My name is Andrew. Some people call me Andy, some call me Drew. My boss used to tell me to get my head out of my ass, but I do think he actually knew my name. I mean, without reading my nametag.
As I write this, about 5 weeks before departure, I am 38 years old. I’ve worked as a Paramedic for a private company in Milwaukee since July of 1997, 14 years. Before that I was a lifeguard for 10 with Metro Milwaukee YMCA. It sounds like I have wanted to work in the emergency business, but really I never did. I am pretty good at it, and it pays well, but ever since I was little I wanted to write, and be paid for it.
Of course that is easier to say than do, and while I had some small successes I was lured by the comfort of a regular paycheck and security of the regular job. I wrote less with each year, apart from occasional orgies in November for the National Novel Writing Month, and didn’t seem to notice much or mind at all.
As someone who wanted to be a writer, I read a lot. One of the books I was introduced to in High School was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The forward of the book clarifies that it is not part of the vast amount of literature that makes up the canon of Zen Buddhism, and isn’t very helpful about motorcycles either, but does a good job of describing a cross country road trip in 1970s. The journey is used a backdrop to a philosophical discussion that is the main purpose of the book, but it was the journey itself that caught my attention. Traveling on a motorcycle on the back roads across a part of the United States sounded like an adventure I would have to experience for myself.
My parents don’t like motorcycles, which is to say my mother didn’t and my father backed her up, despite having ridden a motorcycle when he was younger (and long before the two of the met). But, after some college, I convinced them it would be okay, and bought a small 250cc motorcycle.
I moved on to larger bikes, and experienced the cross country road trip i had dreamed about. But it was mroe than the trip, I became a fan of the long road trip, taking off weeks or months at a time and exploring what I could of the USA.
I don’t know when I learned about people such as Ted Simon, or Jupiter’s Travel, or websites such as AdvRider.com, or Horizons Unlimited, but the idea of a long road trip, a really long road trip, was growing in my mind.
In early 2007 I was engaged, living with my Fiancee and planning to get married in 2008. I was pumping money into my 401k plan, which I could use for a house, and we were looking at registries and locations and all the rest. My father became sick that summer, passing away in August. In September I learned my fiancee had been sleeping with a co-worker from her job. By October the engagement was off, and she moved out while I was at Thanksgiving with my family.
That wasn’t enough to change my vague idea of “It would be cool to…” to “I’m going.” That happened over one painfully memorable week.
I was working on an ambulance, and for one week it seemed I was doing nothing but Hospice or Palliative care transports. The patients didn’t seem older than me, one was my age. And one, less than 10 years older than me, had been planning to travel with his wife. He had made enough money, they had bought a giant RV. Then he was diagnosed with cancer. Six months later he was in a drug induced stupor and going home to die. It was a nice house, the RV was covered with a giant tarp. The wife wasn’t sure if she should still travel, or sell the RV and stay home. You dream to do something with someone, and lose the someone, do you also lose the dream?
I didn’t really have a someone at the time. But I realized I had a dream, and time was slipping past me just as fast. So I would go.
The initial plan was just to ride the Americas, north to south and back, but as I looked at the trip more I realized there was more I wanted to see, if I could. So the trip became the America’s north to south, followed by “we’ll see.” Now, with weeks left it is to travel until finales force me to stop. Hopefully that won’t be for a while, but however long it is I will enjoy the journey.
We met while waiting on a road construction closure south of Tahoe and then later in Yosemite. I was on the white and blue Triumph Scrambler.
I’m enjoying reading your blog and I have a couple photos of you. Where do I send them?
Hey Andy, It is Mike and Nastaja. How are your travels through Mexico going? Where are you these days? We bumped into Jeremy once on the road when we stopped for fuel just outside of Tepic, but haven’t seen any other overlanders since. Things are going well for us, we camped a couple nights and stayed in hotels a few nights in PV and now in Zihuatenejo. We are headed for Puerto Escondido (or if we feel ambitious, Huatulco) this morning. We are gonna blast through Acupulco, we never really had much interest in stopping there, as with most other major centres.
I hope everything is going well for you, and I hope we cross paths again. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Great story! It is inspiring to see how far along you were able to get, as I have just began my trip across the US last week. Any particular places from your long and awesome list that I absolutely should not miss?
I absolutely loved Crater Lake, but the window for visiting is pretty small (and probably closed). The Giant Sequoias were pretty amazing, as was the San Diego Zoo. The Black Hills and Bad Lands are fun if you get off the bike for a while. Carhenge you can skip, and I wasn’t impressed with Yosemite. If you are in Kansas (for some godforsaken reason) and like space stuff go to the Cosmosphere in Hutchington. It’s a nothing town, but that museum is Smithsonian-Quality (and I am not kidding. Oh, and go to the Smithsonian too).
You can spend years just exploring all the stuff there is to see in just the USA. I could spend a post just listing all the stuff you should go and see. 😀
Good for you. I recently made a huge career change. I just kept picturing myself waking up one day at 65 years old and looking back on my life with regret that I settled for a life I didn’t want. What a great reminder to follow our dreams right now!
Yup, everyone always thinks you should wait, but if all you do is wait you won’t ever do anything.