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


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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A motorcycle is a lot of different things to different people. To some people motorcycles are loud, annoying, scary, and just a pain in the rear-end (they have never ridden a bike for hours at a time and really know that a pain in the rear-end is). BUT TO A MOTORCYCLE RIDER it can only be described as one thing – FREEDOM! The freedom to explore the backroads of America.

In 1867, Ernest Michaux, fitted a small steam engine to a velocipede which was the first bicycles with pedal. The velocipede had been developed by Ernest’s father who was a blacksmith in Paris. The first American motorcycle was built in 1868 when Sylvester Roper built a velocipede with a coal-fired boiler place between its wheels. Roper died on June 1, 1896 demonstrating his machine. During this time many companies began to develop “motorized bikes”.

In the early 1900s motorcycles began to see their popularity grow. The Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company was founded in 1901. In their first full year of production they manufactured 500 bikes. In 1913 they had their best year ever selling 32,000 units. In 1903 Harley Davidson started producing motorcycles – and we all know that story. By 1920 Harley Davidson was the largest manufacturing with dealer in 67 countries. Motorcycles were being manufactured all over the world.
In Germany BMW introduced a shaft drive and other advanced technology. In the 1920 there were over 80 companies in England alone manufacturing motorcycles including familiar names like Triumph and Norton.

In the 1950, companies from Japan including Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Honda began introducing their motorcycles to the world. These bike changed the motorcycle world ending the dominance of the European and American manufacturers. Today these companies still dominate the world market – but after some hard years Harley Davidson remains very popular in the United States.

WELL BACK TO THE ROAD – why do we ride?
Unless you have experienced cruising down a country road (at whatever speed you chose) on two wheels, and in some cases three, you will never know the answer. Unless you have had the pleasure of enjoying the smell of flowers, exhaust, fresh baked bread, and meat being smoked as you pass houses, you will never know. Now I must add there are a few road odors, such as a recent skunk roadkill, that are not all that pleasurable. Unless you have been flashed a friendly wave while passing a fellow rider going the opposite direction, you will never know. Unless you have spend time at a gas station, local cafe, or rest stop sharing with other riders where you have been and where you are headed, you will never know. Why we ride can be summed up in one word – FREEDOM

Four wheels move the body…..TWO WHEELS move the SOUL anonymous

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On November 11, 1926 Route 66 was established. Route 66 ran 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illions, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before it ended in Santa Monica, California. It would become on of the most famous highways not only in the US but in the world!

Route 66 became the major westward route for thousands of families that moved to the west during the Great Depression. After World War II hundred of thousands returning GIs traveled Route 66 moving their families to the west in search for a better life – it became a modern day gold rush.

This highway was immortalized by the entertainment industry. The song Route 66 was written by Bobby Troup in 1946. It was recored that year by Nat King Cole and has been covered by Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, A Sleep at the Wheel, John Mayer, Glenn Frey and many others. Beginning on October 7, 1960 CBS began airing Route 66 – a weekly TV series in which two young men traveled across America in a Red Corvette. The adventure continued until March 20, 1964. In 2006 Pixar Studios released the movie Cars. Cars was inspired by the historic Route 66. The movie stared a RED CORVETTE named Lighting McQueen. It is the story of how Lighting McQueen discovers the Life on the Highway not on the interstate.

Driving Route 66 is on my bucket list – I dream of traveling each of the 2,448 miles eating cheese burgers and drinking malts to whole way.

During a recent trip to Oklahoma I visited Arcadia, Oklahoma. Arcadia was established in 1889 during the Oklahoma Land Rush. The original settlers were cotton farmers. Arcadia is a greek word meaning: Any real or imaginary place offering peace and simplicity. It now is has a population of 279 and is famous for an old red barn and POPS! What can be more peaceful than that?

POPS is the newest landmark on Route 66. It is a must stop for all Route 66 travelers. There is a 66 foot soda bottle out front that provides a fantastic light show at night. Inside you can dine on burgers, fries, and your choice of 10 different flavored milkshakes. NOW FOR THE GOOD PART. POPS has over 600 different flavors of soda – ice cold and ready to enjoy. They have over 80 different root beers and 50 different cream sodas (who drinks cream soda). In addition you can fill up with gas so you can continue you Route 66 adventure and they have SUPER CLEAN RESTROOMS!

The Route 66 experience can be summed up in a famous quote by our fiend Lighting Mcqueen: KA BOOM!

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS – Texas Wildflowers

Every state has something that it can boast about – California has beaches, Colorado has mountains, New Mexico has amazing sunsets and in TEXAS we have wildflowers. Every April wild flowers start appearing along the highways and backroads of the state. At the first sighting, parents grab their children dressed them in colorful outfits, to take the annual “sit the kids in the bluebonnet” photo. If you were born and raised in Texas you have at least one of these pictures stuffed somewhere in an old shoe box.

The most famous of these is the official flower of Texas: The Bluebonnet. In 1901 there was debate in the Texas Legislature: would the cotton boll or the cactus be adopted as the official flower of the state. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Texas lobbied for the Lupinus subcarnosus – know as buffalo clover or bluebonnet. On March 7, 1901 it was passed into law that the bluebonnet was officially the State Flower of Texas. There are five species of bluebonnets – so we Texans can boast that we HAVE FIVE STATE FLOWERS (take that California).

There are many other flowers that explode from the ground during the Wildflower season turning the roadsides and pastures into seas of color – so pack up the kids and your camera – an oh yeah don’t forget to smile big for the photo.

there are so many colors in the rainbow, so many colors in the morning sun, so many color in the flowers and I see everyone. ……Harry Chapin/Flowers are Red

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