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23 Jun 2017

Remembering Bruce McLaren

I went to the movies yesterday evening to see "McLaren".The documentary about the rise and sad demise of Bruce McLaren. The movie is excellent.Very engaging and well put together. It is on limited release in Australia currently and a friend has recently seen it on a Qatar Airways flight so look out for it.
The story is very sad. Bruce McLaren was an extraordinarily talented driver and engineer but above all else he was a very nice guy,
I was very fortunate to have seen him racing quite a few times at Crystal Palace and Brands Hatch in the UK. I took the above shot of Bruce with his sports car in the paddock- checkout the grass-at Brands Hatch in 1967 when he was racing in the Guards Trophy. He appears to be in an animated conversation with Dan Gurney in the checked shirt.
I left the movie with so many "what ifs" . What if Denis Hulme had been testing the car that fateful day at Goodwood? What if they had demolished the marshal's post as planned and so on.
But such thoughts are really wasted. Fate dealt its hand. A good film,albeit a sad one.
Photo taken with an Olympus half frame camera .

18 Jun 2017

I've been to Gracelands,Gracelands.

The final part of my recent southern American roadtrip-see earlier posts below took me to Memphis,the start of the Delta region and then upto Chicago and the flight home.
Memphis is a great old city and there is plenty to see for two days . It was once a major cotton trading port with the world's biggest cotton exchange. Now the biggest industry must be tourism as the blue rinse set pour out to the great Gracelands tourist facility in their thousands every day. You cannot wander round at will. It is highly regimented -you are shepherded here and there like a giant kindy class.The Elvis mansion is worth seeing and it is more tasteful than I had anticipated but it is expensive. Even a very simple chicken roll-chopped chicken and mayo-in a hot dog roll-cost over US$9 in the cafe. I was expecting to buy a fried peanut butter,banana and jelly sandwich the king's favourite food but I was disappointed. The Elvis estate are certainly milking the legend as hard as they can but who can blame them. You only get one Elvis in your lifetime.
The place to stay in Memphis is the Peabody Hotel. It a heritage building,exceptionally well run and it has the amazing duck spectacle see Peabody Ducks
As well as Graceland and the Peabody ducks there is the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel -the location where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.This is a fascinating museum and the exhibits are very well presented.
Beale St is blues central and another must see. One from left field is the Memphis Cotton Museum. I know it sounds dry but it is in fact very interesting and it is located in the original totally preserved cotton exchange.Those were the days when Memphis was really rich.
Throughout the delta region on a weekend locals set up roadside barbecues selling to passers by. Driving north from Memphis to Chicago we pulled into Charlston, Miss, for fuel and came across Amp in his serious barbecue rig beside the road. He was most generous and as well as allowing me to take photos insisted on me trying from his beef selection. It was delicious.Thanks Amp.

The Peabody ducks
Beale St

Beale St



Lansky's Beale St-taylors to the king.
Graceland

The king

Graceland visitor liason hostess. She checks that you don't leave Graceland with any money in your wallet but she does it with a charming smile

The Mississippi
Lorraine Motel-National Civil Rights Museum. The balcony to Room 306 was where he was standing when fatally shot .
Amp in his serious barbecue trailer


Amp's pick up truck

16 Jun 2017

Rarer than rocking horse droppings

Ron Goodman's team had this rare as rocking horse droppings Chevrolet Corvair rampside truck at last weekend's historic racing at SMSP. Like the Corvair car it is rear engined. In the truck the engine is under the floor of the load area.
This one has been imported from the US and looks very original and apparently complete.
On the steering wheel rim there is a sturdy knob as you see on cars modified for disabled drivers. Is the steering so low geared that you need assistance to turn the wheel quickly?
The Corvair truck was only produced in small numbers-the pickup version with a conventional tailgate was the most popular. The sideloading/rampside model was very rare with only 3213 being produced in total in the two years of production 1961 and 1962. By GM standards these number are miniscule.

13 Jun 2017

It's all about the light


Even I am beginning to tire of photographing Porsche 911s but last week I went for an early morning run upto the Hunter Valley on the Wollombi Road with friend Colin and the light was just wonderful and soft so I could not resist temptation and I shot our two cars.
My 2.7 litre is the yellow car which is now running as well as ever after an enforced layoff for repairs. The cool moist air helped the performance of both cars.



11 Jun 2017

American paws



I came across a few dog photo ops on the recent American road trip. The photo above was the first photo of the trip and was taken in a Walgreens pharmacy in the centre of New Orleans.The girl is a shop assistant who seems to have either bought her dog to work or who has befriended a customer's dog.

I find the second photo rather sad. I was driving in Vicksburg and I took a wrong turn into a dead end street and I found this panting man and his huge panting dog walking up the road. The man had just pushed the dog up a quite steep hill.
He explained that the dog was 8 years old-apparently quite an old age for an English bulldog - and now needed to be lifted in and out of its "baby carriage".Together they made a rather bizarre and somewhat sad sight.

The dog below was waiting in the back of a pick up truck for his owner to come back from lunch in Natchez.That's the old railway station in the backgrounds. US railroads were grand institutions and the stations in the town and cities reflected this particularly in an important river town like Natchez.




The photo above was snatched early in the morning in Chicago. A runner and her dog.


The final two photos are my favourites. Taken in Chicago on a very cold but sunny morning. This charming lady with her gorgeous and so well behaved dog, 8 month old Louis. And yes that tower is Trump Tower, Chicago. 

8 Jun 2017

Somewhere over the rainbow



Spotted on Smiths Lake in the Myall Lakes National Park,NSW, yesterday morning. I was driving on the almost deserted Lakes Way through the tiny settlement of Tarbuck Bay when I spotted this scene. I pulled across the road, grabbed my X1 from my overnight bag, checked the controls-most important with the X1-and ran to the lake shore. I could not believe my luck when I saw a heron on the boat and a shaft of sunlight broke through and lit the boat.
On the way back this morning I passed the farm below further along the road at Mayers Flat just before the road climbs into the Mayers Range. I have seen this scene many times and the light was never right for a photo-usually it is too sunny and contrasty but today it was just right. Always carry a camera.


4 Jun 2017

Road Trip contd-North to Memphis

From Vicksburg it was a long drive up the River Road to Memphis so we took an overnight stop in Oxford to break the journey.
Rosedale, a very small settlement on the River Road. The Memorial Park is overgrown and the Country Club has long gone. No Mar-A-Lago here.
The drive upto Oxford from Vicksburg was across a totally flat landscape apart from the big levees along the Mississippi. The River Road was virtually empty -we drove alone for long distances.The vast paddocks were being prepared for planting and cropdusting aircraft were busy. Cropdusting has been long established in the delta and Delta Airways started out as cropdusting operation in the delta back in the 1920's.
The few settlements we passed through on the way were small and obviously really struggling. Most of the farmers have gone.The farms have been consolidated and are now owned by corporations and run by managers. Mechanisation has totally taken over the work of literally tens of thousands of cottonpickers.
One government solution to the plight of these small settlements is to give them a correctional facility-a prison -to provide local employment. So you find small prisons in the most out of the way places which must be very difficult for visitors. But the prisons are just a band-aid solution . These small settlements have no viable future. The world has changed.
A short by chance diversion off the River Road mid morning took us to Roy's Store -which seemed to stock everything and which provided a snack from their grill. Roy's Store is on Lake Washington and is over 100 years in business and is one of the last surviving country stores in Mississippi.
Adrienne,the cook at Roy's Store. My personal favourite photo from the roadtrip.


Roy's Store-they stock everything it seems.

In 100 years you tend to fill the place up

Dining at Roy's Store

From Roy's Store
We made the regional centre of Clarksdale by lunchtime. Clarksdale is the home of the blues. The town centre is run down and we were concerned that lunch was going to be difficult when we found the Stone Pony-a thriving cafe on the main street.Maybe there is a thriving out of town mall which we missed.
 Some of the locals were very enthusiastic about their local elections which were being held that day. I had a good chat with this crowd below and they were really friendly and enthusiastic. It is not all bad news.
Local elections in Clarksdale


Paramount ,Clarksdale

Miss Del's General Store, Delta Street Clarksdale

Deaks. Music sold here -and cold beer-Clarksdale

After a good lunch in Clarkdale we headed on to the university town of Oxford-not a very original name for a university town-in Mississippi- home of Ol' Miss-the University of Mississippi.There we stayed at a really excellent hotel - the Graduate-with a great rooftop bar looking down the main street.
Oxford was a real surprise. It seems misplaced -such a contrast to so many places we had passed through. It has bookshops and so many places to eat and no boarded up shops. However it seems very dependant on the university and it must be very quiet out of term time.
Oxford from the rooftop bar of the Graduate Hotel



3 Jun 2017

Patience


If you are a cat lover you will appreciate this photo of Zoe, our 17 year old one eyed Himalayan, waiting patiently for a door to be opened so that she can go outside. For most of the year this is not an issue - the door is usually open-but now it is winter and we are having an unusually cold few days so the door stays closed. Zoe waits and waits but we eventually let her out and yes a few minutes later she wants to come back in as it is cold and then when she is in she forgets that the reason she came in is that it is cold so the cycle starts again. She is very patient but so are we.
I particularly like this photo because it captures a very typical Zoe scene.Taken on the Leica Q. I took this one shot without her noticing but as soon as she saw that I had a camera she walked off. Typical.

30 May 2017

North-American road trip contd.

Continuing my American road trip I headed north from sad Natchez to Vicksburg another former major river port and the scene of a major battle of the American Civil War.
My view of Vicksburg maybe slightly tainted by the fact that I had booked us into the casino hotel for two nights because it looked good value against the alternatives. It was just dreary and characterless and I always find casinos sad. I should have known better. The town itself has obviously seen better days but it does have two good museums-one on old Vicksurg in the Old Court House and the other the excellent government museum on the Mississippi River-well worth a visit.
I did the drive around the Civil War battlefield -a National Historic site -and found it rather odd. You drive slowly on this one way narrow road through a beautiful large wooded park and every so often there is a statue with an inscription describing the action that took place there. One obviously needs to be 'into' the Civil War to fully appreciate it. Nice park though-pity that it was once the scene of such carnage.

On the way up to Vicksurg I went to Port Gibson-called the town "too beautiful to burn" after being spared being torched in the Civil War. There would be no such hesitation today. Port Gibson is sad and very run down. There's no way you could describe it as beautiful now.
 I was there on a sunday morning and I saw one of those photo opportunities I did not take and have since regretted. An old Afro-American-most people in Port Gibson are Afro-American-or a man of colour as  you say now-was waiting beside the road outside the church holding his bible. He had snowy white hair and was wearing a bright mauve suit and had big gold rings on his fingers. I am pretty good nowadays about asking people if I can take their photo but I lost my nerve that time.

Places like Port Gibson really brings home the extent of poverty,deprivation and lack of hope in rural USA particularly in the south. It's actually worse than Africa. There you can see even worse poverty but usually there is still a sense of life and enthusiasm for life. In these areas of the USA it sometimes feels as if you are among the walking dead. A well dressed white man in a car-not a pickup truck-stopping to take photos-stands out like the proverbial.
Of course so much could be done with a real community commitment to fix the problem and with a massive injection of funds to improve housing,healthcare,education and access to services and to create jobs.
 But the injection is never going to happen whilst the military-industrial mindset pervades America and trillions of dollars are spent on ever more sophisticated weapons and in fighting wars in countries where America has no right to be. It's all a ghastly mess although there are good news stories with communities pulling themselves up but there are so many more in dire straits.
Mural in Port Gibson.

Explanatory plaque on the mural.Rascism was deep seated in towns such as this.

Port Gibson's (former) cinema. Typical of most of the buildings in the town.
I came across this happy group in a backstreet in Vicksburg. They were more than happy to have their photo taken.
This oddity was next door to the childen above.Perhaps he started with a few garden gnomes and just got carried away.


28 May 2017

A winter's day

Well a few days short of winter but you could not tell-an absolutely beautiful autumn day with a clear blue sky and warm conditions from mid morning. An ideal day for a classic Porsche run. We had a superb run out to St Albans north of Wisemans Ferry. Great driving roads and so little traffic. Even the Galston Gorge road which is usually full of cyclists on a Sunday was almost cyclist free.
Friend Warren and I came back home from Wisemans Ferry via the Mangrove Mountain Road. We were second and third off the ferry after a pack of motorcyclists who soon disappeared into the distance and we enjoyed a completely clear run right through to Somersby allthough there were slippery damp patches on the road in the shadows- traps for an early 911 driver tempted to drive a little too hard.
I was in my 1971 2.2 as my 2.7 is still not running as well as it should. The 2.2 is the last car in the photo below.
I was back home for a late lunch having travelled just under 300kms in the morning most of it through beautiful country on empty roads and the car ran like clockwork.
Some photos of the cars outside the 1836 Settlers Arms pub at St Albans.




25 May 2017

Pickups -everywhere pickup trucks.

South of Memphis 80% of the private vehicles are pickup trucks.
Some of the trucks are HUGE but most are just big and many are very old and battered.
There is a Porsche dealer in New Orleans-I know as Google ads from him are still appearing on my internet pages-but he must mostly sell only SUVs. I only saw two sports car Porsches and only a handful of SUVs south of Memphis. One of the sportscars was a 911 Turbo parked off Magazine St New Orleans and the other was a late model GT3 on the highway near New Iberia-he must have been lost.

Monster truck in the French Quarter New Orleans.

A typical small town streetscape.Pickups everywhere
I saw a very petite young woman driver get down from this big 'un on the main street of Oxford, Miss.


This old guy was heading out fishing in his vintage GMC soft top truck.

Abe pulled his barbecue with this old girl


A stranger-911 Turbo in New Orleans.
Imposter. Late model Range Rover in matte camo paint in Chicago.The owner was probably having his kale salad in a cafe nearby.