Hitting Stage Two

May 27th 2010: New Work, Travel

Germany is not a very big country, but makes up for that by being about as densely populated as a mall on Black Friday. It’s half the size of Texas with four times as many people. You have to put up some serious effort if you want to get lost. Walk 20 minutes in any direction and you are bound to find a path, a road, or a town. Because of the short distances and the limited space, the roads are narrow and the cars small and efficient. As a result, many Europeans living in the US become obsessed with the American road of life. The seemingly endless stretches of highways and landscapes between places. The diversity between the American cultures at both coasts and the country in between. The true bear and wolf wildernesses. And the big cars with their massive engines. I’m one of those Europeans.

Inspired both by my own desires and by the example of photographic heroes like Stephen Shore and Robert Frank, I will be driving across the US to see and experience *everything*. A two and a half months trip covering 12,000+ miles, split into three legs. A journey to the heart of the all-American spirit. An opportunity to discover more about, and to document, this country that I have come to call home.

During my time in Argentina my photography has taken a new direction. Further inspired by photographers like Daido Moriyama, I have both continued to work on the Provoked series I started last November, as well as making a new move back to some of my original interests around street photography. It’s new and improved, really. The latter started as a way of documenting my new environment, the new experiences of this continent I had never visited before, but it was also heavily influenced by the abstract nature of the Provoked series. The current work has become an interesting mix of the two: on one side it captures the place, this strange environment, on the other hand it pulls its energy, its liveliness, its impact from the abstraction of elements. Traveling on Main Street USA with plenty of film will allow me to continue and really further both projects, with a particular interest in the latter one. Being constantly exposed to new places provides a need to document and the key challenge will be to see beyond trying to take pretty but generic travel photos and instead keeping a tight focus. And to have some fun along the way.

The Route

It is a 12,000 mile trip from San Francisco to New York, coast to coast. Starting the weekend after Memorial day, on June 5th, and arriving in New York around August 15th. The trip is split into three major legs: the west, the south, and the east:

The West Coast

By far the most driving per day: 4,000 miles in 2 weeks resulting in an average of 6 hours of pure driving per day. Fortunately a friend of mine will join me making the distances bearable. Highlights from this section include: Lassen National Park, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, the national parks Banff, Glacier, Yellowstone, and Zion, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The South

The south is the longest stretch: 5,500 miles in 6 weeks with a number of “distractions” on the way. Highlights include: Monument valley, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, VLA, White Sands, Roswell, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock, Atlanta.

The East Coast

The last section at a manageable 2,500 miles in 2 weeks visiting: Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Montreal, Quebec, Boston, New Haven, and finally arriving in New York.

The Car

The whole trip and its schedule hung on my ability to find and purchase a car within only a couple of weeks. In anticipation for this trip I identified four car types as possible candidates:

  • The Custom Van: an upgrade from the VW bus, A-Team style. Spacious, but only tops 60 mph going downhill with wind behind you. Throw a mattress in the back and you got yourself a place to crash.
  • The Pick-up Truck with Camper Shell: a more powerful, often 4×4, version of the custom van still providing the ability to sleep in it, but more flexible when you feel like leaving the asphalt.
  • The Subaru: the serious off-road choice. Sturdy and reliable with all conveniences for a long trip.
  • The Muscle Car: for no other reason than that I have been in love with Mustangs and Chargers ever since I started driving in this country.

I spent the last few days with aggressive craigslisting, test driving a variety of cars and trucks and some that don’t really seem to classify as either, and meeting a number of very curious people in the process. In the end, the runner-up was a tempting ‘72 Ford Mustang with a roar so deep as to fool your bones into thinking you were trying out a massage chair at Sharper Image, and with a hood so long you could park a Smart Car on it. However, the clear winner was a sporty ‘02 Subaru Forester, dirt and fun ready, now getting his (her?) last road tune up at my mechanic. And after four long hours at the DMV I can now claim it to be truly mine! Though, it might need some decorations. Maybe a long horn for the hood while in Texas? Maybe spinning rims? Race stripes?

The New Blog

Being plugged back into the Jobs collective I decided to give Tumblr a try. For the next few months I’ll be maintaining *gasp* two blogs: this blog will continue to be the main point of access, containing longer ramblings of what I’m up to, while worldsplatter.tumblr.com will bring you all those little “holy sh*t, check out that pack of squirrels attacking that herd of moose” moments I expect to have along the way. Courtesy of the mighty Jesus phone. Note the link in the top right corner. Questions? Ask them on Tumblr…

And Theeeeeeen?

As the road trip plans solidified, so did some of the long term plans. I have updated the Travel Plans page to reflect my current thinking, the main change being a “quick” visit to Asia after the road trip and then spending several months in New York. I love New York.

Posted in New Work and Travel by Ernst Bruening on May 27th, 2010 at 9:51 pm.

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