“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings”
The last day of my current contract is Friday, July 22nd and I start my 2011 America the Beautiful Tour the next morning. I’ve decided an EPL-style acronym would be AtB so I’ve dubbed it AtB2011 (#AtB2011). The trip will take me from Austin (TX) to Asheville (NC) to Ashland (OR) ~ Ax3. It just so happens that it currently has 3 legs – the southeastern leg, the western leg and the return leg. Time-wise, I’ve mapped out 3-4 months, but the duration is completely subject to whimsy and work. Below is a map overview. My routes don’t even cover half the country, yet I’ll probably log close to 10,000 miles. Amazing.
July 23 to August 23 – NC/SC/VA + St Louis-OKC
This first leg is primarily to connect with friends & family and test out my mobile set-up. I’m kicking off the whole deal with a personal development workshop in Charlotte. I’m super excited. Then my friend Jonathan and I are going to boogie our butts off at Floydfest. The line-up looks stellar and the site sits smack in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Xavier Rudd was supposed to play there, but sadly he had to cancel.
After the festival, I’ll spend a couple of weeks cruising around Western North Carolina – I lived there from 1992-2000 and adore the area. I have a week planned in Asheville to kick back and do some work-work. I’ll also visit my old stomping grounds in Boone and see family in Roanoke and Lynchburg, VA. Finally, I’m taking the long way home to rendezvous with college friends in St Louis for a weekend.
I’ll be on-boarding my new tenant (a visiting professor from Italy), swapping out gear and getting in some QT with the immediate family.
September – New Mexico, Utah and California
For the western leg, the timelines and planning get a little looser…
Santa Fe, NM ~ my route from central Texas naturally takes me through here, which is awesome because I get to spend time with some besties and soak off the drive.
Southern Utah ~ Arches NP, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Antelope Canyon(?) and more. A number of people have told me that these are their favorite parks, so if you have any specific hike suggestions, let me know. I’m not sure the North Rim of the Grand Canyon will happen but if it does, it will be during this part of the trip. There isn’t time (or inclination) for a hike down into the canyon, but it is on the bucket list.
Vegas ~ obligatory stop for luxurious shower and hotel pool time. Meet me? Seriously…
California ~ Kings Canyon NP, Sequoia NP, Yosemite NP + San Diego and/or LA. I have a couple of different friends who’ve signed on for parts of the Cali leg and I’ll probably spend some time in San Fran (hopefully for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass).
October – Oregon
I have an old friend and fellow adventurer who lives in Ashland, Oregon, which is on the California border in the Klamath National Forest. It’s really beautiful there and she’s graciously offered to let me stay for a few weeks while I scope out the area. I intend to do some contract work and kick up the job search several notches as soon I settle in. Using Ashland as a base, I’ll explore more the northwest. Over the past decade, I’ve hit a lot of the major sights in Washington & Oregon. But there is much left to explore, including far northern California. Depending on how long I stay and how early winter comes, I would also like to check out Idaho a bit.
November – ???
Beyond this, I cannot say. I am open to anything and everything.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu
I would like to spend the holidays with my family, so I will probably drive back to Texas via the southern route. I’ll hit Death Valley NP and Joshua Tree NP, which will be quite pleasant by then. Except for southern California, I’ve checked out a lot of the desert southwest (and driven I-10 more times than necessary) so I’ll definitely be looking for alternatives.
If it weren’t for the winter-weather factor, I would drive across Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Mt Rushmore and down to Texas through Nebraska and Kansas. When and if I figure out how to add a 4th leg to my AtB tour (Austin to Alberta??), I’ll follow the reverse of this route in the late spring/early summer and end up in Glacier/Waterton NPs.
And that’s the plan. Please send any and all suggestions my way! It sounds really ambitious and it is. So honestly, everything is subject to change. I intend to honor my body and budget and be willing to ditch any part of this – provided I haven’t committed to rendezvous with someone. Speaking of rendezvousing, I have a few friends lined up to meet me but there are plenty of places I’ll be flying solo. I’ll try to post more about those places in early August, but if you’ll be near one of my stops or always wanted to visit xyz, let me know and we can investigate meeting up. For safety, I will take day hikes and camp in developed campgrounds when I’m alone. So I’m definitely open to short back country trips if someone wants to join me (or we can stick with day hikes).
Sadly I won’t be getting up to New England or the Mid-Atlantic this trip. I’ve heard great things about Philly’s evolution as a city (B’more too) and I’m really interested in revisiting PA/NY. I spent the first 22 years of my life in that area. It’s steeped in American history. Side note: Texas has an interesting and storied history, which Texans learn about in school. When I moved to Austin, I became acutely aware of my knowledge gaps, which lead me to think about the history I learned in school. Well, Pennsylvania history IS American history. We visited Gettysburg and the Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross’s house on school field trips. Our whole school went to the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration in Philadelphia – we got the t-shirt and everything. I happen to think that’s pretty cool.
Anyway, I am super excited to see more of my beautiful country and meet new people along the way. When I read the news, I start to feel like I don’t have much in common with a lot of folks across the country. But I know that’s not true – I know we are more alike than we are different and that most of us are kind. I know with absolute certainty that I will receive help and advice, share tips and meals, take pictures for others and ask them to take mine. If my car gets stuck, someone will stop to help me. If I slip on the trail, someone will hoist me up. This is what we do as human beings – we are social creatures and we are interdependent on each other. There is no way we would still be here as a species if we hadn’t evolved as communal beings. I am truly looking forward to experiencing everything that is awesome about America the Beautiful, including my fellow travelers.