Thursday, February 20, 2020

Fort Churchill - Every Photo Has a Story Behind It




Every photo has a story behind it and this one is a doozy.

When I told a friend that I wanted to do some astrophotography at the Fort Churchill ruins they told me, "Be careful, that place is haunted."

I don't believe in haunted places but I can tell you that after what happened to us I have to wonder if the place is cursed.

One night I was acting particularly bored and my husband asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to go to Fort Churchill and shoot star trails.

This wouldn't be such a big deal but it was nearly 8:00 pm, the sun was going to be setting in an hour and we live over 30 miles away from the Fort Churchill Historical Park.

The fact is that there is a short period of time once a month where the skies are dark and the moon is gone so you can get dark sky photos of the Milky Way and I was tired of waiting. When the moon is out, you can turn the camera towards the North Star and get some impressive star trails. In fact, this is when I prefer star trails because the colors of the stars are deeper and the illumination on the subject is better.

My intention was to take a few foreground shots with some light painting, set up the intervalometer and sleep in the car for a couple of hours while the camera took a huge batch of photos. When I woke up I was going to fetch the camera and go home to finish sleeping and then process the shot later but as with most well laid plans, the ghosts of Fort Churchill and the mosquitos of the high desert had more nefarious plans.

By the time we arrived at the park the sun had already dropped below the horizon so I set out to frame my shot and get the foreground subject shots taken before I lost all the light.

This is usually a relaxing and wonderful time when you sit and watch the moon rise, the sun set and enjoy the desert evening while you wait for the sky to be dark enough to just click the shutter on your camera.

Everything went well for a very small amount of time when we began to hear the humming of the million or more mosquitos that had found their way to us. It was absolutely miserable and if you are someone who knows me, you can bet I wasn't wearing more than shorts and a t-shirt since I even wear shorts during the winter and this was mid-June.  The mosquitos were having a heyday!

For nearly an hour those mosquitoes feasted on us and I was so irritated and exhausted of swatting them away that I decided we had the subject shots we needed (mostly I was just tired of the mosquitos) so I sat up the intervalometer and we ran to the car.

My plan was to saturate the sky with an entire loop of star trails which takes hundreds of photos. I normally set the intervalometer for the shutter to stay open 30 seconds every one second so basically you are taking two long exposure shots a minute.

This meant 120 shots an hour and I was hoping to get nearly 400 shots.

I had brought a blow up mattress, blanket and earplugs and my husband planned to sit up in the front seat and sleep there.

About two minutes into our respite we heard a rumble in the distance and soon we were bombarded with the sound of helicopter blades and the bright flashes of a search light.

I had two major concerns:

1.  The light the helicopter was flashing their light on my subject and blowing my shots
2.  The dust it was throwing up was going to cover my camera and exposed lens to dust

We gritted our teeth and sat waiting to see just how long the helicopter was planning to stay.

During the first half hour of watching the helicopter fly in a grid pattern over the entire area we talked about what they might be looking for.  Could it be a lost hiker, lost kayaker? After all, there was a river at the bottom of the park. My husband thought they might be doing drills.

We started to make up stories of an escaped prisoner and how unsafe we might be if the desperado decided to force us out of our vehicle and leave us stranded in the desert.

I have to admit that the prisoner fantasy was mine, not my husbands. He was pretty sure we were safe from escaped criminals.

After another long period of lights and noise my husband turned to me and asked, "So, what do you want to do Flower?"

I shrugged my shoulders and said what the heck, "Lets just wait it out and see what we get."

I finally fell asleep and eventually, who knows when, the helicopter left.

My alarm went off three hours later and I woke up to retrieve the camera.

With all the gear loaded and my husband driving us out of the park I couldn't help but take a peek at the photos to see how many had been effected by the lights and dust. If I could see light interference on the image I would be able to estimate what time the helicopter left.

To my utter shock and despair I found that the intervalometer had failed and rather than being rewarded with the 100's of shots I was expecting, I found that the camera only took 40 shots.  That means that it failed in the first 20 minutes.

After returning home, taking a nap and starting processing I was incredibly happy with the results of this image.

I'm actually glad I didn't get all the shots because I would not have ended up with this composition and I certainly wouldn't have reduced my photo count to 40 if I had hundreds available.

What a happy circumstance!!!

In case you want to know my camera settings:

Nikon D7500
Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX 11-16mm f2.8
ISO 400 (Remember it was a full moon)
11mm
f/2.8
30 Second Shutter
Stack of 41 photos for the star trails processed in Photoshop

The subject (the building) was a stack of two photos
ISO 400
F/2.8
96 Second Shutter
In only one of the two photos I did light painting from behind the building.

For more photos and stories, check out my website at www.lizzieflower.com 
Follow me:
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Twitter @lizzieflower
Snapchat (I don't do Snapchat because it's for children and I don't like it)

Peace and Love,
Lizzie 


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

What's in a Name - "Odinman" A story about Barrett Odin; My Great Nephew

"What's in a name?"


"Odinman"

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” - Wm Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet

What exactly did our friend Billy Shakespeare mean by this saying in his famed play Romeo and Juliet?

This quote is rather profound and suggests that names don't hold any worth or meaning and they are just labels to tell one thing or person from another.  In the play, Juliet says this to Romeo to say that even if he had a different name, he would still be the man she loves.

To my darling Barrett Odin; No matter what your name would be I would love you the same but your mom and dad chose a really kick ass name!

I love it and I have since the minute he was born in December 2018.  He came early, extremely and dangerously early and was required to spend a lot of time in the NICU or as they call it, "The Nick-U". 

When I heard of his arrival, I waited a few weeks because I wanted to make sure he was strong enough for visitors and I flew the 1,300 miles to Nebraska to meet my new nephew.

He was so tiny and delicate but he was strong and I could tell that he would live up to the strength of his name because when you are named after the Norse God of Wisdom, Magic and Death; you've got something going for you.

When Barrett was getting close to his first birthday I found myself back in Nebraska and meeting him all over again. By now he is pulling himself up to furniture, making funny noises and showing a lot of personality.  I started to visualize a photoshoot of him depicted as his namesake Odin and I felt a plan start to come together.

Shortly before I left Nebraska to return to Reno I met Barrett Odin and his momma Kelsey in Lake Manawa, Iowa and with the help of my daughter Whitney, I took this shot of him in the middle of a wooded area.

Before

It was terribly cold and windy but the light was great since it was cloud covered and I didn't have to contend with harsh shadows.  I was optimistic that this was going to come together nicely especially since the star of the show was a sweet, patient and tolerable sweet little boy. I think I got 10 good shots in before we had to call it a wrap.

His mom is very crafty, in fact she has a thing called "Kelsey's Krafts" and you should check it out on Facebook. She made the Superman emblem with an O instead of the S for "Odinman" which is what I named the photograph.

When I came back from Nebraska I had to take an immediate hiatus because of some minor surgery then finally picked up the project hoping to get it done before his first birthday.

I immediately did not like the background and decided that I would need to create a new background and also get pictures of a few other components of the composition like a spear and ravens.

First of all, I needed to find a spear that resembled the spear Odin took into war. The spear's name is Gungnir and was fashioned by elves. This spear is special as it was told that it never missed it's mark. I knew I needed to find an appropriate and fabulous spear to take a picture of and that's the first place I failed.  I finally had to use a stock photo which I manipulated to the nth degree since I could not find an actual spear close enough to being as cool as Odin's spear.

Second of all, I needed photos of Ravens. Odin had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn and these ravens would spy on Odin's enemies and bring their secrets back to him which I think is pretty cool.

Now, living in Nevada I see ravens all over the place and I was certain that this would be an easy part of the process but as fate would have it, I didn't see a raven for the next several weeks even though I carried my camera everywhere.

I went on a hike one day with a group and the woman leading said, "Don't be surprised if we see a lot of ravens on this hike".  We didn't see one, not even one so again, I had to resort to a stock photo of a raven.

Odin had an eyepatch since he traded his eye to drink from a well that gave him knowledge of the universe but I opted to leave it out. Odin also had two wolves Geri and Freki that I decided to omit since the thought of finding wolves to photograph did not sound appealing at all.

So there I was with all my components and I set them out on my Photoshop canvas and again realized that I hated the background so after thumbing through all my photos and not finding one that I loved, I decided to use another stock photo for the background.

In a nutshell, the only part of this photograph that I took was Barrett and that is it.  As I get the components together I will replace them with my own original work but until then, this is the result of my work.
AFTER
I'm really happy with the way this turned out and when you ask, "What's in a Name?" Just ask this tough little guy here.  Aunt Liz loves you Barrett Odin and by any other name I would love you the same.

If you want to see my SmugMug website where the photo is in full resolution please click here

For more photos and stories, check out my website at www.lizzieflower.com 
Follow me:
Instagram @thelizzieflower
Twitter @lizzieflower
Snapchat (I don't do Snapchat because it's for children and I don't like it)

Peace and Love,
Lizzie 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hawthorne, NV Yacht Club

"Hawthorne, NV Yacht Club"
See the UPDATE at the end, I was able to get info on the history of this boat.

Last weekend the Milky Way was in full bloom. 

I had some photography friends that I love invite us to Bodie, CA for some night shots which I wasn’t exactly excited about because everyone goes there to get their astrophotography and when you are there you are competing with 25 other photographers with their flashlights and flood lights.  

I prefer to find obscure subjects that no one else is capturing instead of producing "another" nightscape of the same old commercialized Ghost Town.

It sounds terrible and mean but the truth is that I like the people a lot and decided that I would relax and simply be there to enjoy their company if nothing else. He is the man I credit with my ability to go off Auto or Aperture on my camera and operate on full manual. He is an amazing photographer.

We took the side-by-side and headed there early in hopes of doing some exploring in the back country. Jim's parents had actually lived in Bodie in the 1930's. We would love to know which house it was and if it's still standing so if you have a way of looking that info up, we would appreciate it.  Jim was taken to the house once when he was young in the 1940's or early 1950's but he can't remember much of it. He mostly remembers that they were visiting a guy who still lived there and of that he only remembers that the guy had a water barometer on the table that Jim thought was really cool.

As we approached Bodie we saw a haze forming on the horizon and started to realize that it was growing larger the closer we got. At one point in the distance to the south we could see that there was a large fire in Lee Vining on the other side of Mono Lake and the air was filled with smoke and soot obscuring the Milky Way "YAY!" oops, I mean “Bummer”.   

We were first to arrive and since it was only 3:00 and sunset is at 8:30 I called my friends to tell them about the fire. Fortunately, they hadn’t left Reno yet. I told them it was a bust and to not come. Then I called another photography friend who I knew was also going to Bodie and told her about the smoke. I was glad I was able to save my Reno friend the trouble of driving 111 miles to find that they could even get the shots.

My other friend was eating burgers in Lee Vining so we drove over there to get gas and at the restaurant, I jumped out of the car and ran in to surprise her.

It was a great surprise, her boyfriend doesn't know me and has never met me so I quietly walked in the restaurant, walked over to the booth they were sitting in and quietly sat down beside her. John, her boyfriend watched me the whole time with the funniest blank look on his face.  When she finally looked up she was so surprised and we hugged and laughed.

She knows I'm a burger snob and immediately asked me if I wanted a bite which is testament to our fast friendship. It's like we've known each other our entire lives.

I told her of the smoke and she explained to me the dynamics of the wind and the smoke and that she was fairly certain that the smoke was not an issue.  I just smiled and let her talk but I was certain that my experience in those hills was accurate; there would be no clear Milky Way shots in Bodie, CA that night.

Jim pulled up in front of the building and I hopped in the car, “I bet you $5,000 she goes to Bodie anyway”

He asked where I wanted to go and I said east, away from the smoke and to some dark skies. If nothing else, I would simply take pictures of the Milky Way in it’s full glory.

I knew of an abandoned boat somewhere on the shore of Walker Lake which is quite a generalization since Walker Lake is about 20 miles long but since we had no formal plans we let that knowledge lead us to Walker Lake, NV, over 50 miles to the east and north a bit.

About an hour later I sent the friend in Lee Vining a text and asked her if she’d driven over to Bodie anyways since I was fairly certain she would have to see for herself. The Bodie Hills are a cellular dead zone so I told her, “If I don’t hear from you I will assume you have gone back to Bodie to see for yourself”

Sure enough, she had gone back there and turned around. She sent me a text, “Busted, I had to go see for myself and we turned around due to smoke” I was actually kind of relieved since I would have felt bad if she’d gone anyway and got fabulous shots. How would I explain that to the other friends I had called in Reno and turned away?

It was about 6:30 by the time we found a road that even went around the lake (thanks Google Maps) so we off loaded the side-by-side and my camera equipment and started toward the lake.

After about 45 minutes of driving it was apparent that we would not be able to get to the lake shore let alone find an old abandoned boat since there was a railroad track between us and the lake.  I hadn't entered a railroad track barrier into our calculations so it started to look like we would not be getting anywhere close to the shore.  I had already relaxed and decided to just have fun. The goal now was to pay attention to all Jim’s turns so we could get out of this remote area in the dark and in the middle of the night.

At a weird intersection where you could barely tell that another road went left, Jim asked me if I wanted to turn off the road we were on.  I stared at the road that obviously didn't cross the raised railroad tracks and I told him, “Why not, let’s just have some fun exploring out here.”

After driving a while, we saw a truck by the lake shore kicking up some dust and that gave us hope that we could at least find our way down there at some point in time.  I could see a structure of some kind in the distance and pointed it out to Jim. It looked to be a semi trailer that had been abandoned although I had no idea how they would have gotten a semi down these sandy remote roads.

By watching the truck, we were able to find a small narrow road that crossed the railroad track and we headed down. 

We met the truck, gave a kind wave and drove on to the thing we thought was a trailer. About a football field away from it we realized that it was the boat I’d heard about.

The sun was just above the mountain range near Mount Grant so we quickly set up the equipment and the chairs to sit in while we waited.

I was so excited and felt overwhelmingly fortunate to have found this needle in a haystack. The circumstances that led us to this boat were ridiculous and we spent the next half hour gushing about our luck.

I could hardly believe we had cell reception but I got a call from the friends in Reno, they had also gone to Bodie and agreed that the smoke was too much. I have spent years suspecting that no one listens to a thing I say and this evening was proof of that. They asked where we had gone and I told them our route. They wanted to come back to where we were but I explained to them that the road was 4 wheel drive only and it would have taken them over two hours to get to us. Civil Twilight was about to start so I knew they would never have made it in time, even if the road wasn’t so terrible and remote.

When the sun set over the mountain and all that remained was the small sliver of moon we sat in silence and enjoyed the peace around us. 

That is until…..

I started to hear a roar of high pitched sound that kept growing louder and louder. Jim didn’t hear it but I was certain I wasn’t mistaken. We hadn’t seen any insects and since there was a breeze I was pretty certain the mosquitos would have left us alone but this sounded like a swarm of insects was headed our way.  I continued to listen and realized that this was not the sound of  wings buzzing, this was the vocalization of a swarm of bats.

Jim didn’t believe me till the first bat showed up at our little campsite and fortunately, they dissipated and got busy eating insects. I have way too much hair to be comfortable with a swarm of bats in the area.

That drama was averted and we sat in our chairs to relax and wait but as soon as Nautical Twilight began we heard the first howls. A few seconds later, we heard the second set of howls and uncomfortably closer than the first.

This went on for several minutes and it was apparent that some coyotes were coming to see what we were up to. It seemed that our fortune was limited to the finding of boats since it looked like we may have been in the accidental path of their hunt.  I finally stopped, stood up and started making noise and moving around. Jim thought I was nuts but I had imagined a coyote coming up and grabbing me in the neck as I sat all comfy in our rocking lawn chairs. After shining my light into the open desert for a few minutes, they finally went away and we didn’t hear them again for the rest of the time we were there but I'm pretty certain that they were keeping an eye on us.

This is the draw back of finding dark skies for astrophotography, you are sitting in pitch black conditions.

The Milky Way came out as predicted and it was stunning. Jim light painted as I took photos and we hung out there for the next four hours. 

When I was done, we had to try to find our way out in the pitch black. 

It took an hour and 15 minutes to drive the 17 miles back to the car. Fortunately I have hiking apps on my phone and I turned it on when we made the first turn off the main backroad. We were able to follow that recorded trail back to the main road but even with that, Jim made a few wrong turns.

Just make sure that if you decide to go on an adventure like this that you are prepared to vacate the area in the dark. You don't want to have to spend the night out there, it can get cold in the desert at night and the fauna can be a bit hostile.

We were done and had the side-by-side loaded about 2:00am so we got a hotel and stayed in Hawthorne, NV the rest of the night .  

Since we are gluttons for punishment we stayed out another night and moved further east about 50 miles to another ghost town for some more night shots.  

I processed my first photo and we are thrilled with the result. This is a composition of 25 shots that are stacked and merged to give the photo depth and definition and reduce visual noise.

I'm offering the printed photo for sale on my website www.lizzieflower.com or my SmugMug account by clicking here

For more photos and stories, check out my website at www.lizzieflower.com 
Follow me:
Instagram @thelizzieflower
Twitter @lizzieflower
Snapchat (I don't do Snapchat because it's for children and I don't like it)

Peace and Love,
Lizzie 


UPDATE:
Thanks to Facebook and the fact that I posted the photo on a page that shares photos; a woman named Patricia C commented on the photo with a question wondering how I found the boat in the dark. I assured her it was still light out and she confirmed that it's even hard to find in the daylight.

She informed me that it was once a barge that went from Smith Valley to Walker (or so she has been told)

The barge is estimated to have been abandoned between 1928 into the 1930's when the railroad tracks were installed. With the use of railcars they of course abandoned the barge.

She also told me that the lake level was once 110' and is now 65' which explains the massive amount of shoreline you have to navigate to find the boat in the first place.



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Salty Sad Story and the Threat of Extinction

On our 4th and last day visiting Death Valley, CA our only goal was to drive the 27 mile one way trip through Titus Canyon and to visit the abandoned Ghost Town of Leadfield near the middle of the route.
We saw this beautiful rock formation
right before the heavy driving began
The sign at the beginning of Titus Canyon Road
Mostly scary warnings





















If you find yourself in Death Valley you must do this drive. If you visit the canyon from the valley side you will miss the best part of it.

The drive that began with a winding road perched precariously on the ledges of steep mountains tested my driving skills but our trusty 2005 Jeep Wrangler who I lovingly call "Felipe the Jeep" did a great job. My husband in the passenger side faired well also even though it was hard for him to not be at the wheel and to trust his wife to stay on the narrow and rocky roads.
The Leadfield sign, a sad warning to the gullible,
who seeks fast and easy money.
The view of Leadfield from the opposing hillside

The colorful view west and just left of center is the slot
path out of the canyon
The colorful view east of the mountain ledges we had
arrived on


Looking through the canyon, this picture does
no justice, the walls were hundreds of feet high

Even though we took our time and enjoyed every minute of the drive it ended all too soon and we were left with several hours of daylight to burn up.

It was shortly after lunch time and we were hungry so we decided to find a place to eat some dehydrated food in our JetBoil. Remembering that Mesquite Springs was a dozen miles up the road to the right, we set our sights on lunch on a picnic table in this popular camp site.

Upon our arrival we discovered that this particular area of the park was closed for some unknown reason. We weren't sure if it was a result of the 2015 flood that nearly destroyed the area around Scotty's Castle or something else but there we were, hungry and looking for a place to cook in Death Valley.

There was a ranger station up the road a bit and even though there weren't any picnic tables, there was a nice cool ledge for me to cook on and to sit in the cool dry breeze and eat.
My husband Jim enjoying my cooking
At the ranger station we read how the flood closed the castle and the rules of the park which we probably should have read before we entered but more importantly I found a park guide book.

We were excited to see that we had checked off nearly every sightseeing location along the east side of Death Valley except a small attraction called "Salt Creek" which promises a 1/2 mile flat walk where you can witness the rare Pupfish that only exist in two locations in Death Valley and no other place on earth.

No other fish can live in the conditions that this eco system provides. Pupfish can live in water that is four times more salty than the ocean and can live in water up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here is a Wikipedia Link if you'd like to find out more about these rare little fish.

I was excited to go especially since I found out it was spawning season. The male Pupfish take on a blue and golden color during the season and it promised to be a sight to see.

The Pupfish are listed as ENDANGERED and if you combine the two areas of Death Valley that they live in, they would be considered CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.

Upon our arrival, we found several signs telling tourists to stay on the boardwalk and observe from a safe distance to not disturb the delicate ecosystem of the creek but only a few dozen feet onto the boardwalk we saw this sight.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I became more and more outraged as I neared this atrocity.

A family of five had decided to leave the boardwalk, remove their shoes and the parents allowed their children to wade, frolic and splash in this delicate ecosystem.

It was sad to watch as nearly a dozen other tourists simply walked by and said nothing while this family negligently harmed this area.

My husband knew I was outraged and my mind ticked as I wondered what to do about this situation.

From the distance you see in the picture above, I yelled out to the family, "We are expected to stay on the boardwalk for the protection of this ecosystem!"

Immediately, the father yelled back, "OK! Kids, get out of the water, come on, back to the boardwalk."

I took this picture and waited to make sure they left the water. As I walked by I thanked the father and he responded, "Sure, no problem."

We went on to enjoy the walk and since the family did not catch up to us on the walk, I assume that they left the area.

There were several things wrong with what happened here and I hope you will realize the damage we can do with our negligence and ego.

1.  Did these people have bug spray on their bodies that could have effected the water they entered?

2.  More than likely, these parents had applied sunscreen to their children or themselves that could have altered or poisoned the ecosystem.

3.  Even if you have soap film or lotion on your body, these toxins can seep into the ecosystem unknowingly.

4.  If you have walked in other areas of the park and picked up pollen, seeds, larvae, etc. you could unwittingly deposit them into this delicate system that has flora and fauna specifically adapted to the life that exists here now.

5.  No one said anything till I came along and told these people to comply with the rules. This does not have to lead to anger. If you simply state fact, without emotion, you will get a positive result.  We all have a responsibility to take care of our world and the risk is worth the reward.

6.  Leave No Trace does not just consider whether or not we are leaving trash or using trash receptacles.  There are 7 Leave No Trace Principles that include:
     a.  Don't make any new trails, stay on designated trails
     b.  Noise, keep your voice down so others may enjoy the silence of nature
     c.  Click for more information on the "7 Leave No Trace Principles" or visit https://lnt.org

7.  Teach the children. What these parents were teaching their children was not the preservation of the environment but to be selfish and destroy. They taught them to disregard the well thought out rules of the area. They taught them that it's ok to go wherever you want without regard to it's effect.

8.  Now everyone who visits the area has to see the footprints of others who were here before and some may even feel that they are also allowed to leave the walkway.  This is a terrible legacy to leave behind.

I could go on for pages but I won't.

The moral of this story...

They tell us it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to save a national treasure.

Don't be afraid to speak up when someone is harming our natural resources.

Speak kindly and use facts, not emotion. Imagine how differently this may have gone if I simply yelled, "Get your filthy kids out of the creek!" or "Hey stupid, you're killing the fish!" both of which are thoughts that crossed my outraged mind.

Teach the children and fellow adventurers how to be ethical and principled in nature so confrontations become unnecessary.

We went on to enjoy the Pupfish and I hope that the thoughtful presence of our generation and future generations to come will allow for the enjoyment of this treasured ecosystem and others like it.
Not good focus but here is a male and female in a spawning knot


A male Pupfish looking for a female to dart after

A lizard near the creek who was just as curious about me

One of the signs along the walk path
For more photos and stories, check out my website at
www.lizzieflower.com
Follow me:
Instagram @thelizzieflower
Twitter @lizzieflower
Snapchat (I don't do Snapchat because it's for children, I don't like it)

Peace and Love,

Lizzie



Thursday, December 6, 2018

Beefy's - A New Year's Resolution

I honestly don't like the concept of New Year's Resolutions and I see it as just another way to set myself up for failure year after year.

For years I swore, on every New Year's Eve at the strike of midnight, that I was going to quit smoking or lose the massive amount of weight I'd been carrying around.  In 2009 I quit smoking and in 2014 after 7 years of life changes, I had lost over 140 lbs and I can honestly say that none of it was a result of a New Year's resolution.

Instead of being motivated, I found myself buying useless gym memberships and drugs that promised fast and effortless weight-loss. I even bought the drug that Anna-Nicole Smith was pushing and all it did was lighten my wallet.

As a result of my weight loss life changes I have had to learn how to pass on certain foods to maintain my weight because my motto is "never lose the same pound twice". I don't want to always pass on the chocolate and my favorite foods so every now and then, if I've exercised and maintained a healthy frame of mind about food, I indulge.

That being said, shortly after I moved to Reno, NV I found myself in a small and I mean extremely small burger joint called "Beefy's". In this picture the entire restaurant looks smaller than the black pickup truck in the foreground but trust me, it's just perspective. The joint is actually a little bigger than that black pickup and I tell you that lovingly.

View of Beefy's from Virginia Street
Beefy's Street View-Thanks Google Maps
Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.
https://www.google.com/permissions/products/
When you walk in the door you are greeted with a loud and happy, "Sit anywhere ya want, I'll come get your order." There is only one table in the joint and it seats about 5, the counter with old school truck stop type stools will seat about 6 (I've never counted), there is another counter against the south wall that will seat about 4 and then in a little cubby in the corner, there is a tall ledge that will sit 3. I jokingly call this "the table for lovers".

If you were counting there, it comes out to about 18 and you'd better not stand around loitering or take too long to find a place to sit because you will be told to sit down and get out of the way because things move spectacularly fast at Beefy's.

Have no fear my darlings, if you don't like to share a table with strangers or sit at a counter, feel free to sit at one of the two picnic tables on the side of the building and have your burger while you watch the eclectic foot traffic of midtown Reno on Virginia Street. You don't have to worry about rain or weather in Reno, you are in the high desert and there is sunshine about 270 days a year.

I love the tight and bustling atmosphere of the restaurant and I hope they never change a thing about the place. Trust me, it adds to the charm and you never know who you will be sitting with because if you are the first one to the table made for 5 and it's only you and a buddy, someone will sit at the table with you and if you're lucky, they will leave as your friend. (Caution: don't over chat though, it's a fine line)

I guess it was September 2017 when I was introduced to Beefy's and the burger of the month was the "Monster Burger". If I remember right, the price was somewhere between $10-$15 and the meal included a generous stack of fries and a can of soda.

Below is a picture of the Monster Burger and I'm afraid I can't tell you everything they put on this beauty but the one thing I can tell you is that the condiment that tied this amazing burger together was a handmade sundried tomato catsup (ketchup if you prefer) that was the design of the owner himself.

Beefy's Monster Burger - September 2017
On this particular day, the owner was also our waiter and when he asked me how the burger was, I had to gush about how delicious the it was. The blend of flavors was flawless and when I asked what kind of catsup he used he graciously described the way he'd made this delicious condiment and even brought out an extra little cup of it for me so I could have some extra. How cool is that?

He then told me that they have a different "Burger of the Month" every single month and that each of them are his own creation.

I know that it was nowhere near the end of the year but I'd already started to devise a plan. I turned to my husband and said, "I never want to miss a burger of the month at Beefy's" and that is how I decided the New Year's resolution to beat all others.

On New Year's Eve I loudly proclaimed that 2018 was going to be the "Year of the Beefy's Burger" and I eagerly awaited the opportunity to try each and every one. I wish I would have taken a picture of all of them or at lease written down what each of them included because each and every one is a work of art but I feel like if I'd done that, I would be giving away the secret recipes of Beefy's and that is not my intention.

I'm going to highlight a few of my most memorable burgers.

The first stand out was in March and the name of the burger was the "Jersey Shore". This bad boy lived up to it's name. I wasn't certain where the name came from till they brought it out and it was Spam, Burger, Cheeses, an Egg, onions and who knows what else on a mouth watering onion bun. I realized as they put it in front of me that it was so named because of the hodge podge of ingredients (whatever washes ashore) which was a genius name.

Don't go thinking you can recreate this one of a kind burger. There is magic in the sauces and ingredients that the maestro uses to create these works of art. Notice that I had the parmesan garlic herb fries on this occasion.

The Jersey Shore - Beefy's March Burger of the Month
I was out of town most of April and had a busy May but I squeezed in a burger here and there but when June arrived and I found myself at the Beefy's counter I was met with a challenge that I fear makes my resolution a failure.

The June burger of the month was a Jelly Donut, sliced and used as the bun with a burger and peanut butter condiment. I stood on the brink, something in me cringed at the thought of a jelly donut as a bun and based on principle, I could not order the jelly donut burger and I wussed out and ordered a substitute burger. I think it was the Vietnamese burger or Korean burger. The truth is that I was so shook up that I could not eat the monthly burger that I actually forget the exact Asian nation that hosted this burger but it was actually delicious. Would you like to see a picture?

Beefy's Korean Burger and Garlic Fries
With more determination than before, I decided then and there as I licked the last of the juices from the Korean burger from my fingers that I was not going to wuss out again. Carbs be damned, I was never going to use a substitution burger again.

The months and burgers came and went and each one was delicious and worthy of mention. Have you ever had Steak Diane? Well, the genius that owns Beefy's made a Burger Diane on a toasted french roll for August. It required 3 napkins, a fork and knife and it created a huge smile of satisfaction as I devoured it. Not my favorite but still delicious.

The last week of August and the first week of September I hiked the rim of Lake Tahoe which was 174 miles and took 15 days. It was the equivalent of hiking Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 four times. All the while, I knew that my reward was going to be the September Beefy's Burger of the Month. I told all the other hikers about the burgers and my resolution but I was worried that I would not have time in my schedule to go have the burger. I was expected to leave the trail and within a couple of days, attend the Reno Air Races for 5 days and then with a one day turnaround, we were planning to leave for a month long visit to Nebraska to see the grandchildren.

In the few short days between the hike and the air races I headed to Beefy's, I was tired and starving and when I got there I found out that they had a lunch rush and had run out of ingredients. The owner was going after a resupply of lobster for the "Lobster Burger" they had for the special.

Of course I had no problem waiting for the lobster to arrive. I was more than willing to wait so I could fulfill my September obligation to my resolution and after a relatively short wait, I was served with what I would describe as the absolutely most amazing burger of my lifetime.

"Lobster Burger" Beefy's September Burger of the Month and Parmesan Herb Fries
When this burger arrived I knew I was in love. You can not imagine the aroma rising from this burger. I doubt that this will ever be beat, not only was it covered in lobster, the beef patty was resting on lobster and covered in a light sauce and cheese. All the flavors blended to a lovely symphony of flavors. I savored this one slowly and lovingly. It was obscene.

October brought a Burger Cordon Bleu that included a burger, chicken breast, ham and cheese and yes it was as amazing as it sound. Again, not my favorite but definitely yummy.

I'm not fond of curry since I had an unfortunate experience during a 5 day hike of the Grand Canyon where I swore off anything with the word curry but remembering the Jelly Donut Burger of June that I'd avoided, I bravely ordered the Thai Curry Burger they were offering for the November burger of the month. I wish I had a picture of the burger they served. I wanted to devour it before the plate hit the counter.  It was a perfectly cooked beef patty on a french roll smothered in a mildly spicy curry sauce of coconut and eggplant. Fantastic!

As I left the establishment the owner told me he hadn't locked it in yet but he was thinking of a Greek Burger for December. Mediterranean has some of my favorite flavors so I was excited to hear that. Unfortunately it was November 9th when he told me this so I had 3 weeks of anxiety as I waited for December to arrive.

I finally found my way into Beefy's on December 6th and I'd brought a couple of friends to share the whole experience. They all loved the cozy atmosphere. We sat at the table and I anxiously ran over to the specials board to see what the special was. "The Greek"!!! I was so excited and as an extra bonus, it was served with "Greek Fries".

Everyone at the table ordered something difference, my husband had the "Awesome, Awesome", Ray had the Nevadan, Vicki had some veggie thing with avocado that actually looked pretty yummy too but I had no question about what I was having, it was "The Greek".

This heavenly burger was a perfectly cooked hamburger, feta, homemade tzatziki, kalamata olives, other heavenly spices and ingredients topped with  dolmathakia (dol-mah-THAH-kya) which is normally rice and herbs wrapped in grape leaves all served on a lightly toasted ciabatta bun. ((deep breath) The fries alone are worth a second December visit to Beefy's, this abundance of fries was tossed with herbs, feta and chopped kalamata olives. Look at this delectable dish...

"The Greek" Beefy's December Burger of the Month and Greek Fries
The only regret I have about this visit is that Stella didn't take my order but she arrived before I finished my meal and she adds a ton of flavor to anything you decide to have at Beefy's. The owner wasn't there today and I would have loved to have gotten a picture of him and me with "The Greek" but I will have to save that photo op for another time.

There is a lot more to Beefy's to discover since they have a full menu of unique burgers from the "Plain Jane" to "The Moo, Cluck and Oink!". Check out their menu. (Beefy's Menu) If you have a thirst, they have dozens of beers, wine and soft drinks and if at the end of it all you decide you have the room for it, you must order one of their shakes. After they mix it up for you, they even give you the mixer container that has the overflow in it.

Since I skipped June and didn't try the Jelly Donut burger with the peanut butter it feels like this resolution is incomplete.

What do you think, should I do the same New Year's Resolution for 2019?

It looks like it's Beefy's Burgers for another year and if you're smart, you'll do it too.

Tell them Lizzie Flower sent you


Peace and Love,
Lizzie 

For more photos and stories, check out my website at www.lizzieflower.com
Follow me:
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Twitter @lizzieflower
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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pine State Biscuits

Entrance to Pine State Biscuits

I've been known to post a Google Review or two and if the food comes out looking really good I'm more than happy to include a picture but every now and then a restaurant comes along that absolutely blows the doors off and exceeds all expectations.

A block off Virginia Street in Reno, Nevada; not quite downtown; not quite midtown; there is a restaurant called Pine State Biscuits.  It's in the middle of the block east of the intersection of Center and Pine Streets. It has a Center Street address but the door is on Pine Street.

First things first: How I learned that this restaurant was even in Reno. If you are lucky, you have a Ray and Vicky in your lives.  This couple has great taste if food, entertainment and friends and when I moved into my building and met them, I knew immediately that I wanted to spend more time with them.

The other day when we were going to a forum breakfast, Ray mentioned that they had gone to a biscuit restaurant. Being a paleo girl, I immediately cringed at the thought of a big heavy carb-laden white flour biscuit but then he told me that he'd had the shrimp and grits and for some reason, I'm not sure if it was the excitement in his description or the way he described it to us but the thought of it started to tickle the cajun/creole sensors in my brain.

The next day, my husband and I set off on foot to find the biscuit shop and much to our surprise, found it quite busy at 1:20 in the afternoon. A steady flow of customers ebbed and flowed in and out of the establishment. They ranged from older folks to millenials with children albeit that the children were running around untethered but that is a whole other blog.

We ordered at the counter and took a number. The place smelled delicious and the biscuit sandwiches that were being delivered from the kitchen were humongous and dripping with fabulous looking sauces to say the least. An example of a s'mores toaster desert was on the counter by the registers and it also looked delectable but being unable to workout at this time due to an injury, I knew I hadn't earned a treat like that.

As we waited we watched the staff working and delivering food. We noticed a nice note on the table noting...
Thanks for supporting small independent business by
bussing your own table

 Simple instructions with a thank you card

After a pretty short wait, this was delivered to the table

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits southern style. The butter swirled on the plate and the bacon grease shimmered on the shrimp. My husband and I looked up at each other and simply smiled.

Every bite was delicious and we left there feeling quite satisfied.

We happily bussed our own table as they politely asked and headed down the street certain to return again.  


Peace and Love,
Lizzie  

For more photos and stories, check out my website at www.lizzieflower.com 
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Sunday, October 21, 2018

METAL not mental

I found a wonderful little photo club in the downtown Reno area that consists of a few loyal followers and a few lovely and talented outliers.  Just before I left to do a thru hike, they started an "inspiration" project where one member choses a subject like; three, bubbles, candy, and as you will see, metal.

You have 5 days to post 2 pictures of the inspiration subject.

Now, normally I would not find an inspiration subject interesting enough to blog about but this particular subject led me to a particularly fun afternoon with my husband in tow as my photo assistant. His job is to block light, add light, hold gear and most importantly, make sure I don't get hit by a car.

It was the last day before I needed to post and I was determined to find a street cover that had the words "metal work" on it and was having absolutely no luck when my trusty assistant suggested that I take pictures of the new Virginia Street Bridge. "Genius!" I exclaimed and I immediately found inspiration in that bridge.

Here is a picture of the struts that hold the suspension bridge in place.

Metal Supports on the Virginia Street Bridge
While taking the picture, I saw a dashingly handsome man in a well tailored suit walk by and as the breeze blew his jacket back, a badge flashed in the light of the sun. As he walked away, I had wished I would have taken a picture of the badge but the opportunity had escaped me. I could not get it out of my mind.

We continued to explore downtown Reno for other metal subjects.  Jim had a thousand ideas, "Let's go by the ballfield." There were a lot of photo opportunities in that area but I particularly loved the color contrast in this photograph.

Aces Ballfield
Near the Ballfield is a sports bar / restaurant that has a bunch of machinery and equipment around it. I found a large saw bolted to a fence and found the patina to be beautiful but I still begrudged the missed opportunity of photographing the man's badge.

My assistants favorite shot of the day.
I finally found a manhole cover worthy of a photograph but the word "metal" was not where to be found on this. Dang, that guy's badge was so cool!

Manhole Cover in downtown Reno


We headed to the Plaza near the Truckee River and I saw this metal sign attached to the ground pointing to the plaza. I had not idea that it was called the Art Landing. I wonder where the guy with the badge is now? Dang!


The Art Plaza near the Truckee River in Downtown Reno

There is a fellow that plays saxophone in the plaza that I like to photograph. He will play just as hard when no one is there as he does when the plaza is crowded. I asked Jim to give him $5 so I could take a picture of his sax. (It was a little distracting that spellcheck caught me putting an a in the middle of saxophone instead of an o. I had no idea it was spelled that way) This sax is the same color as that guys badge.

Street Performer's Sax
We headed across the street to City Hall where I found a recycle can and took a photograph of that. I particularly liked this shot.

Recycling Can at City Hall
We were done, it was time to go home and process these photos and get them submitted but when we began crossing the street at City Hall I was surprised to look up and see that gentleman with the badge. I decided immediately that I was not going to miss this opportunity.  I stopped him and quickly explained to him that I had a photo inspiration project and I asked him if I could take a picture of his badge. He was thrilled and proudly posed, pushing back his fine lapelled jacket to expose the badge on his belt.

I got down on the ground and began shooting close up shots of the badge and he stood there patiently.

When we were done and all gratitudes had been given, my husband and faithful assistant started to chant, "I am such a good boy. I am such a good boy. I stood there and let my wife take pictures of a man's groin and crotch area and didn't say a word."

Now, anyone who knows my husband knows that he is all about the laugh and joking and I'm sure it took everything he had in him to not tease both me and the kind code officer that let me take pictures of his midsection.

The result was awesome though!

Reno Code Enforcement Badge
This is one of my favorite photos and goes in the top five


Peace and Love,
Lizzie 

For more photos and stories, check out my website at www.lizzieflower.com 
Follow me:
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Twitter @lizzieflower
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