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Hey folks,

Spring is truly here and it. is. beautiful. The citizens of Tahoe are a captive audience to the annual unveiling of my shockingly pale legs. A rosy tint graces my cheekbones every time I’m outside more than 30 minutes. The sun is warm the air is cool and I’m Alex and this is Rambler.

Just a couple of baubles

I intentionally try not to be a tourist when I travel, or at least less touristy than your typical dad-with-itinerary-folder. Melding into a place offers the opportunity to see how different locales operate and overall, at least here in the states, I think I’ve done a decent job.

But when traveling to a foreign country alone and visiting places for the first time there’s just not much you can do. Add in my penchant for bringing at least three cameras with me most places and… well lets just say thank god I don’t shoot Nikon.

Early one morning in Ireland last month I set off to drive the Ring of Kerry, a spectacular drive starting in Killarney and circling a portion of the southwestern coast. One of my first stops was Cahergall Stone Fort. Cahergall is estimated to have been built around 600 A.D. and remains in spectacular shape thanks to reconstruction efforts.

I had the whole place to myself on a warm spring morning. Thin staircases built into the outer wall provide access to the outer ring which you can walk all the way around for 360 views of the surrounding pasture and Atlantic to the west.

Feeling satisfied I headed back to the parking lot. There was another white van idling next to my car, blaring morning news radio with the door open. As I approached a man got out of the van. I was wary. Did I park incorrectly? Was I not supposed to be here?

He was weathered in the way that confounds. Was he a worn 65 years old or a spritely 80? One shoulder fell slightly forward and lower than the other as he walked, as if he was ready to tackle me at a moments notice. Squinting in the morning light he asked me, in a thick country Irish accent, how I liked the fort and where I was from. He reminded me of the men I'd see hanging out at gas stations driving through small in-between towns in Alabama. The southern flourish was complete with pronounced pops to his p’s and b’s, the rest of his words swirling together like honey was stuck in his cheeks.

Rushing past my answers he asked if I wanted to see something, and I tensed as he threw open the back door of his van to reveal… a tiny lamb in a cage. As soon as I saw the lamb I knew what was happening. He asked if I wanted to pet him, to get a photo. A crossroads. I was on my heels, ill-prepared to disappoint the man and say no. Plus, I didn’t think I’d held a lamb before.

He pushed the lamb into my arms, scolding me when I held it like I would a puppy, cradling its back legs together while my other hand supported its chest. The poor thing squirmed for freedom as my captor repositioned my hands into a basket. A truly awkward sight. Then, even more terrifying, I handed him my Sony camera to take a photo. Flashes of him dropping the camera and its shattered corpse lying on the pavement filled my mind. But I smiled and he clicked away rapidly, shifting me around to get the best background.

He completed the sale by describing how he’s been coming out here every day for years and asked me to spare a couple of baubles for his trouble. I complied and gave him some change, er, baubles.

Back in my car I sat laughing at the photos. Not well composed, the poor lamb looking shell shocked, me looking… like a goddamn tourist.

I regret not getting his name, asking more questions, asking for his portrait. The photographer and traveler sides of me mourn a missed opportunity. But I was off-kilter, mistrusting, and was gauging the situation instead of engaging.

Unfortunate. But hey, look at that photo I got with the lamb. One for the scrapbook.

It was a morning of humbling experiences. I started the day with an extremely patient teenager who was manning the petrol station. He explained to me three times that I had to pay him at the stall, and no, to fill up the car before I paid him. There are few things that’ll make you feel more idiotic than not being able to figure out how to pump gas.

We’re all just tourists

When I picture a “well traveled” version of myself I picture someone confidently floating through the world. A man engaging with locals like Anthony Bourdain, shooting photos like Robert Frank, and climbing mountains like Jimmy Chin. That man is not me. I think we all grasp at archetypes that represent what we value.

More often we become the one lost on the streets in a random city, weighed down by awkward luggage, trying to find our way. We depend on the kindness of strangers, patience with ourselves, and a heaping dose of humility.

Sometimes we come away with a completely new perspective. Changed.

Other times we have a crappy photo of us with a lamb.

Both seem worthwhile to me.


Let’s do some housekeeping since it’s been a while. I’ve just extended my stay in Lake Tahoe through the end of June. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get up into the higher mountains snow permitting. Next weekend I’m spending a long weekend in Yosemite which should hopefully produce some great photos and inspiration.

A few more updates:

  • SEO running post — The guide to trail runs in Boulder I wrote is starting to breach the first page on Google and get some clicks. It’s actually working! My next experiment will be to rank first for my name in Google, which will require me to re-do my site homepage.
  • Input — I’m currently working through Road to Seeing by Dan Winters. It’s essentially a career retrospective and seeing the nitty gritty of artists approach is always helpful. I finished Alec Soth’s Magnum Course and wow wow wow it is worth its weight in gold. I also bought his book I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating which I’m excited to spend more time with. My bedside read right now is My First Summer in the Sierra. I figured it was the right time to spend a few hours with Muir.
  • Output — I’ve got two pitches accepted on websites outside my own that I’m working on. This is about following through on my goals of getting published this year and it’s a good start. I’ll share more from these when they’re live. I’ve also been working through my photo backlog which has been helpful to both finish images and start to think bigger about my work from the past year. Something bigger is in here somewhere and I just need to spend the time required to find it. 
Tahoe presents a slower pace that I’m really enjoying at the moment. More writing and photos to come, thanks for reading.

This is Rambler, a bi-weekly postcard from the road. Share with your friends via this link.

Copyright © 2022 Alex Eaton, All rights reserved.

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