I love my job. I get to shoot with a ton of different cameras, and earlier this year I got to drive a leg of PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks project through the American south—from Baltimore to Atlanta, stopping in Washington DC, Raleigh, and Charlotte along the way. My main activity was testing cellular data speeds, but I was also tasked with taking photos at every testing stop—ten a day—and tweeting them.
The quick snaps were done with a cellphone, but I also took a digital with me. I had the Leica M9-P on loan for the trip, and used a microSD card so I could take photos from it and load them onto the Android cell phone I was using for tweets. I also took a couple of film bodies with me—my M3 and Rolleiflex—and ended up with a nice mix of digital and analog shots from my travels.
Day 1: I started things off in Baltimore, and had a few locations that I definitely wanted to check out—the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, Fort McHenry, and a couple of spots for meals. Lunch was at the Papermoon Diner, an absurdly-decorated spot that has a fun menu. The exterior is painted in a variety of loud primary colors, with weird doll heads and mannequins hanging out in the landscaping and an odd red elephant sitting on the roof. The interior is equally busy, with all sorts of knick-knacks and hanging from the ceiling and walls.
I saw some fun sites driving through the city, including the old Natural Bohemian brewery with a winking Mr. Natty Bo sitting atop its tallest point, and a sign for what I can only assume is a defunct catering business.
Day 2: The second day of my trip was blocked out for driving—from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. This is normally a 45-minute journey, but I opted to take a roundabout route in order to do some sightseeing. My first objective was Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicot City, Md. It houses many of the fairy tale sculptures that were once part of the Enchanted Forest. (The site of the original is now a shopping center.) It’s a really odd place—you’ve got the Three Little Pigs hanging out in a petting zoo, Jack and Jill a few yards away from the Dish (in the process of running away with the Spoon) in a wooded area, Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall, and some scenes from tales and nursery rhymes that escaped me in my youth. (The Merry Miller? A new, but creepy, one on me.)
I spent a couple hours at the farm before hitting the road again. My destination was Leesburg, Va., where there is an odd German bistro, the Doner Bistro, with a kitchen housed in a portion of the fuselage of a B-29 bomber. (The B-29 was never used in the European theater in World War II; only the Pacific.) It used to be called the “Mighty Midget Kitchen,” and was a bit hard to shoot due to its location. Getting there was a bit of an adventure, as the shortest route in distance had me taking a ferry across a river—the ferry itself wasn’t an issue, but as the GPS didn’t warn me ahead of time, I will forever remember it as the surprise ferry. Once I arrived, I had a nice German draft and some currywurst, before hopping back in the car and heading to Bull Run, or, as we Yankees call it, Manassas.
It was the first Civil War battlefield that I’ve visited. It’s an eerie experience, to realize how many people died at the site, and I’m happy to see it preserved. It was threatening to rain, but I walked the field a bit, took some photos of the main ground, and intended to drive down to the Stone House, which is a ways off from the main site. The skies opened up as soon as I got into my car. I did try and get a couple shots in the downpour, but wasn’t really happy with the way they turned out—I just didn’t have the ability to think about my shot given the elements that were quickly getting me soaking wet.
My next stop? Washington, D.C.
To be continued…