top of the small mountains twisting and turning up and around the side of the mountains. I happened to be heading up there to camp out at the top for a few nights. The views up there at sunset are the ones you see in postcards and coffee table books, spectacular. If you've never been, you need to go, put it on your list. Looking through my files and blog posts, I have no idea where the photo's are, probably lost in the Picassa deletion.

So, there I was, up there on the flattop, playing around on my BMW GS and doing a little trials riding as it's mostly scrub and rocky terrain up there, and when I finally stopped and looked for my iPhone, it wasn't there. Shit!!.
I must have dropped it on the top of the plateau somewhere, probably in the scrub. Now, it was pretty large area I had been riding around, the brambly foliage a dark green brown and thick. Very thick. It could of dropped anywhere. 
I was thinking that finding the phone was going to be next to impossible, unless I took a week and did a grid sweep of each 10'x10' section of grid. 
Well, nothing else to do but to chance my luck and start walking around slowly where I thought I might have dropped it.
An hour later, and I'm still walking around, head down, pissed at myself, still searching through the thick brambly scrub and rocks, but no sign of it anywhere. I mean, it was a monumental task given how camouflaged in the brush it was.
I was at the point where I was nearly ready to call up the old gods or goddesses of fortune in greek mythology, (even though I'm not superstitious), but instead decided to make a last ditch request to my old man just for the hell of it, to help me out. I mean, what had I got to lose, right?. So I just said "hey Dad, a little help would be great right about now, if you're in the area". It was a request uttered more in jest, with a hint of cynicism "yea, right" undertones to it. 
After I left Ireland in my late teens I had become so completely turned off by the catholic church and religion in general, that I had already fallen off the proverbial fence I had been sitting on for so many years, ever since I was 14 actually, and had already stopped following the herd, or flock as they like to be known as, to the big house of worship. Remember that this was a small town in Ireland, not an easy thing to rebel against at that time. Fortunately for me, I had 2 great people as parents who didn't just swallow doctrine hook line and sinker and take it as the truth just because that what you were told and brought up to believe. My father especially. A man who always questioned.

So, back up on the plateau, no sooner had I thrown out and uttered my request to him, not even 10 paces on and less than 20 seconds later I looked down, and there, right at my feet, was my iPhone. 

The second thing that happened that cemented #17's status as my good luck charm and "Lucky Number" of the road, and my life, (were I going to decide to have a lucky charm or number), was on the way west from a tiny little (if you blink you'll miss it) town called Quemado in New Mexico in SW U.S.A. 
Quemado is the spanish word for "burned". At an altitude of almost 7,000 feet, the area gets many lightning strikes during the summer thunderstorms at the famous Lightning Field.

The town of Quemado sits on the north side of Hwy 60 (there's nothing to the south.....yet), on the western side of the state, and is 34 miles from the eastern border of the state of Arizona. I had just finished a few days shooting the VLA or Very Large Array, twenty seven 82 ft wide (25 metre) radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin.

I had stopped at the only gas station in the town, Tommy Padilla's Rito Quemado Convenience Store, a very clean and neatly manicured gas stop and store. They have all sorts of stuff there, and I noticed some dried peppers for sale. I was heading to Dewey in Arizona to visit my friends Alan and Felicia who are both hot pepper aficionados, so being raised to always go to your guests house with a gift in hand, thought the peppers fit the bill just fine.

bought the peppers, chatted with Tommy for a bit, went outside, unhooked the elastic net over the top of the Harley Davidson cool bag to put the peppers inside one of the panniers.......and just then someone came over to talk to me, distracted me, and I never finished hooking the net back on over the H-D cool bag.

The bungee cord net, the way it should have looked.

Now, this Harley Davidson soft bag comes with it's own interesting story, doesn't everything in life?. And was also a special gift from my friend TR.

Pour yourself another cup of coffee.

TR and Minni Winni.

TR and "Daffy".

So back at the beginning of this post I wrote about my ride down from Nakusp to the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Well, when I arrived in Wendover I got off at Exit 4 on I-80 and rode down past the Salt Flats Cafe  to the "Bend in the Road", a known landmark amongst the LSR crowd and easy to find because it's at the first bend in the road, and the only person that was camped there was TR.
TR, Rosie and their '70's mini Winnebago camper have been off the grid and on the road in Minni Winni for the last 10+ years and were my welcoming committee, and meeting them was a stroke of luck and good Karma. TR and Rosie are good people, salt of the earth. TR's been there and done that, and now doesn't have too much of anything material. 
"Possess very little and very little will possess you". TR and Rosie live it. I try to also.

TR and I became friends immediately, and because of him I was introduced to and became friends with a lot of the LSR (Land Speed Racing) crowd and ended up being able to pick up a bit of work here and there at the speed events and ended up making some gas money. From August through October there are usually 5 speed events at Bonneville, so for the 2010 LSR season I was camped out at Bonneville until the last event, the SCTA World Finals. When October came and the weather started to get nasty in Bonneville, TR, Rosie and Minni Winni and myself headed south west for Death Valley and the Mesquite Spring Campground.
We got there before the campground officially opened, before the hoards of diesel spewing oversized campers came with their oversized occupants on board, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Just the way we both liked it actually, less people the better. I was always the first one up in the morning at 6 to get the sunrise, and TR emerged from Minni Winni shortly after, and we would sit outside together in the mornings and have our coffee and just take it all in. I miss those times and look forward to having coffee with you again brother Tom.
I spent a great 2 or 3 weeks there before TR and Rosie moved on to their winter campsite in Quartzite AZ, and I was going to head NE to Colorado before the passes got snowed in. Before I left, TR gifted to me his Harley Davidson cool bag (he had his own Harley), a present for you for the road he said. I've cherished it ever since and it means a lot to me. It's one of my prized possessions and has become my "mess" or kitchen bag, keeping my coffee, utensils and seasonings in it.

After talking with my distractor at Tommy's gas station I jumped back on the bike and headed west. I had only ridden about 10 miles out of Quemado when I looked in my mirror and there, behind me, was a picture perfect stretch of straight, slightly hilly road just begging to be photographed. So I pull over, side stand down, stand on the left foot peg, swing my right leg out and back, over the Harley Davidson soft bag that...................that wasn't there anymore. Oh for crying out loud.
Shit !!.
I hate stupidity, especially when it's me being the one that's stupid.

I knew exactly what had happened as soon as I looked at the empty spot where it should have been. When I got distracted at Tommy's convenience store I remember now that I broke my golden rule and forgot to double check all my straps and bungee cords before I left, and somewhere along that 10 mile stretch of road the bag had obviously fallen off. Ok, well, I guess I'm going to be riding back to Tommy's gas station then.

I took the 10 mile ride back to Quemado slowly and didn't see it on either side of the road, although I was mostly concentrating on my left side, the outbound side. I got back to Quemado and went back into Tommy's store and asked if anyone had handed in the bag. Nope, no one had. Ok, maybe I missed it and I'll see it on the way out again. Back on the bike, feeling like crap, and again I rode the 10 miles, slowly, back out to the spot where I stopped to take the shot of the straightaway, and still nothing, no sign of the bag. Now I was really panicking and more than a little upset, because the person I was going to see that evening to spend the next week or so camping with was......yep, TR. 

How was I going to explain to him that I had lost the very bag he gave me as a gift?. The more I thought about what had happened, the more dejected and upset I got. This wasn't just any bag. This was special and meant a lot to me, and to have to face TR and tell him I lost it, well, it just felt lousy to me.
Ok, back again to Quemado, 3rd gear only, super slow, eyes down, scouring the shoulder of the road, but as I got back Tommy's store there was still no sign of it. 
I went inside again and asked if anyone had handed in the bag, but again, no one had. 
By this time I was nearly crying.

On the way out of town for the third time I was starting to resign myself to the fact that my lack of attention to my golden rule of always check, then check again before you ride, all of your straps, bungees and tie downs, had taught me a hard and valuable lesson, so by 5 miles out I had pretty much given up the fight and kept telling myself it could be worse. But it didn't make my stupidity and carelessness any better. i still felt like a shitheel.
A car was approaching in the distance and flashed his lights once or twice at me, no idea why. I thought maybe he was trying to warn me about a speed trap.
I finally told myself to get over it, let it be and carry on, and as I did, just for the hell of it as it worked once before, I asked my old man "Hey Dad, I know I asked you once already, but a little help would be great", and left it at that.

Up until that point my eyes were looking down and to the right, concentrating on the soft shoulder and the ditch looking for the bag, so when I asked my Dad for help, that was the first time my gaze lifted and I looked up. I noticed I was approaching the very same spot that I had stopped at in the first place to take the photo of the long straightway and thought 'well, I'm here, I may as well stop and take the shot after all that'. Had my eyes still been looking down and into the ditch I would have never of seen it, but because I had given up searching for the bag, they were now looking up and ahead, and there, at the very spot where I stopped in the first place, hanging off a 1/8 mile marker post at eye level, was my Harley Davidson soft bag.

 Gerry Murphy.

Sept 3, 1917 - Jan 17, 1990.


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