Our bags are checked, and our flight’s on time! After a surprisingly uneventful cab ride to the airport (think middle-aged metalhead in a crumb-filled mini-van…), we cleared security in record time and relaxed over pre-flight veggie burgers and beer. In a little less than an hour, we’ll board our overnight flight to Ireland. With any luck, we’ll fall asleep quickly and wake up in the Emerald Isle.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting near-time updates from our travels in Ireland and Germany as well as sharing a series of posts highlighting our recent road trip across the American West. We hope the resulting “time whiplash” doesn’t deter you from following along. We are looking forward to sharing this next leg of our travels with you. -J&M
From where, you ask? From a much-anticipated, 9,084-mile, state-bagging road trip from our home base in New Hampshire. We headed west in mid-June, crossing the northern plains into the Canadian Rockies before starting a slow meander down the mountains all the way into New Mexico. We completed the loop back east via the southern states, and by the end of the trip, we had traveled through 24 different states and 4 provinces. We slept in 16 of them, and ran in 13. And in the six weeks we were on the road, we posted here on WPG exactly six times.
Why just six times when I had early visions of blogging every day, of sharing our adventure as it unfolded (or at least shortly afterwards)? I’ve given that question a bit of thought lately, and here’s what I’ve concluded. (more…)
Greetings from Grand Forks! So much has happened in the last few days, making it hard to believe we’ve been on the road for less than a week. We’ve traveled more than 1,800 miles from home in New Hampshire to this university town on the Red River.
After setting out early last Wednesday morning, we were able to connect with friends from California (who happened to be in NH on vacation) and meet their adorable five-month-old son. We stayed in Niagara, ON Wednesday night and enjoyed a misty, rainbow-filled run along the falls in the morning before arriving Thursday afternoon at a friend’s house near Lansing. We spent a sunny few hours floating around the pool, catching up on the last year and enjoying good company.
We hit the road again Friday morning and meandered (more…)
Conceptual art, or idea art, is an art form in which the concept (or idea) that generates a piece of art is more important than the art itself. For example, poet Kenneth Goldsmith (of @ubuweb) recently announced his plan to “print out the internet.” Clearly, Mr. Goldsmith’s idea is loaded with intention. The idea, and the public’s response to the idea, is the art. I hope we never actually see the internet on paper, but the idea has given us much to contemplate.
Another common aspect of conceptual art is the rejection of self-expression. Once the idea and rules are set by the artist, expression is abandoned and the piece becomes what the rules and form allow, nothing more. Many would compare this to the process of computer programming, although I would argue that this comparison ignores an enormous amount of human variation, innovation and expression that exists in the programming and software development world (another blog post altogether).
I, however, am a believer that self-expression cannot be taken out of art. The moment an artist makes a decision (at the highest or lowest level) that influences the piece, self-expression has occurred. But I often wonder if there is an opportunity to embrace the self in conceptual art. (more…)
Happy June, everyone! We hope those of you in New England are enjoying this early taste of summer. We’re staying cool indoors today, putting the finishing touches on our upcoming travel plans. For the past month or so, we’ve been busy mapping out three separate adventures in 2013: an old-fashioned road trip through the western U.S. and Canada, a European slow-cation, and a Pacific Northwest park-bagging loop.
All that trip planning has been in addition to the task of figuring out things like where we want to live for the next year and how we want to balance work and travel as we continue down this path of self-employment. For the most part, we’ve answered the big questions, and we can freely go forth into the universe for another round of aimful wandering.
So what’s ahead during WPG’s main travel season this year? (more…)
After two weeks in the Virginia mountains, we hit the road yesterday with the goal of picking up a few more “new” states and national parks before we head back to New England for a while. We spent Saturday night in Kingsport, a small manufacturing city in northeast Tennessee we first discovered on our March road trip. Upon arrival, we made full use of the hotel’s fantastic gym, indoor pool, hot tub, and restaurant. This morning, we drove to the Kingsport Greenbelt, a recently-completed mixed-surface fitness trail that traverses nearly ten miles of the town. We were a bit surprised by the hilly terrain, which was a change of pace (literally) from the flat rail trail we’d run a few times in Virginia, but the pleasant scenery helped the time and miles pass. We completed an enjoyable 4-mile run before heading back to clean up and repack the car. We took a driving tour of downtown and then hit the highway to conquer the remaining stretch of I-81. We picked up I-40 into Knoxville, home to the University of Tennessee, where we made a spontaneous decision to take a break and check out the downtown area. We parked in a city garage (free on Sundays!) and wandered around a bit before deciding on a place to eat. We enjoyed the weather and the people-watching as we ate a late outdoor brunch in Market Square. We picked up coffee for the road before driving the last leg of the day down to Chattanooga, on Tennessee’s southern border with Georgia. Chattanooga was featured in a magazine article we read last year as the best place to live for outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s been on our list of places to check out ever since. The weather is looking stormy tomorrow, so we’re off to study the hourly radar with the hopes of picking the right hour for a running tour of downtown… -J
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” –Janis Joplin (courtesy Kris Kristofferson, et. al.)
And we now—officially, after months of planning and hoping and maneuvering—have very little left to lose. As of noon today, we sold the house and hit the road without an address. To clarify, we have a P.O. Box where mail will be forwarded, but we do not have a physical address. We are voluntarily homeless (which brings with it a number of sociological issues which J. plans to discuss in a future post, naturally.) (Insert shout out to anyone who has agreed to host us during the next three months…)
Over the past few days, we’ve both been singing Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” while working to move our stuff into storage, sell the house, and take the final step toward freedom. During this time, music has been a critical factor in our sanity and our motivation. We’ve bee-bopped around the house: packing, cleaning, moving, and singing. We’ve raged and hip-hopped and rocked and sung the blues. Throughout the process, the lyrics of “Me and Bobby McGee” proved to be especially relevant: “Freedom’s just another word for / nothing left to lose.” They were sung quietly while carrying trash bags to the garage, belted out in the shower while we scrubbed off the basement grime, and hummed while packing boxes of stuff we wondered if we really needed.
Yet Janis isn’t the only one who’s been keeping us company. Adam Ezra understood why we were “Takin’ Off Today.” Air Traffic Controller knew that all of the hoops we’ve been jumping through were “just a test / test 1, 2, 3…” And The Hold Steady explained that “we were young and we were so in love / and I guess we just needed space.”
But perhaps Modest Mouse captured it best: “I know that starting over is not what life’s about / but my thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth.” It’s not often that you change most (or all!) of the key components of your life, but sometimes your thoughts are too loud to ignore. We’ve changed so much with our physical and professional and personal selves that this financial transition out of the house seemed natural. It was necessary to complete our journey into a place of total flexibility.
We have no idea what the future will bring, but for now, being on the road—traveling, reading, experiencing life and writing—is good enough… “good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.” -M&J
After a whirlwind two weeks (and two especially long days of driving), we are back home tonight, looking forward to sleeping in our own bed and having breakfast tomorrow at our favorite cafe. Two days ago, we left 80-degree sunshine behind in the Florida Keys. This afternoon, we met friends of ours (in town from California) for drinks in chilly New Hampshire, rolling in to the bar directly from the highway. In order to make it on time, we logged our longest day of driving to date yesterday–817 miles from Savannah, GA to Yonkers, NY–adding to the trip total of 4,073 miles. Sal the Subaru was a champ on his first long-haul road trip, averaging more than 25 miles per gallon (fewer in the mountains than in the South). Our words per gallon fared only slightly better, due largely to the lack of downtime we built into the schedule. It’s something we plan to include more of in our longer trips later this year, but our priority for this one was simply to get far away from here and physically break away from our prior day-to-day lives. Now that we’re back, somewhat rested and fully reinvigorated, we have a long list of posts, photos, and videos to write, edit, and upload. We’ll spend most of April at home, writing, running, and finding a new rhythm. But before March ends, we have one more adventure planned: to participate in a charity trivia bee tomorrow night. After several days on island time, it will take a lot of focus and some strong coffee to ensure our brains are up for the challenge.
After driving 620 miles today (mostly in Florida…), we have finally arrived at our home for the night, a chain hotel right off the highway in Savannah, Georgia. We’re a stone’s throw from South Carolina, which will be the 14th state we’ll hit on this trip and where we head early tomorrow morning. But first things first! Tonight we sleep…in a bed! We’ve been camping for the last four nights, so this plush, king-sized mattress is a welcome change. We need a good night’s sleep to prepare for tomorrow’s monster drive: 15 or so hours up the scenic I-95 corridor. If things go as planned, we’ll be sleeping somewhere north of New York City tomorrow night. By the end of the day, we’ll be closing in on the 4,000 mile mark for the trip…and we’ll be ready for another night of rest before hauling back to New Hampshire to meet up with friends visiting from California and participate in a charity trivia event. Fun times are definitely ahead, but right now…it’s time for lights out! -J
Since leaving New Hampshire two weeks ago, we’ve kept a small notebook in the car with pieces of information about our trip: gas purchases, mileage, expenses, lists of things to bring on the next trip, strange signs seen along the roadside, vanity plates…the list goes on.
The last page in our mini road journal includes a list of states and provinces labeled “The License Plate Game.” The License Plate Game consists of writing down all unique states and provinces from license plates we see on the trip. The goal is to get all 50 states and Washington, D.C. before we get home; provinces are just a bonus. It’s not a competitive game as much as it is a team effort to complete the list, in part because it helps stave off boredom on the road and in part because it forces us to be aware of the little details around us. We found two of the tough stragglers (Alaska and Montana) parked on side streets as we wandered around Key West yesterday.
In the 13 states we traveled through to get to Key West (NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, WV, VA, TN, NC, GA, and FL), we recorded 44 different states plus Washington, D.C. and three provinces.
As we prepare to start the 30-hour, ~1,700 mile trip from Sugarloaf Key to New Hampshire, we have just six states left: HI, WY, ID, NM, UT, and ND.
We’ll be on the lookout for these last few states as we head back to the Northeast over the next three days. If we don’t see them on this trip, we’ll just have to continue the quest when we drive out west later this summer!
P.S. In case you’ve wondered what it’s like to drive hundreds of miles through southern Georgia or northern Florida, take a peek at this…and then rewind and watch it 600 more times.