Jim Stembridge worked more than a decade as legislative staff (nonpartisan committee administrator) in Oregon’s Capitol in Salem. He has written summaries of several hundred legislative bills. He did project management, program administration, and public information work for several state agencies, including the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Officewriting, editing, and producing more than 100 government publications, including newsletters, reports, and fire safety curricula. He was an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy (National Emergency Training Center) in Emmitsburg, MD.
Jim, a UCLA graduate, earned a PhD in geography at the University of Oregon. His interests in photography date from the years he did coastal hazards research and taughtand prepared illustrations forgeography classes at the University of Oregon (Eugene) and East Carolina University (Greenville, NC). He is the author/editor of Pathfinder: The First Automobile Trip between Newport and Siletz Bay, Oregon, July 1912 (Lincoln County Historical Society, 1975), a collection of historic photographs. Jim lives with his wife, Joan, in Salem, Oregon.
Jim Stembridge made a total of three automobile trips around the country photographing state capitols. Joining him on the way to 45 of the 50 state capitols was his dog, Ruthless. Ruth is a 65-pound black lab-German shepherd mix, seven years old when Jim started on the project in 2007.
“I did a lot of mountain biking along the way, Jim says, to help keep Ruth tuckered out and happy. She also shared a bit of restaurant food that I’d bring back to the car. We did a lot of camping, too. Plus, occasionally, she’d get to roam the grounds of the state capitols. So she was very content to be along on the trip.
Our routine would be to arrive at a capitol early in the day, when there was plenty of parking, few cars to mar the views, and the buildings were especially picturesque in the glow of dawn and the early morning sunlight. Ruth liked the few rodent-chases she was allowed. Then she’d wait in the car while I got my interior photographs, and soon we’d be off to a biking area or maybe a “road food” restaurant.
It sure helps to be in tune with your dog’s habits and preferences, Stembridge says. Ruth would sleep content-edly while we were on the Interstate, but as soon as we’d slow down, she’d want to have her head out the window to take in the scents and the scenery. She’d let me know, too, if she needed to stop, and she’d let me know in time so that I could find a place to stop for her. And she loved that we shared the back of the vehicle, a 1999 Toyota 4Runner, when we camped, which was about two nights out of three. Most motels would let her stay in the room with me, but, once in a while, she’d spend the night alone in the car, usually after an exhausting day out on the bike trails. After an outing of some sort, she’d jump back in the car, ready to head to our next adventure.”
On the book’s webpage are links to two of the pair’s around-the-nation tours (2007 and 2008) www.fiftystatecapitols.com