Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

Focus on the Backroads bio picture

    There is approximately 50,000 miles of Interstate Highway in the United States.....filled with cars traveling at an average of 75 miles an hour. Several years ago I began driving the BACKROADS throughout Texas and the surrounding states - discover many fascinating places and people. While traveling "off the beaten path" I have tried to capture the spirit of these forgotten roads in photographs.

    After sharing some of these journeys with folks I have met I've been encouraged to document my travels.........I invite you to FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS!

    "To often......I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen"
    Louis L'Amour


HORIZON (noun) 1. the line or circle that forms the apparent boundary between earth and sky.   2.  the limit or range of perception, knowledge, or interest.

If you are standing (or driving) on a flat road it appears to stretch forever – however because of the curvature of the earth, the horizon is only three miles away.  Unless you are wearing heals then it is a little further!  When standing on a beach at the Pacific Ocean it looks humungous, it appears to stretch forever.  It actually does but you are only seeing three of the nine thousand miles across it.

When I was young my family would drive from Washington State to Montana to visit my grandparents.  Mom and Dad would be up front and my two brothers and I would jump into the back, after fighting who was going to have to sit on the “hump”.  We would head out of the neighborhood to begin our 665 mile drive from Vancouver to Helena (now you know why we fought over who would sit on the hump).  After following the Columbia River for about an hour and after singing 100 bottle of beer on the wall (at least a 100 times – which is actually 10,000 bottles of beer) we would start asking “how much further to Grandma’s house”…..only to be told either it was over the next hill or it was up over the horizon.  Later I realize that everything in life is up over the next horizon.

The horizon provides many things… the morning beautiful sunrises, in the evening beautiful sunsets.  It is a marker for a destination driving down the road (just ask my parents).  It is the FOCUS point of many photographs.  Most important it give us hope as we wonder what is BEYOND THE HORIZON:  below is a poem by Abbin Joseph


The sun disappeared beyond the horizon after burning brightly
The sky appeared rosy like the pomegranate before darkness crept in
Birds in a row swiftly fluttered their wings to reach their nests
I stood still staring at the sky beyond the vast horizon

The horizon is the dividing line between the known and the unknown
Beyond the horizon there is always hope;hope of the unknown
Hope of the unseen,hope of a better tomorrow and a bright future
The horizon is a symbol of days yet to come and duties yet to perform

Beyond the horizon there is the thrill of expectation and zest for life
The readiness to embrace whatever happens for the love of life
The indomitable will to face the challenges of life from time to time
The realization that the battle of life is to be fought till the end

Beyond the horizon there are unfulfilled dreams and unsung songs
Unknown worlds,untrodden paths and unconquered heights
I stood still lost in my thoughts like a naughty kid
Streaks of light appeared beyond the horizon in the farthest end

The horizon brings contradictory thoughts in a disturbed mind
Series of anxious thoughts about the future as well as the present
Revealing the mind’s dilemma to face the unknown fearing failure
Showing man’s basic reluctance for change and novelty due to fear

We dream many things and build castles in the air
They are shattered in a moment by unexpected events
Like a sudden storm that wipes out trees and roofs en route
Life,like the imaginary horizon is full of uncertainties and surprises


Keep your eyes on the horizon (and the road)


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One March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law establishing Yellowstone as the first national park in the United States.  For centuries Native Americans lived in the Yellowstone area.  This area was by-passed by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800’s (if they had visited this region they may have stopped and never made it to the Pacific Ocean).  Except  for visits from Mountain Men there were no organized exploration of this area until the 1860’s.  Almost immediately 3,500 square miles of the most beautiful  and unusual terrain  in the US was set aside to be enjoyed by people from around the world.  From 1872 till 1917 the US Army was in charge of overseeing the park. When the National Park Service was created the this task was transferred.

Yellowstone  Lake, one of the largest high altitude lakes in North America is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano in North America.  There have been three super eruptions occurring 2.1million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago.   These along with numerous smaller eruptions formed the spectacular sites at one of our most visited National Parks.

Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have been documented in Yellowstone.  These include Grizzle bears, wolves, bison, elk, deer, and many others.  This area has many recreation opportunities:  fishing, hiking, camping,  white water rafting, site seeing, and (you guessed it) MANY PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES.

My family roots are firmly planted in Montana.  Both my parents and grandparents were born and raised there.  Along with my family I made many trips to this area when I was young and had the pleasure to visit Yellowstone during the “Wonder Year” period of my life.  Recently my son and I visited Yellowstone and the Tetons (subject of another blog entry).  With our cameras in hand we headed out before the sun came up and returned long after it went down at night.  He and I did not get to visit every square mile of the park, we tried, oh well a good reason to go back.

If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone I would suggest checking out Yellowstone Under Canvas.  If you are looking for a “non-traditional” place to stay – this is the place.  It is Glamping at its finest!

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.  Albert Einstein


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Coupland Texas was founded in 1887 by Major Theodore Van Buren Coupland  on land that he had inherited from his uncle A.J.  Hamilton.    After the Civil War Hamilton had been appointed provisional Governor of the State of Texas  by Andrew Johnson.

Coupland, Texas is located on highway 95 between Elgin and Taylor.   Like many other towns in the area the early residences of Coupland were farmers. The building that is now the home of the Coupland Inn and Dance Hall was built in 1904 and housed the Coupland Drug Company. The Coupland Tavern was built in 1910, and has also been the home of a hardware store, newspaper,  (The Coupland World Globe News).  The bar in the Coupland Tavern was purchased and moved from an Old Tavern, the Palace Saloon, in Schlunberg, Texas.  This bar which is well over 100 years old is today the main bar at the Coupland Dance Hall and yes THOSE ARE BULLET HOLES!

In 1992, after much blood, sweat, and “a few beers”,   Barbara and Tim Worthy opened a 7,000 square foot dancehall naming it Coupland Dancehall and Tavern.  Shortly afterwards  phase two was completed when  the Worthys opened the doors to the Coupland Inn – serving some of the best bar-b-que in the area.  As the word got out about the great food and hospitality folks from all over the area began making their way to Coupland.  Well as every Texan know bar-b-que is served until “you run out of bar-b-que.   Barbara and Tim soon decided to expand their menu to include other Texas favorites including Steak and as Tim told me recently – some of the best Chicken Fried Steak you will ever eat! A visit to The Coupland Inn and Dance Hall is like stepping into a true  Texas tradition.

Many music legends, such as Jonny Rodriguez, Ray Price, Gary Stewart, Brad Paisley, Ricky Trevino and others have performed on  the large stage in the dancehall.  You also can hear some of the best local Texas musician every Friday and Saturday night.  The restaurant is open Thursday through Saturday.   The Inn has seven guest rooms available, each with its unique style and decor and includes a delicious  country breakfast. So saddle us the wagon, well the SUV, and visit this Texas Treasure!

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Each July many of the best balloonist from all over the world converge to the East Texas town of Longview for what is billed as “The longest running hot-airballoon event in Texas.”  It is also is a blast of a weekend that will raise your excitement levels HIGH INTO THE ATMOSPHERE!

In 1978  to celebrate the opening of the Longview Mall  a local balloon pilot, Dr Bill Bussey, DDS, flew his hot air balloon over the mall with  banner advertising the malls opening  draped from his balloon.  The next year Dr. Bussey and the Mall managers organized the first Great Texas Balloon Race on the anniversary of the malls opening.  At the event in 1980, on the mall parking lot Bill Bussey and Bill Stoudt created the first-ever Balloon Glow –  witnessing  a late night Balloon Glow is a must and should be on everyones bucket list.

In 1990, the Great Texas Balloon Race was moved to the East Texas Regional Airport on the south side of Longview.  The airport is still the home of race today.

From its humble beginning as a promotion to advertise a local mall  opening, the Great Texas Balloon Race has become a world class event attended by the most competitive pilots from across the US and the world.

The 2014 Great Texas Balloon Race, will be held July 29th through August 3rd. The US National Championships for 2014 are held August 1st through the 3rd.  Balloon glows are scheduled both Friday and Saturday nights at 8:55pm.  Each evening there is entertainment: Friday night Roger Creager will be performing and Saturday night Tracy Lawrence.  Along with balloon races,  cool balloon glows, great music – there rides, concessions, and vendor booths.

The Great Texas Balloon Race is a GREAT EVENT for folks of all ages……for more information visit and make plans to attend – DONT FORGET YOUR CAMERA!

In 1967, Jimmy Webb wrote wrote the following lyrics in his song Up, UP, AND AWAY:

The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon – it wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon – We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky.  FOR WE CAN FLY – WE CAN FLY!


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Today you can visit any car dealership looking for a pickup and have numerous choices ranging from size, trim packages, and hundreds of colors. In early days pickups were purchased because of utility and considered as equipment – today most pickups purchased are for transportation. It is amazing that there are so many 4-wheel drive pickups in Texas that never get off the interstate – well you never know when you might happen upon a hill (not often). There is one thing for sure TEXANS ARE PROUD OF THEIR PICKUPS! Pickups were born in the early 1900’s. The automobile industry was booming. The big three were Ford, Dodge, and Chevy. In 1918 the US Army awarded the Dodge brothers a purchase order for a half-ton multipurpose truck. This accelerated the category of light-weigh truck. The Dodge truck was powered by a 35-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine. It had a maximum payload of 1,000 pounds. During this same period Chevy introduced the Model 490, named after it’s price of $490.00. For $490.00 you received a chassis without a cab or bed. You had the choice of building your own or buying a cab for $100.00 and bolting it on yourself. In 1925 Henry Ford began manufacturing the Ford Model T Runabout. Ford revolutionized the truck industry with the first factory assembly line trucks offering them to the public for $281.00 WITH A BODY! The Ford Motor Company manufactured 33,800 pickups that year. Over the next few years many improvements were made. The early 4-cylinder engines were replaced with more powerful 6 and 8-cylinders. Cabs and beds got larger. Even radios and air-conditioning was added. Many of the trucks from yesteryear still exist as a reminder of a period of American history when there were great industrial pioneers such as Henry Ford (Ford Motor Co), William Durant (General Motor Company), Louis Chevrolet (Chevrolet), Walter Chrysler (Chrysler Corporation), John and Horace Dodge (Dodge Motor Co), and many others. These men played important roles in the American Industrial Age and are responsible many of the conveniences that we enjoy today. Many of these old pickups have been restored by truck and car collectors while other are scattered throughout old town and pastures throughout the countryside. Although many are rusting away they remain as monuments and reminders of an important period of American history. The next time you are cruising down the Interstate – BETTER YET THE BACKROADS – in an air-conditioned, 4 x 4, extended cab, with luxury leather interior truck. While you are enjoying some classic rock on it’s satellite radio (BORN TO BE WILD) and being directed by it’s navigation system. If you happen to see one of these iconic trucks – pull over and salute that old rusty relic of yesteryear. Better yet TAKE A PICTURE! I hate the old pickup truck – YOU NEVER LET ME DRIVE Taylor Swift

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