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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 Six - A Lifetime in 126 Hours

I am up at six again to watch the sun rise like an atomic fireball, red in the churning dust. An easy 400 miles in six hours and four Krispy-Kreme doughnuts later I pull into my driveway. The trip totals 4,360 miles in five days and six hours for an average speed of 34 miles-per-hour. This includes sleeping, shooting and all other stops. No question, some kind of perverse personal record.

The strange way you can see so much, yet experience so little is a sensation that can only be had behind the wheel on an epic grind like this. The ultimate passive American "watching" experience, it's an endless movie playing out through your windshield. It's an emotional ride as well. There are moments of quiet reflection contrasted with moments of steering wheel pounding joy, contrasted with moments of soul-sucking dejection and wry irony all blurred together. A lifetime in 126 hours, the lifespan of an insect. By the end, you become best buddies with the moths fluttering on the inside of the windshield. You begin to wonder if they're horrified as they see their brothers smashed on the outside of the glass, just a quarter of an inch away. How much do they really understand and for that matter, how much do we? On the road, the strangest, most pointless things seem to matter and the "real world" of bills and war that everyone else worries about just slips away.

Barstow, CA
Troy Paiva
Trailer in Barstow, California

The American roadside of my youth dies a little more every year. Every trip brings new melancholy as familiar abandoned landmarks burn down, are melted for scrap, get bulldozed and subdivided, or just vanish into the desert sand. The rate accelerates every year. The little that remains by the sides of the old Miracle Miles withers in the blistering sun. But the soul-cleansing love of the road keeps me coming back, just as the roadsides' decline assures that I'll continue to bring my camera.

Troy Paiva
April 29, 2007
(Road trip completed in May, 2003)
This article reprinted with permission

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