• Driving Around Lake Clark by Jay Goodrich

    A group of photographers ride around on ATVs looking for Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

The Vagabonds

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Hunter S. Thompson

The sound and smell of an airport – have you ever noticed it? It is a combination of Jet A, leather, cigarette smoke (from the old days unless you are in Salt Lake), fast food and the perfume of misplaced souls. You begin to smell it as your ride pulls you up to the departure lane. Alaska, United, Frontier, Continental, Virgin, Southwest. The signs slowly come into focus and march off into the distance. You bob and weave through happenstance travelers. No nothings. You watch the airport cops, and are reminded of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. They have only one task at hand – write tickets to the slow and foolish. Simpletons. Your mission is a quick in and out job. Exit. Grab. And then roll. Capital letters and numbers in hand or in the brain, memorized during the ride over.

For me it is mandatory. UPGRADE! As often as possible without hesitation. Why? Why waste the money? Who cares? I do. I want to be comfortable on yet another excursion. I want the ability to stretch out. I want to find that happy place, without having to remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets stuffed in center seat in the back of the plane with the common folk. I do deserve it. I spent years back there, and thousands of miles earning my freedom.

That smell of Jet A, leather, etc., makes every airport on this planet a beacon for Superfund Clean up, should they ever shut it down. It is that smell that creates a butterfly in the gut. You are about to embark on a journey. A place you have never been or a place you return to frequently. There is a mission, an itinerary, and a journey that is going to ensue at this point. As you build those miles, you realize that the life of a vagabond is not all it is cracked up to be, and then again maybe it is.

I sit there wrapping off the pilots communications in my head. They are in fact the ultimate vagabonds. They are homeless. They do in fact make the money to pull them from a true vagabond status, but that is where their hearts live. Maybe they are more like pirates, swashbucklers? Technologically driven travel. Much in the same as my camera-laptop-iPhone-iPad toting self. “Alaska Niner Eight Heavy, position and hold runway one six. That’s position and hold one six for Alaska Niner Eight Heavy.” It is the moment that you know stuff is going to happen really fast and you are going to be on your way.

As the metal rumbles down the runway things happen. Noises. Movements. Then the bounce. The bounce that says I am ready to fly. Rotate. And flight. Everything stops, a calming moment where everything seems at ease, with the exception of the turbines at max. You are headed to Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida, New York, or even points beyond, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America. The sky is the limit. Life is the limit. You are one step closer to beating up that soul and crashing into the end with a hard skid and a middle finger to the world. Life is so good. The loneliness and cravings for a cheese burger are a distant thought right now. You are about to experience a newness that you want. A newness that is essentially different than what you currently know. The memories of your every day life will come running back soon. It all depends on how long this drifting moment lasts.

I am Anchorage bound to meet some old friends. Where are you headed? We are the Vagabonds. It’s another amazing ride. Again.

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13 thoughts on “The Vagabonds

  1. Excellent and inspiring! It stood the hair on my arms on end and made my early-onset case of Friday-itis twice as bad, as I’ll be embarking tomorrow for two weeks in The North Idaho. Although there will be no Jet-A involved, there will be an F-150 stuffed to the top of the canopy with kids and all the crap that may be needed for having fun with a 9-month oldand a 3-year old, to wandering in the Selkirks. We will arrive safely, but rest assured, we will be worn out and used up every day.

  2. Off to the Siwss Alps shortly for some great hiking and weather permiting some great mounatin & alpine-architecure photography! Thanks Jay for another great journal-post!

  3. I’ll be looking at the airport with a little different perspective next month. Montana bound. Maybe…I’ll skip the return flight. A man can dream, can’t he?!?

    Now, about those upgrades. . . .

  4. Heading to the Dolomites? Good on you, excellent choice, Jay! Been to South Tyrol and Tuscany the last two weeks and might be heading to the Dolomites late September for an astrophotography workshop again (just a five hours drive from where I live).
    The Thompson quote sums it up and your image is also cool – something different…
    I just sold (finally) “my old life” and being “free” got a whole new meaning for me (see my latest post if you like…)
    Besides: are you still happy with your “imac-upgrade”? I might get one of these too (upgrading from PC)

    Cheers, Werner

  5. I would definitely invest in a Mac. I am super biased though and don’t understand how anyone can work with photos on a PC. Everyone has to have what works for them.

  6. Oh dear I have been one of those pilot and crew vagabonds. Seven years at NetJets flying Citations – seven days on and seven days off.

    Get your brief at shutdown the night before on where you are going the next day. Wake up and it is completely changed or fly the first leg and then it is changed. That job was as a participant in the world’s largest scavenger hunt. You go to the next location to find out where you are going next for 7 straight days.

    If you don’t mind change it was a great gig.

    Now, on to other things like mastering photography.

  7. Hi Jay,
    finally, I got my new iMac (27″i7) yesterday and I´m still sitting in awe in front of the screen. You were right, what a difference…
    First thing I was looking at your new “full-screen-images” (the architecture-ones) on your website and they are really coming big-time!! (as a master cabinet maker I used to build those interior stuff by myself…but after 18 years of self-employment I´ve sold my workshop a couple of weeks ago – finally…and start with something new…)
    Did you do any color management on the screen? is it necessary anyway?

    Thanks for the inspiration!


  8. Hey Werner,

    Thanks for the wonderful comment. I am so glad that you are having such a positive experience with the new iMac. Yes, I use the new X-Rite Pro system to calibrate my display. I am also utilizing its automatic ambient light adjustment to change the calibration to match my ambient light every hour of the day. Pretty cool! Hope this helps.


  9. Newegg.com has the X-Rite Pro i1 for $20 off plus a $50 rebate, if you are interested Werner. I just got my iMac 27 about a month ago. I need the same thing. I’m running 32G of Ram, which I got for $199. Love this computer! Thanks to Jay for his other article, which got me looking at iMacs.

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