Time ticks on, and as we draw nearer to the summer, more and more events are being announced across the country. And in researching our stops during the road trip, we came across two very interesting coincidences in our schedule, which will no doubt lead to some fantastic stories (and blog posts) in the future.
We were flipping through the channels at Joey's house a few days ago, and we passed by a particularly recognizable character preaching a sermon to a crowd of thousands of people. It was Joel Osteen, shown seated here, whose face is a regular staple of Sunday morning television on those channels that I always skip through. I paused, looking for a moment at the ludicrous size of the crowd in attendance, and realized how fantastic an experience this would be to somehow find a way into this crowd during our adventure.
Upon further investigation into the circumstances surrounding this Joel Osteen character, I discovered that he's the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, which just happens to be the largest church in the United States. They have a weekly attendance of somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 people, and hold services inside the arena that was once home to the Houston Rockets.
And what do you know, we're in Houston on a Saturday and Sunday. We'd be extremely foolish to skip out on a godsend such as this. Gonna git me some religion down in Texas.
Then, we were taking a look at Billings, Mont., wondering what we'll be trying to busy ourselves with in such a folksy place as this. But what do you know, we're driving into town right smack in the middle of a festival called MontanaFair. This otherwise small and very distant city manages to attract a quarter million people during this week-and-a-half-long celebrations, which comes complete with rides, concerts, rodeos, bull riding and even had an event last year sponsored by the NRA.
If there's a way for us to get to know the people of Montana, this is it. What a great stroke of luck.
These two lucky occurrences will no doubt accompany a wide array of other fun, spur-of-the-moment activities when we move from place to place. There's not really anymore room for changes in our itinerary, so for now, we'll just have to sit back and wait as things come our way.
Ahhh, such is life. One big long road trip.
(From top) Photo by cliff1066 courtesy Flickr.com; photo by AJ Gazmen courtesy Flickr.com; photo by Haley Rains courtesy MontanaFair.com
Pennsylvania has been my home for all 24 years of my life. From birth at Bryn Mawr Hospital, to elementary school in East Goshen, to adolescence at the King of Prussia Mall, to college in Selinsgrove and work in Philadelphia - this is it, up until now. This may give some insight into what's motivating a move of this magnitude.
And in my time here, I've been fortunate enough to meet some of the most wonderful people in the world, who all managed to find their way to this lovely commonwealth of mine by some great stroke of fortune. This includes, of course, the closest members of my family, all of whom live within three hours of my house.
In packing up and hitting the road, I have to say goodbye to these people for at least a little while. Today was the beginning of that sad process, as I said goodbye to my job at PUNCH Media in Philadelphia. I worked here part-time for the last year, doing public relations work for an assortment of restaurants, boutiques and other businesses in and around Philly.
I worked with great people at this place. I swallowed up an immeasurable amount of knowledge, style and savvy from these people. And today brought the depressing task of thanking them for the last year, and saying goodbye for now. I've done so with two months left before we leave, with knowledge of the abundance of work and planning that will be necessary in the time before we leave.
I have a good life here. I have two good jobs (one, now), a comfortable house, a loving family and a girlfriend worth writing home for twice a day. And everyone close to me knows that despite all that, this trip is what needs to happen to me - if only to quench some small corner of my thirst for... something, something I've been looking for my whole life.
But don't worry. We won't be gone forever.
Fast forward this scene into the future five months from now and it will be the same scene, only it will be in Portland, Oregon, the TV will probably be on, and instead of talking about planning the trip, we’ll be talking about the job interviews we landed and where else we’re applying.
This scene is Joey and Tom on the couch, Tom arms up in the air, bent at the elbow, hands showing the imaginary details of the monologue to their willing audience of Joey’s steady gaze. I sit in my grandmother’s reclining chair, speakers on the table to my right, Pandora Radio playing through them from the computer on my lap.
When I mentioned sitting around talking about what job interviews we will have had, I bet half of you muttered to yourselves, “yeah right, good luck.”
A month ago my dad sat in the overstuffed arm chair in my parents living room, his cast bound ankle balanced on the ottoman. I was directly across from him stretched out on the overstuffed couch, a sham flung over my feet and legs.
“Maybe you should wait a year. You know? Just wait one year.”
“Yea,” I said knowing that what I meant was no.
“Maybe in a year things will be better, but things are really bad now.”
“Yea,” I said again.
“What are you going to do if you get out there and you can’t find a job?”
“We have enough set aside for two months rent, and Joey said he doesn’t want to sign a lease unless at least one of us has a job. I mean, I guess if we can’t find a corporate job we could work at a restaurant or be a bartender or something else that would bring in good money. We can find a job once we get out there, we’ll be in the city. Ideally I guess I’d like to stay in the business I’m in, I could try to work at a bank again, I think I have the credentials for that.”
“OK, but it’s not necessarily about credentials though. Have you been watching the news lately? There are people lined up for jobs at Wal* Mart, and for jobs as janitors. Over qualified people can’t get these jobs. What are you going to do if you get out there and you can’t find a job?”
Later on my mother would tell me that she saw a map of the country on CNN that was color coded to show you where the worst job loss was. She would tell me Oregon was the worst color red according to CNN.
Every morning Joey and I have breakfast with Kiran Chetry and John Roberts or Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, or even Becky Quick and Joe Kernen, and on the ride to work we listen to Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne, and every morning they all tell me how bad everyone is doing and how down everyone is. Bummer, ladies and gentlemen, total bummer.
President Obama has been going full steam ahead and while I’m at work I follow up with Drudge Report and Huffington Post to see what the latest is. I have been making stops now and then at the White House and Revovery.gov as well. I may seem naïve to believe that the more I watch the news the more likely it will be that I’ll start seeing indications that this trip is the perfect idea for the three of us this summer, but I think it’s ok to sometimes act like things are going to work out just fine. I think that despite the bad news every morning and the worried parents trying hard not to push too hard against the trip, all of this keeping your eyes on the final goal, seeing out your project against the odds stuff that we’ve been doing for almost a year now will pay out greatly in the end.
I count on it, actually. And that’s a fact that I’m OK with. I am a young woman at the beginning of her path in life, I will be with two smart people all three of us looking out for the others, I have no one but myself to be responsible to, I think that being in Portland will teach me similar valuable lessons about people and living that studying abroad did, and that ultimately I will look back on this trip as one of the most amazing experiences that I, with two very good friends, came up with, developed, and completed all in a summer when the odds were against us, and we seemed a little reckless for doing so, but ultimately had the time of our lives and came out the better for it.
No one can see the future. But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.
Title lyrics from "I'll Follow The Sun" by Lennon/McCartney
We are getting to the stage of planning where cities and dates are nailed down enough that we can agree on attending events. Over the next couple days we’ll order tickets or request passes for each of the bigger festivities that we’re hoping to attend. As we do so, I’m hoping our current dates and times for each stop don’t get too shuffled. They probably will to some degree, and as they do, we’ll be updating the schedule, which in turn will allow us to plan the next round of events.
The cycle—planning, reworking dates, and planning more—will continue until every stage of the trip is planned out, or we decide to allow ourselves the flexibility to plan on the spot (which we’ll probably do for national parks and some smaller cities.) This seems to be the most workable process for planning a trip of this scale.
What’s my point? The point is that we are in the part where we plan all of the biggest and most exciting events of our road trip! I won’t reveal everything just yet, but here are a few things from the Southwest that we are looking for right now. If you, like us, are from the northeast USA, think about how these three things might change your perspective of America:
-A Donkey Tour of the Grand Canyon
-A really, really big church service in the south
As I've mentioned before, we've had a lot of time to plan our adventure - more than 10 months in the making today. And as a result, our original route has transformed into one of a much more ambitious nature. And with all 48 states to visit, there are a few where we won't be using much more than their roads. A couple more will see us get out and stretch our legs, only to continue barreling forth a few hours later. To begin to compensate for these omissions, let's recognize a few of them.
Delaware. The first state, and the home of tax-free shopping, this state offers us about 20 minutes of road between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the northernmost section of the state. When I hear its name, I can't help but feel like Wayne and Garth in Wayne's World, standing motionless and expressionless with nothing more to say than, "Hey. ..........I'm in Delaware."
Poor little guy. It does have one stop that I specifically wanted to visit, the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton. If you've ever had a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA before, you'd know exactly why. But alas, it's just too far off course. So I'll just have to bite my lips as we push through the top of this state, on toward Philadelphia.
North Dakota. This state lies directly between a long stay in Detroit Lakes, and a comparatively short visit to Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota. It's not the shortest drive form one to the other - eight hours, to be precise - so we'll be in a bit of a hurry to get from Point A to B. We will, however, be driving directly through Fargo. So between now and then I'll be sure to brush up on my Coen Brothers.
New Mexico. This one has me a little bummed out, but probably has Sarah overjoyed at the same time. New Mexico serves as part of our driving grounds between Amarillo, Texas and our next stop in Colorado Springs, and that section which we'll see will in no way an accurate representation of the state and what it's all about. There are some places here that I've heard great things about - Flagstaff comes to mind - but we just don't have time. We know too much about Colorado to avoid spending as much time there as we are (four days). And besides, once we've spent nearly a week baking beneath the wild Texas sun, I can only imagine we'll be speeding northward to the Rockies as fast as the Xterra will carry us.
To these, and a few other states where we're just not spending enough time, I apologize. But for us to spend all this time on the road and still have so much more to see is, I think, a wonderful thing. I have so much more to learn about the world.
Our page views are through the roof today. A quick analysis by Tom revealed that much of the new traffic is being directed here by StumbleUpon. Welcome newcomers! Feel free to check out the What We’re Doing or Who We Are sections for a quick overview. For a more in depth view have a look at Home (right here) section for blog posts and Where We’re Going for our future travel locations and descriptions.
Make sure to stop back in 74 days to get in on even more action.
And of course, any suggestions or critiques are very welcome. And I hear that besides the gratitude of three happy travelers, a StumbleUpon thumbs up yields the stumbler large quantities of good karma, a wish of your choice (and you can wish for more wishes,) and a million dollars.
If anyone tried to visit for the better part of yesterday, you were greeted with either a server error or a Weebly “this site under maintenance” message. Sorry about that. There was nothing that we could do to prevent it or repair it. We are at the mercy of our hosts (or hostesses?) at Weebly.
Until now they have been excellent hosts and very accommodating.
We could spend lost of time and effort backing everything up now and on the road, but that would only reduce the amount of time we could spend exploring the great USA or relaying our experiences to you, our loyal fans. Nobody wants that. Instead, we’ll have to hope for a little luck. St. Patrick’s Day is, after all, the perfect time to drink a beer. I mean the perfect time to hope for a little luck. So toast our luck while you drink a beer.
I had a conversation with my friend Kelsey (shown here) a few days ago, during which we came to the realization that my visit to New York on June 5-7 just happens to fall on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Kelsey leapt into action, formulating his own crazy version of an itinerary for our visit. Frankly, it sounds pretty enticing.
"Quick rundown, which you may blog about if you would like, includes friday dinner at johns pizza then to a bar named the blind tiger right across the street. then the gem of the weekend, the boheimian beer garden in astoria queens, the best place on the face of the earth."
This is a very fortunate coincidence for us that the weekend lines up with a visit to a city where Kelsey and so many other friends of ours reside. But in a lot of other instances, that will not be the case. Normal people work between Monday and Friday. We, on the other hand, will be unemployed, with no obligations aside from driving around, having a great time and documenting it here.
But we do have a schedule that requires us to really keep moving. And unfortunately, that means we'll probably end up missing some friends that we'd otherwise enjoy seeing, but have to work during the week (among other possible prior obligations). And while this will upset us, and warrant numerous lamentations in the future of the friends we missed, we're just going to have to suck it up.
Remember that this trip is about discovery, first and foremost. We know who we know and we've had great time with them all. But seeking out new places and meeting new people is the name of the game here. And while it's certainly a boost to the effectiveness of a city visit to have a resident present, it's also going to be a blast for the three of us to find our own way and have our own fun.
For those of you whose hometown we're visiting on a work day, remember this post and take it to heart. We're counting on you to take the day off.
And in case of any future discussions between Joey, Sarah and me on this subject, I'll be referring them back to this post. I'm a stubborn man.
We just finished another exciting planning session. Sarah wrote up a bunch of descriptions for the WWG (Where We’re Going) section. Tom spent quite a while formatting them and posted St. Louis and The Twin Cities-and he tells me two more are going up tomorrow morning (when he gets pictures from his computer.) Go there for short descriptions of what we expect from each city and what attractions that we are the most excited for. Also new to WWG is the downloadable spreadsheet (more info.) It offers a more accurate listing of the times and dates we'll be at each location.
If you don’t agree with anything or find an omission, use the comments section on the right sidebar of the home page (this page, man) to give feedback and suggestions.
We met for one of our regular powwows on Sunday night, over good food and plenty of important topics. By a 2-1 vote, we've settled on this new, eye-pleasing site design, though Joey is convinced that he can figure out how to fiddle with the colors. I should probably make a backup copy, just in case of any potential Joey-related disasters.
Thanks to some fantastic feedback earlier in the week, we've altered our route to include one night in Pensacola, Fla., followed by a deeper look into the wonders of coastal Alabama with a day and night in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. We'll get around to looking into the specifics, but frankly, it would be wise for us to throw caution to the wind for a day and just enjoy ourselves in some genuinely unfamiliar territory.
We made a big discovery tonight, which I'm going to hold off on for a few days due to its great magnitude, its sheer power. It's too much for me to give proper acclaim to it after such a long night of planning. I can say that it has warranted a cut in some places - namely, Nebraska, Oklahoma and (gulp) Colorado. We're still left with four days in Denver and its surrounding area, so we should get a good taste during our visit.
But with that shakeup, we've also given ourselves some extra time at the tail end of the trip, which we've given to Olympic National Park. As the trip winds down, and we're within a week of our final stop in Portland, I can only imagine our brains will be so fried that we'll need all the nature we can get. If there's a place to come back down to Earth, this is it.
Look forward to a big announcement in the next few days, about a big event out in the Golden State of California. Until then, good night, and good luck.
Photo courtesy www.nps.gov/olym