This August, my college friend Travis Fleis and I embarked on a 12-day road trip. We covered 13 states, camping in the wind and rain, in temperatures ranging from the mountain 40s to the desert 90s. At times, we drove for up to 24-hours straight, and each of us got sick with congestion during a leg of the trip.
Fatigue and exhaustion hit us at various intervals on our journey, but we trekked on with the highest spirits we could muster under the circumstances. And the circumstances were that we were on an adventure, and not a vacation.
That is what held up our tent at night, held our feet to the gas pedal, held endless water bottles to our lips as we hydrated constantly. The purpose of this trip was not relaxation or time away from responsibilities; it was a break from the mundane, but far from a "Find Your Beach Corona" advertisement.
Work ethic and drive to experience as much as we could kept our trip not just afloat, but sailing. That was the key to success, and the ultimate test of our young adulthood.
Our adventure began in northern Michigan. We crossed the Upper Peninsula to Wisconsin, where we camped our first night. The tent flooded during a storm, but we packed up in the morning and drove to Minneapolis and visited the Mall of America. By then, the misery of the previous night had evaporated.
The next night of our trip, we camped in South Dakota. In the morning, we drove toward the Badlands and wound through motorcycle-infested streets to Mount Rushmore. The next day, we headed south through vast Wyoming and arrived at to our waypoint: Colorado.
We stayed in the town of Keystone for a couple of days, enamored by the mountains. On our third day in the state, we camped at Red Rocks outside of Denver, and saw Sublime with Rome perform the last concert of their tour at one of the world’s most gorgeous venues — a natural red rock amphitheater, the Denver skyline illuminated in the background beyond the stage.
We hiked around the venue the following morning, then drove through Denver, north to Boulder, and eventually ran out of gas and daylight, and crashed at a hotel.
At this point, we had reached the latter part of our journey. It proved to be some fast-paced madness.
We camped one last night in Colorado, patches of cold rain sliding down on us from over the mountain range. I could see my breath in the tent, so I threw my blanket over my entire head and slept like a mummy.
The next day, we drove south, eventually traveling through the belly of a canyon along the Colorado River to the town of Moab. We camped in town and, in the morning, before the heat got too dangerous, we hiked along a canyon ridge at Arches National Park.
Our farthest leg from home, which took us close to 35 hours from West Michigan, was the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The last eventful day, Travis and I photographed the canyon from overlook points, and then decided it was time.
We drove from Arizona to Oklahoma, viewing both sunset and sunrise. We crashed at a cheap motel for the day, and in the evening drove the remaining 10 hours to Michigan, which took us through St. Louis, Mo., at nightfall, and to an empty tank at a Speedway pump at 6:30 a.m., before the store opened.
After we could move again at 7, Allendale awaited us with sunny morning rays, to which we reacted by passing out immediate at my apartment.
The morning of our arrival home was unreal.
Fortunately, we took some important steps on our trip to avoid the worst effects of the roadtrip hangover.
The roads and the destinations gave us the opportunity throughout our trip to document heavily. This we did in a way that travelers of former generations couldn’t have dreamed doing. We logged hours of video.
We would sometimes just set the camera on a stand facing the windshield glass at the road ahead, the sun and the sky, or windmills along the highway. Other times we would face the camera our direction and chime in with a “Day 3” or “Day 7,” or whichever day rapidly made its way into our consciousness, and ramble off an inconsistent, spontaneous commentary full of sarcasm and laughter.
Travis and I were often taken aback when we tried to piece together how long we had been on the road, or how long we had to go. The camera kept us in check. We knew it would be our primary vessel into the past, back to where we’d visited along the road, when ordinary life — work, college, relationships — began ringing in our ears again.
Editor's note: Alexander has more to say about his roadtrip. The conclusion will be published in Thursday's Tribune.