Tag Archives: Summerfest

Young Man On The Road #22: Trip Stats

I know I mentioned that I was going to write about California, but eh, don’t feel like it. California wasn’t an adventure, it was a homecoming. It was full of reunions and revisits, not new discoveries. I will, however, briefly recap what I did in Cali:

I crashed at four different places: Ian’s family’s place in Covina, Olivia’s place in Santa Monica, Felicity & Taylor’s place in West Hollywood, and Leslie’s place in West Hollywood. I revisited the few places in LA I enjoy: Venice Beach, Santa Monica (Esplanade and Pier) and the Farmer’s Market. I watched the first game of the Golden Bears’ 2011 season at an unofficial Berkeley bar. I saw lots of friends and ate lots of food. It was awesome. Now you know.

Take a look back at my second “Young Man On The Road” post. You can see that right off the bat, we’d already strayed from our target cities list. A late start meant we spent our first night in Eugene, Oregon, instead of Portland. Let’s look at a condensed look at how our trip shaped up after that.

CITIES/PLACES (italics indicate a day trip city, a “>” indicated a day trip within the span of the previous stay)

  • Eugene, Oregon (6/20 – 6/21)
  • Portland, Oregon (6/21)
  • Mountlake Terrace and Seattle, Washington (6/21 – 6/24)
  • Boise, Idaho (6/24 – 6/25)
  • Salt Lake City, Utah (6/25 – 6/26)
  • Littleton, Boulder, and Denver, Colorado (6/26 – 6/29)
  • Fort Collins, Colorado (6/29)
  • Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota (6/29)
  • Deadwood, South Dakota (6/29 – 6/30)
  • Twin Cities, Minnesota (6/30 – 7/2)
  • Madison, Wisconsin (7/2)
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin (7/2 – 7/3)
  • Chicago, Illinois (7/3 – 7/6)
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan (7/6 – 7/7)
  • Detroit, Michigan (7/7)
  • Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (7/7 – 7/12)
  • >Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (7/9)
  • Plainville and Boston, Massachusetts (7/12 – 7/16)
  • >Plymouth, Massachusetts (7/15)
  • New York, New York (7/16 – 7/24)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (7/24 – 7/27)
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey (7/27)
  • Washington, DC (7/27 – 7/30)
  • >Baltimore, Maryland (7/29)
  • Charleston, South Carolina (7/30 – 8/2)
  • Columbia, South Carolina (8/2)
  • Atlanta, Georgia (8/2 – 8/5)
  • Savannah, Georgia (8/5)
  • Orlando, Florida (8/5 – 8/7)
  • Kennedy Space Center, Florida (8/7)
  • Miami, Florida (8/7 – 8/9)
  • Gainesville, Florida (8/9)
  • Tallahassee, Florida (8/9 -8/10)
  • New Orleans, Louisiana (8/10 -8/15)
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana (8/15)
  • Houston, Texas (8/15 – 8/16)
  • Austin, Texas (8/16 – 8/20)
  • San Antonio, Texas (8/20)
  • Lubbock, Texas (8/20 – 8/23)
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico (8/23 – 8/24)
  • Flagstaff, Arizona (8/24 – 8/25)
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona (8/25)
  • San Diego, California (8/25 – 8/28)
  • Los Angeles, California (8/28 – 9/6)


-Those 44 locations spanned 31 US states and one Canadian province. A “province” is the Canadian version of a state, just like “curling” is the Canadian version of a worthwhile pastime.

-Of those 31 states, we only spent the night in 22 of them. Of the remaining states, one was a day trip (New Jersey) and eight were drive-through states (Wyoming, Indiana, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi). You couldn’t pay me to spend the night in some of those places.

-Of those eight drive-through states, we only stepped out of the car in six of them for gas or food. No love for Indiana or Delaware.

I spent 80 days on the road. Ian spent 79. The difference is because I went up to Sacramento the day before we officially started (June 19th) and spent the night at my sister’s place. Ian picked me up the following day. Bottom line: I win.

-I brought with me around $3,400 on the trip. Of that paltry sum, $1,800 was put into a joint account that we used solely for gas and split meals. That, plus the $100 my gracious sister gave me in New Orleans, was all I spent for three months. Thank god for free housing!

-Speaking of free housing, I crashed in 39 different places. 22 of those places were with friends and family, 12 of those places were found through CouchSurfing.org, one of those places was found through Reddit (go figure), and one of those places was a room in the New Orleans Sheraton that my sister paid for. The remaining three places were motels that Ian and I gave in and paid for (Eugene, Deadwood, and Tallahassee). Why give in to paying for motels? No free Wi-Fi in Ian’s car.

-By the way, Ian’s car–a blue 2008 Honda Civic–was just the reliable steed we needed for our trip. We drove it over 13,000 miles and it didn’t break down once. Ian takes care of his car; he treated it to two oil changes. It was towed once, but at least it was never broken into or stolen. I think with the bug-covered exterior and all our blankets and food boxes in the back, it looked like bums were living in it.  Grade A security system!

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM!  Live musical acts I saw on the road (click the links!)

Fitz and Tantrums @ Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI

Dangermuffin @ Surf Bar in Folly Beach, SC

Lee “pLink” Floyd @ Musical Legends Park in New Orleans, LA

Yojimbo @ Maison in New Orleans, LA

Los Lonely Boys @ Blues on the Green in Austin, TX

The Airborne Toxic Event @ Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego, CA

PHOTO OP LANDMARKS Sometimes, you just have to play the tourist.

Top of the Seattle Space Needle

-Mount Rushmore

-Top of Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower)

-Top of Toronto’s CN Tower

-Plymouth Rock

-The Statue of Liberty

-Top of New York’s Rockefeller Center (“Top of the Rock”)

-Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell

-Top of the Washington Monument. . . and pretty much everything else in DC

-The Alamo

-The Grand Canyon


I guess I should wrap up my last Young Man On The Road post with some sort of declaration about life-changing lessons and finding myself on the road. That’s how all big adventures end, right? But I still feel like the same guy who partook on this road trip in June. I may have a few less dollars, a few more friends, and mental images to associate with cities that were no more than names on a map before I left, but did it change me as a person? I don’t know, I don’t think so. It didn’t change my outlook on life. If anything, it reaffirmed how I’m living it.

It also narrowed my focus on what could be my next big adventure, but I’ll save that story for my next Young Man Went West post.

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Young Man On The Road #10: Schlemeel, Schlemazel, Hasenfeffer Incorporated!

Madison and Milwaukee, WISCONSIN 

July 2-3

The best part about getting to the other side of the continent are the shorter driving times between our destinations.  As we approached Madison, I not only saw a sign for our college town destination, but also for our following two destinations after that: Milwaukee and Chicago.  I got excited over the aspect of more exploring and less driving!

Though the weather wasn’t as bad as in Minnesota, it was hot and humid nonetheless, so it came as a relief to discover that the University of Wisconsin campus was set on the shore of a giant lake.  How great it was, we thought, that after a tough day at school, these students could just hop in the lake and cool off.  In the parking lot on the edge of campus, I changed into my board shorts with the intent of doing just that.  But first, the requisite tour.

The sun beat down on us during our walkabout through a quite impressive campus and all Ian and I could talk about was how lucky these kids were with their giant lake.  If it weren’t for the snow, I could easily see myself attending Wisconsin.  The lively State Street directly links the main entrance of campus and the state capitol building.  It is lined the entire way with a very Telegraph-like vibe (think local shops and cheap eateries).   We explored most of State Street, then veered through the frat houses in search of the lake shore, reveling the entire way about how “college town” it felt.  If being a college student was a life-long career, Ian and I would be its prime candidates.

Finally!  We reached the park on the edge of Lake Mendota!  I almost ran to the lake shore, ready to wash off an afternoon’s worth of sweat, but then. . .

What was this?!  Sludge on the brown mud-sand!  Green waves!  I quickly learned the difference between a giant lake shore and an ocean beach.  California and Hawaii have spoiled me.  Wisconsin can have their sludge waters and snowy winters, I’ll save my swimming for elsewhere.

We hopped back into the car and took off for Milwaukee.

Our arrival in Milwaukee coincided with Summerfest, the world’s largest musical festival.  People of all ages flock to the festival park for almost two weeks of musical performances on eleven different stages.  This was where we were going to meet our host for the night, Mike.  Having no idea what we were going to do in Milwaukee otherwise, Ian and I were eager to partake in the festivities.

I don’t think either of us expected the vast amounts of people at this show.  The band that Mike was watching wasn’t hard to find, but pinpointing our host among the thousands of fans was.  The crowd was pretty packed and almost impossible to navigate, so we gave up on the search and enjoyed the groovy stylings of Fitz and the Tantrums.

Sidenote: check this band out!  Awesomely soulful and upbeat.  Mike is justifiably a big fan.

When the band was done, they moved to a side table for autograph signing while Maroon 5 took the stage.  It was in line for the signing that we met Mike and fellow couchsurfer Alissa from Minnesota.  Not only was it easier to find Mike because of the more specific location, but also he was Filipino.  Probably the only one in Wisconsin.  What were the chances?

We liked Mike and Alissa right away.  They were both entertaining, lively folks eager to share their lives and to learn about ours.  Mike had been playing tour guide to Alissa for three days, so he was excited to show off his city to new pairs of eyes.  We left Summerfest and rejoined our host at our first of many destinations that night.

Our first stop was a hookah bar and Middle Eastern restaurant, which was totally what I expected in Milwaukee (please note the sarcasm).  Ian and I scarfed down hummus, pita, and the biggest falafels I’d ever seen while Mike derided the “LA-like clientele” of the restaurant.  The young crowd was definitely more dressed up than I expected anyone in Wisconsin to be, and they were totally digging the club music blasting through the speakers.  The four of us were quite like-minded and, though we all enjoyed the food, decided to move on before it got too Jersey Shore.

Our next stop was the coolest bar I’d ever entered.  It’s called the Safe House, but you wouldn’t know that by the outside, which was just an unmarked doorway on the side of an alleyway.  Mike went in first and quickly disappeared, leaving Ian, Alissa, and me outside and confused.  After checking our IDs, the hostesses asked us if we knew the password.  None of us did, so we were told to act like rabbits, holding up “ears” with our fingers, hopping around, and shaking our rumps.  Only after the embarrassing charade did the bookcase open up, revealing a spy-themed bar.

Spy paraphernalia cluttered the walls of the maze-like hallways that linked the many rooms in Safe House.  There were moving wall puzzles and false doors (a brick wall stood behind one door marked “Men”).  Every now and then, lights and sirens would go off.  Mike informed us that the infamous picture of Burt Reynolds hung in the women’s bathroom with a flap covering his package.  If someone lifted said flap, it set off a bar-wide alarm.  The biggest feature, however, were live feed TVs on which patrons can watch newbies perform the embarrassing acts for admission.

We sat at a table for a while discussing the racial make-up of Milwaukee, or the lack thereof.  Save for the black workers in the back, we were the only non-white people in the establishment.  Mike also discussed his disregard for the townies of the surrounding suburbs, who saw Milwaukee as a big, scary city that they usually avoided.  Driving twenty minutes into town was a daily habit of Mike, but a once-in-a-blue-moon adventure for his neighbors.  It must be all them liberal, colored folks crowding their bars!

Our last stop of the night was an ale house with a back patio on the Milwaukee River.  We made it just before last call.  This was my favorite stop of the night because we got to meet a few more people: Mike’s friend Dan a.k.a. Bone, and Dan’s friend Sarah, who had the thickest Wisconsin accent I’ve heard yet.  Both were equally interesting, well-traveled people who are also part of the CouchSurfing community.  That site attracts the coolest people.  We all talked story for a while before finally calling it a night and heading to Mike’s giant house in the suburbs.

The next morning, after a breakfast of kimchi and fried eggs (again, totally expecting that from Wisconsin), we said good-bye to Alissawho was done with her trip and heading back to Minnesota.  Mike took us on a little tour of downtown Milwaukee, which included brats at a German beer hall, a stroll along the river, and—of course—the Bronze Fonz!

The city seemed a bit empty until we drove by the lakefront.  Huge crowds of families gathered in the park for that evening’s fireworks show. . . on the Third of July.  Apparently, they love this holiday enough to celebrate it twice.  Ian and I didn’t stay for Milwaukee show, we had plans to watch fireworks over Lake Michigan in Chicago.

We were definitely excited about Chicago, since that marked the beginning of our string of big cities destinations that continued down the East Coast.  Most places between Seattle and Chicago were considered necessary stops and not desired destinations, but, as it turned out, all of those place have pleasantly surprised us.  Boise, Salt Lake City, the Twin Cities, Milwaukee. . . we rolled into these places looking down our nose, only to leave staring up at them in admiration.  We owe huge thanks people like Mike and Allison to show us that cool hangouts and awesome people exist in what I once considered fly-over states.

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