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  • Michael Phillips

The Loneliest Road

The Loneliest Road

We were hiking up a heavily trafficked trail to Delicate Arch at Arches National Park. Young Eli, all of 12 years old asked me, “Do you even own a camera?” A hilarious if not fair question. Eli is getting Bar Mitzvah’d next month. Along with the event planner, my friend Annie O, and Eli’s parents we spent some time in a ranch outside of Moab, Utah. Annie O and Eli’s mom went about the actual work of planning this event while the boys wasted time gabbing. We awoke the following day, me with a slight wine hangover, and made the journey to Arches only to be hit by the line of cars, the throngs of tourists descending upon this magical place.

No one could understand why I didn’t have my camera with me. It’s Delicate Arch!! Truth be told all my gear is in my car. I could shoot a big event or even a corporate head shot with all that I have packed up and take with me everywhere as I travel somewhat aimlessly. What inspires me to break out all this gear that weighs me down won’t be found at this particular time and place.

I think what what most people that never really considered photography don’t understand is that the light comes first. On a harshly bright desert day at 9:30am, rocks sun-bleached, harsh shadows digging into every corner, I usually don’t see a picture. Even worse, the dozens of people all descending upon the same subject, couples and families and Instagrammers huddling below the arch making their best cheese smile for their iPhones. Competing for photos was something I never took joy in and I don’t display those images for anyone else to see.

I never did break out my camera that weekend in Moab. And after saying goodbye to my new friends I began the new journey taking the back roads to California, most of which involves passing through all of Nevada. I’ve decided to really rake this trip slow. With nothing but time on my hands I have time to focus on every day. Meditation at least once day, writing in my new gratitude diary, eating more consciously, and photographing the desolation of what is called “The Loneliest Road in America,” Route 50. In the course of a day I may cross paths with one person if any at all. Few cars do pass me, as they all do as I am incredibly slow, my Jeep barely able to pull my house on wheels behind me.


I don’t know if I call this time lonely. I have brought my meditation into the waking life as well. It's a lot of silence that I’ve grown comfortable in. Sure I still listen to music and podcasts about Bitcoin (my new and all consuming topic of interest) and practice (badly) the ukulele. But it’s the quiet moments that have startled me as I find a peace in the moments that were always there, had I just taken the time to notice them. The quiet lapping of water on the shore of some remote reservoir. The wind, rattling the trailer. A lone bird surfing on unseen waves in the sky. This is maybe the most time I’ve ever spent alone, and my mind has never been quieter.

To answer Eli’s question, yes, I own a camera. And thank you for pointing it out. I can easily put the camera down for days, weeks at a time. But when I’m inspired it doesn’t leave my side. I stop early and often, slow my roll and try to take in the beautiful desolation of the state that’s been my home for 20 years that I’m really now just noticing for the first time.


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