First Solo Road Trip

I graduated from college, moved out of the college house, went to my parents for a week to say goodbye and packed all my things into my truck, and then I was off. Road tripping from Florida to Minnesota to be a canoe guide for the summer in the thousands of lakes that comprise the Boundary Waters. I had decided to do this sometime towards the end of my college career.  My truck was completely packed to the max, both inside the cab and the bed which had a topper over it, so I could sleep in the back of the truck. When I took off it was an odd feeling, I really had no clue what to expect in the big scheme of things. It was just me and my truck, the open road, and endless possibilities.

My first stop was back to Tallahassee to say goodbye to my college friends. Next, I headed to Tennessee to visit a friend from my time studying abroad in Europe. We ate, drank, and told stories about the good times we had in Europe.

Then I was off to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. On the way there I got chased by a crazy Kentuckian in a Ford Ranger on the windiest hilly roads I have ever driven on. When the speed limit was 40 we were going 60 and when the warning sharp turn sign said to slow down to 25 we were going 45. He was right on my tail and I knew he saw my tags were from Florida and I felt I had something to prove so kept driving faster and made a game out of it. Eventually we came upon a straight away where he sped past me going 80 mph and was out of sight within a minute. After he was gone I continued to drive like a maniac and felt comfortable on the road even though there were sharp curves, narrow roads, and deadly drops.

After arriving at the park and setting up my tent I went for a hike. I found a couple wild turkeys and tried photographing them but it wasn’t working since they were in the brush. I went by some caves and stopped at a spring to wash up. I had hiked about 4 miles and had just over a mile left and hiked with my shirt draped over my neck since it was filthy. Just after I left the spring a wild turkey jumped from the bushes and flew at me squawking. I pulled the shirt from my shoulders and swung it at the turkey. It backed up and I ran up the trail. I looked back and to my surprise the thing was running right behind me. I couldn’t believe how fast she was. She, because there was no red gobbler. So I jumped around and swung the shirt several more times. This went on for several minutes, she’d jump at me, sqwuak (gobble) whatever and try to bite me. We circled each other like we were in a wrestling match and finally she ran off into the woods. Only after I tried to photograph her, and I still didn’t get a good shot. damn turkeys.

After a shitty night sleep at the campground I drove towards the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. It’s a road trip of 6 bourbon distilleries. Including Evan Williams, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and I can’t remember. I was going to those three since they were the closest. I actually ended up skipping maker’s mark since I already had six shots at the other two distilleries and wanted to drive to Indianapolis without killing myself. I went on the tours at the two distilleries learned a lot and sampled some good whiskey including Evan Williams single barrell not the cheap 20 dollar Evan Williams sour mash. Also Elijah Craig, Knob Creek, and Bookers (a 127 proof non filtered special made by Jim Beam).

Pulling into downtown Indianapolis I see a sign for the Indy 500 and find out that it’s tomorrow. I had no clue but was presently surprised since the streets were full of people partying it up. The race was the next day and now I figured I had to check it out. I parked illegally at a hotel, poured some beers from my cooler into a cup and joined the crowd. But downtown was full of race fans, rich people, and bums. So I asked around and found out where the college students went. A place called Broad Ripple, bar after bar on one street.  Once again I used my cup and began walking the streets. I didn’t feel like going into a bar yet so I checked out the scene….

I woke up early and needed coffee, maybe some food. I walked back out to the main strip, the sidewalks were sticky with spilt beer and covered in trash. I found a bagel shop with coffee and sat down to just enjoy the freedom. No more school, no responsibilities, no desk job. The true feeling of freedom. While eating I looked up where the track was, and tried to find out details about getting in. I decided to just head there and see what happens. The traffic was bad, the parking was free, and the fans where a sight to see. I walked around the track and ended up paying 20 dollars to get into the standing section. I didn’t stay for very long, but it was quite an experience to be at the Indy 500.

I left Indianapolis and drove to the Indiana Dunes National Seashore. I walked around the park which lies at the southern end of Lake Michigan. It was a warm sunny day and some family and friends were out enjoying the Sunday afternoon. I walked along the dunes, took some pics, and tried to go swimming but it was a little cold. I went back to the campground, set up my tent and enjoyed the quiet night in the woods.

Driving to Chicago the next day I noticed a lot of people having bar b ques and partying at all the parks along Lake Michigan. It wasn’t until I parked in Chicago that I realized it’s memorial day. So everyone was off work and there was a lot of people walking around downtown Chicago. I had a great time taking pictures in Millennium Park sight of the reflecting jelly bean. Instead of going to the Sears tower and paying $20 to go to the top floor to view the city I had read that the John Hancock building has the same view if you go to the bar on the 96th floor. So I decided to do that and get a beer, which ended up being the best part of the trip since I started talking to some guys and one of them had a sister with a ranch in Montana outside of Yellowstone national park. A ranch I later stayed and worked at for over a month.

I left Chicago late at night and just started driving north towards my destination in Minnesota. No real plans set forth. After a couple hours of driving, I was tired and ready for bed, but there was nothing around, eventually I arrived in a small town which just happened to have a Wal Mart. I pulled in, brushed my teeth, and got in the back of my truck to sleep. I may have been in Wisconsin, I can’t remember, either way I was near the border of Illinois and Wisconsin.

The next morning, I took off after buying some goods in Wal Mart. I wanted to drive some serious miles so I could arrive in Ely, MN early the next day.  I drove all day and was in Eau Claire, Wisconsin when I saw a billboard for the Leinenkugel Brewery.  I decided it was best to go have a tasting.  After the tour and a few beers I didn’t feel like driving anymore so I found the first hotel and checked in.

The next day I made the drive through Duluth, MN and arrived at the canoe base to start working. I remember my first day at the canoe base; I was very excited about my summer being a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and Canada. While walking around camp I saw a turtle, a white tailed deer and several bunnies. I knew it was going to be a wild summer spent in a truly beautiful wilderness.

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