About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Living on the RV Road

Living in an RV, as we do for several months a year, draws focus on the customer service world of RV manufacturers, dealers and the various repair shops associated with trucks and trailers.

I will come back to the beginning of our experiences but let me begin in the middle, or thereabouts. Then again, as I have been driving an RV for most of my adult life maybe I am beginning closer to the end.

Last winter I had our trailer, a 22-foot Creekside by Outdoor RV, in tow behind my Dodge Ram, 2008, 1-ton, with duallys. I live in northern BC when I am not on the road so I was driving down to Vancouver to pick up my partner Amy who for some reason prefers rain to snow. Go figure.
As I started up a particular hard climb out of Ashcroft I felt a distinct lack of power. I quickly figured my turbo booster was acting up, again, but I kept the pedal to the metal and topped the 5-mile hill at a whopping 20 kph.
A few miles later I stopped to check things out and found that my trailer lights were not working – except with the emergency flashers on, and now it was dark. I kept going with the flashers on and cruised into Vancouver four hours later.
Our normal Vancouver Dodge dealer, Carter, did not have time to look at it for days but agreed to a quick check of the error codes. Sure enough it was a booster issue, but it was working now and the codes were cleared.

Now the trailer lights. I headed Cap-it for an accessory shop I often use but noticed Meridian RV in Coquitlam on the way so wheeled in.
“Could you check my trailer wiring?”  Reluctantly a fellow came out with a tester and found two error codes.
“Can you fix it?”
 I am thinking a fuse or loose wire. Check with the service manager. Nope.
“That is all run by the computer in Dodges and we can’t work on it.”
Really?
But there is a Dodge dealer nearby, Coquitlam Chrysler, and they agree to look at it that afternoon!
Two hours later it’s done: a fuse and a broken wire. Thanks Coquitlam Chrysler
No thanks to Meridian. I will be sure to avoid them for a new RV or repair.

A month or so later we were cruising through Arizona, just east of Yuma and stopped for fuel and a burrito, enough to get us to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. As I left the pumps Amy noticed a smell and “something hanging down” near the trailer wheels. It was a broken leaf spring and and the axle had shifted so two tires were touching.
I called AAA. What a disaster that was. I cannot possibly go into all the conversation but they could not get it clear that it was a trailer, that I had RV coverage and that I wanted to get to Yuma tonight, ready for a repair in the morning. They might not cover it, I was told, as coverage differed from BC to Arizona so they would have to get permission from BCAA to make the tow.(The next week we signed up for Good Sam's RV service.)

The tow truck arrived but found the trailer was too long at 22 feet for his flat deck and he did not recommend chaining the rear axle in place and towing it. “I was told it was shorter, “ he said.
So put it on backwards and let the tongue hang off the back.
“Can’t do that – it won’t work.”
He called another truck that could haul 40-foot rigs, but he could not come until morning. We slept in the Chevron yard.

Morning: the tow rig arrives at 10 a.m.
“Why didn’t Scott just put it on backwards or chain the axle back?”
Beats me.
As we unloaded in Yuma the manager of CJ’s RV repairs asked, “why didn’t the first guy just load it on backwards – they do that all the time – or chain the axle in place?”
Beats me.

But CJs were fast and had us on the road for $400 in a couple of hours. Great guys.

Then a few days later south of Tucson Amy noticed a list to one side - another broken spring. She got on the cell phone and called RV campgrounds who recommended a repair place in Tucson. A friend pulled the rear axle back with his pickup, I chained it in place and we limped into Professional Trailer Repair in Tucson at 8 a.m.
“No problem,” the tattooed bikers said, “grab some breakfast around the corner and then check back.”
A great Mexican breakfast and before ten we were on the road, at half the cost of the first repair.

In Durango Colorado I heard a horrible noise as we made a hard turn to catch up to the steam train we were filming for the Bonepicker project (see Bonepicker.ca). "Better get that checked," I said.
Dodge could not look at it for several days but 4 States TNS did repairs and said they would be at it in an hour.
Two hours later we had a clean bill of health. Just a stiff 4-wheel joint. Cost? $32.00! “Just say good things about us and come back.”
They could have repaired anything and we would have gladly agreed and paid.

Also in Durango the Lightner Creek RV campground agreed to open early and let us have a spot where we could stay and then drop our trailer for a couple of days while we filmed. All the others were closed.

Now we are on the Stewart Cassiar highway in northern BC and it is mid October. Just a week ago as we cruised Highway 16 on the way to Haida Gwaii Islands when we noticed that warning messages on our new 2015 Dodge 2500 6.7 Hemi with single axle was indicating a problem with the brake wiring – and I was feeling the brakes were not working to capacity.

This was odd as just two weeks ago I paid $400 for a wheel bearing repack and the technician said the brakes were okay but would need replacing soon. But, he did not think he could get parts so suggested replacing the whole axle assembly, which I thought was a bit radical. Oh, and the bearings would need replacing soon. What? So why not replace them during the $400 repair? Cost for new brakes? I asked if $1000 would cover it.

“No, it would be way more than that,” he said

We got great help from Outdoor RV in LaGrande Oregon who emailed us all the part numbers and pertinent information, which we gathered as we searched for a repair facility.

We cruised into Nor-burd RV in Terrace and service manager Wade agreed to have a quick look. Fuses were okay and the electric brakes were operating, but not grabbing. We made an appointment for a week later when we returned from Haida Gwaii.
         It turns out we had been driving with no brakes they were so worn. The wheel bearings were fine – though we replaced them anyway as at $17 each it seemed the prudent thing to do. They replaced the brake hubs with a larger size, rebuilt everything including shoes and magnets (they did not replace the axles!) did some minor work on our hitch and in about 4 hours we were on our way with brakes that worked. I was expecting $2000 given the previous estimate. The bill came in at $1000.

There are so many stories out here on the road. But customer service or lack of the same, are some of the best.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Leaving Haida Gwaii


A wrecked boat resting beneath a pier in Masset. Richard Wright photo. Nikon D800.

It is raining. A grey drizzling rain beading on windows, pouring out of the clouds that hang in the mountain forests pierced by cedar snags and hemlock spears. We are hunkered down beside the Skeena River is a town called Terrace, forced to catch up on email, Facebook, blogs, image editing etc. while we wait for our Creekside 22-foot trailer's brakes to be repaired.

It has been some time since I blogged - life just got in the way - but this forced down-time out of the office and off the road seems like a good opportunity.

We have been on Haida Gwaii, the remarkable islands off the west coast of B.C., for most of a week, and it was a remarkable week: Remarkable weather, that is five days of sun, remarkable scenery and remarkable people. For example we stayed in a B&B run by, and had dinner with, a poet and a bank robber - twice convicted, three times escaped, only recently paroled. The irony that one of my sons is a banker and the other has a degree in criminology did not escape me. We talked of many things, but little about banks.

Our reason for visiting was to send the ashes of our friend Finbar McMillian to sea. He had a small cabin here, deep in the forest where it was his intention to retire, but life does not always turn out as we expect. 

Finbar's moss - at least that's how I remember it. Deep in his forest. Richard Wright photo.


In between visiting there was time for photography. And time for eating seafood - lots of seafood.
This is an expensive place to visit. The ferry is the first barrier. It was $335 for two of us (with a 50% discount) and a vehicle. The 22-foot trailer would have been another $800 so we opted for a B&B the standard price of which is $120 a night for two. A motel in Queen Charlotte City was $110. Internet is iffy and discouraged as usage fees are high. Fuel is 40¢ a litre more than at home. Meals are expensive - like $18 for a good hamburger. Coffee to go at a pub was $3.15.
But here's the thing. Finding a restaurant is also a challenge, at least in September. Folks are tired. Tourists are gone. So eateries are often closed. And those that are open like to challenge visitors by limiting the signage, or having confusing signage.
On Friday night we hit a cafe at 7:40 p.m. We would be rushed out at 8 but we could go upstairs to the bar to eat. "Go to the Gas Bar Grill," tomorrow we were told. "They will be open tomorrow night." So away we went on Saturday night out to old Masset. Sure enough the lights were on and a window sign said "Open". But the other window read, "Closed." Contradiction or dyslexia? They were closed. So back to Masset and The Mile Zero, which was also closed this Saturday night. The "Golden Pam" was open though for the quintessential Chinese and Canadian food. I began to feel paranoid, as if the locals were the only ones who were supposed to know where to eat.

The Blowhole on North Beach on an incoming tide. Richard Wright photo.
Five days of sun and now the islands are shut down, the ferry unlikely to run because of heavy seas. We escaped, but now are stalled with our own delays. We have our own food and stove though so we are good.

Now, repairs and then on the north. Stay tuned.






Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bonepicker.ca

Our website for our new video project is now active with a few videos linked to my Vimeo channel.
Have a look and sign in as a follower.

Hope you enjoy it.

About to hit the road for the US Southwest so stay tuned for catching up on this blog.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Thomas Hardy tree at Old St. Pancras church, London England. Richard Wright photo


What is the connection between the famous Thomas Hardy tree in London, England, the Theatre Royal and Barkerville?

The answer is in "Cariboo Gold Rush Backstory", now on Idiegogo.
The answer is why we want this project to come to completion.

Why is this important to Cariboo folks or Barkerville friends someone asked? Well, if you work or live in this area the Cariboo Gold Rush and Barkerville are important economic drivers for you. This project will build connections between the people of the "Back Story" areas, such as Tombstone, and the Cariboo. It will bring more people to our area. When the Tombstone Epitaph asks me to write the story of Van Houten and Stilwell (as they have) it turns research into marketing. When someone in London finds the connection to Barkerville they plan a visit.
Support from locals will make this happen.
Sharing will spread the word.
For the price of a couple of lattes you can be a contributor.

Go to: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cariboo-gold-rush-backstory/x/8613259

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cariboo Gold Rush Backstory

My partner Amy and I  have begun a new project that we wanted to let you know about.
To raise funds to move the project forward we have started a 30 days Indiegogo crowd funding campaign at:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cariboo-gold-rush-backstory/x/8613259

More information is on the Indiegogo page but here is a synopsis.

If you are interested in this project to promote and preserve Barkerville and the Cariboo Gold Field’s story please visit and support us with a contribution, or by "making a noise” and sharing the information.

We have also started a FaceBook page where the project can be followed at:
https://www.facebook.com/CaribooBackstory

This is the only email you will receive about this campaign.

Thanks
Richard & Amy



Cariboo Gold Rush Backstory is a series of short videos telling the backstories, the hidden stories, the later stories, of the men and women who made the Cariboo Gold Rush and Barkerville such a significant part of their lives.

We know the men and women who were here on Williams Creek, but where did they come from? Who were they? Where did they go? Their stories did not begin or end here in Cariboo and unearthing their full story makes their life and our understanding of them more complete.

Who knew that Cariboo's Doc Keithley of the famed Keithley Creek later ran for mayor in Deadwood in the Black Hills? Who knew that Capt Jack Crawford, a former partner of Buffalo Bill Cody lived in Barkerville for a year and wrote poems about the people of this place? Cariboo miner Col. John Van Houten was murdered in Tombstone by Wyatt Earp's nemesis Frank Stillwell and mill owner and Cariboo miner John Adams shot a constable in Tombstone?

These stories and more are the basis of the Cariboo Gold Rush Backstory project.

Richard Wright and Amy Newman have been telling the stories of British Columbia's Cariboo gold rush for decades. As Newman & Wright Theatre Company they have been operating Barkerville's Theatre Royal for 11 years. Here they have written, acted and produced 25 different shows about this time and place.
As an author and historian Richard has written 23 books, most of these on the history of the Cariboo. He has filmed 14 shows for CBC on a variety of subjects and has worked on several films shot in the Cariboo. He excels at bringing history alive. One of his projects was to bring back camels to Barkerville - after 150 years. He operates Winter Quarters Productions.

As an artistic director, actor, writer, costumer and performer Amy has developed a deep understanding of the people and the culture of the time. Her stage work is remarkable in its authenticity.

Together, their gold rush knowledge is seldom equaled.
Now they are combining their skills to film and produce Cariboo Gold Rush Backstory -  short videos telling the hidden stories of the men and women who made the gold rush part of their lives, as Richard and Amy have done.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Richard Wright website update - Malta

Having just returned from Malta and London I have updated my website with a Malta Homepage portfolio and a larger general Malta gallery. 
(The Malta shots will remain as the Homepage for a month.)

These can be viewed at:
A small boy walks through a shaft of light on a side street of Valletta, Malta. Richard Wright photo.

Captions should show if you hover over the image.
Of course, a website can only hold a selection of images and there are lots more in my files and more to be posted. The London images will be added in the next few days.

Malta is an magical gem in the Mediterranean - a place of fantastic light and a wealth of history and photographic subjects.  From the neolithic temples through the massive fortifications built by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century, to the 1800s forts and the World War Two defensives there are images wherever you turn. As well the island is known for its blue seas, rock formations such as the Azure Window, mysterious cart tracks in the limestone bedrock, and climbing. It is not know for its cycling, due to crazy traffic, nor wildlife. Despite my interest in wildlife I managed to photograph only a few goats, one lizard and no birds. Dwarf elephants and hippos once grazed here but they are long gone.
A plus side was that it was 16C there and -35 at home. I will definitely be returning.


Assignments and projects over the next few months include:
March-April - Natural Bridges National Monument, Cedar Mesa ancestral pueblo ruins and Hovenweep National Monument; wildlife and migrating waterfowl at Bear River Refuge, Utah. Travelling with our mobile RV studio.
April May - Mountain caribou project - continue shooting on this endangered species here in Cariboo, with an expansion of the project to include video. This season we are placing more markers so we can record snow levels and snow pack firmness; we are hoping for funding to do some flights and are placing more game cams to track migration.

I am open for assignments at most times.
Let me know if you would like to view some of my images or if I can be of assistance.

Please consider following this blog and signing up at my Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/richardtwrightphotography

Saturday, March 8, 2014

History and Photography - The Florence Wilson story

History, as well as photography, is one of my passions. I can't travel without wanting to dig out the story behind the image. Editing photos takes me forever as I dig deeper and deeper in fleshing out the caption and story.  Such is the case now as I edit photos of Malta and find stories and songs behind the images.

But today I found a link on CNN's page about a new find of a Mississippi cemetery with 2000 unmarked graves. It turns out they are likely linked to an asylum that was on the site many years ago.
It is not a new story.
http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/08/us/mississippi-unmarked-graves/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

As I try to find the resting places of folks who are related to the stories of Barkerville I find similar tales.  In nearby Stanley gravestones have been stolen. In Cameronton, next to Barkerville, many graves are unmarked, particularly those of people on the edge of society - the prostitutes, or those who had no friends to buy a headstone.
Tracking one family I found that the cemetery in San Deigo had been bulldozed into a gully where headstones still lie. In Scotland the marker for James Anderson's wife Lucy is still missing. In Boothill, Tombstone, Arizona the marker of a murdered Cariboo miner is scantly marked. Many others are missing and scattered literally around the world and I've been there; trying to track them down.

On my recent trip to London (February 2014) I spent a couple of days in the National Archives and  walking the streets of the Bloomsbury district of London, just north of the City of London, photographing the haunts of an elusive resident of Barkerville, Florence Wilson - an enigmatic character who is only now stepping forward to tell her full story - and that is another post.

But, I did find where her mother Margaret Baron Wilson lived, was married, died and where she was buried. All the events center around the Bloomsbury community of artists and St. Pancras Old Church. And there, is the story of these photos.

St. Pancras old church, behind the modern St. Pancras rail/subway station. Richard Wright photo.

St. Pancras and what is left of the churchyard. This has been a site of worship for centuries, through rebuilt time and again. Richard Wright photo.


Florence's mother Margaret Baron Wilson, nee Harries, died in 1846, just a few blocks to the south, and was buried in the St. Pancras old church graveyard. So, we can take from that, that she likely worshipped at St. Pancras. So as Barkerville curator Mandy Kilsby says, I "stood where Florence stood."
Standing where Florence Wilson stood in St. Pancras old church. Richard Wright photo

However, while I found Margaret's death certificate I was unable to find the church records (though they likely exist) nor the plot number, nor grave location. I kept digging, and that was when I stumbled on the familiar story of desecrated graves and the Hardy Tree.

In the oft-told story of expansion London needed to expand its railways and subways and Kings Cross and St. Pancras was to become the area of a massive station and converging rail lines. The churchyard was in the way.

Just a small part of the St. Pancras station interior. Richard Wright photo.

The Meeting Place, a 9 metre (29.53 feet) tall bronze statue in
St Pancras railway station. Sculptor Paul Day. Richard Wright photo.

The St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel is the frontispiece of St Pancras railway station. It opened in 2011, but occupies much of the former Midland Grand Hotel designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1873 and closed in 1935.  Richard Wright photo.

During the 1860s, just a decade after Margaret was buried here, the Midland Railway was routed over the churchyard. Architect Arthur Blomfield was commissioned to supervise the exhumation of graves and dismantling of tombs. Not surprisingly he passed this unenviable task to his junior, an architect named Thomas Hardy. During this task Hardy placed dozens of headstones around a small ash tree, the great stones stacked back to back in rows, a cone of grey rising from below the ground to the base of the tree - covered in moss, buried in litter.
Thomas Hardy later turned to writing novels for which he is better known.
The ash tree has since grown around, between and under the stones, burying some in years of leaf compost, wrapping roots around others, and with the passing century the names have spalled off. We are left with stones that read: "In Memory of ....", "Sacred to the Memory of...". As I walk the circumference I imagine that Margaret Baron Wilson's stone is one of these.

The Hardy Tree with St. Pancras Old Church on the right.
The brick wall partially hidden on the left is the Midland Railway line.  Richard Wright photo

The Hardy Tree cone of monuments. Richard Wright photo.

A hedgerow and iron fence crowded the markers and the tree, making photography difficult. The light was dull and rainy, the fields soggy. Southern England was flooding - sinking one might say.
I kept shooting from every angle.

Then I saw the rose, scattering its petals of blood red over the dark stones.
For me, that is where Margaret lies. Another soul's resting place lost to progress.

"In Memory of...." Rose petals mark the grave of one of history's forgotten souls.
Richard Wright photo.

All photos taken on a Nikon D800 with a 16-35mm f4 Nikkor lens.

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More gold rush stories may be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/BarkervilleAndTheCaribooGoldFields


Website:http://richardtwright.photoshelter.com/

Copyright: Richard Wright 2014.