The Odyssey: A Visual Journey
The Visual Journey
This was one of the ideas from the beginning: a visual journey through Covid America. Create a Coffee Table book. I took thousands of photos and a bunch of videos during my 152 days on the road. The plan was to use short editorials with what I thought to be the best of the photos I took. Then, reality set in–I hate it when that happens.
My skill set has never included photography, photo editing, or design and layout. Once I started looking into it, I realized I was like a six year old sitting it on an astrophysics class. I also found out the cost to produce it and print it. About $50 per book is my break even point, and that was after I got the passing grade in the astrophysics class. So, I decided to do this instead.
When preparing for the photo book project that would never happen, I did go through all of the photos, section by section, date by date, and place by place, picking out what I felt were the best that captured it. With the book for sale, a free eBook companion available, and relearning how to update my website, I thought I would do something. This is the result.
It is the best I got. Lol. I hope you enjoy.
Part One: Foreword
A “Foreword” in memes. I think they speak for themselves.
Struggling in Lockdown
“Struggling in Lockdown” is Part One of the book.
Part One is where I struggled the most in writing the book, only second to the final part. I hadn’t hit my stride yet, gotten my rhythm. Rewriting it for the book was difficult, trying to piece together columns, Facebook posts, and Instagram posts. This part of the visual journey is a reflection of that. It was much like the pictures of my packed car: a jumbled mess.
I can’t get to part three, where I slowly began to hit my stride and find my rhythm, without posting this part. So here you have it. Struggling in lockdown, a short test trip up through the NE on a beer run, my time in an empty home as a foster to kittens, some flashbacks to the previous year, and saying good bye to my home.
Part Three: Drifting in the Current
The house was sold, the new owners were moving in the following day, and the car was kind of packed–I’d get better at it as I went. I made that last left turn out of my driveway, the right onto my bootlegging back road that would take me into Delaware, and I pushed off into the current of the river that was Covid America.
After months of waiting and preparing, I had no idea where I was going or what I would do.
With the NE shut down and ultra paranoid about Covid, south seemed like a good idea. So, I went south. Not wanting to start my journey passing through the Baltimore and Washington Beltways (aka: the second and first circles of hell respectively), down through Delaware and along the eastern shore of Maryland seemed like my best bet.
Part Four: Ghosting Through the South
With the Mississippi River before me and the west awaiting me, I tuned back east. There were some things I needed to do. Some things that were waiting for me. I felt the pull of a young man’s ghost.
From Memphis, I drove southeast through Mississippi and Alabama. I went to a small suburb NE of Atlanta, Alpharetta. Resting in a nice little village, I did some thinking, remembering, and started to follow where the young man’s ghost was leading me. A tale of two decisions: Ft. Benning, Georgia and Miami.
I returned to Ft. Benning where I had not been since 1989. From there, it was down south into Florida. Family, old friends and new friends awaited me. I meant to go back to Miami as well but a hurricane decided to ramp up so I headed out and away back north and then west to New Orleans. Bourbon Street.
Part Five: Beyond the Mighty Mississippi
From New Orleans, I sped across Louisiana into Texas. The drive itself was interesting. Louisiana is all raised highways with cities with French names. Texas was flat with the first cities Orange and Beaumont. And Texas was big! the first exit was 880! –exists count down east to west…
Part Six: Further Beyond the Mighty Mississippi
Part two of part five? Beyond the Mighty Mississippi is a larger section of my book. It contains many more columns and, as such, many more pictures. So I decided to split it up into two parts.
Did I owe Ben money from college? That’s the thought that occurred to me when I took his advice and jumped off the main route to take a back way to Moab, Utah. The first place I encountered was Cisco, an abandoned town. I took pictures, but stayed in my car. It freaked me out. I imagined an army of Quentin Tarantino’s “Gimps” from “Pulp Fiction” rushing out to drag me in.
But then Route 128 revealed its treasures and I meandered my way into Utah and followed the Colorado River to Moab, the “Gateway” to Arches National Park. Covid and 107 degree heat led to some amazing hikes in empty parks.
Then, it was north to Salt Lake City then west across the salt flats, through Nevada, and racing across the desert. After about 13,000 miles, I finally made the 3,000 mile journey to the west coast, Seal Beach, just south of LA, to dip my toes into the Pacific Ocean.
Part 7: In The Shadow of the Pacific (1 of 3)
I rested for a few days in Seal Beach, found my pint of Guinness, met with an old friend and a cousin, and made my way to San Diego to see seals–there were not any in Seal Beach but there were Plenty in La Jolla Cove. Then, I headed north. Being me, I went south first, beyond south: Tijuana!
I returned to San Francisco to meet up with a friend I had not seen in 30 years and first met in 5th grade. Then, I pushed north into the Redwood Forest, Northern California, and Oregon. First to Bend, and then to Portland–which was not, despite popular belief, burning to the ground.
In Portland, I found a friend’s sister I did not know existed and a cousin I did not know existed. I also found a sanctuary and some peace.
“Let this be a sanctuary of peace for all peoples of the earth and surely in this day a sanctuary is needed. Torn with differences, strife, and grief, the world needs sanctuary where the human spirit can seek peace and consolation.”
–Archbishop Alexander Christie at the dedication ceremony for the Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother on On May 29, 1924.
Part 8: In the Shadow of the Pacific (2 of 3)
The PNW Way. I stayed for a little while in Tigard, just south of Portland. A day trip took me to the Oregon Coast and an incredible hiking trail. It would be the last real hike I would take as I made my way to Seattle, by way of Mt Saint Helens, and encountered smoke.
The west coast was on fire, much like Colorado, and the smoke was heavy. At one point, the air quality in Seattle was the worst in the world.
But then it was time to find the answer to the question that had been plaguing me the entire trip so far: would Canada let me in to drive to Alaska? I made my way up to Anacortes where a childhood dream was realized and I saw Orcas in the wild. Then further through the smoke to Sumas, the Canadian border.
I sulked for a while and then made my way east to Idaho. After more sulking, and a lot more smoke, I made my way back west to Seattle for a flight to Alaska.
Part 9: In the Shadow of the Pacific (3 of 3)
Nothing can prepare you for the Last Frontier, the greatest landscape artist of all time. It is immense and grand. Even the maps we saw growing up, the inset map of Alaska set in a map of the United States distorts the reality.
I flew into Anchorage and then made my way north and south. South to Homer and north to Fairbanks.
Part 10: The Rubber Band Effect (1 of 3)
After Alaska, I felt the pull. Seattle was smoke free when I returned but i felt like there was a rubber band in my mind stretched as far as it could go without snapping. I started east to relieve some of the tension.
Back through Washington but southerly to southern Idaho and Twin Sisters. I felt the pull east. But I had missed an entire state! And Mom mentioned she would like to see Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, so I was off again to race south through the Nevada desert. A swing around Las Vegas and I was at Zion National Park, then Vermilion National Monument and things got really confusing. Two national parks, three states, and a few different time zones will do that to you.
Part 11: The Rubber Band Effect (Part 2 of 3)
Up through Wyoming to visit what is called the largest hot springs in the world. At least that is what they see. But east was pulling me.
But I did finally figure out where I was after seeing a sign and swerving through two lanes to the exit: The Battle of Little Bighorn.
Up through Montana and then east through the ocean of grass that is North Dakota. Then, the turn south to visit a place I had wanted to see since it inspired my imagination when I was a little kid: The Badlands, South Dakota.
Finally, the heartland of America.
Part 12: The Rubber Band Effect (Part 3 of 3)
One last dip through the south. In my effort to travel to all 50 states, the judges ruled that my walk to Arkansas did not count. I through my challenge flag. The ruling was upheld. I’m glad it was as I went down into Little Rock to see the waterfront and a spot along The Trail of Tears.
Then, with fall threatening, I began making my way on my final trip north. Old friends awaited me in the oddest and most beautiful of places, small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Part 13: The Road to Papalokea (1 of 2)
“I’m not finished yet,” Al Pacino yells, slamming his cane down on the table to rise and deliver a blistering tirade in “Scent of a Woman.”
I wasn’t finished yet. 49 states. Still hadn’t found a “home.” Not quite ready to stop. It was cold in the north. But a trip back through the south and west seemed to be order.
Part 14: The Road to Papalokea (2 of 2)
Hawai’i. The Big Island. My favorite place on earth. Home of Papalokea Beach, one of only four green sand beaches in the world. As I stepped off the plane, instead of the aloha that had always embraced me, I slammed into a wall of dissonance. Disconnection. But that is in the book.
Like Alaska, Hawai’i needed a page of its own with a picture every time you turn around. I did my normal circuit of the island, found a few new beaches and a few old one, did my favorite drives, and finally made the hike to Papalokea. I sported in the waves, feeling, for a brief time, the dissonance wash away and the accomplishment overcome me.
I did it! 40,000 miles, 152 days on the road, all 50 states, and an epic adventure unlike anything I had ever imagined for myself.
I even broke out my tiny, foo foo drink umbrellas that my cousin, Dawn, had given me almost a year ago. I sipped my Kona coffee while walking in the surf.
Part 15: Afterword
I flew back into Seattle in early December. It was time to find a home. Or at least someplace to settle down for a while.
Salt Lake City? Sedona? I decided on Austin.
So I made my way on one last side trip to Glaciers National Park and then sped down through Salt Lake City to Vegas and then west and southwest to Liberty Hill, a suburb north of Austin–if Texas admitted there were such things as suburbs.
Good friends awaited me. A nice home. My friend’s puppy that I would dog sit or just have over once in a while. And I would write this book.