This Month
Every month or two since I took off in the motorhome and headed off into the sunset, I have sent out a big email to a mailing list of friends and family talking about my travels. I am going to post that email here in my this month gallery for all my flickr friends to read. This is my latest email.

Happy new year, from the homeless guy

Well, I guess I'm long overdue for my next big email. So... Greetings, friends, family,everyone... My first stop after starting the new job, was Chicago. I had four days to explore, and photograph it. Then, off to St. Louis, where I spent another four days, a few days in Oklahoma City, then the mad dash to Albuquerque. I wasn't looking foreward to visiting Chicago. I hate cities in general, and I've heard it has some dangerous areas. Well, I gotta tellya... Chicago was one of the nicest, cleanest, safest, most beautiful cities I have EVER seen! I really loved it there. About the most dangerous thing that happened while I was there was walking back to the train, after taking some nighttime skyline shots. (After the first two days of sitting in the worst traffic I have ever experienced in my life, I got smart and took the train) I met up with these 2 huge drunken guys. They said... "Hey... Are you a Bears fan" I said "No... I'm from Jersey... I'm a Giants fan" I don't know what the hell I was thinking! Here's today's travellers tip of the day. When you meet up with 2 huge drunken guys, at night... IN CHICAGO... And they ask "Are you a Bears fan?" JUST SAY YES!!! Just when I thought I was going to get my ass kicked, I managed to redeem myself. They said "Well, we're playing Dallas this weekend, and we're going to KICK THEIR ASS!!!" I said "Oh... They're playing Dallas... Well... There are two teams I like... I like the Giants... And I like, whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys!" So, that satisfied them. They were like "YEAH... YEAH... HE'S A BEARS FAN... DALLAS SUCKS!" It's still hard to believe I have a real, full-time job now. How strange is that. It's like, every day, I feel obligated to actually do something.

So, I've been on the new job with Smith-Southwestern, for over three months now, and so far, things couldn't be going better. I can't imagine working for nicer people. My bosses are all really nice, great people. They seem very happy with everything I am shooting for them. Thank God, Bruce, the big boss, has a great sense of humor. I have accumulated quite a group of wacky friends on flickr (my online photo gallery). We all enjoy leaving funny comments under each others photos. Bruce looks at my flickr photo gallery every day, to see what I'm up to. I was kind of worried for a while, that he would be bothered by some of the strange comments under my photos. I was so relieved when he told me how much he enjoys all the funny comments I get.

I'm always amazed at how different people are as I travel around the country. Being a photographer has become more and more difficult ever since 9/11. I used to shoot photos of whatever I wanted, and nobody seemed to care. Shooting photos in cities has become increasingly difficult. Last summer, I shot a couple of photos in Times Square, NYC. It wasn't two minutes before several cops informed me that I can't take pictures with a tripod in Times Square. (As everybody knows, terrorists always use a tripod) When I went to Oklahoma City, I set up the evil tripod on the top floor of a parking garage, to get a nice overview of the city. The best time for nighttime photography is at dusk, a little after sunset, when there is still a little bit of a glow left in the sky. So, just as I'm about to start shooting, a cop car pulls up. He stops, and gets out, and I think, 'Here we go...' I was so, not in the mood to, once again, explain, why I'm taking pictures. He comes over and says... "Hey... You found my favorite spot. Yeah, whenever we have a nice sunset, I always come up here to see the sun setting over the city... I love it up here... What camera is that? ...Oh, A Canon 5D ...Wow! That's the camera I want to get." ...I couldn't get rid of the guy. He was the friendliest cop in the whole world. I told him what I was doing. He spent the next half hour telling me 900 different places to photograph around Oklahoma City. I was only there for 3 days. 3 days later, I left, and couldn't wait to get out.

So... Finally... The balloon festival. Now that was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life. It gets bigger every year. This year there were over a thousand balloons! I got to park the motorhome right across the street. I hesitate to call it a 'campsite' ...It was about a 2 mile wide, field of dirt, with no trees. There were abut 10,000 RV's there. I could actually reach out my window, and touch the motorhome next to me. No electricity, or water, but the festival was pretty damn cool! Words can't even describe the sight of a thousand balloons all going up at once. (see photos) I went for a balloon ride, which was fantastic! I got some great shots from up there, and I learned why the biggest balloon festival in the world is in Albiquerquie. I was looking up, and seeing the lower balloons all moving south. But, then, higher up were a bunch of balloons moving north, even faster. Some others were moving west. I then found out that, that is the reason for the whole thing. They call it the 'Box Wind' pattern. It only happens in Albuquerque. Apparently, on a good day, just by controlling altitude, a good pilot can go up, head south, then wrap around the city, come back north, and land right back where he started.

It was over a year ago now, that I first put my photos up on flickr, and it is just the greatest thing I could have done. I wasn't doing it to meet people, and make friends, it was simply an easy place for me to dump all my photos, so I could have an up to date portfolio online. What it has turned into, is a network of people that I have become friends with, all over the country, and all over the world. I have met up with a dozen or so people now that I have met on flickr. Every place I go, I get emails from people who live there telling me places I should visit. I just can't express how nice flickr has been for me. It's so amazing that I can upload my photos, and people all over the world can see them. Here's a perfect example. I got to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I got an email from Matt, from Santa Fe, who I had never met before. He invited me up to Chama, New Mexico, where I parked the motorhome at his uncles farm, and Matt showed me some of the beautiful scenery up there. Bridget enjoyed spending every day barking at Cows an they grazed around the motorhome. Matt made a great tour guide, who certainly knew the area well. I met up with him again a couple weeks later, when I passed back through Santa Fe. His uncle, Tom was more obsessed with Chile peppers than anyone I have ever met. I remember him saying "I'll eat Chile for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day of my life. So, he made Chile for dinner that night. It was Chile with Elk meat. I couldn't wait to try it. I don't like Elk. An Elk tried to kill me once. Well... Not me exactly... He actually tried to kill my dogs, but I'm still holding a grudge. I tried to eat it. I couldn't taste the Elk... All I could taste was my head exploding!!! Matt and his Uncle were laughing at me, as I wiped off the sweat pouring down my forehead. I love hot food, but I couldn't eat it.

New Mexico is an interesting place. I spent over two months there. For the most part, I was disappointed. It was brown, and dry. But, apparently, I was there at the worst time of year, in the summer, it's supposed to be very green and pretty. But, the thing I found so fascinating was the diversity. You can be in a valley, with no trees in sight. It's as desert as desert can be. Then you drive 10 miles up a mountain road, and you're in a beautiful green pine forest next to a river with waterfalls. I have a friend who moved to New Mexico a while ago. I called him a few months back, and told him that I was finally coming his way. I remember he told me "The phrase in New Mexico is 'Red, or Green' " I had no idea what he was talking about. It was funny, when I first got into New Mexico, the first town I came to, I stopped into a fast food place to grab a burger. The sign out front said something like "Famous Ranchero cheeseburgers since 1956" I ordered a cheeseburger, and what did they ask? ..."Red or Green?" Here's a word of free advice. If you don't like spicy food... Don't come to New Mexico. And if you do... Don't eat in New Mexico. So... It wasn't just Matt's uncle Tom who likes hot Chile. New Mexicans (people from New Mexico... Not new people, from Mexico) are absolutely obsessed with Chile Peppers. I learned more about Chile than I ever needed to know. Like... There is no such thing as a fresh red Chile pepper. They don't turn red until they shrivel up and dry out. You then grind them up into a powder. You can only get fresh green ones in season, so everyone has to stock up for the year. I wanted to make a batch of my own Chile, so Iasked Tom if I could have a few green Chile peppers. He opened his deep freezer, and the entire freezer from top to bottom was nothing but hundreds of little baggies of frozen Green Chile's. I later found out, that everyone in New Mexico has a freezer like that. I don't think it's even possible to get anything edible that doesn't have some form of Red, or Green Chile pepper sauce on it. They like things HOT around there. You could go to a Dunkin Donuts there, and ask what flavor donuts they have... "We have... Red Chile, Green Chile, Chipotle, Cayenne, Jalapeno, Habanero, Picante, and Ranchero" "Hmmmmm... I think I will have a Red Chile, and a Jalapeno" "Would you like that, hot, extra hot, or global thermonuclear?" "Just hot is fine" "What would you like in your Coffee?" "I'll have one cream, and 3 shots of Tabasco" Whatever you do, don't come to New Mexico and order anything HOT. There is no mild there. In New Jersey, we have mild, medium, and hot. Here mild is HOT!!! There's hot, really hot, and BLOW YOUR F%#&ING HEAD OFF!!!!!!!!!

So, I got to see quite a wide variety of stuff in New Mexico. In Taos, I walked out to the middle of a bridge suspended 650 feet above the Rio Grande Gorge. I have this sporadic fear of heights. Going up a thousand feet in a balloon didn't bother me at all, but I got out to the middle of that bridge, and a big Mack truck went by, and I thought I was gonna pee my pants. I never knew a bridge could shake that much. And it just kept shaking and shaking, like five minutes after the truck had crossed, it was still vibrating. I snapped a couple of photos of the gorge and RAN! My friend Rich who I grew up across the street from, moved out here 12 years ago and opened a micro brewery near Albuquerque. I stayed with him for a while. That was fun, and it was great to see him again. Not the prettiest place, but there was plenty of room to park the motorhome. A lot of things are different out west, than back east. I guess I should really buy a gun one of these days. Apparently I am the only person west of the Mississippi River who doesn't own one. I've never wanted a gun. I really hate guns, but out here practically every gas station convenience store sells them. Things are a bit more anal in New Jersey. My friend Rich was telling me about when he first moved out here. He borrowed his neighbor's pickup truck to drop something off at the dump. As he was leaving, his neighbor said "There's a 22 in the glove compartment, a 45 under the seat, and a shotgun in the back." Rich said "I'M ONLY GOING A MILE!" So... My last stop in New Mexico was by far the best. Carlsbad Caverns. One of the most amazing places on planet Earth. I've been in lots of caves, but NOTHING like this. It is the largest known cave in the world. An elevator drops you down 750 feet underground, to the 'Big Room' When you get out, you are in a room with a floor the size of 14 football fields. In some places the ceiling is over 200 feet high. In many places the room is hundreds of feet wide, and thousands of feet long. Claustrophobic people would not have a problem here. It was up there with the Grand Canyon, as one of the most awe inspiring places I have EVER seen. So, right around Christmas, I finally made it out of the cold, and into warm, sunny Phoenix. Let me answer one common misconception. People on flickr were surprised every time I talked about it being cold in New Mexico. Everyone seems to think that because it's a desert, that it's hot all the time. ANTARCTICA IS A DESERT!!!!! I froze my butt off in New Mexico. The whole northern 3/4 of the state is at an elevation of 6000-8000 feet. High elevation = COLD. It would get into the 40's or 50's in the afternoons, but the second that sun goes down... 20's. It took two months, but I finally got acclimated to being at 6000 foot elevation, but I still struggled to breathe whenever I got over 8000. I like Oxygen.

So, I guess that pretty much sums it up. Sorry it's been so long since my last email. It has been quite a whirlwind tour since September. I can finally settle in and stop running for a while. Smith-Southwestern let me pull the motorhome right into the back of their parking lot. I will be setting up camp here for the next couple of months, in Phoenix. They have lots for me to shoot around here. This spring I will be hitting the Grand Canyon area, Yosemite, and then spending most of the summer in Colorado.

Until next time, everyone have a happy new year...

Mike Jones
144 photos · 11,213 views