Originally from Kansas, USA, Kyle Batson is a photographer and designer and will soon be living full-time in his converted camper van. You can see more of his photography at kylebatsonphoto.com.

Bad Roads and Antelope

Bad Roads and Antelope

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After several recent harrowing drives, I need to start planning my routes more carefully. Google Maps doesn’t care if the road you’re on is full of pits and gullies and washboard and ruts.

I just left my campsite in Shoshone National National Forest in Wyoming. On my way out, I wanted to keep going west, so I followed Google’s suggestion and turned right instead of left towards the route I came in on. That was a mistake. The signs posted on the road gave me a chance to correct my error: “do not travel when wet, high clearance vehicles only, no trailers.” Perhaps if I had made myself coffee this morning and been more awake, I may have made the decision to turn around and go back the way I came. I didn’t. Instead, like a tech-reliant city boy, I continued on Google’s path.

The road seemed fine for awhile, and presented some lovely views, but it didn’t last long. The bumps and dips caused a mighty racket in the back as my cabinet doors swung open, and some items spilled to the floor. But I kept my attention on the road, attempting to find the most level path. I knew that high-centering the van would be tragic, but even worse was the steep journey off the side to the valley below.

As I drove I would glance toward the distance remaining before hitting the highway. Four miles, two and a half, one mile. More than once, I navigated areas of the road which made my whole van lean uncomfortably towards the drop to my left, to the point I even leaned my own body in the opposite direction in the hopes that the subtle shift of my own weight would be enough to keep me from teetering over the edge. Finally after more banging sounds from the rear, I finally leveled-off to meet the smooth, even highway.

Of course, this was the second time this week that I had met rough terrain. On my way to Bishop's Point in Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuge, I went straight on to the Google location of the refuge, rather than navigating to the campsite itself. The road in was similar in its roughness, only more sandy. On this one, I managed to find an angle which lifted one corner of the van in the air.

Harrowing to say the least. But it was worthwhile. This area was full of Pronghorn Antelope. And while they didn't let me get as close as I would have liked, it was still edifying to see the herds moving about and the way they reacted to my presence.

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