When photographer Todd Blubaugh received the unexpected and devastating phone call informing him that his parents had been killed in an automobile crash, it was just days before he was to embark on a cross-country motorcycle trip.
A Seattle design studio had commissioned him to create a motorcycle adventure book. He considered the possibility of canceling the trip.
After flying home to Kansas to attend funerals and deal with his parents’ estate, and with the encouragement of the publisher, he decided to go ahead with the trip, but with a different focus for the book. The project went from being primarily a photographic account of his motorcycle journey, to one including written vignettes of his journey and reflections on life.
The resulting book, “Too Far Gone,” contains more than 250 pages of of black-and-white photographs of evocative landscapes and portraits of people Blubaugh encountered along the way. It's expected to reach bookstores by early August.
Blubaugh had been working as a professional photographer in Seattle, where he also built custom motorcycles. He built the motorcycle that he rode cross-country to New York.
And yet, “the book is not about motorcycles,” he said. “It’s just the culture I live and work in. It’s all I know to get around in.”
Blubaugh left Seattle and headed south to Los Angeles, where he hung out for a month before continuing eastward.
“I went where people recommended I shouldn’t miss out,” Blubaugh said. “Utah and Nevada were some of my favorite ground – even in the heat. There is a lot of wilderness there; it’s been preserved well. There were long distances between gas stations, which I enjoyed.”
It was early August when he pulled into Arches National Park at night under a full moon.
“I rode around the park all night in the moonlight,” he said. “There was no one on the road, or in the campground. It was so hot, but so beautiful.”
To be continuously on the move for six months helped with the “claustrophobic emotional situation” he was going through, he said.
He mentions his parents and includes memorabilia, including news clippings about his father, and artwork from his mother, plus letters to friends.
“I discuss in the book how important it is to stay moving in life,” Blubaugh said.
Publisher David Lopes of Gingko Press said it was the memoir that grabbed him as an editor.
“I’m not steeped in the motorcycle culture, but the story is broad – anyone can relate to it,” he said. “I love his photography.”
Gingko Press, based in Berkeley, California, specializes in illustrated, art, and popular culture books. Typically, its audiences tend to be “hipsters” or people from big cities, Lopes said.
“I felt strongly with this book, there was a broader audience,” Lopes said. “Everyone can relate to this. He’s very passionate in telling a story that goes beyond motorcycle culture.
“I read a lot of proposals. It usually takes me 15 minutes to decide (whether to publish a manuscript). This is one that I sat down, closed the door to my office and read cover to cover.”