a TigerRAWk Film

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Shared Life: Winter In Chicago 2020 - Apocalypse Edition (January - March)

When it began, one probably didn't expect what 2020 has become: an apocalyptic type of year. Australia caught fire, a war seemingly nearly broke out, then a worldwide pandemic called COVID-19 more or less put a stop to life as we know it for most folks. I was among the fortunate ones to be able to continue my job and even was given a few days to "work from home" along with a "hazard" pay increase. As I write this, we continue to live in quarantine due to the pandemic induced "stay-at-home" orders and guidance. Of course you have some folks who are making it political, arguing over this or that, coming up with conspiracy theories, and upset over the rights they believe that they have lost due to government overreach. I am thankful to know a lot of folks who, during this time, are stepping up in loving kindness to those around them and even creating services to meet needs that are unique to this time.

A part of me wishes that I had done more activities in the time we had before the "stay-at-home" orders and guidance went into effect. Perhaps a few more shows. Maybe attend some local minor league hockey or maybe made a trip to Pittsburgh for a Penguins game. I dealt with some unusual illness during the early months of the year that had me miss a couple days of work and generally not feel up to going out to a show or anything else. Oh well...hindsight. We had been planning a trip to Russia and invested money toward that so I felt I should be somewhat mindful of spending and certainly did not have the foresight to know that some things I did pay for in advance would not be happening (and with that said, I hope to get refunded for things not rescheduled).

Some good that has come from this though has been seeing a lot of live performances on the internet of bands or artists that I likely would not have seen or in a way that no one has likely seen done. I think in hard times, the creative folks really step it up and that has certainly come through during this time.

The last few years, I waited until the year was over to post each of the seasonal "A Shared Life" clips. I tried to have the blog ready so that I could post each season's video about one week apart in January and be able to share the blog within that week at least as well. Part of the reasoning for that was that I wasn't getting the projects done in a very timely manner. I might have finished a project for one season in a reasonable time but not others. I also had work to finish on projects from the previous year to get done and I wanted to get them posted before getting these seasonal ones posted which was a self imposed deadline and restriction. An example, I think that by the time I finished the winter project last year, it was June or July (though it may have been much later). Now I know it is nearly June as I type this, but under the current circumstances, I think I will probably get a chance to finish up the seasonal projects at least within the following season (for example, I am finished with winter while it is still spring and not yet summer) so that I can post them within a reasonable time of the end of the season. I finished the last of the projects from 2019 and I don't have anything on the table that needs worked on nor any prospects of projects that are needing to be done. I may work around with some stuff here or there but nothing is pressing and nothing has deadlines currently to stop me from getting these seasonal projects done in a timely manner.

This project documents the winter of 2020...January through the end of March. Things began to change in March as far as the effect on our life and I began to document when the "stay-at-home" orders and guidance were placed on Illinois and Chicago as the beginning of the apocalypse somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I also decided to make an intro clip that will start these videos. This project happens to have an early edition of that clip before I added some effects to make the images appear old with static noise, anti-alias, and bad film and television effects. I made a new edition after I finalized this project and though I could probably make the change, I am just going to leave it alone and let the remaining apocalypse era videos have the new edition. I wrote a short blog regarding the apocalypse intro that you can read about here.
January 2020
On Wednesday January 1st, I decided to go into work on New Year's Day this year and so I captured some clips of the morning commute.

On Friday January 3rd, we gathered with our friends Josh, Anastasia, Kevin, Jasmine, and Cindy in Aurora, IL for a Murder Mystery Dinner party. It was a fun game.

On Saturday January 4th, Elphie and I attended a punk show put on by Quinn Anderson. It was in a cold building running off generators in a skatepark behind a Mexican restaurant called The Fallout. Quinn put on a RAD show! Her band, KillCult played and did a great job! She also did one song with What's Your Damage to make a music video you can watch here (some of my footage ended up being used). 2Minute Minor also played and a bunch of other bands I either am not familiar with or much less familiar with: The Big Cheese, Constant Buzz, Signals, Miracle Whip, and The Kreutzer Sonata. It was a lot of fun to see a punk show like this.

On Thursday January 9th, as I waited on the bus to go to work, I noticed stuffed animals attached to the side of a nearby garbage truck. I thought it was funny so I captured a shot of it and included it in the project. This is the second garbage truck I have seen decorated with things possibly from someone's trash. A couple years ago I documented a garbage truck with a painting or picture attached to its side. I also included a still shot of a headline from a Pittsburgh news station that read "These Aren't My Pants" which I of course shared to Five Iron Frenzy!

On Friday January 17th, as I walked to the bank after work in a blizzard, I noticed and captured filming trailers along broadway in Uptown indicating some sort of filming was taking place which turned out to be ChicagoPD.

On Saturday January 18th, we once again came out to Uptown for Mellie's birthday party at JPUSA. While it was done snowing for the most part, it was pretty cold. I tried to pay for parking but the machine would not accept my payment. I lucked out and did not receive a ticket. It was a fun time hanging with friends.

On Friday January 24th, it had become significantly warmer and between rain and the melting of the snow, there was a lot of fog in Uptown. I took a lunchtime walk to capture a shot of it.

On Tuesday January 28th, as I waited for the train at the CTA Roosevelt station, I captured some police activity as they searched another train. I think the culprit escaped, at least from the platform, though perhaps captured in the tunnels or on the roads below.

On Friday January 31st, I went to Concord Music Hall to see Thrice and mewithoutYOU. mewithoutYOU had stated that this would be their last year as an active band (COVID-19 has caused a change in those plans) and Thrice was celebrating 15 years since the release of Vheissu. I missed the first band of the night. I ended up capturing "Paper Hanger" by mewithoutYOU and "Music Box" from Thrice. Dustin Kensrue was having difficulty due to illness but he got through the set. I really do like Thrice, but I don't necessarily like the live experience and it mostly seems to be due to the type of people in the crowd...at least wherever I end up. I had hoped to capture "Weight Of Glory" but I didn't realize they started into it until it was too late but I do like "Music Box" and glad to add it to the collection of songs I've captured by Thrice which is mostly all songs from Vheissu at this point. It really is a good album front to back...probably my favorite.

February 2020
On Thursday February 6th, Leper played what was intended to be a fundraiser for Chicago Tiny Houses at the Safari Lounge. They played a bit of a stripped down set due to lack of equipment. I captured "Skeleton Hands."
On Saturday February 8th, the annual Ollie Mob Meetup to play WhirlyBall occurred in Vernon Hills, IL. I didn't get to play in every game as I did last year and I didn't score any goals this year but it was another fun time with the crew and afterwards we ate at Portillo's again. Additional soundtrack in this clip is "Ollie Ollie" by Flatfoot 56.

On Tuesday February 11th, I captured some rats on the tracks at the CTA Roosevelt Station. I had thoughts of a lyric from "Timothy Hay" by mewithoutYOU as I captured this, though I didn't chose to use that track in the soundtrack.

On Thursday February 13th, we had a hard day at the shelter. One individual took it out on a wall. You never know what some folks are dealing with and unfortunately in this case, whatever this individual was dealing with, it wasn't something that we could help him with in his present state.

On Friday February 14th, it was the coldest day of the year. I commuted to work on this Valentine's Day while it was zero degrees.

On Saturday February 15th, Guy Allen joined us to go to Nocturna at Metro. There was one person who had all sorts of glowing apparatuses with her that I captured on video.

On Wednesday February 19th, I documented the start of McDonald's Shamrock Shake Season!

On Saturday February 22nd, I microwaved the remaining Peeps from Christmas and filmed the spectacle of it.

On Wednesday February 26th, I had some some bubbles on my finger for some reason and Stein seemed particularly interested in it so I captured his reaction to the soap bubbles.

On Saturday February 29th, on Leap Day, Josh and Anastasia decided to host an open mic and songwriting workshop at their home. In the video footage I labeled it as The Uh-Oh House but they have decided to call it The Burrow. There were performances by The Uh-Ohs, Butterfield Creek members (Steven and Skittles), 6'10, Burn The Barn, The Psalmist, John Ludwig, Buzz, Panda, Bill Kingsbury, and Justin Wheeler of Modern Daybreak. We also took the time to celebrate Josh's birthday. Once again, it was good hangs with friends.

March 2020
On Monday March 2nd, I caught He Is Legend at Bottom Lounge. I captured "Dixie Wolf (The Seduction Of...)." It was good to see them again after a few years and I was able to get their new record.
On Wednesday March 4th, the Free And Equal Open Presidential Debate was held in the Hilton in Chicago. Elphie had taken an interest in the candidate Vermin Supreme and decided that she really wanted to go to this and I decided it sounded like an interesting experience so I decided to go as well. And it was indeed an interesting experience! I felt like I was able to learn some things about the world of politics as well as about the values and platforms of some alternative parties to "duopoly" as the  Republican and Democrat parties were often referred as. There were a few Libertarians (including Vermin Supreme) and various Socialists, Greens, Independents, and even some lower level Democrats and Republicans. Vermin Supreme, of course, was quite entertaining. There was one guy who stated that he'd essentially dismantle the federal government on his first day in office then promptly resign. The Independent candidate, Mark Charles, who is Native American, made points that really make me think about things from a different perspective. One point being the inherent racism and classism of the Constitution as it was originally written and still remains so despite some amendments. It was an interesting event and I am glad to have gone. I hung around for a while afterwards and Elphie stayed even longer for the after party. Additional soundtrack in this clip is "Hey America" by Headnoise.

On Friday March 6th, Elphie and I attended a pole dance charity event. I did not get any shots from this. I was fighting off a cold during this event and didn't really feel the best. I also wasn't sure that it was appropriate so I chose not to capture any footage.

On Saturday March 7th, before the Flatfoot 56 show at Chop Shop, there was an Ollie Mob Meetup at Palermo's of 63rd to enjoy some great pizza. It was a good time as usual. Afterwards, the Bawinkel's told us that the Indian statue from Wayne's World was just down the street so we drove by it and got a shot of it. That night, at Chop Shop, I got to hang with Sid Duffour and rode home with him afterwards. Bryan McPherson opened the show followed by The Crombies and AM Taxi. I captured a new and yet to be released song from Flatfoot 56. I also captured Kyle and Tobin talking about the Ollie Mob meetup from earlier in the day as well as the demise of the Dan Blysma bobblehead I gave Kyle prior to the show. It didn't hold up to Kyle bouncing the stage and he lost his head.

On Sunday March 8th, Elphie and I went to Vic Theatre to see Drew Lynch perform his Speech Therapy comedy stand-up show. It was enjoyable. We ended up in the balcony because there were no seats available on the floor. We tried to sit in an area that was apparently reserved for folks with physical disabilities, and were reprimanded. The balcony wasn't too bad. We didn't want to wait to go through the meet and greet line but I captured a shot from outside the door.

Because of the connection Elphie made with Vermin Supreme and his campaign manager online, it worked out that Vermin Supreme would stay the night at our house and we would possibly drive him to Peoria for the state Libertarian convention. I left work a bit early and we picked up President Vermin Supreme at Midway on Thursday March 12th and brought him to our house. Some folks came by to hang out who were local members of the Libertarian party and our friend Flex Luther. It was on this day that professional sports (which included a Pittsburgh Penguins game I hoped to watch) ground to a halt due to COVID-19 concerns and it was suggested that people should not congregate in groups. The term social distancing was being used and recommendations to "elbow bump" instead of handshake, hug, or other greetings. To some extent, there was some lighthearted joking about the situation at this point. That evening, with his consent, we took President Vermin Supreme to Cobra Lounge and he went into campaign mode and character. Friends met up with us there included Dubil, Betty, and Kathleen. We went from there to Exit which was having a "Fetish Night" and Betty and Kathleen rode with us there. We hung there for a while. Vermin got a few drinks and continued to campaign until about 1am or so. We headed back to the house and Elphie played him in a table top basketball game before we all got some sleep for the drive in the morning.

On Friday March 13th, we drove President Vermin Supreme to DeKalb, IL where he was able to ride with a delegate to the convention. Upon returning home, I considered going to a punk show that evening. The lineup originally included a good friend but he had to drop out due to health concerns regarding COVID-19. The strong suggestions against gatherings led me to decide to not go, though part of me wishes that I would have.

On Monday March 16th, we began to live life under the new "stay-at-home" orders and guidance. I (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) began to label clips as "Apocalypse" with this being day one. The clip shows me headed to work then drinking a Shamrock Shake. I wanted to make sure I got one as I wasn't sure if they would be available on Saint Patrick's Day with the uncertainly of the new restrictions on what we could and could not do.

On Tuesday March 17th, Apocalypse day 2, it was a strange Saint Patrick's Day. It was also primary election day in Illinois and it was said that "democracy must go on" so folks still went to cast their vote while being ordered to "stay-at-home." I was able to obtain one last Shamrock Shake to end the season successfully. We also got to watch the live stream of the Dropkick Murphys which was one of the first of many to watch in the new normal of live music.

On Sunday March 22nd, on the first day of spring the Apocalypse (day 7) took a turn for the worst as we were hit with another snowstorm.

On Monday March 23rd, Apocalypse day 8, I enjoyed a socially distant commute home on the CTA being the only person in the train car for most of the ride. It was a strange feeling to ride alone on public transit in Chicago during evening rush hour.

On Wednesday March 25, Apocalypse day 10, the Penguins game against the Blackhawks was to be played that night but it became a casualty of COVID-19. It appears at this point that it will not be made up. I think at this point, this was the greatest personal impact so far.

On Saturday March 28th, Apocalypse day 13, another turn for the worst as we cooked the last of our venison on the grill.

On Monday March 30th, I captured some graffiti during the morning commute of Apocalypse day 15 of a Simpsons character. I had wanted to capture it for a while but this was the best chance I got and with the social distancing, it allowed me the room to sit on the CTA where I could capture it easily.

On Tuesday March 31st, Apocalypse day 16, I captured the emptiness of downtown Chicago during my commute.

Additional soundtrack includes "Tornado In The Winter" by The Trigger Code and "Nothing" by Ballydowse.

Footage filmed using an iPhone 6 and 8 by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson. Titles created using Motion 4 on a Macbook by Joel A. Swanson. Edited using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson

Monday, May 25, 2020

An Apocalyptic Noise Collage For 2020 Video Intros (Perhaps)

With the various events that one could deem apocalyptic that have occurred with the onset of 2020, I had an idea to create an intro video that I could use for the "A Shared Life" videos I create from whatever we are allowed to do in 2020 or as long as these events continue to occur.

The idea started with wanting to take some audio clips from some tunes I knew had apocalyptic lyrics (or even simply said "apocalypse") and add to it some distorted radio noise as though one were trying to tune in to a station on an old radio with a dial. One song, "Apocalypse" by F.B.S. already had a lot of that in the song with news clips mixed into the final (digital) mix of the song toward the end. I layered the last part of that track with the beginning of "And Then, Came Then" by The Chariot for the noisy undertones. I found a few other radio effects in Soundtrack Pro on Final Cut Pro that I added in as well for a little more noise. I took the apocalyptic lyrical clips from "Kick Your Askin' For It" by Neon Horse, "Apocalypse Now" by Squad Five-0, and "Armageddon" by The Homeless Gospel Choir as well as "Apocalypse" by F.B.S. and "And Then, Came Then" by The Chariot and dropped those on top of the noise from the clips and the radio tuning sound effects.

With the audio done, I took some apocalyptic imagery such as a virus image that seems to be used on news broadcasts as COVID-19, folks in hazmat suits spraying disinfectant, empty Chicago streets, a fallout shelter sign, and a nuclear explosion along with a skull and cross bones that I did a couple added effects on to make it zoom in on one take and layer on top of itself in another. I created a 10 second mix of these images then sped it up double time and caused it to repeat over and over while the noise audio track runs its course. I finished it then went back and added some more effects such as static noise, anti-alias, and effects to resemble bad film and television. The bad television effect, since it takes the digital video and sort of split screens it, top half moved to the bottom of the video, I randomly added it into different sections of the entirety of the video. I feel the effects add to the apocalyptic mood. The original cut I did without those effects felt too "clean" to me.

I think I am happy with this final result though from what I can tell, I don't think the compressed YouTube file translated the effects that well and it may not look quite as I intended it to.

I could probably make something bigger and longer. Perhaps I will as this time we live in drags on. But for now, I am happy with this final result.

The project was created using Motion 4 on a Macbook and Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Shared Life: Alaska! (Elphie's 50th State...or so we thought)


Elphie and I took a trip to Anchorage, Alaska around Labor Day in early fall 2019. We were essentially gone for a week - August 30th through September 5th, 2019. We flew on Alaska Airlines and stayed in the Arctic Adventure Hostel that we booked through booking.com. My cousin, Mike Phelps, provided a huge assist to us by allowing us to use his truck while we were in Alaska. I have had family connections in and around Anchorage over the past 30-ish years but never seemed to have the opportunity to visit previously. I wish I had. My uncle Andy lived there and died there in 2010. He had a fairly big impact on the community there and this trip allowed the opportunity to see some of the impact. I reached out to my aunt Rebecca for some tips of things to see and do while we were in Anchorage and she gave us some ideas. It was good to get to see things and walk in the places where Andy lived his life. Debbie, who joined us for part of our spring 2019 West by Southwest trip also joined part of this trip.

A large part of the reason for this trip was it would be Elphie's 50th and last state visited! We celebrated this feat and of course documented it. Later, after returning home, as Elphie was listing when she visited each state for the first time, she could not recall if she ever visited Rhode Island. It's also possible that New Jersey had been missed. We hope to remedy this with a 50th state re-do trip into the Northeast as soon as we can make it happen (current travel restrictions due to Covid-19 affect this and other travel plans we had coming in 2020).

The trip was documented using iPhone 6 and 8 and a Canon Rebel T6 camera. I created the titles and animated the maps (taken from screenshots of Google Maps) using Motion 4 on a Macbook and I edited the rest of the project using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini.

This is the Fall 2019 trip to Alaska as filmed (and photographed) by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson.
I worked on the first and last day of this project first as I did with the Spring 2019 trip project so I could work out what I hoped could be a decent teaser trailer. I think I am happy with what I was able to come up with. It is similar to what I created for the Spring 2019 trip in style of the appearance of photographs taken from each day being dropped in. The teaser trailer consists of the intro piece that I put in among the first day footage. From the last day I took a piece of the credits which highlight the people who helped make the trip possible - Mike and Debbie - as well as businesses - Alaska Airlines and booking.com - and of course what trip would be complete without consulting Atlas Obscura? I took screenshots from Google Maps to show the places that we went during the trip. These were used throughout the project. I decided that instead of making another single map that I would instead compile all the maps I used for this project together. I combined the maps that showed the travel of each day together with photographs that highlight what we had done each day so it basically alternates between the maps and photos. I had the soundtrack for this part in mind for this since making the trip - "48 States" by Smalltown Poets. There is mention of Alaska in the lyrics and somewhat makes sense overall in the theme (though had it been titled "50 States" it would have made even more sense).

We flew out of Chicago on Friday August 30th, 2019 around midnight. On my way to work in the morning, I saw an old guy who walks or slowly jogs around the neighborhood so I decided to capture video of him on this morning. He had been the subject of conversation in our home and integrating him into a video seemed like it should happen. I also filmed a little bit of the CTA train ride into the city for work. I didn't feel there was a lot of reason to map out the transit to and from work on this project as the commute for our trip actually began after I returned home from work.

I put the intro project in after these two short clips from the morning. I actually finished working on the footage from the first day prior to getting any work done on the intro project or any of the maps done. The intro consists of the title (of course) which I again consulted with Elphie on font styles that felt "Alaskan" for this trip. We came to an agreement on what we liked and used two different fonts to build the title and will use them again with the credits. I also used a smoke effect with the text. Not intending to be insensitive, I chose to do that effect due to wildfires happening in Alaska. In the title, I acknowledged that we mistakenly believed this to be the trip for Elphie to have visited all 50 states. I tried to organize the text around the Google Maps image of Alaska the best that I could but I did overwrite it a bit in the northwestern parts. When I made the title screen, I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted the intro project to look or how I would document the travel in the intro as I have on the last several trip projects since I learned how to create and animate maps so I made two different title screens to choose from. In previous projects, I have made one large map that showed the overall travel of the trip. If I did that, it would be hard to show the travel in and around Anchorage so it may as well have just shown the flights between Chicago and Anchorage. I decided to compile all the maps together in the intro along with photographs I selected that highlighted what we saw and did during the trip. Once I decided on this, I decided to go with the title screen which had the Google Maps image of Alaska included instead of the just text. I think it worked out a lot better and a lot easier. I sped up the maps of our travelling around Anchorage and compiled them together. The travel of each day is documented at high speed then the photographs highlighting what we saw or did each day are dropped in next. I once again decided to try to create the appearance that the photos were being sort of dealt in like cards onto a table. I like the feel it gives. I feel using the photos to highlight the trip is easier than trying to compile the best footage as I go to be used in this part of the project (and the teaser trailer too).

After this intro project, the footage returns to that which was captured on August 30th, 2019 as we packed up to go and Stein snooped around in curiosity. We left the house and boarded the CTA Western bus. I captured the approach of the bus then overlayed that with the maps documenting the bus ride. We decided to get off at the first blue line option then rode the CTA Blue Line through the city to O'Hare. We thought it might be less crowded before the train went through the city and make it easier to get on board with our luggage. I documented the train approaching the station then used the animated map to show the transit to the airport. I captured a little bit of footage of our arrival at O'Hare including a restroom specific to service animals. We got through the security check relatively smoothly as I recall. We had time to spare once we found the terminal we would be departing from so we went in search of some food. We had to go into an international terminal and found the only thing open was McDonald's. We then boarded our Alaska Airlines flight where I got some footage of the take off and our departure from Chicago. I was able to capture the city at night as well as the Baha'i' Temple (at least I recall seeing it even if I didn't capture it on video). I watched some Marvel movie before trying to sleep a little bit on the flight.

We arrived in Anchorage while it was still dark. I captured our descent and landing at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The airport has a lot of things on display in it that we checked out as we made our way out, getting photographs to highlight Elphie's 50th state. I also documented Elphie stepping out of the airport onto Alaskan soil! This airport definitely had a different feel to it than most. There were people gathering their guns and other outdoors related gear from a special section of the checked luggage area. We tried to see if there was an option to ride public transit but it appeared that we would be waiting several hours so we took a taxi instead to the Arctic Adventure Hostel.

We woke up in the early afternoon. My cousin, Mike Phillips had reached out to see if we'd be free to meet with him. I had connected with him a few months back to let him know we'd be coming to Alaska. In our conversations, he offered the possibility of using his truck. Once we got ourselves up, awake, ate some breakfast, and got moving, we met with him and took a ride with him over to REI. He was leading a group on a hunting trip and needed up pick up some tape for one of the hunters and some other supplies. He took us to where he was living and set us up with his truck as well as some bear mace...just in case. He informed us if a moose were to charge to get behind a tree. Apparently the female moose are the aggressors. Mike also gave us some salmon he had caught and we thought we might eat it that night for dinner. We went inside with Mike for a bit and saw the house he is living in with some friends. We left as it got to be early evening. Mike needed to rest up for his hunting trip and we needed to meet up with Debbie somewhere.

We drove Mike's truck back into Anchorage. We learned that Anchorage technically covers a very large area beyond the city. One could live in Anchorage but be over an hour away from downtown. Elphie wanted to celebrate that she had arrived at her 50th state so we found a Party World and went into get supplies to celebrate with. The workers were setting the place up for Halloween and let us preview their haunted house. There were different decorations up around the store including some zombies that crawled on the ground toward us. Elphie got some black and gold 50th balloons, a party hat, noise makers, party poppers, and a confetti cannon (some of this was purchased at Wal*Mart but I can't remember which came from where). We headed over to the Wal*Mart to buy some food for the week as well as some other supplies (some of which we'd be returning) and other celebratory items. We waited in the parking lot for Debbie to arrive to properly celebrate the 50th state of Elphie! We celebrated and captured it all on film then cleaned up the mess afterwards as much as possible.

We headed back to the hostel to unload the food and supplies we got at Wal*Mart as well as the salmon so we could eat it another night. Debbie wanted to get something from a restaurant. We asked some folks at the hostel for suggestions and ended up settling on a place called Humpy's. They were going to have live music it turned out. I got a crab cake burger. It was pretty good food and drinks. Elphie captured a shot of the band playing as we left. I captured a shot of the  Anchorage police in action as we headed toward the hostel. We drove out of the city trying to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights but there was too much cloud cover. We saw an interesting lit up building though that I assume was meant to appear like the Northern Lights. By this time, it was nearing midnight so we headed back to our hostel and Debbie to her BnB for the night.

We woke early on Sunday. We planned to go to the Alaska State Fair and also a glacier and so we needed to get an early start. Debbie drove with her rented car and we headed out of the city to the northeast on Highway One. We actually headed this direction the previous night in our attempt to see the Northern Lights as well. I got some footage as we drove to the glacier of the mountains, river, and other glaciers. As we drove and approached the fairgrounds, which we would pass then attend on our way back, we encountered a traffic jam. Apparently there was roadwork being done in the area of the fair, where there was of course extra traffic anyway. We pulled off while in the traffic jam at a port-o-potty so Elphie and Debbie could use it. I got footage of this because I thought it was funny. You can see Elphie's reaction in the video. We continued on the drive and I continued to get footage of the scenery. We would pull off a few times as we went. While we didn't go to the official viewing area, we arrived near Glacier View and got a very good view of the Matanuska Glacier. It really was quite the sight! We hung around here for a while and I got a couple different shots of the glacier. I also captured some Ghostbusters who also happened to be checking out the glacier!

We headed back toward Anchorage to go to the Alaska State Fair near the town of Palmer. I didn't shoot as much footage on the return trip. Once we got to the fair and got ourselves parked, we headed in. I captured some shots as we walked through the parking lot and the midway as we entered. Debbie had to run back to the car I think then did something else on her own while Elphie and I went another way. We ended up stopping at a stage where a bluegrass band was playing. It began to lightly rain so we went into a nearby exhibition building. We marked the map to show that we had traveled from Chicago and a lady told us some things about the area and why the fair happens there. We heard that there was a very large pumpkin on display so we figured that we should see that. We checked out a few other things in the building then started on our way through the rest of the fair. We went into another exhibition building that was a children's zone where there was a lot of fun activities that were science and engineering based. Next to that building was a garden that we walked through. After that, we went into and exhibition building was aquariums and a bunch of reptiles and amphibians. As seems to happen when we come around, some tortoises had sex in front of us and once again we captured footage of that. After this, we headed to an arena to see a lumberjack show but we were quite early so we headed into the exhibition barn where the prize winning farm animals were being housed. We checked them out for a while before headed back to see the lumberjack show. This also was where the prize winning produce was on display including the huge pumpkin as well as a cabbage named "Cabbage Jack." Back at the lumberjack show, while we waited for it to start, I went to get Dippin' Dots. The show runner assigned a lumberjack to each section of the crowd. It was a funny show and somewhat staged more than an authentic competition but it was a good time. After this was over, we went to find some food and decided on a quesadilla with reindeer and salmon meat in it. This was very good! From here, we went back in the exhibition barn to see more of the animals on display. We had also gone into a building that had a food cooking and baking contests. Elphie and Debbie enjoyed some pieces of cake at this. As we made our way to another part of the fair, we found a lot of different food options there as well as rides and activities. I captured a shot of the sun as it was nearing the sunset. As we left, I captured a silent dance party going on and some footage of the lit up midway. We got a picture at the Alaska State Fair sign and then we tried to hurry over to the car to try to get on the road before a train blocked out way. That didn't work out so I took a shot of the train as it left. I also captured the building lit up like northern lights again as we approached Anchorage on our return to our lodging.

We slept in, probably a bit later than we intended. We woke to sun and fairly clear skies and decided to go to Flat Top, a nearby mountain and check out the view. When we got up there, it was very windy and felt cold. Elphie wore her sandals and doing much hiking wasn't going to be in the cards for us. We did hike a small trail to an overlook of the bay and Anchorage. There was information on nearby mountains and peaks as well as some a long way out that could be viewed from the overlook. Unfortunately it wasn't clear enough to see most of those mountains. The wildfires, clouds, and some rain made it hard to see much beyond the bay and city. Even so, the view from this trail at Flat Top was pretty cool and we hung around there for a while.

We decided to go check out the World's Largest Chocolatefall, which we learned about on Atlas Obscura, at Alaska Wild Berry Products after visiting Flat Top. When we arrived, there was a bus full of tourists who were getting ready to leave. Another bus arrived while we were there so apparently it is a tourist hot spot. We purchased chocolates, meats, and other items to give our families for Christmas. We also got some for ourselves as well as some ice cream and it was some really good ice cream!

We didn't really do too much on this day. We headed back to the hostel after this and cooked the salmon that Mike gave us in the kitchen and relaxed for the evening. The thought to try to see Northern Lights was thwarted by the continued cloud cover. Funny thing. We watched a lot of Alaska shows on the Discovery channel when we had downtime in the hostel.

We woke up to a cooler and damp day. We checked what the forecast showed and decided to go ahead to the Alaska Zoo and hope for the best. The rain had stopped but it remained fairly cool. On our way to the zoo, we checked out a neighborhood built with its own runway called Sky Harbor. Most if not all the houses had large garages that were actually hangars for airplanes there were some airplanes out in front of some houses. We hoped to see a plane land but it didn't happen while we were there. We then headed over to the zoo.

The Alaska Zoo was one of the favorite zoos Elphie and I have had a chance to visit. It was much like a nature trail with the animals being of the type that could be natural to the environment around Anchorage, Alaska though perhaps native to other northern regions. Many of the animals were active while we were there. It was at the zoo that we actually got to see some moose. We also saw reindeer or caribou as well. Both were animals I had hoped to see. We also saw some wolves, tigers, coyotes, mountain goats, Kodiak Bears, Polar Bears, porcupines, birds, and musk oxen. One of the musk oxen seemed to be a bit agitated and charged the fence on several occasions. One of the porcupines had a snaggle tooth and seemed to have bit around the fencing. The wolves were interesting and one seemed to be stalking something. When we got to the coyote pen, the coyotes came running up to us like they expected us to be feeding them. They almost seemed like tamed dogs. There was an "off exhibit" which had cans of Off in it which was pretty funny. We got to see the feeding of the mountain goats, a fox, a porcupine, and the Kodiak Bears. The zoo worker called it "giving enrichment."

We decided as the zoo closed it was time to get ourselves some enrichment. I looked up restaurants in the area and found a couple options and decided on a burger restaurant called Wee B's. Elphie and I both got Elk burgers, fries, and a milkshake.

Since the weather cleared somewhat, we decided to drive to the Byron and Portage Glacier and check it out before it got dark. We still had a few hours of daylight left since we were so far north and the sun set was much later in the evening. We drove along the Turnagain Arm and passed a spot near Beluga Point where there once was a pipe with fresh water flowing from a spring. The pipe has been removed. I suppose one could still retrieve water from it if they wanted to. We didn't stop but we did drive by and I found the spot in the footage when we did pass it and included it in the project. Elphie shot a lot of footage as we drove along the Turnagain Arm. Perhaps she captured the Turnagain Arm Bore Tide but I could't tell for certain if it was in the footage. We also passed by the ghost town of Portage. I don't think that any footage was captured and it might not be easy to tell but we did pass it and I recall seeing what appeared to be a toppled building that would have been in Portage.

As we drove, we were able to begin to get some footage of the glaciers. I had set the Byron Glacier as our destination and we turned off the main road to a parking lot at the trail head leading to the Byron Glacier. We got out and looked at the glacier but we did not walk the trail. I walked further down the road to the waterfront where I could see more glaciers including the Portage Glacier and some ice bergs that have come off that. I returned to the truck then we drove to another parking lot next to the water where we could view all the glaciers in the area. These glaciers were pretty amazing to see.

We drove back to Anchorage, again along the Turnagain Arm. We could see the sunset through some breaks in the cloud cover as well as some other glaciers and we passed a train that I assume gives scenic tours. We decided to drive into downtown. We actually went down to Ship Creek but there wasn't much to be seen at night so we figured we'd try to go back the next day. We did check out the Statehood Memorial before heading back to the hostel.

We got up earlier on this day and headed to the Eagle River Nature Center so I could see where my uncle, Andy Sorensen, spent some of his time and see if there was any memorial set up for him. He designed the logo for the nature center so I figured I'd at least get to see that but I understood that there was some sort of memorial to him. There was a tree on the back patio which had a leaf dedicated to his memory from the family as well as another dedication and acknowledgement of his design for the logo. We met aperson named Asta who was the last remaining person still working at the nature center from the time it was founded when my uncle worked there with a couple who had also since passed. She said some nice things about Andy and we looked at the items for sale with his logo on it. I checked out all the displays of wildlife and other natural things. We were urged to walk the short trail which we were told included some scenery that Andy most likely painted in some of his art endeavors. It was a nice walk. One of the trails was closed due to bear activity so that was somewhat in the back of our mind but we had no bear trouble on our walk. We got to a viewing deck over the river and I noticed a dead salmon. We would learn later that most likely any salmon in the rivers would be dead or dying at this time of the season. We got some footage of the scenery and then we made our way back. We bought some stickers and other items that had Andy's design on it then we headed to the hostel to eat lunch.

After lunch, we headed back downtown to Ship Creek so I could see if there was anything there that paid tribute to Andy. I would find out later, had I walked a short distance a different way than I walked, I might have seen a picture of Andy and his kids, Erik and Jacob but I suppose I'll have to see it another time. We did see the sign for the Slam'n Salm'n Derby and the Bait Shack which we learned took over the Derby. I walked down to the dam to see if I could find any live salmon. I did find one but it wouldn't be living much longer. I saw lots of decayed remains and one full bodied remain of salmon. I returned to where we started on Ship Creek and bought a Reindeer Dog from vendor, The Stand Hot Dogs - Anchorage, and it was great! The guy running the stand (along with his daughter but she wasn't on site at this time) was fun. He heckled Elphie for not buying her own Reindeer Dog to try. He had a special sauce that I tried on my dog and added some other condiments. We talked to him for a while about our trip and why we came down to Ship Creek and he told us some about the derby as well as about the new person running it. He wasn't sure if he knew Andy but I think he indicated the possibility of the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award might still be at the local soup kitchen.

After getting the reindeer dog, we began to walk to downtown. We headed to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, thinking it would bring us to Resolution Park. It turned out that Resolution Park was off another road. I wanted to get there to try to get a glimpse of Denali but it remained too cloudy in that direction to see Denali. We walked around for a while. We came off the trail at Elderberry Park then walked along Fifth Avenue where we found the Light Speed Planetary Walk somewhat inadvertently. We walked Mars to Earth to Venus to Mercury to the Sun. We then went to Town Square Park where we sat a bit and then into the Fifth Avenue Mall which is five stories tall. Elphie ended up getting her dinner from the food court. We left the mall and headed back to where the truck was parked near Ship Creek. We saw a rainbow and helicopter and watched some guys skateboarding for a bit before heading back to the hostel. On the way back, I did find Resolution Park and got some scenic footage from there as well as a shot of the Captain Cook statue. I also got a shot across the street at Hostetler Park. It seemed there might be some sort of memorial there but I wasn't sure what it was so I looked it up and found it was a memorial to the Victims of Justice.

Back at the Arctic Adventure Hostel, we researched a bit more on the possible whereabouts of Andy's Sportsmanship Award. All that we found indicated it would likely be at the Downtown Hope Center so we figured when we checked out of the hostel in the morning, that is where were would go to see if I could see it.

We woke up on Thursday, September 5th, 2019 and got our things together so we could check out on time. We had some breakfast in the hostel kitchen then checked out and headed over to the Downtown Hope Center to see if the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award was still there. We arrived as they were about to begin serving lunch so I figured we could circle back around after.

Elphie wanted to go back to Alaska Wild Berry Products to get a couple more things and we got some more ice cream. She also wanted to send out some postcards so we stopped at a post office for her to do that.

We returned to the Downtown Hope Center and I was able to go in and after talking with a couple of staff, I was taken to an office where the award was sitting. I was able to talk to a director of the center and learned a bit about the homeless situation in Anchorage. It was a bit unexpected to see folks on the street considering it isn't a big city really and the climate but homelessness affects anyone anywhere. I also learned that it seems that the new person who had taken over the Slam'n Salm'n Derby did not donate proceeds to the Downtown Hope Center as they were supposed to. This also meant that the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award had not been given out for the past two years. Between what was said by the guy at The Stand, some online research, and what I learned here at the Downtown Hope Center, the last person awarded the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award (but not named on the award) now runs the Slam'n Salm'n Derby and also runs the Bait Shack and isn't doing things in the right spirit of the Derby itself but especially not in the right spirit of one who earns the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award. This is a shame. According to the website, it looks like the 2020 Slam'n Salm'n Derby has the Downtown Hope Center a a recipient of proceeds so hopefully that is the case and things have been rectified in that regard.

We headed over to Wal*Mart next to return items that we had purchased that we couldn't bring back to Chicago with us. After doing this return, we released Elphie's "50" balloons which had lost most of their helium by this point. The black balloon flew a bit better than the gold one. In fact, it made it quite high into the sky while the gold one didn't appear that it would even make it out of the parking lot. Eventually, the gold balloon got some air under it and flew away at least over the nearby apartments and out of our sight.

We decided to get lunch at Wee B's again on our way to drop off Mike's truck after we fueled it back up. We learned the downside to driving a large pickup truck when we saw the amount the gas would cost. We got Buffalo Burgers this time. I also got a chocolate cherry milkshake! While waiting on our food to be prepared, I played Ms. Pacman and set the high score. It wasn't the best...but it was fun to set another high score on another game in another state. I left the challenge to fellow Ms. Pacman enthusiast Nate Allen! We drove the truck back to Mike's, made sure we unloaded everything of ours from the truck, and then realized we also took his bear mace out. I left it by his storage unit and hoped it would be ok.

At this point, I ordered an Uber ride for the first time ever...and we survived! The driver arrived and everything checked out as it should. We got our things into his vehicle and got in and rode to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. From things I had heard, I decided to tip him in cash instead of in the app. We unloaded and went inside the airport. We had plenty of time to spare. I finished off a bottle of Mt. Dew so I wouldn't have to throw it away at the security check. I also got some video and photographs of the various taxidermy bears, moose, and other animals throughout the airport as well as some artifacts of the native people and airplanes on display. We went into a lounge area for a bit after finding our gate. As we walked, I noticed that the first football game of the season was on television being broadcast from Chicago. It was a bit odd seeing a night game going on where we live and it being dark while it was still bright sunlight where we were. We boarded the plane and lucky us...we were in front of a baby. I got some footage as we took off from Anchorage and as we went over mountains and glaciers. As we flew southeast, we saw the sun set as well. Elphie captured her reaction to the baby screaming behind us. I watched more comic book movies as we flew...I wasn't really able to sleep. As we arrived near Chicago, I got some shots of the city lights  I thought but it may have been somewhere else. We began our descent so I began to film...and filmed for about 15 minutes so I sped up the footage. I captured the Chicago lights as we came over the city and descended to our landing at O'Hare.

We landed at O'Hare and gathered our things then took public transit home. It was still dark. We took the CTA Blue Line to the Western stop. We decided to get off at the north stop and catch the CTA Western bus from there and walked from the stop to the house. As I checked the mail, it was now daylight, the old man was out doing his walk again so I captured some footage of him...again. I decided to take the day off from work since I didn't get any sleep. I did originally plan to come back in that day but that changed due to my exhaustion. Also that evening we were going to see Bush, Live and Our Lady Peace in Tinley Park at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre so I'd have had to leave work early to get there in time to find a decent spot to sit. I laid down to sleep with Stein laying on top of me and that is where the documentation of this trip comes to an end.

Little did we know that Elphie would have a gallbladder attack...let alone that some of the issues she's had for several years likely were due to this gallstone. Less than a day after our return we ended up in the hospital.

I put the credits over the sped up clip of our descent into Chicago and landing. I think with the effects I used on the text coupled with the lit up wing cutting through the clouds, it all worked together quite nicely. I added in a special thanks to Mike and Debbie and acknowledge the businesses that helped make the trip possible then gave information on the filming, editing and creation of titles and animations as well as the soundtrack.

Additional soundtrack is "48 States" by Smalltown Poets, "Black Mountain" by The Trigger Code, "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Tortoises All The Way Down" by mewithoutYou, "On This Mountain" by The Soil And The Sun, "I've Been To The Mountain Top, But It Wasn't There" by Samuel Lockridge, "Come To The Mountain" by Destroy Nate Allen, "I Hate Everything (Odio Tutto)" by Leper, "Bear's Vision Of Saint Agnes" by mewithoutYou, "Cure In The Mountains" by The La De Les, "Falling In Love With Glaciers" by Listener, "From The Mountains" by Flashlight Party, "I Am Mountain" by Gungor, "Run To The River" by Live, "Two Mountains" by Aaron Lee Martin (apologies I missed this in the video acknowledgement), "Sugar Mountain" by Black Swift, "Mountain Dew" by Pogues with The Dubliners, "Swing Low, Sweetheart" by The Scurvies, and "This World" by The Castros.

This project was filmed using an iPhone 6 and 8 and Canon Rebel T6 by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson. Titles and animations were created using Motion 4 on a Macbook by Joel A. Swanson. Editing was done using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson

Thursday, April 9, 2020

A Shared Life: West by Southwest - Elphie & Joel's Trip To California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado & Nevada (Spring 2019)

In the Spring of 2019, Elphie and I decided to travel to California for vacation and to add Utah to Elphie's list of states visited leaving Alaska as the final state of the union left for her to visit, or so we thought at the time. Elphie had lived in San Francisco and wanted to visit again. She also has wanted to go to Los Angeles and San Diego in recent years so we decided to make the trip. We flew on Southwest Airlines to California and visited the three cities using FlixBus to get between them. Elphie's friend Debbie, who we previously visited in Seattle, joined us for the second half of our trip. She rented a car from Avis and the rest of the trip was a road trip from Los Angeles through the scenic desert and mountain areas of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada. We returned to Los Angeles to commute home after the road trip. On the road trip, we also passed through some reservations and Native tribal land. We even stayed at Dine Inn, a Native run hotel, after visiting the Grand Canyon. We learned that there were some strict alcohol laws on the tribal land. We also learned Utah has strict alcohol laws as well, most likely due to the religious influence on the state. It is interesting that it neighbors Nevada with its seemingly much laxer laws on everything. Overall, we enjoyed the trip. We had tried to build in some rest time throughout the trip. Even so, we were quite exhausted when it came to an end. Most of the road trip was a scenic drive with a good amount of it centered around the desert and rock formations. At some point, you can hear Elphie remark in the video about how many different rock formations and types we had seen and just when you think you've seen it all, there is something else.

While I hadn't necessarily made a goal of it, after this trip I have inched closer to getting all 50 states in now as well so perhaps some of our future travels can make that happen for me as well...why not?!

We once again relied fairly heavily on Atlas Obscura to find interesting things to do throughout the trip and it did not let us down! Some things were small and didn't take much time or energy to find. Other things we just happened to come across while we were out and about without specifically looking for them.

We booked most of our lodging through both booking.com and AirBnB. We did not have too many contacts in the areas we visited to be able to utilize for sleeping arrangements and some that we had were not available to help us out but we had mostly good experiences in that regard. Thanks to Stephen Weese for couch space for a couple nights in Burbank, CA.

Mountain Dew had rolled out Baja Blast right before we left and it sort of became the unofficial drink of the trip. I was able to taste In-N-Out as well as Del Taco on this trip. In-N-Out ended up being more available in the areas we were so I ended up eating there several times. I decided to highlight these in my credits I created.

I did not bring my tripod on this trip. It is a heavy item and I felt it to be unnecessary as just another thing to carry around. At times, I can have somewhat shaky hands (I have learned that my left more is more shaky than my right but I usually hold the camera with my right so it is less of a factor). The Canon Rebel T6 has more weight to it than my iPhone and previous cameras. Also, the larger lens on my Canon Rebel T6 adds more weight and it does not have stabilization technology. As a result of those factors, some of the video, particularly the sunsets, are pretty shaky. Another factor was the wind in some locations such as the beach and cliff locations as well as the chill it brought caused difficulty in holding the camera still. I hope with future work, I can improve on my free hand shooting. My apologies for some of the quality of the work throughout the project particularly in regard to shakiness. I hope it does not result in motion sickness for anyone.

In picking the songs I wanted to be a soundtrack, I wanted the songs to relate in some way to what was being shown in the video. I wanted to use the music to help shape and tell the story. I'm not entirely happy with the end result of the soundtrack but I am able to move on from it as it is without much regret. I was able to use a lot of songs that I wanted and put them in places that I felt appropriate. Some songs did not get synced up exactly to where I wanted them. one example of this is "In God's Country" by U2. I had planned to use it around the time of the project that we were in Joshua Tree but it didn't quite fit there so I moved it. Others, I had forgotten that I wanted to use them at a certain point in the project until after I had finished that part. I did not feel like putting in the extra effort of rearranging the work I felt I had finished already just to add a song so I fit them in elsewhere. One example of this is "Californication" by Red Hot Chili Peppers. I sort of squeezed it in a spot during the San Francisco part of the project when I had intended to use it earlier in the Hollywood part of the project. I added the soundtrack after I had finished editing the video. There is probably a lot more I could say in regards to the soundtrack and why each song was selected but I'd probably take a lot more time than I'd like to invest. If there are questions about the songs, you can reach out to me and I will do my best to explain if there is anything to explain about the songs. I may highlight some of the soundtrack choices throughout the rest of this blog as well.

This is the video project of the trip as filmed (and photographed) by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson.

For the teaser trailer, I used the introduction/title sequence I created as well as some parts of the end credits with "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas And The Papas as a soundtrack.
On the introduction/title (which is part of the teaser trailer as well), I took a screen shot from Google Maps of the western part of the United States and using Motion 4 on a Macbook, I made an animated dotted trail. I followed the trail with images I had downloaded of the various forms of transportation we used including a Southwest airplane and a FlixBus. I created the text for the titles and its animation as well. I also used photos we had taken during the trip that highlighted each destination and downloaded images of flags to use as backgrounds of the states and some cities that we visited as well as Mexico. The idea I was going for was to appear as though the photos were being laid out to be viewed as though they were dealt from a deck of cards. At this point, this was as close as I could come to animating that sort of appearance. I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

I put the end credits over some of the footage Elphie had shot from the window of the airplane on our return to Chicago. I tried to put it over footage that was more sky than scenery when I could. The soundtrack information ends up going over our landing in Chicago. I decided that would be how I would do it since we returned in the dark and I felt that probably not too much of interest would be hidden behind the lettering other than lights passing by. I think it does look ok.

I used the "Rosewood" font in both the introduction and credits because it had a somewhat western feel to it. I had picked several ideas and asked Elphie for her opinion on the fonts. Together, we chose "Rosewood."

Once again, I used Motion 4 on a MacBook and took some screen shots of Google Maps to show where we went on the trip to be used throughout the project. I created dotted trails and followed the trails with downloaded images from Southwest Airlines and FlixBus along with some generic images of subway trains, streetcars, buses, ferries, and an old timey style car.. I adjusted the timing then I fit them in where I felt they made sense during (by overlaying) or among video clips of commutes. I am still learning in this process but I do feel that there has been some improvement with each project and I hope it is reflected in the finalized work.


The introduction/title is placed during my final day of work between the footage I captured on the commutes to work and then from work to the airport along with shots of my preparing for my work day and preparing to leave. We flew by way of Southwest Airlines out of Midway to San Diego. When we arrived in San Diego, our plan was to use public transit to get to our hotel but people we asked kept suggesting cabs or ride shares because "no one using public transit" and seemed a bit put off by us asking for that information. We eventually did figure out the bus out of the airport to downtown then a train toward our hotel. This was quite roundabout...the hotel wasn't all that far from the airfield but we had no way of getting there by walking so taking the bus to downtown then a train back toward the hotel was what we had to do. We walked from the train station because it wasn't too far from the hotel. As we walked I saw that there was an In-N-Out Burger along the way so we stopped and I was able to get my dinner there. I really did enjoy the In-N-Out Burger quite a bit! Right next door was a Del Taco so we planned to go there on another night. We got to our hotel, a Howard Johnson, that we booked through booking.com and got some sleep.

We got up early to get the hotel breakfast then brought it back to our room and slept some more. It was raining throughout the day. When we got up, we decided to walk to a somewhat nearby beach called Ocean Beach. Fitting, I suppose...it was on the Ocean. We walked on a bike./hike trial along a river that emptied into the ocean and encountered a snail and skate park. The river emitted a somewhat foul odor, we assumed it to be sewage. When we got to the beach, the sun was nearing sunset time so I captured it on video. Unfortunately, there were clouds on the horizon so we didn't quite see the sun set in the proper sense. It was a bit cool and quite windy. As I wrote before, I didn't bring my tripod so a lot of the footage using my Canon Rebel T6 was shaky. This includes the sunset shots. I did my best to keep it steady but between my usual shakiness, the weight of the camera, the wind itself and the chill it brought, I was quite shaky in my shooting. I think this sunset was probably less shaky than the others in the project though. Elphie and I both touched the Pacific Ocean...Elphie walked into it while I reached down with my hand and using the footage that both Elphie and I shot I documented this using the overlay feature. We hung around at the beach for a while. there had been surfers that I captured on video during the sunset. One guy seemed to be in a state of worship as the sunset and Elphie captured a quick clip of him that I included. There were folks with a fire pit. We probably hung around for about an hour after the sun had set then began to walk back toward the hotel. We didn't consider that this trail wasn't lit so it made Elphie a bit nervous. There was a full moon that helped with visibility (and I captured it on video as well). The skate park had also emptied out so there wasn't really anyone around. We made it back to the road and tried to figure out a bus we could take back toward the hotel. It appeared there would be at least two options. We walked to the stop that seemed would be the quickest option but the time came and went without a bus. We walked back a bit from where we came to catch another bus and it did arrive. We took the bus toward the hotel and went to Del Taco for dinner before going to our room. I also liked Del Taco quite a bit. It was like a Taco Bell but with better food and better options. Sadly though, no Baja Blast equivalent.

We decided that we wanted to go to Lucha Libre Taco Shop for lunch/dinner. This was a listing on Atlas Obscura. It is themed after Mexican Wrestling. Elphie and I both got burritos and they were awesome! There was a booth one could reserve that was like a wrestling ring. It may have been for the purpose of participating in a eating challenge. There was also a guest book that we signed. We left the restaurant and headed toward Point Loma. We got to Sunset Cliffs just in time for the sunset and this time no clouds got in the way! Once again the footage is very shaky. Because I was standing (the day before I had sat on the sand while shooting) and free hand shooting using the longer heavier lens that does not have stabilization as well as because of the wind and its chill I think this is probably the shakiest of all the videos. I did capture the actual sun set though, despite it being very, very shaky. We walked along the cliffs and I captured video of the ocean crashing against the rocks. We ended up walking over to Point Loma Nazarene University by way of an unexpected nighttime nature hike. Once we got there, we walked into the Student Union area and found "America's Christian Credit Union" then watched a band perform for a little bit. We walked through the campus some more then headed down a hill to catch a bus back to the hotel capturing some night shots of the moon and the city along the way.

We decided that while in San Diego, we would visit Tijuana, Mexico. We took public transit to get there. Transferring trains downtown, I captured video of the Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge, Petco Park, and a few other sites as we continued south. We arrived at the border and went into the McDonald's to get some food and use the restroom before dealing with border control and customs. We got into Mexico without too much difficulty and resulted in getting a stamp in our passport books then we walked toward Tijuana. We mistakenly took a wrong turn and lots of cab drivers were trying to get out business. Another person took us in the direction that we actually needed to go. It didn't help Elphie and her anxiety as the guy took us through what appeared to be an abandoned shopping center. Getting into Tijuana meant crossing a bridge over a highway and that also heightened the anxiety level as well as another guy trying to get us to go into a bar ended our visit. We sat for a while and once Elphie was able to calm down, we walked over to a ice cream street vendor. Elphie really wanted to get churros but the churros they were selling was not what she expected. We both got a snack then walked toward the way back into the United States where there was a cool sign for touristy pictures and such. While making out way through the line to get back in the United States, we got a glimpse of Trump's wall. We were also greeted by a goofy picture of him as we re-entered the United States. Once we got through that process, which once again wasn't too bad, we decided to go to a shopping center sitting at the border. We could see Trump's Wall pretty much up close as well as the border patrol. We could see where there was work being done further away from the more populated and higher traffic area to build the wall. We went to Taco Bell and relaxed a bit...I got some Baja Blast to drink. We ended up getting dinner in the shopping center food court after walking around it for a while then began to head north. We figured, with our transit pass, we'd just ride the train to the fullest extent that we could. There was apparently a soccer game at SDCCU Stadium where the Chargers played before leaving the city and so we rode with a large group of soccer fans. We continued to the end of the line then took another train that looped up a different way back into the city. We missed an opportunity to see a giant lemon and apparently mummies which was on Atlas Obscura...it was apparently not far from the transit line but I realized this after we had already passed it by. It was a fun little adventure on the transit lines then we returned to our hotel.

Our friend Pastor David Hart met up with us in the morning and took us to the San Diego waterfront at Seaport Village to hang out. We got to catch up with him and visited some interesting stores. While getting lunch, I captured an old man dancing and trying to get the ladies to dance with him. We got to see the 1895 Looff Carousel which is over 100 years old and wooden. As we walked some more a speedster in his wheelchair nearly ran us over. We saw some other street performers and buskers then found the "Unconditional Surrender" statue as well as the Bob Hope Memorial and of course lots of naval ships. After we walked the waterfront area, Dave took us out to "Fashion Valley" to a mall. In that mall, we came upon a Tesla Car Store and checked out the Tesla Cars. It was a good visit with Dave but he had things to do so he dropped us off at the hotel. We ran to Target in the evening to get some things for our ride to Los Angeles the next day and I ran into my old youth pastor Shane Smith who had recently relocated to San Diego. I had been in communication with his wife about possibly staying with them while we were there but it didn't quite work out. It was good to see Shane for a few minutes though. He had just gotten into town after driving across the country with the moving van. We got some food at Del Taco again then returned to the hotel to rest up for a long day of traveling in the morning.


We checked out of the Howard Johnson and made our way to the nearby train station where we would be catching the FlixBus to Los Angeles. Once we got there, got situated, and figured out where exactly that FlixBus would be picking us up, I decided to venture into the nearby Old Town and check it out while Elphie waited with our luggage. It was a little touristy area appearing as it might have looked during early settlement or colonization by the European folks some hundred years ago or something. We boarded the bus and headed to Los Angeles. It was a decently scenic ride. I got to see SDCCU Stadium in daylight as we had to pass it picking up other riders in another part of San Diego. We rode up I-5 along the ocean most of the time. As we passed through Anaheim I could see the Angels stadium, possibly the Ducks arena as well...and I assume I could see some of Disneyland. We arrived in downtown Los Angeles and walked over to the Los Angeles River to get a glimpse of it and its concrete glory. We boarded public transit to North Hollywood where Stephen Weese met us and picked us up. While we waited for him, we noticed a street fair going on with "Cotton Eye Joe" playing over the speakers. We would be staying with Stephen for the first couple of days in Los Angeles. He took us to his church, Expression 58, then we went to Griffith Observatory where we had a great night view of Los Angeles. We also saw the Tesla Coil and a few other interesting things in the building of the observatory. Stephen mentioned that the Hollywood Sign was visible from the Observatory. I took a shot in that direction then in editing brightened up the image to try to see if the sign would show up. It sort of does actually show up. We stopped at a Ralph's to get some groceries for the week then we arrived at Stephen's house in Burbank, driving by Disney Studio.

Elphie and I spent a good portion of this day relaxing at Stephen's house in Burbank. There were citrus fruit trees that one could reach out the window of his house to take the fresh fruit if desired. We decided to take a walk to Halloween Town that wasn't too far away. We passed by a Lincoln Park that we were told may have been the inspiration for the naming of the band Linkin Park and there is apparently a picture online somewhere of Linkin Park in a Lincoln parked in Lincoln Park...or something a long those lines. Halloween Town was pretty cool. We were able to get some souvenirs including a poop that we ended up leaving in Stephen's freezer for him to find later after we had left. He did find it later and it now sits in a cup...and has acquired a friend apparently. Later in the evening, we went to Geeky Teas and played some board games. Later, we got some dinner at the Coral Cafe. They had their own version of a Shamrock Shake so I indulged in that!

Stephen took us on a drive up into the Hollywood Hills on Mulholland Drive to see some of the mansions. We stopped at an overlook of Universal City. We also got a partial glimpse of the Hollywood Sign from here and drove to a few other spots which didn't result in being able to see the sign but did see a number of signs telling us that we were not welcome there to view the sign. Elphie and I went on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour after this which was informative and fun. I shot some video that I was not permitted to shoot during the tour (which I suppose could result in my video being blocked or taken down by YouTube). Costumes for Wonder Woman and Aquaman were on display. We got to visit Ellen's studio. We also got to see the vehicles used in the Batman movies. These areas were permitted for video. The tour guide was fairly funny and gave a lot of information and tried to personalize the tour to the folks and where they were from. After the tour, we walked toward Stephen's house. In fact, we passed him as he was catching a ride home. We stopped at a Chik-Fil-A for dinner then as we walked, we passed the Disney Studios. When we got to Stephen's house, we helped him get ready for a trip he had the next day and went to the grocery store with him to get some things he needed for his trip. Because Stephen had this trip, we had to figure out some other arrangements of a place to stay the next couple of nights. I found an AirBnB that wasn't too far and also near the public transit lines. I booked it and arranged to meet the host to pick up the key the next morning.

I had to wake up quite early so I could get the key for the AirBnB from the host. Ultimately it was for the best because Stephen had to leave relatively early as well. She was in Burbank for work so I walked to her place of employment. This gave me the opportunity to see a few things I wouldn't have seen otherwise. I also was able to load our transit cards for the next couple of days so we could get around. I returned to Stephen's house just as he was leaving so we said goodbye and then we made our way on the bus to the AirBnB which was in North Hollywood. Once we got settled in at the AirBnB, Elphie and I headed to Hollywood to see the sites there. The station that we arrived at came out to street level near the Capitol Records building so I got a shot of that as well as a couple of the stars on the walk of fame. Elphie got some Starbucks then we headed slowly toward the Hollywood Forever cemetery. Along the way, we passed a venue where Flogging Molly had played their St. Patrick's show. We also got our first glimpse of the Hollywood Sign straight on without any obstruction. When we arrived at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, we didn't buy a map so we were a bit lost on where the celebrities were buried. We saw some peacocks and some interesting grave stones and markings but nothing of celebrities at first. We ended up using some photos that friends of ours took a year prior to figure out where at least one celebrity was which happened to be with the rest. The first celebrity we found was Johnny Ramone. Among the others that we found and documented in the video was a crypt for the Swayze's, Dee Dee Ramone, Chris Cornell, and Toto. This area was called the Garden of Legends. We also saw the feral cats that live in the cemetery. I got a shot of the Hollywood Sign from the cemetery as well as the water tower at Paramount Studios. As we left, we encountered a couple more peacocks. As we walked to get dinner, we found a house that appeared decorated for Halloween, much like where we live. We got dinner at Lucifer's Pizza, named this because of the spicy sauce. We kept to a mild sauce, I suppose defeating the purpose of going there. While there, we decided we were going to visit the Museum Of Death which was nearby. I got some shots of buildings and businesses in the area and some interesting street art on the way as well as another view of the Hollywood Sign. I am glad I got it then, after we left the Museum of Death, there was fog covering the sign. We were not permitted to use cameras in the Museum of Death and it seemed to be closely monitored so I followed the rules this time. The Museum of Death was pretty cool...lots of memorabilia from famous serial killers, unusual deaths, and some general funeral related items and things of historical significance with regards to death. After we left, we walked along the walk of fame for a bit, capturing some interesting stars along the way. I also got another shot of the Capitol Records building and a sign at Hollywood and Vine explaining the significance of the intersection. We crossed the street to go into the Beetle House - a Tim Burton themed Pop Up Bar. We walked along Hollywood Boulevard for a while longer until we got into the more touristy areas. We saw some street performers and buskers then went to Grauman's Chinese Pagoda Theater and saw some of the hand and foot prints from celebrities. There was a light show on the outside of the building as well that I captured a short clip of. A guy was doing spray paint art closer to the street that I captured a clip from as well before we left to go back to the AirBnB. As we arrived in North Hollywood, we noticed a helicopter circling overhead. We watched this for a few minutes but at one point it circled over us with the spotlight on so we decided maybe it was time to move on. I captured a little bit of this police activity on video before it was all over.

Elphie came down with a cold and it had kicked in a bit heavier on this day so we didn't really go out to do much. We decided to go to Ralph's to get some cold and flu medicine for her then to get tacos are the nearby Andy's which was a local shop. We found out while at Ralph's that my Kroger card worked to get us a discount. We also passed by a Carl's Jr. and the apparent scene of the crime from the night before. The tacos at Andy's were quite good. Elphie ended up ordering more than she could eat so she gave it to a homeless person on our way back to the AirBnB. We also passed an old timey car. Once back at the AirBnB, we began to pack up to head to San Francisco in the morning. We had to get up pretty early so we figured we should get ourselves situated as much as possible the night before. Elphie could not find a drink she bought at Ralph's for the morning. We figured she might have left it at Andy's so I walked back over and found it!

The soundtrack I selected for this section caused it to be blocked on YouTube currently. You should be able to view at this link:

Elphie and I got up early to catch the FlixBus in downtown Los Angeles for San Francisco. We walked to the North Hollywood station and made it to the FlixBus pick up location with probably 20 minutes to spare. I noticed that most of the transit stations in the Los Angeles area were decorated with art relative to the locations and it was pretty interesting. The ride to San Francisco was quite long. There was a break in the middle to get food. The terrain changed quite a bit as we went as well through the hills, mountains, desert areas, and into areas that were green. There was quite a few farm areas and vineyards along the highway as well. It was quite the scenic trip. I noticed some bells along the highway and found out that they are Mission Bells which mark El Camino Real that was a road that historically joined 21 missions in California. In San Francisco, we stayed at the Admiral Hotel in Tenderloin. It was a pretty cheap hotel which probably often houses low income or even homeless individuals. We ended up walking from where FlixBus dropped us of to the hotel, got our room key, then relaxed for the evening.

Elphie was still feeling the effects of the cold/flu she came down with while in Los Angeles. Eventually, I decided to get up after sleeping fairly late into the day and checked with Elphie if it was ok that I went out and about to do some sightseeing. She was ok with it so off I went after trying to take a shower. I had a little difficulty figuring it out as the mechanism to switch to the shower was not one I was familiar with. After looking at Google Maps and consulting Atlas Obscura, I headed out into the city. Not too far down the street from our hotel is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. There is a shadow caused by the unique structure that appears as a breast most pronounced at around 2pm and is called the "Two O'Clock Titty." I was a bit late for this phenomenon. I headed toward the bay, going through LaFayette Park. I got a few shots down toward the bay along the walk. When I arrived down at sea level, I found a park with soccer games and kite flying among other things. I saw and took a shot of the Palace of Fine Arts then a barge carrying Hyundai containers. Then I got some shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. I also captured some wind surfers just off the nearby beach. After hanging around this area for a little bit, I walked toward the nearby Marina and got a shot of the lighthouse. I walked along the Marina to the Wave Organ which makes noises with the tide and was created out of old cemetery stones from the time of the gold rush of prospectors who probably did not have nearby family. The noises that I heard and captured really just sounded like gurgling. I also took several shots of Alcatraz from here. While I was out, Elphie asked for me to pick up some things when I could a store. I found that there was a nearby SafeWay so I went there to get what she needed as well as a Mountain Dew for myself. As I left, I walked up a hill and saw that the sun was setting behind the Golden Gate Bridge so I captured what I could of that. Once again cloud cover obscured the full sunset but it was a good view anyway. I captured a few more shots toward Alcatraz with the darkness coming in. It allowed a good shot of the lighthouse light. I made my way to the Aquatic Cove and walked on the pier where I was able to get some shots of the Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco lit up at night. I then walked along the water to where there are more grave stones used to make an Aquatic Park near the Ghirardelli building. I captured some shots of anchors outside of the Maritime Museum. At this point I needed to find somewhere to eat. I found a nearby In-N-Out Burger so that's where I went then headed up a hill to return to the hotel. I did not realize how steep this hill would be and I happened to find Lombard Street - a very steep part of the road with hairpin turns. I also found that the Hotel Vertigo was nearby so I got a shot of that and could mark it on Atlas Obscura. I got back to the Admiral Hotel and it felt good to be off my feet finally.

On Sunday, Elphie was feeling better so we went out to see some sites. I took her the way I walked the day before so she could see the "Two O'Clock Titty" at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption then we walked down the street to where the Hotel Majestic stands. It is the oldest active hotel in San Francisco. We walked a bit further and found the McElroy Octagon House before heading toward Fisherman's Wharf. We went into the Ghirardelli shop and then passed by the Andrea's Fountain in the courtyard outside. We walked down the Hyde Street Pier a little ways and saw some cool older ships and also got another shot at the Golden Gate Bridge. As we walked through the Fisherman's Wharf area, was encountered various street performers and buskers. I noticed a Joe Montana wax figure as well. We stopped at a breakdancing crew before entering Pier 39 where the seals congregate. It was an area Elphie had enjoyed when she lived in San Francisco and she wanted me to see it. We got another shot at Alcatraz from here as well. As we went through another part of Pier 39 and tried to figure out what we wanted for dinner, I noticed a double decker carousel. We also noticed Lefty's - a store for lefthanded people. I got a shot of some dogs on skateboards being rolled through the crowd as well. We ended up walking a bit further and getting pizza at Queen's Louisiana Po Boy then we watched a spray paint artist for a few minutes. Elphie purchased a painting from him. From across the street, I took a shot of the Vaillancourt Fountain...I didn't realize we'd end up walking passed it later. As we walked further, we came to the Exploratorium and some skate boarding folks around there. We continued to Rincon Park where I got a shot of Cupid's Span, Treasure Island, and the Bay Bridge. We walked into a business area where we found the Hills Brothers Statue along with Google and Mozilla facilities. There was a Wharton University of Pennsylvania there as well which I thought was strange. Coming back down the road, we watched more skate boarding in a park between the Embarcadero for a while. We stopped at the Vaillancourt Fountain before walking into the downtown and got a better shot of this interesting fountain. Elphie tried to use a public restroom but found it was occupied. In the city, we found the offices of Imgur. We walked from there through Chinatown and ended up at Union Square where we came upon the Westin which is a hotel where you can launder money. We also saw the Phelan Building, an Irish pub, and Bourbon and Branch - the Anti-Saloon League speakeasy as we walked to return to the Admiral Hotel. I decided to end this day with filming us going up the elevator.

On Monday, we decided to go see sights from Elphie's life in San Francisco. We got transit passes so that we could get around further distances easier. We went to various buildings that were the school she attended, some jobs that she did, and the place she called home while living in San Francisco. Elphie was told that a house near where she lived was the "Full House" house. We checked it out and I was fairly certain this was inaccurate. I hoped we'd get a chance to see the actual one, at least according to Atlas Obscura, later in the day. We also took a trip down Haight Street seeing some historical sights there as well as were other friends lived. We saw the legs hanging out of the Piedmont Boutique. We stopped into Amoeba Music. We walked to where Haight Street met Golden Gate Park. As we headed back down Haight Street, we decided to stop at Escape From New York pizza for lunch. After our time on Haight Street, we made our way to the "Full House" house. It was being renovated. Next we headed to Alamo Park where the Painted Ladies stand nearby. These buildings also were in the "Full House" opening credits. While we were there, Elphie enjoyed watching a bird bathe in a puddle. We decided to head to the ocean after hanging out in this park. We rode a bus along the side of Golden Gate Park. In the park, there are bison...it might have been fun to check that out but I don't think we had time. At the end of the line, we got off the bus and went into the nearby Safeway to grab something to eat. Nearby was an Old Dutch Windmill. We walked over to Ocean Beach (the second Ocean Beach we visited on this trip!) and I got some shots of the scenery along the ocean there. I got some shots of the nearby cliffs and probably an old battery on top. We decided to walk up the hill and visited Camera Obscura next to the Cliff House and I got some more scenic ocean shots. While we were standing there a paramedic came and asked us if we saw a man with a dog fishing. We had not but apparently there was suspicion of an emergency as we later would see a lot of emergency vehicles. A little further up the hill we got a view of the ruins of the Sutro Baths. As we walked even further up the hill toward where we could catch a bus back to the hotel, we noticed that the sun was beginning to set so I tried to once again capture that. Once again it came out shaky due to the wind, the chill, the weight of the heavier lens, and my general shakiness anyway. I captured it the best that I could. While I was capturing the sunset, a skateboarder went by down the hill. Elphie captured that. We ended up walking through a little bit of a wooded area to get to the bus. I took a few shots of the flowers as we went a long to the bus. We were able to ride the bus most of the way back to our hotel. When we got off, we saw some old timey cars in a showroom and I captured some footage of that. We walked back to the hotel and took in a little of the Tenderloin night life.

On Tuesday, we went to Alcatraz. Before leaving for that and while we took care of a situation in our hotel room, we checked out the Tenderloin National Forest. On the streetcar over to where we needed to board the ferry to get to Alcatraz, I took a couple shots out the window of some sights from Atlas Obscura, mainly a couple of fountains: Lotta's Fountain and I think the Admission Day Monument. We stopped at In-N-Out Burger before heading back to board the ferry. While getting on the ferry, I took a shot of a hillside that appeared to have collapsed, possibly a landslide. I captured some footage as we made our way to Alcatraz Island of the city, of other boats, and of other islands and land masses around us along the way. I captured our approach to Alcatraz as well including some signs referencing a period of time of Native occupation of the island. When we first got to the island, a park ranger was describing to a group that the money we pay for the Alcatraz Tour is invested in restoration of the prison buildings and other improvements. The first couple spots we stopped in described more of the history of when Native Americans had lived on the island after the prison was closed. They had painted a welcome sign on the water tower and did so by apparently standing on shoulders on the small walkway after having climbed the water tower. We checked out the morgue and some gardens then eventually entered into the prison and took the audio guided tour. We learned of life in the prison, about some notorious inmates including Al Capone, about life as a guard, and about a couple attempts at escape and the dangers that came with attempts to escape. Among this footage is some shots of the city from the island. After we finished the tour in the chow hall, we stopped in the gift shop then exited near a bird sanctuary for western gulls. The tour was interesting to me. Elphie had done this tour some years earlier and recalled more focus on the Native occupation. Perhaps she found a different tour than we did this time. We left Alcatraz Island to try to meet with a friend of Elphie's at the Baked Bear. We got ice cream cookie sandwiches. Unfortunately, Elphie's friend went to the wrong location and did not have enough time to make it to where we were before she had to be elsewhere. We tried to connect with her later but it never worked out. It had been misty or very light rain most of the day but we got caught in a harder rain storm as we walked to where the trolley is manually turned by the workers. When the rain let up, we got over there to check it out. It was interesting and sort of funny to me that it took manual labor to do this. Elphie wanted to go back to visit at her old home again so we got on the streetcar to head over there. I tried to get some shots again of the fountains as we rode passed them but they didn't turn out so well. We also went to Safeway near the house Elphie used to live in before revisiting it. We headed back to the Admiral Hotel for one last night of sleep before hitting the road.

There is more footage of our time in San Francisco than in the other California cities (and really the whole trip) because, I think we did the most there of any of the places. I went out on my own the first day as well which I didn't do in other places. It may be possible that I left things in that could have been edited out as well. Sometimes I do struggle with that. It was an enjoyable visit to this city, even though it was certainly the most expensive place visited on the trip.


We were leaving San Francisco on Wednesday to begin the road trip part of this vacation. Unfortunately, we were rudely woke up by construction on the street below. Loud construction. Jackhammers and all that. While I did not get video of the construction going on, I did shoot the results of it as we left. We got up and got ourselves ready to go then checked out of the Admiral Hotel and headed out to catch a bus instead of walking the whole way. We had paid for transit for the first day but realized one really can get away with riding without paying so we did that. When we arrived at the Flixbus location, I got notified that it would be delayed by 45 minutes. We decided to wait around and I am glad we did as it definitely arrived quicker than that 45 minutes, even though it was still late. I captured a couple helicopters overhead as well as the funny looking San Francisco parking enforcement vehicle. I also got a shot of the nearby CalTrains. As we left, I got a couple shots of  the city and a lot of scenery along the way back to Los Angeles. I was able to capture a Mission Bell this time as well. When we made our lunch stop, I got some In-N-Out Burger again. As we got near Los Angeles I got a shot of Six Flags Over California. Of course, coming into Los Angeles, we got stuck in traffic. I tried to get a shot of the Los Angeles River as we passed over it but it was dark. I also tried to get a shot of the Dodgers Stadium in the distance. Once we arrived in Los Angeles, we figured out the transit to get to LAX to meet Debbie. It was a pretty long ride overall. We eventually did make it. There was also a service disruption for the train so we had to take a shuttle bus to the airport. We met a guy from Europe in all that confusion and we all worked together to get where we needed to go, we think. We did make it to LAX then had to get ourselves to the AVIS Rental Car place which was another shuttle. Once we got there, we met with Debbie, got whatever paperwork we needed to do taken care of, and finally began the road trip! We headed east toward Joshua Tree where we had an AirBnB for the night. I captured a few night shots along the way that didn't turn out real great and I'm not entirely sure what some of it was. We stopped in Corona, CA for In-N-Out Burger. It ended up being my last In-N-Out Burger for the trip but I am sure glad I got to experience it! We continued to Joshua Tree and I captured some more night footage along the way. We arrived late at night at the AirBnB and pretty much went straight to bed. It was a long day of travel for all of us. Elphie and I on FlixBus from San Francisco...Debbie on a plane from Seattle.

After getting a little sleep (we probably would have liked more) we packed up to leave out AirBnB. I got some shots of the scenery around the house in Joshua Tree before we left. As we left I captured a Crow fly by us as I captured more scenery of the area. We actually backtracked a few miles to the nearest Wal*Mart so that we could load up supplies. Our idea was to return anything we could at the end of the trip. We got lunch meats, snacks, and Mountain Dew Baja Blast for the trip. We ended up getting breakfast at Taco Bell then we began to drive east. We stopped at the Joshua Tree sign and I captured more scenery footage from there as well as the sign and some Joshua Trees. I also tried to capture the love signs as we passed them. I feel like it is possible, in the editing process, this and some other things might have been cut due to forgetting what I had shot and not being able to decipher why I had shot it all these months later (and perhaps I should get to editing much quicker). As we drove through the desert of California, I continued to capture footage of the desert and mountain scenery around us either as we drove or when we stopped. We drove through what I assume was the town of Rice, CA...now a ghost town. There was remains of a service station and fence where people had left shoes and other things. We crossed into Arizona at the town of Parker. Once in Arizona, we began to see cactus. I got a lot of footage of the cactus as we drove this day. Pretty much this day is summed up with desert and mountain scenery and cactus scenery. We watched a glider go overhead in the evening as well. As we drove up and over another mountain, we seemed to be in a prairie likely on top of a plateau. We got dinner at Gabriela's Taco Shop which is next to the World's Largest Kokopelli, a roadside attraction we weren't even aware of when we stopped. After dinner, we headed for our AirBnB in Cottonwood, AZ which was on a road with roundabouts. I captured us passing through one and learned that they apparently drive Debbie crazy. The AirBnB that we stayed in was quite interesting. The hosts live upstairs and have several New Age healing type amenities available at an extra cost. If we had stayed longer, perhaps we might have considered checking some of the extras that they had to offer. They also had a theater room. We actually arrived early enough and we weren't too exhausted from the travels of the day so we ended up watching a movie before deciding to get some sleep.


Elphie and I slept in while Debbie went to visit the nearby town of Sedona, AZ. We packed up and vacated the AirBnB then waited for Debbie outside. While waiting I took some shots of the scenery around the AirBnB and Cottonwood from the AirBnB. We were up the hill from a Wal*Mart which is visible in the bottom of the footage I shot. When Debbie arrived and we got loaded up, we stopped at a gas station as we left Cottonwood then we began our drive to the Grand Canyon. As is the case each day, I got footage of the mountains and deserts as we passed through. We stopped near Flagstaff at another gas station with a snowcapped mountain nearby and got some footage of that as well as pictures. As we drove to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at another canyon just outside the official national park called Little Colorado River Gorge. I got quite a bit of footage here that I felt was interesting and it wasn't even the Grand Canyon! I also captured some footage of the ravens flying around. They made a weird noise. I think one of my better shots from the whole trip is one from the raven footage when it had landed on the roof of a structure. After spending a bit of time here, we then made our way to the Grand Canyon. The first stop was at the Desert View Watchtower. I got a bit of footage here including of the watchtower. I also documented a band-aid that appeared on the tire of the car. I got more footage at Navajo Point, Lipan Point, Moran Point, and Grandview Point as well. I think that was were we stopped but I'm not certain. I believe at Grandview Point, Debbie talked to the ravens. Elphie did as well and tried to get one to come in the car. These ravens were somewhat strange looking. I had always assumed that they were basically just bigger crows. While they are bigger, they make different sounds and have fairly distinct head feathers. We turned around because it was getting late. As we made our way out of the Grand Canyon, I got more footage of a mountain in the distance and as the sun was setting over the desert. I also captured some more interesting desert formations as we drove toward Tuba City, AZ. We were staying at the Dine Inn in Tuba City. It is a Navajo reservation and we learned there were strict alcohol laws there. We got ourselves checked into the hotel and then decided to go find dinner. We saw what appeared to be a fair happening in the distance as well. We decided to eat at the Hogan Restaurant. Elphie got a plate of Native American food that we split among us. I captured some footage of flags for the United States of America, Arizona, and the Navajo Nation. We hung out in the hotel room for a bit, watching television then went to bed.


We woke up, loaded up, and checked out of Dine Inn...well we tried to check out. There was no one working the desk. We were told to leave our key in the room. So we did then left. As we headed through the desert to Monument Valley, I captured a lot more scenery. At one point, while we pulled off to get some scenery pictures, some dogs came up to Debbie. When it was time to go, they didn't seem to want to let us go. We crossed the Utah state line as we made our way closer to Monument Valley. As we drove, we saw many similar rock formation as we would be seeing in Monument Valley. We turned to go to the actual park and decided to pull off to get a picture. We ended up sinking into the sand and getting the car stuck. Some tour guides ended up helping to get us out after a bit of a struggle. We went into the gift shop and museum first before driving around in Monument Valley. the roads were desert dirt roads and quite bumpy...it certainly didn't help me trying to capture footage of what we were seeing. I got quite a bit of footage while in the park. We saw some footprints in the sand that we figured to be horses after seeing some people on horseback. Other than it being very bumpy, it was fun to see these rock formations. As we were leaving we his a bump so hard it opened a bottle in the back. I assume it launched into the air and the cap came off! As we drove down the main road it became clear that we could have seen most of the rock formations without paying to go into the park. I got some more footage as we drove to the Four Corners of desert and mountains. We stopped at Mexican Hat and got a shot of that as well. We passed through a town where some horses were wandering free. At the Four Corners, I got some shots of all the flags, and we took our turn to be in the four states at once: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. There were monuments with information about the four states as well and a sign informing us to not spread ashes on the site as the Native folks find cremation to be disrespectful and the park is Navajo land. We left by way of New Mexico and ended up going by Shiprock. We also passed some sort of monument of a what appeared to be  a warrior of some kind. Once we got to the town of Shiprock, we turned north and headed to Colorado. It seemed that there were storm clouds around us and I looked out the window and saw what appeared to be small tornadoes so I captured a shot of this. We arrived at the Colorado state line and took a driving break. I decided to walk back to the sign that stated we were leaving New Mexico then walked back to the Colorado sign. There were lots of broken bottles along the highway. I also think I saw some coyote tracks as well that I tried to document on my walk back to the car and the sign for Colorado. As we continued to drive, we passed a Native American style rest area and went through a town that had a junk yard with interesting metal art around it. We ended up stopping for dinner at a Wendy's in Cortez, Colorado then headed back into Utah. Our trip into Utah gave us the opportunity to see the sunset over a snow covered mountain. The sunset made the drive a bit difficult for Debbie visibility wise. We arrived at our AirBnB in Blanding, UT which was described as "The Tree House Suite." There was various pieces of art created by the home owner on display at the AirBnB and I got some footage of that. I found it to be pretty interesting. In the morning, I looked out the window and came to find out why it was called the Treehouse.


We woke early on Sunday morning and began another long day of driving, with a quick stop at a coffee shop before getting on our way. I captured more footage of the mountain where the sun had set behind the night before as well as more desert and mountain scenery as we went along. I captured some more rock formation including some arches that were along the way. We passed Church Rock and Hole n" The Rock. We reached the town of Moab where I captured a little bit of footage while we figured out where we needed to go. We ended up in a detour that threw us off a bit but we figured our way through and headed to Arches National Park not too far away. We did not feel we had a lot of time to spend at the Arches but we drove out to one spot. Along the way we were able to capture some footage of the scenery in the park. The spot we drove to, we could see a very clear and distinct arch but we did not have the time to walk up the path to the arch. I was able to zoom in on it to get a decent shot of the arch. As we left Arches, we passed through quite a bit of different scenery in the desert and mountains. We happened to pass an Alien Jerky stand as we entered I-70. Along I-70, we came upon a scenic pull off for Black Dragon Canyon and decided to take a little break. I captured more scenery as we rested here. We continued to drive through the desert and mountains. Elphie remarked that "once you thought you've seen all the rock formations, there's another one." We took another little break at a gas station. I used a urinal that someone decided to write Trump 2020 on. We continued on our way to Bryce Canyon and arrived there with probably an hour of daylight to spare. We really only got to one spot to view the scenery which included rock formations called Hoodoos. These were interesting. We were at probably about the highest elevation of the entire trip during this day. As we left Bryce Canyon, I captured parts of another sunset. We arrived in Cedar City, UT and decided to eat at Panda Express.  We actually hoped to find a real Chinese buffet but nothing appeared to be open as we arrived in town. We had an AirBnB in Cedar City and we headed there after getting dinner. From the AirBnB, I captured a night shot of the town including a brightly lit church building.

Go to the following link if you can't view the video. There's an issue with copyrights on a song I picked for the soundtrack:

We woke fairly early at our AirBnB in Cedar City, Utah and made our way to Starbucks for Debbie to get her morning coffee then began the journey to Las Vegas, NV. I'm not sure if this day was a longer drive than the others we had done but it sure felt like a long day. We passed back into Arizona then into Nevada as we drove through the scenic desert and mountains. When we arrived in Las Vegas, I decided to add in a clip from Swingers when the guys drive to Las Vegas and shout, "VEGAS!" I did this in the background as transparent as I could so it wouldn't interfere too much with the video. We went to Palace Station Hotel and Casino to their Feast Buffet. Our options were somewhat limited on a Monday in the late morning. The food was pretty good but there wasn't as much variety as I expected. I also wasn't able to eat as much as I would have liked to try to get my money's worth. This casino was off the strip a bit and suggested by Elphie's friend Dan who met up with us while we ate. Elphie got to catch up with him for a bit and he seemed like a good dude. When we left, we decided to drive through the Strip. I decided to keep most of that footage and sped it up to save a little bit of time for viewing. Once we got through the strip, we headed back east to Hoover Dam. All the travel had taken a lot out of Elphie so she stayed at the car as Debbie and I walked up to see the view of Hoover Dam. I took a couple different shots. One with my iPhone 8 and used both lenses on my Canon Rebel T6. The view was from a sidewalk on the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, a relatively new highway built to bypass the dam where a road goes over top of it. I think I captured the Winged Figures of the Republic monument from where I was shooting. We headed back west from here and mistakenly ended up driving back into Las Vegas which allowed me to see the new stadium being built for the Raiders. As we headed toward California, we were going to need to stop for gas and near the town of Jean, NV, we saw signs for the Largest Chevron Station which was also called a "Terrible's" and there was also a hotel and casino, apparently. As we approached, we saw the charred remains of a car that probably had recently burnt. We went to get gas but the gas station had lost power and hadn't yet gotten back online so the pumps were not working. We went in for a restroom break and to check out the place as well. It was interesting and certainly large. The men's restroom had funny jokes on the walls about making sure that you don't miss when peeing in the toilet or urinal. We left and there was a bird eating the dead bugs off the grill of the car as we approached it. The next exit had considerably higher priced gas but we needed to fuel up. There was an amusement park at that exit as well. It appeared to be a large pile of rocks near it at had a mine type look to it. I made a joke that rocks deserve amusement as well. As we crossed over into California, we saw a couple big solar fields with bright light emitting from it called Ivanpah. Next stop was in Baker, CA where the World's Tallest Thermometer sits at the edge of Death Valley. The temperature read 98 degrees. I didn't feel that hot but I recall from a previous trip in high school to the desert in Juarez, Mexico, that dry heat is different and doesn't feel as oppressive as humid heat. We went in the store for a bit. There was a ring game but I couldn't get the ring on the hook in the wall. I failed. Debbie bought a magnet because she felt bad for the town. It was pretty desolate. Many building falling down and looked like nearly a ghost town. I guess this is a fairly common sight in this part of California. As we drove to Apple Valley, and as I captured a little bit of scenery but I missed the sign for Zzyzx which has an interesting history. We passed an abandoned waterpark known as Rock-a-Hoola. We got to the AirBnB but the owner was not ready for us to stay yet. She said she needed to do some cleaning. Again, the trip had taken a lot out of Elphie and she just wanted to lay down but we had to leave. We ended up going to the Wal*Mart nearby where we returned the things that we used on the trip that we could return. There was also a Taco Bell so we got some dinner there. I shot another sunset from the parking lot. When we got to the AirBnB, we organized our luggage and Elphie went right to bed. I went out and got some shots of the moon as well as night shots of the town before going to bed.

We woke fairly early to leave the "Flying Nun" AirBnB we stayed at in Apple Valley, CA. We made a Starbucks stop then traveled out of town on Route 66 to the interstate. As we made our way to Los Angeles, we passed by San Dimas (of Bill and Ted fame) as well as Riverside (home of the Martin Brothers - Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, etc.). As we drove we encountered an accident which slowed us down a little bit. We also hit some Los Angeles traffic. I got a shot of the city from the highway as well as a shot of LAX from the highway including its alien spaceship looking structure. As we made our way to the airport, I got a shot of an arriving flight passing just over our heads. We fueled up the car then returned it to AVIS. We did quite a number on that vehicle. Lots of sand on it and throughout it...not to mention some rough rides like the one in Monument Valley. We took the tram to the airport terminals we each needed so our goodbyes occurred on the tram. We were a bit early to check in so we sat and waited with the alien spaceship just outside our window. Once we were permitted to go into our terminal for our Southwest flight, we got through the checkpoint. Elphie got a bit more thorough search this time. We waited on our flight and got some lunch in the airport. Once we got on the airplane, Elphie took some video of the takeoff process as well as shots of from the air of Los Angeles including the new football stadium being built, the ocean, the deserts we had driven through including Bryce Canyon, the snow covered Rocky Mountains, and our landing in Chicago. The final shot is a view of Chicago from Midway as we made our way to the CTA station to go home. I added the text for the credits over parts of this footage but I tried not to cover the more interesting scenery in this footage. I did cover a bit more of the landing than I had preferred but the reality of what is shown in that footage was some lights passing by in the darkness and the motion of the impact.

This final day footage was the first part I worked on in the process of getting this project done followed by the first day's footage. I added the text for the credits after finishing the editing of the video for the rest of the project then after adding the soundtracks, I added more title to acknowledge the music that I used. Before I did this, Elphie suggested trying to add gratitude toward the Native people with regard to their land that we passed through or stayed on especially during the road trip. We tried to gather as much information on this as we could but I am sure we missed some. I chose to use "Hotel California" by The Eagles as the ending soundtrack sort of as an irony due to the line "you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave" being in a song as we are leaving.

This was a good trip. We covered a lot of the country and got in visits to places that we really did want to go to for one reason or another. In working through all the footage for this project, I was happy for the most part but I am very much aware that improvement is needed in my free hand shooting with the Canon Rebel T6. I also realize I need to clean some dust from somewhere in the camera...I assume it's on the mirrors inside. I think this is also true on the next project I will be working on from our trip to Alaska.

The soundtrack includes "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas And The Papas, "California Sun" by The Ramones, "Sunset (O Lux Beata Trinitas)" by Timbre, "Sunsets Are But Once A Day" by Dogwood, "Back To San Diego" by Some Kind Of Nightmare, "Boom", "Southtown", and "Hoolywood" by P.O.D., "Escape To L.A." and "San Francisco" by The Dingees, "Hooray It's L.A." by Blindside, "Cinematic" by Cool Hand Luke, "Soundtrack For Our Movie" by Mae, "I Am Hollywood" by He Is Legend, "Hollywood Babylon" by Misfits, "Reggae Hit L.A." by The Aggrolites, "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)" by Scott McKenzie, "Californication" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, "West Coast Friendship" by Bon Voyage, "Tenderloin" by Rancid, "Everywhere You Look (the "Full House" theme song)" by Jesse Frederick, "All Shall Be Well" by Destroy Nate Allen, "Waiting" by Green Day, "Angry Sunset" by Crash Rickshaw, "American X" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Prison Bound" by Social Distortion, "When You're In Prison" by The Offspring, "Bad Town" by Operation Ivy, "California Love" by TuPac and Dr. Dre, "Burning Catcus" by Black Swift, "In God's Country" by U2, "Desert Rose" by Sting and Cheb Mami, "A Horse With No Name" by America, "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones, "Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot, "Painted Desert" by Pat Benatar, "A River Flows In The Desert" by So Long Forgotten, "Desert Hymn" by Pomegranates, "Tijuana Jumping Bean" by The Deluxetone Rockets, "Highwaymen" by The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson), "Gangs Of Riverside" by Starflyer 59, and "Hotel California" by The Eagles.

This project was filmed using an iPhone 6 and 8 and Canon Rebel T6 by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson. Titles and animations were created using Motion 4 on a Macbook by Joel A. Swanson. All other editing was done using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson.