No Particular Place to Go: A Saturday Morning Backroads Adventure

Photos © Paul Cotter Photography

In 1964, Chuck Berry recorded a rock 'n' roll classic about driving along in his automobile with no particular place to go. That's the free-wheeling situation I found myself in on a recent Saturday morning.

On this particular Saturday, I had a choice to make. I could stay home in my PJs, sorting and editing a large collection of photos I've been shooting for a long-term project. Or I could head out on an adventure, going someplace new, feeling the liberating joy (and uncertainty) of not knowing what's ahead.

I chose the unplanned adventure.

Before sunrise, I grabbed my camera bag and set out to cruise the rural backroads about an hour outside of Charlotte, NC.  I had a general direction in mind. But mostly, I was setting out in the true Chuck Berry spirit -- no particular place to go.

Leaving the highways and turning onto the backroads, I came to a long stretch of rural road that led me to an old abandoned farmhouse that looked like it was being swallowed by trees. I pulled over and walked around. This lonely ghost of a homestead was the kind of gem I was hoping to find.

What is it that's so intriguing about old abandoned structures? Maybe it's the echoes of the past that linger in the air. Seeing the rusted metal and decomposing wood, we can hear faint traces of a banging hammer, a child's laughter, a dog barking in the yard -- all the sounds that once filled the place with life.    

When I left the abandoned farmhouse, I kept driving. I had no clue where I was going or where I'd end up. Whenever I came to a fork in the road, I chose the road that looked the least developed. And I kept going.

Of course, some would advise that there are much more methodical ways of going about a photographic road trip like this. And it's true. These days, we have all kinds of technologies available -- tools that can pinpoint the precise locations of nearby abandoned farmhouses, and even show us photos that were posted by other photographers.  

I know, I know.

But I didn't want to recreate photos that have already been taken by others. I wanted to find my own serendipitous discoveries.

Sometimes, as Chuck Berry might say, life's best adventures happen when we have no real destination in mind. That's what this Saturday morning was all about.

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~ Paul