Today Philip and I went on our big pre-trip shopping spree. Antifreeze? Check. Flares? Check. Face masks for me to wear in case somebody gets sick? [FN 1] Check. Among our many stops was Autozone:
Philip - Do you guys have a serious roadside emergency kit?
Clerk - We've got one in aisle 3, back left.
Jordi - Yeah, we saw that one. Not serious enough. We're looking for something a little more industrial strength.
Clerk, looking at our collection of purchases - Wherrrr...where are you guys going, like New Hampshire?"
Philip - Yeah that and the other 47 states (sic). In nine days.
Clerk - No way. That's impo--
Jordi - Yup.
Clerk - --ssible. No way.
Jordi - Well we're gonna do it.
Clerk - Right, well I want you to send me a postcard from each state. Or like a picture showing what time it is there. No way.
This is a typical reaction to news of our drive. It's one of two we get, actually, the other being complete nonchalance. But for the most part the predominant reaction is incredulity. And I'm here to tell you right now that it is in fact...well, it's "possible." We've worked it out. We've got a route. We've got stops and everything accounted for but chance. Yet what makes our trip so great is that the task is just barely on the bleeding edge of "possible." The more Philip and I plan it out, the more stressed we are getting about how we are going to reach all of our destinations on time. The more we think, yeah, we can do that...probably. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Martinsburg, West Virginia. Atmore, Alabama. Memphis, Tennessee (via Oklahoma). Beloit, Wisconsin. Gresham, Nebraska. Bozeman, Montana. Boise, Idaho. Flagstaff, Arizona. Denver, home. Those are our nightly stops (optimistically assuming that we will be able to actually stop every night), with extraordinarily far-flung waypoints in between. When you just look at map, it seems impossible.
But the math says we can do it and, more importantly, experience says we can do it. Three experiences, actually, two mine and one somebody else's. The first happened back in 1999 when my friend Nishant and I decided to take a friendly weekend trip up to Cooperstown, NY to see the hall of fame. After touring the museum and wandering the town endlessly we found ourselves a bit bored. So we moved on. To Pittsburg for a Pirates game, Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Erie for a Seawolves game (don't ask), Toronto for the CN Tower, and Montreal for the Casino du Montreal, all in one weekend. It was a great experience in countless ways, the one most applicable here being that you can in fact do a lot of interesting and memorable things in a very short span of time.
The second instructive event was my walk this summer to all five boroughs of New York City. This was on July 4, the 3rd anniversary of my initial hospitalization for "neurological dysfunction." Every year since on that day I have attempted some significant feat of walking...sort of my friendly way of saying f&!@ you to the disease. This year I found myself in New York for work and hatched the boroughs plan. When all was said and done, we (myself, Brian, Philip, and my sister Maia) had marched off the better part of 18 miles. I had demonstrated to myself not only that I could still walk a long way, but also that a self-imposed challenge could push me even further. And so my wanderlust was born, but what would my next goal be?
I unwittingly came across my answer a few weeks later when I read about three guys who had driven through all 48 states in five days. They never stopped for the night, obviously, but it showed that one could in fact touch all the states in a relatively short amount of time. [FN 2] So this third experience showed me that such a trip would be possible. I finally put all three together in September, when, as I described earlier, my health situation drove me to do something (and go places) dramatic.
I convinced the others based on the three stories above, combined with only the most basic back-of-the-napkin number-crunching. It is in fact possible to drive to all the states in 120-plus continuous hours. I can--we can walk a long way in a short period of time, especially when driven by a goal. And we can have fun and see a lot of memorable things in a very short period of time.
Now, having spent countless hours with Google Maps, Google Earth (for finding places to walk), and some good ol' atlases, we know how ridiculously close we are to trying the impossible without actually crossing that threshold. When I used to tell people about my trip plans and they'd say "yeah, right," I'd happily tell them that it's very doable. Today in Autozone I was probably a bit less convincing. But we're going to do our darndest to prove that doubt wrong for good.
[FN 1] Yep, face masks. I need 'em because the chemotherapy I'm on dramatically lowers my immune system's ability to fight infections to the point that one man's cold very well may be Jordi's hospitalization order. See "Jordi's Decimated February, 2008" or "How the Office Bug Nearly Killed Me."
[FN 2] In fact, the grand scheme of our route is loosely based on their route. Ours is necessarily longer, as we needed to accommodate our walking requirements, but we are indebted to their method of zig-zagging our way westward. Check out their website at http://www.greatamericanroadtrip.us.