Halfway Home . . .

Halfway HomeWell it is official, we are halfway on our trip and still pretty far from Wilmington but hey we were able to get a photo of the mileage to Wilmington, NC on I-40 in Barstow, CA. Wish we could of taken the photo during the day but our timing was a little off. Lets just hope that the people viewing this page in Wilmington will see their other side of the sign and no that we are here on the other side. Right now we are currently in Las Vegas after one long night of partying and drinking in several casinos (got into LV at 2:00AM, came back to the camper at 9:00AM, haha). Everyone is sleeping trying to get some rest before we start filming for the doc in a couple of hours. As for me, I am still hyped up on two black eyes that I drank from Starbucks to help me finish some unfinished work on this blog. As you can probably already tell, new photos are uploaded and they are up-to-date and more photos will be uploaded after our filming today. If you check out my page you will see some time lapses that I have been testing and will be doing more of as the trip continues so check them out! The next trip in our journey is to the Grand Canyon and from there on to Albuquerque/Sante Fe. Hope everything is going great for everyone reading this blog and we will continue to post and keep you informed. Catch you in the next time zone . . .

-Brandon

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Unreloading RVs

Timelapse footage of the crew unloading the old RV and then reloading it back into the new RV. Process took three hours. 

Music by St. Vincent – Actor Out of Work

 

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On the road again…

Back from a brief involuntary hiatus courtesy of our engine-less Winnebago, we are ready to pack up and FINALLY leave the state of Minnesota after a 5 day layover. Things we have learned from our time in the Cornhusker State:

- “Land of 1000 Lakes” is not an exaggeration. Other possible titles should include “Land of 100,000,000 Giant Mosquito’s,” “Land of 1000 Fields with Barns” or “Land of 100,000 RV’s.”

- Minnesotans have amazing (and slightly addictive) accents.

- State Parks in Minnesota are gorgeous – most have one of the aforementioned lakes, lots of trees, and strict no alcohol policies which may be enforced by friendly rangers knocking at your tent “door” at 7am.

-91% of Minnesota’s population has health insurance. The same percentage appears to own RV’s. 98% of them are significantly nicer than ours.

-After a week of sleeping on the ground, one can become aware of even the slightest variations in ground softness. Grass is your best friend. Let go of sleeping on your sides – the closer to pancake you are, the happier you will be in the morning.

- Names with Native American flare are abundant, as are names that make things sound very cute and tiny.  Minnehaha Falls , Minneiska, Minnetonka , Minnetrista, and Minneapolis can become confusing to an outsider who can’t pick out the difference between what sounds like a collection of miniature dolls.

-Fire logs and sleep seem to be inversely correlated. The more you have of one, the less you get of the other.

-You can see more stars in the countryside of Minnesota than I remember seeing in my astrology textbook.

-If you think the south has hospitality down, spend a day in Minnesota. They are so sweet, friendly, and wholesome that it will make your teeth hurt.

-Minnesota actually has a store called “SuperAmerica”- before you get your hopes up on finding the worlds greatest patriotic gift store, I should warn you that it’s actually a chain of gas stations.

Pictures of the New Camper (which I am tentatively naming Tigger…. Yep, That’s right! Right here. As I write this message. ) coming soon!

Cheers!

Scheli

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Short But Not Sweet . . .

DEAD WINNIEThese are the words that our mechanic gave us five minutes after our Minnie Winnie was towed into Collins Auto Repair in Albert Lea, MN. These words continued to say that the Minnie Winnie’s engine is dead, gone, resting in peace forever. While on the road and just crossing into Minneapolis from Iowa on I-35 N we experienced the engine starting to vibrate uncontrollably and then just let out. Luckily we were able to get off the highway and onto a side road where we learned that a piston exploded and shot right out of the oil pan causing a massive depletion of our oil.

As of right now we are still here in Albert Lea, MN trying to figure out our next plan to keep this trip going and we will keep you all up-to-date on what happens next in our journey.

REST IN PEACE Minnie Winnie . . .

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The Breaker

dsc_8235Today we spent 50% of our day trying to get our van working and 50% of our day exploring an abandoned coal breaker. Trying to push a 25 foot Winnebago up onto sandbags in a misguided attempt to unflood an engine is one kind of adventure. Spending an evening crawling through the dust and debris of a breaker that has stood empty for more than 30 years is another.

From the outside, the breaker was stunningly tall. I think I had a general knowledge of how large factory buildings are, but I realized after we started our assent that this was my first time being inside one.

Our “tour guide” – Matt Murray, a well-versed interviewee and talented photographer who runs the site abandonedamerica.org made a statement that really left an impression on me. The machines were built to function – humans entering into this equation was only an afterthought. The entire form of the building is based on the function of these monstrous machines. It’s the opposite of what I have come to know in my limited white-collar world. As you walk up the narrow stairways and ramps that are squeezed in between the mass of the machines, you realize what a challenge working in the space must have been. It is a part of a time and place that I cannot begin to understand, when the value of workers was taken so lightly. In reality, I know places like this are not gone – only transposed across oceans or hidden away from the eyes of mainstream America. It makes me feel spoiled, when I think about a job like mine with an on-set medic, craft services, and catered lunches.

The building was inches thick in dust. I kept finding myself touching everything – the walls, the floors, the metal. I can’t say for sure whether it was the texture of cold industrial weathered steel – metal so heavy it literally crushed mountains – or the familiar smell of the mixture of dust, coal and dirt that I couldn’t put a finger on. (The consensus was eventually a workbench – in my case, my fathers’.)

The building felt haunted. Not by angry poltergeists’ but by passing time and forgotten ways of life. I found myself trying to imagine the place as it once was – before the dust and dirt settled in – when the machinery still moved like a lumbering beasts – with its giant teeth, blades and sieves working in unison toward some greater goal. I wondered how loud it was. What a man’s body must have felt when the breaker smashed down. The texture of their hair and skin when they left after a hard days work and what they must have thought looking out over the mountaintops from the balcony I was standing on, if they were allowed there at all.

The idea that, even so long ago, people were building things that were so large as to dwarf a human being by stories of steel was humbling, and I hope a memory that will stick with me for years to come. We left just as last light had faded from the room. As we climbed our final set of stairs, I broke off a few tags from the numbered fuses along one of the walls.  Number 48. Perhaps power to a light that allowed a man to maintain his station, or to the giant belt that carried the shale down the mountain. I will probably never know, but its always fun to guess.

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Another Day in Paradise . . .

Well I am currently sitting inside the Travel Plaza near Clyde, OH by myself because everyone else is still passed out from the long drive. Last night I decided to fall asleep early so that when it was time to change shifts in driving I would be well rested to drive. In the end it turned out that I slept through the entire trip and then woke up with us parked at a rest stop. I actually had to ask the Star bucks lady where we are, but after a questionable look she answered Clyde, OH.

Well I just finished uploading all of the photos that we have taken so far and you can view them on the right side of the page. Soon we will have some Behind the Scenes videos to upload that are really cool.

As for yesterday we encountered something that we have never experienced before, a town in reconstruction. When we were first starting this trip we read the Rolling Stone’s article about the town of Braddock, PA and its focus was on the Mayor and it was titled, “Mayor of Hell”. Calling Braddock a Hell Town is far from being right, I would honestly call it libel. We went into Braddock with the mind set that this town was nothing more than a barely functioning town that has been run down. But what we saw was something much more. We saw a town that was rebuilding itself within the community. Throughout the town we saw almost a hundred different children and adults wearing BYP t-shirts (Braddock Youth Project) and they were gardening in empty lots, painting art on sides of buildings and doors, and even planting trees throughout the community. Braddock is a town that is working on change and that change that everyone talks about is actually happening. The youth are taking a stand and not only are they doing this change, but they want to do it! You can look at other communities and see that when the community wants something they just protest it to the mayor and hope that he will do something or get someone else to do it. These people that are part of the BYP are doing it, they are making the community a better place. One interview that we conducted yesterday stated that when people see that change is occurring then they want to jump on the band wagon and start helping. Once America can see what this town is doing then we can all start helping.

After most of our interviews were done, we were actually invited by a Media Literacy teacher of the BYP to come to her class and showcase the Red and answer any questions that they may have. This was a great experience not only for us but for the kids that we were talking to because they were between the ages of 14 – 20 and they were already making films and videos with equipment provided by the BYP. It was great to see their films and to see that they were using the equipment that professionals use. Lets just say that their editing lab was top notch! I hope that everyone within that class stays with the video program and one day I will see them again.

Once our journey to Braddock was finally done we decided that we needed to find a wifi hot spot to get all of our pictures uploaded and blogs updated and the only place nearby was a Hooters. So now we are making a tradition of stopping in Hooters as a wifi rest stop. After a couple of beers and some wings and helping out the waitress with her iPod problem we were then able to get back on the road. But after only a couple of minutes I was already passed out and now I am still hear typing away at the computer waiting on the gang to wake up so we start our journey to Detroit, lets just hope that nothing bad happens . . .

-Brandon

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Roughing It.

After a few nights of sleeping at rest stops, we were all ready to see less cement and fewer trucks. Excited about the prospect of getting back in touch with nature, we headed to a KOA deep in the Pennsylvania Mountainside. I had my tent, my bug spray and my obligatory gross moldy shower bathroom flip flops – one of the more useful lessons I learned at summer camp.
The next events are hazy because I had passed out from lack of sleep a few hours before and didn’t really ever regain coherency before the next morning… but it must have gone something like this: we pulled into the campsite where we were greeted by a large toll booth. Behind it, where a tiny camp store or rangers station might have been, there was a giant convenience store. Fancy. We were assigned our site in the middle of the night, so we parked in the dark and went to sleep.
I woke up early, fully rested and ready for some outdoor adventure. The sun was still low in the sky and everyone in the camper was fast asleep, so I made my way silently through our maze of filming gear and household goods and out the camper door.
The sight that met me was nothing like the memories of camping from my childhood. It had fewer trees than the rest stops and Wal-Mart parking lots we had been frequenting, there were RVs and cabins the size of tour buses everywhere and there was not one visible tent. Maybe camping RV style was going to be a little bit of an adjustment.
First stop on the schedule was the camp bathroom. Our RV does have a bathroom, but there is something about peeing within five feet of three guys in a box-sized room next to a door that seems to amplify sound rather than contain it that makes even a sketchy camp bathroom seem appealing. In the distance I could make out a wood cabin with a giant “restroom” etched flawlessly on a placard. This building was fancy – like the mass-manufactured log cabins you find for sale on the side of I-95. Nothing like the cement cottages and porta-johns from my early camping experiences. The prospect of not having to hold my breath while peeing sounded very appealing.
I slung open the heavy wood door, and looked around. The space was anything but scary. No cobwebs, warm grey water funk, horror movie lighting or gross cement floors greeted me. In their place I found, a roomy cabin with beautifully maintained  wood floors, vaulted ceilings, lined vinyl showers with adjustable heads, and pleasant lighting. The term that came to mind was “cabin sheik.” I could definitely get used to this kind of camping… Hell, add a couch and I could probably have lived there for a year and never thought better of it.
I walked back out into the park to see what other wonderful advances had been made in the world of camping while I was away. The campsites were all set on sleek grey rock. The back side of the lot was still surrounded with woods, but in front of them a giant metal cord held signs that said “Keep Out.” I must have been at the back of the site. I took off in the other direction.
The main road was lined with campers of all shapes and colors. Our 1985 Minnie Winnie was clearly the ugly stepchild of the bunch. Most of these campers were new, sleek, and took up as much space as your average 180-wheeler. They had a variety of different porches and verandas that extended from them. Most of the campers seemed to have fancied theirs with little accomidations. The first one had a few camp chairs and a little stove, the second, a pretty hanging flower pot and a picnic table with a giant grill. It seemed a little excessive for spending a week in the outdoors, but I guessed that some people must take grilling seriously enough to make it worthwhile.
The next cabin, however, seemed to be pushing the definition of camping to its limit. They had a veranda that extended more than 10 feet from their trailer. Under it, 4 padded reclining chairs sat on a giant rug, each angled carefully towards a giant flat screen TV. It looked like someone took their living room and transported it outdoors. There was nothing natural about it, unless you count some of the tones in the brown rug. I tried not to pass judgment on someone’s idea of fun, but I was pretty sure that camping was not a good fit for them as a family pastime. I wondered if I had a moral obligation to tell them about the wonders of hotels.
I rounded the corner from the outdoor suburban living room and ran smack into the middle of a mini-amusement park. There were several carnival rides of the spinnining nature, a ferris wheel, and a massive tower that looked like, when in service, it allowed for some form of controlled bungiiing. In the distance, I could see a mini put-put course and a rustic looking building that read “Movie Theatre.” The campground seemed to, at some point, have had a serious identity crisis.
Although the idea of carnival rides was more than a little appealing, I was determined to find at least one nature trail somewhere on the premises. I headed toward a giant building that shared the role of restaurant, bar, camp store, and ice cream. I just needed to be pointed in the general direction of nature and I was good.
I came upon a small water park, complete with a water slide and rain umbrella. Standing poolside, I found a well tanned lifeguard staring off into space in the general direction of two small water-winged children.
“Could you tell me where your trails are?” I asked.  His eyebrows furrowed, as if I had just asked him to solve a long division problem. “We have segway tours at 10 am.”
I stared back at him, equally perplexed. “No, like nature trails. For hiking… Wait, you have segway tours? He nodded and pointed to a sign on a near by activity board. There were flyers for various activities- movie night, paint balling, carnival activities, karaoke and, sure enough, an advertisement for Segway tours, complete with a mulleted man and his two kids beaming happily from the back of a flock of the bizzare vertically balanced vehicles.
I was in the camping twilight zone. I had aimed for a nature adventure and ended up smack in the middle of nature’s doppelganger – the KOA campground of urban amusements. The only thing that set this site apart from a Jungle Rapids (or some other form of small-scale amusement park) was the mountains in the background, but I was pretty sure they could capitalize on the same niche with the help of a canvas backdrop of trees.
“I think there may be some trails over at the state park” the boy said, trying to be helpful and not quite oblivious enough to miss the look of horror onto my face. He pointed to the left of the campground.
” Thanks” I told him. I t turned to run in the direction of the distant trees. Deep in thought and unsure my mind could handle any more camping revelations, I didn’t notice the herd of Segways sailing toward me.
“Pay attention” a woman yelled at me as I narrowly escaped the path of her front tire. Her tone of anger was probably less about me and more about her fear of permanant segway injury. She was as off-balance as a one legged pirate in a sea storm. I held up my hand in silent apology. Her children trailed behind her, riding their segways with the deft agility of a spider monkey – like all children seem to, as we older generations flail about with the grace of inadequately tranquilized zoo animals.
I ran across the quarter mile cement pad that acted as the campground’s entryway and down the paved road. In about a block I came to another road. It was gravel and dirt with deeply ingrained tire tracks, hardly less maintained than the campsite flooring, Its sign read “State Park.” I took off down the road, searching the surroundings for trails as I passed. I made it to the end with no such discovery. Tired, sweating and genuinely freaked out. I headed back to the campsite.
Camping had clearly moved on without me some time in the past 10 years, and I wasn’t so sure I could make the adjustment, much like my mom and her inability to navigate computers. As much as I loved modern amusements, there was something unsatisfying about the removal of discomfort from the camping process. I would gladly brave a few moldy cement shower stalls for some quality time with the great outdoors.
When I arrived, the guys were lounged outside the trailer on our sites picnic table, staring at our camper’s welcome packet.
What’s up? I asked.
Taylor pulled out a menu from the pile in front of them and handed it to me. “Did you know that our campsite delivers?”

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