The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Banner photo: Shipshewana, Indiana

Dan, author of the site, Departing in Five Minutes, leads this week’s Lens Artists Challenge, and he’s selected the topic, Unbound: Escaping Your Confines And Seeing The World. Once again, I’m combining the Lens Artist Challenge with my Monthly Monochrome series.

Dan writes, “From a day trip to a road trip to a great escape to a far away place, you have the thrill of a new experience.”

For me the much of the thrill is in leaving the planned itinerary to see where an offramp goes and what an unintended detour leads to.


Mabry Mill, Virginia
In 2015, Cora and I took a trip to Washington D.C. to see the San Francisco Giants play the Washington Nationals. We extended our stay in the nation’s capital and then took a road trip through Virginia. On the way towards Richmond, our final destination before flying home, I detoured to see the Mabry Mill.

Edwin Boston Mabry began construction on the mill in 1903. It started as a blacksmith and wheelwright shop and then, in 1905, became a gristmill. Five years later, Mabry had installed a double-bladed jigsaw, a wood lathe and a tongue and groover, converting his operation into a combined gristmill and sawmill.

In 1938, the National Park Service acquired the mill and by 1942, the mill was completely restored. Since then, the Mabry Mill has become one of the most photographed structures in America.

Pea Ridge National Military Park, Arkansas
In the spring of 2021, when Covid was giving America a short window of opportunity to get out and experience life, Cora and I took a multi-state road trip. We started by heading east on Route 66, following the Mother Road until we came to Catoosa, Oklahoma, where we left Route 66, and headed east into Arkansas. Why? Well, why not? Cora had never been to Arkansas and so we decided to add it to her collection of states visited.

When we arrived in Springdale, our stop for the night, I noted that the Pea Ridge Battlefield was just 30 minutes away. While Cora relaxed in our motel room, I, being a history buff, visited the military park.

One thing that most of the Civil War battlegrounds have in common is a peaceful, bucolic setting. Pastoral fields, ideal for a quiet picnic (Though at Pea Ridge, the signs warn of rattlesnakes and copperheads), sit as contradictions to the bloodshed that occurred on these now quiet grounds.

In the spring of 1862, 16,000 Confederates and 10,000 Union soldiers clashed at Pea Ridge, just south of the Missouri border. Three days and 3,884 casualties later, the Confederates surrendered the field and ultimate control of the state of Missouri to the Union.

Pea Ridge National Military Park


McClean, Texas
Once a town of 1500, and the site of a World War II prison camp that held 3,000 German prisoners, McClean eventually suffered the fate that plagued many small towns along Route 66; that is, it lost much of its usefulness.

The growth of Amarillo, one hour’s drive to the west, sucked up much of McClean’s utility, and the town lost half of its population.

During our Route 66 drive we stopped to walk through the town which is now famous for a restored 1929 filling station and the Devil’s Rope Museum which celebrates the history of barbed wire.

A vintage brick building with a ghost sign caught my eye.


Glenwood, Iowa
The next fall, Cora had had her fill of the road but I wanted more, so I did something I’d only dreamed of doing. I took a solo, six week long road trip through the Midwest, planning my stops only one to three days in advance.

I landed in Omaha, and on my first day on the road I wound through eastern Nebraska and Iowa, headed for the Stuart Motor Lodge in Stuart, Iowa. Along the way, I stopped briefly in Glenwood, Iowa – because.

In Glenwood I met a Cub Scout and his mom who were selling snacks for a fundraiser. I bought a box of microwave popcorn from the boy, and as I headed back to my car, I noticed an old movie theater which was featuring a vintage movie released in 1940. The movie starred a grade B actor who would later go into politics.

Glenwood Iowa


Quincy Mine, Michigan
A few weeks after Glenwood, I was driving on Highway 41 through Michigan, heading south towards Wisconsin when I glanced to my left and saw the ruins of an old copper mine shrouded in fog. The old brick ruins made for a perfect photo opportunity.

Quincy Mine


Shipshewana, Indiana
Two weeks later, two days before turning 68, I was in Milan, Indiana trying to decide where to stay the next day. Would it be Indianapolis, where I could tour the motor speedway, or Shipshewana, in the heart of Amish country? It was really a tough choice but I opted for buggies over race cars.

Late afternoon the next day in Shipshewana and the skies were an absolute spectacle. The area was under a tornado warning but you don’t get dramatic clouds every day so I decided to go out and hunt photos; photos, not tornadoes.

Talk about being out of a comfort zone. I’m from San Francisco – I do earthquakes, not twisters.

Shipshewana Indiana


Manhattan and the Ralston Valley
It’s two years after Shipshewana, and I’m not done with solo road tripping. I’m staying in Tonopah, which is smack in the middle of nowhere Nevada. Today is my birthday and what better way to celebrate than to visit Manhattan and take some pictures.

Hmm, this doesn’t look at all like the Manhattan that I remember. No Times Square here and the only thing around that’s taller than two stories is an old mine headframe a couple miles outside of what’s left of town.

Manhattan NV

It’s blazing hot on my birthday, somewhere outside of Tonopah. I’ve left Manhattan. No Katz Deli in that Manhattan so I bail out. Driving around the Ralston Valley looking for images I decide to explore a side road. A short ways down, I stop at a sign that’s equal parts information and warning. My gas tank is almost full. Go for it? Nope, not on this day.


Dan came up with a terrific challenge. To see his take on Unbound please visit his site, and then scroll to the comments and view other great takes on Unbound.

19 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (Monthly Monochrome): Unbound

  1. johnlmalone says:

    love these snaps and the historical background; ‘devil’s rope’ is a perfect metaphor for barbed wire.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you John. I wish we’d spent the time to see the Devil’s Rope Museum. I love those funky little museums that commemorate things you’d never thought need to be commemorated.

  2. johnlmalone says:

    btw those dark cloudy skies over Indiana would have been a perfect pic for my ‘doona’ haiku on my ‘Big Blue Mouth’ blog just posted 🙂

  3. Anne Sandler says:

    Your six-week trip reminded me of the cross country trip we took in 2013. We took three months to go across country and back and it still wasn’t enough. We got to the east coast and up to Bar Harbor Maine in our 5th wheel and truck. Everyone in Maine kept asking us if we did drive all the way from California. It was an amazing trip. Each day was a new adventure, not knowing where we’d land and how long we’d stay. I’d like to do it again.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Anne,
      Three months! I’m in awe. That must have been amazing. I’ve heard of people who sell their homes and then spend much of the year traveling in an RV and the remainder either renting or living with the kids.

  4. Sofia Alves says:

    Monochrome works incredibly well for these challenge. I enjoyed your photos and story, detours can be the best of a journey 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much Sofia. Detours can indeed make the journey.

  5. Toonsarah says:

    A terrific challenge yes (I’m still working on my post!) and an equally terrific response from you! I love the B&W edits on all your shots and can’t possibly pick a favourite. All of them speak to me of the open road in the US and are luring me back for more 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Sarah, Glad you enjoyed them.

  6. JohnRH says:

    GREAT great mono’s. Very well done.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you John.

  7. Leya says:

    Must have been a great experience to go alone and follow only your own time and mind. Beautiful photographic work – as usual, Paul. Thank you for sharing these.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Ann-Christine,
      Going alone is a double edged sword. I enjoy the freedom and not having to worry about my wife being bored or wanting to do something else. She is so patient when I make a random stop and get out of the car with my camera. On the other hand there’s some measure of disappointment when I’m not able to experience something amazing with her.
      Thank you for the kind words

  8. Tina Schell says:

    I did laugh at your closing on this one Dan. Enjoyed the walk back in time thru your images. Unbound indeed!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much Tina.
      Yeah, the 142 miles wouldn’t have been a problem. The problem would have been if the gas station was no longer open.

  9. Tina Schell says:

    OOPS, sorry Paul!

    1. Paul says:

      No worries

  10. Dan says:

    This is so good. I’d love to see more of this country. Classic shot of Mabry Mill in Virgina. I had no idea about the story behind it.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Dan,
      It’s amazing the places one can run into just by following a whim and taking an unplanned exit.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

Would love to hear from you

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