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Author of Lost America
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Photo Safari: 4,360 Miles in Five Days by Troy Paiva
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Troy Paiva
Troy Paiva
is a commercial artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. For his entire adult life he has been an abandonment explorer and back-roads wanderer, especially at night. Sneaking around in junkyards and dead roadside towns in the middle of the night, he was doing urban exploration years before the term even existed. Troy is the author of the critically-acclaimed Lost America which features over 145 color and black-and-white photographs. On April 27th, 2007, Troy launched a new version of his Lost America Web site with hundreds of evocative photos from around the west.

Day Three - A Circus of Flying Debris and Carnage

I wake up with the feeling that I've been spinning my wheels and driving in circles. The trip odometer reads "1722". As I brush my teeth while sitting on the rear bumper, I vow to refocus my efforts and find the abandoned underbelly of Texas.

Around mid-morning I cruise into Endee, New Mexico, a dead gas station, café, motel and roadhouse complex. Everything has been stripped out, leaving only the shells of the cinderblock buildings. The big "Café-Motel" sign, visible from miles away, paint weathered off, stands tall, but tired. As I crunch through the weeds, hundreds of birds roosting in the shade of the eaves and in the backs of the rooms pour out of the broken windows and open doorways. When I kneel to take a picture of a TV set impaled on a fence post, I fill my leg with spiny thorns, then fill my fingers with spiny thorns trying to dig them out of my leg.

A hot wind blows north from Mexico, carrying with it a storm of tumbleweeds, paper cups and plastic bags. A temporary concrete wall has been laid between I-40's two eastbound lanes so that the road can serve both directions while the DOT resurfaces the westbound lanes. The relentless wind pins all this garbage against it. Cars and trucks barrel down this stretch very close to the wall, flinging the junk high into the air. Animals usually able to sprint across the road find themselves suddenly trapped against the wall where they are mercilessly run down by the highballing semis. It's a circus of flying debris and carnage.

Endee, NM
Troy Paiva
Cafe-Motel in Endee, New Mexico

I blast back across the Panhandle on cheap Texas gas. Flat and empty. Amarillo has a giant grocery-store sized boot outlet. "All they sells is boots." I manage to make the far side of Amarillo in about 20 minutes. Groom, Texas is home to the "largest cross in the western hemisphere". Jesus Christ, that thing is really big. Cadillac Ranch flies by ignored. That artistic statement from another time holds little interest for me. The rusting bodies heavily battered, and vandalized, barely looked like cars for many years. Now recently moved and restored, the whole point was lost years ago. It's too obvious, too stilted. I'm looking for the places no one else looks for.

The Panhandle continues to be a photographic washout. My throttle foot itches. Longing for the familiar environment of the desert, I make a beeline south. As I roll into Lubbock the sun is nearly set and the sky begins to cloud up. Again. I begin to feel I won't find a subject to shoot tonight. As the last slivers of sun bury themselves in the purple cloudbank, I get lucky: the overcast sky suddenly splits, bathing the landscape with a bright monochromatic blue moon-glow. There, on the shoulder, an abandoned farm, dark and mysterious, like a real-life horror movie set. The baked desolation of this lonely place on the Texas-New Mexico border cuts right to my soul. The atmosphere is timeless and still. The nearest dot on the map says "Griffith, Texas," but I know there's nothing there. Not a soul around for miles.

Griffith, TX
Troy Paiva
Abandoned farm near Griffith, Texas

The farmhouse is long abandoned, but still locked up tight. I confine myself to the yard filled with broken toys, junk cars, farm equipment, and even a few boats. The vibe is intoxicating and I get into a groove, shooting for several hours. When I first started night shooting abandoned cars, I mainly found big 1950s and 1960s Detroit iron. Recently it's been plastic 1970s and 1980s cars- tonight my first minivan. How long before I find my first abandoned SUV?

Around midnight, the three days drive and tonight's shooting catch up with me, but the area is just too flat and exposed to the ceaseless gusting winds to camp. I hustle north for Clovis, New Mexico and a motel room. The speedometer touches triple digits as I streak up Highway 18 through the incongruously named Pep, New Mexico. Porcupine Tree's arty and surreal CD Stupid Dream pounds out of the stereo. The cats-eyes run screaming between my feet as I straddle the centerline. All four windows down, the blackness swirls around me.

I spend the third night at the only motel in Clovis with the "Vacancy" light still lit at 1:30AM. Like so many of the Southwest's small-town motels, it's right next to the train tracks. All night the freight trains' wheels make their piercing metallic shriek. At the nearby siding they pick up and drop cars with a loud crash every few minutes. They sound like non-stop traffic accidents right outside my window. No freeway bypass here- the main street through the center of Clovis is the highway and semis bomb through town all night, adding to the din. This motel sits on the edge of town where the speed limit drops and every trucker downshifts to use compression braking right outside my window. The big diesels roar and bray like wild animals as they slow to a crawl, looking for speed-traps. It seems this cardboard-walled room is at the hub of the transportation universe, the eye in a storm of wheels. Huddled on the bed, too wired to sleep, I sit up until 3 a.m. watching The Weather Channel, trying to find a way to slice through tomorrow's late-spring showers unscathed. The network's light jazz is as bland as the institutional particleboard furniture in my room. I'm stuck in a generic, throw-away world. Day three has only covered 633 miles, but my body does another 633 while I sleep, fitfully trapped between the trains and the trucks.

Day Four - Texas Hot>

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