Road hogsLusk, WY

Sturgis Rally motorcycles sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I have no idea why, but it seems like every time I pass through eastern Wyoming or western South Dakota, it ends up being in the thick of the Sturgis Rally. (Hmm…I wonder if the Hell’s Angels are there right now…) It’s really the one time of the year where taking the back roads in that part of the world doesn’t guarantee you a highway all to yourself—as evidenced by our attempt at stopping for gas in the tiniest of towns. Still, the long wait for the pumps provided plenty of sketchbook gold—so I’m not complaining.

If you happen to be reading this from the Black Hills, have a great time at Sturgis this year—and drive safely!

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Big rigGrand Lake, CO

RV sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The day I made this sketch was the first time I’d ever stayed in any sort of RV or motorhome (the Tailor and I are more of a tent-camping couple ourselves). But when we joined the Tailor’s aunt and uncle for a few days in Rocky Mountain National Park, I felt like I was having some sort of exciting road trip rite of passage—like I’d suddenly, finally upgraded my Americana membership.

Besides, I have to say, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to wake up next to this:

Mountain sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…without the stiff neck and sore back of having to sleep on the ground first!

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A reason to celebrateCummings, ND

Barn and Model A sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Two years ago today, the Tailor and I were at our friend Sarah’s family farm in North Dakota, celebrating her wedding to the coolest groom we know. (That barn you see above is the same one that sometimes appears as the masthead on this blog!)

Wedding sketch by Chandler O'Leary

We didn’t just get to spend a whole day in the company of people we love—we also got to experience an overwhelming feeling of home. The Christianson farm wasn’t our home, of course, but we got to bask in how much it meant to the people who had grown up on those acres. We could almost feel the years (five generations’ worth!) of memories surrounding us there. I can’t think of a better place to have a wedding, and create new memories.

Happy anniversary, Sarah and Jesse! Here’s to many more—love to you both.

Wedding fireworks sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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Fragrant fieldsSequim, WA

Lavender farm sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I love summer in the Northwest, and I love drawing stripes—so you can imagine how happy I am when the two come together perfectly. If you’re ever in this part of the world in late July or early August, head up to the Olympic Peninsula and bask in the lavender fields. Between the buzzing pollinators, the fragrant blossoms, the sunny rain-shadow climate and the mountain scenery, you’ll find yourself experiencing the best summer day anyone could ask for.

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Pinstripe parapluieMontreal, QC, Canada

Montreal sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I live in a place where umbrellas are pretty much never used for sun-related purposes. So whenever I get to see a parasol in use elsewhere, it gives me all kinds of summer cheer—because the reason for using the parasol in the first place is my favorite thing about the season.

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Engineered by mountain goatsGoing-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When I’m planning a road trip, I try to avoid interstate highways whenever possible. When in doubt, state and U.S. highways are almost always a better choice—both for scenic drives and for interesting road vistas. But even better than that are the roads through most national parks—which are specifically designed to give visitors the most beautiful drive imaginable. And by that logic, Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road might just be the most spectacular ribbon of road in the whole country.

Glacier National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Going-to-the-Sun Road is both a feat of engineering and a marvel of determined highway maintenance. It’s only open for a few months every year, and takes weeks to clear of snow before it opens in the summer. It’s also not for the faint of heart—I love mountain driving, but I don’t love heights, and even at our crawling pace, all those hairpin curves made my stomach plummet to the floor every few minutes.

Glacier National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

But oh—oh. I’d gather my courage and brave any precarious goat track for this. I’d cross a continent for a view like that.

And since our day at Glacier fell at the very end of a five-week cross-country trip–that’s precisely what we did.

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The road less traveledThe River Road, along the Texas-Mexico border

Rio Grande River Road sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Since I’ve got a road theme going this week, I thought I’d spend the next couple of posts highlighting some of my very favorite squiggly lines on the map. Everyone seems to have California Highway One at the top of their road trip bucket list (for good reason!), but FM170 in West Texas deserves to be on that list, as well.

Rio Grande River Road sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The River Road isn’t nearly as well-known as the Pacific Highway because it’s in the absolute back of beyond. Whoever coined the term “middle of nowhere” probably had this place in mind—but as it’s right near a national park, it probably also escapes the notice of tourists wanting to take the faster state highway to and from the park.

Rio Grande River Road sketch by Chandler O'Leary

And that’s a shame, because this road is a gem. It winds right alongside the Rio Grande, through the Santa Elena and Colorado canyons, passing ghost towns and old Spanish missions along the way. In the 70-mile section we traveled that day, we only saw one other soul—and that was a local immigration cop parked along the roadside. We didn’t pass a single tourist along the way.

Rio Grande River Road sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I would have loved to drive this road (I have a thing for taking mountain curves with a stick shift!), but I wanted to spend the time drawing. So the Tailor, bless him, tackled the hair-raising turns, and didn’t bat an eye when I made him pull over about a hundred times for spectacular vistas.

Rio Grande River Road sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I can’t recommend this road enough. If you go, though, make sure you have plenty of drinking water, engine coolant, gasoline, and a fresh spare tire, just in case. If you break down, you’re going to need the tools and skills to get yourself back out again—this is the type of route that laughs at puny human concepts like mobile phone coverage (pro tip: there isn’t any) or roadside assistance. This is the kind of place that analog map freaks like me are talking about when we say GPS ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Rio Grande River Road sketch by Chandler O'Leary

But if you’ve got a paper map and a good sense of adventure, hit the road: because this is the place.

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The road aheadSouth Dakota, Wyoming and California

Black Hills sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Tomorrow this little travel blog turns one year old. In that time, I’ve jumped around in time and place, in hopes of showing you as many different sketches as I could: country scenes, cityscapes, vintage kitsch, wildlife, you name it. But while I love me some roadside attractions, I must confess that my very favorite thing to draw might just be the road itself.

Wyoming road sketches by Chandler O'Leary

My sketchbooks are absolutely full of road sketches—either full scenes that I take time over, or little margin notes that I jot down quickly from the passenger seat as the car moves ahead. I just can’t get enough of them. I’m fascinated by how the road moves with the land, following hills and curves. As I race to put each vista down in the book, the actual road at my feet seems to transform into a painted line—tracing the landscape like a sketchbook drawing on the grandest scale imaginable.

Marin Headlands sketch by Chandler O'Leary

In the past year, I know I’ve shown you quite a few of these road drawings, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I have in my sketchbooks. And that’s because even after nearly a lifetime of taking road trips, and many years of drawing them, I still feel like I’m only just getting started.

So here’s to the next year of this blog, and to the road ahead. Thank you for coming along with me for the ride.

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Summer hazeTacoma, WA

Commencement Bay sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Right around the Fourth of July, it’s like someone flips a switch around here, and the dry season begins. Then the stereotypical Northwest rain goes away, and nearly every day is clear, dry and balmy. You can bet that this is when I do the most sketching around my town—and you can probably guess what I’ll be doing this weekend!

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