Monthly Archives: April 2015

Touring the West

A few weeks ago, reporter Judith Lewis Mernit and I boarded a bus with Lassen Tours, whose primary customers are Chinese, to discover how foreigners experience the West. In 72 hours we traveled from San Fransisco to Las Vegas with stops at natural spectacles like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. An outlet mall, fruit stands, singing fountains and Asian restaurants also made an appearance on the quick trip. Mernit summed up our perspective of the experience pretty well in the resulting High Country News article: “Both Warren and I had lived in other countries, places where we had learned the languages and tried our best to blend in with the locals. But our Chinese friends were having none of that. It occurred to us both in the same moment that we were not observing a troupe of Chinese visitors in the West attempting to adapt to our culture. We were traveling on a mobile China as it moved through the American West. And the American West was expanding — with restaurants, shopping and spectacles — to include them.” Read the resulting article here and see a few frames that didn’t make it in the story below.

A family on a tour bus and local workers chow down in McDonald's on Interstate 5 in California.

A family on a tour bus and local workers chow down in a McDonald’s off Interstate 5 in California. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Tour guide for Lassen tours Raymond Tse rattles off the day's itinerary once the bus arrives in Las Vegas after driving from San Fransisco.

Tour guide for Lassen tours Raymond Tse rattles off the day’s itinerary once the bus arrives in Las Vegas after driving from San Fransisco. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Henry Lu tries on sunglasses in Sunglass Hut at the Tanger Outlets in Barstow, Calif. Seventy percent of the store's paying customers arrive on Asian tour buses.

Henry Lu tries on sunglasses in Sunglass Hut at the Tanger Outlets in Barstow, Calif. Seventy percent of the store’s paying customers arrive on Asian tour buses. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Chinese tourists Wen Hua Lee and Leo Liu Jun take pictures of their husband/father Jie Qi Liu in Death Valley National Park.

Chinese tourists Wen Hua Lee and Leo Liu Jun take pictures of their husband/father Jie Qi Liu in Death Valley National Park. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Tourists walk in Badwater in Death Valley National Park.

Tourists walk in Badwater in Death Valley National Park. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Korean tourists Zo Sun-Hwa and Park Young-Gu take a selfie at the Badwater salt flats in Death Valley National Park.

Korean tourists Zo Sun-Hwa and Park Young-Gu take a selfie at the Badwater salt flats in Death Valley National Park. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Palm trees cast shadows on a building in Las Vegas, Nev.

Palm trees cast shadows on a building in Las Vegas, Nev. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Leo Liu Jun, 10, contemplates gelato flavors at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Nev. with his mother Wen Hua Lee.

Leo Liu Jun, 10, contemplates gelato flavors at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Nev. with his mother Wen Hua Lee. Brooke Warren/High Country News

(right to left) Vietnamese tourists Tran Phuoc and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lien walk through Las Vegas, Nev. with their daughter.

(right to left) Vietnamese tourists Tran Phuoc and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lien walk through Las Vegas, Nev. with their daughter. Brooke Warren/High Country News

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Gateways

I’ve been shooting a few assignments for High Country News where I work primarily as a designer and photo editor. I shot a story about a tiny speck on the map in Western Colorado back in October. That speck is called Gateway and with a population so small only 30 K-12 students attend the school, it’s hard to notice as you pass through the canyon. But what many people do notice is a huge resort, number one in Colorado and twelve in the world, that boasts a car museum, rafting, horseback riding, and romping around on gnarly roads.

I visited the place with Maureen Neal, who wrote an essay about watching the town of Gateway disappear for High Country News. She taught at the then one-room schoolhouse in 1985. We walked through the resort-owned land surrounding Gateway to visit the ancient cemetery that overlooks the town and spent the afternoon chatting with Aggie Wareham, 83, who has lived in Gateway almost her entire life. There were no commercial buildings not affiliated with the resort, and the old Vanadium mine that used to fuel the town economy in the 70s has turned into a site full of wrecked and rusting equipment.

The resort, out of sight from the town, is a huge complex of adobe buildings and green lawns with sprinklers spewing across the lawns. In October the place seemed empty, only a few cars in the lot, but apparently they get busy and fully booked during some seasons. Which is why they are building an employee housing complex to house all the workers that tend to visitors at the resort. I suspect the resort’s population exceeds the town’s during high season, maybe even year round.

Here are some shots from the area, including some I didn’t include in the magazine edit:

A construction worker from Grand Junction works on infrastructure for employee housing at Gateway Canyons Resort that will include a pool, a gym and more.

A construction worker from Grand Junction works on infrastructure for employee housing at Gateway Canyons Resort that will include a pool, a gym and more. Brooke Warren/High Country News

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Buck Talbert works on a Baja racing vehicle at Gateway Canyons resort. For the past eight years he has commuted over an hour from Grand Junction to work as the resort off-road vehicle mechanic. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Aggie Wareham, 83, looks through old photo albums, remembering her lifetime spent in Gateway, Colorado.

Aggie Wareham, 83, looks through old photo albums, remembering her lifetime spent in Gateway, Colorado. Brooke Warren/ High Country News

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Bighorn sheep stand roadside on Hwy 141 on the route to Gateway, Colorado. Brooke Warren/High Country News