Click for larger imageThere I was, sitting in the Moab Ramada Inn.  In thirty five days I'd driven from San Francisco to Maine, down the East Coast and back across the country.  San Francisco was just two days and 921 very empty miles away.  I loaded up the MINI and headed westward across the big, empty expanse of land between Utah and Nevada.

Before I left San Francisco, I packed the CD version of Michael Chabon's newest novel "Summerland" in the glove compartment - all sixteen hours of it.  I thought it might entertain me across the vast stretches of South Dakota, Eastern Canada or Kansas.  Michael's time slot, however, was always filled by National Public Radio, crazy right-wing talk shows or the occasional farm report. 

Click for larger imageAs Moab disappeared behind the red rock cliffs, I pulled Michael from the glove box.  (Everyone should carry an author in the glove compartment.  Authors come relatively cheap and most are sufficiently starved to fit nicely in the average car.)  Michael began the story and I edged the speedometer past eighty.

When I reached Eureka, Nevada, I decided it was time to go home.  I pushed the accelerator to the floor and skipped my last overnight destination.

Before I left Nevada, I made one last stop: the shoe tree.  I pulled off the side of the road and took off shoes I'd worn all across the country.  I tied the shoelaces of my favorite black and white Sketchers and tossed them into the tree.  I'd come full circle from the first day when MUNI Guy and I marveled at the hundreds of shoes in the branches high above.  Perhaps leaving footwear in this tree is like a mother burying a bit of placenta from a newborn baby:  As long as the shoes dangle in the wind I'm destined to return to the road.

Click for larger imageThe shoes safely in the tree, I climbed back in the MINI - the little car that carried me eight thousand miles with nary a problem.  I pulled away from the tree and onto the highway - a spot fifty miles from the nearest house, gas station or inhabited area....and...the flat tire monitor came on and the brakes failed. 

I was so close to home...so far away from another human...and my nearly-new car was dying in the middle of the Nevada desert.

I snatched the tire gauge from the glove compartment.  Driver side front tire: 37 pounds.  Passenger side front tire:  37 pounds.  Passenger side rear tire:  37 pounds.  Driver side rear tire:  37 pounds. 

Click for larger imageIf the tires were sound, what was the problem?  I started the engine and the danger indicators returned.  I turned off the engine, restarted the car and the lights remained.  One more time...off...on...and the lights went off.  The flat tire indicator was quiet, the brakes were restored! 

Maybe it was the heat of the Nevada desert, maybe it was the little car reminding me how well it behaved until now, perhaps it was my punishment for leaving a perfectly serviceable pair of shoes high in the branches while children in Ethiopia have none.  Or, more simply, perhaps it was just the inevitable result of buying a British motorcar. 

Eight hours later, the MINI and I rolled into San Francisco.  Twenty-some-odd states, two countries and 8,998 miles in 36 days.  I was happy to be home and ready to go again.  I really think someone needs to pay me to be a full-time travel writer. 

Click for larger imageI have stories to tell and more to say in future journal entries.  My humble gratitude to everyone who joined the Pledge for Pledge Campaign to help raise $2,924.35 for charity.  Thanks to Drew for coordinating the Bears of San Francisco donation.  Thank you to Saint Great Dane for house-sitting and taking car of my cats for more than a month, Erika Lopez for the fried-egg penis amulet that worked right up until the last day, Leigh for providing several really funny additions, MUNI Guy for his support, Erik in Pittsburgh, Matt in Denver and Scott and Michelle in Iowa for providing housing.  Finally, thank you to the many, many people who sent me notes along the way. 

Everywhere I traveled, people asked me one question when they learned about Road Trip 2003:  "Why?"  My answer:  "Because I can." 

Click for larger imageMy unsolicited advice:  Leave, go, travel.  Range far and wide across the world.  Meet people who live elsewhere, walk down streets you've never seen, visit places no one has ever told you about.  We live on an amazing, small, beautiful, scary, sometimes tragic planet filled with more than a person can ever experience in a lifetime.  Your life gets shorter every moment, every breath, every trip to the toilet.  Life is a limited commodity and I suspect - although I don't know for certain - God didn't design us to spend it behind a desk clicking a mouse.  After all, it was the Divine who created mountains, lakes, gulfs, inlets, rivers, rock arches and clouds.  Man is responsible for cubicles.

Did I hear someone say Road Trip 2005?

Road Trip 2003 Statistics
Day Number
36
Location
San Francisco
Odometer
15,167
Miles to date
8,998
Funds Raised
$2,924.35
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The Plan - Road Trip 2003
Itís time for a road trip - a really, really big-ass road trip...[More]
The Route - Road Trip 2003
San Francisco to Maine, twenty two states, two countries and 8,000 miles...[More]
The Vehicle - Road Trip 2003
An itty, bitty car with just enough space for a suitcase, GPS unit and...[More]
Road Trip 2003 Captain and Crew
Who would be crazy enough to drive 8,000 miles in a really small car...[More]
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