Sun was setting, the end of a long day touring back roads in South Georgia, headed for our overnight lodgings in Cordele. Doc was compelled to stop and shoot by hand this picture of a pile of railroad ties.
In 2005 on his annual Blue Ridge sojourn, Roy logged an amazing amount of things, including Dames Rocket(Hesperis matronalis) on Day 5 of his trip, in Smyth County Virginia on County Road 660 East. It was one of his favorite wildflowers, easily accessible, not exotic, reliably found along many of his favorite country roads.
By 2007, Roy’s vacation road logs had become a model of organization and a data mine into the ecological and aesthetic ebb and thrum of the backwoods he traveled. On May 25, 2007, Day 5 of his annual Blue Ridge ramble, he logged the following botanical observations: cinnamon fern, yellow daylily, fire pink, butterwort, black snakeroot. Wildlife sightings that day were limited to a single box turtle. He took this pic of the North Fork, Cherry River around 5:21pm that afternoon.
Pray tell: Where along the Mighty Chattahoochee River is this bridge, snapped by Roy Burke in 1984. My money’s on Franklin, Georgia. Or Proctor Creek. Key data points in his storied water scientist career. Anyone else rank that?
As I hit the road for a three day tour of colleges with my daughter, I can only hope that she applies herself as diligently to her studies. This pic is one he saved to digital from his graduation day from the University of Virginia. There would be more degrees to come.
Doc’s final trusty iron horse was a Chevy Tahoe named The Hoe. In the years he invested in traveling back roads, he started with an ancient 70s Chevy Vega named Lotus Blossom, which spit oil by the quart and was not optimal for Forest Service roads. In the mid 1980s he intensified the experience with a GMC Jimmy named The Beagle. The Hoe was the apotheosis of Roy’s roadworthy education, with enough space for him to sleep in at campgrounds when he wanted, room to stow all of the critical gear needed for backwoods photography, with enough torque and tread to make it out of the occasional unpaved road too far. This is a representative example of the field-dressed Hoe, gumboots at the ready should wetlands abound.
Doc and I became enamored of NASCAR and small Southern race tracks in the early 1990s. By the time we had ridden that obsession out a decade or so later we had attended big time races at Bristol, Talladega and Rockingham.We also watched Saturday night specials at Tri-County Speedway in Brasstown, NC or the old paved track at Senoia Raceway, south of Atlanta. My media jobs in those years allowed me access far beyond the average ticket-buyer, and Doc often came along as my ‘producer’ and unofficial photographer.
Through an odd confluence of events, for most of a year split between the 1994 and 1995 Southern Dirt Track seasons, I served as public address announcer for Seven Flags Speedway, a 3/8 mile red clay “bull ring” operating at the lowest reaches of grass-roots motorsports, a past it’s prime motorsports facility, playing out its final seasons before being overwhelmed by the tsumani of suburban Atlanta development. Good old boys who wrenched on old engines all week and then tried to lay it all out on Saturday nights, spinning wet packed red clay into fine orange mist that found every crack and crevice, aerosol clay I would still be washing out of my ears days later. Doc came out a few times, and recorded audio and took photos. He digitally archived the ones above, for which I am grateful. Seven Flags Speedway has long since been replaced by a subdivision, much to the relief of the encroaching suburbs of 1995. “There’s chaos in turn four,” I shouted into the mic. There certainly was. I miss my racing buddy.
Roy Burke 1986 Vacation Log extract June 24, 1986: GAS Lexington. Chevron on U.S. 60. 1215 hrs, $11.82, 12.7 gals. 30305.1-30089=216 mi. or, 17 mpg(ugh), 5.47 cents/mi. Oil ok. So, off for a photo walk of Lexington while the weather still holds. Burning bush and care free.
The pic above is of my favorite early Doctor Flowers photos. He created a watercolor version of it that hangs on my wall today. The pic below is Doc’s beloved GMC Jimmy dubbed The Beagle after Charles Darwin’s 10-gun sloop HMS Beagle. It was his faithful companion for a decade of road trips.