Tuesday, May 04, 2010

5 Years Later...

I'm off to do it again - and this time bigger and better. Roadtrip 2010. Check it out at Joesroadtrip.com

See you on the road.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Info on using the site

Welcome visitors!

Thanks for checking my site out - I had a wonderful experience on the road this past July and am glad to share it with anyone who is interested.

As you can tell, the journal entries are in reverse-chronological order. If you're like me and prefer to view things in a natural order, just click on the links under the "Archives" (on the right, in blue, just a little down the page). This way, you can go back to Day 1 and move forward, if you would prefer. There might be more than one post on a particular page, as some I've written on the same day (for example - Day 2 and 3). If that is the case, scroll down to the bottom of the page to read the earlier post first. Sorry for the confusion.

Thanks again for stopping by. Don't forget to sign the guestbook, or send me an email with your comments at josephcurtin@stny.rr.com. I'd love to hear about your experiences on the road, as well.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The full journey

Monday, August 01, 2005

Day 29

Location: Endwell, NY

Total miles traveled: 11,526

As you can tell, I came back home just a bit early. I left South Bend around 10AM on the 29th - by late afternoon I was near Erie, PA. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a hold of my friend Tom in Buffalo, so I decided I would just continue East towards home (only about 600 miles total for the day).

I got back home shortly after 9PM, despite all the bathroom stops and stretching stops. Its odd...on the latter part of this trip I noticed that the right side of my butt gets all crampy, but I don't have a wallet in my back pocket or anything.

Anyhow, got to see my family before I retired for the night at my parents (I was too tired to go any further). Talked a little about the trip, showed off some mementos, and then went to bed.

It was a great feeling to be back home after 29 days on the road. I don't know if I have mentioned this, but prior to my leaving on the 1st of July I was never away from home for more than 5 days (and most of those times they were family trips).

It's not like I've "found myself" on this trip or any other mushy stuff. However, I did learn a few things on the road that I probably wouldn't have found out otherwise:

For one, I can tolerate being by myself for long periods of time. A lot of people (including my students) thought I was crazy (or would become crazy) going on such a long trip solo. I have vacationed by myself before, but never for so long. Granted, I did make stops to see friends and family, but for the most part I was on my own. I was afraid I'd drive someone crazy if anyone came along. This way, I was my own boss...if there was something I wanted to see, I would go drive and see it...didn't have to ask anyone else.

But now, having seen so much, I know what I'd like others to see. It's an incredible country, and I've learned that even in a short amount of time a lot can be seen. Someday, hopefully, I can bring someone out on a cross-country trip to see some of these amazing places.

Another thing is that I've gained an appreciation for the unique area in which I live. Sure, we don't have tall mountains here, huge rivers, or deep canyons, but my home of hills and valleys has its own unique charm. I feel bad in that I went on this trip to hike in all these different places, yet I have never hiked here. I look forward to spending some time learning more about this area before the summer ends. This way, I hope to have a little more to say when people ask me about where I'm from (and I can say more than "3 hours from NYC").

I never would have thought that so many people would be interested in following one person's drive around the country. Maybe it's because you don't see it happen to often? I thought people would get sick of my writing after Day 2. I'm so grateful for all the positive comments and well-wishes as I went along, and I'm glad so many people liked the photos I took (I already blew up a couple and they've come out great)...if there's any one that you particularly liked, let me know, and I'll get you one printed.

My trip turned out to be more enjoyable and eye-opening than I ever thought it could be. I have said for years I wanted to see the U.S. first before I saw any foreign countries, but after taking this trip, I realized how little of the U.S. I've actually seen. Yes, I did drive almost 12,000 miles in a month, and have been in a lot of states, but believe it or not I have seen so very very little of this great country. And it's encouraging to know that I can take 10 more cross-country trips and I would still have so much left to see.

But as fun as it was being on the road, it's so nice to be back home. My time on this trip flew by, and I could've done another month, easy, if I didn't need to get back.

I'd recommend to anyone to go on a drive and see a little bit more of the U.S. than what they are familiar with. Of course, not everyone can take a month to do it, but even if it means driving to Iowa on a long weekend, or flying out to Texas and renting a car for a week to drive around...do it. There's so much more out there than what a lot of us have seen and are used to, and it's well worth seeing. You can't put a dollar value on it.

Thanks again for following me along on this trip.


Back home with the housemates

Friday, July 29, 2005

The journey nears its end...

Days 27-28

Location: South Bend, Indiana

Total miles traveled: 10,921

I woke up freezing shortly after 4AM on the 27th...my blanket did nothing in the cold Minnesotan weather. So I got back on the Interstate and headed South into Iowa.

It didn't take long to get into Iowa, but I was exhausted so I stopped for a nap. Pulling into the rest stop I heard some unsettling noises - my brakes were grinding. I knew I couldn't continue on the trip in this fashion, so I decided I'd try to find a garage when I reached a sizable city in Iowa that could take a look and find the problem.

My road atlas indicates the size of a city with the size font it uses for the name of the city; i.e. the smallest towns are written in the smallest fonts. So when I found a city with a medium sized font - Independence - I knew that would be a worthwhile place to stop.

I drove through the main road in the city but found no Midas, Meineke, or Firestone garages. I called my brother Brendan on my cell, and through a Google search for "Brake Shops" he found a Firestone just a few blocks from my location.

I drove to the Firestone, explained the situation, and the pleasant mechanic Ryan put my car right up on the lift and took a look. He said I would need new front rotors and brakes, costing (with labor) approximately $150. That sounded reasonable to me, so I told him as soon as he could get it done would be great. He actually said he'd start on it right then and told me it shouldn't take more than an hour.

Within 45 minutes I had walked back to the main road in Independence, grabbed a sandwich, and walked back - my car was already parked in the lot. I paid the clerk, thanked Ryan, and was on my way once again. I realized I should have had them do an oil change while it was up, but that didn't occur to me at the time; however, there was a Quaker State just down the block with no cars lined up. I pulled in, asked for an oil change and a tire rotation, and they got right on it. As you can probably tell, the various workers I had met in Independence were incredibly friendly. Before they drove my car into the bay, I grabbed a book in order to pass the time. Catalina and Jon had previously given me a copy of the book "1776" but I hadn't yet had an opportunity to start reading it. I didn't even get through the second chapter and the work was done (the book is definitely a good read so far). I was back on the road by 3PM.

I definitely cannot complain about the front brakes needing to be replaced - with the age of my car, and its high mileage, I couldn't be more thrilled of how its handled almost a year's worth of driving in a period of less than a month. If this is the only major car "issue" this whole trip (knock on wood), I couldn't be more pleased.

I've always said I've wanted to visit Iowa, knowing how flat it is, and I heard you can see for miles in any given direction. I'm certainly not used to anything like that, growing up in the valleys and hills of Broome County, NY. And I have seen a lot of flat land in the South like Texas and Arizona, but it was different here with all the developed farmland. I especially found it interesting how many clouds you could see, but not by looking "up," but my looking "out."

I drove in the direction of Eastern Iowa, where, near the border, I would take HWY 61 South to I80 into Illinois. Before I reached 61, however, I drove into the town of Dyersville. Dyersville is famous because of a movie that was filmed there in the 80's. Here's a picture, see if you can figure out what it is (it shouldn't be too tough):

In case you haven't figured it out, the movie is Field of Dreams that starred Kevin Costner. It was interesting seeing a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield, and reading a little bit of how the county worked to get Universal Studios to film the movie there. I certainly wouldn't have missed much had I chose not to visit the site, but I'm glad I did as it's a location that not too many cross-country travelers get to see.

I had originally read about the city of Dyersville in my book "Road Trip America," which highlights the less frequently visited, but still unique locations in the U.S. I highly recommend the book to anyone planning a trip. Unfortunately for me, I ran out of time visiting national parks so I didn't get to see barely any of the destinations mentioned in the book. I hope to take another cross-country trip in the future where that book will be my sole guide.

Within 15 minutes I was back on the road and decided I'd head towards South Bend in Indiana. Although I would have to cross the state of Illinois and drive past Chicago, I realized it would be only 250-300 more miles until I reached South Bend, where my brother Mike's friend, Tim, lives. I had spoken with Tim days before, and he said he'd be glad to have me come by and spend as much time as I want there.

I arrived at Tim's around 10:30 that night. Tim was also being visited by another mutual friend of his and Mike's - Brent. Brent goes to school in Chicago and was on a break himself so he made the drive over.

Me, Brent, Tim (and Belle)

We spent a couple hours just lounging around, playing video games outside, and talking about my trip. Brent headed back to Chicago that night, and I went to bed a little while later.

Got to sleep in on the 28th, and Tim and eventually went out and grabbed some pancakes for breakfast (I eat like a pig when I stop and see family and friends). We spent the afternoon playing more video games and we later spent time with his girlfriend, Marsa, and her son at her house. I had a great time just getting to relax and talk with these guys who are incredibly hospitable.

I'm back at Tim's now, and I'll head out of here early tomorrow. I might drive up towards the Buffalo area to see my friend Tom, and then I'll drive the four hours back home the following day. It would be pretty simple to get back home tomorrow, but since I'll be on the road it'll be a good opportunity to visit an old friend.

As this trip winds down, I want to say thank you to everyone who has been following along...I didn't know how interesting this would be to the people back home, but everyone I've talked to said they have enjoyed reading this site and looking at the pictures. Your nice emails and comments made the trip even more fun, and I am very grateful for them.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Day 26

Location: 40 miles west of Albert Lea, Minnesota

Total miles traveled: 10,273

I woke up in my hotel room, almost forgetting where I was. Sometimes I worry that sleeping in a bed will be too comfortable and I'll have a hard time sleeping, as I've gotten quite used to reclining in my car and putting my feet up on the dash.

It was rainy and cloudy outside, so I decided I would not make the drive back South and try to see Mount Rushmore. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to see it in the future. I feel really fortunate I was able to see the Crazy Horse Memorial before the weather turned sour. By the way...I forgot to mention this in my previous post - if I can give you a sense of the immensity of this Crazy Horse Memorial project...look to the immediate left of Crazy Horse's face - in that area (the brownish rock - which will eventually become his hair) you would be able to fit all four heads of Mount Rushmore. That's how big this thing is going to be.

Before I left Rapid City I began a search for a Native American art store that I saw a billboard for miles away. I remembered the address and got there shortly after it opened. The place was enormous...much bigger than I anticipated, and it had all kinds of artwork for sale...paintings, jewelry, beads, etc. Even items that were handmade by non-Native Americans.

I spent some time on the 2nd floor which was the art gallery. There were beautiful paintings for sale (some $5000+) and prints, as well. I found a display of an artist, Don Montileaux, whose work was also on display at the Crazy Horse Memorial store. At Crazy Horse I was drawn to a particular print of his on the wall called "Chief's Blanket." Unfortunately, no more prints were in stock and the one on the wall wasn't for sale. Dejected, I left, not thinking I'd see it elsewhere.

By a strike of luck, the exact print was available in this store in Rapid City. I also was able to meet the artist since his studio was in the same building. Don is a very nice guy who was willing to spend time talking with me even though I know nothing about art. He explained to me that he is Oglala Lakota - the same tribe as Crazy Horse. I had been hoping to bring something Lakota-related home, but hadn't found anything until that print. I thanked Don, he gave me his card, and I went downstairs to purchase the print. When I get back home I'll have it mounted at the Garland Gallery (Colleen - check my mail for a 10% off coupon).

I left Rapid City and headed East across I90 which runs across the entire state of South Dakota. Along the way was the famous "Corn Palace" in the city of Mitchell. I guess it's a place made entirely of corn. Inside there was a museum of all different South Dakotan things. I wasn't exactly enthralled by the place, but I figured since I was out here I should see it.

Yeah, I don't get it, either.

Anyhow, I continued East into Minnesota and found a rest stop to spend the night. Tomorrow I'll head into Iowa, and I should be able to reach Illinois before evening. As the end of July draws near, I'm getting more and more anxious to return home. Yes, I've become quite comfortable sleeping in my car, and it's fun being out on the road, but I look forward to getting back in my own bed, and not having to drive so much on a daily basis. But all the driving has certainly been worth it.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The journey continued (approximately)

Day 25

Location: Rapid City, South Dakota

Total miles traveled: 9,757

Was on the road shortly after 8AM and I headed North on I25 into Wyoming. By early afternoon I was on hwy 18 which would take me into South Dakota. I didn't think of it beforehand, but I noticed on the map I would be driving through Wind Cave National Park on the way to Mount Rushmore, and since I still had plenty of daylight left, I decided I'd see what the park was like before continuing further north.

From what I understand, Wind Cave is similar to places like Mammoth or Carlsbad - a large network of caves underground. However, it is also made up of several miles of prairie and forest where bison, prarie dogs, and elk roam. It was originally set up as a preserve for bison and elk in the early 1900's as hunting by white settlers brought these animals to the verge of extinction.

Not being much of a spelunker, I decided I'd stay above ground, maybe do a little walking, and see what animals were around. I didn't get to see any bison at any of the other parks I've visitied, so I was treated to a nice view of a herd of them shortly after I entered the park...they were right on top of a hill next to the road. One of them almost bumped into my car as it wanted to cross the road.

As you can see, bison are pretty big and visitors are told to keep their distance as they can be dangerous. On a side note, these aren't buffalo. I learned at the visitor's center that these animals were incorrectly named buffalo by European settlers after the animals from Asia, which are an entirely different species.

I continued on the roads through the park, stopping to enjoy the nice scenery. It was odd...this place didn't have mountains, any big canyons, or huge rivers flowing through it, but I found it to be one the best places I've visited this whole trip. Maybe it was the simplicity of the place that I enjoyed so much...I don't know. I would have been able to just sit on the grass for hours, enjoying the nice breeze sweeping over the prarie.

I also had the fortune of getting to see prairie dogs which I have never seen before. They are really little guys who make these high pitched barking noises to communicate, and they scurry back in their holes whenever someone approaches.

I spent some time walking part of the Centennial Trail which goes on for several miles. It was probably one of the more enjoyable trails I've hiked on, as it cuts through hills and meadows; whereas, most of the trails I've been on have been in forests, which I don't enjoy that much.

I headed back when I saw storm clouds approaching...fortunately, I only got rained on a little bit until I made it back to my car.

I headed further North and left Wind Cave National Park and headed towards the Crazy Horse Monument. I had only heard a little bit about this before and I wasn't quite sure what it was, and I was worried I wasted $10 gaining entrance to this place. But I couldn't be more glad that I spent that money.

Just a little background info...Crazy Horse was one of the main strategists who led the Lakota to victory at the Battle of Little Big Horn (Custer's Last Stand). In the 1940's, the Lakota decided they wanted to honor him with a memorial in the Black Hills, considered sacred by the Lakota - in the words of Chief Standing Bear, they wanted to show white people that "red men had heroes, too."

The Lakota hired a sculptor named Korczak from Boston to create the memorial. The memorial would be partially based on a saying attributed to Crazy Horse after he was asked the derisive question "Where are your lands now?" He responded, "My lands are where my dead lie buried." Therefore, the memorial would show him pointing straight out, sitting on his horse - here is what it will look like:

Picture this sculpted into the side of a huge granite mountain. As you can imagine, it would take a long time...right now, the only fully complete part is the face.

When completed (no one knows when...it is all privately funded), the Crazy Horse memorial will be the biggest sculpture in the world, taller than the Washington Monument and bigger than the largest pyramids in Egypt. Korczak died, but the work is continued on by his large family.

At the site is also the North American Indian Museum - it was enjoyable walking through there admiring the art and reading the stories of Native American heroes.

I had to keep moving as I wanted to see Mount Rushmore before dark, but I hope to return some day and spend more time. The $10 was definitely well spent, and I got more than my money's worth. I believe the process being undertaken here is incredibly important and I hope it is completed within my lifetime.

It was cold in the Black Hills...it had to be in the low 40's, and the cold wind didn't help. Fog was rolling in, and rain began to come down, so I debated heading towards Rushmore. It was only 10 miles from the main route I was on, so I decided I'd check it out. But by the time I arrived at the entrance, it was so cloudy and foggy I doubted I would be able to see anything of interest. I left and headed further North to Rapid City.

I got a hotel room to spoil myself for the last time on this trip...I'll be home in a few days, and I'll have a place to stay in Indiana, and, most importantly, I've been under-budget on this trip, so I figured one last hotel stay would be fun.

I woke up to rain and clouds, so I don't think I'll head back South to see Mount Rushmore. I'll head East across the state of South Dakota and then eventually SE into Iowa.

South Dakota is an incredible state, and I've only been near the Western border.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Day 24

Location: Longmont, Colorado

Got to sleep in for the first time in a while, and then Melissa and I headed out for Rocky Mountain National Park (only 60 miles away). Melissa was anxious to see some Colorado outdoors as she has been busy with work and not had much opportunity to visit many places. I also wanted to see the place, as it came highly recommended by Thad.

We spent a good four hours at the park - it was great having someone to enjoy a park with, after all the hiking I've done alone.

As you can see, it was an absolutely beautiful park. It was busy...a lot of people were out on the trails, but we still had time to relax on our own and enjoy the views.

After the park, Melissa and went out for dinner, saw the movie "Wedding Crashers," (which was hilarious...I haven't laughed out loud so hard in a long time), and then, of course, we went to a Cold Stone (#3 for this trip...I'm making it a crusade to visit as many as possible).

I'll head out early tomorrow...the plan is to make it to South Dakota. I don't have many specific plans, other than to eventually see Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. We'll see what comes up along the way.

I had an excellent stay at Melissa's. It was great to see an old friend.

view my guestbook | sign my guestbook
get your free guestbook
Free Hit Counters
Free Hit Counter