Brian Hamilton: Take a trip through ‘Juan’s World’; you’ll likely learn something (VIDEO)
I’ve been fan of “Juan’s World” for several years now.
At least that’s what we call the exploits shared with the community by Nevada County’s own Juan Browne.
Scroll through his library of YouTube videos and you’ll see what I mean.
One week, he’s flying his Luscombe over the Sierra Buttes to capture footage of frozen lakes and surrounding snowpack from high above. The next, he’s ripping his Honda down a dirt road on a five-day, 1,000-mile “bike-packing” trip through the Steen, Hart and Warner mountain ranges.
And then he’s back home again, covering community events like the Flying U Rodeo at the county fair, the Mardi Gras parade in Nevada City, or last week’s solar eclipse, sometimes through the eyes of his children.
A commercial airline pilot by trade, Juan’s clearly a storyteller at heart.
He obtained his pilot’s license by his 16th birthday — and bought his own plane before his first car — and went on to fly tankers for the U.S. Air Force. He currently flies for American Airlines.
He says he can’t write as fast as he can talk, so videography seems to suit him well in telling a story. But make no mistake, the guy’s got all the goods when it comes to getting the story: a nose for news, a curious mind and an ability to break things down for his audience.
Juan and I first talked in May 2011, when he was on a layover in New York City between flights. He was out and about when a celebration broke out. U.S. forces had just killed Osama bin Laden. Juan reached out to The Union to share the scene from NYC with his hometown paper, with which his family has long had a connection.
Juan’s mother, Juanita Kennedy Browne, wrote a monthly “100 years ago” column for The Union. In the 80s, she also authored the books “Nuggets of Nevada County History” and “A Tale of Two Cities and Train.” Juan’s father, Pete, was as an aerospace engineer who worked for Aerojet on the Space Shuttle project in Rancho Cordova. Their experiences no doubt left an impact on their boy, whose mechanical mind and knack for storytelling seem to be a perfect fit to cover what he considers the “biggest engineering feat” of his lifetime.
In early February, the Oroville Dam Spillway failure grabbed Juan’s attention. And six months later, it still hasn’t let go. Last week, I joined Juan on a tour of the repair work, stunning in both the size and scope of the massive amount of material and manpower at work literally 24/7 since the project began. His video report of the tour is only the latest among more than 50 videos on the topic. As he introduced himself to workers with the Department of Water Resources and Kiewit Infrastructure Co., he was met with nods of both acknowledgment and approval once they realized he was the guy producing all those videos.
“This guy gets it,” was heard more than once with all the handshakes.
His work has gotten the attention of the Floodplain Management Association, which requested him as a guest speaker for an October luncheon. Several people commenting on his posts suggest he deserves a Pulitzer Prize, as they say his “citizen journalism” efforts have provided the most comprehensive coverage of the Oroville incident and repair work.
But as I brought this up on our drive over to Oroville, the guy offered little more than an “aw-shucks,” and a quick laugh before telling me how much fun he’s having digging into the topic — and that he actually did bring a clean shirt along for the occasion.
I look forward to his videos of the tour and his continued coverage of the work in Oroville, as well as his adventures back home and beyond.
And I’m not alone. More than 34,000 people have subscribed to his “blancolirio” YouTube channel, where some of the 670 videos he’s produced have drawn as many as 300,000 views.
Apparently, I’m just one among many members of the Juan’s World fan club.
Check it out. I’ll bet you join the club in no time.
Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4249.
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