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News arrow Features arrow ATLANTA TO BROOKINGS BY WAY OF EVERYWHERE

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ATLANTA TO BROOKINGS BY WAY OF EVERYWHERE

The "land yacht" and companion vehicle at Red Canyon, Utah, during the Viola family's travels. ().
The "land yacht" and companion vehicle at Red Canyon, Utah, during the Viola family's travels. ().

Five new residents have made Brookings their home after a year-long search across 30 states.

Kathy and Franklin Viola said they were looking for a "place to drop anchor."

They uprooted their family – a 6-year-old son and 2-year-old twin daughters – from a 4,500 square foot home in Atlanta more than a year ago.

They traded it for a 33-foot fifth wheel, a cargo trailer, an idea of what they wanted in the place they'd eventually call home and a year on the road to find that place.

Many people just go where their job takes them, then one day wonder what they're doing there, Kathy said.

"People don't make conscious decisions about major things in their life," she said.

They make conscious decisions about the color of their car or carpet, but not the big stuff, like where to live, she said.

The Violas said they did not want to raise their children in Atlanta, where they had lived since 1990.

"We were looking for clean air, clean water, a good outdoor environment, mountains, rivers, on the coast," Kathy said.

"We also wanted good services," she said. "Brookings … has the small town environment but also has services that equate to a town with more per capita income."

As freelance photojournalists, the couple booked assignments across the country and let their work guide their path.

Other assignments have taken them across the globe since they turned professional in 1986, they said.

"We have traveled all over the world … however, I don't know my back yard (the U.S.) that well," Franklin said.

"The first thing we had to do was kick ourselves out of the nest," he said.

Their Atlanta home sold within a few months. Then came the transition – figuring out how to squeeze everything from a house that size into a tiny trailer, Kathy said.

"We just gave it all up," she said.

They modified the fifth wheel to accommodate both their family and their photography business. "Most fifth wheels are (for) empty nesters," Franklin said.

They left Houston, where they'd spent four months preparing for the journey, in May 2002.

During the trip the family saw snow on red rocks in Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park, were persuaded of alien existence in Roswell, N.M., listened to radio farm reports on the open road in Wyoming and eventually stumbled upon Brookings.

See Travels, Page 3BContinued from Page 1B

They almost "dropped anchor" in a couple other places.

They loved Moab, Utah but it wasn't by the ocean.

"The ocean kept drawing us back," Kathy said.

Whidbey Island, Wash., almost became home too, but didn't have enough services, they said.

After a Christmas in Portland with Kathy's family, they rolled into Brookings in early 2003.

They liked it, but Kathy's childhood trips to the North Coast of Oregon from her Beaverton home had convinced her coastal living in her home state would be too harsh.

But she had never seen Oregon's South Coast.

Once they returned to Brookings from some time in Ashland, they found a house they liked.

But the timing just wasn't right, Franklin said.

They still wanted to see California. They continued the journey, but at that point Brookings was in their hearts, they said.

The caravan headed south again, all the way to Florida's coast. They visited the Tabasco factory on Avery Island, La. where 500,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce are made every day.

"The journey turned into one of learning for not only us but the kids as well," Franklin said.

Kathy said she hopes to teach her children to follow their hearts. If they are drawn to something, "listen to that voice, trust your intuition," she said.

August found the Violas in Indianapolis. "When we were in Indy and started coming across the states, we knew we were bound for Brookings," Kathy said.

Kathy said she found her dream house almost immediately.

They have opened Photography Unplugged on Mill Beach Road behind Fred Meyer.

They will continue freelance photography work, but they also plan to do portrait photography, including high school senior pictures.

Franklin was named a wildlife photographer of the year in 1994 by the Natural History Museum in London, British Gas and BBC Wildlife magazine.

He said he prefers capturing people in their environment.

"Most people can take a technically correct photograph in a nice setting," Kathy said. "We want a technically correct photograph in a nice setting that says, ‘Here's who I am as a person.' We're trying to add that third element."

The couple will offer walk-in Halloween costume portraits Oct. 29, 30 and 31 for $8 and $12.

"We want to be a real positive influence in the community," Kathy said.

To contact the Violas, call Photography Unplugged at (541) 469-9170.

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