Posted on September 1, 2011 4:27 pm Categorised in:

The first two weeks of August were a couple of the most hectic work weeks of the year for me. I had several commercial jobs that required a lot of intense office time, editing, and outputting images as well as several other editorial jobs inter-weaved. I’m always grateful of having work, but as the second week in August came to a close I was feeling like I needed a little break from the office and from life in general.

Heather had been stressed with work and school herself, so over a casual Tex-Mex dinner we looked at each other and decided to just drive. We needed to get out of town, be spontaneous, and just go. We both agreed to drive somewhere each of us had never been to before, so my first thought was The Grand Canyon. I have driven pretty much everywhere in the US, but have never managed to visit Northern Arizona or The Grand Canyon. Neither had she, so we left…straight from there…no plan, just the open road.

Even though both of our smart phones had GPS’, I knew that eventually we would be somewhere with sketchy cell reception, so our first purchase was a copy of the 2012 Rand McNally atlas.


This is the circuitous route, encompassing about 2800 miles, we ended up taking, highlighted in our atlas. Ignore the route up to Oklahoma, that was a mistake!

We had a car, I had a bag of cameras, and we each had a bag of clothes. It was Sunday evening, about 5pm, the sun was looking to set. We were full of Tex-Mex and trying to push the food coma away. Neither of us had gotten much sleep the night before, and my morning was spent on a hectic shoot with Deion Sanders and Mike Tirico of NFL/ESPN fame. We were both more prepared for a lengthy nap, than a 10 hour drive.

Our first stop was Amarillo, Texas up in the Texas panhandle. We drove well into the night, through Fort Worth and spent a few hours catching up on sleep in Amarillo. The next stop was Flagstaff, Arizona which we pulled into the next evening. Flagstaff was one of our favorite little cities and definitely a place I would move in a heartbeat. We had a great meal at a small brewery where I got to watch The Texans win their second pre-season game. After exploring a bit, we got some sleep.

We woke up as the sun was breaking, and made the 1.5 hour drive up to Grand Canyon National Park. It was in the mid 50’s and we were not prepared for the cold, but the drive was beautiful, the light was amazing. We didn’t seem to care that we were in clothing more suited for our daily 100-degree-plus weather. I forgot what its like to see the sunrise. I need to do this more often.

Everything I had read on The Grand Canyon lead me to believe it was a huge tourist trap with wall-to-wall people from all over the world and we would be visiting in the peak time of the year, Summer. I was prepared for the worst, but surprised to find that it was all but deserted. We had the entire park to ourselves.

We drove from outlook to outlook, taking in the incredible views along the way. We climbed out on remote rocks, scared ourselves and had a great time.

I brought my entourage of cameras with me including my Polaroid Spectra, a digital body with a few lenses and a few other toy cameras that Heather had fun with. After getting home and editing the images from the trip. I was re-inspired by the square format. I also realized that I really need a Hasselblad.

After we exited the park, we headed south towards Sedona. We explored the red rock area, dipped into a freezing creek of crystal clear water and then headed further south to Phoenix. We decided to take the southern route via Interstate 10 home, instead of backtracking the way we came. We wanted to see different landscapes and that we did, as the forest and red rock of Northern Arizona quickly gave way to cacti and other drier landmarks through Phoenix and Tuscon. It seemed like we saw pretty much every geophysical area on the trip; mountains, canyons, plains, boulders, deserts, forest. You name it, we saw it. Even when we were exhausted from 9 hour shifts behind the wheel, having interesting scenery to wonder at, made everything ok.

Even, in the dark of night we had fun.


A road-side long exposure somewhere in New Mexico.

After the sun had set on our adventurous day that began with a sunrise over The Grand Canyon, we decided to push forward through El Paso, into the desolate West Texas town of Van Horn where we spent a few hours getting some sleep.

In the morning we detoured down highway 90 towards Valentine and Marfa, Texas. We visited the famed Prada Marfa installation, and explored Marfa and a few other small Texas towns along the route back up to the interstate. I tried to channel my inner Allison V Smith along the way. I mounted one of my GoPro HD cameras from the rear view mirror and had the camera capture 1 still frame every second until I had about 10,000 images. I compiled them into a time-lapse video seen below. I added the appropriately-named instrumental track, “To West Texas”, by Austin-natives, Explosions in the Sky from the Friday Night Lights soundtrack to add some drama to the piece. I kept it simple, with no editing to the piece itself. It’s entirely straight from the camera. Throughout the journey I mounted the GoPro to various parts of the car and captured lots of different video clips that I’m sure I will eventually add here, but for now, check out the time-lapse of us driving through West Texas.

GoPro HD in-car Time Lapse traveling through West Texas from Todd Spoth on Vimeo.

After getting back onto I-10, we made good time getting back home. We had driven almost 2800 miles in only 4 days. No accidents, no tickets, nothing stolen and nothing lost. We had seen more in 4 days that many have seen in years and had an absolutely unforgettable time. I am someone who loves to be in control, loves to plan, loves to make sure I have everything in place well before a trip to ensure nothing goes wrong, but sometimes not planning and just going with the flow and sheer spontaneity of the moment is really whats right and I learned that in those 4 days.

Sometimes we all just need to get away.