Weapons of Mass Creation

This past weekend I went to Cleveland for a, uh, design conference. Well, okay, so “design conference” is like just easiest way to think of it and yes there were quite a few designers at WMC. I’m not by any means a designer but lord knows I’m friends with lots of ‘em. So after seeing all the fun online that people had last year I decided to go. The conference’s early bird pricing for the three day pass definitely made it more easy to justify. Though I’ve stopped at its train station many times over the past year for railpass, it had been a decade since I was last in Cleveland, and I was really interested to see how this city had evolved with the new urban migration of America.

Cleveland native, computerman, and honestly like my oldest friend John Proppe gave me a couch to crash on so this trip was impressively cost effective. But even if I had dropped money on a train ride out and an airbnb/hotel room, it would have been worth it. WMC was so amazingly inspiring, slightly because of the talks and evening events involving impossibly talented creatives, but also because of the conferences extremely progressive agenda with a panel on race and on gender. Judging by the rad conversations that happened afterwards, I was stoked to hear I wasn’t the only one who walked away from both panels feeling educated and inspired. Those much more experienced in the conference world also mentioned how impressed they were with the sincere attention to those very important issues.

Also, like, I know a lot of folks who went to the conference had a Cleveland experience that was based around the few blocks surrounding the venue and their hotels. I hate to say it, but y’all missed out. If this blog post or anyone else’s makes you interested in attending next year, do yourself a favor and bring a bicycle with you. The city has excellent bike infrastructure and there is so much new and old to explore in the city. If you like to get rad on bikes, there’s some great singletrack just a low-key pedal away.

It goes without saying, but I’ll be back next year. I hope you’ll join me.

It’s been an incredibly difficult five days with what’s happened in what I look at as my back yard. Last night watching the live feeds of what was happening in Ferguson, MO was absolutely unbelievable and I spent the entire night refreshing twitter feeling total shame and despair.

Today though, across the country there were little glimpses of light shining from within this very dark tunnel. Being consumed by this level of anger feels exhausting, and take that with an incredibly huge grain of salt because that’s just what I, with the privilege of being a white male, am capable of feeling. I’m not capable of comprehending the real pain. At today’s NMOS14 demonstration in Chicago, an incredible number of people gathered on short notice. The assembly was peaceful. We listened to people express their hurt, their hope, their anger, and their drive to change things. Once my camera died (again, short notice on this rally), I biked straight to my computer to share the solidarity- if only here in Chicago.

I know this isn’t really the stuff I normally post on here, but I figure the one time I’m literally crying while taking pictures is probably a good time to post stuff. My gratitude goes to everyone organizing today, and not just here but everywhere.


Summer Ride

While I’m sorting through like five billion photos of marshes, of wild horses, and (let’s not forget) of rockets, I thought I’d give y’all a taste of the train ride from Chicago to DC. I’ve written about the Capitol Limited before here, but it’s nice to have some summer sights to compliment the winter ones.

Mountains, islands, mosquitos, rockets, and wild horses. See all of my latest adventure here.

I don’t normally post my film photos on here for whatever reason, but I was pretty stoked on this frame.

This is Patchwork Farms, my favorite urban farm in Chicago. I absolutely love what they do and their peppers are some of the meanest, spiciest, most delicious things I’ve ever ate.

I don’t normally post my film photos on here for whatever reason, but I was pretty stoked on this frame.

This is Patchwork Farms, my favorite urban farm in Chicago. I absolutely love what they do and their peppers are some of the meanest, spiciest, most delicious things I’ve ever ate.

Summer took forever to get here, so I plan to spend as much time outside, taking portraits, and getting stuck in the rain as possible.


Train Number 5

I’m getting used to doing incredibly flat landscape photographs.

Casual humble-bragging on the other blog today…


The Empire Builder, Part Two: The Hills

This is ridiculous.


The Empire Builder, Part One: The Flats

God, this train.


Back on the Pennsylvanian

There’s always so much to do when I get back from a trip. Other photo jobs, seeing friends, spending way too much time with my dog, emails emails emails, and let’s not forget tumblr messages. I’m ecstatic every time I can help someone with traveling, and I’m humbled by all the compliments. It helps me get through the weeks where I’m not traveling.

The best thing about train travel is that it’s just this therapeutic break from all that. You can just sit, look out at the scenery, read, nap, and for the most part ignore your phone because, honestly, there will be a lot of times where you don’t have signal. Embrace the 4g-less wastelands. For real though, who needs signal when you’re on a train cutting through the woods of Pennsylvania?

I took the Pennsylvanian east again, as I wanted to experience the full route (the section from Philly to NYC is really rad, by the way) and I made plans to meet up with a friend in my Pittsburgh layover again. You’ll see our four hour photo adventure tomorrow.

Yet another train adventure wrapped up.


The Empire Builder

This train, man. I’ve been on this train for as many months as I’ve been doing this blog, and I’ve yet to tire of its views. Stretching across the northwest, it connects Seattle and Portland to Chicago, taking you through some of the most mountainous and also some some of the flattest land in the US. And as you can see from the photos above, you get some stupid-good views.

Not to say this train isn’t without its hardships. The oil boom in North Dakota and eastern Montana is mainly reliant on freight trains to ship oil out of the area, and coupled with the extremely cold winter (and it’s effects on equipment) there have been huge delays in the train’s run time. It’s a bit of a roulette, unfortunately, as these problems only sometimes effect the train’s service.

Honestly, for me it’s hard not to ignore the irony of the most environmentally-friendly mode of transportation (minus bicycling, natch) being affected by out insatiable desire for oil. I’ll leave you to your own politics there. But, I don’t want to put a sour taste in your mouth about this train, because if you start worrying about time delays with the US’s trains you really do miss the forest for the trees. The delays can actually work in your favor for sightseeing, of which these pictures are only a small, small sampling.

Once you see it for yourself, it’ll be much easier to accept those little nuisances for all of this train’s beautiful attributes. See, my first time ever taking this train was back in October, when I became one of its 530,000 passengers for 2013. Despite all the things I had already seen and done in the past 13 days, leaving Portland it was easy for me to fall in love with the beautiful, remote parts of the country the Empire Builder takes you through.

This train is in it’s 85th year of running, which is pretty bad ass, and I was treated to one of its fancy roomettes. From reading this blog, you all know I do all this traveling on an incredibly tight budget, so I’ve always been riding in coach. Coach seats are huge and comfy on their own and super easy to sleep in, but I’m not gonna lie it was to be spoiled a little on this trip, mainly because I got to sleep laying all the way down. Luxury.

Pulling back in to Chicago, I was reunited yet again not just with my home, my friends, and my dog, but also with the satisfied feeling of having had another amazing adventure. This is such a great addiction to feed, and I’m already planning for my next fix. It’s been fun being out alone in nature, but I’m thinking somewhere a bit more densely populated, maybe back east? What do you y’all think?

Me and trains, man. Me and trains.