Years ago while Cindy and I were on the road fulltime, I got a random email from a fellow explorer and dirt road wanderer who introduced himself offering his guide services if Cindy and I were ever in his area of New Mexico. Unfortunately his offer came as Cindy and I had just landed in Cedar Key. At the time, we had no idea this little island would hold our hearts captive for so long. So hopefully that offer is still on the table.
I had told Jake that on our next trip West, we’d take him up on his offer and spend some time in his neck of the woods. Since then, I’ve followed along with Jake’s blog and his photography that always keeps me wanting to better my own work. He has grown from a good photographer to an Outstanding photographer that keeps me awe inspired.
I had the chance to meet Jake for a few minutes while attending the Overland Expo in Arizona back in 2010. I was walking out of a seminar taught by another accomplished Photographer where I had been taking some notes. As I walked out of the classroom, Jake introduced himself, handed me his business card and asked point blank “Why would a photographer of your caliber be sitting in on another photographers seminar?” I think I was so humbled, awestruck and befuddled that I just laughed, shook his hand and walked away.
During that weekend spent in Arizona, we shared a beer at one of the nightly gatherings, but at some point in our paths, I’d love to ride Shotgun beside this guy while hearing some of his amazing travel stories first hand. If you’ve never checked out his blog or his photography, please do so at www.newmexicobackroads.com
On to the Interview:
1. Born on Date?
2. Educational achievements and mile stones?
Bachelor of Science in Restaurant Hotel and Institutional Management from Texas Tech University (2006); Dean’s List; Texas Tech Cycling Team
3. Current Occupation?
On-dirt: Owner, Photographer & Guide at New Mexico Backroads [NMBR]
Off-dirt: Senior Project Superintendent at Quinones Design/Build
4. Favorite Book?
Young Men and Fire written by Norman Maclean. Maclean’s book documents Mann Gulch fire of 1949 and the 13 wildland firefighters who perished fighting the blaze.
5. Most treasured material possession?
Fossilized egg I unearthed at age 9.
6. Collector of Anything?
Secondhand tools and vintage maps.
7. Favorite Drink?
Negra Modelo with lime juice.
8. You win 1 million dollars, what would you do?
I’d expand NMBR’s fleet to include a Power Wagon, ULTRA4 race car, and a Sports Mobile. I’d also build a remote outpost and blaze a driver training course in the the New Mexico Gila to serve as NMBR’s backcountry base.
9. Favorite Food?
Burritos. Specifically, brisket, egg, potato, green chile, and asadero.
10. Memory that makes you smile?
A host of memories from childhood. They include the adventures my Dad took me on as a kid. Some of my first memories were those of camping in Denali National Park and canoeing through Alaska’s vast wilderness. He’d also take me mountain biking with him when I was a toddler; I rode in one of those plastic kids seats with my feet on either side of the buzzing knobbies—no helmet of course.
11. What’s the first thing you notice in the opposite sex?
What, are you trying to get me into trouble?
12. Neatest person ever met?
More than one. While working at Vermejo Park Ranch (Ted Turner’s 588,000-acre slice of northern New Mexico), I met old time hunting guides, cowboys and ranch hands that portrayed a way of life and love of the land that I thought was extinct. Their personalities and stories inspire me to this day.
13. Memory that makes you mad?
I buried the hatchet with the bones
14. If you could meet anybody living or dead who would it be?
My Grandpa, Ferdinand Quiñones. He died when I was young. He was born on a sugar plantation in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and died an accomplished PhD. Agronomist (in case you have to look it up like I did) and father of seven. His work ethic was legendary amongst his friends and colleagues. I’d like to meet him when he first came to America; a bachelor roaming the streets of New York.
15. Clean or Messy Person?
When it comes to messy work, I make it as clean as possible. I keep my equipment serviced and clean at all times. Ride in my Rubicon and you’d think I bought it yesterday.
16. Memory that makes you sad?
I have a slew of blurry memories from college that involved alcohol and reckless behavior—wasted time I’ll never get back.
17. Do you like to dance?
18. Are you a dreamer or a reality type?
Dream big and work hard; eventually you will cross paths with those dreams.
19. If you could go one place and live the rest of your life where would it be?
Cimarron, New Mexico. The small town is located at the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, where the Great Plains meet the Rockies. Cimarron is still ranching supported; central to vast Philmont Scout Ranch [Boy Scouts of America], Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch and his CS Ranch. Cimarron is also the gateway to the vast backcountry of Valle Vida [one of my favorite places on earth].
20. Name your most favorite goal you’ve completed so far?
Having my photography published for the first time. When I started NMBR in 2009, I began as a self-trained [amateur] photographer and guide. The NMBR blog was created to showcase my work and [somehow] stand out in the infinite blogosphere. Early on, my biggest goal was to have my photos published in a magazine. In 2010, the Overland Journal published six of my images in the Summer Issue. This was the fuel I needed to push my photography to the next level.
21. Morning or Night Person?
22. Name a goal you feel you must complete before leaving this world?
Earn a pass to the next one
23. Describe yourself in one word?
24. Desert island, one item, what would it be?
If the island is inhabitable, an ax. A new life can be built. If the island is inhabitable, a bottle of Glenfiddich 1937. A final toast is always nice
25. Saver or Spender?
One of the great skills my Dad taught me growing up was the value of a dollar. He had me cleaning jobsites [at an hourly wage] on the weekends when I was in elementary school. He would take me along when buying a car or to muscle a subcontractor. I’ve saved plenty of coin from those lessons. I also live a simple life so that I can finance my travels, equipment and truck. When it comes to equipment, I don’t go cheap. In my field, quality equipment can mean the difference between walking out and driving home, between getting “the shot” and fumbling with dysfunctional camera gear.
26. Favorite Sound?
Thunder. In New Mexico, rain is sacred
27. Lots Of or Few True Friends?
Somewhere in between. I go months or years without seeing most of them. When we get together, it’s like no time has passed—we start where we left off
28. How would others describe you in five words or less?
It’s hard to understand what’s being muttered under their breath
29. Favorite movie of all time?
No Country for Old Men
30. What would the title of your autobiography be?
He Never Listened
31. What is one item usually nobody would ever suspect about you?
I do quite a few impersonations
32. Favorite travel item?
My D7000 body with the 10-24mm lens or my CZ 2070 RAMI (both are hanging on my shoulder most every mile)
33. Mountain Hideaway OR Beach House?
Mountain hideaway all the way
34. If you could repeat one thing in your life knowing what you know now, what would it be?
Nothing. Ever see Back to the Future?
35. Explain a time when you look back and wish you would have done more?
I don’t dwell too much in the past. I guess I should have invested in Apple back in 2001 rather than a brand-spanking new Specialized S-Works FSR mountain bike
36. What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in your life, up to this point?
I’ve been losing my hearing since my early 20’s. I’m completely deaf in my left ear and at about 40% reduced in my right. There is no way to know how long I’ll keep what I have. In the first few years of my hearing loss, I fought off the reality that my world was going silent. When I finally let go of the anger, and started to accept my loss, I challenged myself to live life to the fullest and use the gifts God gave me. The loss of one sense has been the biggest driving force in strengthening another—my vision
37. What do you like to do other than travel?
Write, mountain bike, sauté cooking, read maps, build stuff
38. This Question simply asks them to attach two of their most favorite photos:
39. If you were a cartoon character, who would it be, and why?
Bugs Bunny. The guy never skips a beat when faced with a loaded double barrel or tossed a bundle of lit dynamite. He plays an outstanding sultry woman character too.
40. How many languages do you speak and what are they?
Español. Growing up 30 miles from Mexico, being of Puerto Rican decent and working in construction—you get the picture.
41. Lastly; Favorite quote?
“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro
On a side note, I’d like to mention my wife, Meghan. We’ve been together for seven years and thousands of miles. She’s been with me through many adventures—getting stuck, breaking on the trail, and [best of all] getting hitched at Imogene Pass. Without her support, the Backroads would be a lonely endeavor.
I’d like to thank Jake for taking the time to answer these questions and sharing his passion of photography and writing with fellow travelers like Cindy and I. I’ve heard from everyone who has answered the questions that I’ve sent to them that the list of questions can stir some very deep emotions while they’re contemplating the answers they’d like to share with.
So thank you for allowing us readers to see into your deepest secrets and places that you might normally keep hidden.