Thursday, July 16, 2009

My weekly list (2)


This week I struggled to think of a top ten list. As I mentioned last time, there were many ideas, but when I started to write them down, I wasn't feeling it. My grandma wrote me and said she would like to hear about ten memories. I'm saving some Carnival and Up with People memories for another day, but gram, I hope you like this post anyway.

In my life, I've spent countless hours in the car. Growing up, I was always impressed at how many miles my dad drove in his car, so I guess it's only fitting that I ended up being a road warrior myself. Today I present to you my 10 most memorable road trips.

10. Keene, New Hampshire to Waukesha, Wisconsin: 2002, 2003, 2003

In 2002, I had the luxury of driving my Grandma Gemmell's Honda Accord out to Wisconsin for my second year at Carroll College. I honestly don't remember anything about the original solo trip, except that it was long. When gram passed away in 2003 and I returned for her funeral with my girlfriend, I had to make the 18 hour return trip for the second time. This trip was extremely long. It didn't help that I received a speeding ticket not 45 minutes after leaving Keene. God bless ya Kelly for making that trip with me. I should have slowed down like you told me to!

During one of these return trips to Wisconsin, I went through Canada because I met with some Up with People friends in Montreal, but I can't remember which one exactly. It may have been for Christmas break because I remember seeing many trucks that had gone off the road between Montreal and Michigan where I re-entered the USA.

The most memorable Keene to Waukesha trip was in August, 2003. I no longer had the Honda Accord and was now driving the 1994 Chevy S-10, which I had recently acquired from Uncle Daryl. My dad had helped me pack the back full of my stuff for my senior year of college. The following trip would be a nightmare. It took me roughly 15 hours to get to Syracuse, NY, a trip that should only take 6! I broke down in Rome, NY and then again in Geneva, NY. I always remember that because of the European names of the towns. A couple side stories to the breaking down are that while the truck was getting fixed, I walked over to a mall and shopped around, ended up meeting a woman that I still keep in touch with to this day. Also I think it was the second time I broke down, I had to go with the tow truck driver to his house, have dinner with him, and wait for his brother to drop off the part he needed to fix the truck. It was something to do with the radiator hose, making the truck constantly overheat. It seemed that if I had the heat on full blast, the truck wouldn't over heat so much, so I was sweating buckets for most of that trip. Going through Chicago in bumper to bumper traffic didn't help things and I think I nearly had a heart attack. I did end up making it to Wisconsin, but it took a couple days.

9. Waukesha, Wisconsin to Keene, NH: 2002, 2003, 2004

The return trip is always easier. Why is that? We may never know. In 2002, I hitched a ride with Shaun Dow, a friend of mine from Maine who is also an Up with People alum. We originally met in Denver in 2000 and ended up going to the same college. That was a memorable trip home. We were caught in a massive snow storm in Indiana I believe. This was May, so I could be wrong...No now that I think of it, Shaun may have brought me home twice, so once may have been for Christmas and one at the end of the school year. He was one of the first people to listen to the band Maroon 5 and he played me their CD most of the way home.

In 2003 and 2004, I made the trip back with the Accord and the S-10. It wasn't the smartest decision, but I think I always drove home 18 hours straight without rest. I was on a mission.

8. Keene NH to Berlin NH: Most winters of the 1980's and 1990's

When I played hockey as a youngster, every year our team made the three hour trek up to Berlin. As a kid, a three hour drive is like driving to the other end of the country. Those trips were some of my first memories of the road trip. Getting to Concord wasn't so bad. It was the two hours after that that were grueling. The most exciting part of the trip was driving past The Old Man of the Mountain. For those of you not from New Hampshire, this was a rock formation high upon a mountain ledge that looked like the silhouette of a man's face. (Sadly, this formation corroded away and fell apart in the early 2000's.) Of course, we always knew we made it to Berlin when that smell of the Berlin Paper Mill hit our nostrils. I don't think I've ever smelled anything quite like it.

7. Keene NH to Burlington/St. Albans Vermont: Hockey season, 1980's-1990's

This trip was much like the Berlin trip, only longer! Each year our hockey team would travel to Vermont for the St. Albans Invitational Hockey Tournament. Again, as kids, we were venturing far, far away from home. I always liked the Vermont trips. In my memory, the sun was always shining. And unlike the Berlin trips, we had a pretty good record up there. I'm not positive if we won it, but there were some good teams we played against from Maine, Canada and other places I can't remember. The funniest memory from up there would be the time they accidentally gave me the MVP trophy when it was supposed to go to my brother. Hilarious.

6. Keene, NH to Washington D.C.: Spring 1987 or 1988

This very well may have been my first road trip. My grandma and grandpa Gemmell drove my brother and me down to D.C. for an entire week of sightseeing during our spring break. I was in the second grade at the time. It was truly an amazing journey, a nine hour drive! I drove over the George Washington Bridge for the first time, saw all the monuments of Washington, and on the way home saw the Statue of Liberty, and for the only time with my own two eyes, the World Trade Center. One random memory of that trip is that I had a mix tape a friend had given me that had the entire Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band album on it. So that album was kind of the soundtrack to that trip.

5. Waukesha, WI to Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Fall Break, 2003

For Fall Break in 2003, my roommate Tim and I, along with our girlfriends, drove down for a vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. My uncle Toby was running a resort that included modern villas at the time. We had such a fun time horseback riding, riding go carts, fishing, going to shows at night. I don't remember driving much of the way. In fact, that's one thing I should admit to. When I'm not the only one on a road trip, for some reason, everybody is okay with me not driving much. I'm baffled.

4. Portland, Oregon to Las Vegas, Nevada: October, 2007

While working for Up with People in 2007, I had just finished a set up in Oregon and was able to travel with the cast to Portland and hang with them for a week. It was one of the most relaxing weeks of my life. I had nothing to do and stayed in maybe the nicest resort I'd ever been to. While my bosses were figuring out where I was headed next, it was already time for the cast to go to Vegas. This road trip was a ton of fun. I can't remember everyone who was on it, but it was five or six staff members. We had two minivans and the UWP truck.

There were a couple memorable moments on this one. The first was when we stopped half way in Idaho for the night, another state I'd never been to. Our bosses had set us up with a pretty sketchy hotel for the night. It wasn't the Super 8, It wasn't the motel 6, no, it was called Super 7! It made the Valley Green look like the Bellagio. (Valley Green is an old run down motel in Keene, NH) After thinking about it for a few minutes, we opted to go find another motel. The one we found wasn't much better but it was good enough. Scott from Minnesota and myself had the pleasure of listening to the receptionist tell us how he was a couple hours away from upping and quitting. In the morning, sure enough, the new receptionist said the guy had left without preparing the continental breakfast.

Driving through Idaho and Nevada was one of the most beautiful trips I've ever been on. I'm guessing most New Englanders never get to see this kind of open road. It's long, boring and you really can't believe how far it is. I often wondered what people do if they run out of gas here. I took these photos on that trip.

For one long leg of the trip, I drove with Kristina, one of the techies from Arizona, in the truck. The truck was slow and uncomfortable so we had lots of time to talk and get to know one another. That was a great time. Again, I only drove 10 minutes of this trip! It was a 16 hour marathon. I hopped in the drivers seat after Idaho and about 10 minutes in, Kristina says "I'm wide awake you know..." so that was that.

3. Plano, Texas to Denver, Colorado: July, 2008

When Up With People's Cast A, 2008 left for Mexico in July, all the Field Managers (my job) were left in Texas, near Houston, to drive the truck and vans back to Denver. This was another memorable journey. Before we left Texas, an Up with People alum who works at NASA gave us a private tour of the Houston campus. Talk about a special day. He answered all our questions and took us to a couple locations that the normal tours don't take you to. His job was to design space suits.

The rest of the trip had us drive west through Texas, through New Mexico and up to Colorado. We spent the night in New Mexico. I checked off another state on my list of states to sleep in. New Mexico was gorgeous, much like the way I found Idaho and Nevada to be. It was just barren, desolate, full of nothing. On this trip, we had four vehicles and only four drivers, so guess what? I drove the whole way! Nearing the end of the trip, we stopped in Pueblo, Colorado, which is a town I once visited in 1993 when my brother's baseball team was in the Bambino World Series there. So that was exciting to make the return trip. I honestly didn't really recognize it.

2. Waukesha WI to Minneapolis, Minnesota: Thanksgiving weekend 2001,2002,2003

Every thanksgiving while attending Carroll College, I drove the eight hours to Minneapolis to spend the weekend with my Uncle Mark and Aunt Jodi. I always loved going there. It was very special to me to have family to go visit around that time of year.

In 2001, I got a ride from a random college resident after finding her name on the "ride board" that most colleges have. I don't remember much about her except that she was friendly and gave me a free ride to Minnesota.

In 2002, I drove with a classmate of mine named Sarah. Sarah was a blast as a road trip companion. She had a pretty sweet Cadillac Eldorado with heated seats. She drove fast too! On the way into MN, she stopped at her parents house in Stillwater, which was a mansion, and I spent part of the day there until it was time to be dropped off at my uncle's place. On the way back to Wisconsin, I remember listening to a lot of Billy Joel and hearing the song Captain Jack for the first time.

Then in 2003, I drove that S-10 out there again. It made it barely, but on the way home, a huge metal pipe just fell off of it from underneath. Turns out it is the pipe that goes from the muffler to the front of the car. So the whole ride home it sounded like I was in a jumbo jet. Noise I tell ya was everywhere.

I also made this trip either in 03 or 04 when my mom was out visiting her brother. I left Waukesha with a full tank of gas, no money, no credit cards, no ATM cards, and no cell phone. It was Minneapolis or Bust. Well I busted nine miles from St. Paul. This was before I owned a cell phone. (2003 can you imagine that!?) So I had to walk down the highway a bit, climb under a fence, walk down a long dirt road, knock on the door of a farm house and get my mom and aunt to come get me. It was truly a memorable trip. I hear men in my family have a history of running out of gas.


1. Waukesha, WI to Daytona Beach, Florida: Spring, 2004

The final road trip I'll tell you about was spring break 2004. My best college friend Bear, myself, Joe Splinter and Josh Betz drove from Wisconsin to Florida for our senior spring break trip. Bear's mother lives nearby in New Smyrna Beach, FL, so we stayed there for the week. I've said this about every road trip so far, but what an amazing time! We stopped in Baltimore, MD to see Bear's brother. We spent the night there and also stumbled upon Carroll Community College. And since we attended Carroll College, we had to stop by and check things out. I earned the nickname "Narcolepsy boy" on this trip. Another thing I failed to mention is I can sleep in a car like a baby. So I slept A LOT on this trip. The boys did let me drive one stretch of road somewhere in the south, not sure where, so that was nice of em'!

Below from left to right is me, Bear and Joe. Below that, I'm waking up from one of my many road trip naps.

On the way back, we stopped in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and had some dinner with my Uncle Toby and cousin Paige. Even though we couldn't visit for long, it was so cool to see them again. One thing about road trips is it is great to have someone to visit along the way.

I could go on all day about other trips but think that's enough. Ones that didn't make the top 10 were Iowa to Oklahoma, Denver to Nebraska and back and many more. The road isn't for everybody, but I sure am glad that it's there for me. I look forward to exploring more of the USA some day. If anyone is ever up for a road trip, let me know.

For next week, I do have some top 10 lists in mind that have more to do with pop culture, but tonight, I was searching for some fun memories for me and for gram! Have a great weekend everybody. See ya soon.

1 comment:

ellie said...

Great memories! I (obviously) was never on any of these trips, but I do remember hearing detailed accounts of some of the events thereon :)

I bet Sarah is a blast to road-trip with...and I remember the first time I heard "Captain Jack" too. It's just one of those songs.