This is the animated Map I built to show the progression of “Paulie and Me” on their microbrewery tour of the US.
I built this using photoshop and Final Cut, rather than a dedicated graphics or animation program. The results are pretty good for never having done anything like this before.
This map is embedded in the official Paulie and Me TV show teaser.
Next leg: Back into Montana – Red Lodge through Bozeman
Montana’s vastness strikes me as the needle on the car’s speedometer inches up to eighty-miles-per-hour, a speed I never hit on the east coast because of speed limits and traffic. The wildflowers along the highway blur into broad, impressionistic brush-strokes. Barbed wire fence posts flick by as fast as frames on a movie reel. And, yet, the mountains on my left haven’t so much as moved over the last half hour of driving. And, because of their size and distance, they will hang there in suspended animation for the next hour (until I turn north in Livingston).
I feel comfortable in this vastness, even after spending the last three years buried in Maine’s dense forests, driving on roads that look the same, mile after mile. Don’t get me wrong, Maine is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. When I press my foot against the accelerator in Montana, however, I find myself surprised that anyone could ever fall asleep behind the wheel and die on these roads. Over every hill, there is something new to see!
These images are a small part of what I see as I drive between the grassy plains of Pompey’s Pillar and rocky peaks outside Stevensville, Montana.
Sit back, roll down the windows and take it all in.
The hum of SUV tires on pavement sparks something deep inside me, long-since lost. the thrill of a road trip. For once, however, I’m not pushing the pedal down and moving the steering wheel. This time, I’m stuffed in the back seat, wedged in with the dusty riding gear of two free-ride mountain bikers. Their full-face helmets lie beside me like the heads of slain heroes upon piles of body armor, gloves, and spare inner-tubes. My backpack filled with lenses crowds my feet, and I carry my camera in my lap. The truck sways as we pass cars and the heavy bikes stacked on the most jury-rigged bike rack I’ve ever seen sway with it.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the open road. In Montana, where it’s two hours at eighty mph to the next sizable town, time in the car is measured in CDs listened to, tanks of gas or mountain ranges crossed. Here, it’s just two hours of trees, back-road corners and pockets of open farm land to Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield, New Hampshire. We are traveling to see the Claymore Challenge Slopestyle Competition and the atmosphere in the truck is shivering with energy. Will and Zander will ride between rounds of competition. I am here to shoot photos.
Traveling with these guys takes me out of my element. The element of the solitary traveler. We stop at a country store for some snacks, and before I know it, Will is talking to an older gentleman about the color of the buildings in town and our business being there. I never would have attracted that kind of attention. Will relishes it. Though pleasant enough, the old man is dealing with some sort of dementia and Will keeps the conversation going until Zander comes out of the store with a foot-long breakfast super-sandwich. I make a mental note not to be so stand-off-ish in my future travels.
We meet up with a few of Will’s other friends at Highland. The park, built out of an old ski mountain, is in full swing. The lift whisks riders up to the top so they can charge back down. Riders pump the dirt jumps. The pro riders practice throwing huge tricks on building-sized jumps. Spectators already line the fence. Will and Zander disappear for their first runs and don’t reappear until after the competition has begun. In fact, they see only a few minutes of the competition all day, coming in for an update, then zipping off again. It’s hard to underestimate the call of the trails.
During a break in the competition, I head over to Sherwood Forest, where a stash of immaculate dirt-jumps are hidden, and shoot a few lines. Perfect light emerges from behind the trees. I hit the shutter. It’s been a long time since I’ve used my camera without expectation and it feels good. Really good. I continue firing, following dirt-jumpers as they bob up and down between the trees. I don’t worry about anything but exposure, composition and focus. I forget about the requirements of stock agencies. Snap, snap, snap in quick succession. Each frame is allowed to come out badly. Each frame is art.
I stand in front of a restaurant near the Boston Commons waiting for the people I’m with to emerge with sandwiches. I hold Page’s leash and we both watch the throngs of people walk by the in beautiful, sunny weather. Dozens of languages echo off the sides of the buildings along the narrow street. An Asian girl with red-dyed hair spiked into a four-inch wedge parks her bike on the edge of the park and wanders onto the grass. A black woman wearing a shimmering purple dress and glossy purple high-heels walks past looking like she should be making a dash between her limo and a posh night club, rather than tapping down the red brick street in the middle of the afternoon. A older, middle-eastern couple stop in front of me. “May I pet your dog?” The man asks, holding his gnarled hands out. I tell him yes, he’d love it. Page is already moving over toward the man. The old man smiles as his fingers tickle Page’s ears and Page leans into him. When the man is done he thanks me and rejoins his wife down the block.
Greyhounds love people, I’m finding. They will calmly walk over to any extended hand. And there are a lot of hands to greet him. I had a tough-looking, leather-clad guy ask if he could pet him, with a child-like joy gleaming in his eyes. There have been homeless people offering him treats (which I decline) and a group of college-age women stop and take pictures of him. I had a no-nonsense security guard gush to me about the greyhounds he’s owned. We had a twenty-minute conversation about his dogs, the things they used to do together and loss to cancer. These are people who I would never have met had it not been for Page.
The highlight comes a bit later when a ragged couple stops us on the street with another offer of treats for the dog. I politely refuse. They begin telling us about the greyhounds they used to race. The man then pulls out a bag of balloons and twists up a balloon dog. With a flourish of his fingers he, almost magically, twists the tip of the balloon off and presses it inside the balloon-dog’s abdomen to make it “pregnant.” We stand, staring at the creation in amazement as he hands it to my friend Fumi.
I admit, I was resistant to getting a dog at first, afraid that it would hinder my ability to travel freely. As the couple waves and walks away, however, I understand how wrong I was. Page is a great traveler. He loves going places as much as I do, pulling me toward the car every time we go out for a walk. Though I won’t be able to take him on all of my travels, the trips I do will be filled with new connections with people, as he brings down all of our walls with a casual lean and a scratch.