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Hot cocoa

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by request

 Earlier some of our friends asked for us to post  our responses to the questions we were asked by roadtrip nation as to why we wanted to go on this roadtrip and what we hoped to learn. Well after being on the road for almost 3 months we have started to reflect upon different aspects of our trip, what we hoped to gain and what we’ve already achieved. Here are our early answers to these questions.

What is your team’s purpose for going on this roadtrip? What is it that you hope to discover on your travels?

We are the kids next door, we played in little league, went to college, became camp counselors and now graduation with its life decisions and opportunities beckon. Frankly we’ve had a hard time with this idea. We are not looking for an answer, but for alternate options to the road that has been paved for us. We hope to learn about the decisions other Americans have made around our age and how they have been effected by their decisions. We have toyed with the idea of traveling abroad, but have decided that its benign to look for answers in far away places when we can learn much more in our own backyard. We hope to better know our own culture and the people who have influenced our lives, or at least understand people and America in a new way.  The American culture is a hodgepodge of ideas, customs, and differences; we hope to find ourselves in its mixture without following the given recipe.

In the search for these new meanings and answers, we find it hard to ignore the fact that it is an election year.  At a pivotal time for our country, it seems this election is as important and as popular as ever.  From Bourbon Street in New Orleans to route 66 in the west, we will read similar billboards and yard signs promoting change and will talk with people who hold diverse ideas about its direction. The election will follow us on our trip around the nation.  We want to get a better understanding of how different American cultures are affected by this election, and in turn, what impact this election has on these cultures. 

 What is your individual purpose for going on this trip? What do you hope to gain from this opportunity?

Elly’s answer:

I’ve spent the past couple of months thinking about this question. You know, the why. Why do this, why stray off the path already written, why not take the 50 grand with benefits and be happy with the job a college degree can get you right after graduation. But there is so much I have not learned or experienced yet. College makes so many decisions for us, but I refuse to conform to its label of success. I do not want to be bound by the straight and narrow. This trip is the beginning of a different sort of education. To learn from people and to make peoples experiences not just stories in books or newspapers, but real. I recently spent five months in Thailand and there I learned that knowledge is not defined within the walls and halls of classrooms, but is found in conversation, exchanges and experience. I want to go on this journey so that I can learn from other Americans, to exchange ideas and points of view. To learn from those around me and to live in change. Because America and the world is changing, I do not want to sit in a office and let this opportunity drive by, I have so much to learn from others about life, change, family, work, culture, that I couldn’t possibly enter the illusive “job market” and be satisfied with who I am. I want to be inspired by people from Kentucky to Seattle, to hear their stories and learn from their experiences. 

Kenny’s answer:

   Just like so many of the people that are applying for this grant, I am at the first crossroad in my life where my future is not planned out for me.  I’ve been through almost twenty years of school and am ready to finally step foot in the “real world”.  Yet, I don’t seem to be driven by the same factors that many of my classmates are.  Graduating from a business school, the norm that I am pressured to follow is to choose the career path that is right for me and find the best job possible immediately after I graduate.  I can’t help but feel that this is not the right path for me.  By exploring the different cultures that form the United States, I hope to have the opportunity to learn from those I meet on the road. By talking with people on the record with roadtrip nation interviews, and more casually at parks, truck stops, and around general stores, I hope to gain a better understanding of what the true “American Dream” is.  I know there is more to my future than making money for The Man, and I believe that gaining an insight into how others have created their own path will help me to develop my own goals and outlooks on life.


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Avenue of the Giants

Images of my elders stare

from petrified pews

as we walk up and down

1,000 year aisles,

aged by acorns

and artificial ladders

and Kodak inc.

The path is worn, so

we run.


To orion’s alter

 And give thanks

to Carnot’s law. 

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Santa Rosa!!!

The city was named after them!!

The city was named after them!!

Although we promised to have more frequent updates, Elly’s computer (“Ward” as he is called) started to have some technical difficulties earlier this week. Because of this, the one chain we have hit up more than any other on this trip is the Apple Store (besides maybe Subway for their $5 footlongs). Anywho, in our usual fashion we rolled up to Woody’s house last week at about 2:30 in the morning (after taking the long route and getting a flat tire… ahh!). We hung out with Woody and his parents – Stephen and Linda – for the next couple days in Santa Rosa and man did they ever show us what NorCal was all about. Our first day was relaxing as we went Wakeboarding and Wakesurfing on Marco’s boat (one of Woodrow’s good friends), and then spent the night resting our old bones in the hot tub. Man was that glorious after several nights of sleeping in the car. Stephen and Linda were amazing to us as well, as they took us out to eat several times and taught us the great art of wine-tasting (complete with two great bottles for us to take on the road). Stephen was also kind enough to take time out of his work day to sit down with us for an interview. His thoughts were very insightful, as he talked to us about taking risks without completely jeopardizing our futures. It was also inspiring to hear him relate to us that these risks can and should be taken at any age, not just when we are young. Although it was hard to say goodbye to Stephen and Linda (and the comfortable beds and food they provided us with), we still had a couple more days to chill with Woody down in Capitola and Santa Cruz.

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We’re Back

See we actually (may) have some sort of excuse for our untimely manner and negligence of this blog. Back in the Grand Canyon (some two weeks ago) the apple struck us on the head and we suddenly realized that we had a short amount of time left. We grabbed a map, sat down to drink some hot cocoa (naturally its monsoon season at the grand canyon and when those puppies strike we found you want to be inside) and started planning the rest of our route. We are sorry to all of those who lost faith in us after not having a blog post for over 2 weeks, but shamefully we pick our heads up and make a promise that from now on there will be a post at least every 3 (to 4) days. We’re sorry but please understand we have been in mostly national parks which (thankfully) are still disconnected from the rest of the world.
So let us begin where we left off. The Grand Canyon. “Well it’s not small” was our running joke at this larger than life canyon, We’d repeat this as we dodged European families who were taking advantage of the dollar and spending their summer vacations in American hot spots. They’ve been everywhere. And really the European families are not as cool as say the backpackers we ran into at the beginning of this trip. But ah, the Grand Canyon, what a view. We spent 3 days there hiking up and down the Canyon (unlike most hikes, at the Canyon its ten times harder when you’re walking back up). Here we went to a ranger talk on stars on the 3rd  and celebrated the 4th of July by going to a parade in the small town just outside of the Canyon. Really our pictures and videos can paint a better picture of the Canyon for us than our words.
After the Petite Canyon we wound up damning the man at the Hoover Dam and then found ourselves in Vegas. Not really a trip we had in mind, but because we were driving threw it we decided to stop. Well we spent 12 whole hours in Vegas and decided that was quite enough, its not really a great town to go to when your living off a limited budget. But we spent 4 dollars and made 4 dollars thanks to Kenny’s excellent poker skills. We did decide to get married though, and if anyone is interested we registered at Shell gas station. We tried to sleep in Kenny’s car here, but were woken up by the parking lot security worker at 6 am.  After being informed that we couldn’t stay in the lot, we decided to just scadadle out of Vegas and move onto our next stop. Joshua Tree California.
We spent 2 days in Joshua Tree, a rocky desert national park in California. Along the way many of our campsite do not have water, but we find ways to manage (who needs to shower?). Here the case was much the same, but we often forgot how fast the desert could suck the H2O out of you. Elly got loopy a couple of times (or maybe that was her normal self), and Kenny thought he saw an Olympic sized swimming pool somewhere out in the middle of the desert. These mirages made the journey much more interesting. In Joshua tree we….saved a half smashed lizard on the side of the road, hiked up to the top of Mount Ryan, watched the stars shoot across us from the top of these huge boulders by our site, made popcorn over a fire, bought our first (and probably only) pile of camp wood (Kenny normally takes a small axe and tries to find the wood in nearby forests like a “man”) and began the never ending search for In N Outs. After getting all we could out of this small national park we headed on over to LA to see Lauren, one of our best friends from school who is leaving soon to study medicine in Australia for two years.
LA was “hott.” Lauren showed us around , introduced us to her friends and brought us to the ocean. Here we dashed in and out of the waves, which were as cold as those in Lake Superior and chillaxed with Laur. That evening we all attempted our culinary skills and made some grub. After doing a couple of loads of laundry we packed up or things the next day and left for Sequoia. Not knowing when we would see Lauren again, it was difficult to say goodbye to Miss Schiff and her family.
Before we completely got out of the area, we went to see our mentor Kristin, who has been guiding us along the way from Roadtrip nation. She showed us around the office (we’re we got to see the green RVs) and then took us out for ice cream with some other roadtrip nation employees. We loved how excited everyone was at this small independent company and how great the work environment seamed. It was awesome to meet Kristin who we’ve been in touch with since we got the grant in April and everyone else who was more than helpful, giving advice from everything to what roads we should take when driving up to Oregon to Charlise helping Elly get acquainted with London (she had also gone to London to get her masters a few years before and her advise was exactly what Elly needed to hear).
And before we really really got out of LA we needed to make one more stop to see some of Ellys friends from her Thailand semester. Naturally we met Dancer, and Tess at a Thai restaurant near Occidental College (where Dancer goes) and spent a dinner catching up. After spending such an intense amount of time together in Thailand (4 months with only 33 kids in the program means everyone knows everyone inside and out) it was great to see Tess.i.lou and Dancer again in America and talk about how different life is after our Thai experience and how difficult it was (is) to get back to a normal American lifestyle. Knowing we’d stay in touch we left Tess and Dancer and began our journey to what we though would be the sequoias.
But we didn’t realize that Sequoia national park does not have an East entrance until 2 am when we thought we were almost there. Whoops. We spent a night in the car and decided Sequoia wasn’t worth the effort, so the next morning we opted to spend an extra day in Yosemite and trekked it straight up the Sierra Nevada. Luckily Elly’s Aunt Di (who was also planning a trip to Yosemite) had given us a book on this national park last Easter when she discovered we would be going. The book was a life savor and brought us to what we may consider the most beautiful place in the world. Just outside of Yosemite there is a walk in campsite (cars are parked a couple of hundred yards away) that only had ten sites, each about an acre big. At our little site there was a river that cut below us in the rocks, on the other side of the river, across from us was a green valley full of critters and beyond that were mountains with snow on their tops. Well we just thought we were in heaven (especially after traveling inside Yosemite and seeing the family vacation infestation of Yosemite in the summer). We took our time in Yosemite and made sure to see everything. We went on a 18 mile hike, and many other smaller hikes, a play on the buffalo soldiers who once worked there, and finally got to see those Sequoias! Our only blunder was the small fact that one day we forgot to close the windows in our tent and it rained. It got below 50 most of the nights we were in Yosemite, making us wish we had our long underwear and some hot cocoa.
And from Yosemite we put flowers in our hair and headed beyond San Francisco to our good friend Woody’s in Santa Rosa. First though we had to come back through the Sierra Nevada, with its windy roads and sharp turns, this was the first time in the trip that anyone got car sick. After Elly lost her lunch on the side of the road, we thought the worst of the journey was over, however we were mistaken when later we experienced another first and lost a tire. It was quite the tragedy, but thankfully there was In N Outs and the promise of seeing Woody which kept us on the move.
And there you have it, right now we are staying at Woody’s parents home in Santa Rosa. Yesterday we went to our first winery and knowing nothing about wine besides how to open it from out of a box, we  pretended we could taste the difference between the Merlot and the Zinfendel. We will be staying with Woody for a couple of more days, and then drive up the coast to Oregon. From there we are headed to Seattle and then over to Glacier National park. Then Yellowstone, the Rockies, Utah and then a straight shoot over to Chicago by August 15th, and finally up to good ol’ Cheboygan by the 17th where the roadtrip will inevitably have to end.
But before all of that we still have lots more adventures. We’re sorry if anyone has been having a hard time getting a hold of us. For most of the past two weeks we have been out of cell phone reception range. Our cells will most likely continue to be dodgy for the next couple weeks as we head in and out of the mountains. But we promise to update this baby  every couple of days from now on.

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The Tempe Heat

Holy Crap! Texas is absolutely balmy compared to Arizona. Everyday we’ve been hear has hit at least 110 degrees… oh well, at least it’s a dry heat (as everyone around here reminds us). After exploring the extra-terrestrials of Roswell, we decided to make the long haul to Tempe on Friday so that we could spend the whole weekend with Andy and his girlfriend Sarah. This trip took us through the night and although Elly was nervous, she found time to catch up on sleep as the over-caffeinated Kenny jammed out while cruising through the mountains. Because we got in so late on Friday, the four of us decided to hang out by the pool all day on Saturday. A cooler of beer later, we were all resting up once again (but not before chowing down on some of Elly’s homemade black bean and corn dip). Saturday night brought about our second trip to Sonic of this trip, much to the delight of Kenny who has been teased by their commercials for years now. On Sunday, Kenny, Elly, and Andy decided to take a hike through a local mountain which would have been a much better idea had we not left at 2 in the afternoon. Not exactly the best way to beat the heat. Although we almost got lost on the trail a couple times, we had a great time together and had some sore legs and loopy minds to show for it. On Sunday night, the 4 of us hit up the local bowling alley which proved to be fun, although we all struggled to hit 100 in each of our games. Needless to say, we might request some bumpers on our next outing for old time’s sake. While Andy and Sarah worked away on Monday, Kenny and Elly were able to catch up on some chores before meeting back up in the evening for the Diamondbacks vs. Brewers baseball game. Although the brew-crew struggled a bit, we all had a great last evening together before hitting the road on Tuesday. We were pumped to meet up with our friends once again and are very grateful at the hospitality that continues to be shown to us. Hopefully, we will see Ando and Sarah at the end of the summer, but for now it’s on to the Grand Canyon!

Pic: Chase Field – home of the Diamondbacks

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