Fairfield, IA to GRINNELL, IA
the final 94 miles
Total trip miles to date: 16,186
Today was a special day for several reasons. I stayed over in Fairfield, IA, which left a short hop to Grinnell. Overland, one of my sponsors, wanted me to stop in for a photo shoot for their fall catalog. I saw the layout and was impressed! We took the pictures and I was off to see the American Gothic home made famous in the famous Grant Wood painting in Eldon, IA. It
was just a short ride off the highway to Eldon, so I stopped, took some shots, and saw a nice video on Iowa’s own Grant Wood. His unique style made him famous, and the American Gothic painting, his best-known work.
As I was getting back into the Spirit to leave, I received an e-mail that I had been hoping for. A gentleman by the name of Charles Hughes e-mailed that he had been running along the Blue Ridge parkway near Spruce Pine, NC and had found my bag, intact! I spoke to him by phone and we will work things out tomorrow to get the bag back to me. Amazing! On the last day of the trip my bag was found!
I was so happy that the last day of the journey would be sunny and bright. I had an hour and a half drive from Eldon to Grinnell, a chance to reflect on this journey and all that has happened since embarking on May 21st, 79 days ago.
I had been nervous about undertaking such a journey. The Morgan 3-wheeler was unproven for this kind of lengthy trip, and I was going it alone, with no backup. Could I do this? Was this crazy? Why did I feel the need to do it, at all? Lots of thoughts were going through my head at 2:00pm on May 21st when I got into the cockpit and pulled away from family and friends. As I drove off, I was still trying to get my arms around what was ahead. I remember thinking that the only way to handle the enormity of it all was to just take it day-to-day, mile-to-mile, state-to-state. It was an approach that worked for me.
The trip ended today, 79 days, 16,186 miles, and 48 states after its beginning.
Some final thoughts on a very special journey:
I experienced just about everything possible with the weather, a lot of heat, the occasional cool, and then there was the rain. I had rain only twice in first 60 days, then… it rained a lot! I saw fog, sleet, and hail in the mountains, and had to deviate from the route in Colorado and Oregon to avoid fires, though the smoke was still in the air. I had a rain suit, which I wore early, but ended up leaving it in my bag for the last half of the trip. It was just too hot to wear when it was hot and humid. I found the rain refreshing and the material of my gear had been chosen because it is quick drying. I was hopeful that I would get to wear the beautiful Overland sheepskin flight jacket, but it never got cool enough. No doubt, I will be wearing it come winter. My phone was in a holder in front of me and was either on Google Maps or MyRadar (which shows real-time Doppler radar. I changed course a number of times to work around storm cells. This app was crucial to the trip and kept me out of some potentially ugly situations.
WHAT’S IT LIKE DRIVING THE SPIRIT?
I had no radio. That was by choice. I wanted to be engaged in the driving and my own thoughts.
Some of my best thoughts for the book came from these times driving. I would then write about them at night before doing the blog. The mornings would begin with breakfast and a cleanup/wipe-down of the Spirit, checking air pressures, and tapping the knockoff spinners before packing and showering. I would then set the google map directions, top off fuel, if needed, put in my earplugs and then begin the day’s route. Driving the Spirit is not like driving a car or motorcycle. With no power-steering, the steering is tight. The suspension is good, and the ride is very smooth once up to speed. The seats are perfectly designed and of comfortable leather. The cockpit envelops you in a reassuring way. I felt safer in the Spirit than on my BMW motorcycle. I’m not sure the seat belt would actually help you in a crash situation, but it made me feel safer having it on, and I made a habit of it.
I wasn’t on 4-lanes a lot, but this is how it would often go: A vehicle would pull up next to me, matching my speed. Often the passenger side window would go down, and a camera would appear with a face behind it. Some would act like they didn’t want me to see their camera, as if I might not want them to take a picture without them asking first. Occasionally someone would be hang out the window yelling at me, smiling and giving me thumbs up’s. Keep in mind I would have ear plugs in, and it is noisy, mostly due to the wind. Really noisy. I could not hear anything they would be yelling. I would just nod, smile, and give a thumbs-up until they drove on. Universal language.
Sometimes a vehicle would go blasting by (and I was not exactly going slow), then they would immediately slow down, waiting for me to pull up beside them for a longer look. I could almost hear them as they first blasted by me, “Wow, what the hell was that?!” before slowing down for another look.
People were so nice when I was parked or at a gas stop. They would always ask if they could take a picture. It always made me smile when I was asked. Of course, I always said, “Absolutely”, and if there were kids, they got to sit in the driver’s seat for Mom or Dad to take a picture. It brought a lot of smiles to a lot of faces. I calculated that I sent about an hour a day (with 5 stops on average) talking with folks about the trip and the Spirit. That’s 1 hr. x 79 days. That’s over 6+ days telling the story! I got pretty good at it, and never lost the willingness in tell it. Those smiles kept me going.
I had done a lot of homework on the Morgan 3-Wheeler before the trip. I knew it was the right vehicle in which to meet people, but I had reservations about its reliability. Outside of one issue with the fuel system in CA that was quickly resolved, the Spirit was a totally reliable companion. I felt like we became more than a team by the end of the trip.
48 very unique states. I found that every state has its own personality, sometimes multiple personalities (example: Eastern and Western Oregon). I thoroughly enjoyed those differences. I visited lots of small towns, unique places, historical places, national parks and landmarks, lakes (big and small), high mountains, and of course, two oceans. I often would have to stop just to take in the views. Being in an open cockpit is not like being in a car. In the Spirit, I was IN the experience, fully engaged with all senses, quite the opposite of a car’s enclosed cocoon of quiet comfort. I would wake up each day, excited about what I might see during that day. I avoided cities if at all possible, and interstate highways. When it is hot, air flow is your friend. That means running at speed. Stop and go traffic can be very uncomfortable in the Spirit. I made every effort to avoid that, even if it meant going out of the way.
I was doing two writing projects on the trip. One is the impending book, and the other the daily blog. The book took priority each night, often meaning that I could not get to the blog until late, sometimes 1:00 or 2:00am. The basic premise off the trip was to meet people and write about their life journeys. It worked out well. I wrote the Quest to tell about my own life journey. This book will be about other’s life journeys. Everyone has a story to tell, and a life worth sharing. The Spirit did its job of helping me meet up with all kinds of folks. I look forward to telling those stories later.
This was the unknown. Would the Spirit be the open door to meet people? Yes! It was! I made a point of not looking for the story, but just waiting for it to come to me. The Spirit helped, of course, but I was amazed at how many people were willing to talk with me.
Ultimately, this trip was all about the people, not me, and not the Spirit. I met all types of folks from all types of backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, races, and ages. All shared parts of their lives with me. I sincerely thank you all for doing that!
I feel so blessed to have been able to do this journey. I want to first thank all of the folks I met on the trip who allowed me to write about them. You were the purpose of the trip and you made it a success. My sponsors (listed on the website page) all played important parts in making this project happen. Many thanks to all of you for being a team member! Thanks to the American Studies class who participated in this project, planning the route. A special thanks to my friend and colleague Dr. Kesho Scott. It was a conversation at the coffee shop with her that would spawn the very special class we co-taught. That class would culminate with this trip.
To those who provided a warm bed, food, and your time when I came through, a very special thank you! This kind of trip can be lonely and you provided comfort and stability when it was needed. I’m ever so grateful!
Most of this journey was alone. When alone, you have lots of time to think about, and reflect on, your life journey. Solitude can be lonely, but it also is fertile ground for writing. When I wrote The Quest, I was holed up in a cabin in Vero Beach, FL, far away from my family and work life for several months. I needed that separation, that solitude, to write. Today, I have a writer’s cabin, some 800’ behind the house. While there is electricity in the cabin, there is no internet and no phone. It was built for solitude, for writing, and for reflection. I will be spending some time there, for sure, as I try to make sense of all that has happened over the past 79 days. This trip reinforced what I already knew, “it’s important to spend some time each day with just yourself”.
TO THE READERS OF THE BLOG
To all of you who read the blog each day, thank you! I’m so glad you took part in the trip. I knew you were there, and it helped me to keep going each day. As I mentioned, I was often writing it very late at night, and on occasion, the next morning. Thanks for sticking with me!
I like to think outside the box. I know that I, just like you, are unique and special, yet, we spend a lifetime trying our best to be IN the box, to be accepted, and to be like others. When that happens, we give up part of our souls, and in the process let others define us. It took me a long time to realize how wrong that is. When I told myself I could do this journey, I had many folks tell me, “you’re crazy”, “you are too old to be doing this”, “What’s wrong with you?” To these folks, I say, “Think outside your comfort zone. It can be very special out there.”
Like we always tell our athletes: “Have a dream, work hard to make it happen, and think outside the box in the process.” I think did that. It was another great day, the final day.