Image by Underground USAImage by 20090827-geoff.jpg That's Geoff and the dusty jeep.
Sometime this afternoon, on August 28th, a dark red Jeep that has journeyed all the way from Charleston will roll into the innocuous L.A. suburb of Hyde Park.
Editor's note: Geoff Marshall is the videographer for TheDigitel and is completing his summer sabbatical: Underground USA -- A journey documenting the side roads of the 48 states. We think you'll enjoy this piece to know where he's been, and to bear witness to an adopted Carlestonian's journey across the U.S.
The local residents won't realize just what an important moment it is for the driver. For Geoff Marshall -- that's me, the driver -- has just spent the last 10 weeks driving around the lower 48 states of the USA, visiting towns with the same name as stops on the London Underground subway system.
See, I once held the world record for traversing the London subway network in the shortest time. After arriving in United States and living in Charleston for a number of years I decided to take a journey to see and document the large fascinating world that is the USA and also get time and space out from Charleston to wonder which personal direction my life should take next.
My journey has not just taken me on a same-name small towns on the trip but also to some classic American landmarks too such as Graceland, Vegas and several National Parks.
While traveling Route 66, I met this Italian couple, took their picture for them at the midway point in Adrian, Texas. They'd flown into Chicago, hired a Harley Davidson and spending two weeks riding the old route all the way to LA. I think when I'm 50, and have a grey wispy that I will want to come back and do the same: travel the whole length of the mother road not just part of it.
I've been working hard throughout, taking photos every day and putting them on a Facebook group, as well as making almost 20 10-minute videos and posting them on the trip's blog, along with a daily written blog post of the day before.
It's not actually been vacation at all
The trip has been almost 18,000 miles over 10 weeks, and I've spent just under $4,000 on fuel and accomodations, and put on a few pounds of weight from one too many Waffle House and Cracker Barrel dinners.
Have I picked a favorite state? Or a least favorite one? Ha! It would be surely rude to say that one place was the worse ... but a server in a restaurant in Indiana looked at me incredulously and asked "Why had I come to her horrible town ... and the whole state isn't that much better either."
The whole journey has not been plain sailing. At one point TheDigitel and the Charleston community raise $5,000 for me to replace stolen equipment. At the start of July everything was stolen out of the car while in Greensboro, North Carolina.
It's still very humbling to think that everyone rallied round and gave money like that to me. I've sent everyone -- I hope -- a personalized e-mail thank you, but when I'm back in Charleston next week, I'll be doing thanking in person as well. The power of social media is still alive and well and has been an integral part of this journey.
The United States is a big country
It is big enough for me to rest an endless stereotype that often gets banded about by Brits and other europeans back him.
Back on the other side of the Pond, we've long mocked the Americans for not having passports and not getting out of their own country to explore the world a little more ... but the truth is, this country is so damn big that they just don't need to!
Someone in England may visit France, Germany and Spain in Europe and be considered 'well travelled', but someone from South Carolina might have been to California, Washington and Maine" and not be consider well travelled -- because they've stayed within their own country, even though the distances are greater than those involved traveling in Europe.
The lesson from the travels?
That mobile Internet is hard to find, and Verizon still has better cell phone coverage than AT&T -- especially in the middle of the Arizona desert.
But I think most people just don't realize how big this country is. Even those that live here. Everything else seems tiny now. Even at the end of this massive journey there are STILL places that I want to go back and visit. I've almost half-planned a route from coast to coast again that takes in all the sights that I didn't see this time round ... maybe next summer.
If I do, go I'll be a lot more careful about not leaving expensive technical equipment in the car this time.
If you like to learn more about the trip and watch the videos I've made along the way, do check out the blog.