Freeport, Texas was merely a pit stop on our path eastward. Neither of us had seen the Texas coastline, and we were due for a night of camping — both for our souls and our budget. As always, we seemed to be the last guests to arrive at the campground — this one Quintana Beach County Park — but at least, for once, we were able to pitch our tent and cook dinner before dark. We also were happy to see a flat expanse of grass, which is a luxury for tent campers accustomed to sleeping atop dirt and rock and roots. The dogs chased seagulls across the open field, and later zigzagged through the sand in pursuit of crabs during a late-night walk on the beach. It was a perfect pit stop, and it set us back only 17 bucks.


Our bellies full of brisket, Scott and I made our way toward the Texas coast. We cruised through rural roads, past cattle ranches and pastures filled with horses, goats and yellow wildflowers. The scenery was breathtaking. I’ve never known this Texas. My previous trips followed Interstate 40. I remember eating country-fried steak at a Grandy’s in Amarillo, and I once interviewed for a job in Houston — in August. Had I known Texas was so splendid in spring, I would have bypassed I-40 and opted for a 600-mile detour through the belly of the Lone Star State when the bluebonnets were blooming. I now have a better idea why Texans don’t want their state messed with.


Davy Crockett is the reason I’m at The Alamo. With his coonskin hat, leather hunting suit and long rifle, he embodies the fighting spirit. We Americans love that, and Scott especially loves it because, like Crockett, he is a native Tennessean. So while he abandoned me and the dogs to go read every historical marker and bronzed plaque commemorating Texas’ most romanticized battle, I took a few shots of The Alamo with my Holga. The old, stone mission seemed to call for it. It’s something to stand here, across the street from Fuddruckers and Ripley’s Believe or Not!, and imagine a 13-day siege between the Mexican army and a small band of soldiers led by William Travis, Jim Bowie and Crockett. As tourist attractions go, The Alamo is not a bad one. It spruces up history with a little myth, and gives proud Texans (and Tennesseans) plenty to get nostalgic about. You have to see it to remember it.


Sometimes a girl just needs a kitchen. I don’t care what degree of feminist I claim to be, it’s in my blood to want a stove, a fridge and some beautiful food to prepare. When you’re on the road, this sort of urge is difficult to satisfy.

So far on this journey I’ve made sandwiches on the hood of the car, let goat cheese go bad in our cooler and mastered an Italian sausage pasta using small backpacking pots. I’ve poured many bowls of cold cereal in motel rooms, and botched a vegetable-filled omelette atop a wet picnic table. And I’ve had to wash every dish in a stream, beneath a campground spigot or in a bathroom sink.

But one glorious night in Roswell, N.M, I found myself in a fully equipped kitchen, chopping lettuce for a salad, prepping potatoes for baking, and seasoning a T-bone for the stainless gas grill outside. And when it was all over, I loaded the dishes in a dishwasher and pushed a button. It was awesome.

I have Britt and Veronica of Cozy Cowboy Cottage Rentals to thank for my night of domestic bliss. Scott and I weren’t finding much by way of lodging in Roswell other than chain hotels. On a whim, we searched online for vacation rentals — even though we were going to be in town for only one night. We found an inviting studio apartment, but it was a 30-day rental. Scott sent an e-mail anyway, and we were surprised by Brit and Veronica’s reply. The studio wasn’t available, but a bigger place was.

This is how we ended up in the “Roswell House Moderne,” a two-story, three-bedroom home with a fenced backyard — for $50 cash. Britt and Veronica apologized that the cable TV and phone weren’t in service, but we didn’t care. The house was way more than we needed, and the washer and dryer were almost as much of a godsend as the kitchen.

We had intentions of checking out downtown Roswell’s hokey alien attractions, but we abandoned those intentions after seeing the House Moderne’s backyard. Instead, we kicked off our shoes and sat in the sunshine, reading our books as the dogs snored by our sides. Later we enjoyed a candlelit dinner on the patio, and I took a bubble bath.

Basically, we played house far away from home. It was nice.

I could probably road trip for the rest of my life. I love traveling. I love camping. But every once in a while, I need to work through a natural desire to nest. This alien environment allowed me to do that, and I moved on, feeling refreshed.


I spent only an hour photographing rock climbers at Joshua Tree National Park. But it’s still the most time I’ve ever devoted to watching a climber up close. It looks easy, the grace and pace with which they work their way up the rock.  I know it’s anything but. One thing’s for sure: It’s beautiful. Especially with blue sky and the Joshua trees as a backdrop.

It seems to me that rock climbers are an odd bunch. They are fearless and fit and incredibly focused. But there’s also something geeked-out and techie about them. Climbers might be the athletic equivalent of architects or engineers — equal parts intelligence and obsessive compulsion. They’re calculated thinkers, and they don’t seem at all bothered by the cumbersome collection of carabiners, rope, quick-draws and bolts that hang from their hips as they work their way up vertical rock. It’s weird that a sport as pure and raw as climbing requires so much technical gear. I, with my hip bag of lenses and compact flash cards, stood below marveling at the ease in which they move upward — a little jealous of their abilities, plenty jealous of their physique, but pretty content with my feet comfortably on the ground.

I now have a better idea why photographers like Corey Rich have devoted their careers to documenting the sport. But I have to remind myself that shooters like Rich are as bold and gifted as the climbers, maybe even more so. Imagine traversing a 5.10 (I don’t even know what that means, but I know it’s really hard) while carrying all that gear plus a 5-pound camera and multiple lenses.

Maybe next year, we’ll return to Joshua Tree, sans dogs, and give the climbing thing a go. Until then, I will daydream about my future awesome climber’s physique, as opposed to the whiskey-swilling, gumbo-eating one I’m working on right now.