About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

The Journey Home

Saturday, October 22nd

This morning I said goodbye to beautiful St. Augustine, Florida, and started my journey home.  What started as a work-while-I-travel-America trip, 8 weeks later transitioned into a predefined, no-work, 5-month/3-days-a-state plan, and ultimately, in Hawaii of course, the "New Me" ripped the rigid walls of planning down, and in a refreshing spirit of spontaneity, I leisurely made my way through the remaining states.  Crossing not only state lines, but international borders, too, surprising encounters, unexpected friendships, near-death moments, lessons learned, and oodles of personal development as I pushed through the boundaries within myself, all made for a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience that will surely leave its imprint on me for years to come (along with an itch for lots more travel).  I accomplished what I set out to do - to discover America one state at a time.  Now, with 49 states behind me, after nearly a year and a half of non-stop hostel-hopping, couch-surfing, car-sleeping and tent-camping, I'm tired, I'm satisfied, and I'm eager for a cozy bed, some familiarity and a little permanence.  It is time for state #50, my home: Minnesota!

My route: The approximately 1,500-mile journey home will take me through Georgia (very careful to avoid jail for not paying the ridiculous parking ticket that's turned into a warrant for my arrest!), Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.  Savoring every last morsel of my final days, I'll stick to country roads, taking my time to enjoy the fall colors, with some pit stops along the way to see what I sacrificed on my first time through =) 



I'll Take a Gin 'n Cotton Please


I got a Breath of Fresh Air and took in Marvelous Fall Colors along the 11-Mile Rim Parkway Scenic Drive in Little River Canyon National Preserve on Lookout Mountain, Alabama.  This is the Boardwalk to Little River Falls Overlook.




Crow Point Overlook


A Race against Night Landed me at Little River Campground in Fort Payne, Alabama, where $8 gets you a "Primitive" Site, with only a 2-Minute Walk to the Shower-house :)  I, Hunched over the Steering Wheel, Squinting Like an Old Man with Severe Glaucoma, was Barely able to See Just Enough not to Back my Car into the Duck Pond where I Spotted a Space (i.e., very sharp angled bank!).  It was Pitch Black out by the time I was Ready to Set Up my Tent - Once Again, Headlamp to the Rescue!  A Hot Shower Later and I was Cozy in my Footie Pajamas, Happy I wasn't Stuck in a Pond :) 


Sunday, October 23rd

Dawn at Little River Campground - Early Start this Morning =)



Gault Avenue, Fort Payne, Alabama


HELP!  The Giant Inflatable King Kong is Luring me into a Large Impulse Buy!  Thank Goodness it's the Wacky Wavy Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man that REALLY Renders me Powerless, lol


U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama


As Seen on Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," I Stopped into 
Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (Est. 1925), Decatur, Alabama


Alabama Red, Backyard Mustard, Fiery Habanero Red, tangy Original white sauce (Eww!) and Championship Red Sauce ("judged Best Sauce on the Planet" [not bad]) - I had Good Fun Slathering their Award-Winning Sauces on a Colossal  Baked Potato the Size of my HEAD


Sure, the Sauces were Good (though not Worth Driving Out of the Way for), 
but the From-Scratch Peanut Butter Pie was HEAVEN.


Monday, October 24th


Spontaneous Reunion with My Buddy Ben in Huntsville, Alabama Yesterday
(met in Maui) - Starbucks, Denny's, Baptist Church :/ , Delicious Feasting over Hilarious Stories with his Generous Parents, Good Night's Rest in Quaint Guest Room, Snapped a Couple Photos and Headed out with Fresh Apples 
Early this Morning - Good Times!



 Reminds me of my First Car!  LOL


At Approximately 10am I Arrived in Lynchburg, Tennessee (Pop. 5,740) for a FREE Tour of the Jack Daniel's Distillery, the Place "where Every Single Drop of Jack Daniel's Whiskey in the World is Produced"


  Tour Commences here in the Visitor Center & Museum


Unable to Open his Office Safe Early one Morning, Mr. Jack Kicked it in Frustration. The Blow Broke his Toe and Infection Set in, Leading to his Untimely Death in 1911.  Moral: Never go to Work Early!  :P
 

 "Jack on the Rocks" Standing Tall at 5' 2'' Inches, in Front of the 
Natural Limestone Cave Spring








After 75 Minutes of Following our Guide around the Grounds like a Pack of Whiskey-Gargling W.C. Fields Fans, I Discovered a Ton about the Company's History, the Life of Jack Daniel, and of Course Whiskey Production, blah, blah, blah.  

What's the One thing We DIDN'T get?  SAMPLES!  After finally Scooping my Jaw Up from Off the Floor, I Learned it was a DRY County (but of Course they have No Problem SELLING it in the Gift Shop); I couldn't BELIEVE it!  Fortunately, I was Momentarily Buzzed after Lifting the Lid of a Charcoal Bin 'n Takin' a Whiff of Super Strong Whiskey Fumes (thank you Jesus!) - you Should've seen the Woman behind me who Literally Fell Back!  *Their No-Samples Policy has been Fixed since this Posting, Hooray! =D


Taking my Uncle John's Advice, I Visited Rock City on Lookout Mountain, Georgia; Well Known for the Many Advertisements with Slogan "See Rock City" Painted on 900 Barns throughout the United States!


Rock City features a Long, Convoluted Rock Trail lined with Gardens Containing over 400 Species of Trees and Plants, and Leads through a Variety of Bizarre, 200-Million Year Old Rock Formations, Including the 1000-ton "Balanced Rock" and "Fat Man's Squeeze"


Spectacular Autumn Leaves Amidst the Charming Paths of Stone made for an Incredible Walk through the Delightful, Enchanted Forest =D


"Welcome to Gnome Valley!"


The 140-ft Man-made "High Falls" of Lookout Mountain


Legend Says a Man who Loved a Woman from a Rival Tribe was thrown from the Lookout when his Love was Discovered; hence this Natural Wonder's Nickname, "Lover's Leap"


Publicity and Lore Claim it's Possible to See Seven States from Lover's Leap: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama (though the Curvature of the Earth would Disagree)


Allowing you to Enjoy the View in your Favorite Color
They Spared No Expense, LOL

 
Into the Psychedelic Depths of Gnome-Filled Fairytale Caverns I Go!








When I had my Fill of Trippy Gnomes and Mother Goose Dioramas, I made my Way Down Lookout Mountain, where at the Northeastern end Lies Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nicknamed the "Scenic City" for its Beautiful Location between the Ridge-and-Valley portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau.


 "The South's Favorite Snack," the MoonPie, was Born in Chattanooga in 1917.  Another Opportunity to Splurge, Yay!  (You know, for History's sake) =D


 A Traditional Soft, Sweet and Crunchy MoonPie is a Pastry consisting of Two Round Graham Cracker Cookies with Marshmallow Filling in the Center, and Coated in Chocolate.  Other Flavors include Vanilla, Strawberry, Banana, Orange, and Lemon


$4 got me a Strawberry one, Orange one, Mini (half-size), Peanut Butter Crunch, and a Bottle of RC Cola.  They used to Cost a Nickel!


"The Working Man's Lunch" 
MoonPie and RC is Reportedly what the Local Coal Miner's Ate


Tuesday, October 25th
 
Lots of farms driving through "The Heartland" last night and today; it's about 9am in Indiana in the pictures here:














"Second Empire" Style, 74,515 Sq Ft, 284 Ft High, $443,000
Dedicated 1888, Terre Haute, Indiana


Around 5:30 I stopped into Short Stop in Attica, Indiana, a cute little old-school fast food joint, where for only $3.50 I got a large order of curly fries and a large vanilla malt (the last restaurant meal of my journey, aww), then hopped back in the car and drove 3 1/2 hours, 181 miles through Chicago, Illinois, pitching a tent for the night ($12) at Chain O Lakes State Park in Spring Grove, located in the northeastern corner of Illinois, 60 miles northwest of Chicago and just 4 miles below the Wisconsin border, in the heart of the state's largest concentration of natural lakes.  Gettin' close!


Wednesday, October 26th - HOME!

This morning I stopped into Sentry Foods in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, where I saw Dean's Eggnog, my first carton of the year, being stocked onto the shelves, yay!  I grabbed one, along with other goodies I'd snack on during my last day on the road - a loaf of pumpernickel, pack of hard boiled eggs, Laughing Cow cheese, a banana and Dannon Light Yogurt; the last grocery run of my trip, I'm getting all sentimental as I write this...

My last gas station stop was in Baraboo, Wisconsin - I've come full circle as I remember camping here while visiting The Dells almost a year and a half ago at the beginning of my trip!  Ahh, sweet memories, my how time flies...


Old One-Room Schoolhouse?


Fourth-Generation Certified Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook has led Carr Valley Cheese (Est. 1902) to Win More than 400 Awards in the Past 5 Years Alone, so I Decided to Pop into the Factory in Mauston and See what All the Fuss is About


Their 3 Factories Produce Over 100 Varieties, More than 50 Original Recipes like Cocoa Cardona (Cocoa-Dusted Ripened Goat Cheese Laced with Black Pepper), and Distribute up to 3,000 Pounds of Cheddar Cheese Curds a Day!


After a Tasty Sampling Buffet Inside, I Picked a Winner!


Autumn!


Main Street in Black River Falls, Wisconsin


Sign: "Republicans for the Billionaires and Destruction of the Middle Class"


On My Way, Past the Rolled Hay


Only 5 Miles from Home, I Picked up a Pumpkin for Carving (Halloween in 5 Days!) and Sauerkraut to Go with the Pumpernickel and Cheese I'd Surprise Dad with, and in Less than 10 Minutes I was Pulling onto the same Dusty Dirt Road I've Driven a Million Times, into a Long, Wooded Driveway through Spruce and Pines; the Trees gave Way to the Roof of the House I Grew Up In; I Parked Alongside of the Garage, and just like that, I was HOME.  

A BIG Hug from a Proud, Happy Dad, so Relieved his Son has returned Safe and Sound, followed by Dinner and a Movie just like the Old Times as if I'd never Left, the Next Chapter  Untold, but One thing for Certain, many more Joyful Reunions (and Kicking my Feet Up) - oh, and I'll be Posting Minnesota stuff, too! =D


A MILLION THANKS FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART TO OLD FRIENDS AND NEW FRIENDS WHO GENEROUSLY CONTRIBUTED FOOD OR SHELTER ALONG THE WAY - I COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU:

Ben & Family in Union Grove, AL
The Honey Bees in St. Augustine, FL
Asheev in Daytona Beach, FL
Great Aunt Gladys in Winter Haven, FL
Aunt Joyce & Uncle John in Lake Ashton, FL
Christy in Miami Beach, FL
William in Key West, FL
Xochi, Matt and Mandy from Key Largo, FL
Christina in Brandon, FL
Jessie and Rick in St. Petersburg, FL
Chris in Baton Rouge, LA
Joel in Baton Rouge, LA
Chris Lee in Corpus Christi, TX
Kat on South Padre Island, TX
Chet in Dallas, TX
Cousin Drea and Jeremy in San Antonio, TX
Tonya in Fredericksburg, TX
Cory and Tiffany in Las Cruces, NM
Ron and Cliff in Las Cruces, NM
 Jesse and Morgan from Zion, UT
Peter in Truckee, CA
Laurel in Nevada City, CA

Pete and Rob from Yosemite, CA
Justin in San Francisco, CA
Kyle & Alida in Canyon Country, CA
Terrell in Los Angeles, CA
 Thomas in Long Beach, CA
Sigrid,  Leila and Julian in Ukiah, CA
Matt in Ashland, OR
Tom and Melissa in Fairbanks, AK
Brandon & Heather in Aberdeen, WA
Lance in Seattle, WA
Tyler in Boise, ID
Birk in Park City, UT
Cade in New Harmony, UT
Zachary in Durango, CO
Marilyn in New Castle, CO
Angie in Boulder, CO
Patricia in Cody, WY
Rhonda in Livingtston, MT
 Adam & Meghan in Fisher Branch, MB, Canada
Jem in Fargo, ND
Ryan in Bismarck, ND
Kari and Drew in Alliance, NE
Andrew in Omaha, NE
The Leftos in Wichita, KS
Ramon in Des Moines, IA
Farris in Des Moines, IA
Todd in Des Moines, IA
Pete in Hot Springs, AR
Alex in Memphis, TN
Jodi and Brian in Goshen, KY
Kim in Atlanta, GA
Ricki in Savannah, GA
Sheila in Hilton Head, SC
Daniel and David in Columbia, SC
David in Charleston, SC
Garret and Jennifer in Asheville, NC
Zane in Norfolk, VA
Michael and Carrie in Elkins, WV
Greg in Ellicott City, MD
Joe in Newark, DE
Angelo in Philadelphia, PA
Ray in Wildwood Crest, NJ
Kevin, Chris and Marissa in Shelton, CT
 Daniel & Family in East Greenwich, RI
 Carol and Marty in Newton, MA
 Ryan in Portsmouth, NH
Jeff and Vanessa in Rockland, ME
Susan in Camden, ME
David in Burlington, VT
Adam in Albany, NY
Cory in Albany, NY
Matt & Clarissa in St. Paul, MN




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