The Route (So Far)

One thing I’ve learned since driving away from the East Coast: my Google mapping skills are dreadful. Defeat knocked me on the chin with every point I tried to place on the map–and there were a lot of points I tried to place on the map. No matter how many times I hit “save,” lines would disappear, information would vanish. I gave up several weeks in, leaving the idea of me on the map in Rapid City, South Dakota long after I’d taken a quick side trip to Wyoming, headed up to North Dakota, driven across Montana, and started roaming the northwest.

Even when the mapping sort of worked, it was scribbled with lies. Some days called for random turn-offs onto rural routes. Which one did I wind around? 7? 43? Or was it 12? I rarely jotted those numbers into my notebooks. The exact route faded. But memories–and thousands of photos–remain. So, instead of Google Map, a photographic route map. Driving the U.S. isn’t about remembering the exact pavement or the dirt roads you took. Driving the U.S. is about the tall grasses that line those dirt road; the bars that serve a good brick cheese sandwich; the mountains that look like faded paintings from a distance and then steal your breath as you get closer, clouds ringing their peaks; and the people who share a part of their life with you along the way.

(One caveat: it might take a drop of time to get this photographic route map finished but, I promise, this time I’ll make it out of South Dakota.)

April 15, 2012 - where it all began: a driveway in Teaneck, NJ.


There are no options when you see something like this: you have to stop.

I recommend you do the same. Inside Roadside America: the country in miniature.

April 16, 2012 - Pittsburgh's yellow bridges will, forever and always, be the first things that pop to mind when I think of the city.

April 17, 2012 - On the way to Winesburg...

Neighbors at a campground in Winesburg, Ohio.

April 19, 2012 - A friend introduced me to Cleveland's magnificent Sokolowskis University Inn. When you go (and you should go), don't be shy. Keep ordering until your plate is filled with sausage, pierogi, sauerkraut, and on and on.

April 22, 2012 -- Thomas Schutte's "Vater Staat" kept a close eye on my niece and brother in the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing.

April 24, 2012 - Stop in Monroe, Wisconsin and you might end up in Dubuque, Iowa. (Click the photo to find out how that happens.) But, before you drive off, snap some photos of the Green County Courthouse and eat some cheese.

April 24, 2012 - One of Dubuque's many charms (and there are many) was this view from my room at the Hotel Julien.

April 25-26 - The Great River Road along Wisconsin's west coast. Thirty-three river towns, locks, dams, and some fine breweries. And, always, the Mississippi River.

April 26, 2012 - The "World's Most Dangerous Polka Band" at Nye's Polonaise Room in Minneapolis. Get thee there soon. (Make sure you stick around for the Johnny Cash medley. That is some sweet sweet music.)