Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
One of the things I looked forward to upon finishing the Route 66 trip was meeting up with technomadia: Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy, a nomadic couple who have been a big inspiration for me over the past few months. Cherie was one of the most important support people I called upon when planning my trip – yet we had never even met in person or spoke on the phone before! Her commitment to promoting nomadic lifestyles is such that she was totally open to helping me by answering questions and offering advice via email, even though I was a stranger to her. No more! Our paths finally crossed in my favorite place: the desert of southern California.
We packed a lot into our few days together so I’ll probably write a few posts about that time. I was just tickled to be able to act as their tour guide around the Salton Sea area, and we visited a couple of noteworthy places there worthy of their own posts: namely, Salvation Mountain and Slab City.
As self-described geeks living and working on the road full-time, Chris and Cherie combine technology and nomadism to create life as art: traveling, working, living, exploring under the brand “technomadia”. They are about living life fully on their own terms, NOW – not later, when they retire. Their (awesome) blog has a list of common excuses people use to not travel full-time now, with helpful responses to debunk each excuse. They live in their custom-made Oliver trailer, which is adorable, very functional and comfortable, and looks rather eggy. The triangle and the egg finally met near Hemet, CA at the base of a paragliding field where Chris sometimes jumps off the mountain and flies around. It was a real “match made in Hemet!” (sorry)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how immediate and easy the connection with others is when traveling. My experiences on the road meeting folks like Mike at Two Guns, Leroy in Winslow and the Tiltons in Funks Grove (to name only a few!) simply would never have happened along the path of my normal working life. It seems to me that the default way of living has us existing in these small bubbles, traveling the same routes and crossing the same paths with others, not really open to random connections with people outside our little spheres. The idea that “anyone who approaches us must want something from us” keeps us isolated from each other.
I remember years ago, returning to Toronto after my post-grad Europe backpack trip, I specifically reminded myself to not fall back into the “head-down-no-eye-contact” big city survival technique. Months of traveling and connecting with people from around the world had left me with a feeling of freedom and self-confidence that I did not want to lose back home in Canada. Unfortunately, it seems to just seep back in… enough people ask you for money on the street, enough commuters push you around on the subways, enough gloomy winter days have you wrapped up and just wishing the darn streetcar would arrive so you can get home and warm up and unwind from a hellish work day… that lightness evaporates, you find yourself on the treadmill again, and you don’t even remember ever being off it. That’s the headspace I am now hoping to avoid.
Meeting with Cherie and Chris, and their lovely friends Sean and Helene, was another of those just-add-instant-awesome connection experiences. The first night we camped near the soaring field and stayed up late talking, laughing, telling stories, etc. The question sounded funny to me: “whose house shall we go to?” Of course they refer to the trailers as houses: theirs is their full-time home. We chose mine, and I was thrilled to play host in the triangle for the first time. The five of us fit fairly comfortably, and everyone commented on how surprisingly roomy the Aliner is inside.
The following evening we drove to the Salton Sea and camped next to the water near Niland. It was a great spot, isolated enough for fire dancing and dark enough for light painting photography. Cherie is a fire dancer and has all the gear to put on a great show for us photography lovers. Their friend Sean Mahoney is a talented photographer who is well-versed in light painting techniques (in part thanks to our mutual friend and Photoshop genius Ben Willmore, who sadly couldn’t join us due to other commitments).
My ipod provided the wiggly music for Cherie as she danced with a few different types of “poi”, including fire and LED poi balls that she swirled around, creating great light patterns in the dark night. Sean, Chris and I experimented with various long exposure techniques as Cherie’s gliding props painted colorful streaks across our viewfinders.
Eventually the moon rose over the mountains to the east and we started on the more labor-intensive project of painting the triangle with light for one of Sean’s multiple-exposure light painting shots. Cherie took care of the shutter release, Sean did his own dance with light all around (and in) the trailer and Jeep using a variety of light sources, and I sat back and watched with awe. Later Sean would assemble the many exposures into the one image you see at the top of this post. (I frigging LOVE it. Thank you, Sean!!)
After probably a couple of hours, we lost Cherie and Chris to bed, and Sean and I headed down to the beach where I tried to light paint the empty shack using gel-covered blasts from a handheld flash unit “a la Troy Paiva”, whose Lost America website and book introduced me to
this whole colorful light-painting concept years ago. I always wanted to try this technique at some of the Salton Sea abandoned buildings but never had, partly because it’s creepy out there alone at night, and partly because I never was able to stay close to the location overnight before (thank you, triangular mobile home!).
After all of this experimental night photography, we didn’t get to bed until after 4am. I didn’t sleep very soundly or for very long, so I was feeling pretty sleep deprived the next day… but I was so very happy. I was in one of my all-time favorite places, sharing it with these wonderful new friends, and after six weeks of intense driving-camping-blogging-shooting along Route 66, I was finally taking some time to do exactly what I love most: hanging out on the Salton Sea and taking pictures. That afternoon, we visited Salvation Mountain and ended up camped out at East Jesus in Slab City, an amazing place with an amazing host that I will wrote about in a separate post.
I had planned to drive back to LA that night in order to be present at the Santa Monica Pier event the next morning… but the combination of my being so happy to finally stop and just BE for awhile, the great company, the amazing location, the sleep deprivation and the reality of a seven-hour return drive in LA traffic convinced me I should just stay put. I was really bummed to miss out on the big Route 66 event, but I needed this recharge time. It soon turned out that I had to head home faster than I hoped, so it was probably a good thing that I stayed out there to enjoy the short time I had. It was hard to leave! But leave I must…