Sandi Wheaton's photographic journey from Chicago to LA with a Jeep, an Aliner trailer and a bunch of cameras

in a fog


Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

The sun is out, hallelujah.  It went from 32 degrees to 70-something, that’s amazing to me.

Not that the fog that’s enveloped the Texas panhandle since I crossed the state line is all bad; it just sucked for shooting my infrared film.  And it sucked because it was incredibly cold.  And because you couldn’t see a darn thing while driving.  However, fog can be incredibly photogenic, as was the case when I backtracked to McLean to pick up the time lapse where I left off on Friday night.

birds over an abandoned gas station in McLean, TX

birds over an abandoned gas station in McLean, TX

I had to be in Amarillo at 10am to get my converter replaced, thanks very much to the good folks at Columbia Northwest (Aliner), so I booted it on the interstate Saturday morning to get there in time.  I don’t think the service manager at the dealer was too pleased about doing it… but the tech who actually did the job was a real doll.

Dennis Maxwell, helpful trailer tech

Dennis Maxwell, helpful submarine-loving trailer tech

Interesting too: Dennis Maxwell looked like your garden variety gentle biker type guy I see regularly on this trip, but what he used to do for a living intrigued the heck out of me.  Dude was in the Navy, on submarines for four years – under the Arctic ice!!  And, he says he misses it.  That intrigued the heck out of me too.

After the converter was installed (thank you Aliner and Jack Sisemore), I met up with Kale from Amarillo’s KVII TV.  Kale Steed.  I still can’t believe that’s his real name… I mean: “Kale Steed, reporter”?  That’s too perfect.  Actually it sounds more like a porn star name to me.  Turns out, Kale is a fellow Canadian.  He’s from Canadian.  …no, he’s not Canadian – he’s from Canadian.  It’s in Texas.

KVII's Kale Steed: a Texas-Canadian

KVII's Kale Steed: a Texas-Canadian

Anyway, Kale rode in the Jeep with me for awhile and froze his ass off while we shot a story about my journey.  Yep, I was on TV again!  This time I got to watch it live when it aired Sunday night, and that was truly surreal.  I still can’t get used to seeing myself in the press and I definitely hate the way I sound.  But, the story was great – very creative and fun.  I have to thank Kale and Mitch Roberts for putting together such a neat package.  And it was the headlining story!  Slow news day, I guess.  You can check it out here.   (There is one incredibly dorky shot of me shooting pictures of a sign.  Kale was shooting me shooting photos, then he asked me to turn around and shoot the sign behind me… but they included

with weather person Shelly Siets, in KVII studio

with weather person Shelly Sites, in KVII studio

the transition of me doing that move, and I look like a total idiot, shooting anything in sight, totally unprofessional. You will know it when you see it! Groan…)

The crazy hospitality continues here in Texas…Kale, feeling sorry for me in the little trailer with the ICE on it (they broke record lows here over the weekend, natch), opened his house to me – so I got to have a proper bed and a hot shower again.  I am so very grateful for that, especially given how freezing it was!  And Kale cusses like me, so we shared some well-placed F-bombs, too.  :)

Since I didn’t take Route 66 to Amarillo Saturday morning, I had to backtrack an hour to McLean to pick up the time lapse where I left off on Friday night.  The fog was just unbelievable, and I was stressed.  One of the largest, most horrible pile-ups ever to happen in Canada occurred about 20 minutes from where I live, in conditions a lot like these – so every time I am in heavy fog, I start preparing for the worst.  The real fun came when I started to run out of gas.

this is pretty empty...

this is pretty empty...

I pretty much know how far the Jeep can go once the needle starts heading toward “E”, but what I am not accustomed to is how much more gas the thing eats while pulling this trailer.  I’m thinking, “no problem, just get off at the next exit and get some gas”.  Yeah.  Right.  WHAT next exit?  So as the needle buried deeper and deeper into E, I got more and more freaked.  Of course running out of gas isn’t the end of the world – you just deal with it.  But this was in total pea soup conditions.  If I had to pull over to the shoulder, NO ONE would be able to see me there until they were upon me.  I didn’t know what was worse: driving on the interstate with all of the trucks barreling down the road at 75mph but with a shoulder to pull off on – or driving the slower, less-traveled Route 66, but without any shoulder to pull over onto.  I opted for the latter and was overjoyed to see a turnoff that allowed me to exit the interstate.  But gas?  I eked into Groom and drove past not one, not two, but three gas stations that had pumps – but were closed. (I noticed that many a truck and RV were parked here and there, escaping the treacherous fog driving, I expect).  Thankfully I managed to get to an open gas station next to the interstate, on fumes alone I think.  Note that the largest cross in the western hemisphere is here in Groom – maybe that had something to do with my making it to the gas station…  and believe me: when you can’t see the cross from the road, you know the fog is really bad.  This thing is right next to the interstate and is 19 stories tall – on a clear day you can see it from miles away.  So, note to self: GAS UP, especially in these states with big empty spaces between towns!!

the massive cross at Groom

the massive cross at Groom

As I mentioned earlier, the fog was quite picturesque, so all was not lost.  I spent an inordinate amount of time photographing the interior of an old gas station in McLean.  Up to my ankles in trash and pigeon shit with gorgeous soft light… it was blissful.

Then last night I got to meet Bob “Crocodile” Lile.  Bob owns an art gallery in Amarillo and I’m hoping he’ll carry some of my work.  “Croc” was (again!) extremely hospitable, and is an excellent resource.  Bob knows TONS about Route 66, since he is co-vice chair of the Route 66 Alliance Steering Committee, Sales Manager of Route 66 Pulse, and past president of the Old Route 66 Association of Texas.  Once again, the network showed up.  Bob started listing off the “must-stops” and “must-meets” for me on this trip, and was pretty chagrinned when he learned that I hadn’t met a lot of these people.  I explained that I didn’t realize I should be stopping in at these places and telling people who I am and what I’m doing – again: to me, I’m just doing my projects, my thing… why would they care?  But he made sense to me: “you’re doing something for the road – so we want to help you.”  I never thought of it that way before.  But, he’s right.  By following my own heart and one of my own dreams, I am helping to promote this road that a whole international community (“family” says Bob) is trying to preserve.  That was a pretty cool realization.

inside an old service station, McLean

inside an old service station, McLean

So, as I mentioned above, the sun is out – and I can now see why early settlers in this region wrote that Texas was “the flattest place on earth”.  Humungous skies and endless horizons.  I love it.  What a great, open feeling it is to drive along these fields on these empty historic roads.  But on the topic of this road’s heritage, I was saddened to witness what I think was an historic moment today.  I stopped to photograph the old “Buddy’s Cabins” in Conway that date back to 1935.  It’s a great example of Spanish Colonial styled motel rooms, with garages and terra cotta tile window awnings.  As I was setting up to try to shoot over the fence that surrounded them, I heard some banging noises.  They grew more persistent and louder, and then I realized: someone was doing demolition.  I want to believe that they’re going to restore and renovate the place and that’s all it was – but it really didn’t look that way.  Walls came down as I stood there.  I think this building may be a thing of the past really soon.

I really hope I’m wrong.

The sun is out, hallelujah. It went from 32 degrees to 70-something, that’s amazing to me.

Not that the fog that’s enveloped the Texas panhandle since I crossed the state line is all bad; it just sucked for shooting my infrared film. And it sucked because it was incredibly cold. And because you couldn’t see a darn thing while driving. However, fog can be incredibly photogenic, as was the case when I backtracked to McLean to pick up the time lapse where I left off on Friday night.

(insert pic)

I had to be in Amarillo at 10am to get my converter replaced, thanks very much to the good folks at Columbia Northwest (Aliner), so I booted it on the interstate Saturday morning to get there in time. I don’t think the service manager at the dealer was too pleased about doing it… but the tech who actually did the job was a real doll. Interesting too: Dennis Maxwell looks like your garden variety gentle biker type guy I see regularly on this trip, but what he used to do for a living intrigued the heck out of me. Dude was in the Navy, on submarines for four years – under the Arctic ice!! And, he says he misses it. That intrigued the heck out of me too.

After the converter was installed (thank you Aliner and Jack Sisemore), I met up with Kale from Amarillo’s KVII TV. Kale Steed. I still can’t believe that’s his real name… I mean: “Kale Steed, reporter”? That’s too perfect. Actually it sounds more like a porn star name to me. Turns out, Kale is a fellow Canadian. He’s from Canadian. …no, he’s not Canadian – he’s from Canadian. It’s in Texas. Anyway, Kale rode in the Jeep with me for awhile and froze his ass off while we shot a story about my journey. Yep, I was on TV again! This time I got to watch it live when it aired last night, and that was truly surreal. I still can’t get used to seeing myself in the press and I definitely hate the way I sound. But, the story was great – very creative and fun. I have to thank Kale and Mitch Roberts for putting together such a neat package. And it was the headlining story! Slow news day, I guess. (There was one incredibly dorky shot of me shooting pictures of a sign, though. Kale was shooting me shooting photos, then he asked me to turn around and shoot the sign behind me… but they included the transition of me doing that move, and I look like a total idiot, shooting anything in sight, totally unprofessional. Once they post it online, you’ll be able to see it. And you will know it when you see it! Groan… they’re going to let me know when it’s online, so I’ll link to it then.)

The crazy hospitality continues here in Texas…Kale, feeling sorry for me in the little trailer with the ICE on it (they broke record lows here over the weekend, natch), opened his house to me – so I got to have a proper bed and a hot shower again. I am so very grateful for that, especially given how freezing it was!

Since I didn’t take Route 66 to Amarillo Saturday morning, I had to backtrack an hour to McLean to pick up the time lapse where I left off on Friday night. The fog was just unbelievable, and I was stressed. One of the largest, most horrible pile-ups ever to happen in Canada occurred about 20 minutes from where I live, in conditions a lot like these – so every time I am in heavy fog, I start preparing for the worst. The real fun came when I started to run out of gas.

I pretty much know how far the Jeep can go once the needle starts heading toward “E”, but what I am not accustomed to is how much more gas the thing eats while pulling this trailer. I’m thinking, “no problem, just get off at the next exit and get some gas”. Yeah. Right. WHAT next exit? So as the needle buried deeper and deeper into E, I got more and more freaked. Of course running out of gas isn’t the end of the world – you just deal with it. But this was in total pea soup conditions. If I had to pull over to the shoulder, NO ONE would be able to see me there until they were upon me. I didn’t know what was worse: driving on the interstate with all of the trucks barreling down the road at 75mph but with a shoulder to pull off on – or driving the slower, less-traveled Route 66, but without any shoulder to pull over onto. I opted for the latter and was overjoyed to see a turnoff that allowed me to exit the interstate. But gas? I eked into Groom and drove past not one, not two, but three gas stations that had pumps – but were closed. (I noticed that many a truck and RV were parked here and there, escaping the treacherous fog driving, I expect). Thankfully I managed to get to an open gas station next to the interstate, on fumes alone I think. Note that the largest cross in the western hemisphere is here in Groom – maybe that had something to do with my making it to the gas station… and believe me: when you can’t see the cross from the road, you know the fog is really bad. This thing is right next to the interstate and is 19 stories tall – on a clear day you can see it from miles away. So, note to self: GAS UP, especially in these states with big empty spaces between towns!!

As I mentioned earlier, the fog was quite picturesque, so all was not lost. I spent an inordinate amount of time photographing the interior of an old gas station in McLean. Up to my ankles in trash and pigeon shit with gorgeous light streaming in… it was blissful. Check it out: (insert pic)

Then last night I got to meet Bob “Crocodile” Lile. Bob owns an art gallery in Amarillo and I’m hoping he’ll carry some of my work. “Croc” was (again!) extremely hospitable, and is an excellent resource. Bob knows TONS about Route 66, since he is co-vice chair of the Route 66 Alliance Steering Committee, Sales Manager of Route 66 Pulse, and past president of the Old Route 66 Association of Texas. Once again, the network showed up. Bob started listing off the “must-stops” and “must-meets” for me on this trip, and was pretty chagrinned when he learned that I hadn’t met a lot of these people. I explained that I didn’t realize I should be stopping in at these places and telling people who I am and what I’m doing – again: to me, I’m just doing my projects, my thing… why would they care? But he made sense to me: “you’re doing something for the road – so we want to help you.” I never thought of it that way before. But, he’s right. By following my own heart and one of my own dreams, I am helping to promote this road that a whole international community (“family” says Bob) is trying to preserve. That was a pretty cool realization.

So, as I mentioned above, the sun is out – and I can now see why early settlers in this region wrote that Texas was “the flattest place on earth”. Humungous skies and endless horizons. I love it. What a great, open feeling it is to drive along these fields on these empty historic roads. But on the topic of this road’s heritage, I was saddened to witness what I think was an historic moment today. I stopped to photograph the old “Buddy’s Cabins” in Conway that date back to 1935. It’s a great example of Spanish Colonial styled motel rooms, with garages and terra cotta tile window awnings. As I was setting up to try to shoot over the fence that surrounded them, I heard some banging noises. They grew more persistent and louder, and then I realized: someone was doing demolition. I want to believe that they’re going to restore and renovate the place and that’s all it was – but it really didn’t look that way. Walls came down as I stood there. I think this building may be a thing of the past really soon.

I really hope I’m wrong.

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