TIAA #22: “Ambitious Distance”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

Beginning of U.S. Route 50 / West Sacramento, California, USA / September 27, 2009
Beginning of U.S. Route 50 / West Sacramento, California, USA / September 27, 2009

What can I say about the photograph above?

In 2022, the thought of shutting down TIA International Photography has been more frequent than any year since TIA was established in 2009. In fact, it’s still a very real possibility. However, I plan to execute two final projects this year to see if I can prevent giving up on what has literally brought me so much joy in the form of many exciting and fulfilling adventures around America, Canada, and the rest of the world.

You might wonder if photography is truly my passion and purpose in life, why would I ever consider shuttering TIA? It’s a valid question, so I struggle with this. The fact is, TIA is still a business, and it’s quite costly to maintain it each year. Like many small businesses everywhere, TIA also suffered considerably during the pandemic — which has not suddenly ended by any means.

Alas, although photography is my purpose and passion, it is also my greatest expense, financially and otherwise.

It is very costly to maintain a business that annually struggles to yield a return, and that’s truly what TIA is facing right now. Conversely, I have received some guidance that has convinced me that it’s not time for TIA to retire yet, so I’m trying some different tactics. I’m a tenacious individual and, left to my druthers, I would prefer TIA to go on until I’m physically unable to operate a camera.

When it comes to activities I love to do — such as photography, travel, biking, listening to pop music, etc. — I believe I can be incredibly (and overly) ambitious. I want to do it all, all the time. I have lofty objectives, and I want to see them through to fruition, even when they seem incredulous. I want to go the full distance, but I think I get discouraged by the mileage sometimes. If I start, will I really be able to reach the destination? I still pose this question even when the journey began nearly 13 years ago.

Enter this week’s photograph.

I love road trips!

I love road trips. I absolutely love them. I love planning them. I also, secretly, don’t mind the spontaneous ones resulting from pure curiosity of where the road goes and the landscape that surrounds it.

This week’s image was captured before TIA became a reality. I loathed several aspects of my day job in Seattle and desperately needed an extended intermission. I escaped to San Francisco for one night, rented a car, and took to the open road the next day. What followed was a two or three-day road trip that I had no preconceived notion that I would embark — a beautifully unplanned voyage down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, San Simeon, and eventually stopping in Santa Barbara (which is just an aesthetically gorgeous city). In fact, I had to make myself stop there because I was tempted to continue down to Los Angeles, where I was certain to get lost. (LA remains one of the only US cities that I cannot properly navigate to date, even with a printed map or Google Maps handy. That city may as well be another solar system). I decided my road trip was getting a bit too spontaneous at that point.

My initial trek in ’09 — I definitely recommend the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway at least once in a lifetime!

On the journey back, I took Route 101 through several scenic valleys of the Golden State and returned to San Francisco. However, spontaneity kicked in again because I knew Sacramento was only 90 minutes away, and I had never visited the California capital. I was also intrigued that maybe I could run into Arnold Schwarzenegger (a.k.a. The Terminator a.k.a. Conan the Barbarian a.k.a. Dr. Freeze) who was the governor of the state at that time.

So I kept driving.

As I approached Sacramento, I reached the beginning of U.S. Route 50 and saw the sign featured in the photo for the first time. My eyes widened and I laughed when I saw the distance for Ocean City, Maryland, which is another fun town located at the very end of U.S. Route 50 on the opposite coast of the country, three thousand miles (4,830km) away. (Please bear in mind that it is extremely unusual for U.S. highways to post mileage this far away, so this was a humorously atypical situation.) If I relished in fantasy and freedom from responsibility — and could afford to upkeep such traits — I would have been happy to drive the distance there and then to Ocean City.

However, this is part of the point I’m trying to make. I come up with lofty goals and I do my damnedest to develop concrete plans to achieve them but — realistically — I cannot always achieve everything or get as far as I would like. I want TIA to drive the full distance and get from Sacramento to Ocean City, but I think I might be stuck along the way. Figuratively, I think TIA is somewhere in the map above — maybe in a place like Jefferson City, Missouri. It’s been long enough that it feels like Jefferson is becoming a residence, which was not the plan, and nowhere near Ocean City. As a result, is it time to make Jefferson home even though it’s not the destination?

I think that’s the best way I can creatively illustrate my point.

One last note — the photo is also funny to me because it depicts a sense of scale extremely well. Look how massive these highway distance signs are! I’m of a man’s average height yet I am dwarfed by this gargantuan sign. I had to get my photo with it as a souvenir of this particular road trip.

Ocean City, Maryland, USA (2004)
Ocean City, Maryland, USA (July 2004)

23 articles down for the TIAA challenge. 29 remain!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kirk. says:

    I’ve always that the journey is probably more exciting, interesting and life-changing than the the actual destination. To use your illustration of TIA as business as a comparison to travelling from Sacramento to Ocean City: you can have a goal of reaching Ocean City but you learn more and experience more and actually travel further by even making the journey itself. It is never a waste of time to embark upon a journey. Too many people see the distance and think it’s not worth travelling and they stay put. The problem with that is they never go anywhere. The journey matters just as much as the destination. To use your example again: you might travel further beyond Jefferson and end up in Cincinnati and end up liking it. The passion is yours and if it is your passion that is it. That said, I hope to see TIA around forever!

    1. Hi Kirk. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I recently learned about the perspective that when one is moving forward, one often doesn’t take the time to reflect on how far he or she has gone until pausing. The irony is, when one has stopped to look back, he or she may still not appreciate the mileage they’ve completed. Instead, he or she is solely fixated on why he or she hasn’t moved or progressed farther. Your comment makes me think that I may be guilty of this. TIA has been around for almost 13 years and has photographed every continent except Antarctica, which are true accomplishments in my career. Also, I need to ask myself what defines the “destination”. What does the destination look like in terms of success for TIA? If such a marker is Ocean City, figuratively, does that mean TIA *stops* at Ocean City? It shouldn’t. TIA should, ideally, want to continue into the Atlantic Ocean and perhaps resurface in Morocco or Spain, and continue eastwards. You’re right — the journey is incredibly important and I won’t lose sight of that. Thanks.

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