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Tsali MTB
Loxley, AL
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Hill Country
Seminole Canyon
Big Bend 1
Big Bend 2
Carlsbad/Guadelupe
White Sands
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Cumberland Island
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The MidWest
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Wrapup/Conclusions
Cathy
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Wrapup/Conclusions/Trip Summary

Thanks for following my journey to it's melodramatic end.  It really was a fantastic experience, but not one that I plan on re-doing anytime in the near future (1-2 years out maybe?).  I learned a ton... what to do and what not to do when traveling, but I have very few regrets... and I look forward to the next journey.

A few of my favorites...

Here were some of the most beautiful places I visited.  Most of these are from my Western destinations.  I didn't include areas I visited in between "jaunts" out West. (except Cumberland Island... I just couldn't leave that one out!)  I plan on returning to many of these:

Desert Country

Picture Place Description
Big Bend National Park WOW! What a place.  I could spend months here. Beautiful mountains, beautiful desert, and beautiful canyons forged by the Rio Grande.  The smell of cresote bush, the silence and vastness of the desert, the beauty of an afternoon thunderstorm hitting the mountains, the canyon views... It is so far out of the way, few visit, but those who do are treated to an incredible time.
Capitol Reef National Park Capitol Reef was not as well known as any of the other parks in Southern Utah.  But it was so full of pleasant surprises.  From the sheerness of the Cathedral Valley and the north side of the park to the bizzare diagonal-ness of the seldom visited southern side, this place was beautiful.  Pickin' fresh cherries from the orchards was fun too! 
Joshua Tree National Park As a friend put it, "the most beautiful god-forsaken piece of rock I've ever seen."  Joshua Trees are hauntingly beautiful and there are some amazing views to be had.  We never had the chance, but I'd love to get lost on a backpack in those Joshua Tree forests.

Rainforest

West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island, BC The hardest hiking of my life paid off with some fantastic coastal scenery and wonderful rainforest experiences.  The WCT/Shipwreck trail is not to be missed by backpackers, it's tough, but its worth it.

Western Mountains

Yosemite Yosemite is unbelievable.  After popping out of Wanona Tunnel and seeing Yosemite valley for the first time, with 3 huge waterfalls in sight and half dome towering above the valley, you would think you've seen heaven.  Unfortunately, it is absolutely crawling with tourists, but it doesn't matter.  Strap a backpack on and you can escape them and still snag some fantastic scenery.  A person not taken with the beauty of yosemite
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park The most beautiful canyon I've ever seen hands down.  Sheer and narrow, it's almost like a 2500 foot deep slot canyon.  They don't have trails... only "draws"... some of the toughest hiking I've done, but the views were oh so worth it.  

Forests

Cumberland Island National Seashore The live oaks really do appear to be alive.  The live oaks area near Seacamp are so amazingly beautiful, it's easy to forget that you're right near a nuclear submarine base!  I volunteered here for two months.
Muir Woods Some of the largest and most beautiful coastal redwoods I've ever seen.

Prairies

The Black Hills of South Dakota This is more of a destination rather than a prairie.  We spent a significant amount of time here and it was totally worth it.  Yes, there are beautiful prairies all over the place, but you've also got the Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Devils Tower, and well... Mt Rushmore (yuck!)  This is one beautiful area of the country.

Anasazi Ruins

Mesa Verde National Park Amazing cliff dwellings and nice views of the surrounding valleys.  For a combination of scenery and Anasazi dwellings, this places is hard to beat.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park Center of the Anasazi culture.  Lots of preserved structures and petroglyphs to match.

The Rig

Well, I think I can say the rig never failed us... almost.  We did have a few problems:

  • We had a tire blow out once in Sedona and a windshield crack from a big rock being kicked up by a passing vehicle in the Mojave Desert.  Other than that, just basic maintenance.
  • The power station failed me twice thanks to some bad design.  Basically, I put a regular car battery instead of a deep cycle marine style battery in the power station.  Regular car batteries aren't designed to be discharged fully as we were doing while typing up our web updates.  I had to replace this battery twice until I figured out what I did wrong!  By then, the battery had leaked acid all over the place.  Ick.
  • We did run into one problem where the engine didn't have enough power to get us up a hill in Idaho.  I had to put it in 4WD high to get up that hill.
  • The sleeping arrangement wasn't really designed with mosquitoes in mind and we suffered a few nights.  The "state bird" of Minnesota (AKA the mosquito) had us in the truck with our windows closed and the engine on (AC running) for a night or two.  We also hit the tent for a night or two to avoid them as well.

The rig was fun to build, but looking back on things, I realize that there some waste of effort here.  Essentially everything Phil and I built had been done before.  If I had simply traded in my Isuzu Trooper for pickup truck and purchased a truck camper, I would have had everything I needed and more.  One benefit of the Trooper over a truck camper was stealth.  The Trooper didn't look like a camper so we could get by in some of the "no camping" areas.  But overall, I think the benefits of a truck camper outweigh the benefit of stealth!  Some of these truck campers are pretty amazing.  Well, for next time then...  

Touchdown in Society

The adjustment of re-entering society was a bit more difficult than I first imagined.  Oddly enough, one of the more difficult adjustments was related to the amount and type of physical activity I was accustomed to doing during the trip.  It seemed as if my body was somewhat addicted to endorphins.  If I didn't get exercise, I got mildly depressed.  Coming back, I've had to put my previously weak home workout schedule on overload to keep my body up where it was used to being during the trip.  I've been running, mountain biking, doing a strenuous form of Yoga called Astanga Yoga, continuing Kung Fu training/workout, and gettin' pumped up (lifting weights)!!

Then there's the work adjustment.  Before I left town, my previous manager at XcelleNet/Sterling Commerce and friend (who helped me build up the rig), Phil, started up an independent Information Technology consulting business called Infotank.  By the time I got back, Phil had enough business for more than one person and he asked me if I wanted to become a independent subcontractor/consultant working for him.  So far the arrangement is working out well.  The work is not as technical as I would normally like, and I kind of miss the corporate office environment (and the social interaction that comes with it), but the freedom in this type of work is very nice!  I'm mostly doing web development.  We're not sure where its going, but it should prove to be an interesting ride.  I might also take a contract here or there in computer programming to keep my C++ skills brushed up.

Another adjustment I had to make was moving back in with the prenatal units.  Since I last lived in their house for any extended period of time, my room has been turned into a photographic studio for my mother's business.  I lived in the furnished basement which my dad uses for storing stereo equipment, and workout equipment that gets massively underutilized.  If I had the entire basement bedroom to myself, I would have enough room to live and operate my business, but the way things were, I barely have enough room to walk through the room.  And of course, after you've lived away from your parents, moving back in with them, as temporary as it is, can be difficult once you have had the taste of freedom of living on your own.  So I moved out on November 27th in to my new place.  I now have more room than I know what to do with.  I managed to fill up my living room pretty well, but my bedroom is fairly barren.  If you ever need to know what the traffic is like on I-285 just East of I-75 on the North side of Atlanta, give me a call.  I spend my winter afternoons laughing at all the poor commuters trying to get up to Cobb County from the Perimeter Center area.  In the summer, that view of should give way to leaf filled trees (thank goodness).  I'm also right near the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area.  I really like the place so far!

Apartment.jpg (145841 bytes)
My new apartment

Now that I'm working, I have money again.  And I kind of went on overload in loading up on material possessions.  First of all, Phil and I traded vehicles.  I tossed in my mountain bike to cover body damage on the Trooper and Phil tossed in some moolah to cover the trade.  BAM!  I'm now the proud owner of a red 1995 Chevy S-10.  I immediately took that money and bought a new mountain bike.  I got an Litespeed titanium Obed with a Marzocchi fork and Shimano XT Groupo.  The ride is sa-weet!  I also, of course, had to purchase a new computer for the business.  And everyone needs to have a nice 21" monitor, right?  (Actually, it doubles as my TV set!)  And after moving in to my new place, I outfitted it with a desk and a dinette.  Needless to say, I've decided it is time to give my credit card a rest for a while now.

A lot of people ask me what I learned on the trip.  The one most important thing I learned on this trip was the value of relationship.  And I am not solely referring to a man-woman relationship, but all relationships.  People generally need people.  Without other people as a reference, you can't really define who you are as a person.  You can't define yourself without defining your relationship to other people.  I got great pleasure out of talking with various people on the road, from gas station attendants to park rangers.  These conversations were especially of value to me while I was traveling alone.  If you treat these people with respect and genuine interest, you'd be amazed at how quickly you can get to know someone.  

At the next level of relationship, you have friends.  I am blessed to have such dear friends, many of which are in Atlanta, but many outside of the area as well.  But all of you guys mean so much to me.  It is something that we don't express between each other very often.  

At the next level of relationship, is romance. Well, Cathy and I didn't really "click" as far as that went, but we did forge a romance somehow.  Thanks to her for putting up with my little "issues" and being a great partner on the trip.  I think that we both knew it wasn't meant to last forever.  And last, it didn't.  Only a few weeks after returning, Cathy and I had a fairly hostile breakup.  We even went through a phase of not speaking to each other.  We will be able to be friends eventually, but there are some hard feelings between us.  Imagine spending 3 months non-stop with any of your friends.  Then add the relationship factor into it... It's a lot harder than you think!  We actually did great on the trip, but various pressures that got heaped on top of us upon our return caused the breakdown.  On the other hand, I have few regrets regarding the relationship, and I learned a ton about living with someone else.  So I am single again... It feels good to be free in some respects, but this ordeal surrounding our relationship, has made my "re-entrance" a little bumpy.  But I have no regrets and I hope she doesn't either.

I do plan on doing some extended traveling again, but not for at least a year or two.  And four months of traveling was way too long.  Next time, I'll only be out for two months... hopefully that will be enough time to quench that endless thirst for travel, but avoid that dulling of the senses that occurs when you go from the "astoundingly amazing to mind bogglingly beautiful."

Thanks for reading folks!  It's been fun!

Coming Next...

NOTHING for a while!  But I might add to this page every now and then as I dig up more dirt on the trip.

My E-Mail address is: andrew(at)koransky.com

Copyright (C) 1996-2005 Andrew Koransky

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