B.P.O.E.Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Rocky Mountain National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Probably the most spectacular thing about Rocky Mountain National Park is the alpine tundra landscape above the treeline. The Tailor and I found a well-marked hiking trail up there and struck out, hoping to catch a glimpse of a pika or two among the glacier-strewn rocks.

Rocky Mountain National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

What we got instead was a little more than we bargained for: a whole herd of elk caught up with us, stepping right into our path (literally!), just yards from where we stood, lazily blocking our way back. There was nothing for it but to stand still, pinned to a rock (uncomfortably close to the cliff edge, I might add), and wait patiently for them to move on. They were utterly uninterested in us, but still—big, unpredictable, wild animals with pointy weapons sticking out of their heads make me nervous.


Rocky Mountain National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When the path cleared and we got the heck out of there, we found more hanging out near the car. Sigh.

But hey. At least I had plenty of time to get a good look at them—and nowhere to go but into my bag for my sketchbook and pen.

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Basin & rangeNear Brigham City, UT

Wasatch mountains sketch by Chandler O'Leary

There are plenty of places in the West where you don’t reach the mountains until after you cross miles and miles of foothills. Well, not here. There’s something about the sheer scale of this part of Utah—of perfectly flat valleys abruptly cut off by steep mountain slopes, of towering peaks dwarfing farms and towns and cities at their feet—that gets me every time.

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Only a paper moonNear Missoula, MT

Moonrise sketch by Chandler O'Leary

It’s difficult enough to sketch from the passenger seat of a moving vehicle: keeping a steady hand, drawing quickly enough to keep pace with a changing landscape, etc. But when you throw in trying to sketch by moonlight… Well, I guess you just have to be willing to embrace imperfection—and wait until morning to see how everything came out.

Montana night sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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Fish talesKenora, ON, Canada

Husky the Muskie sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When I lived in Minnesota, people used to tell me hair-raising stories of going fishing “Up Nort’” for muskellunge, and catching specimens that measured in feet, rather than inches. It’s no surprise the muskie is the stuff of legends—but imagine my delight when, without even stepping foot in a boat, the Tailor and I “caught” an absolute whopper!

Husky the Muskie sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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Edward Scissor-finsVictoria, BC, Canada

Victoria topiary orcas sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The last post reminded me of another favorite whale effigy of mine: Victoria’s iconic topiary orcas. I only had a few minutes to spare for this sketch, because Don the talented gardener only needed that long to prune the thing. He finished before I did, and wandered over to to see what I was doing. Not only did we have a nice conversation, but he was also kind enough to identify all the plants for me (since that’s never been my strong point).

So wherever you are, Don, thanks for giving me a bit of your time—and for helping keep Victoria beautiful.

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Thar she blowsRoute 1, Portsmouth, NH

Yoken's whale sign sketch by Chandler O'Leary

If you ever have to ask for directions in New England, beware. Folks there have a tendency to reference landmarks that no longer exist (this quirk is bred into me, too—sorry to anyone I’ve ever confused). “Turn left where the pizza place used to be.” “Go just past where the old highway ran through before they put in a rotary.” “It’s across the street from Bob’s old shop, but it’s called something else now—can’t remember what it is.” If you don’t already know a place like a local, it can be maddening.

Yoken’s is the perfect example: a regional landmark that absolutely everybody in the area knows well, but that is long defunct (ten years now). The sign is still there, though, and is even in the middle of being restored. Thank goodness—and I don’t just mean for anyone giving directions in Portsmouth. Even more so than its brother down the road in Massachusetts, this thing is an absolute masterwork of design.

Long live the Yoken’s whale, the Queen of Route One—may she be a guiding landmark for decades to come.

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Just don’t ask for ketchupProvidence, RI

New York System Hot Weiner Sandwich sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Rhode Island is not actually an island, but it sure feels like one sometimes—in fact, it’s kind of a (parallel!) universe unto itself. Only in Rhode Island would you find something called Coffee Syrup—you know, for your coffee milk. (Chocolate milk? Not a chance.) It’s the only place where you’d order a cabinet and not be talking about furniture. Where public buildings are installed with bubblers*, not drinking fountains. Where you’d never be caught dead eating a hot dog—not when you could have a hot weiner sandwich (which is not the same thing). And where the best place to order a hot weiner in New England is a place with New York in the name.

*Actually, you can find bubblers in Wisconsin, too, oddly enough. While you’re there, pick up some ho-made soup to complement your hot weiner sandwich.

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Like buttaMurray's Restaurant, Minneapolis, MN

Murray's Steakhouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I used to pass this place every day on my way to work, back when I lived in downtown Minneapolis. I confess I never actually had a meal at Murray’s, but I’m not sure it matters—”butter knife steaks” aside, the design of the facade was mouthwatering enough for my taste.

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