Number of miles driven today: 0

Total miles driven on road trip: 5,155

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Although this is firmly Dunkin' country, I don't think it should count in the standings, since I am only here for our family fishing derby, not as part of the road trip.

Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 19-3-1

Dunkin' Donuts' record: 3-19-1

Cheapest gas I saw today: $ 2.89

Number of states visited overall: 11

Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 8 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia)

Number of blue states visited overall: 3 (California, New Mexico, Florida)

​Number of fish my team caught in the family fishing derby: 8

Place our team finished in: 2nd

Amount of pride I have to swallow losing to my Uncle Jim's team: Inordinate​

We've reached the All-Star Break, both of Major League Baseball and the Wax Pack road trip. 

In a past blog post, I compared the grind of this trip (10,000 miles of driving in 48 days in my 2002 Honda Accord) to the grind of an MLB season, and although Inside the Bigs radio host Mychael Urban thought I was being charitable (baseball players don't drive '02 Accords, he said), there's no doubt that the baseball season is a marathon.

The All-Star Break provides some welcome relief from the daily ritual of batting practice, a three-hour game, and another night in a hotel or a red-eye flight. It also nicely coincides with the halfway point of my trip, and so to celebrate and get a brief break of my own, I flew last night from Ft. Myers, Florida to Boston, an hour ride away from my hometown of Greenville, Rhode Island.

For the past 17 years, my family has gathered each summer in Greenville for a fishing derby. This has evolved into Christmas in July, a weekend of booze, bass, and (good-natured) bickering that ultimately confers bragging rights for a long winter. There are team costumes, an awards show, and entrance music, along with fishing-related aliases like Nightcrawler, Big Rod, and Largemouth. To us, it is a hilarious spoof that highlights the delightful quirkiness of the family. To outsiders (and several have witnessed the spectacle as invited guests), it comes off as a deranged variety show with public access TV-quality production values. 

Since many of you fit in the latter camp, I'll spare you the details of my team's tragic runner-up finish, the victims of faulty alarm clocks, bad fishing line, and finicky bass (I refuse to accept any responsibility of my own). 

Instead, the halfway point provides a nice opportunity to reflect on what I've learned thus far on the trip:

  • Carlton Fisk doesn't always golf at The Founders Club in Sarasota, Florida. Despite talking my way inside the exclusive, $25,000 a pop golf club and custom home development by pretending to be a wealthy prospective home buyer, my ambush fell short when I found the clubhouse bar empty.
  • Garry Templeton is actually a good guy, despite what the St. Louis press said about him. He also loves watching kung fu movies.
  • I will never learn how to change the oil in my car.
  • Bringing only six CDs on a 10,000-mile road trip is not good planning.
  • Sometimes your childhood heroes really do live up to expectations.
  • Tinder in Ft. Stockton, TX lasts one swipe before you need to expand your search radius a couple hundred (maybe thousand) miles.
  • Starbucks owns the west and the deep south. But Tampa, Florida is the cutoff points where Dunkin' Donuts becomes equally well represented. Call it the snowbird effect.
  • Ex-baseball players are a lot less romantic and enthusiastic about their own exploits in the game than the fans are. Some of this is a healthy refusal to wallow in the fumes of greatness. For others, it's more a defense mechanism, or as Don Carman put it, "self preservation." When you spent the first half of your life dreaming about playing the game and then accomplishing it, what do you possibly do when you wake up and can never go back to sleep?:
  • There is actually still gas in America for under $2. Somewhere in Arkansas.
  • If a scantily clad, mammarily gifted woman on Sunset Blvd. approaches you and starts making conversation, it may be more about business than pleasure.
  • I'm not a good liar. And I'm really uncomfortable around extreme wealth. And I have no idea what makes for good quality granite countertops on kitchen islands (see first entry about Fisk).
  • If you go to a restaurant by yourself and have a notebook out, you will experience the best service of your life.
  • Traveling for this amount of time and this amount of miles can be very challenging, but doing it alone makes for better writing. When you have nobody else to worry about and you are in a completely foreign environment all the time, the only sound is that of your own voice in your head. You'll be surprised by what you hear, and the fish-out-of-water surroundings add a certain vigilance and awareness that makes for better observation, and therefore better writing. It's no coincidence that some of the best travel writers work alone.
  • Everybody, perhaps especially those around my age who find themselves reflecting a lot on this notion of "growing up," should take a trip by themselves for at least a week to an unexpected place. You don't have to write a book about it, but just having that experience of isolation and that time free of distraction will bring clarity you might not otherwise experience.

​​For older blog entries, click here.

The All-Star Break and What I've Learned

Day 24: Greenville, RI, 7.12.15


One Pack. No Turning Back.