My Trip around the country in 2001 with Halley

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leg 3: Sumter, SC to Orlando, FL

            We left in the early evening from Sumter and headed down I-95 South towards Orlando, Florida, where my family has a second home. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, it felt like home. The house is significantly smaller than Albany, with two bath and two bedrooms, including two sets of bunkbeds that my brothers and sister and I slept in growing up. For Halley, it was just like home, just smaller and warmer, especially so the night we arrived. Oh it was so nice. Halley sniffed around, did her business and found a nice place to lie down and went to sleep. Hillary and I stayed up having a drink and soaking in the place we would be able to enjoy fully for the next few days.
Leg 3: 443 Miles
            The next morning we awoke before Halley (a change of pace) and went outside to get some fresh fruit from our neighborhood trees. We went outside and watched Halley emerge from her slumber and walk halfway down the front walkway and plop herself down on the warm cement and lay there for a half an hour. She kept watch and looked around but nothing was around to look for: no squirrels, no dogs, no cats, nothing. Just some bugs wandering around, so she enjoyed the sun and peace and quiet. When she got too warm and needed a drink, she stood up and wandered into the house, got a cold drink, and lay down on the tile floor to cool down.

            After a day of relaxing and hanging out at the house and running some small errands, all of us took a drive out to my cousins Jane and Bob's house on the beach of Indiatlantic. Jane and Bob are my dad's cousins directly so they have always seemed to me as Aunt and Uncle, due to the generational gap. With Halley there, she was relegated to the back patio area, blocked out only by the screen but a little barking and whining from her and Jane and Bob had no choice but to let her inside and hang out with us. We split time at the house going to the beach, a first for Halley. The golden reaction of the trip was seeing Halley learn to walk on the sand. She struggled at first and despite the fact I knew the sand would get everywhere in her fur and body. What I didn't expect although I should have was that Halley would rush for the ocean to get a drink of water. She quickly learned that she couldn't drink from this seemingly endless supply of water and kept out of it and on the leash with me.
Jane, me and Bob
           Hillary and Halley and I walked up the beach with Halley eventually running loose yet near us since this was still a place where dogs were not allowed, but it was a quiet and hardly frequented beach that we wouldn't be bothered at. For Halley, she walked like a sin wave - sometimes the water would come in towards her and she would walk away; sometimes the water would recede and she would tempt fate by going near the water. Inevitably, at one point the water came up to her and she was soaked, which wasn’t fun for her but hilarious for us. We walked up the beach for a bit, then back down again. On the way up Halley played in the sand and ran around while on the way down she played and splashed in the water that she know seemed to have an understanding of. By the time we got off the beach, Halley was pooped! When we got back to Jane and Bob’s, Halley drank so much water that she wound up throwing up some of it, so she promptly drank some more after that. She lay down and panted and relaxed, never having been so tired from just walking before. 

            We got back to the house in Orlando that evening and all three of us stayed in. We were too tired to do much of everything; the beach really took it all out of us. Then the next day, Hillary and I woke up extra early to go to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. Although tired, we went through the entire park in the full day, hitting off every ride possible. At the time, this was the newest entertainment park that had been opened in the Orlando area, let alone elsewhere. Roller coasters (Hulk and Dueling Dragons), water rides (Popeye, Jurassic Park) and fun/goofy stuff (Dr. Seuss, Spiderman) kept us busy while we wandered around the park, had a few drinks and genuinely had a terrific day in the part. It was just one of those days couples are able to have under just the right conditions. We went home and looked forward to the trip to Alabama the next day. Halley made it through the day without us, not having gone in the house while we were out. Had she, I would have understood, but she was all good and adapted to it as the trip wore on.

              Again we got moving early in the morning, atypical for me since I couldn't wake up early in the morning for a fire alarm. We got our stuff together and started repacking the car and got on the road headed north and west to Mobile.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Leg 2: Norfolk to Sumter, SC

We left that afternoon and headed south again, this time to my Aunt Donna and Uncle Mike’s place in South Carolina. The last time I had seen them it was 1998 or 1999 at the best, so getting there was an adventure down back roads that were unpaved, but we finally got there, and for Halley at least, is was worth the bumpy ride! We were greeted with a cavalcade of 5 dogs running out to greet us. Halley did not know what do and really, neither did I. Having not met the dogs before and still waiting for Aunt Donna or Uncle Mike to come outside, since the dogs and Halley had never been formally acquainted, I left Halley in the car with Hillary. Halley sat in the drivers seat barking, shaking and nervous which was made even worse when tiny dog named Crumb came running over to the car, looked right at Halley and started to bark. With that came barking from the house and more from inside the car. Before I could let this get out of hand and drive Hillary up a wall, I got Halley from the car and rescued her from the pack of 5 dogs: Princess, a mini Dachshund; Tiny, a Yorkshire Terrier; Bear, Tiny’s dad, also a Yorkshire Terrier; Crumb, a mini-pinscher, and Goliath, a Bull Mastiff, sort of like a Pit Bull Terrier, like Halley but but bigger and goofy as hell. All these dogs got Halley worked up so I let her run loose, praying that she didn't get into anything. Sitting on the porch at night, drinking beers with Hillary and chain-smoking with Donna, we listened to the bugs chirping all around and watched a quiet fog roll in on the lawn. Bed was calling and sleep was needed. 

Leg 2: 375 miles           
In the morning, Halley wanted to get out of the bedroom and explore, so I let her out to play with the dogs while we slept in. When we finally got out of bed, we went outside and saw that Halley had all the room in the world to run around. Flat, grassy and warm, a perfect combo for Halley, both then and now. All of us laid around the house, enjoyed the sun, watched the dogs lap heavily from a giant bowl and listened to Aunt Donna tell stories. Halley dined on the treats the other dogs got by the handful while we were treated to bona fide southern cooking from a Jersey native; everything was rich and delicious.

We stayed in Sumter for another night, since there was no sense rushing with at least three days at our next destination in Orlando. Besides, aside from Aunt Donna and Uncle Mike and my cousins Michelle, Michael and Joseph, there were no other first-cousins in the family and we wanted to enjoy the time we had here together. Hanging out on the porch, smoking cigarettes and talking about a little bit of everything was nice and relaxing.

Aunt Donna, Me, Uncle Mike, SumterSC.  Guess which one I’m related to

Then I noticed Halley wasn't around or with the other dogs. Having headed beyond the fence, Halley was now on the neighbors property and was pretty much fucking with a horse. I never saw her approach the horse, bur the horse was jumping around, dodging something and throwing its legs up in the air, which was about the time I saw her avoid the horses wrath and notice me fast approaching to get her the hell out of there. I ducked under the electric wire fence and picked her up, tossed her through the wooden fence and got out of there before I got trampled. For all the relaxation we had, it was a stressful end to things. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Leg 1: Albany to Norfolk

We got an early start the first day, packed the minor things like glasses, pillows and such and Halley and got on the road. For the first song of the trip I chose a Phish tape from 1990 specifically to play 'Destiny Unbound', with the lyrics 'We gotta get on the road, destiny unbound.....she's the one for me, we gotta get out of town', perfect for the trip the three of us were about to undertake.

The drive was un-momentousness for the first few hours. There was no traffic to speak of until southern Jersey but it was smooth sailing until Baltimore. Then we hit a lot of traffic. We sat in stop and go traffic for well over an hour, never finding out what the holdup was. In the midst of this, the air conditioning didnt seem to be working as well as it was earlier and more importantly, the temperature gauge was slowly creeping up into the 'H' region. I have no experience with cars or car repair and was a bit nervous but noticed that the arrow went down as we were able to travel a bit. So when we traveled it was OK but not sitting in traffic. We made it out of Baltimore alive and found comfort in the HOV lanes around Washington, DC. It wasn't too much longer before we were sailing into southern Virginia and arriving at Ken's place.

Leg 1 - 700 miles
Ken was one of my fraternity brothers from Syracuse. Although the chapter closed in the fall of 1997, he and I remained tight and I visited him a few times during the years I spent up in Syracuse. Likewise, he came up for Homecoming and other events because he's a good alumnus and a good friend. Additionally, Ken had a dog named Molson, a Dalmatian that lived with him in the fraternity house and later South Carolina and Virginia. Ken and Molson were tight and he trained his dog well, enough so that I followed his lead with Halley. Although Molson passed away shortly after I got Halley, a little bit of Molson lives on through her. 

When we finally got to Ken’s place, he had another dog I didn't know about named Onyx, a Border Collie who was very nervous around Halley but she didn't mind as she was more concerned with the rest of the house and the backyard. We all needed to stretch our legs after a 10 hour drive in the backseat and only a couple of stops.

We stayed at Ken’s for only a night, but it was a weird night. We had the car fully packed with all our stuff, and only room for Halley but Ken rode with us so Halley was left at the house in the garage (comfortably mind you) She didn’t like this idea one bit, so she barked and barked and barked loud enough just as I was getting to the car so I had no choice but to get her and bring her with us to the bars. In retrospect, an unfamiliar place wasn't the best spot to leave her in to start the trip. So all 4 of us, Hillary, Ken and Halley piled into the car with all the stuff for the trip.  We stopped at Atlanta Beer Garden and a few other small places before heading back to the house where we hung out for a little bit to end the night. It was a good night with Ken and a solid start to the trip - familiar confines before venturing into the unknown of the South. Hill and I slept in while Halley got up early to play with Onyx. They had a blast in the backyard which led to a nice nap for Halley for much of the ride that day down to South Carolina.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Night Before the Trip

The night before we left, I decided we should pack the car so I drove it into the garage and going through the mounds of stuff I decided to bring with me, I packed the hell out of that car.  Clothes and tent and chairs in the trunk, bags of stuff that was just taking up space, an entire bag for Halley, a small cooler of water, a TON of music and a small lockbox with tickets for the Disney/Universal parks and our Traveler’s checks.  Halley’s blanket went in the car, and when we weren’t looking, Halley went in the car. For 30 minutes before bed, we couldn't find Halley and we looked all around the house and outside for her. As it turns out, Halley was in the car with her blanket, waiting for us to go. This was one of those cute as hell moments where I laughed and then teared up, because she didn’t know we were leaving the next day, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to leave her behind.  We got her out of the car and got good nights sleep so we could be on the road by 10 and down to the Virginia Beach area for our first stop and to chill with my friend Ken.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Post-Graduation Party

The next morning we woke up together in the basement and had a light breakfast. My mom called down on the old intercom, getting us up for breakfast, even though we were already up.  After lounging around for a while, Derek my good friend and multiple time roommate from college, Hill and I went to the mall for some last minute things to pick up, including an ear piece for my cell phone and to get some food at Ruby Tuesday’s at Derek’s request. 

We ate, we went home, slept some, Derek took off and drove the 5 hours+ back to Londonderry, NH, and Hill and I enjoyed the night together, watching movies, and my mother trying to show her old photo albums of me. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Graduation Party

The day of my graduation party, I began helping my mom get things together, took care of the keg and extra spill over beer and made sure reminder calls were sent to forgetful friends.  People started showing up, and soon the house was packed to a hilt, the only escape the light rain and the pool. I made sure to mingle and introduce Hill to guests since I was usually terrible at that, and because I was hoping she could talk it up and enjoy herself and not just myself.

Later that night, we opened up my gifts, and found a generous sum from family and friends to help me on my way around the country.  I was so happy to have all taken care of in that department. I had a car and a plan and I was set to go on my trip.  Just needed Sunday to get here and we were set.  Hill and I went outside to the gazebo with my brother’s friends, my friends and a neighborhood girl I had not seen in quite some time, Sarah. I had a crush on her way back in the day but nothing came of it.  She was also the person who first introduced me to Phish through her friend Janel.  Sometime in 8th grade I was at her place when her parents were out of town for the night and she was in charge of the house and her brothers. I heard Dinner and a Movie, David Bowie, and Contact and liked this band I was hearing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t focus on who they were and wound up not being into them until sophomore year of college.  So instead of seeing shows from 1990-91 on, I didn’t catch them till 1997.  Wasn’t meant to be until then I guess.

Later that night when we were fully lubricated, we went down to Tommy’s, the local watering hole.  I’m still not sure how we got there but I know Hill and I got pretty shitfaced doing shots and we had to walk back home a solid mile.  It wasn’t bad, just rough being that I was up all-day and drinking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Transportation issues

Soon I talked to my mom about the car issue, as it still was not clear what vehicle I would be using to drive around the country. I figured that like in previous summers, I would be taking the Jeep, except this time putting a good 10,000 miles on it, instead of the usual 1-2,000.  I was pretty pissed when they said I couldn’t take the Jeep since that was the obvious choice and I had pictured it so well that when I found out I wouldn’t be taking it I was pissed to say the least. I didn’t want to vent to my mom as her friend Toby was there, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself by expressing my disappointment. But both of them had a smirk on their face so I knew something was up.  About an hour later, my mom drove me down to a body shop; here I saw a car my parents bought for me – a ’92 Saturn SL2, gray, with 100,000 miles on it.  They got that car for about $100, fixed up a couple minor things and gave it to me as a graduation gift.  This was my first REAL car, one that I didn’t have to borrow or share – my own car. I took care of this car as best I could on the trip, made notes of where I would need to get the oil changed every 3,000 miles, some STP fuel stuff every so often and made it a point to not push the car too hard.

My Uncle Hank was at my Dad’s office when I drove the car a mile there without plates nonetheless. Hank offered to drive me down to the DMV and take care of my registration and the paperwork for the plate as a graduation gift.  Within an hour, I was driving my new car and really excited for the potential of the summer. Any thoughts of taking the Jeep had gone out of my mind as I would much rather take a car of my own.

Hill came to town and things were good and I was so happy she was there.  She was beautiful, more so than I recall from just a month earlier.  We hung out, hiked at Colonie Town Park where I finally got to check on my Eagle Scout Project – marking the trails so that hikers wouldn’t get lost in the Town Park. Hill and I went out here and there, just enjoying each other’s company as she was the first college girlfriend to bring back to Albany without it being in the middle of the semester or for a fleeting night. It was tough to get privacy, but we managed here and there.  For once, I was happy she was with me.  There was always someone else around or school or friends getting in the way of us enjoying each other’s company without anything else distracting me from her. It took a solid nine months but I was happy, that much was for sure. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Gift

A couple days before my graduation party, my girlfriend Hillary was planning to fly into Albany and I was starting to look forward to that.  A few days before she got there, I got a package in the mail from her which I did not expect to get.  She was an artist of sorts and she painted me this amazing recreation of the Phish logo, with some great designs all around it.  I was very excited, called her right away and made sure everyone saw it when we had the party.  Words could not express how psyched I was to have this painting from her – she knew what I liked!  I was so happy and ready to take this trip with her and Halley.

The Full Drawing
detail - I Am Hydrogen
Detail - Down With Disease
Detail - Sample in a Jar, Meatstick, Mango Song, Halley's Comet
Detail: Mango Song and Signature
Detail-  Bathtub Gin, Wilson
The Fish

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Planning of a Cross-Country Roadtrip

Having walked through graduation from Syracuse University in May of 2001 with a few courses to finish later that year, I spent the next few weeks farting around Syracuse, went to Boston for a weekend to see my friends James, Matty and Brad for the Yanks/Sox game at Fenway. For my first game at Fenway, it was a great time, with requisite heckling of me, the Yankee fan. After a drunken adventure through Boston heading up to Chris’ place in Brookline, I headed back to Syracuse so I could start amassing what I needed for the upcoming trip around the country.

             I had planned this trip deciding to go from Albany -> Orlando -> Mobile, AL -> Grand Canyon -> LA -> Las Vegas -> Yellowstone -> Mount Rushmore -> St. Louis -> Chicago -> Cincinnati -> D.C. -> Long Island -> Albany. It would encompass more than a majority of the country and gave me weeks to roam the country with no set deadline to be anywhere unless I chose to impose a timeline on myself. However, days after I had drawn up a map of where I would travel, Trey Anastasio from Phish announced a 20 date cross-country tour that mirrored the west->east part of my trip if I were to dip south a little on the return trip. So goodbye Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, hello Vegas, North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Colorado! Although I still haven’t made it to the missed locations, it was well worth it and provided me with a reason to be on the road which ultimately was better for me. Without any sort of timeline for my adventure, I could have wandered and gotten complacent. Following a tour meant I had to be on the ball and focused and get from show to show, regardless of the events that might transpire in between. It gave a needed purpose to the trip.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Start of Something Amazing

Ten years ago, with graduation from Syracuse University meaning an end to my college career, I took the opportunity to make plans for a cross-country trip with my pup Halley. Realizing that when I got a job once I was done with school, the opportunity to take six weeks off of life to drive around and see the country was limited unless I became a teacher. The anticipation for the trip brew from the late April when plans started to come together and became a reality when I walked through Commencement Exercises in The Carrier Dome.

It wasn't easy to make it to graduation. I flunked out of Syracuse after two years. In the Fall of 1997, I was not enrolled at Syracuse University and found myself living in the third floor of a house on Livingston Ave with former fraternity brothers. Our house closed because a current member turned us into the national headquarters for drinking beer and smoking weed in the fraternity house. Of all the things we could have done, the most basic college and fraternity obligations were what did us in. Working at Hungry Charley's, aka Chucks was the saving grace for that next year, until the bar closed in June of 1998. It was the end of an era for Syracuse students and alumni. I took a couple of classes in the Spring and Summer of 1998 but I still wasn't cutting it. In the fall of 1998, I was unemployed, living with four other guys, only one of which I could classify as a friend. I almost didn't live there but I lucked out with a spare bedroom. I was taking two classes again in the spring and was starting to realize that I had to get my shit together and get back on track to finish up at Syracuse. 

Fall of 1999 I was back in school, enrolled fulltime living with my friend Derek and new roommate and friend Kate. Life got back to being fun, punctuated by adopting my dog Halley in November and attending Phish's Millennium celebration at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in southern Florida. The year 2000 started out well, continued with a few Phish shows that summer and ended with some more summer classes at Syracuse alongside working at Sabastino's Pizza and Grocery 40 hours a week. In the fall I started dating Hillary, one of my longest relationships to date. It was fun but it wasn't right, and ended shortly after New Years, since I went out of my way to not tell her I had planned to go to Florida with another girl. While this decision that I made would bring loads of bad karma into my life later on, it actually helped to make out friendship stronger, and although we weren't officially boyfriend/girlfriend after getting back together in late February of 2001, we were, for all intense and purposes a couple. And I wasn't going to be cheating on her again, regardless of the nomenclature of our relationship.

So I started to plan a trip in April and while the initial plan was just me and Halley, it felt right to ask Hillary to come along for the ride, as we were getting closer and it wouldn't have been right without her along for at least half the trip. A day later Phish frontman Trey Anastasio announced a summer tour that neatly coincided with my plans. I saw 10 Trey Anastasio shows, drove through 30 states amassing more than 10,000 miles by the end and knew that the touring and traveling life was for me. Starting in late June, I'll be posting day-to-day happenings from 10 years ago, with pictures, commentary and insight after 10 years of continuing to cross the country in search of adventure and live music with my dog and friends. Stay Tuned.