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Andy's Trip Part 1 -- Long, Little LBC Content

Subject: Andy's Trip Part 1 -- Long, Little LBC Content
From: "Ramm, Andy" <>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 1995 8:59:54 -0600
Well, you asked for it, so here goes!

Part 1

Some things you just kinda do backwards.  Ordinarily, if one were foolish 
enough to drive a 
25-year old British sports car across four states and 2,000 miles of 
hills, plains, and desert in a period of three days, you might assume the 
driver is at least somewhat familiar with the mechanical condition and 
capabilities of the car.  The same might be said if the trip was also 
supposed to include capturing a photo essay of the Southwestern landscape 
_ using a 25-year old camera.

But the being is in the doing, so I flew to Houston to take possession of 
a 1969 MGB and drive home to Northern California.  I was already in 
possession of a Canon F-1 of similar vintage.  One car, one camera, and 
one certifiably insane human.

British cars _ and cars in general _ weren't new to me as a genre.  From 
the time I blew up my 1976 Mazda RX-4 at age 17, few weeks have gone by 
that have not involved my fettling something under the hood of a car _ 
that is when I wasn't building motorcycle engines and blowing them up 
too.  My most recent project was a '67 MG Midget.  The Smidgin and I went 
through a lot together to turn it into a reliable daily driver and the 
world's greatest go-and-get-bagels-on-Sunday scoot.  Jenifer and I had 
our first date in the Smidgin, one of many reasons MGs are special to me.

But I wanted a B.  I wanted to go faster, carry more stuff, drive longer 
distances.  I nearly bought a '64 B from a woman in Southern California.  
She got sentimental and decided not to sell the car, though I could 
hardly blame her.  It was then I had my next really bad idea.

I received e-mail that a car was available in Texas.  Mechanically sound, 
a good runner.  Ugly and in need of restoration, this car was being sold 
at a very reasonable price.  I would buy the car in Texas and drive it 
home.  Nah, nobody's that stupid.  After all, it's an MG.  I'd have to 
carry half the car's weight in spare parts just to make the journey, and 
even still, the odds weren't very good.

I tried like hell for days to talk myself out of it.  Even the seller had 
some doubts about my intentions.  I also discovered, that I can sometimes 
be a stupid, pigheaded, ass.  I HAD to have the car.  Then things got 
really weird.  If I was going to drive across the desert Southwest, I HAD 
to have a good camera too.  And if I HAD to have a good camera, I HAD to 
be a good photographer to use it.  Doing things backwards was becoming a 
way of life.

So while I waited for my scheduled time off from work, I read books with 
titles like Modern SLR Photography, The Art of Photography, Travel 
Photography, and The Photographer's Handbook.  Until then, I didn't know 
an f-stop from a TTL.  But I was determined to get some great shots, 
maybe have a few enlarged to hang on the wall.  Yeah, that'd be kinda 
neat.  And maybe I'll fly to Houston and drive home in a '69 MGB I know 
next to nothing about.  Yeah, that'd be kinda stupid.

 I began shopping for a camera.  Jenifer _ who I love more than anything 
_ offered to lend me her camera, a Minolta X700.  My dad _ who I also 
love _ offered to lend me his Canon AE-1 Program, complete with an array 
of lenses, doublers and other paraphernalia.  I politely refused both, 
insisting I needed to find my own perfect tool for this job.  That was 
the pigheaded thing again.

If you're in the market for used equipment, avoid San Jose Camera at all 
costs.  The guy who runs the used department is a rude, obnoxious and 
sleazy individual.  My experience there was so bad, in fact, that I 
nearly gave in and asked to borrow my dad's gear.  After all, if I ruin 
my dad's gear while traveling, he's still obliged to be my dad.  
Conversely, taking Jenifer's camera was clearly out of the question.

In the meantime, Jenifer _ who is also infinitely wiser than I _ pleaded 
with me to simply take her camera out and go shoot some damn pictures.  
Get a feel for it.  Never mind the results.  It's the only way you can 

"No," said the pigheaded ass.

Keeble and Schuchat is what I'd call an enthusiast's and professional's 
store located less than a mile from my house in Palo Alto.  What Keeble 
and Schuchat has is the most intimidating array of photographic equipment 
I've ever seen.  What they don't have are reasonable store hours for 
shopping after work.  I finally made it in one Saturday and assaulted 
Paul who runs the used department.  After looking at seemingly dozens of 
used mounts, asking dozens of dumb questions, and making Paul's life as 
difficult as possible, he pulled down a well-worn Canon F-1.

"That's a real photographer's camera," Paul explained.  He didn't have to 
say another word.  The mount felt heavy, well, not really heavy, but 
substantial in my hands.  The solid metal black case had worn edges where 
the brass casting showed through.  The metering system was so simple that 
even a pigheaded ass like myself could grasp its functions.  It was old 
and it was cooler than any other device of its kind I had ever seen.  I 
had to have it.  After all, it was consistent with the motif of the old 
sports car.

Paul was nice enough to include a strap, a skylight filter and a free 
roll of film _ a whopping 10 exposures of Agfa 100 ASA color print film.  
Between the camera, a 50 mm Canon lens, case and all the accessories to 
get started, my cost was still under $250.  Try doing that with a new SLR 
of even half the F-1's caliber!  I shot my first roll.  I used all the 
good technique I learned about in the books.  I set depth of field.  I 
framed my shots.  I sought rhythm, balance, texture, meaning, contrast, 
juxtaposition, counterpoint.  I even focused the lens once or twice.

Jenifer, more enthusiastic than I,  took the roll to be developed the 
same day.  Apparently, the guy at Fox Photo, located inside the 
illustrious Menlo Park Safeway, was awestruck by the quality of the 
pictures.  Not that the Fox Photo guy qualifies as an expert, but I 
wasn't too disappointed either.  In fact, a few of 'em came out kinda 
good.  Maybe, just maybe, I could pull the photography thing off.  Now if 
I could make a totally unfamiliar, 25-year old MG last for 2,000 miles, I 
was set.

So what exactly do you bring on a trip across the desert in an MG?  I 
brought points, condenser, plugs, belts, hoses, wires, cap, rotor, 
thermostat, insta-gasket, fuses, electrical wire, bullet connectors, all 
the tools I could stuff into my old metal Craftsman box, and a Lucas fuel 
pump that looks as near to a pipe bomb as any car part in existence.  I'd 
be lucky just to get on the plane.  I also brought a Walkman and a 
handheld CB radio.  Clothes, maps, money.... and the 

To Be continued.....

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