Travel
  • The Last Goodbye

    Sweet Zoey,

    You have been amazing to me the past 3 1/2 years. I got you as a pup, when I was in need of friendship. You became my companion, my best friend, and my little girl. You have been through a broken bone, poking, prodding, radiation, medication, and surgery. But in the end we lost, and now it's time to say goodbye. 

    To everyone that has helped us over the years financially, thank you so much. Without you, we wouldn't have been able to give Zoey the past two years of her life, and that life was well spent. Zoey has gone to Canada, numerous camping trips on the north shore, adventures on road trips, and has made so many faces smile in the world.

    I love you so much Zoey, and I hope someday to see you on whatever other side there is for us in death. 

    The following are photos from the time we got Zoey as a pup, until our final walks.

    Goodbye, sweet girl. You are gone, but never forgotten.

    - B

  • Road Trip: Lake Superior

    I love spontanious trips.  Some of the best adventures I have ever had have been set in motion by the words, "hey, want to go on a road trip?" One time it was a week in advance, and another time it was a casual mention of a road trip a year in advance.

    The case with this trip came from how much stress we were carrying from Zoey's cancer, and the nature fix that had been absent in our lives for some time. At this point Zoey had been 2-3 weeks past surgery and her sutures were looking pretty great. Anna had time off work already, and with some help from the amazing folks over at Parka to cover some of my work, we were able to make this trip happen.

    We drove most of the way around Lake Superior. From the North shore of Minnnesota, to the actual north shore of Superior in Ontario, and then down into Michigan. Unfortunately we didn't have time to travel closer to the shore through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or Northern Wisconsin. Next time!

    All photos taken with: Canon 5D MKII + Canon EF 40mm f/2.8

    Day 1

    Day 2

    Day 3: (zoey was eyeing flys in the fire pit)

    Day 4

    Day 5:

    - B

  • Far Away Places, A River, And Some Animals

    Here in Minnesota, the middle of March is a prime time to take a trip and shake off them winter blues. Ideally, to a warmer place. It's the perfect pick-me-up for the wandering minds that feel like they are at ropes end, and given the sheets of snow we've had dumped on us this year - warmth is good.

    This year took us 1,036 miles south to Tennessee to visit friends and family. Most of our adventures took place within cities - Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cleveland, Chattanooga, Madison - with a brief trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. 

    Indianapolis

    Louisville, KY

    Cleveland, TN

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Chattanooga, TN

    Chicago, IL

    Madison, WI

    - B

  • The Frozen North

    Winter in Minnesota (along with the rest of the midwest) has been pretty extreme. The day after Minnesota was in blizzard conditions, Anna and I ventured north to stay in a log cabin for three nights. Snow shoe adventures, clouds of snow, ice cave adventures into Wisconsin, and more. Never have I explored the north in conditions like this. The setting was very surreal, and the landscape felt like it was not of this state at some points. Do enjoy what was our view. <3

    Day 1: Bear Head Lake State Park

    Day 2: Tettegouche State Park

    Day 3: Ice Caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

    This year Lake Superior froze over upwards toward 90%, reaching a 10 inch average for ice thickness. To get to these "ice caves" in the following images, you walk along the southern shore over the ice on Lake Superior. 

    - B

  • Day 16 and 17: Final Snippets

    The last few days we spent in Beijing were running errands, meeting up with people we hadn't seen yet, eating good food, and spending the last of our yuan at Zoo Market. I did my best to just enjoy time outside the lens, but carried the camera with me in case moments arise where I would regret not having my camera. But everything stayed pretty chill.

    The experience of traveling to Beijing has been all too surreal, and that's exactly what it is. Having been home for nearly four weeks now, it doesn't even seem like we were there. I find myself joking saying, are these my photos? I suppose I could have magically inherited someones hard drive...but that impossible, right?

    To experience a culture I've only brushed the surface on in years of education, and to do it with some really awesome people, has been such an amazing experience. And most of all, seeing where Anna grew up and lived for so much of her life has helped me better understand how aspects of life in China have shaped who she is.  

  • Day 15: Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

    "We're going to let you lead us there," says Anna. And I did just that. After being in Beijing for two weeks, Anna and her younger brother, Daniel, wanted to see if I could navigate the subway and get us to where we needed to go. The destination was Tiananmen Square, and other than going up the wrong stairs that brought us to the opposite side of the street we wanted to be on, I executed my task flawlessly.

    Tiananmen Square

    The most recent historical mark of Tiananmen Square brings us back to events that transpired on June 4th, where a pro-democracy protest turned violent. China was put under martial law by Communist Party Leaders at this time. The police and troops that moved into the square killed several hundred, maybe even thousands (there is no solid number here), of protesters in the streets that surrounded the square.

    Most of you will recognize the "tank man" image from this period of time. The article I've referenced is pretty interesting. Four photographres, four images, one moment. Followed by the images there are brief writings from the photographers writing about their time.

    Forbidden City

    Forbidden City is accessed through a gate from Tiananmen Square, which was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). This served as home for emperors and households from hundreds of years. Common people were not allowed inside the walls, but today, anyone can walk through the immensity that is, The Forbidden City.

    Once we were past the gates, I took to photographing Forbidden City a little different compared to that last major places we visited. Mostly because I was tired of seeing people all over the place. So, this a collection of photos taking a quiet look at the design, architecture, patterns, and more. I really love it, and loved approaching it this way - mostly because I myself found some peace shooting in this manner.

    After our little tour we ran into some shopping areas to pick up quick gifts for people back home. Here we encountered some photographers we had seen earlier in the week shooting in the same location. The guy on the left took to waving cheerfully, and then continued to take photos of me taking photos of him. When we first crossed paths, I caught him taking photos of Anna and I (probably more here than I), so I returned fire in a world of digital pixels. Many of the locals do this same thing on the street and would hold up their phones or cameras all nonchalant and "sneak" photos of you. I made it a game that whenever I noticed this happpening, I would bluntly take photos of them in return. All reactions were the same - smile and carry on.

  • Day 14: Old Summer Palace

    Old Summer Palace was once a complex of palaces and gardens built in the 18th and early 19th century. It served as an area where emperors of the Qing Dynasty would handle government affairs. In October of 1860, during the Second Opium War, British Commisioner Lord Elgin ordered the destruction of the palace in response to men that had been tortured and executed in late September.

    What remains are mostly European-style buildings, and very few Chinese-style buildings. Plans to rebuild are out of the question, because any reconstruction would destroy a part of Chinese history. What they are and have been doing though, is restoring old vistas and filling lakes. And what remains of Chinese buildings have been refurbished.

    You still have all the vendors and souvenir shops here, but there was one booth in particular that was really fascinating. A man was making dragons out of melted down sugar, shaping everything with a small stick. Really cool.

    This is but a scratch on the surface to what Old Summer Palace is about. If you want to read more about it you can check out wiki, or cross reference other sources you find elsewhere.

  • Day 12: Migrant School and Boy Scout Campout

    "Included Migrant School"

    We had the chance to visit and shoot some photos for a migrant school through a volunteer named Jonathan, who is renting a room from Anna's parents. This is a school for children whose families lack the proper documentation to live in Beijing, omitting their children from being included in the local school system. These families primarily move from rural areas to the city in search of more prosperous work (or work at all), but are unable to pay the fees or aqcuire the proper documentation for legal migration within the country. They migrate to the city for all kinds of reasons – they may have been layed off, factories may have been shut down or farmers and farm workers may have become obsolete as a result of new technology.

    The school is entirely dependent on donations and all the teachers working here are volunteers, some are foreigners, but most are locals. The children here are high in spirit, friendly, funny, charming, and were, overall, such a pleasure to be around. 

    When we had first arrived it was hard to know what all the kids thought of us. Some would hide their faces and run away, but would quickly open up once I showed them what was going on with the camera. Others would run up saying, "lao shi!" (teacher) tugging at Anna's arm. One of the funniest thing I had happen though were kids trying to look through my ears. I would humor them and take out my gauges, which I'm sure freaked them out a bit, but it's something so strange you can't look away, right? To interact with these kids has been one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. My only regret is not having more time to spend with them.

    After our morning at the school, Anna's brother, Matt, had rented a car to drive us up north, to a place beyond the great wall. Where we were going was a boyscout campout, which Anna's youngest brother was a part of. There was food, there were badges, there was fire, all that good stuff. And as the sun started to set in the valley, we ended the night with skits performed by the scouts, and some good bonfire, coal tossing fun.

  • Day 11: Hutongs and Meandering

    Hutongs are old traditional homes that used to cover much of Beijing. Many remain intact and are being protected to try and save this part of chinese cultural history, but at the same time many others are being torn down to make way for things like roads and apartments.

    The walkways we experienced through the hutong alleys were no wider than the span of ones arms. The streets that run through the hutong neighborhoods vary in width. In one neighborhood only a few bikes that had carts on the back could drive through. In another neighborhood only one car could travel through at a time. 

    If you notice the first character in the license plate below, it will indicate from what area it's from. This guy is from Beijing.

    What followed after our day of wandering through hutongs was a fancy date night at McDonalds (we originally wanted to go to a hutong pizza place, but were unsure about whether it was open or not), and then walking across town to explore, photograph, and eventually reach our goal of hitting up Slowboat Brewery.

  • Day 9: Crowded Subways Day 10: Pet Markets and Football

    Day 9: Crowded Subways

    Sitting, standing, and squeezing to get around. Anyone visiting doesn't need much more than that, especially if your only plan is to stay within the city. Public transportation here is so wide and vast, that if you can figure out the bus and subway system, you just opened up a path to just about anywhere in Beijing.

    I only ever had one experience 'squeezing' into a subway. It was rush hour time, and it seemed as if everyone that needed to go north was doing just that. Through winding tunnels and escalators that brought you to and from the light, herds of workers were probably heading home, and traveling with a group of six during this time was no easy chore. When we had reached our platform, loose lines were formed near the doorways where the subway would stop. The brakes would screech, and a sweet "ding dong" sound would be made over a speaker with an announcement saying, "this is where you're at and the door is about to open," except when everyone is already heading north, no one wants to get off. So you push and squeeze and hope you get on that subway and not the next. In my case, it was push, squeeze, and as long as I could stay pressed up against that person at the doorway long enough for the door to close behind me, I could stop pushing and find some relief that the door had closed behind me, and I was not left behind.


    Day 10: Growing up, Pet Markets, and Football

    We spent the day exploring the streets and making our way to one of Anna's old residencies. There was a pet market on the way that Anna had mentioned, and we decided to walk through. An escalator takes you from the street into an underground marketplace that has shops selling dogs, cats, fish, fountains, tobacco, pipes, camping stuff, and much more. All lighting is artificial, and space is little in each store. You see that cages are piled with animals, and the conditions and health of many are not so good. Most were sleeping in their own fecies, with bugs crawling around them. Some cats look like they have infections of some sort. Later we came across pet squirrels and bunnies where one bunny was laying dead in its cage while the others continued running around it. Surrounding the cage of bunnies was the shop owner, and many other customers, all just ignoring the fact of a dead bunny, and instead admiring the squirrel on a leash. Then there is the question about the breeds. Do some get better treatment than others? The siamese cats we saw there were active and in good health, but maybe they were just part of a new lot of animals that were delivered recently.

    What happens to these animals I wish I could say. From the poor health and living conditions it seems like many will die, but my hope is that people purchase many of these animals and give them a home, a better life, and the love they deserve.

    I know it's hard to switch what's going on during the day right after seeing the animals, but bare with me here. We had left the animal shops and gone a canal by Anna's old apartment complex where she spent a lot of her time at growing up, and later we met up with the family to enjoy a game of football for anyone that wanted to play. And of course, good food was had in the evening. It might have been the air, or just that I was really hungry, but going a dinner without snapping tons of photos isn't all that bad, right? "Just enjoy it before it gets cold man."

  • Day 8: What Remains of the Olympics

    Waking up to Pidgeon, we started to prepare for our day. We all decided that we would bus out to the Olympic Forest Park and also see the Olympic Green.

    Olympic Forest is a large man-made nature park that was built alongside the Olympic Green for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.  It's one of those things that if you get the chance, seeing it is awesome - only once though. Then there are the exceptions that If you live around it and have friends or family in town, it's great to go see it again. Kind of like that exhibit you only thought needed one walk through. Souvenir trinkets are still sold on the sidewalks, souvenir photographs are still available, and from what I could hear, tour groups were also available. Still, I am glad I got to go look around at least once.

    Oh yeah, and there is a half empty mall underground here as well. That's where the lights and cute lookin' bull come from. 

  • Day 7: Staycation, Art Crawls, and Exploring

    While in China we were hoping to travel outside of Beijing. Maybe get into the countryside, maybe go hike through some forests, parks, wherever travel took us? But the money exchange it turned out we had less than we expected, but enough for a small trip if that's what we decided. Long story short, we decided not to (being that there is so much to see in Beijing already) and instead had a staycation with Anna's brother (Matt) and his wife (Kara). Kara was on a small break from work at the time, and that is where "staycation" comes from.

    798 district is an awesome art zone in Beijing with a large artistic community. Galleries and merchandise from working artists are available in small stores, and there are many art spaces to walk in and out of. 798 has a series of 50 year old decommissioned military factories that add to the space of their art exhibits. Works of street art are abundant here as well.

    To get to Matt and Kara's apartment while we were staying with them, we neeed to take a path that brought us past a garbage trench, and then over some railroad tracks where the trains still passed by. While running some errands for eggs we saw a man selling jewelry, where a woman and her son (or maybe grandson) were looking to buy. Further along we saw some vendors selling turtles, and a puppy just hangin' out in the middle of it all.


  • Day 6: Temple of Heaven

    Not only is Temple of Heaven one of those popular parks and tour attractions that everyone needs to visit, but it is also a massive space for the community to gather. The surroundings of the temple have areas for excercising which are free to the public, and throughout halls of the temple people are playing cards, playing instruments, knitting and making crafts, and just pretty much go to the park to hang out. You'll see there was a photoshoot going on there too. I decided to get on the line and take some photos just to see if I could, and no one seemed to mind or care that I had stepped in. Lets me note in the second photo showing all the photographers, that one guys stance in the back is intense. You don't mess with a guy holding that intense of a photo stance.

    Watching the community choir/band get together at the end of our visit to the temple was a really powerful experience. They are all there because they love doing it. No one claps, no one cheers - instead they all join in song from the heart.

    Oh, and when you need to sleep, you just find a bench or whatever serves best.

    Temple of Heaven

    Temple of Heaven is a series of religious buildings in which the Emperors of the Qing and Ming dynasties would pray to the heavens for good harvest.

    The temple was built in 1406 to 1420, but was not known as Temple of Heaven until the 16th century when the Jiajing Emperor added on to the temple. In the 18th century, the temple was renovated, which was the last large renovation of the tempel during imperial time due to funds.

    In 1900, the temple took serious damage due to the occupation by the Eight Nation Alliance during the Boxer Rebellion. Robberies of temple artifacts made by the alliance would later be reported during this time. 

    During the fall of the Qing empire, the temple was left unmanaged. As a result several halls bagan to collapse over the years.

    In 1918 the temple was turned into a public park, and declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1998.

  • Day 5: Chill Mornings and Walks

    What chinese I learned today: "Hen hao war!"

    Relaxing mornings, great food, street walks, and fun at the security guards home. In the last photo, the cage in front of the building has a hamster in it. Story is that someone was away at the time and needed someone to watch their little critter. Whether it's a friends or one of the residents here at the apartments, the hamster was there during our entire stay. On this particular day we were walking down the road and saw the guard with a friend trying to introduce a mouse into the cage. They were laughing and chuckling, and when they were out of sight and we were halfway down the road we heard one of the men yell, "hen hao war!" (what good fun!). It was pretty hilarious. 

  • Day 4: The Wall

    We spent a night at Anna's brothers place and planned on a trip to the great wall. The part wetraveled to is called, Huang Hua Cheng. How we got there went a little something like this.

    We needed to take the subway as far north as possible, then catch two buses from beginning to end, and then another bus, and then a black cab up to where we would get on the wall. All adding up to 3 1/2 hours of traveling.

    When we had arrived there was a sign that read, "not open to the public," but beyond that there is a man you pay 10 yuan to use a ladder to climb up onto the wall. 

    Hills and mountains surround the wall with pollution hanging about (adds a nice mistly look), and at most we only ever saw a couple people on the wall. The further we walked, the more ruin like the wall became, which also meant greater difficulty to climb.

    When time came to get off the wall, a man on a farm opened his gate to us for 20 yuan. Let's not foget the dog that was growling and barking outside the fence as well. 

    Past the farm a road leads down to a village where we had just missed the bus that comes every hour. While waiting at a small restaurant, the locals started talking to us, and while I couldn't understand what anyone was saying, it resulted in a womans husband giving us a lift down the road to a bus that comes more frequently. Then began the long journey back home.


  • Day 3: Chill Mornings and Shopping Excursions

    Day 3: Chill Mornings and Shopping Excursions

    Staying with Anna's family meant some great breakfasts, cluding her moms baked oatmeal which I had never had until now.

    After a day exploring and hiking around, a chill day was needed (this pattern continues the rest of the trip). You might think of chill as, "we'll just lounge around the house all day," which is pretty close to what we did. Half a day of lounging was about all we could take, and then we head out into the world for some shopping at Zoo Market.

    Zoo Market is a maze of shops that seem neverending. Here you come to bargain and sift through knock off brands of clothes, shoes, accesories, et cetera. Sizes might be correct to someone in the world, but the label is never a thing to trust. You can't try on things, so you eye and hope for the best. Worst comes to worst and you're out a short amount of cash. 

    To bargain it is necessary to have someone with you that speaks chinese. I know next to none, so I just watch Anna negotiate, she then translates what's going on. By the end of the trip I was starting to do better with numbers. I think after this trip I will be looking into chinese for a language come fall semester. It's pretty much guaranteed that we will be back here in the coming years so, "thanks," and, "no thanks," just doesn't cut it.


  • Day 2: Where we are - Summer Palace

    Day 2: Where We Are

    Anna's family has an awesome area to live. There is a courtyard between the complexes with a basketball court, a garden that is maintained, a bike repair guy right down the road in case anyone needs something fixed on the fly. Pretty sweet. The apartment has four bedrooms, a full kitchen, a couple rooms for entertainment and office purposes, and a porch like room that serves as an area for the garden. I would often find myself forgetting that I was in China, and then I stepped outside.

    The most difficult thing I encountered on our trip was the language barrier. So on the first day when we ventured into the city to walk down to the police station and register our stay, it was both strange and exciting to be sitting in a room full of people not knowing a single word anyone was speaking. 

    After our morning of registering with the police, we decided to hit the ground running and visit one of the sites on our list. So we managed to visit the Summer Palace during the afternoon, and later that evening we met up with the rest of Anna's family that hadn't yet seen us for some amazing food. 

    Summer Palace

    Summer Palace is a marvel of landscape architecture and garden design that has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. First known as, "the Garden of Clear Ripples," it was later destroyed by allied forces during the Second Opium War (1856-60). It wasn't until 1886-95 that it was reconstructed by Emperor Guanxu and named, "Summer Palace." intended for use by Empress Dowager Cixi. The palace took damage in 1900 during the supression of the Boxer Rising and was then restored in 1902. The palace became public in 1924.

    Oh yeah, and the infamous marble boat was under construction while we were there, so tough luck on that one, but hey, I got a picture of the picture they put up of the real thing! 


    Petty cabs are pretty awesome.
    So this is how dishes come. clean and sanitized in shrink wrap
    Nang Chao Rou (stir fried bread and cumin lamb)
    Red noodle dish
    Peanuts
    Xi long hua (broccoli w/garlic)
    Yang rou chuanr (lamb kebabs)
  • Day 1: To Travels and Trunks

    On May 13th Anna and I left for Beijing, China. Most of her family lives over there so we stayed with them during our stay. They are super generous hosts and took part in a lot of our outings. Much of Anna's life was spent living in Beijing, so it's really awesome that I got the chance to see where she grew up.

    I will be putting up blog posts that correspond with each day we were gone.


    Day 1: "To Travels and Trunks" 

    Some people love flying, some people hate it. For most, it's a love hate relationship. You're excited that you are going somewhere new, gaining new experiences, taking time off of work, traveling, and getting behind those gates that a boarding pass and a good record allows clearance for. But then there is the flight time, the airplane food, strangers, the chance of having a child seated behind you, the discomfort of never being in a comfortable sleep position - all factors that can bring a negative outlook upon flying.

    It's not that many of these factors happened on our trip. In fact, our flights were all relatively pleasant - minus of course getting to sleep in an upright position, but that's a tough one for most people. When getting on the plane there is always that walk through first class and you can't help but be a little bitter about it - you get to see how much leg room there is, those fancy seats, the gift bags everyone is digging through with goodies that are supposed to provide comfort for the trip. It's like christmas up there! For all I know they are given sleeping pills and a complimentary mini bottle of hard liquor for take off, but who's to say?

    Since I started working at the airport, getting past security and walking amongst thousands of travelers has lost some excitement, but we do get a celebrity here and there. Then there are the people that have just spent six months somewhere crazy. There was one guy that was returning home from being a ski guide in Antarctica (how crazy is that?). I don't know how he did it. My body can barely handle the lows in the Midwestern United States. But enough of all this. Here are some photos from the evening of take off.