One of these is better for you.


Thanks for nothing, Corbusier

Thanks for nothing, Corbusier.

We’d had to sit at a stoplight opposite this thing for far too long. Its inhuman, inhumane ugliness continued imposing itself upon my eyes and mind and soul, looming, seemingly increasingly large, overhead like an executioner or perhaps like a boot stamping on the human face, forever.

Thus my response. Give me ‘frippery’ any day.

Of course, while I blame Corbu, a commentor at Flickr blames Gropius & his Bauhaus, while another blames the folks who approve prison block-like hunks of concrete that don’t weather well, much less welcome actual human beings.

Both fair points. Plenty of blame to go around, I say.

Okay. That was cruel.

How about something lovely?

Wayne County Courthouse

Wayne County Courthouse, Wooster, Ohio. Built 1878.


Monday Escape: Two owed to our GPS getting us “lost”

"Grandeur, Arrested" Abandoned mansion in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. Pinning to this page is okay.

“Grandeur, Arrested”

Searching through my work to find photos appropriate for last Thursday’s post (which was hard enough to write—then to learn I’ve no photographs of hearts or other appropriate items!), all sorts of other semi-forgotten photographs I’ve taken of course came across my radar. These I owe to our GPS, which often takes us into really interesting and utterly unexpected areas, since we unfailingly check off “Avoid Highways” before setting out.

One of our more memorable “Where is this thing taking us?!” such journeys was a return trip from Virginia, one that brought us through the humbling, often heart-stopping glory of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

What A Way To End Up. Blue Ridge Mountain abandoned shopfront. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. Pinning to this page is okay.

“What A Way To End Up”

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The end of the paper map? Surely not!

 "I think we should go here, here, and here."

You can probably imagine this road-tripper’s response to a recently-discovered story about the death of a map shop in Indianapolis. After running their shop for almost 30 years, Tim and Dayle Gravenstreter ran the Odyssey Map Store, where shoppers could browse through maps numbering in the thousands that would guide travellers through hundreds of countries around the world.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people,” Dayle Gravenstreter told me one autumn afternoon before they shuttered their doors for good. “African cab drivers who point out where they’re from on the map, a lot of military families, people going into the Peace Corps,” she said. “Everyone has a story and I’ve enjoyed listening to them all.”

There’s something about maps that appeals to us—the promise of discovery, of places to roam. Now, of course, we seem to see maps most often as decor, as any two-minute to Pinterest will testify. Though most folks rarely use a paper map anymore, preferring instead the guidance of a GPS, we can’t seem to resist their allure.

Yearning. Texas, Route 66, USA. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

Your GPS has NO idea where this is.

Of course, that preference for new technology has led to the shuttering of Odyssey:

Customers planning major family trips had been the core of Odyssey’s business, but in its last remaining years, those people stayed home to do their research on the computer. Map collectors became the primary base, but antique globes and reproductions of 17th-century seafarers maps couldn’t keep the doors open. Dayle pulled one of the reproductions from the shelf, lovingly pointing out specific details, like the scary-looking sea monster trolling the southern Atlantic Ocean. Besides the map’s aesthetic appearance, she just likes the feel of it in her hands.

“I like to see things on paper, to get that larger view that you can’t get from a GPS screen,” she said.

Dayle lamented that many younger people might never know the pleasing heft of an atlas or the musty smell of an old glove box map; that old technology is no match for the instant gratification of a Garmin’s lifeless drone telling you where to turn.

Dayle and the article’s author, Rob Annis, are correct. Having a paper map or atlas will not only serve you well if you end up in a dead zone (or if there’s a cataclysm of some sort), but the old-school explorer version gives you a big picture. Though we do have a GPS, for the road trips we take, we never use the darned thing; it’s paper maps, map books, and atlases all the way unless we need to find gasoline or coffee Right Now. Besides, it’s just plain fun to pull over, spread the map against the dashboard, and figure out which way to get where we’re going.

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Last night I released my 1,200th finished photo from my Route 66 photography project—fittingly enough, it is one from the hotel we’ve stayed at more than any other during the journeying back and forth: the Munger Moss Motel.

Munger Moss Motel Neon, Route 66, USA. Copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.


It’s a nice round number, 1,200, but there are a few left from my last trip along the Mother Road, and God willing, more to come. My hope is to make it all the way to California within the next two years, thus wrapping up this particular undertaking—though no doubt I’ll hit Route 66 again and again. It’s such a great journey; I don’t think you could exhaust its wonders, joys, and laughs in a lifetime. Not even close.


If you’d like, enjoy this slideshow of all 1,200 Route 66 photographs (above and at the link) from my journeys.


Monday Escape: Perfect Spot for Lunch in West Virginia

This isn’t wintry at all, but it is serene and lovely—well, it does suit the whole purpose of my sharing a photo with you on Mondays: a way to escape the most-dreaded day of the week!

Rural church resting on the crest of a hill. Copyright Jen Baker & Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

During my most recent journey to see my doctor (he’s a couple of states away, but considering the man saved my life, he’s well worth the drive), I journeyed, as always, along old US and state routes. Doing this often takes a bit longer, but it’s much more interesting, pulchritudinous, peaceful (well…other than some of the questionably-maintained roads my GPS takes me on), and obviously provides fine fodder for my mind, eye and camera.

This particular trip took me through places I’d never seen before, last autumn’s unusual intensity in colour making it an exceptionally marvellous drive. That said, I found myself driving for quite some time through places with no restaurants or diners—it was farmland all around, so there wasn’t even a spot to pull over and stretch my legs on those curving roads, much less enjoy the modest but tasty lunch I’d brought with me. I must have gone about 70 miles, at least, without seeing such a place.  Road tripping has taught me, though, that eventually such a place will turn up, even in the remote and scantly-populated mountain foothills of southeastern Ohio and West Virginia.

Just that happened last fall—steering my coupe around yet another sharp hillside curve, and there in the distance appeared this pretty country church resting on the crest of another hill (which was, of course, a few hills away yet—those familiar with that part of the country know what I mean!). As always, the road had yielded an ideal resting place for those travelling along it. Pulling into the steep drive with no small amount of relief, being able to park the car in front of the church and planting my feet onto the ground for the first time since stopping for a coffee about two and a half hours before proved to be a real joy!

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Roadtrip Bucket List: The Mohawk Trail

Ah, if wishes were horses—I’d be on the road shooting all of the time! (Well, maybe not during holidays, but you get my drift.) Last week, thanks to a New York Times article, another American road trip made its way onto my radar and thus my bucket list: Massachusetts’ Mohawk Trail.


Covering 63 miles on Route 2, the Mohawk Trail—so named for the victorious tribe in a ginned-up conflict between the Mohawk and Pocumtucks—was not only America’s first automobile-ready road, but one of the oldest and most-travelled roads in the country, period. A popular trade route before Europeans arrived, what was once a footpath through the Berkshires was soon widened for wagons and carriages; it didn’t take long for the curving, climbing road to be graded so the new wonder of the age, the automobile, could more easily travel the route. By 1914, this portion of Massachusetts’ Route 2 was designated as a scenic tourist route by the state legislature; today, it is still considered one of the loveliest drives in the state. National Geographic Traveller even chose the Mohawk Trail as one of the 50 best scenic routes in the nation (a list I fully intend to look into more deeply), so it must merit our attention!

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Route 3: A great road trip waiting to be taken?

A short article in the Concord Monitor has alerted me to a potential great road trip we haven’t considered yet: Route 3 in New Hampshire! This one even crosses an international border into the Great White North of Canada! New Hampshire’s Office of Travel and Tourism Development are even marketing it as the “Retro Road Tour”.

I like it already—it’s as if they’re asking me to head on up to New Hampshire and do some shooting along 133 miles of Route 3’s northern reaches…and I’m already mighty tempted!

It starts at the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton and ends at the Cabins at Lopstick overlooking First Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg. Sojourners who make it that far (and, these days, who have their passports with them) should cross the border and experience Magnetic Hill in Chartierville, Quebec.

…Most of the motels and many of the attractions listed on the tour date back to the early ages of automobile travel. Rumney’s Polar Caves, for example, opened in 1922; Clark’s Trading Post in 1928; Funspot in Laconia in 1942; Storyland in Glen in 1954, and Six Gun City in Jefferson in 1957. The many stops listed on the tour complement the real attraction along Route 3, the gorgeous landscape and the opportunities for outdoor recreation that it offers.

Excuse me…sorry…just…hauling this…suitcase up the…stairs…*pant pant*

New Hampshire’s tourism office has put together what is really a fabulous little itinerary booklet, available for free at their website (I’ve stolen the cover for this post, as you can see) just click the gorgeous old car dashboard glowing away above the “Route 3 Retro Tour”. Again…swoon. There’s a great little overlay map of Route 3, with all of the interesting stops marked using an easy-to-understand (and attractive) colour key. And bless them, they even talk about the glory day of the American road trip—motor courts, restaurants and diners, and the coming of the interstate system. Continue reading