Day 24: West Coast Arrival

After 4300 miles and 70 hours of driving, we finally arrived on the West Coast! It was quite an epic journey through Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, but we made it to Seattle safe and sound. There is a small crack in the windshield and the car needs an oil change, but these are only minor concerns.

Also, we made it just in time for Yom Kippur. I will be fasting without food or water until sundown this evening. If you have never had the opportunity to fast without water, I would highly recommend that you experience it. It really does put you into a place of mental and physical discomfort, which allows you to not only appreciate eating and drinking, but more importantly allows you to examine yourself. It is a very transformative experience that makes you appreciate the world around you. It's not quite as delicious as diner food on the side of the highway, but the spiritual ramifications are much larger.

I put together a short movie to chronicle our time in Boulder at Red Rocks...

And of course, Happy Birthday, Dad! Sorry, I can't be there to celebrate (and fast) with you!


Day 18: Drive Slow...

Just in case you haven't been following the trip, this should catch you up...

We have decided to stay in Boulder for a few more days to see Arcade Fire and Muse perform at Red Rocks. We'll be in Seattle by Thursday...


Day 17: Introspective Boulder

We’ve been traveling for about two weeks and I have some perspective on our trip. We have been to twelve states and ten cities in seventeen days. We have driven 2941.1miles, been driving for 56:26 hours, and filled the tank nine times. We have seen friends, parents, parents’ of friends, strangers, randoms, and random strangers. We have slept in beds, on couches, in recliners, in one hotel, and face down on the floor. We have eaten in diners, family restaurants, sports bars, sushi bars, burger joints, brew pubs, had home cooked meals, and not eaten anything at all. We have drunk too much coffee, too many energy drinks, too many beers, and not enough vitamin water. We have seen deer, buffaloes, geese, bulls, horses, cats, dogs, raccoons, and the largest Holstein in the country. We have been to a Major League Baseball Game, a National Football League Game, two miniature golf courses, and two National State Parks. And amazingly, the trip is only about half over!

And through all of this traveling, I have gained a little more perspective on my future and my life. I have been able to take a step back from the life that I was leading in Boston and get a glimpse of what I was doing, why I was doing it, and what I want to be doing. Although it may seem obvious, I think it does take a trip, vacation, or some sort of break from your normal life, to really come to understand the patterns in your life. It is very easy to get caught up in the same habits and routines. Everything can become the same. The same as it always was, is, and even will be.

And you know what’s ironic about being caught up in all these patterns and routines: the patterns and routines are what make people love where they are from. Almost every single person that I have interacted with, stayed with, or come in contact with has been excited about the place that they call home. Whether it was in Rapid City, South Dakota, Green Bay, Wisconsin, or Minneapolis, Minnesota, everyone is excited about their city or town. I am sure there are many reasons why people love where they live (i.e. the climate, the pace of life, the culture, the city itself, etc.), but for as long a list as I could create, the commonality is that people love a place called home!

This may seem absurd coming from someone who has given up this precious commodity, but it is only in the absence of such a commodity that I could truly embrace this realization. I always knew it to be true cognitively, but now I can be in touch with it experientially. I can better understand my own routines and patterns no matter where I make my home. I can hopefully learn from everyone that I have met and will meet in order to develop a clearer vision of these desires in my own life.

And if you’re able to live vicariously through our trip, may you recognize the patterns and routines in your own life. And know that you can have the traveler’s perspective each and every day. You can go up on a hill in your neighborhood, and with the right kind of eyes, look back at your own life. And rather than see the high watermark where the wave rolled back, you can see the high watermark that you have yet to achieve in the place that you call home…


Day 14: Driving Through The Dakotas

We are currently rolling through North Dakota at smooth, steady 85 miles per hour. We are able to move at such a clip because the speed limit is 75 miles per hour, which means that 85 miles per hour is basically legal. Who said slow and steady wins the race? Fast and steady has us arriving in Theodore Roosevelt National Park at 3:50pm and Rapid City, South Dakota at 7:30pm.

Brett is currently at the helm because I-94 makes driving a standard transmission as easy as driving a big wheels in your driveway. On the way to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we are planning to stop at the World's Largest Cow. For some reason, North Dakota has 5 sets of "Giant Beasts" aka Ridiculous Porcelain Animal Monstrosities. I am not really sure what the allure is of these animals, but they are close to I-94.

And as much as I love large 60 ton porcelain Buffaloes, I'd prefer the real thing. These real bison are enjoying a little afternoon drink on the side of the Sheyenne River.

All right, I am back to enjoy the ride as Paul Wall and Chamillionaire blast loudly through the North Dakota landscape on our way to see Salem Sue and her 38 feet of Holstein Glory...


Day 8 - 11: Cultural Chicago

Before arriving in Chicago, I had high hopes of enjoying the many cultural attractions of the city. I had envisioned a few days packed with history and art. I hoped to take trips to the Art Institute, the Sears Tower, the Field Museum, the Chicago Tribune, and Wrigley Field. I had promised myself that during my visit to Chicago, I would get a true in depth understanding of the city, the people and the lifestyle.

Interestingly enough, I think the picture of this taxicab sums up the reality entire experience:

After this ten minute cab ride, I quickly adapted my original assumptions of "culture" to fit the reality of my visit to Chicago. The cultural experiences I had envisioned were only a figment of my imagination. The true nature of Chicago was in a different realm than I had originally thought. We went to the Watertower to go shopping for sunglasses, we went to the Navy Pier to play miniature golf, and we went to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower for drinks.

So, in reality, my cultural venues had more to do with the true "nature" of Chicago and less to do with the history and art that I had originally surmised. In fact, I probably learned more about the Chicago culture in those few choice interactions and moments than I would have at the museums and historical landmarks. I was able to get in touch with the people in the present where they lived their lives: shopping malls, recreational games, and local bars.

The Hancock Tower: Home of the Signature Room!

The city of Chicago from the Navy Pier: Home of my miniature golf victory!

The Watertower: Home of Brett's new sunglasses!

And in the end, the joke of it all is that the venues don't matter and the culture is a moot point because it's all about the journey! No matter what we did or what we saw, we were living the dream. It turns out that the Party Cab that we stumbled upon had the only message that we needed to find in Chicago. And we found it! It's all about the journey! Don't ever forget it!

Day 7: University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

On our way to Chicago, we stopped at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. We were only in town for one evening, but just being on campus made both of us want to go back to school. When we arrived on Tuesday, the whole campus was a buzz with students on their first day of school. After all, with forty-five thousand graduate and undergraduates, the massive campus and town are dominated by students.

The only problem, however, was that all of the students were still mourning last week's home loss to I-AA Appalachian State in football. Not to mention, I can't believe that Michigan lost again this week at home to Oregon 39 - 7. Talk about adding insult to injury. Lloyd Carr's job is in serious jeopardy at this point. I thought it was bad enough when we spitefully rolled around campus decked out in our full Appalachian State Mountaineer's gear. We had custom made hats with our names on them, knee socks, boxers, shorts, jerseys, big foam fingers, lanyards, and of course individualized bobble head dolls. We were ready to rock! And if any of that ridiculousness were true, we would have been beaten to a bloody pulp within 5 minutes of being on campus. In fact, I think it might have been quicker than that. My guess is that frat row will burn tonight with the second consecutive home loss...

We met Carolyn Grunst, Will Neff, and Mitch for drinks at Ashley's in town.

We passed through Ohio and Indiana on our way to Michigan. Although tempted by many billboards, we did not manage to stop at any of the various spots for adult entertainment on the way. Also, I really wanted to stop after we injured that worker, but I was concerned about the $7500 fine to 15 years in prison on top of being labeled as an aggressive driver. Look at that scruffy smiling face, does he look like an aggressive driver?


Day 9: Ballin’ in the Windy City

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon in Chicago. The sky is cloudless; the sun shines bright; the temperature is perfect; there is a cool fall breeze; and we are sitting serenely by the side of a neighborhood pool with views of the Sears Tower. There are no cares in the world at three in the afternoon. I am watching a young two-year old jump into the pool and play games with her mother. The innocence is palpable. And fortunately, I get to enjoy this same innocence every single day as we embark upon a new undiscovered city. Every city is different; every person is unique. Every life has its challenges; every relationship has its intricacies. Every experience is cool and refreshing. Just like the water in the pool that the two-year old slowly kicks behind her.

Are you jealous yet?

Well, in part, you should be jealous. We are free to relax and enjoy life at our own pace. We are not constrained by the normal conventions of reality. Constantly traveling into new worlds we are caught up in a world of limitless possibilities and infinite opportunities.

Isn't freedom enlivening and invigorating?

But forget my perpetual bliss for a moment. Look around you. Pull your eyes away from the screen of your computer or blackberry. Look at the people around you. Admire the pictures of your loved ones. See the glimmer in their eyes. We are all cool, refreshing, undiscovered, and innocent. We tend to forget that sometimes. We tend to forget that the same sense of freedom is always available to us—available to all of us!

Sometimes we forget that it is okay to swim through life like the two-year old in the pool. She has a life preserver to keep her a float and a mommy to catch her when she jumps. She has a water fountain to provide her with a button to push every third jump and a defiance to run to that water fountain as often as she pleases. She has a radiant smile and a winning personality. The look in her eyes exudes confidence, eagerness, sincerity, and honesty. She knows how to live her life. She has not yet forgotten.

Perhaps this is because little Emily doesn’t even know how to swim. She only knows the novelty of life no matter how many times she jumps into the pool. And yet, despite this seeming naivety, she clearly knows how to swim through life. Everything is at her fingertips and it will be for the rest of the day, and perhaps a lifetime.

Emily is a Big Baller, and hopefully, she’ll never forget!


Day 5: Parents in Pittsburgh

On Sunday morning, Brett and I left Ithaca en route to his parent’s house in Mount Lebanon, PA just outside Pittsburgh. We headed out mid-morning in order to make it to Pittsburgh for an early evening clambake with his parents. It was a smooth drive over the slow rolling hills of Pennsylvania and Upstate New York. There were very few cars on the road and no police cars in sight. The biggest road hazard was us! (See Below)

It was a hassle to put up with the usual Sunday drivers, but for us, the driving experience was enhanced by the mobile command center in the front seat of the car. In order to aid us on our journey, we have the following technology:

  1. Garmin Nuve 200 Global Positioning System (GPS) with the soft gentle directions of Shannon the GPS voice. She always knows how to get there no matter how many wrong turns we take; not to mention she knows how to get to all of the gas stations, restaurants, and local attractions.
  2. Passport 8500 Radar Detector, which alerts us to all of the laser and radar speed tracking devices. The pigs ain’t got nothin’ on us!
  3. Fast Lane Console (EZ Pass) for “free, easy, and efficient” tollbooth travel.
  4. 30G Color Video IPod with an AV cable that connects directly into the car stereo system for unlimited rap music enjoyment.
  5. Internet access via my Blackberry 8703e that provides unlimited nationwide access to fantasy football statistics for trades, trash talking, and the like.
GPS, Fastlane, and Radar Detector.
(IPod not pictured because everyone's got 'em.)

Yes, we do have unlimited internet access in the car.
Newsflash: It's faster than wireless!

The hilarious part of the mobile command center is that it is probably worth more than the blue book value of the car if you add in the computer. You can mock us now, but we won’t be getting lost, stopped for speeding, stopped for tolls, or bored along the way.

Pittsburgh in all of its splendor and glory!

On Sunday night after the clambake, we headed to The Saloon in downtown Mount Lebanon with Brett’s friends from high school. They traded war stories about girls from the past, high school cross country races, and drunken Thanksgiving night disasters. It is always hilarious to watch a group of people recount stories about each other as they bicker over useless facts because no one can remember the exact details. Even I enjoyed adding my own ridiculous takes on the arguments especially since I had no stake in the stories. Who doesn’t love Sunday night pitchers on a three-day weekend?

On Monday, we spent a relaxing Labor Day with the Richey Family. We watched U.S. Open tennis, went for a four mile run, and then had a Labor Day barbecue. It was nice to spend some quality time with Brett’s parents. We did our laundry for free, ate home-cooked meals, received additional food for the road, and best of all, received sound advice from our elders. In fact, as a librarian at The Mount Lebanon Library, Brett’s mother, Cynthia, had collected a wealth of information from her travels and for travelers in general; she gave us guidebooks, hand-written advice, and other newspaper clippings.

It is nice to have supportive parents, especially when you quit your job and shirk off all other responsibilities to embark upon a 3000 mile cross country voyage. Fortunately, both of our parents know that we are not just degenerate failures looking to escape the cruel realities of the world, but rather excitable journeymen hoping to conquer this country by car!


Day 4: The Rumors are True: Ithaca is Gorges!

After a peaceful rest at Sarah Hann’s lovely abode, we found ourselves walking the dog and running through Six-Mile Creek. It was a great way to spend the 70 degree afternoon as we explored the first, second, and third dams. On our walk, we saw young college girls, Asian fisherman, and, of course, naked men. One fine gentleman was wearing sunglasses, a baseball hat, a gym bag, and not another single article of clothing. Just an average day in the woods of Ithaca!

Sarah, Brett, and Scout walking through the woods.

Asian fisherman in business casual enjoy the waterfalls and sunfish.

After enjoying the gorges and natural beauty, we ventured into downtown Ithaca and spent some time exploring The Commons. The Commons is the quintessential college town cobblestone avenue (similar to Church Street in Burlington, VT). It is a quaint commercial shopping district with picturesque stores selling everything from Tibetan artifacts and crystal gemstones to state-of-the-art electronics and overpriced house wares. Not to mention, the most intriguing part of The Commons was the eclectic mix of people enjoying their Saturday afternoon. There were old men, long-haired hippies, soccer moms, college students, little children, Goth skateboarders, street walkers, and journeymen on an epic cross country voyage in search of the American Dream!

Too much excitement for this little one.

This gentlemen is not only clothed, but also brought his own awning.

On the way back, we took a quick drive through the Cornell campus to give our regards to academia. We were actually only there for the college girls, but don’t tell, it’s our secret. And with a little spare time before dinner, we decided it was time for Brett to learn to drive a stick shift. It was quite an experience, which brought me to moments of uncontrollable laughter. To be fair, Brett started the car on multiple occasions with minimal stalling, but the car did not think it was very fair. I think that the neighbors enjoyed the loud screeching tires, dangerous lurching vehicle and excessive engine revving.

Page and Sarah are hard at work while we play with their dogs, Serious and Scout.

Then, we went to the Hilary and Page’s house for a home-cooked meal of mushroom risotto with spinach, vegetarian sausage, and organic salad. We also spent more time discussing the possible routes for the trip. After a discussion with the map, we decided on the following route:

Dates and Locations
        • 9/2 – 9/3 Pittsburgh, PA
        • 9/4 Ann Arbor, MI
        • 9/5 – 9/8 Chicago, IL
        • 9/9 Green Bay, WI
        • 9/10 – 9/11 Minneapolis, MN
        • 9/12 North Dakota
        • 9/13 South Dakota
        • 9/14 – 9/15 Denver, CO
        • 9/16 Jackson, WY
        • 9/17 – 9/18 Yellowstone /Grand Teton
        • 9/19 Butte, MT
        • 9/20 – 9/21 Seattle, WA
        • 9/22 Portland, OR
        • 9/23 Eugene, OR
        • 9/24 Sonoma, CA
        • 9/25 – 9/28 San Francisco, CA

Team Gabon: Tom and Nelly

After dinner, we went to the Chapter House by campus for some foosball and drinks with Tom and Nelly Archibald who also live in Ithaca. I had not been to Ithaca since their wedding and I was glad to have the chance to enjoy them in their element. They were probably also excited to get away from home as Tom’s parents were visiting town. It is always a blessing and curse to have your parents around as far as I am concerned. Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, it’s mostly a blessing! Let’s say it is difficult to truly enjoy the local music scene, eighty beers on tap, and Cornell co-eds knowing that your parents are going to be protectively watching over your shoulder! Ironically, our next stop is the childhood home of Brett Richey in Mount Lebanon, PA just outside Pittsburgh.


Day 3: New York City

On Thursday night, after our day at the game, Brett and I made our way to Isaac’s Barber Shop for a haircut and some good candor. These two barbers were convinced that we were members of Maroon 5 headed across the country on tour, and asked if I wore a vice in my pants to sing the high notes. Although I had been practicing my falsetto and the vice was in place, our autographs still did not yield free haircuts.

Well shorn and ready for action, we headed to B-Bar on Bowery and 4th Street looking to enjoy the outdoor patio and some cocktails. The usual cast of New York characters rolled through from all walks of life: Amherst Alumni, Lex Vegas Lunatics, Frisbee Folk, and the Regular Relatives. Once again, interesting conversation prevailed as we spoke of our plans for our journey, reasons for leaving our jobs, and the usual nonsense and riff raff. I would recount the interesting stories and tales that were shared, however, we enjoyed several beers, shots, and drinks before sleep finally beckoned at 3:30am. These tales are locked safely in my “memory” never to be retold.

After a late start from the heavy drinking the night before, we finished packing and made preparations to leave. Getting hold of the drugs and shirts had been no problem, but the car and tape recorder were not easy things to round up at 1:30pm on a Friday afternoon in New York City. And so we set out for Ithaca, faced with Friday afternoon Labor Day weekend traffic headed out of New York City. We had originally planned to be there for an early dinner at 6pm, but it was an uphill climb from the start. Our first two miles took nearly 45 minutes! By the time we finally got out of traffic, our new arrival time was already pushed back well after 7pm and more traffic en route led to a 9pm arrival time. Fortunately, on a Friday evening, Ithaca was alive with the sounds of 80s music and college students just beginning a new school year.

We met three of our friends from Amherst, Michael Page, Hilary Plum, and Sarah Hann, for dinner in town at Ithaca Ale House. Thankfully, they were able to wait the additional three hours for dinner due to our delays on the road. The burgers were great, the beer was delicious, and the waitresses were beautiful. What more could you ask for after a long day on the road? Oh, yeah, the company was pretty good too! We were looking for travel advice for the leg of our journey between Minneapolis and Denver. Fortunately, Page was raised in Fargo, North Dakota, and Sarah and Hilary has plenty of additional advice regarding Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. Also, being more level-headed than Brett or myself, they suggested a paper atlas rather than simply relying on the GPS and internet access via my phone. As far as we were concerned, technology would prevail, but they warned of poor satellite coverage and battery power becoming severely limiting factors.

If anyone has any good spots to visit between Minneapolis and Denver, we are very much open to suggestions and, in fact, we very much encourage them. We are looking for majestic landscapes, good night life, and potentially interesting landmarks along the way. I promise to not only post pictures, but also call you out by name if we follow your suggestion...what could be better than that? Oh yeah, actually being there with no cares in the world and living the dream...