Saturday, January 26, 2013

Introduction to "Around the USA in 40 Days"

Hello everyone, welcome to the 37 States, 39 Days blog, Matt McKinney edition!

I know it's taken a while to get this into blog form, but I've had a few things to adjust to coming back to Dallas, and life got busy again. This weekend, a man who goes to Northwest Bible Church named Ben Cunningham encouraged me at the Men's Retreat to start blogging about the trip, if not for people now, then for my future kids and grandkids who will want to know what all I was blessed to do and see on the trip. And yes, the trip already seems so long ago! So long ago, in fact, that sometimes it seems like a good dream I once had, instead of 40 days of my life.

Now, I'm sure many are wondering how in the world I came up with the idea to road trip around the USA in general. And perhaps an even bigger question, which I've already been asked plenty of times in person, has been: what was the motivation behind this trip?!

First I'll answer the motivation question with this anecdote: I remember that about week before I left, I had the pleasure of having dinner at China Mex in Vickery (I had Mex) with Jessica Hall, Daniel Dixon, Ian Stewart and Katie Joy Irwin, and I got the chance to announce my plan to travel the country. Right away, I got plenty of interesting responses on how I was gonna pull that off, why I was doing it, etc. The next day I was going to a free Rangers game with Ian, and he told me he'd journaled about me the night before, saying that he was surprised that "Matt McKinney is more adventurous than I thought he was." This may sum up what others thought when they heard about the trip, and I'll agree with them. That is to say, I am by nature a wanderer. It's a God given trait I have that doesn't always make itself known through the otherwise apparently structured way my personality is, but it's definitely there, proven in ultimate fashion by my committed desire to take the time between jobs to see tons of new places across the nation. I can't say it's a genetic trait, because I don't think even my Dad has gone on a trip quite like this. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, a lot of things and a lot of God's blessings had to come together at just the right time to make this happen.

How I came up with the road trip idea: on the day before I was going to South Padre with 7 other wonderful peeps from Northwest Bible Church, I was walking back from my car to my cubicle at the Comerica building in downtown Dallas, and I started daydreaming. I've daydreamed in the past about driving around the wild West of the country in a "badass" car like a Challenger or something cool like that, so these musings weren't unprecedented. But then, I started thinking hey, I like Seattle, I should try and make it all the way up there. Then, wait a minute, the McClenagans just moved to Madison, and I've already been wanting to go see them. And I also like Chicago and want to do it justice, and oh yeah I've never been to NYC, Boston, and the Northeast in general. Windle and Wilbanks are in Atlanta...and on and on the daydream grew into a massive route on Google Maps at work that Thursday. And if you know me, you know that when I get an idea stuck in my head, it's not easily dislodged. Once I'm in, I'm IN. Such was the case here, after I considered I'd saved plenty of money in 2012 and I was about to quit my job at Comerica anyway. The thought of not having a job to come back to afterwards was a minor concern at this point, I was just getting excited about the thought of this newly conceived grand adventure! Props to Charlie Roch for many things, but in particular for convincing me to take my own car rather than renting one. More on that later.

The funny thing about all this brainstorming on that Thursday before the Padre was that I had to rip my thoughts out of cross country road trip daydreaming and realize that I had to drive almost 600 miles tomorrow. Which was an eye opening realization when I started thinking about it. Now, we did go on the Padre trip the next day, and although most of us got sunburned beyond reason and I smashed my face diving into the shallows (like really really shallows) of the Gulf, we had so much fun on that trip that I will not forget it until I go senile. And when I got back to work it I sure did miss the beach life, and I wasn't the only one, David Brumbalow. I had about 5 weeks between Padre and Epic trip, and it took another 3 weeks or so to deliver my official two weeks notice to my boss, who's a really great boss and had known that I'd wanted to pursue other professional opportunities and was thus very understanding in receiving my notice. So understanding, in fact, that after I'd told him and my other manager about my plans for the trip, they agreed to let me go one week before my official two weeks was up, and to pay me for the whole two weeks. Such a blessing!

I can't remember exactly when I started planning the details of the trip, but according to my gmail account, I sent out an email to almost everyone I know in Dallas asking who all they knew in a list of cities that literally spanned sea to shining sea. I didn't necessarily get tons of direct responses, but it did spread awareness on what I was planning to do with my time for the next 2 months. Thanks to Justin Hughes, he set me up with Nick and Natalie Hseih in San Diego, and Marshall (I mean Jeff) and Leah Erickson in White Bear Lake, near St. Paul in Minnesota. Also, Bryan Henning arranged for me to stay with his aunt and uncle in Boise. Charlie Roch and I had agreed on principle to meet up in Boston when I got there, and he knew someone to stay with in New York, so that part seemed taken care of.

There were good aspects of the rest of the planning process, and some not so good. The good thing was that I found plenty of time in the preceding weeks to check out Wikitravel on what to do and see in different cities, and to look up scenic drives in Arizona and California. The bad thing was that even with all that planning, there was so much left to prepare for on the day that I left Dallas (August 19th), and I did a poor job of finding places to stay on Couch Surfing's website. I did have an agreement to stay in Fort Worth at my college roommate Clark's house that night. It was both an opportunity as a place to stay and as a chance to catch up with him after not having seen him in a few months.

There was one small matter of preparation left to take care of. I had noticed that my friends Myranda Reeves and Erin Callahan had the habit of taking pictures of their identical, bright yellow "friendship" rubber Duckies in locations that they had visited, such as a beach on Corpus Christi. So one day I got the bright idea to email them and offer to take their Duckies to potentially 35 different US states, with pictures in every location that I could manage. After 3 pages of waivers and release forms, the girls were kind enough to release the Duckies to my care! It wasn't easy getting Myranda's Duckie: while I picked up Erin's at church on the 19th, I had to stop by Myranda's downtown Dallas apartment building and literally receive the other Duckie through the passenger side window of my car. And thus the journey had begun...

Rubber Duckies Infiniti