Saul GoodVan: Our VW Westy Bus

There’s a lot to be said about superstitions - even if you find them to be silly, it’s hard to discount them. When it comes to names, we’ve found it pays to be a bit on the superstitious side. 

When we first picked up our 2003 VW Westfalia  van, I wanted to name it “Balaga.” 

Balaga is a small character in War and Peace that has a larger role in the musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812  - he’s a troike driver who drives his cart at “madman” speeds, knocking people over and going on great adventures. This seemed to be the ideal name for the van that would take us, and our two cats, across the country for an entire year.

We gave the name a go - but Balaga didn’t role of the tongue so well - plus, Balaga was a bit of a troublemaker!

Everything needs a name, so we settled Vincent VanGo - and after the van broke down 6 days into our ownership, I lovingly renamed Vincent to Vincent VanNoGo.

After Vincent broke down again, I worried we were tempting fate - perhaps with a name like NoGo, this van wasn’t going to go. (That’s the thing with superstitions!)

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Thurmond, West Virginia: Exploring a Ghost Town

In 1873 the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway mainline was completed – and Captain W.D. Thurmond acquired 73 acres on the north bank of the river along the railroad. During the early 1900s, Thurmond was the place to be. 

Thurmond was the heart of the New River Gorge, carrying shipments of coal from the surrounding coalfields. With the huge amounts of coal brought in from area mines, it had the largest revenue on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. 

Fifteen passenger trains a day came through town-its depot serving as many as 95,000 passengers a year. At it’s peak, Thurmond had two hotels, two banks, restaurants, clothing stores, a jewelry store, movie theatre, several dry-good stores, and many business offices – including a detective agency and a photographer. The town’s stores and saloons did a remarkable business, and its hotels and boarding houses were constantly overflowing 

With the onset of the Great Depression, several businesses closed, including the National Bank of Thurmond. The town’s economic vitality waned after two large fires wiped out several major businesses.

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Welcome to West Virginia

So, when your project name has the word “wander” in it, how do you organize your travels?

Great question, glad you asked! The simple answer is maps. (The more complicated answer is one we will spend the entire year answering.)

We like maps – we like maps so much that much of our wedding was map themed. We spend time searching for interesting destinations by exploring maps. (A year of travel isn’t actually that glamorous; a lot of research goes into each stop and trip.) 

This past week we planned a trip from Princeton, NJ back to Asheville, NC. 

One of our main goals for the drive was to wind our way through the Mountain State of West Virginia – and maps were once again our friend.

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Madison County Championship Rodeo

Welcome to a Tendency to Wander. Our posts promise to cover a variety of subjects – from the technical aspects of photography, to the stories of those we meet, to the motivations behind the photos. Our first post is one where we’ll focus more on the motivations, with a visit to a rodeo in Madison County, North Carolina. 

First, a bit of background: the Madison County Championship Rodeo takes place every other Saturday night during the summer months – with bull riding, barrel racing, and roping. 

We’ve been photographing rodeos for just over four years; it’s one of Jordyn’s favorite projects. 

While she grew up around horses, the rodeo is still a bit of a foreign place for Jordyn. 

Western riding, roping, and cowboy hats aren’t necessarily a familiar sight for her, but the bond between a rider and their horse is. Truthfully, it’s not just the action and the horses that appeal. 

Four years ago, Jordyn’s aunt Pam passed away. 

Pam, besides being a source of love and inspiration in her life, helped Jordyn’s love of horses grow. Pam and Jordyn’s mom grew up riding horses together, and it was something that they shared with Jordyn.

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