Thursday, July 31, 2008

15 minutes of fame

About 2 years after this road trip, CNN was preparing a series of stories of road trips. I sent in my story.
CNN iReport
Not only was it featured in a CNN iReport piece, I was interviewed again over the phone and they developed a multimedia slide show with me narrating!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Home Sweet Home

Total Miles: 2,685
States Visited: 10

The last Saturday night on the road there wasn't a hotel room to be found anywhere, so I camped out in the backseat of my car in the parking lot. I took my blanket and pitched a tent, draping it over my front seat and wedging it between my back seat and trunk. It was a very long, uncomfortable night but once daylight came, I got up, unbent my spine and treated myself to a huge breakfast. The big pink sun was there to greet me and to follow me the six hour ride home.

Virginia, Maryland, Deleware and finally New Jersey, my home sweet home.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Take me home country roads

After spending the night outside of Nashville, I was in for some heavy driving through Tennessee. It was the longest, most boring stretch of highway yet. I think it was because I had no more cities on my agenda, just home.

I finally hit the Virginia border and when I got to Roanoke, I got of the interstate and on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in America. All the monotony of the last 6 hours of driving ended and I was left to enjoy the views overlooking the Appalacian Mountains. The road has twists and turns, and without guardrails, I had to be on my guard navigating. It was difficult because I wanted to see all around me, not just the road ahead.


I stopped for dinner at the Peaks of Otter lodge and got dessert to go. There was so much to see and sunset was approaching. I stopped often at overlook points and came upon an area where the Appalachian Trail is accessable. Someday I'll hike part of it, but not this trip.


If every part of my journey was a symphony, then being here is the perfet encore. This is the music that existed before time.

The mountains looked like ocean waves, crashing out to the horizon, and nearing sunset, the firey pink sun followed me for a while defying grafity until it was satisfied that I would be ok. Instead of setting, it simply faded away.


I descended into a dark valley where the road twisted and turned violently. When I exited the forrest, I saw that the sun has sent it's friend, the crescent moon to be my evening sentry with a crooked smirk.

This drive was the most beautiful from my whole trip. Part of me wanted to curse the men who laid this asphalt, destroying the original beauty of this mountian range, but the the othe part of me praised them because without it, I would never had got to see this.

I would be home tomorrow. Back to the job search and responsibilities. But right now I would hold on to this moment and be thankful that I had the courage to do this in the first place.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Live from the Grand Ole Opry

I finally got everything sorted out and drove over to the Grand Ole Opry. Not only is it a music amphitheatre, but an entire outlet mall sprung up around it. It just looks so wrong and out of place, like a spectacle in a Disney World park. I bought a ticket for tonight's show and went to the mall to kill some time.

I was surrounded by country music, NASCAR crap, christian messages and very wide people waddling slowly in front of me, slurping their milkshakes and eating fudge. Now, the people down here are very friendly, but Thank God I don't live here. I feel like I have to read a book otherwise my brain is just going to rot out from contageous stupidity.

I know I'm sterotyping southerners, but my GOD!, how much John Deere and hunting and fireworks stores can I stand to see?


It was time for the show to start and I went inside the Opry House. There I learned that I was about to see not a concert, but a live radio show that has been going on for 80 years.

Song lines overheard:

"There ain't no slow dancin' with a fast woman."

"If my nose was running money, honey, I'd blow it all on you."


I stayed for about 90 minutes. It was ok. I can cross it off the things to do before I die. Now I'm in my motel room for the night and I have to read a book. Now that I'm on my way back north maybe my brain cells will rejuvinate.

Top 10 from Billy Joe

I got into Nashville around 2:30 and went downtown to a stretch of boot shops and bars. I found one with a band and sat at the bar to listen to some good 'ol boys.

There was an old man at one of the tables drinking beers, doing shots and obviously having a very good time because every now and then he would get up and wave around his arms giving the thumbs up sign - his version of dancing.

Theres a big guy sitting at the table next to him. Long, stringy hair, scruffy beard, drunken slur. He came to talk to me at the bar. His name was Billy Joe, not William, but Billy Joe. I saw it on his union card.

Top 10 things I learned from Billy Joe

10. He grew up in Cleveland for 25 years until his parents moved to a farm in Nashvile.
9. He is a stagehand for the union for 15 years, making $30,000 a year.
8. He doesn't drive, but he got out of work early and had been sitting in the bar drinking for 2 hours and will stay until 5. That's when his mom gets out of work a few blocks away.
7. He used to keep a journal - a requirement of AA. He's quit the journal, and apparantly AA.
6. He tried to leave Nashville to go back to Cleveland, but the bounty hunter caught him.
5. Billy Joe was in prison. I don't know why.
4. He had a football scholarship until he hurt his shoulder.
3. Billy Joe was center, and he hated the quarterback's hands under his ass.
2. Billy Joe raises chinese pugs with his parents on their farm.
1. He thinks Secacus, NJ is a smelly place.

He talked to me for a while, and although he seemed harmless, I told him too much about me traveling alone and felt it was time to leave. I lied about the kind of car I drove. You know, just in case.

He tried to get the band to play "Pretty Woman" for me, but they only knew the opening riff and quickly switched to a Merle Haggard song.

I was going to go to the Grand Ole Opry, but that chicken sandwich I ate did something becaue I soon could give a shit about the Grand Ole Opry - I was more concerned about taking one.

The Music Highway

Interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville is known as the Music Highway, according to the signs. Now I'm not much of a country music fan, but since this whole trip is themed aroung music, I'm obgligated to stop in Nashville.

On the way, I pulled off at Jackson, TN at Casey Jones' Village. Cute little tourist trap with a train museum and Old Country Store. I got myself a tasty strawberry ice cream.


"If you can't be good, be good at it."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Blues, Beer and Beale Street

I finally found the blues that made this area of the country famous. On Beale Street you are surrounded with music, from the lone guy who's playing his guitar on the corner, to the band who set up in the open pavillion to the three piece group who's playing in the bar.

I first found a piece of curb and watched this band jam away outside. All the players were black except for this scrawny white guy who made his guitar sing.


Then I walked up and down Beale, stopping in another bar for a beer and the best BBQ ribs that just melted off the bone.

When the sun went down is when the place really got lively. The streets were closed off to traffic so I was able to wander from bar to bar with a beer, getting a taste of each musical style along the way.

The best find of the night was at the Blues City Cafe where this amazing three piece band blew me away. If anyone had sold their soul to the devil at the crossroads, it was these people. The guitarist had fingers like lightning, the stand-up base player had a face like plastic that he contorted into ridiculous expressions and even played that monster base riding it like a mechanical bull.


The Dempseys were true entertainers and had command of the crows with the first strum of the guitar. But the most amazing feet was when the guitarist AND the bass player played a double neck guitar at the same time.


Memphis has it going on here. This is a must visit for anyone who travels out this way. I had such a great time here, I didn't want to leave, but I knew if I didn't then I would have had to get a room downtown and I needed to be back on the road to outrun Hurricane Dennis.


Next stop, Nashville.

Elvis has left the building

Total Miles: 1,536
States Visited: 7

The stretch of driving through Missouri and Arkansas was boring. More farms, more silos, but I had some crazy country music to amuse me. One of the songs proclaimed "I love drunk chicks, because drunk chicks love me."

Soon I reached Memphis and drove straight to Graceland. You get corraled at a visitors center right across the street and take a shuttle to the house. It was weird to see the neighbors homes from the side and back yards. I wonder what they think about all these tourists.


The home itself was a lot smaller than what you might imagine, but it's presence far outweighs its size. I walked through with a perpetual grin because the decoration was so kitch, gaudy, funny. I loved it.

The crowd here is very diverse: rednecks, white trash, future murders and there's even a family of 'little people'. If you were couting mullets and feathered hair, you'd loose count.

The Jungle Room

Going through the home and grounds, with my audio guide, I didn't think of the fat, fried peanut butter and banana sandwich Elvis, but the hot, black leather Elvis.


After the tour, I had my phone interview in the parking lot. The guy who interviewed me was honored that I would take his call from the hallowed grounds of the King and asked me to pay his requests for him. The call went well and so far, everything Stweart said sounded great. It's just the commute into NYC....ugh.

In the news

Waking up this morning to the news of the London bombings put a damper on my trip today. I was so sad to watch what such stupid people do.

I'm also keeping an eye on the weather, trying to stay between both of the hurricanes. Looks like any thoughts of heading further south to New Orleans and Atlanta are gone and now I'll be trying to follow behind Hurricane Charley through Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.

In other news, I have a phone interview this afternoon with an interactive agency in NYC. Wish me luck.

Off to see the King...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis

Total miles traveled: 824
Stated visiteed: 5

The scenery through Illinois was pretty much the same: farms, corn, silos, until I got to the edle of the state and greenery gave way to concrete and skyscrapers. Finally after one bend in the road, the Gateway Arch appeared.


I went insde the museum below the arch and was facinated with the artifacts collected from the settlers, farmers, soldiers and indians of the day. Unfortunately I didn't go to the top of the arch because the wait was 2 hours, and I had better ways to spend my time.

It was a strange feeling sitting underneat the arch outside. The Gateway to the West was the furthest west that I would be going on this trip.


I had a late lunch at Laclede's Landing, a restaurant row nesr the waterfront, and then took the MetroLink to Union Station. It was an old train station converted to a mall and hotel. Very touristy, but the original structure was intact and renovated to it's former glory.

I was quickly bored with St. Louis. I had to get out.


I took a detour to Bonne Terre, MO to visit Patty at the bar she owned, Crossroads. Patty screamed when she saw me, it was completely unexpected. She instantly introduced me to her friends as 'the girl I met in Chicago that I was telling you about."

I had a wonderful time visiting her and had the most fantastic filet mignon I've tasted in a long while. Yum!

By 10pm I was ready to head back on the road and took a winding, dark, lonely backroad back to the interstate. I looked out the sunroof and yelled, "WOW!" The view of the stars was amazing, like somone scattered sequence across the sky. Now, this was America.