13 July 2015

ROADTRIP DAY 4: Disney Deeds - Big Bend to Terlingua

We had managed to allude those around us and sleep through the night undetected by paying patrons who slumbered in the surrounding log cabins.

Having got where we were going we seemed slow to move from our spot, laying claim to it carefully to avoid interruption and ignoring the few scornful looks cast our way.

We sang, stretched and strummed with the serenity Snow White once held, though our exterior aesthetics told the story of the wicked witch.

Three young deer wandered up and munched on the grass near to our sprawling station. Though he beauty of the moment was tainted by the odd swiftly moving SUV, the simple coexistence between man and beast, in a respectful balance rare to this modern world, filled us with the warmth of peaceful bliss.

The hours that followed this frequency freely as we travelled up a new trail and on to a new town.

The road led us to a sand filled horse pen full of majestic but thin beasts. We stopped to chat to them, barricaded by a barbed wire fence. In our ignorance our luring allure lead the horses to danger, as they begged with pleading eyes for sustenance from the grass patches beyond their reach.

We fed them freely but with each bite their excitement heightened and they reached, stretching their necks like giant giraffes, towards greener pastures. When they could reach no more they began to push forward, snaring themselves in the fence. Our panic heightened in unison and I ran against the wind towards the nearest man made structure about a mile away. Half way there my partner hollered my name and I turned to see the white horse, formally caught, galloping free.

Our sights were set on a ghost town of Terlingua located in the depths of the desert, and though the name filled my childlike heart with fear, as we approached the slightly scary scene, cotton candy clouds rolled in to welcome us, mildly melting the unfounded emotions dancing inside of me.

The town, quite used to the wayward traveller, welcomed us with a wiry warmth, sharing its music, wisdom and tales openly. We slept in the parking lot of the Starlight theatre, formally open to the skies, where music has been shared since the tiny town was a mercury minefield. With the jubilant celebrations of the local lads and ladies surrounding us, we slept, interrupted be neither ghost nor ghoul.

2 July 2015


I forgot, in the excitement of going, to give out a glimpse at our labour of Love, Big Blue.

The story of her metamorphosis is a tale to tell. From spotting her on Blanco road to kitting her out in our backyard.

She was bought from a Peruvian family who carefully shared the beauty of their souls with us transforming the transaction from business to pleasure. Across the street from her former home was a doctor of sorts who shared his wisdom with Big Blue and us too in a way so loving we could have been kin.

By hand we deconstructed her, laying her bare, and spent a week searching and selecting the bones that would rebuild her.

A genius of a gentleman joined us for the final part of her recreation, using his powers and pouring his positive energy towards her, building, piece by piece, the structure that would sustain both her and us as we embarked on our grand adventure.

26 June 2015


[PART 1 HERE] Unsure whether we had done wrong with our overnight picnic spot stay, we turned ourselves into the park warden. He sighed with the patience most bearded old men hold, and spoke down to us like a teacher to his kindergarten aged students, telling us we had in fact been naughty and should be fined, but he wouldn’t punish our ignorance this time, so long as we promised not to do it again.

We agreed wholeheartedly with a belittled ‘yes sir’ and left with suitably mischievous smiles spreading across our faces, filling our water bottles as we made our way to our first mountain ascent. We had been warned of mountain lions and bears, which I had not expected this far south, and I rattled off what remained in my brain of my Canadian woods knowledge as we hiked up Emory Peak trail, suitably scaring my partner.

Though beautiful, the hike ended relatively anti-climactically, and we clambered down the mountain in fear of darkness at our top turtle speed. As we arrived in the parking lot a rainbow, which quickly morphed into a double rainbow, spread across the sky adding magic to the memory.

As night fell, revealing yet another stunning sunset, we embarked on a 45-minute journey to the park’s Hot Springs. As we drove, lightning again lit up the sky accompanied by a defining silence of a thunderless night. The entry road to the hot springs was primitive and as we crawled along the winding one lane road, the feeling one feels when watching a scary movie crept over me. This was the first of many horror film scenes we’d find ourselves in, West Texas is full of beautiful places which would light your soul by day and fill you with fear by night. It’s just how she be. But we pushed on despite our instinctual voices coaxing us to run.

The parking lot was all but empty apart from One. Single. Car. and old adobe buildings, likely belonging to the boarder control, stood above us in complete darkness. By the light of a trusty iphone and with the protection of a small Swiss army knife I’d tucked into my leggings, we made our way blindly towards the rushing river of the Rio Grande.

We tip toed through various creepy scenarios, our shoes sliding in the thick mud and our voices shaking with fear. My partner, who is by example much braver than me, took the lead as a shirtless man, lit by the waxing moon, emerged from the darkness. He thankfully turned out to (probably) not to be a serial killer and gave us directions to the hot springs we had been stumbling around not finding.

The hot springs, once found, were inviting and significantly less creepy than the scenes that had been set.  And as my fear stricken body relaxed into the warmth of its waters, a feeling of pure bliss took over. The skies were alight with thousands of stars and the moon, which had seemed to be been in full bloom the previous night had only begun to wane. The sound of the Rio Grande’s swift and surging waters soothed my soul serenely and I felt very grateful for the moment I was sharing.

24 June 2015


We awoke completely relaxed, a cool desert breeze passing through the van, the parking lot empty, the world silent, the sun shining.

The setting for a perfect day, some might say. Yet despite our best efforts, what followed this dreamy awakening was much less romantic than one might envision.

First, in some sort of subconscious fit for space, as we converted our home from night to day, we managed to spread our belongings across the parking lot as if it was our very own 1000-square-foot home, complete with kitchen, lounge, dining room, and office.

With our mansion set, we commenced our day, cooking up a storm on the Biolite stove we’d bought in effort to offset a pinch of the nasty gas Big Blue goes through (it uses gathered twigs for fuel instead of propane). Shane pulled out all the stops, considering what we had in the cooler, and we munched on a fine feast of greens, leaving the dishes for 'later, in true faux house fashion.

What followed was a first for me, and quite possibly, a first for mankind. It would seem the marketeers of home waxing kits overlooked the convenient inconvenience of ‘Extreme Home Waxing’ in their advertising efforts, but I, in all my Texas Tuxedo glory, had not.

I had dedicated a good 5 weeks into procuring the national park that had sprouted on my legs, and was firmly convinced at this point, that I was not ready to follow in the footsteps of hippies past in keeping the growth going. Shane quite keenly offered to help me take care of business, so we set ourselves up, and with the Biolite boiling and wax pot brewing, got to it.

This may all sound like brilliance in the making, but as we soon found out, it was not. The issues with waxing your legs in a public parking lot in the middle of the desert are plentiful, especially when your aesthetician is a bearded Texan with zero experience in the field.

To top it all off, people started arriving to the picnic area about half way into the wax, both of us half naked, dripping in sweat, covered in hot sticky wax and surround by our belongings, which were still spread across the parking lot like a pack of gypsies had risen from the sand to lay claim on the land. It must have been a sight to see.

Despite Shane’s best efforts, my legs ended up looking more like a half eaten hyena than a Giselle in full glide, but I suppose even that is an improvement. Looking back, the memory sits like one of those erratic dreams you can’t ever quite make sense of. Only the existence of these photos remain as indication of its validity.

23 June 2015

PORTFOLIO: Tintype Photography Of Giles Clement

I am currently writing for Shopikon, a website which celebrates all the best independent shops around the world. I also write for their blog which shares stories on inspiring designs, crafts, items and events.

This is a piece I wrote on gypsy tintype photographer, Giles Clements. The story was published on June 15, 2015 and can be found online HERE

17 June 2015


The sun rose early and warmed up quick, one thing about sleeping in what is essentially a pimped out tin can is there ain’t no late lie ins, no matter how lazy you might be, heat will overpower you.

We decided to save ourselves $600 and ignore the air conditioning install for Big Blue, which in
all honesty is completely kosher, as long as the van is moving, the wind is blowing and you’re good in your gitch. I took some style notes from my 18-month-old nephew and threw on some Osh Kosh B’gosh’s my friend Mignon gifted me when we rolled into gas stations and towns.

Marathon was our first find, a sleepy town full of artists, including Eve, owner of a completely unique Organic Bed and Breakfast, who welcomed us warmly to tour her lush indoor gardens and creatively designed hotel rooms.

We took advantage of The Gage Hotel’s air conditioning for a bit, pretending to peruse the drinks menu, while marvelling at their bijou Texas d├ęcor. One Marathon resident with a strong New York accent and wild grey hair, wandered up to us, excitedly sharing stories about his journey through life, which led him to his Marathon retirement. I listened politely though his monologue seemed to be directed at Shane. He looked like the love child of Rod Steward and 'Doc' from Back To The Future and I found myself distracted by this thought, unable to discern between what he said and what I thought a man like him might say.

As I sat there half-in-half-out of the moment at hand, his artist wife shot exasperated looks at him from afar with a controlled patience I’d never seen in human form. She wore a tight bun and reminded me of Geena Davis in A League of Their Own, and I could tell from where I sat she was strong willed and witty, she was a woman of few words but great impact, the type you’d want to cast as a character in your next novel or play.

Randy bid us adue at the precise moment the waiter’s patience with us began to dissolve, we left promptly and wandered to a dusty grocery store nearby, somehow spending the $10 we’d saved not buying a drink at The Gage on two oranges and a tepid Topo Chico.

We stopped to fill up with gas soon after. Shane made friends with a jolly local named Pepe who sat laughing and sweating, half shaded by the canopy of the gas station. Shane eventually convinced him and Ernesto, the gas station attendant, to allow him to take portraits of them. They both chattered without interrupting the other, Pepe in an English high-pitched drawl, Ernesto in a slow smooth Spanish.

We departed, weaving out of the tamely sized town and onto the last leg of the drive to Big Bend. It was the first time the beauty and vastness of the desert hit us, arriving into the arms of the park just as the sun set over the silhouette of the mountains.

We slept, illegally as we later found out, in a picnic spot called Fossil Bone. In contrast to the previous evenings, this night, the moon, stars, and all the planets lit up the sky with brilliance and we basked, surrounded by desert under the night sky.

In the distance an electric storm housed within rolling pink clouds locked in a mountain valley fired lightning in a way I’d never seen. Around us, the air was smooth and calm as if to balance the violent beauty we witnessed beyond us.

We fell asleep with the doors and windows open letting the cool air comfort us under the watchful eye of the majestic moon.

all photos unedited. copyright Shane Woodward

13 June 2015

ROADTRIP: Day 1, Austin down

As we left on our roadtrip, floods and tornado warnings rolled in keeping our adventures at bay. We suppressed our frustration with an impromptu flash flood shower, complete with Dr. Bronner’s soap, then cosied up in our van and promptly depleted my partner’s laptop battery watching a Charlie Chaplin film we’d been eyeing for ages.

The film lead to intermittent napping, as most things do, and when we awoke the rain had subsided so we embarked, ever so carefully, towards Big Bend.

The rain, though untimely for us, was a blessing for Texas, which had been in drought for years. The downpours bestowed numerous gifts, most notably the plethora of bright and beautiful wild flowers which seemed to burst from the soil in celebration.

We moved slowly, at our max 55mph speed, but saw, with curious eyes, all that was around us. As night fell, so did our output of energy and we found a field to hunker down in for the night. 

The moon and the stars, likely hidden behind the rolling clouds of passing storms, neglected to show themselves, leaving us to light our temporary home by solar fairy lights alone which we’d stapled to the roof of our vouse during one of our hideouts from the storm.

Slightly paranoid but mostly peaceful we passed out and thankfully, the storm passed on and away from our tin can of a home.

all photos unedited. copyright SHANE WOODWARD