Fort Worth, TX: The vintage bus saga continues


By the time Mardi Gras ended, we were pretty much ready to move on from New Orleans. Besides, the vintage bus project needed some serious attention, since the California mechanic was NOT working out*. 

Luckily, some helpful folks on my "bus nut" forums stepped in and recommended George Fields, a fabricator and mechanic located outside of Fort Worth, TX. We drove from Louisiana to Texas and after meeting with him I knew he was the right guy for the job. The next step was getting the vintage bus shipped 1,300 miles to Fort Worth. (no biggie, right?)

I'm not going to go into detail here, because I posted the whole story, with lots of photos, on the Creative Cruiser website, which is dedicated completely to this project. Karen also made a video of the vintage bus' arrival in TX, which you can see HERE. So now, the two busses are spending a week together while we head to Florida for Photoshop World.

*"Not working out" would be putting it very nicely, as you'll read on the Creative Cruiser progress page.


Fat Tuesday… in New Orleans


It seems that Mardi Gras is one of those things that I've wanted to experience at SOME point, just for the experience, but never really made the push to be down there for all the craziness. This year, however, we were actually at the right place, at the right time and with the right friends!

We were parked in St. Augustine, Florida, which is actually the oldest city in the country, (Karen's blog post on that HERE) and were lucky to run into our friends and fellow full-timers Shonda and Michael. We stayed in the same RV park and explored the city together while we were there. It was then that we learned that they were headed to Mardi Gras after leaving Florida. We hadn't really thought about it, but after looking at the map and calendar, we figured it was a convenient time to do it, and heck, we'd be with friends! We were in!

Now I'm not really sure how to explain Mardi Gras, because it's one of those experiences where if you haven't seen it for yourself, words and photos might not do it justice. It's crazy wild. 


We arrived a few days before Fat Tuesday and set out for Bourbon Street one night, and at 8 pm it was already packed with people in costume, street musicians and women lifting their shirts for strings of beads tossed from streetside balconies. Karen and I had to hold on to each other's shirts just so we wouldn't lose each other, which could easily happen in a split second amongst those masses. 

What's interesting though, is that we ended up finding our happy place NOT on Bourbon Street, or in the French Quarter, or on the main parade route. Instead we hit up Frenchman Street and found it to be like a breath of fresh air in comparison. Now, mind you, it was still Mardi Gras and it was crowded. But it was crowded with locals and funky, more eclectic parades. We visited a few bars/restaurants there and they all had such a unique and local flavor, and it was all classic New Orleans, from the decor style, to the music, to the people. 


On Fat Tuesday, we ventured out really early. And of course, at 8:00 am, there were bars open, with customers drinking outside. We had tickets for a venue called the Eiffel Society, which had a private building with restrooms, a bar, food, etc. It also had a private grandstand so we were able to watch the parades without having out toes stepped on. All in all, the right choice for watching the mahem!


In the end, we were really glad that we went, and now that we know the SERIOUS craziness can be avoided and traded in for a more local and interesting experience, we'd probably do it again!

Next stop: Texas (and Vintage Bus updates)! 

Florida & Friends with some Disney special sauce mixed in

That's me and our friend Steve from Las Vegas who was out in FL while we were passing by.

While it would have been nice to stay in the Florida Keys longer, we had more places to see and friends to meet. First stop while back on the "mainland" was Biscayne Bay. My Las Vegas friend, Steve, and his family were vacationing in Florida.They rented a catamaran for the day and invited us to go sailing with them. Score! (We love being on the water, and would one day like to live on a boat.)  It was great to catch up with Steve and Beverly (they are two of the nicest, most fun people we know!), and get a nice view of Miami from the water. 

And speaking of boats, we happened to be parked in Fort Lauderdale right in time for Trawler Fest, a big old boat show featuring the kind of boats/yachts that are not only livable, but some of them are so sea-worthy they can cross the Atlantic. Since I'd like to live on a boat one day, I wanted Karen to see the boats, to see what she thought of the whole thing. Might have been a mistake though…. After five minutes of touring some yachts, she was ready to move in and "set sail"! 

One of Karen's favorite trawlers at the yacht show.

After leaving Fort Lauderdale, we headed to Orlando… and to Disney World. Karen hadn't been there in ages and I dont even remember the last time I was there, so for Christmas, Karen's parents got us passes. We stayed in Disney's Fort Wilderness, which is convenient to all the theme parks. In one day we did both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The next day we went to Disney's Hollywood Studios, which pleasantly surprised me. The whole park is designed in an art deco, Hollywood heydey style that was done really nicely. As far as the rides go, our favorites were the Rockin' Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror (Karen thought it was pretty cute to NOT tell me what the Tower of Terror actually did, prior to going on). 


Yup, he hung out with Disney characters all day and even had a beer with Mickey.


Karen gives a more detailed post of our Disney adventure on her blog RIGHT HERE

More on Florida to come…

Florida + January = Good Combo

Bus Stuff


After traveling to Colorado and then New Jersey for the holidays, we brought in the new year in Florida… Arcadia, Florida. If you haven't heard of Arcadia, don't worry. Neither had I, up until the point when the Bussin' rally was scheduled to be held there. And that's how we brought in our 2011 – at a bus rally.

Bussin' is an event for folks who have done their own conversions or are planning to. (By conversion, I mean taking a bus and converting it into a condo on wheels.) The rally was great, for several reasons. For one, it was nice to make new contacts, and friends, in the bus world. There aren't a whole lot of bus bus people out there, so it's nice to have an event that brings many of them together to talk shop, share stories and learn from each other's experiences. It was also a great place to catch up with friends. Our friends and fellow nomads Sean and Louise attended the event in their Neoplan bus, and we were thrilled to be able to spend more time with them. In fact we brought in the new year with them in their portable hot tub! It was also great to meet up with other Flxible bus owners to get ideas for my own bus project. (Details on my project HERE)


 Above is an amazingly restored Flxible bus that's owned by our friend Dave.

Photography Stuff

The Annual FotoFusion event was held again in West Palm Beach, so that was the next destination for us. I taught three classes there, and got to catch up with a lot of other instructors and friends I haven't seen in a while. That's one of the great things about events like that – they bring together friends you make from all over the country and saturate them in one little town.

It was also a happy coincidence that my friend and photographer, Greg Gorman, had a gallery opening in Fort Lauderdale, right as we were passing through!  Greg is a phenomenal photographer, and has shot all the big names in Hollywood. If you've never seen his work, you've got to check it out HERE

That's me and Greg at his opening.

As far south as we could go

After Fort Lauderdale, travels continued south. That was the goal… spend the coldest part of the winter (well for most of the country) in the most southern area we could get to. That being the Keys. A few months ago we were up in Maine, near the start of good old Route 1 and finally, we made it to the end, in Key West. 

The first stop on the way down was Key Largo, which is known for its underwater park and amazing scuba opportunities. We didn't don the wet suits though. Instead, we did a glass-bottom boat tour that gets you underwater views of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef. (we also found a glass-bottom BAR in Key Largo. Go figure!) 

That's me in the lower-right. All photos were taken by Karen.

We stayed parked in Sugarloaf Key to have access to the lower Keys and got to explore Key West and Bahia Honda State Park, which is just north of Big Pine Key. The state park probably had some of the nicest beaches in the continental U.S. And Key West… well, what can you say? There's nothing not to like! For more on our stay in the Keys, check out Karen's post HERE

We met up with some friends and fellow bus owners from Texas at Capt. Tony's. 



Africa: The journey of a lifetime


Hi everyone! I want to share an incredible opportunity with you all. Actually, I would say it's the photographic adventure of a lifetime. In Oct./Nov. 2011, I'll be taking a group of lucky photographers and/or adventurers out into wild Africa for a multi-destination trip focused on photography and exploration. 

Here's the deal: We all fly into Johannesburg and spend the following 10 days exploring Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Botswana. We will have a skilled guide, Dana Allen, to lead us on our journey, while I serve as photography and Photoshop expert, to make sure you get the photos of a lifetime. 

Here's some of the things that make this trip so unique: We're catering to photographers. Whether you're a pro or a beginner, you're going to get the most out of this experience. While travelling between destinations in Africa, we'll have two planes – one for us, and one for our gear. That's right. You're allowed up to 90 lbs. of gear EACH. While we're out exploring, we'll travel in open Land Rovers, and each person will have their own row, ensuring a clear view in all directions. 

The time of year was also carefully planned out, as it's the beginning of the summer season in Africa and the camps were chosen for the both the scenic views and the unique animal behavior in the regions where we'll be travelling.  

So if you've ever drooled over those amazing photographs of African sunsets, elephants at their water holes, and wild cats on the prowl, here's your chance. Join me on a journey you'll never forget. 

For more details and sign-up info, click HERE


Amazing Book About Our 2010 Adventures

MobileMe Gallery - Ben-Karen-20103
Karen surprised me with a 140+ page hardcover book for Christmas that covers our 2010 adventures living on the bus together. You can browse the whole book here. Just keep in mind that it's designed to be browsed as two-page spreads in a printed book. 

If you'd like your own full-color printed copy of the book, you can order it here. We make zero profit on the book so that we can keep the price somewhat reasonable. 

Happy Holidays!

We're spending the holidays with Karen's parents in Southern New Jersey… we head back to the bus on the 27th.

December Travel: Friends, Photography & Photoshop


So if you made the assumption that the above photo was not taken in Florida, you would be correct. This would be Colorado, and no I didn't drive the bus there. There were definitely planes involved in this trip! 

Our first stop in CO was Boulder. I used to live in the nearby mountains and had many friends in the area to visit. We stayed with Jay Nelson and Lesa Snider, spending an awesome couple of days together catching up and touring the town (Karen had never been to CO before.) We arrived mid-December so everything was decorated for the holidays. 


After Boulder, we spent two days in Denver, where I was giving my Photoshop CS5 for Photographers Seminar.


Had a great turnout at my seminar in Denver, shown above.


Went shooting at Garden of the Gods with George Lepp.


Karen took the above photo in Victor, CO, which she appropriately titles "Where is Ben?" 


Good times in smaller latitudes

So I left off at South of the Border, one oddball stop on our way to Florida. Since we abandoned the Blue Ridge Parkway plan, we had to choose some new and interesting places to stop on the way south. Those turned out to be the two classic southern towns of Charleston and Savannah.


Charleston was surprisingly charming. Lots of old buildings, lots of color and lots of character. We could have easily stayed there for several more days, shooting and soaking everything in. Savannah was just as classic, but more of the touristy scene. We didn't have a lot of time there (bus was due in for service soon in FL) but we did hit River Street and the main market area. It's definitely on the list to hit up again, when we can stay longer. (And yes, while we were there, we watched "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.")

Finally, on Nov. 14th, we hit Florida, Jacksonville to be exact, where we stayed for four days at a Prevost shop (Prevost: brand the bus is) and got some small repairs done. We then moved closer to Orlando, and parked at Millennium, another company that converts busses. Here we got to tour their factory and see a lot of busses both in the works and complete. 


When we reached Orlando, we realized that we were in the same city as our friends and fellow nomads, Sean Welsh and Louise Hornor, who live and travel together in their awesome "double-decker" Odyssey. After we cleared it with Millennium, Sean and Louise came and parked with us for several days. (This, again, is another example of the great friends you meet with this lifestyle. We had met up with Sean and Louise once before, but it was spending this time together where we truly became great friends.) 

We shared some awesome dinners that week, as well as a rather unconventional Thanksgiving. See, we spent the holiday in a coffee shop called the Drunken Monkey, which was hosting a special Thanksgiving dinner, and even served up Tofurkey for Karen, who's a vegetarian. Sean and Louise also set up their hot tub (yes, they have an actual hot tub in their bus), which made for some fun and relaxing Florida nights. We even met up with Sean and Louise in Lakeland, FL on our route to Tampa, to spend yet another fun night/afternoon at a shop where their Odyssey was being repaired. (see this whole bus theme going on in Florida?) 

Finally, we reached the Tampa area. Clearwater, actually. And where did we park? You guessed it. Another bus shop. (The bus didn't need a lot more work, but the parking was convenient) Note: By this point, Karen, who knew nothing about busses a year ago, could pick out a bus brand at a glance, understand the workings of the batteries, alternator, etc. and even differentiate between RV toilets. She's come to enjoy falling asleep to the sound of giant idling engines. Most women would have hit the ground running by Jacksonville, but oddly, and thankfully, she likes it :-) 

From Tampa, travels led us, by plane, to Colorado, and then New Jersey, but we'll save those stops for another post. More to follow!

Southbound (and catching up!)

Yes, it's been a while since I've last posted. There have been lots of events, shooting and visiting with friends that have made the past few weeks both busy and amazingly enjoyable! But the blog has been neglected, so I hope to catch up a little bit here. 

I'm going to do this in two separate posts, since we've covered a lot of ground in the past month or so.

The last posting was in Acadia National Park, which was just beautiful… a photographer's dream, especially during that time of year. So what happened after Acadia? Well, Autumn was in full swing and we knew the temperatures would be dropping so the main goal was to head south and escape the cold. After Acadia, we made a stop in Catskill, NY to continue shooting the fall color on our way south. There are loads of great shooting opportunities in that area, especially if you're up for some mountain driving. We also met up with our friend and photographer Dan Burkholder


Our timing, once again, was perfect, because our plans took us right through New York the same week as PhotoPlus. We attended the Expo, which was a smorgasbord of new gear, software demos and photographic talent. One of the coolest things we saw was the debut of Bert Monroy's "Times Square," a photo-realistic painting measuring 5' x 25' and featuring so many friends and colleagues in the photo/Photoshop world. If you look closely, you can even see the bus driving down the street into Times Square! The event was also great because so many friends were all converging in the same place at the same time and it was nice to catch up with a lot of folks we might only see while passing through in the bus. 


After New York we spent a few days with Karen's family in south Jersey and then stopped in Washington DC, where we spent our time with Peter Krogh, author of The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, and an all-around great guy. We actually parked the bus in his driveway so I guess you could say we were neighbors for a few days!  That's one of the great things about the mobile lifestyle – the friends you make. We had crossed paths with Peter at trade shows and such, but it wasn't until we passed through town and spent several days just "hanging out" together, that we really became good friends. We also enjoyed visiting the nation's capitol, getting a taste of FotoWeek DC, and visiting the National Gallery of Art. But I've gotta say, one of the most fun nights in DC was going out with Peter and his awesome wife, Alyson, to a funky little joint called the Quarry House, which we would have NEVER found on our own. The atmosphere was great, and the band that was playing had so much character and fun stuff going on. In fact, they were SO great, that the evening ended with an impromptu, late-night light-painting session!


So the PLAN for after Washington DC was to slowly follow the Blue Ridge Parkway south. HOWEVER, there were a few nights in DC that dipped into the low 30's, and since we're not big fans of the cold, that plan got thrown out the window and we hitched up, bound right for Florida… with a few interesting stops on the way.

The first of those interesting stops was South of the Border, "America's favorite Highway Oasis," in other words, a glorified rest stop. I know it's cheesy, but we can't possibly pass up anything this goofy. Karen did a whole blog post on this crazy place and you can find it right HERE

So there's more to catch up on, but that will come in the next post. Stay tuned! 🙂