Road trip with Brenda (The Abandoned America Tour) First Installment

Abandoned America Road Trip August 2018


Top Ten things to think about before your road trip –

  1. Who you travel with is one of the most important components of your trip. I believe you have to have similar goals to have a cohesive trip. I’m taking a road trip in a few weeks that will be completely different in ALL aspects. I look forward to comparing the trips.

  2. Figure out how you’re going to split costs, type of lodging, food, driving, etc. so that it’s a fair distribution. I drove my car, we split gas expenses, but Brenda spent a huge amount of time researching places to go, places to stay, etc. for the trip. Our next trip together, we will probably fly to a destination and get a rental car, so we’ll share more of the driving, and we'll need to share more of the preliminary work.

  3. Plan and book where you’re going to stay and how far you’re going to drive each day. (Per #5 - smaller roads = longer trip)

  4. When searching online for places to visit, check to make sure websites are current. Call places to check on photographer tours because they are not always offered. We had to plan our trip around specific places we wanted to photograph that were only open to photographers one day a month and we had to pay upfront for a lot of that.

  5. Smaller roads have more cool stuff to photograph, but they are also more likely to not have cell service – therefore no car GPS. * Take a road map. Also, not likely to have lots of gas stations or restrooms and takes a lot longer to get from one place to another. We learned that in West Virginia, where we took a smaller highway and literally had no cell service for hours and there was almost no retail on the road. We had a big Rand McNally US mapbook, but having each state fold out map is the best.

  6. Plan for various weather conditions when packing clothes, camera gear, and plans for photography. We researched indoor and outdoor activities in each area. We always planned for more than we could possibly do and then were flexible with weather and time and interests.

  7. Take business cards to exchange with people you meet. We met interesting people every day. One couple took selfies with everyone they met.

  8. When photographing abandoned places, we didn’t trespass on private land. We always went and introduced ourselves if we wanted to photograph old cars in a business parking lot, etc. If we were standing on a sidewalk shooting an old building, SOMEONE always came out to see what we were doing. We learned a lot of local history – and only had one man yell at us. In other words, we kept an eye on our surroundings and didn't go past No Trespassing signs to get a shot, head into buildings way off the road where we'd be vulnerable.

  9. A road trip is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. We needed time each evening to just relax. Most days we ate free breakfast at the hotel, loaded up the cooler with drinks and snacks, and headed to our main shoot of the day. We tried to stay in each hotel more than one night. It was easier to go out and do day shoots and come back to the same room for 2-3 nights than to always check out in the morning and still have to drive and get to an early shoot. Most photography shoots were 4 hours + the drive, so we’d go eat a good lunch afterwards. Maybe we’d find some other photography activity, or we’d need to drive to our next hotel, but we tried to be at our hotel at a decent time in case we’d need to eat dinner out. Small towns closed down after 9:00 pm.  I downloaded my photos every night, showered, charged all my gear, laid out everything for the next day and relaxed.

  10. Have FUN. Not every image will be worthy of keeping. Some events we did, I may have taken 200 images and kept 4. The experience was worth it.


I’m going to break the blog down over a few weeks, and cover some of the actual stuff we did with details and images, as well as things we learned. Hope you enjoy!


Day One

We left Frederick with plans and the thought that our road trip for the day would be about six hours of driving plus stops. We were half right!


We had very little planned until we got to Ohio, so we kept our eyes pealed for interesting sites. We did see the cute Cumberland Motel sign in MD and pulled off to photograph that AND take a quick pit stop. It was easy driving until well into West Virginia, when we took a smaller highway to cross the state into Ohio. That’s when we had no cell service, no restrooms, no gas stations, etc. for many hours. (see #5 above). We did find some really interesting places to photograph along the way…


WVA little white church – parked in their lot and walked around the building. I got great texture shots as well as beautiful long distance mountain ridge shots. (Spray for bugs) Higher grass and weeds are usually near abandoned sites – or wear long pants and boots.



Also in WVA, we saw this abandoned retail establishment. We parked in the parking lot and photographed the front and inside (from outside the building). If it didn’t look so unstable, I know we could have really had a great time photographing inside.




Brenda had found a site during her searches that talked about “semi ghost towns in WVA and Ohio.” The first one we went to in WVA, we parked on the street and walked close to the street by some of the buildings. We had been photographing about five minutes when an angry man from down the street began yelling at us. Even though there were no “NO Trespassing” signs and we weren’t approaching the properties, we decided it wasn’t worth getting hurt over images. We left and continued the journey, sad that we couldn’t explain what we were photographing and why…. (loved the clouds reflecting on the broken glass)




Brenda had found a semi-ghost town online in Shawnee Ohio, so that was our last planned shoot of the day (less than an hour from our hotel for the night). We parked on the street and were surprised by how many homes and businesses were active alongside this street of abandoned buildings. While wandering down the street taking photos of windows, textures, buildings, store fronts, neon signs, a man walked out and asked if we’d like to photograph the inside of the Tecumseh Commons theatre. Of course we would…. And Rob told us all about the restoration work going on in the theatre while we photographed it…. tecumsehtheater.org




It was truly a very long first day, since we still needed to drive to Columbus, eat supper, check into the hotel, unload and get ready for day 2.


Next installment – Photographing more of Ohio and Pennsylvania and what we learned about paranormal photography!

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