Annandale, VA
USA•

571 451 9230

HERBIG IDEA is a creative studio comprised of WHITNEY LYLE and SAM HERBIG. Whitney is a designer who loves to create books, packaging, and do more crafty projects in her spare time. Sam is a film electrician who loves to take photos tirelessly, while finding time on the side to create maps in various mediums (a long-standing hobby, starting with his 3-d topographical map of his hometown, Tübingen, Germany in elementary school).

Together, Whitney's big picture ideas and Sam's impeccable attention to detail, they pull prints in a print shop or set-up a makeshift photography studio. They love to generate ideas and find ways to execute them. 

Blog

We're chronicling our travels around the states on this blog. Check it out, if you're bored and sitting on an apple box (you can also check it out from home or the office).

Filtering by Tag: Art

Augenblitz

Whitney Lea

A whole lotta nothing...

Something we have both learned on the trip has been that things are almost always more than they seem. We have also learned that a place (or experience in the case of the road trip) is more than the sum of it's parts. Nothing could be a better example of this than the Lightning Field.

Our trip to the Lightning Field was by far the most expensive single night on our trip. It was also our second wedding anniversary, which certainly helped to validate the cost. We had heard about it from Sam's work buddy, Hunter, who had visited a number of years ago with his girlfriend Laura. 

We woke up in Gallup and knew that we needed to be in Quemado, NM by 2PM. According to Google it would be a 2.5 hour drive. We got up, ran to the store to grab some drinks and snacks, and then got on the road. I think we spent almost the entire time talking about the German National Soccer team because we had downloaded a pre-World Cup friendly match to watch if we managed to have downtime during the day. (We discussed our ideal squad, both lamenting that Marcel Schmeltzer would likely not play, that Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger would both give us a weak mid-field if they weren't at top performance, why the hell Toni Kroos is ever a part of the line-up, and whether the coach should pick Marco Reus or Andreas Schürrle to play attacking mid-field. This sounds like an awful conversation for most of the people reading this, but I assure you that talking about my favorite team was a wonderful anniversary gift.) We had looked at the forecast and saw that no rain was expected for our time there but decided we would still have a nice time regardless (we had the game, remember?). The only things we knew about the Lightning Field are what I am about to tell you now:

We would arrive in Quemado, park at an empty white building on the main street, bring whatever we would need for the night provided it wouldn't take up a ton of space, sign an NDA and a guestbook and then get in a car/truck with a cowboy who would drive us to the Lightning Field. Once there we would settle into a small cabin with up to 4 other people, eat dinner, and wait for night to fall and hope that a storm would roll through. In the morning, the cowboy would come back to pick us up and bring us back to Quemado. The Lightning Field isn't the house, but a field behind the house with a bunch of metal rods set-up as a grid, 1 kilometer by 1 mile in size. All of this was situated in a valley that attracts a lot of lighting and if it were to strike, it would dance across the metal rods and look super cool. An artist had come up with the concept and had done a few similar pieces with metal rods that could be found in different parts of the world.

So that's what we knew. What actually happened wasn't as flashy on the surface but it was decidedly more impactful in the end. We did park at the white building and sort through our cooler. We signed a paper that made us promise not to touch the metal rods if a storm rolled in and to use common sense. Nothing explicitly said no cameras, but we had read that part online somewhere and decided to leave the digital in the car. We sat by ourselves for a few minutes before being joined by 3 other people. Surprisingly enough, we discovered that not only were they also from New York City, but all three worked in the film industry. Two of them even knew Hunter (they actually had no idea that he had even been), although the reasons they were visiting were entirely their own. One of them had worked at an art foundation in Marfa, frigging Texas (that we had never heard of as a matter of fact) and that was where she had heard about The Lightning Field. It's a small world after all. 

Quemado according to Google Earth and Photoshop

Around 2 our "cowboy" showed up. Her name was Kim and she was a lifelong resident of Quemado, though she had briefly lived in Pie Town, just up the road a half hour or so. She was in High School when Walter De Maria (wiki!) began his Lightning Field project and many locals had no idea it was going on. High school students knew though because they actually helped him build the whole thing. We loaded into her Suburban and belted in for a bumpy ride. Kim told us a bit about working at the field and the maintenance she and Robert (the cowboy that Hunter referenced) have done in recent years, as well as about how the land was procured. She explained that Walter was very careful to buy up enough land so that when you're exploring the field you can see no trace of other people. She mentioned that someone built a house that was in view on one of the mounds in the distance, but I looked pretty carefully once we were there and saw nothing of the sort. Kim also talked about why we had an escort. Part of it is to preserve mystery about the exact location of the house, but the real reason is because the road to get there is total shit. As we drove it felt like we were in a monster truck at the rally as it drives over old beat up cars. The road was large gravel with some parts that were small holes and I think Kim maintained a speed of 50MPH. It was exciting.

So we arrived at this small homesteaders cabin and could faintly see many poles glinting in the distance behind the house. Kim opened the house and gave us a quick tour. It was actually quite beautiful and everything was thoroughly thought about and well-made. We entered in a kitchen that had basics and a little more. There were beans in a slow cooker and a tray of enchiladas in the fridge. Flan for dessert. Coffee, eggs, bacon, granola, fruit for morning breakfast. She showed us the bathroom, the three bedrooms, and the main room which had a few comfortable chairs and a large dining area. There was a binder with an artist's statement, as well as a typewritten version of an article about it from ArtForum in the late 1970s. Kim talked about the different animals we might see and also strongly urged us to walk around the field at sunset and sunrise. She kept remarking that she wondered if the artist was aware of so many different aspects of how the poles interact with the landscape when he decided on this parcel of land for this work and the different traits of the rods. I kept thinking, "Does she mean that there was supposed to be a lot of lightning here, or what? All I see is a bunch of scrublands, just like the rest of New Mexico. And most of Texas and Arizona, and Utah. Sure, it's pretty, but it's nothing miraculous." 

When she left we picked our bedrooms (the other group let us have the room with a double bed facing the field because it was our anniversary, which I thought was very nice of them). Then we hopped outside and walked onto the field. The poles themselves weren't quite as shiny as chrome, but they were more shiny than a stop sign post. They were all between 15 and 18 feet tall and were spaced pretty far apart. The tops were rounded points, so they looked like rows of metallic toothpicks stuck into the ground. There were hundreds of them and it was hard to see from one end to another from where we stood in front of the house. In the distance were a few rocky hills, similar to much of the landscape in that part of the United States. We walked about 3 posts into the grid and then 3-4 posts to the right. We looked around and were impressed, but didn't quite feel compelled to make the trek around the perimeter as our compatriots were doing. The ground was pretty uneven, the sun was pretty intense. The wind would kick up every now and then. All in all, our initial impression was, "Heh, ok, this is pretty cool. But it's too bad that we won't see lightning." We spent a lot of time talking to each other about the changes in soil or guessing about which animals could have created some of the poop pellets we were seeing. Noticing small wild flowers. Longing for Sam's camera, but still trying to make observations with the same eye we use when we do have it with us. 

When we returned to the house we skimmed the artist's statement and read some of the technical specs. Apparently all of the pointed tops on the rods were at the same height so that a flat plane could balance perfectly on the points without any slant, not an easy feat considering how uneven the ground was. Again, we were mostly considering the meaning of our time there on the surface only. I remember thinking to myself that all in all, it was definitely a really special place, but not quite as cool as many of the other great things we had seen on the trip. I thought that maybe we had reached a "cool stuff out West" overload and I couldn't appreciate the more simple things because we had explored so much in the previous two months. I focused on appreciating the engineering of the whole field a lot more than I normally would. I thought to myself, it was just as much a feat in engineering/land surveying as it was a piece of art. After our introduction to the lightning field Sam and I decided to take a nap for an hour before cracking a few beers and watching the game.

Lumo Field View No. 1

This is where my eyes finally started to open. Since our bedroom window overlooked the field, I glanced out every now and then as we watched the soccer game. I noticed that one moment the poles would look like a series of bright white gashes against the hills in the background. Five minutes later they were nearly invisible. The sunlight, shiny metal, and very plain surroundings were playing tricks on my eyes. I thought, "Hmm, maybe that's what Kim meant when she was wondering if Walter intended the poles to look like this..." Still, I chalked up the invisible poles to the hundred yards of distance between me and the field. After the game we ate a snack and went back out to the field. We had all agreed to eat dinner after sunset so we could enjoy the hours leading up to it fully out there.

We got outside about 20 minutes before scheduled sunset and headed right, or West, along the far edge of the perimeter. It wasn't a well-beaten path, but it was smoother than walking across the raw scrubland. We had the Lumo and Quad cameras, because we had justified that taking "artistically motivated" photographs that aren't meant to capture the field itself would be permissible. The cameras were entirely plastic after all;  we wouldn't be able to depict anything realistically. We noticed the poles started to take on a peach color, akin to the sky. Before we really realized it, we were at the mid-point of the Western side of the perimeter. The sun was still up and we had walked an entire quarter, so we decided, heck, let's walk the whole thing.

The sunset itself was more colorful than any I had ever seen before. In the opposite direction, the hills in the distance were becoming more intensely hued. Looking East at the poles as the sun blazed, the colors were different every minute. One second they were the color of smoked salmon, the next they looked like rows and rows of hot pink neon lights. They changed to golden toothpicks and then as we rounded the next corner the bottoms of the poles would take on the purple color that the hills had become. We were looking back at the last moments of the sun, trying to really soak in the beauty, all the colors, all of the rapid changes that were still hard to detect from one second to the next. As the colors started to take on more blues and purple, about half a mile into the third side, we found ourselves focusing on the changes in perspective as we walked amongst the rods. All perfectly aligned. If the house hadn't been there to orient us, we may have walked in circles all night and not even noticed. And with less light to play tricks it was easier to get an actual count of the rods and see the poles at each of the farthest corners.

Lumo Field View No. 2

It was dark and the stars were starting to appear as we rounded the last corner. The homesteader's cabin was glowing a warm yellow, casting long milky light out into the field. We carefully made our way back to the porch and then into the house, which by now smelled like enchiladas.

We all sat together for dinner, then champagne and flan, and finally a round of cocktails. The five of us talked about our experience on the field. We now understood what caused Kim to wonder about how much Walter De Maria could have realized when he decided to create art there. Did he intend for light, not lighting to be so much at play? Did he know how starkly everything would change from moment to moment, or did he start out with a surface idea that gained depth as he continued to plan and then build the field; much in the same way our expectations evolved into realities during our visit. What things happen there that he didn't imagine even then? It really did seem like this particular spot was a magical place for the Lightning Field to be. And even though it took him five years of scouting to choose this spot, I'm certain some of the effects of the field on the rods and the rods on the field couldn't be foreseen. Did he use the idea of a "lightning show" to draw people in like a marketing point or headline, and then let them explore and discover what this place is really about for themselves? How much does the small number of people visiting at one time and the overnight stay impact how meditative the audience is about this work?

That night we went out into the field once more to stargaze. Sam tried to take some long-exposure pictures of the house with his Lumo, but they didn't turn out in the end. We went to bed fairly early with the intention of catching sunrise, just as Kim had suggested. I have to say, sunrise was beautiful, but not as transformational as sunset. The neon glow was back, but rather than pink, they rods glowed buttery yellow. The sky was pale and lacking the intense colors that we had seen the night before. It was more serene and peaceful. An awakening feeling, but I am not a morning person. So after about 20 minutes we went back to sleep for four more hours. 

Breakfast was tasty and we followed with one last walk around the field where I ignored my rule-following instincts and told Sam it would be okay to take a cell-phone picture of the house.

Kim came to take us back to Quemado at 11 and before we knew it,  we were saying goodbye to our new friends and driving down the road to Pietown (wiki!). Which is known for, you guess it, pie. We split a lovely slice and the snapped this photo before making our way to Santa Fe for a night.

Pie related mood improvement

Pie related mood improvement


Where all the Extremists go

Samuel Herbig

Real paper maps will be back ... at some point. Pinky swear.

Thursday

Following the last post we really just had a lot of driving to do. Originally, we'd intended on staying a night in Jackson, WY (Whitney had told me all about the antler gates and such) and we did stop there if only for a milkshake but then decided to keep pressing on. We kept going mainly because in a tourist destination such as Jackson, rooms aren't exactly cheap to come by. Secondly, we wanted to make progress towards the South, to reduce the driving in the following days and seeing that we were traversing Wyoming and Utah, we didn't exactly have a lot of "cities" to choose from. We picked Evanston, right at the southwest corner of Wyoming at random.

By the way, we did need to stay at a motel that night. Not necessarily because we wanted to sleep in a bed. I'd like to think that we have gotten pretty comfortable with the whole camping setup. It was more that, as Whitney so gracefully put it, "we've had two more [expletive] milk shakes than we've taken showers in the past three days." That argument seemed to hold water.

We crashed in Evanston, ate the two most depressing meals of the road trip (dinner and breakfast), and got out of there as quickly as we could.

Fun side note: apparently the motel we stayed at got a lot of visitors from Australia in the winter season. So much so, that the front desk had a local time, Athens time and Sidney time clock on the wall. No one could explain the Athens time one though. Hmmm.

Friday

From Evanston we had booked two nights at the Lazy Lizard Hostel (turned out to be a "hostel", more on that later) for a bottom dollar price of $30 a night in Moab, UT. Now that I think about it, we really had intended on staying at Moab Basecamp while we were in the area, but their pricing and our budget didn't match up unfortunately. If I'm ever back there, I think I'd try to get out there though. Sounds like a heck of a cool place to visit.

Moab became more of a focal point mainly because of it's proximity to Arches National Park, which came highly recommended by Whitney's aunt Ronnie (whom you'll get introduced to later on, right after Denver). If you come from the North as we did, you'll likely approach Moab on Route 191, which is pretty unremarkable. It's flat, sandy, with low brush and grasses on both sides of the road. It's white, beige, yellow, brown... that kinda color spectrum reminding me of New Mexico and southern Texas. Then about 45 minutes outside of Moab, the road turns and starts to drop. Quickly, the large red walls that define this region started to rise all around us. The road drops off even steeper until you roll across the Colorado River and into Moab itself.

Extr-EHH-me sports!

Immediately, we started seeing signs for bouldering classes and climbing gear stores. There are signs to the nearest airport for skydiving and advertisements for SUV tours of the countryside. The main street was lined with big trucks, jeeps and ATV's. We were in and (almost) out of Moab in less than 10 minutes.

We checked in at the Lazy Lizard just at the other end of town and settled in. When I wrote about it earlier I put it in quotes, because it really seemed more like the house of a guy whose family had moved on and he decided to rent the rooms out as hostel rooms. Our room door barely closed, the carpet and furniture was a colorful mumbo jumbo of whatever was picked up at his friends place that wasn't needed anymore, etc. Considering that *everything* else in Moab starts at $100+/night it wasn't surprising, I guess. Just the same we were glad to have a room with a door and a place to take a shower.

Aside from exploring the area a little bit for it's striking formations, we also had laundry and some blogging on our agenda. For the evening program we wanted to try to do a little bit of both and set out to get up to Arches National Park for a first impression before sunset.

Late afternoon sunlight

We hopped back into the Omimobile and back tracked up 191 to the National Park entrance. Equipped with our America the Beautiful park pass, we only had to wait behind three Winnebago's that were paying with credit cards (sigh), had a chat about where they could drive with their monster-wagons (eye roll) and probably asked how the weather's been, just to be friendly (grumble). We had some sunset light to catch, people! Whitney, by the way wasn't sighing, eye rolling or grumbling, unless of course you're accounting for her disdain of my comments on the Winnebago's slow progress.

In order to get into the park, the road takes you up a relatively steep grade with multiple switch backs. Once you've made it up the first steep climb, you enter a plateau of sorts. It's flat, rocky or sandy, and covered in brush, bushes, lots of grass and shrubbery. Right before the road turns away from the valley you can actually get a pretty neat view over Moab. Immediately, huge red stone formations start to rise out of the plateau. They stand there like big chess figures or groupings of giant men and women (one of them is in fact named the "Three Gossips"). The road winds it's way along and it just becomes an awesome highlight show. 

Formation #1

With the sun setting the shadows of the rocks started to reach farther and farther towards the horizon, while the color of the rock started to change to a gleaming golden red in the sun and a purple violet on the shade side and although we had talked about it before, we both knew that we at least had to *try* to get in some painting time while we were here. We stopped here and there, so I could take some pictures, including this extr-EHH-me one of Whitney, look:

Oh my!

I'd meant to get a good tour around the park done in the evening, to get a feel for the park and what we wanted to do perhaps, when we got back up there in the next day or two, but Delicate Arch ended up being our turnaround spot. While the sun set behind us, we slowly cruised back towards Moab, trying to pick out a spot or two we might be able to paint at.

Back in town, our stomachs were grumbling and we picked out the Moab Brewery. It wasn't anything particularly special to be honest. The food and beer was fine enough. Carrying on with the extr-EHH-me theme that Moab operates under, the place was full with Kayak's suspended from the ceiling, advertisements for rafting and TV's alternating between a video about cycling and hill climbing.

The struggle is real

Right after we popped into the grocery store next door to pick up some beers. That's at least the way we thought this was going to go down. Pop in, pick up a couple of beers, pay and leave. Only, that even though we were in Moab, we were still in Utah and what they sell as beer in the grocery store is... different. The fact that the sign above beer fridge said "These beverages contain alcohol. Please read the label carefully." should have been a giveaway. Long story short, there's no beer above 3.2% at grocery stores (which all the big brewers go along with apparently, including some international companies), so we went back to Moab Brewery to pick up some "real" beer. Overall, we agreed that we'd had better beer. The packaging and labels were nice though.

Once back at the Lazy Lizard we each hammered out the text for a post. We probably would have enjoyed doing that in the common room or perhaps at the kitchen table, but unfortunately there was that guy. In this case that guy was an older, thin hippy with short white hair, standing at about 5'5" or 5'6". That guy was a talker and had finagled himself a young, and judging by the topics of discussion, naive kid to impart his wisdom to. I think that guy also gave the poor kid cookies. Yikes!

Saturday

After a good nights rest we woke up late-ish to finish the posts before heading out. Finishing in this case meant selecting and editing, then exporting and inserting the pictures into the blog drafts before we publishing them. In all honesty, even though I'd really been working on cutting down on the time I spend selecting and editing the pictures, it still takes quite a long time to get everything to work the way you want. From that point of view, I see how blogging can easily become a full time job. Whether that job deserves compensation or not is a different story, I am just saying that it takes an awfully long time. 

Being back in a hot and dry climate, reminded us of the wonderful time we had had at Hamilton Pool and Balmoreah and had in fact found ourselves another swimming hole to check out. En route we stopped at the Peace Tree Juice Cafe for an afternoon snack. They had one of those fancy misting patio's out front we'd seen in San Antonio and elsewhere in the Southwest. Whitney usually let's me choose where we sit whenever we eat out, so out to the patio we went. I'd like to point out that I'm not the only one that gets excited about those misters. While we were sitting outside a very upset little boy was walking by with his mother and sister. He was upset because the misters were too high up, so that the breeze would carry away the cooling water droplets before they reached him at about 4 feet above ground level. Totally unfair, I felt that kids pain. Didn't stop me from having a nice time though :-).

This. Is. UTAH!!!

We hopped back into the car and drove through a couple of neighborhoods out the east end of town, turned left onto a dusty one lane road and after a few hundred yards came to a little gravel parking lot. We parked, put on our bathing suits and sunscreen, I took a picture of myself in the reflection of the hubcap of a Ford F650 and headed on down the trail. Compared to Hamilton Pool this one really felt like a swimming hole. You didn't have to pay, the legality was somewhat questionable and you had to walk along a not always clear path for about 15 minutes which criss-crossed the stream multiple times before you got to the pool.

How YOU doin'?

Similarly to Hamilton Pool, we could hear the laughter and screams of delight from about 300 yards out, before we came upon it. In line with the extr-EHH-me theme, people were doing flips off the rock cliffs surrounding the pool from about 20-25 feet up. Another couple of guys had anchored a tight rope on either side of the pool and then switched off gingerly crossing back and forth. We learned later, that a loosely formed group of locals deepen the pool each year, by digging out the sediment and building a wall where the stream exits the hole. This way they said they get the pool to be another 4 or 5 feet deeper.

Both of us took the long walk around to get to the top but in the end opted to jump of the lower cliff only. I like to think that we did that because we were smart (I made solid contact with the ground when I jumped in), but you can feel free to call me a wuss.

This might seem like a weird time to bring this up, but a number of people have actually asked us about how prevalent religion was in public in Utah. Specifically, "aren't there a lot of Mormons everywhere?" was asked a few times. The answer as far as we're concerned is "no". We didn't see a lot of Mormons, there weren't a ton of religious symbols or churches or any of that stuff. As a matter of fact the only time that we encountered something that could have been an event based on religion was at the swimming hole.

Mill Creek swimming hole

A group of about 30 parents and kids were hanging out, in what seemed to us like a church group outing. The parents were encouraging the kids to jump off the lower of the two cliffs. One of the kids, he seemed to be around seven or eight years old, was trying to convince himself to jump in. At different points of the afternoon he literally had the entire assembled public cheering him on. While people were shouting out helpful hints such as "You can do it!", "You just gotta take three big steps and don't stop!" or "Just jump!" he was rocking back and forth peeking over the edge trying to just jump. On a number of occasions he actually started, only to stop himself just shy off the edge. In a way it was a magnificent performance, how he kept pulling people back in over and over again with his portrayal of a tortured soul trying to convince himself to just do what everyone knew he must do. In the end he was a real tragic hero and didn't jump. He left with the rest of the church group with his task undone. I really hope this isn't the way this story ends, and that in the next act he finally jumps and then maybe gets the girl (if the church allows it).

Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop...

Anyway, we had a real good time. We both jumped a few times. We walked up along the stream for a little bit (above the pool the stream actually flowed across multiple large stone troughs making it seem almost like a large bathtub). We cooled off by sitting in the water and eventually walked back to the car.

Roadtripping isn't all fun and games though, and at the end of the day we still had to find a place to do laundry. We googled and found Moab Laundry Express LLC, backed the Omimobile in, walked over to Gearheads asked for quarters (Thanks!) and loaded up three big washing machines of laundry and headed across the street to grab a bite for dinner at the Moab Grill. We got there just in time to witness an argument that went something like this:

Customer: This is bullshit! I don't buy it. There's no way that's a law!
Manager: Sir, I'm sorry but that's the law in the state of Utah.
Customer: I'm not buying food just so I can have a beer!
Manager: Sir, you'll have to purchase a food item. It's the law. Here, we have Texas Toast on the menu for just a $1.75.
Customer: This is the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard!
Customer exits and tries to slam door for emphasis. Door doesn't cooperate and closes slowly and quietly.

Oh, it was fantastic dinner theater! Afterwards, we went back, picked up and folded the laundry, stowed it in our handy dandy storage system in the trunk and went "home".

Sunday

Arches National Park day! We tried our best to start early, because we really had two big things we wanted to do: number one was to go on a hike (Sam's wish) and number two was to paint (Whitney's wish).

Though we really try to spread the love when it comes to eating out, we went back to the Peace Tree Juice Cafe for a second meal. Part of that was certainly that we had a very nice time there the first time around, but because the activities took priority going back to the cafe also saved us the time and effort that sometimes comes with trying to find a good eatery. 

I think it works in black & white

After eating we sensibly decided that since I am the more important person, we would go and do the hike first. I had heard and read about that one of the more spectacular areas in Arches, was Devil's Garden with it's many arches and rock formations all accessible with relatively little effort. There I had in mind that we would start to hike along the trail that leads all the way up to the Double O Arch and just see how far we would make it without settling on a final turnaround point. The map at the trailhead estimated the roundtrip to the Double O Arch as about 2-3 hours.

This is also the moment when Whitney started to rethink whether or not I was the most important person and whether it really was sensible to do the hike first. See, at the beginning of the road trip we'd set a goal to do some painting. Since at least Austin, we were traveling with four blank 18x24 inch canvases and we'd brought with us a storage bin of each paint brushes and acrylic paints. Though neither of us are painters we had spent a wonderful weekend in Vermont some time ago and done a painting each that time. We both had enjoyed that experience so much that bringing painting supplies somehow had always been the plan.

Especially when you're a novice, painting something big and interesting is perhaps easier than to paint something more mundane. I'd wager that it takes considerably more skill to get something ordinary just right. That's exactly what these arches were: huge, both vertically and horizontally, with a distinct and bold color palate and they were interesting looking. Also this was likely one of the last opportunities for us to paint this kind of spectacular scenery, since we hadn't taken advantage of Big Bend, Grand Canyon or Zion.

And that's why Whitney wanted to paint the arches.

Now that we had an official estimate for the length of the hike, Whitney became more and more concerned about the timing of our painting session. On one hand we both agreed that sitting in the blazing afternoon sun wasn't a particularly bright idea, on the other hand Whitney didn't think that squeezing in perhaps two or three hours to paint was going to be enough time. Perhaps we should have tried to paint on two days instead of just one?

Landscape arch in landscape

And so the hike through Devils Garden became a negotiation-in-motion. Regardless we got to see the Landscape, Partition and Navajo arches. They're all very, very different something I wouldn't have expected. Landscape arch is the most spectacular, just because it is so narrow and long and so high up. What makes Partition arch special is the view you gain, when you look through it. It's more of a window in a rock, I guess. And finally Navajo arch is a massive arch, that's low enough that you can really get a sense for scale. Walking underneath the arch is more akin to the feeling you get walking through a short tunnel or underground passage. You know what I took some pictures. Why don't you click yourself through them and perhaps that'll show it a little better than I can explain it?

After we visited Navajo arch, we decided to turn around because we were hungry and because we wanted to give ourselves a little bit more time to look for a spot to paint later. But since we were already there we figured we might as well stop by the Tunnel and Pine Tree arches. Tunnel arch is special because of the viewing angle. It really reinforces the notion that everything is a matter of perspective. You're only able to get a good view of the Tunnel arch from a certain distance. Go any closer and you'll lose the view of the actual hole. Pine Tree arch was one of the arches that you could easily walk up to and walk through. It was also perhaps the most literally named arch: there were a lots pine trees.

Mini people!

We left the park for the 2nd time and decided to grab lunch and margarita's at Eddie McStiff's (the margarita's were very good, says Whitney). While in town we also picked up ice for the cooler and gas. Then we returned to the park and while Whitney was questioning the rangers in the station about where we were and were not allowed to walk as well as about possible picturesque places to paint, I called my Omi to check in.

Armed with new information (walk anywhere you like, so long as the ground is rocky and don't crush the mini ground people!) we headed back up the serpentines and into the park. We'd spotted a place to paint on the first day and wanted to see if that would work out, but in the end there was no real place for us to set up. So we drove further and further into the park and perhaps more out of desperation then anything else decided to drive by the Windows section.

Fish eye in the desert

We parked, got out and walked up to the Double Arches. This was better. We could get right up to them and they were big. It was in the shade. After we looked around for a little bit, we both settled on a spot. Next we trucked our supplies up to the arches and found ourselves a rock that would serve us as easel and soon enough we were painting in peace and quite.

Or so we thought.

Our painting sessions ended up being a lot more interactive then anticipated. Our very first visitor fittingly was a professional landscape painter! He gave us some friendly tips and after hearing that we were trying to get a painting done before sunset slowly shook his head and murmured something about "not enough time". So no pressure at all.

After that we were visited by a steady stream of hikers and tourists. It's interesting how you feel like you can feel people looking at you. Okay, well and it also really doesn't help that due to the acoustics you can hear the mother whisper to her son: "Shhhhh! If you're quiet you can look. Just walk around behind them so you can see the paintings, but keep your distance honey, okay?".

We however were not to be deterred from coming home with colorful canvases and after about three hours our efforts seemed to pay off. Whitney wasn't very satisfied with her work, but I really think that it's pretty nice, right?

To say goodbye to the park, we climbed up into the Double Arch shortly before the sunset and looked out the other side. It was a short but pretty tricky climb, because the rock face at first seems to be offering so many opportunities to hold onto, but once you're a little ways up the rock the steep angle makes it hard not to keep your balance.

In the middle of the night in Cortez, CO

Then we packed up and got on the road. After all we still wanted to grab dinner (Buck's Grill House, try it... it's good), before heading out to our next roadside stop at the El Capitan Motel in Gallup, NM. By the way, we didn't do a whole lot of night driving on the roadtrip. That was mostly intentional, because night driving is more strenuous and also it's dark and you know it's hard to see stuff. This however was an exception and I'm glad about it. It was one of the more surreal drives in my mind because we were driving through reservations for long stretches at a time. We stopped once at the Handy Mart, but most of the drive was in the pitch black night with only a brilliantly clear night sky above us. If I was into hard drugs...

P.S.: I'm back to my old tricks and uploading all additional pictures to flickr again. Have a look!

That's all from Texas!

Whitney Lea

CLICK  on the image to enlarge it via Flickr!!!

CLICK on the image to enlarge it via Flickr!!!

That's all the news we thought was fit to draw from El Paso. We tried to make this first edition as all encompassing as possible, but these following images couldn't be adequately captured using pencil alone:

Also, a quick look into our fantastic accommodations while we were in the area:

"El Oso" at Casa de Sueños

"El Oso" at Casa de Sueños

Catching our stride in Savannah

Whitney Lea

Sister city

So I'm sitting here at our campground in Key West and I'm putting thoughts together for all of you about our time in Savannah. Sam and I have been taking about writing this post for days, as it sometimes goes with these things when we get busy or wrapped up in the trip. When we talked, we covered the highlights but both agreed that Savannah meant a little more to us than just hitting the main attractions.

1st impressions

1st impressions

From the very earliest times in our relationship we go through periods where we hit our stride. It can last from a week up though a month where we both feel really tuned into each other and the things we create, philosophize about, and take action on — separately and together.

We both knew the whole road trip couldn't be like that, but when we pictured visiting each place as we made our plans, that ideal was in our minds, fueling us on.

As Sam alluded to in his Chattanooga post, I wasn't in that tuned-in place. Sure, I had really loved the places we visited, people we spent time with, and all that we had done, but part of me was holding back a little bit and it kept my mind from being fully engaged in the present moments.

We had a few good heart-to-hearts and by the time we got to Savannah I was ready to hit the stride. So was Sam, and luckily, Savannah was too!

Didn't open with our key to the city :-(

Didn't open with our key to the city :-(

On the drive down, I wasn't sure what to expect. Charleston does the whole "wealthy historic southern city" thing so well that I wasn't sure if Savannah would just be a continuation of that. Now that I know what it's like, I can safely say it doesn't duplicate the appeal of its sister city and I'm so glad we had time to get to know Savannah a little bit. It's true that Savannah cares just as much for the visual presentation of itself as Charleston, maybe even more so, but the reasons seem to be more multifaceted. Charleston had to rebuild so much of the city after the war, the fire, the earthquake, and at least one more disaster that befell the city in the nineteenth century. They basically dedicated themselves to rebuilding what once stood to give people a picture if the past. Savannah on the other hand was untouched during the war and still looks historic on first glance, but youth and creativity is bubbling up through every pore. SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) has tirelessly restored so many buildings that you can find one on almost every historic block. The tourism is cheekier, and the overall vibe is more youthful, relaxed, and hip.

Write on the wall

Write on the wall

We got into town around 5:30 because our air bnb host would be able to get home from work around then. This was our first time using air bnb so we were a little nervous, but Bryan was very informative, relaxed, and kind. Our room was at the front of a clapboard duplex and the setup felt like a much more spacious brownstone. Bryan kept his place in immaculate shape and our room could've been featured in apartment therapy. He also had two bikes for us to use while we stayed with him, which was perfect. We were downtown in 7 minutes and got to ride through Forsythe Park and feast our eyes in the Spanish moss-laden oaks and tons of gorgeous buildings in the immense historic district.

We can recommend breakfast and dinner here

We can recommend breakfast and dinner here

After we settled in we went outside to grab dinner and ran into a guy who had parked behind us, seen our spare tire sticker, went to this very website, and happened to still be standing right there to tell us all of that! Very exciting stuff for us because up until then we weren't 100% sure if anyone bothered to read the sticker at all. He also suggested that we check out Foxy Loxy for cheap and tasty food, so we went over there for some beers and a chicken taco on their upstairs porch. The place was full of students from SCAD and the atmosphere was very friendly. This was not our last visit to Foxy Loxy during our 40 hours in Savannah!

After that we took the bikes and hightailed it downtown to enjoy a Creepy Crawl tour of Savannah that featured several pubs, go cups, and a number of engaging ghost stories told by our guide, Britney. Lots of good-natured chills and a case of the hiccups sealed the end of our first night in one of America's most haunted cities (cue Sam's tentative eye roll).

This is real

This is real

The next morning we went to Narobia's Grits and Gravy (Yelp link!) for breakfast because we heard that the French toast is killer. It is. After that we wanted to grab some art supplies, get tickets to see a movie that night, and then hop on a tourist trolley to get the lay of the land and a little history. We also found a moment to score some ice cream from Leopold's, which is apparently a pretty big deal (I had lavender flavored and it was quite nice).

The trolley wound up being a good substitution for my afternoon nap. We were slowly driving around, with a slight warm breeze and a soft yet gravelly southern voice telling us about what we were seeing for 90 minutes. We hopped off slightly more educated about Savannah and decidedly more hungry. We found Zunzi's where we got some happy hour beers and a very early dinner on their rooftop.

Best picture of Zunzi's rooftop patio

Best picture of Zunzi's rooftop patio

The next thing we did was likely the most engaging for both of us. We went to two different squares in Savannah and did some drawing. Since we hadn't really drawn together before and Sam hadn't had many drawing classes past grade school (or the Waldorf equivalent) I tried to remember how we started drawing classes back at SVA. Our attempts at the various time steps are posted below.

1. Create a series of bare bones drawings, with thirty seconds allotted for each. In school, if we were drawing live models these would literally be stick figures (even if they were gorgeous models and we were giggly college art students trying to be very serious and respectful).

Sam's abilities summed up in 30 seconds

Sam's abilities summed up in 30 seconds

2. Create a series of ninety second drawings with a few more details sussed out.

Whitney in 90 seconds

Whitney in 90 seconds

Two 90 second drawings (Sam going for extra credit here)

Two 90 second drawings (Sam going for extra credit here)

3. Create a five minute drawing as a rough guide for a longer drawing period (often two hours, but only twenty minutes in our case).

Whitney for 300 seconds

Whitney for 300 seconds

Sam for the same length of time

Sam for the same length of time


4. Choose one of the five minute drawings to turn into a more detailed rendering.

This is exemplary: Sam sitting still for 1200 seconds

This is exemplary: Sam sitting still for 1200 seconds

Whitney's drawing in the same discipline

Whitney's drawing in the same discipline

So there you have it. Our first collaborative art session of the trip (though our flashlight photo drawings in the smokies are in the same spirit). It isn't the last either. We have pencils, charcoal, chalk and oil pastels, acrylic paints, two novelty cameras, scissors, and glue. The sky is the limit here folks. Any suggestions for future projects would be loved and appreciated in the contents section below the post!

Reference picture: for science!

Reference picture: for science!

To round out our final night in Savannah, we went to the Lucas theater (beautifully restored and owned by SCAD) to see Fight Club. I hadn't seen it in at least ten years. Sam never had. And it was a blast. We talked about it for a beer or two after and most of the way home.

The next morning we hit Foxy Loxy again for colaches for breakfast and a trip to Bonaventure cemetery on our way out of town.

Next stop we'd be back to camping in St Augustine, Florida.

Random facts and statistics from Savannah:

  • Spanish moss isn't Spanish or a moss! It's an airborne plant related to the pineapple according to my nap trolley guide. 
  • She also said that the southern live oak never sheds all of its leaves. They just fall continuously.
  • Foxy Loxy is the antagonist from the folktale known as Chicken Little, Chicken Licken, or Henny Penny
  • The Forrest Gump bench was purchased at Home Depot and resides in a history museum in Savannah, leaving no opportunity for a photo op.