We set sail from the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Instead of heading west into the vast sea, we are bound east, to cross the continent with an oversized folded-boat. For one month we will be cruising with our vessel on asphalt roads and highways, traversing a string of land-locked states, to reach a final destination on the shores of the Atlantic. Along the way we’ll be stopping to talk to local residents and collect their observations and personal associations: What is their relationship to boat travel? Did they or their ancestors come to this town from some other place? Were they driven by hope, desperation, adventure? What makes this place or elsewhere into home?
Sea to Sea is a cross-country trip in search of where we came from and where we are headed.
July 15, 2016 : Albany, CA
We embark on our journey from Albany Beach in California with wind in our sail.
July 16, 2016 : Benicia, CA
First day on the road, heading north to head east. At the open marshland of Suisun Slough, we drove past a sign warning of gusty winds for the next 13 miles. We felt it on our sail which swayed in the side-winds and finally caved in. After assessing the damage, we unhitched the boat by the side of Goodyear Rd. and drove to the nearest Home Depot. Did an initial repair in the light of the head beams and then waited for a lull in the winds around sunrise to drive away.
July 17, 2016 : Fairfiled, CA
Spent most of the day working on the boat at the Fairfield Home Depot parking lot. The inside of the sail received a reinforcement layer of fiberglass and to fill in the hollow we decided to stuff it with 36 inflatable beach balls. Breathless, but with a stronger sail we can finally continue driving, to reach the Sierra foothills by dusk.
July 18, 2016 : Austin, NV
Across the Sierras and into Nevada, cruising on Highway 50 - the loneliest road in America. A few horned cows and a lone coyote turned their heads to look at the boat driving by.
July 19, 2016 : Baker, NV
Driving through the desert plains, we read the wind speed and direction in the waving grasses by the side of the road. When the wind is whipping from the side, we slow down to 35mph. Our boat is bound to the course of a paved road; the stiff sail can’t zigzag its way through the wind.
July 20, 2016 : Arches National Park, UT
Been playing road-tag with a motorcyclist since last night until we finally all stopped for fuel and a break in Salina, Utah. Jay has put 17,000 miles on his bike in the past three and a half months, riding up the Rockies from Colorado to Alaska and back down along the Pacific coast to Baja Mexico. When we cross paths he is on the last leg of his trip, heading back home to Colorado for some “creature comforts”, before his next adventure - all the way to the southern tip of South America. (Jay, if you’re reading this, reach out - we have some gold-mining questions…)
July 21, 2016 : Black Canyon of the Gunnison Gorge, CO
Everett from California and Rick from Minnesota have been “rolling together” with their two RVs since June 1st. They planned to tour Utah but decided to follow better weather instead. We met them by the bank of the San Miguel river in Colorado where muddy red water rushes through a canyon. We all agree our boat wouldn’t fare well on the rapid river and Everett suggests we should end our trip at Plymouth Rock and float the folded boat by the replica of the Mayflower.
July 22, 2016 : Paonia, CO
A warm welcome at Paonia where we park with the boat outside Blue Sage Center for the Arts. Local residents who came here following their heart, intuition or the spectacular views of Lamborn mountain all agree that this small vibrant town on the mesa is “the best kept secret in Colorado”.
July 23, 2016 : Monarch Pass, CO
Today we crossed the continental divide; from here on it’s downhill all the way to the Atlantic. Near Monarch Pass in the Rockies, we stopped to take in the view, when a red SUV pulled off the road and a woman in flip-flops quickly stepped out to snap a picture of the boat. On her way back to the driver seat she asked if it belongs to us and explained her nine year old son has been folding boats ever since he was little to sail in puddles every time it rains. “He’s going to flip out when he sees this one”, she said before speeding away in the same direction she came from.
July 24, 2016 : Holly, CO
Driving through eastern Colorado, in town after town the past is boarded up. Travelers from nearby Kansas tell us about sugar beet farming and famous Rocky Ford watermelons; when the locals sold the water rights to the big cities, the fields dried up. “And where there are not enough people left to complain about the smell - the feed lots come in with thousands of heads of cattle.”
July 25, 2016 : Pratt, KS
We drive away from Holly, Colorado with a bouquet of peacock feathers from Rene’s flock. We hope that one day she will travel the Santa Fe Trail in a chuckwagon. People ask her why would she do that and she answers: “why not?”
July 27, 2016 : Lucas, KS
In search of an origin story, we stop for a visit at the burlap factory which supplied the raw material for the boat. Sturdy machines from the 40’s and women in hair caps and aprons print, fold, sew, insert draw strings and flip inside-out, the right bag for the right purpose. When the clock strikes noon all work comes to a halt.
Later that day, road sign intervention points us towards the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas. Cement scenes, sculpted by S.P. Dinsmoor a century ago, are still progressive to our present day and continue to draw creative individuals to this small town.
July 28, 2016 : Manhattan, KS
We are halfway between the Pacific and the Atlantic, stopped by the plaque in Lebanon, Kansas - the geographic center of the contiguous USA. A secret code (1,2) opens the door to a trailer with an exhibition by the Center for Land Use Interpretation about the different centers of the country. With half the journey still ahead, what comes to mind are billboards saying “If you lived here you’d be home now”.
July 29, 2016 : Kansas City, MO
On the curb outside Front/Space in Kansas City the small crowd that gathers around the boat consist of residents who have lived in the city for decades and transplants who moved there just one week ago. How long do you live somewhere before you call it home?
July 30, 2016 : Cuivre River State Park, MO
In Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri, Leila mixes hair and politics. For her, the hair used for making the antique wreaths is hard proof of the people from whose head it came and the women who did the painstaking job of weaving it into ornamental flowers by dim lamp light. Driving uphill and downhill across Missouri, we think of what we should have said in response to the retired feminist hairdresser’s disdain of government regulation and her conviction that Muslims cannot be “good Americans”.
July 31, 2016 : Collinsville, IL
Running out of phone battery, we loose our ability to navigate our journey across the country. We stop to recharge at the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center by the confluence point of the Missouri river and the Mississippi. From here, “The Corps of Discovery Expedition” departed in the spring of 1804 to chart the way west, not knowing for certain if they could float on their keelboat all the way to the Pacific.
Later that day, we use the world’s largest ketchup bottle as a beacon, marking the way to Collinsville, Illinois.
August 1, 2016 : Mason Ridge, IN
East of the Mississippi, we are in the east. On small roads in Illinois and Indiana we travel through an accelerated history of division and subdivision. Islands of native forest are scattered between fields of corn and soybean, which in turn clear way to a perfect lawn with a house standing in its center; the windows are all shut, the air inside is climate controlled.
August 2, 2016 : Yellow Springs, OH
While taking pictures by the side of the road several cars pull over to make sure everything is okay. We assure them that we are not in trouble and they drive away without saying anything about the unusual cargo we are towing. Do people not notice the big folded boat or are they too polite to butt in to somebody else’s business?
August 3, 2016 : Columbus, OH
An evening of boats bound to travel on land at MINT collective in Columbus, Ohio. We cross paths with Audrey Snyder and Joe Riley who are on their way west to Kansas City, where they plan to travel on deserted train tracks with their wind powered Rail Sail.
August 4, 2016 : Youngstown, OH
In East Palestine, Ohio we are offered a prayer. We hold hands on the sidewalk outside the Coffee Stop, which provides coffee in the morning and bible study group in the evening, as the shop’s owner prays for our safe journey.
August 5, 2016 : Allegheny National Forest, PA
In our friend Allison Davis’ poetry there is no place like home in Youngstown, Ohio. We overnight at the Davis Motel, where Murray and Barry Davis offer us room and drinks on the house and stories from the motel’s past.
Down the road, high school students in Hubbard, Ohio wash cars to raise donations for their marching band. Two dozen teenagers split into roles - scrubbing with sponges, spraying with hoses, yelling commands to orchestrate all the action. The tuba players, who normally do the heavy lifting in the band, are absent today.
August 6, 2016 : Stony Brook State Park, NY
In rural Ohio and Pennsylvania several people warn us to stay away from wild New York City. “If you have to go east to the Atlantic - go south”.
August 7, 2016 : Syracuse, NY
Adam of My Lucky Tummy relocated to Syracuse which is “a good place to be a producer, not a consumer”. Outside his future restaurant we meet Tom, the upstairs neighbor, who back when he was young, at age 62, spent 8 months self-sustaining alone in the Sierras. “Those mountains are so tall - I could reach up and shake hands with the angels.”
August 8, 2016 : Lock 21, New London, NY
A day along the Erie Canal, which is actually three parallel channels - the old Erie Canal (1825), the Enlarged Canal (1862) and the Barge Canal (1918). Other parallel lines - roads and railroad tracks - replaced most traffic of people and goods between the center of the country and the coast. The towpath along the water which was once used by mules pulling the barges, is nowadays a bike path.
August 9, 2016 : Averill Park, NY
Camped overnight by Lock 21 where boats moving east gain 26 feet. The first boat in the morning is on its way from Buffalo to Boston; the second boat is going the opposite direction on its way from New York City to Ottawa. It takes 8 minutes to go up and 12 minutes to go down; the next lock down the canal is only 1 mile away so the lock keeper must drain out the water slowly.
August 10, 2016 : Millerton, NY
Slowly rolling downstream along the Hudson River where upstate New York and Brooklyn mix. At Hoof Print Farm Mike tells us his goats were once invited to roam around a small island in the New York City harbor to help with mowing. When the herd chewed through a communication wire they set off a terrorist alert.
August 11, 2016 : Cold Spring, NY
Getting close to the finish line with a mixed feeling - excited to get there but not wanting the journey to end. We stall by the Hudson in Beacon’s waterfront park, which like the Albany Bulb, our first day’s stop, is a landfill that extended from the land into the water. In recent years the park was renamed after Pete and Toshi Seeger, who led the efforts to reclaim the river and clean its water. Their words which welcome visitors to the park ring true: “the world would never amount to a hill of beans if people didn’t use their imagination to think of the impossible.”
August 12, 2016 : Brooklyn, NY
Is there such thing as a finish line?
Any questions? Comments? Personal boat stories? - would love to hear from you!