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Archive for January, 2022

For as long as I can remember, I had wanted to take a sunrise photo from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine.  Finally, I crossed that puppy off my bucket list.

Though only 1,530 feet in elevation, Cadillac Mountain is one of the highest points on the eastern seaboard.  Most people think that this peak is first to see the sun all year long, as I had thought, but we were mistaken.  Even though it’s not the easternmost point in the US, Cadillac’s height does allow it, for roughly half the year, to receive the first rays of sunshine in the continental US.  The other half of the year, from March to October, a slightly taller peak near the Canadian border has that honor.  The tilt of the earth and changing position of the sun throughout the year is what causes this difference.

Regardless, as a photographer, it was still high on my bucket list.  I’d been camping (glamping?) for two weeks about 20 miles from the Park, which resides on Mount Desert Island on the rocky Maine coast, and I longed to see and photograph the sunrise there.  However, another quirk of Maine’s environment nearly foiled that.  Almost every day I was there, it had either been raining or was extremely foggy at daybreak — until a particular Friday morning during our August stay.

I had been checking forecasts twice or three times a day since I had been there and it finally appeared that Thursday would be clear.  I went to bed early so I could get up at 4am to set out for Cadillac and was awakened at about 12:30am by a severe thunderstorm, one that had not been in the forecast.  I decided to give it one more day and fortunately, the weather stayed clear that night.  At 4:00 Friday morning it was as dark as midnight but I packed a brunch and headed out.

When I arrived at the park a little more than an hour before sunrise, it was quite foggy but it was starting to lift.  However about a half-mile from the parking lot, cars were parked on both sides of the road.  This didn’t bode well and, sure enough, I had to drive through the jam-packed parking lot and back down the road to the end of the parking line.  There must have been 500 vehicles parked in and around the mountain peak’s visitor center.  

By the time I got my gear and began the hike, time was starting to worry me.  I eventually made it to the viewing area and there were hundreds of people on the ridge, many with tripods set up, some with their smartphones out, several laying on sleeping bags on the bedrock.  

I hiked through the crowd carrying a camera backpack and my own tripod, stepping down several levels of rock shelves, and I was able to get to a large stone block with no other photographers in front of me.  I set up just as the sun poked out of the fog.  If you have never taken sunrise or sunset pictures, it’s difficult to understand the excitement of the time limit you’re given.  The sun is moving with or without your readiness or the equipment’s cooperation.

I mounted my camera with the 55mm lens on the tripod and held the other, which sported my 500mm telephoto lens, in my hand.  I alternated snapping shots between the two and kept it up for about 30 minutes.  I remembered to take a couple of photos with my smartphone and posted them nearly live on Facebook so that friends, family and followers could enjoy the sight right away.

By the time I got back to my truck, 90% of the vehicles were already gone.  Satisfied, and with my bucket list reduced, I climbed back in and took advantage of the blue sky to explore more of the Maine coastline.  Blue is usually much prettier than gray.

One of the exciting aspects of our full-time RV’ing adventure is that these bucket list opportunities have availed themselves with some regularity.  In a sticks-and-bricks home, it’s just too difficult (and expensive) to take the time to do it all. 

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Beam Me Up, Scotty
Beam Me Up, Scotty

Photo of the Week 005- Originally Selected 6/15/19-
“Beam Me Up, Scotty”

I couldn’t help but notice this unusual cloud formation over Bryce Canyon, Utah. Interestingly, Bryce is not a canyon at all, but rather a collection of giant amphitheaters made up of distinctive geological structures called hoodoos. This vista, along with many views at nearby Zion National Park, makes this area one of our favorites to visit. That said, this is the only time we found the Starship Enterprise seemingly hovering over the park…

As always, please click on the link to view the clear, full-color image:

https://www.imagekind.com/-summertime-greensdsc_art?IMID=b440d605-1998-4a2c-bb9e-96537974f610


View all of my Photos of the Week here on Imagekind:

http://huberjack.imagekind.com/store/Images.aspx/385a532b-9a90-4b4f-8c67-b25c1afa1c07/PhotosoftheWeek

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If you have been following our travels, you may already realize that we managed to visit America’s “five corners” (Southwest California, Northwest Washington State, Northeast Maine, Key West and the Brownsville/Padre Islands area of Texas), the latter of which we are currently enjoying.

I think since leaving Colorado four years ago and living full-time in our fifth wheel, we have visited 36 states.  But this is not a travel post, nor is it one of my “50 Reasons to be Happy.”

​One underlying theme across every state we’ve seen the past two years is the obvious distress or demise of America’s small towns.  At one time, soon after the Interstate Highway System was built over 50 years ago, there was a migration to the suburbs from the many urban jungles.  Now there’s a great migration away from small towns for a variety of reasons.

Nadyne has lived in a few tiny villages, mostly in Arizona.  I grew up in the Los Angeles area but spent many years in Eastern Washington State, where I used to enjoy outings to hamlets throughout the Cascade mountains.  Enjoying regional museums and cute Main Street storefronts has always been an enjoyable diversion for both of us.

Most successful small towns have one of these two advantages.  First would be a natural feature that feeds a large tourism economy, such as Yellowstone or Arches National Parks.  The other would be a major employer that keeps the bulk of its citizens working.   In each case, the dependent town often has all their eggs in one basket.  If a natural phenomenon stops enthralling the public or is lost due to a catastrophe, the small town’s workforce must find other sources of income.  Likewise, purely beyond the control of any nearby towns, a corporation can close down or move a facility, leaving workers scrambling.  These towns cannot sustain their basket disappearing and soon a blight replaces the thriving business they once enjoyed.

In town after town, we’ve seen Main Streets with 50%-90% of the shops closed and boarded up.  Towns often don’t have the legal right or the financial ability to keep their primary storefront avenues looking presentable, so they are usually shabby and unseemly.  Just outside of town, one can witness nature reclaiming large warehouses, factories, farmhouses, barns and smaller box stores.  It’s a snowball of major proportion rolling down from the economic hilltop.

Worse, the neighborhoods in and around these towns can be extraordinarily poor.  Often we are amazed when what looked like an abandoned or even condemned house with overgrown hedges and grass sported a satellite dish, a late model car and sometimes newer plastic toys strewn about in the back yard.  In one section of Louisiana, these were the majority of neighborhoods.

When we lived in Western New York a couple of decades ago, one of our weekend pastimes continued to be driving to and strolling through quaint bergs scattered throughout the region.  “Main Street USA” funding had helped rebuild and enhance old downtowns and they were a pleasure to visit.  After moving to Kansas, our jaunts through the countryside regularly brought us to villages obviously in the beginning stages of financial struggle.  It wasn’t until the first two years of full-time travel, however, that we saw the almost incomprehensible scope of the problem.

The scourge doesn’t have to continue.  Major funding or tax incentives are awarded to large corporations and mid-size businesses all the time.  At some point a governor may see to it some are spent to support their declining towns.  Circumstances may be be cyclical and a rush back out of crowded cities might be the next large population migration.  Retired communities, which do not need active jobs to survive, might sprout where dilapidated towns used to sit.  ​

​We can only hope that the unique style of living that small towns can provide will draw residents and be thriving communities once more.

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The single largest issue with the book industry is that readers are deluged with mostly mediocre work by a myriad of self-published writers.

How is an author to know if they are any good? Readers flock to receive free books, seemingly addicted to free reading, and move on to get more, no matter how much they enjoyed the read, and never leaving reviews. Traditional publishers are no longer able to find and sign excellent authors among the millions of pedestrian writers on the market, and it seems as though they aren’t all that interested anyway, unless the work is from a celebrity.

I have sold and given away thousands copies of my books 1 and 2 (with only a few dozen reviews left on Amazon), spent a ton of cash building a mailing list and countless hours creating and sending out newsletters and notices. Even with a 4+ stars rating on Amazon for each of them, my books don’t sell without a ton of marketing. After publishing seven novels in six years, I still only make about 10% more than I spend on advertising.  Think about that — on spending $500 and dozens of hours on marketing and ads, I make $50. I have cut that back with the expected results. I have used all the latest independent publisher tricks — promoting my newsletter, Kindle giveaways, book funneling, auto-posting social ads, and others — and Social media is mostly filled with authors connecting with other authors, or with companies selling book promotion services. What we really need are readers.

I am going to write and publish book 8 of my Pat Ruger Mystery Series in the next year or so, and I’ll continue to send out hopefully interesting newsletters, though I have even cut those back. But I feel hopeless that the market will ever come around for me.  After book 8, I will have to decide what comes next.  Will I finally be able to carve out a successful niche in the mystery genre, or should I devote my time to RV- and travel-related magazine articles?  How much time and money should I spend to promote my work?  Should I see what genres are selling and abandon my modest mystery reader base or continue to tell the stories I want to tell?  What if I’m just not that good, no matter what my loyal fans say?

I am saddened by this industry, but it’s not like it was ever easy.  Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published, and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times.  Even Harry Potter was rejected. But now it’s an impossibility to land a book contract unless you are already famous (or have a million Instagram, YouTube or TikTok followers).

It’s not entirely the publishers’ fault — there are just too many amateur writers to consider for publication. And, thus, my lament.

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In applying for a position as a “Color Explorer” I was asked to provide a short essay on what color inspired me and why.  This was my submission:

Many shades of green represent life and prosperity.  In my travels I’ve been fortunate to have encountered and contemplated the flowing green grasses in the Midwest and Southwest, dark pine forests in the Rocky and Cascade Mountains, the thick deciduous woods encompassing the entire east coast, the algae- and lichen-covered rock in Pinnacles National Park, and the greens of desert blooms out west.  Greens are present in the animal kingdom from the shiny emerald feathers of energetic hummingbirds to the leathery skin of lethargic crocodiles, from swift geckos to easy-swimming sea turtles, from vivacious parrots to timid tree frogs.  All of these experiences encourage me to explore nature and its success ever more across North America and beyond.   Even the neon greens of the Aurora Borealis are proof that the planet protects us, despite our attempts to the contrary.

What do you think?

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I’ve been a novice.  Now I’m working on my eighth novel.  I’ve been writing poetry all my life and authoring articles and blog posts for a good portion of my career.  I have some simple suggestions to share that may seem intuitive to some but are definitely worth considering.

First, know your craft.  I would offer the analogy of building a race car.  If you have never worked on this type of car before, the task would be monumental.  Imagine starting the project without knowing about aerodynamics and drag coefficients.  You can’t depend on engineers correcting your design after the fact.  Similarly, poor grammar or disjointed plotlines can be caught and corrected by editors, but you shouldn’t count on an editor to know your intent.  Also, I believe you should know the rules before you break them, purposely.  

Next, strive to be profound. Dictionary.com defines “profound” as “penetrating or entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge; having deep insight or understanding.”  This should be the goal of most pieces of literary work.  Whether you are writing poetry, a short story, a narrative or a full-length novel, you should include a unique point of view, aspect, comparison or conclusion to make the read interesting. Why bother spending your time writing if you are just going to repeat or regurgitate what has already been written?  A narrative without insight is simply boring.

Be satisfied with baby steps.  Not many great books have been written in a hurry, nor many successful careers made in a day.  My first complete novel was actually my third attempt.  When it wasn’t working, I stopped, took some time, reviewed my process, changed my strategy, and tried again.  The third time was a charm.  I’ve written hundreds of poems, but I started with one, then wrote another, then the next, and so on.

Network.  I’m continually surprised at how many writers, even famous authors, take time to help novice and experienced writers alike.  The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers group is a prime example of this, but I’ve found this to be true in a variety of interactions I’ve enjoyed.   

At the RMFW Gold Conference a few years ago, after meeting several best-selling authors, I wasn’t reduced to “what was I thinking?” With their encouragement, I changed my thinking to, ”I just might be able to do this!” and finished my novel two weeks later.  I have paid it forward in various ways, such as assisting members of online writing groups and other aspiring authors.

Last, gather validators, including friends, family and colleagues.  I’m under the opinion that critique itself isn’t enough, and too much critique can truly be counter-productive.  However, readers of your genre can validate a variety of factors (or not), such as plot formation, reader interest, believability, character construction, and more.  It was especially important for me to know if something was off.  I was fortunate indeed to have a wife who had read hundreds of mystery and spy novels, so she was able to validate my plotlines and believability as I progressed, as well as several friends and family members who were extremely adept at proofreading.  Reliable validation like this should be sought and cultivated.  

Sometimes cultivation is what a novice needs most.

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Note: I originally wrote this pre-pandemic…

A lot has been written about how great it is living the good life of retirement in an RV, but now that we’re into our second month, I’d like to suggest some reasons it’s not so great.  Mind you, I’m not advocating turning back and selling the 5th wheel, but it hasn’t been all wine and roses either.  Here are my top 9 reasons NOT to become an RV nomad:

9.  You don’t have a garage.  Or car port.  Wherever you are camping, there’s probably shelter for you and your spouse from tornados, large hail and the like, but probably not for your RV, pickup or tow vehicle. No garage also means limited storage options.

8.  Local news is… well… local.  Even when we find stations from far-away cities, local TV news has become trivial.  Do we really care that there was a car accident in Davenport, Iowa, or that there’s a marathon being run in Rockford, Illinois?  Not really.

7.  Limited night life.  Ever try to find a karaoke bar in the middle of rural Missouri or Illinois?  I tried to many times.  No luck.  Even if I find one, I hesitate being an outsider at a “locals” establishment.

6.  No neighbors from Monday to Thursday.  This might be a good thing for someone living in the city, but when you are hoping to meet other nomads and share some wine or other beverages, the middle of the week sucks.  

5.  Crowded parks. The opposite is also true on the weekends: tons of families (and children) camp from Friday to Sunday, and we’re way past dealing with kids.

4.  Fuel cost.  When you think about it, it makes sense.  We sold our high-gas-mileage Kia because we couldn’t take it with us —  we’re pulling a 5th wheel with our Ford F350.  But that also means that sightseeing is done using diesel at 12 mpg instead of gas at 30 mpg.  Our only drivable vehicle is a gas-guzzler, or, I should say, a diesel-guzzler.

3.  It feels like we’re on vacation, but we’re not.  The temptation is always there to eat out at the local hangouts, do all the tours, drive everywhere.  However, we’re on a tight budget in order to sustain this lifestyle and often we have to stay put in the campground instead of spending all of our time — and money — as tourists.

2.   Guilt.  Let’s face it, when you have to get up at 4:45 am every morning for years because you have a job to go to, sleeping in until 8 am feels great but comes with unexpected guilt.  Ditto with not going to work and collecting a nice paycheck.  Intellectually we both are all-in on our budget, but emotionally, we feel like we should be more productive.

1.  Cleaning, fixing, prepping — there’s always something to do.  When you have a 1,700-sq.-ft. sticks-and-bricks house, you have room to spare, possibly even a storage or clutter room.  That is a luxury we don’t have in our 360-sq.-foot 5th wheel.  Set a glass down on the wrong surface and the whole place looks a mess.  Things break on the road, and you can’t wait until something becomes serious before fixing it, since you don’t want to be living in your rig while it’s parked in a repair facility.

There are other reasons not to partake in this lifestyle and we’re sure to learn many more of them.  But, after a few years on the road, these are my impressions.  Feel free to add your reasons in the comments.  You’ll feel better. 

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Well, it’s now on the news…  Actual news anchors and reporters, whose job it is to talk, are now pronouncing words with the letter “T” without pronouncing the “T.”  Imagine “bu-un” instead of “button,” “Moun-en” rather than “mountain,”  “cur-en” in place of “curtain.”  Aaargh!  It drives me ba-y…  

I first noticed this phenomenon a few years ago when I heard a few millennials having trouble pronouncing words with a single or a double “T” in the middle.  They would get right up to the “T” sound and instead pronounce a hard vowel, whatever the following vowel was.  It bugged me, but I felt sorry for the young hipsters with the speech impediment.  But now, several people at work do this, people in the store, people in all walks of life, and yes, public figures and news anchors.  How embarrassing!

Maybe someday I’ll be the embarrassed one for speaking in such a quaint, old-fashioned, proper manner.

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Summertime Greens
Summertime Greens

Photo of the Week 004- Originally Selected 6/8/19-
“Summertime Greens”

Nestled quietly in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Bear Lake can always be counted on to provide pleasant scenery. As always, please click on the link to view the clear, full-color image:

https://www.imagekind.com/-summertime-greensdsc_art?IMID=b440d605-1998-4a2c-bb9e-96537974f610


View all of my Photos of the Week here on Imagekind:

http://huberjack.imagekind.com/store/Images.aspx/385a532b-9a90-4b4f-8c67-b25c1afa1c07/PhotosoftheWeek

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Off-Season in Salida

Photo of the Week 003- Originally Selected 6/3/19- “Off-Season in Salida”

This iconic shot shows colorful canoes and kayaks line a brick building’s alley in Salida, Colorado. Salida sits about a two-hour drive east of Pueblo. The Sawatch Range, the Arkansas River and Monarch Mountain surround this hamlet of a town nestled in Chaffee County. Not only are the surroundings exceptionally photo-worthy, but so was this line of old canoes inside the quaint township. As always, please click on the link to view the clear, full-color image:

https://www.imagekind.com/-offseason-in-salidadsc_art?IMID=fd3eacdb-ba46-4d2a-b328-f457e0621945


View photo art created from this photo here:

http://huberjack.imagekind.com/store/Images.aspx/385a532b-9a90-4b4f-8c67-b25c1afa1c07/PhotosoftheWeek


View all of my Photos of the Week here on Imagekind:

http://huberjack.imagekind.com/store/imagedetail.aspx/a7b75741-ecaa-4dae-9215-afdf2f3238e4/Col_Pencil_OffSeason_in_Salida_DSC01381

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