The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

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The was a birds of prey display at the Brampton Fly In. It was nice to get close to these birds without a cage in the way. As far as I understand it, the majority of these birds have been injured and can no longer live in the wild. So they’re used to educate the general public about their species, habitats and our impact upon them.

Considering how much the early creators of gliders and later powered flight drew in inspiration from birds, I felt it was a smart thing to have this avian display alongside the main event. All of these were shot with my Sigma 150-500mm Telephoto. I see no need to stress a bird by sticking any lens in their face.

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You can check out more of my photography here.

Please check out my books on my Author page.

I missed last year’s open house because of work. It’s a great day out with vintage cars, bikes and aircraft.

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Still really enjoying the Twist 60 for shooting the vintage stuff. I like how the lens really does accentuate the central focus.

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Always nice to see some older Beemers.

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My favorite Bike.

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An original Dnepr Ural

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I switched over to my Sigma 150mm-500m f4.5 as they were starting to get aircraft in position to fly.

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Of course other aircraft were flying in at the same time as the Fokker and the rest were flying out.

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I swapped lenses and went back to the Twist 60.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these shots.

You can check out my books at www.steveabbottauthor.com

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I was interested in the Twist 60 the minute I read about it in the Lensbaby Newsletter. I’ve had a Composer Pro mount for a few years now and have a pretty full collection of their lens inserts to go with it. About my only complaint is I wish the focus ring had a stiffer action.

I usually purchase my lenses through Henry’s here in the GTA but apparently the supplier for the Lensbaby line of products is in flux so I had to purchase my Twist 60 through B&H in New York City. Which meant a bit more money because of the exchange rate  but even with that, it was still a reasonable price.

One think I like about Lensbaby products is their chromatic signature. Their glass seems to push color a little more in the image. It may be that when you’ve got many multiple elements in a more advanced range of lenses, some color is lost as the light works it’s way through the lens.

I also understand that because of Lensbaby line’s use of only manual focus, if you lack patience, this or any of their lenses probably aren’t for you. These are definitely not for shooting anything with a lot of action going on.

It was a good week before I had a chance to bring the lens out and try it out. The occasion was a small local car show. I like cars, my autistic son Colin loves cars, especially the older ones, so the venue was a lock for me (and it was free).

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This was my very first shot. Not my best work but I do like how it isolates the subject from the background. It does take a bit of fiddling to get your exposure levels right.

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In this next shot you can start to see why the Twist 60 gets its name from what’s happening in the background. I pretty much muffed the white balance here though.

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I do like the way the lens frames your subject though. Because of its particular effect, this is not a lens you can effectively use for tilt shift imagery. The lens is designed to be use in only the central position.

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It really does do a nice job in the stills department. 

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I took one of Colin, just to see what sort of portrait potential the lens holds. Not a bad shot considering he never stops moving…

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Tried some close up stuff with fairly decent results.

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Would I recommend this lens? Yes I would but with the caveat that it’s not for the impatient shooter. Having experience with older film cameras would probably be an asset for any of the Lensbaby line. But I like the bokeh on this lens and I appreciated the color I got out of the images. If you like to compose within the camera and not in post then you’ll enjoy using the Twist 60.

If you’d like to check out any of my books (if you haven’t done so already) please go to www.steveabbottauthor.com and click on the appropriate link (that’d be the one marked, “Buy”).

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I went down (three times) trying climb up to Hayden’s Pass in Colorado my panniers took a beating. Mostly because I made sure I dropped the bike on both sides, you know, to be thorough. My boxes did okay. A few more dents and scrapes and I managed to crack two of the other welded edge seams. I’m waiting for our new press brake to arrive to make the angle to strengthen them.

The damage to boxes turned out to be the least of my problems. I managed to break one of the box mounts on the right hand side completely off. It was going to need welding. Good thing I’m a TIG welder by trade.


Kelly wired it up in Moab so I could get home.


Here’s how it looks without all the wire. It’s a complete separation right on the edge of the weld area. Whoever did the original work put a little too much heat into the tube because the failure was right on the edge of the weld.

A closer look at the break.


Cleaned and prepped for welding.


Tacked.


Checking the fit.


Welded…


The other side of the weld.


Still fits. Always a concern when you add heat. Tubing tends to move around a bit when you weld it.


A bit of paint and it’s good as new.

All in all it was an easy repair and only took about an hour.

I don’t do Photoshop. Maybe I’m a Luddite but for me it’s more about correcting minor things in the image. I’ll play with contrast, sharpness, color correction and white balance. Lastly I’ll adjust my exposure settings. I can go up or down two full stops.

I guess what I’m getting at is I prefer to try to capture the image in the camera , not with a ton of post production stuff. Now it could be that because of the type of photography I do and the fact I’m not doing it for a living, means I don’t feel the draw of those tools. No doubt if you’re more about creating art with photographic elements or creating elaborate shots of super models, then Photoshop is your tool of choice.

I shoot on three platforms. Two are active and one is passive. You’re probably wondering what I mean by a passive camera.

For years I’d get constant complaints about not having enough pictures on my blogs about my trips and to be honest I was disappointed about the lack of pictures I was returning with from my trips of some of the tracks I’d been riding on. Essentially, I’d be having too much fun to stop and take pictures. The solution for this was a Sony Action Cam.

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I have mine mounted on the beak of my helmet and while it can take video, I have mine set up to take stills, one exposure every ten seconds. It’s passive because it’s a fixed focus and the camera sets its own exposure. All I do is push the activation button and try to figure out how much battery life I’ve got left. I still miss shots because I forget to turn it on. Which can be a bit disappointing if you’ve hit a particularly gnarly bit of track.

For the most part the pictures are great. It has issues in low light and of course really direct sunlight but then what camera doesn’t. What I love about the Action Cam is the candid moments it captures over and above the spectacular scenery shots you also get.

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It’s a good idea to turn your helmet away from the back of the bike, when you stop to take a piss. Er, I mean stop to admire the foliage.

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Most Action Cameras have a wider field of view. 130 Deg. in this case. It can create some interesting compositions.

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It also catches those moments of reflection.

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And those, “Oh shit!” moments as well.

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This is also an, “Oh shit,” moment.

The only issue I have with the Action Cam is the battery life, which is about two hours. It would be nice to leave it on for the day. Though poring through 64GB of data and thousands of images is daunting.

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My next Camera is Canon G-16 I carry in a front pocket of my riding jacket or the top pocket of my small camera bag. It has a couple of features that I really like. It has a physical viewfinder, so you don’t need to depend on the camera’s rear screen in bright sunlight. It also can shoot in RAW format, which allows me greater freedom in post. There’s also a feature I sort of wish my DSLR had, an adjustable exposure knob which allows you the ability to dial your exposure up or down two full stops. Its construction is solid and it even has a decent physical zoom too.

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The St. Louis Arch.

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I just rode down that thin brown ribbon…

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A hot and sweaty selfie in the Royal Gorge

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It also allows you to capture some of the more out of the way places you visit. And if you’re curious, I took this because it’s one of the most remote gas stations I’ve ever visited. I had to go ten miles out of my way to visit it.

And of course the final Camera is my Canon 7D. It’s getting on a bit now but it’s still a great platform to shoot from. The only issue I have is that when I travel I don’t tend to bring my Sigma 150 – 500mm. It a big bulky and heavy lens and I don’t think some of the terrain I ride across or the conditions I end up shooting under would be good for its health. My standard two travel lenses are my Sigma 10 – 20mm and my workhorse Sigma 17 – 70mm. Occasionally if I remember I’ll grab my Canon 75 – 200mm but to be honest I’ve never been a fan of its slow focusing issues.

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Sunrise on Pike’s Peak. Even at higher ISO I love the noise suppression in Canon platforms.

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I also love the crispness you can achieve.

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It does shoot a mean vista…

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Or you can slap on a Lensbaby and shoot close.

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Whatever I’ve done…

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Whatever I’ve seen…

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From one side of the continent…

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Almost to the other side…

My 7D has been with me for a lot of miles. It’ll probably be with me for many more. I look forward to the things we’ll see together.

Well it and all my other cameras as well.

You can check out my books at steveabbottauthor.com

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Arsing about… I only had to leap across a small chasm to get this shot.

Reputation is everything in film. Your, “Rep,” will proceed you in almost all transactions and while a good rep will move fast, a bad one will move even faster. It is, as I’m sure you already know, a lot easier to get a bad rep than a good one.

Research is a good way to avoid pitfalls. Reading about other people’s experiences or talking to other screenwriters can help you avoid making fatal career mistakes that can cost you work in the long run. I know the industry seems big but it really isn’t and word can really get around.

Which is why I’m constantly amazed at how newer writers will put a script out there that isn’t finished, even in a rough draft sense. Of course they usually don’t tell the person they’re shopping it to that the piece is only half or two thirds done and then it’s a mad panic to get the thing finished. Which of course always produces the finest work.

Of course, it doesn’t help that there’s a lot of, “Spin,” in the industry. Not outright lies per say but you’ll certainly bend the truth as hard as you can. Until a production company says, “No.” Your script is still, “In play.”

So even though I’m not as active in the industry these days, I still wouldn’t submit an unfinished script to my producer, no matter how much he begs for it. Unless he’s got the money in place and he needs to start casting… Oh, and I’ve been paid.

So here’s some things I feel are a bad idea and why.

  1. Showing part or all of an unfinished script.  It might be a great idea. It might be flawlessly executed (doubtful) but it’s not done and the hardest part is that second to third act transition. Get it wrong and you’ve not just wrecked your story but you’ve hurt how you look to others.
  2. Even if you have finished, putting it out there before it’s as polished as it can be. This of course is more for the newer writers. It’s good to be eager but if a script is shoddy in its presentation and full of spelling errors in the first two pages, chances are the whole thing is shoddy and into the round file it goes.
  3. Knowing nothing about how the industry works. It really is inexcusable. There are tons of books out there that cover this. Not having a plan to get your script read and ultimately sold means simply, you won’t sell it.
  4. Not reading every produced script you can get your hands on. How else can you learn how to do it, if you’re not reading scripts that got made into films? Good and Bad.
  5. Not watching every film you can. How else can you talk about film, if you have no foundation to work from. It’s a visual medium, you should study the strong visuals that speak to  you. Believe me, it’s a lot easier to describe an opening scene to a director as, “Like the beginning of Once upon a time in the West,” than faffing about trying to find more common ground. And if they’ve never seen that particular film, worry because they probably are going to suck.

I guess what I’m trying t say here is, craft is king. You should know your craft and the business you wish to enter. If you don’t, it’s going to be a rocky road ahead.

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This has been an interesting year to say the least. Lots of changes have happened and there are few more coming down the pipe and that’s just in the general day to day life side of things. The writing side of my life is always whatever it chooses to be from moment to moment. The trick right now (well always really) is scraping out the time to write from all the other demands on your precious seconds.

It can be difficult to go on some times with your writing. The trick is to push through no matter what. Yes what you’re writing right now may feel like it’s complete and utter shit but many times that’s just that nasty little voice in the back of your head talking. You know the one that’s always so damn critical. It’s not that it’s not right, it’s that it’s over doing the concern thing. That internal back chatter is the thing that will kill your own voice on the page if you let it. The few times I was stuck in development hell when I was screenwriting, you’d go from the joy of having optioned your script to watching some clueless development executive who, “fancied himself a bit of a writer,” follow some ill-defined plan of execution that took the script that they, “loved,” only to slowly bleed to death with ridiculous changes sought to meet a market model never clearly defined. Small comfort when in moments like those you realized just a precedent Kafka really was.

If is one thing I like about self-publishing it’s that I’m the one steering the boat and that is where so much more than money. When I used to hear the phrase, “What if,” it would send me into a cold sweat, because what would follow would be a ridiculous idea for the most part and a rewrite. At a certain point in a development process you feel like every rewrite puts you further and further away from getting any kind of greenlight to your project. And while as a screenwriter your job is to champion your script, there’s only one of you and a whole cadre of them and they’ve got money and you don’t. While I’d love to say that money isn’t a great motivator, it’s a different thing when you’re trying to make rent or buy groceries. Plus getting paid for something makes you a professional and that does your battered ego no end of good. I know it sounds sad, and it is sad but it’s also true. At least it was for me.

Flash forward a few years (okay many years) and the arena of self-publishing gives you that thing you’ve lacked for so long, control. And that is also worth more than money. Of course the downside is if the buck stops with you, everything a happens good or bad you need to own it.

Time management has been a real bear for me this year. There’s a lot of demands both from family and from the day job. I’m not as prolific as I like to be and I’m sure the people waiting for the sequel to Devil’s Gambit feel the same. I swear, I’m really close to finishing the rough draft. Then I’ve got a screenplay to write before I get back into doing the final edit prior to publishing. I will say this, I won’t release anything before I feel it’s ready.

However, if you’re interested in getting a feel for one of the main characters in the new book, you should check out Reliance. It’s the story of why she’s on the run in the first place. And if there’s one issue I do have with Amazon, it’s that much of their search algorithm seem to driven by the cover design. My initial cover featured a man in shadow with a cowboy hat. And while yes, Reliance is a modern Western or as I prefer a thriller placed in a modern Western setting, it is a thriller first. But Amazon chose to place it in Westerns, which has not helped sales. Regardless I’m still very proud of the book and at $0.99 it’s a good deal on Kindle. And if you haven’t read any of my books. I suggest you start with Devil’s Gambit.

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Royal Gorge Canyon 2016

Every trip changes you. Sometimes the changes can be very subtle and other times substantial. A lot of it comes from stepping outside your comfort zone, doing things haven’t done in a while or maybe you’ve never done ever. At the time these experiences may not have seemed like much but their resonance goes deep. As a writer, it’s extremely important to experience life in all its crazy wonder. And even when you are going through a tough or horrible patch, you need to take notes. Not necessarily written notes is certainly log what you’re going through in your brain for later access.

After all a good part of what we do is study the human condition under stressful circumstances if you’ve never known extreme stress, how can you effectively write about it? No I’m not saying everybody needs to go out and buy an adventure bike or get into base jumping, X games or become the next American ninja warrior (though those people are impressive physically). But you should try and step outside your comfort zone and experience new things and new places, and yes, new people. Because you never know where the idea for the next great character’ s and come from.

Every day should have some introspection. I know this is difficult for most of us. Nobody likes looks themselves warts and all especially not when you’re going to call yourself out on your own bullshit. But I’m telling you, it’s an important step. And not to get all spiritual but a certain amount of inner peace does bring clarity. The one thing this last trip left with me was the realization that I had to be more open to things. But I had see yes more than no regardless of how uncomfortable it was going to make me or what physical conditions it was going to subject me to.

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2016 has certainly been an interesting year so far with lots of changes job wise, life wise and must be honest world wise. Realistically who the hell knows what 2017’s going to bring. All you can really do his face forward, keep going, and write from the heart.

I will say this, writing wise it’s going to be exciting. To be honest the calendar year is not really a good way of keeping track of your writing projects. My new book, “Devil’s Ante,” is almost finished, at least as far as the rough draft goes. So I’m on track for publishing in the fall. I’m very excited to start a screenplay project inspired by a true story shared by one of the members of my writing group (inspired enough that I optioned the story from her for film). I’ve done some minor pitching of the story to some people I know in the film industry and excitement is high. “Augmented,” my military sci-fi novel is waiting in the wings for me to get back to it. That’s looking like January for me and of course I’m already outlining the third and final book in my Devil series, “Devil’s Due.” For release next fall. I’m sorry if I’m not as prolific as other writers. Like a good number of us I’m still in a day job trying to keep a roof over my family’s head, food on the table and of course make sure that my adult son with autism as his good life within this community as he possibly can. All that of course takes away for my writing time. I apologize. I’ll try to do better.

Regardless of all that, I’m having a good time here and I’m excited see what comes next and where I’ll go.

Thanks for following along.

If you haven’t already done so and would like to support a struggling writer, you can check out my two thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon. Both are available in trade paperback and for Kindle. I’d love to do an audiobook of either or both but there some issues between the whole Canada US thing. Soon as I figure that out, I’ll move ahead with it.

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On my way back, heading through Kansas I started to see signs for the Mid America Flight Museum in Liberal, Kansas. I’m always up for an aircraft museum and it was right beside the interstate.

I’ve been to some cracking aviation museums in the States and The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton that I’m a member of is one of the best in Canada. So it’s always a bit sad to find a nice collection with some rare airframes essentially mouldering away under a layer of dust and neglect.

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Surprising to see a number of Commonwealth Air Training Plan Airframes in their collection but I got the feeling a number of these aircraft came from individual collections.

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You can see the dust on this Corsair.

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The Corsair has  formidable prop.

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A nice looking Grumman Avenger in a variant that looks to be prior to the advent of H2S sets.

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One of the more famous paint jobs of WW2 on this B-25J

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You never think about the Flying Tigers having spotting planes as well as fighters.

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A Ryan L-17 Navion. I’ve always liked the Ryan airframes.

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Good old Cessna, “Suck and Blow.”

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A sorry looking Tomcat.

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An OV-10 Bronco.

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A F4D Phantom II. How do you tell between every other mark and the J? No Cannon.

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Apparently you’re not supposed to go out on the hardpan but there were no signs saying not to and the place was pretty much deserted. This dilapidated hanger beside the DB Cooper Era DC-10 immediately caught my eye.

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I mean look at all those smashed out windows….

Though it would have to wait until I was done with the static display on the hardstand.

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The last time I saw one of these it was in flying condition. From the looks of the cockpit on this one… Not so much.

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So we’ve got an A-7 Corsair, an A-4 Skyhawk with the hunchback extra fuel tank (on of my favorite aircraft) and an F-105D Thunderchief (though it looks like it’s in a Wild Weasel configuration)

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A nice S-2 Tracker.

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Close up the A-4 looks a bit scabby…

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F-105D

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The other hanger didn’t disappoint for mody lighting…

The museum was a nice break from riding for a couple of hours and I was back on the interstate a couple of minutes after leaving its parking lot.

My two thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available on Amazon in Trade Paperback and for Kindle

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Kelly and I had decided to do the hike up to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park that Saturday. It’s a three mile hike from the parking lot and about fifteen hundred feet of ascension. We made sure to hit the park early because even with the sun just up, the temperature was climbing into the 90s. It had been a long ride the day before and we were both a little saddle sore so we took Kelly’s truck. The fact the truck also had air conditioning didn’t hurt either.

I love sandstone. The erosion patterns are beautiful to me and the fact you can see cause and effect of erosion on the sandstone surface as you hike up to Delicate Arch was really cool. You need to take lots of water on this hike. I recommend at least a litre. I carry an insulated bottle that clips onto my camera bag. It makes Kelly laugh because the bottle makes a bell like, “Bong,” sound as I walk. Which turns any hike into a sort of Buddhist march.

The hike is a popular one and we had three tour busses arrive in the parking lot just before we started on up. The trick was to stay ahead of the coming crowd. Which of course we failed at. Some of those older Japanese dudes are fast. Even in tweed coats and wool pants.

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It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

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Delicate Arch

To get to the arch, you walk up a rock ledge incline about six feet wide, hundreds of feet off of the valley floor. Standard issue as far as this trip has gone. To be honest, I didn’t feel the need to go out to the arch itself. There were a ton of people crawling all over the rock by now and it felt inherently unsafe. If it was just Kelly and I, sure, no problem but with this many people, it was well outside my comfort zone. And just to drive the point home, somebody dropped their bottle of water and I watched it skitter across the rock face and then disappear over the edge.

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The ledge that follows the bowl around to the arch had a steep angle and again was not very wide.

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Kelly’s found his perch.

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No matter what, life finds a way even in the harshest of environments.

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Saw this cool traveling rig back in the parking lot. It had Frech tags on it.

On the hike we met up with a couple who mentioned the Windows, another formation near the park’s entrance. Though a pancake breakfast was calling, we set off for the Windows.

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It’s always nice when the scenery is glad to see you.

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The windows are two separate formations. These are the northern set.

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You couldn’t look much more like a Cobra if you tried.

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A Lion…

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And .an Elephant

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We were out of water and the call of the pancakes was strong. So we left the majesty of, The Arches and headed for the cool confines of a diner in Moab. Sunday we’d both be starting our long tracks home. Two days for Kelly, four days for me.

You can check out my two thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon. They’re available in Trade Paperback and for Kindle.

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