South Beach


Kuelap, Peru
Ridge trail to Kuelap, Peru

I’m off again on a crazy adventure, this time with Zeno. We recently drove the remote and ornery border of Brazil, starting with the southern loop along Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay. Then came the wild west with the Bolivian and Peruvian frontier well into the upper Amazon, explored in my sturdy two-wheel drive station wagon whose odometer passed 100,000 miles this trip. While I ponder what’s next, visit my Facebook page (there’s a link from my profile page) for dozens of albums sent from the roads of Brazil’s immense interior.

Wander; Middle English, wandrien, wandren, from Anglo Saxon, wandrian, a frequent form of wend, to go. It figures that 'to wander' is as old as Anglo-Saxon times, when Germanic tribes roamed the English Isles before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Not one to shirk a trip, I first wandered around the world on ten dollars a day for a year after college, and my gyroscope has tilted towards the road ever since. The opportunities for travel accelerated a few years back after I left the corporate track that took me through nearly every capital in Latin America and then dropped me in Brazil. Onwards. To wonder is a parallel word also with Anglo Saxon roots. Now I get to do both, while based in the New World behemoths of Brazil and America. Newly posted are images from my Southern Pacific roadtrip (see Ben's Corner below) and, before then, a page on the Chachapoyan region of Peru, in the northern Andes, taken during an 8 day trek.  Previously I uploaded shots from Atlas's and my road trip to Belém at the mouth of the Amazon River in a two-wheel drive station wagon, an excerpt from my recently completed manuscript Atlas Hugged: To Belém & Back with my Black Lab, along with one from Borderland Local, A Slow Spin around America's Edge found on the Borderlands USA page.

Color prints 11"x14" (matte heavyweight paper, signed) are available of most images for $200 unframed, $300 framed, plus shipping.  Please contact me as suggested below.

emvindo ao site de Ben Batchelder. Fique a vontade para dar uma olhada nas outras 9 páginas listadas na tela a sua direita. Para ampliar quase todas as imagens, basta clicar o 'mouse' sobre elas. 
Eu estive viajando outra vez, fiz uma viagem recentmente á Chachapoyas, Peru, uma longa viagem á Belém com Atlas, meu velho labrador preto, uma viagem para Fernando de Noronha, e um 'loop tour' de parques nacionais no sudeste dos EUA chamado o Grande Círculo.

When not road-tripping in the U.S. or Latin America, I can be reached at one of the following addresses. Drop me a line anytime to tell me what you think of my site.  Quando não estou viajando pelos EUA ou Brasil, eu posso ser encontrado nos seguites enderecos:

Rua Santíssima Trindade, 203  36325-000 Tiradentes, Minas Gerais  Brasil

P.O. Box 191776  Miami Beach, Florida  33119-9998  United States

All photographs - except the above-menu images - are full-frame, without cropping. I work with an old 35mm Nikon FM with 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm lenses for black & white, and a D90 digital SLR camera with 12-24mm, 35mm, and 24-85mm lenses for color. Earlier color pics were taken with a Nikon D100 or a Sony DSC-S75. In most cases, double-click on the thumbnail images for better viewing.

© Copyright 2003-2015 Ben Batchelder  All images and texts are copyrighted by artist/author with all rights reserved.  These images and texts are for personal viewing only, and cannot be reproduced in any manner without express written permission from the artist/author.


Ben’s Corner:

My first roadtrip in eons (since 2007) took me and Zeno to New Mexico to join family at a ranch, and then back along US-80, the old Southern Pacific, which once promoted itself as the Only All Weather Route from Coast to Coast. I love two-laners that bend to the earth, slow down for towns, and invite the curious to eye-graze or stop. Neither steamy weather or gas prices detained us, and in sections of New Mexico, Texas, and Alabama US-80 wandered far from the overbuilt I-20, encouraging more down-shifting. This is the wide Bible-belt of the country, with distinct traditions in cuisine, music, and beliefs. History pervades, like the fresh smell of fried green tomatoes. 

"The South is what we’ve had all along in this bizarre, slightly troubling, basically wonderful country
 – fun, danger, real friendliness, energy, enthusiasm, and brave, crazy, tough people."
 P.J. O’Rourke,
Driving Like Crazy.

The first photo captures my road philosophy: interstates should be bombed. (As in all good travelogues, the story is told chronologically.)


he family reunion took place on the 95,000 acre Fort Union Ranch, a half-hour north of Las Vegas, NM. As Ronald Reagan quipped, "There’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse."

Water cooler talk
Zeno eyeballs me on Freckles

Bending south towards the Southern Pacific, I slowed down for my first tour of southeast New Mexico.


We joined the Southern Pacific, here US-180, at Carlsbad, NM.

A writer friend in Santa Fe, NM suggested I track down Robert Johnson’s grave in the Mississippi Delta, taking a page from Least Heat Moon’s travel tic of going with the flow. So I took the bait, though I only own one Robert Johnson cassette tape. What happened when I took a day detour from the Southern Pacific was pure road bliss, that nirvana mix of new sensations, sights, smells, sounds, and roads unknown.

Upper Mississippi became the trip’s major discovery. It took some work, following rural directions from a web site, but I found the modest grave in a remote Baptist Church cemetery. Devotees had left spare change, a Johnson-inspired CD, and a hand fan with US-61 insignia. (Rt. 61 is the spine of the Delta Blues trail.) Local AM radio stations played blues and gospel classics, which brought on several epiphanies while I passed fields of scrawny cotton. Nearby Greenwood (The Capital of Cotton) radiated a knobby feel of authenticity that took me back to pre-memory childhood. There I ate hot tamales with a Delta kick and black-bottomed chocolate pie at a roadfood establishment (one of a dozen eateries I visited where the food is grounded, inexpensive, and made with familial care). To end a wildly enjoyable day, I drove back south along the Natchez Trace Parkway, two smooth-top lanes edged by single whitelines (no breakdown lanes) meandering through Indian trails and Southern pines. Give me mobility!


Prior to an afternoon downpour, I ducked into the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, AL. There I met Miss Amie Pearl Avery, who participated in the mid-60's marches and offered to show me around. A better guide to that sad and triumphant time could not be found.

Miss Avery wanted to show me the mock jail cell and insisted I take a picture of her behind bars, reliving, perhaps, the glory days.

In Gainesville, I dropped down the Devil’s Millhopper, the largest and oldest of Florida’s many sinkholes. (A millhopper is a wide, old instrument for funneling grains.) Over 230 steps take one deep into the Florida Aquifer, with soft sand at the bottom that absorbs the constant rivering and the occasional person – hence the Devil part.

In lieu of danger I found a Sunday morning subculture of Gainesvillans who exercise by going up and down the steps, some as many as ten times – the Step Walkers – including a backpacker, an elderly gentleman with an open-heart surgery scar, and a fit family of six.


I returned to the Atlantic at Ormond Beach just north of Daytona Beach. Inside Tomoka State Park I met Chief Tomokie, whose sculpture dates from the 1950's. Legend has it that Chief Tomokie transgressed tribal taboo when he drank sacred spring water from a golden cup. Local tribes attacked, he survived, only to succumb to an ominously attractive Indian maiden named Oleeta whose arrow found his heart. From then on, the Chief’s spirit was obliged to wander in the mist of the Tomoka River. A late afternoon haze had a misty quality to it, while ahead on the park’s dirt track I paused to watch a doe and fawn cross.

Chief Tomokie, Ormand Beach, FL

During much of the journey I read P.J. O’Rourke’s Driving Like Crazy, his paean and eulogy to the American automobile and the widebanked freedom it represents. Why eulogy? Due, as P.J. might say, to the nanny-state enviro-nags determined to pierce our open-road hearts. Enjoy it while you still can.