Hey Dorothy! We’re in Kansas!

11 05 2015

It’s Monday in the mid-west and today we are another almost 1,100 miles older and wiser. We are in Dorothy’s Kansas, and look, there’s even a rest stop along the side of the Interstate reserved for Toto to go do his business!

"Hydrant non-functional"??? But... what if there's a fire?

“Hydrant non-functional”??? But… what if there’s a fire?

So we arrived safe in Topeka after braving weather phenomena rarely seen in parts east. Indiana, Illinois and Missouri (and probably Kansas and Nebraska and Oklahoma) are weather central for powerful forces of nature that – when experienced – make you actually believe a little girl’s weirdo story about a tornado and a place called Oz.

In fact, driving along US36 westbound yesterday into a wall of black, an automated weather report broke into regular radio programming. It warned of tornadoes in Counties X, Y and Z, and that a “severe and damaging thunderstorm” had just passed the town of A, heading northwestward on a direct path to the town of B. Clueless as I was and having never actually set foot in Missouri before, I picked up our Rand Mcnally 2015 Road Atlas (a.k.a. the bible of all road-trips) and attempted to locate the affected areas.

To my shock I realized that we were headed straight through them.


I suppose this should have been a dead giveaway….

What happened next (with the wipers on high speed) looked like this.



So that’s what it feels like when a storm passes through around here. OK, I get it now.

(You know, you sit on your sofa in Boston or Philadelphia or someplace and watch this stuff on the evening TV news and wonder what all the fuss is about. Actually traveling through something like that can be rather unsettling if not downright terrifying.)

But this story has a happy ending. Waiting for us on the other side were….


… a chilled drink…


… and a hot grill.

Nothing like a well-earned pit-stop with great old friends, fantastic local grass-fed beef and some strong liquor to take the edge off.

After all she went through, Dorothy probably also could have used a shot or two.

Cha Gheill, people!

9 05 2015

So this morning I woke up near Cleveland, Ohio. Good thing I know that at least because when we arrived at our hotel just before 4am, I am not sure I would have been capable of spelling my own name.

Yesterday’s leg was a day from hell. Murphy would be proud of the efficacy of his stupid little law.

We decided to change our planned direct westbound route from Utica to Niagara Falls to include a fun diversion of 170 miles / 220 kilometers. (It was a good idea at the time.) We thought we’d add a Canadian province to our itinerary (more on that later), and ended up driving into the back of a 3 1/2-hour traffic jam. The highway was closed and the (not-so-fun) detour led us on an 70-mile goose chase across rural southern Ontario. Don’t you love it when the big orange “Detour” signs that you are following just… end?

We got to Niagara Falls at 10pm, just in time to see the kitchy projected rainbow lightshow.



That was actually very pretty. A highlight of our trip so far.

But our adventures were not over just yet. We had three more hours to drive in order to make it to our pre-paid hotel room in Cleveland. (It was a good idea at the time.) At 12:20am, on the NY Thruway just south of Buffalo, our rental car stopped moving forward. It was something like…. putt putt putt…and….pffffffttt….

We had run out of gas in the middle of the night, in the middle of the Interstate, in the middle of nowhere, seven miles from the nearest gas station. It is moments like these that you thank your wise parents for giving you that AAA membership for your birthday when you started driving 29 years ago.

So an originally-planned six-hour journey turned into 10 hours which ended up turning into 18 hours on the road. Ugh.

But now: The reason for our trip into the great white north? My undergrad alma mater, Queen’s University (where basic gaelic language skills are a requirement for graduation: “Oil thigh na Banrighinn a’Banrighinn gu brath!“), sits right on the border to New York State, and we couldn’t just speed past without stopping by to say hello, buying some tricolour swag and chowing down on a barbecued burger care of the Queen’s Engineering Society.

24 years since I left that place with a degree in my hand, and 14 since I was last in Kingston. Gosh… what has happened to all that time?


Cha Gheill!

Bye bye Boston MA, hello Utica, NY

8 05 2015
Not sure when that will be...

Not sure when that will be…

What’s in Utica, NY? Meh… nothing, really. It just seemed like a useful place to stop and spend the night as we high-tail it west. On a map it looks like it’s at dead center of the state.

We’re due in Topeka, Kansas on Sunday afternoon for a barbecue, so between now and then the mission is to make ourselves scarce in these here eastern parts. Crossed over the Hudson River on I-90 yesterday afternoon and are now truly in the wild west. Stay tuned – this is where the adventure starts.


The Hudson separates Yankee civilization (on the right) from… everything else out there (on the left).

Road trip time

7 05 2015

So where do I start (again)?

Loyal readers will keel over in shock that this blog has once again risen from the dead. Last year I promised pithy commentary on a regular schedule but just trying to sort through my thoughts completely stressed me out. I left you all on the edge of your seats on Opening Day 2014 at Fenway Park. Hope none of you fell off. (And after their World Series victory in 2013, the Red Sox had a disastrous year.)

Not making any such promises this time around.

It’s road trip time. Two years in Boston have come to a mostly satisfying close… satisfying in the sense that we all survived the winter from hell without freezing to death or by killing ourselves while jumping from windows into 25-foot banks of snow. I have no idea how human civilization has thrived in these latitudes for so long.

It is time to move on and resettle in a more habitable place. We are transferring to San Francisco. And to get there we have decided on a typical ‘Murcan thing to do: Road trip.

5,000 miles, 16 states, 18 days.

5,000 miles, 16 states, 18 days.

The Dalai Lama says everyone should visit at least one new place every year. Our route will take us through the heartland… and to a bunch of places this Yankee has certainly never been. I honestly can’t remember when I last set foot in a red state and in the next couple of weeks I will probably spend more time in them than I may wish to remember. But on the other hand I’ll be seeing some great old friends and anyway, it’s important to separate the politics from the place, right? There’s a lot of beauty out there in the middle of the country – Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Arches National Park – in addition to the right honorable hog-castrating Senator from the great state of Iowa.

(And by the way, I do personally know some Oklahomans who would vote for Elizabeth Warren in a heartbeat. So much for stereotypes.)

So as three guys from a moving company load our worldly possessions onto a tractor-trailor that we hope to meet in one piece on the left coast three weeks from today, I want to write about some of the stuff we will see, smell and experience as we cross this vast continent from east to west. I’ve never traveled coast-to-coast by land, and I am sure I will learn a lot of really cool things along the way.

Because the journey is the destination. And because as one friend said to me recently: “….You can’t really know America until you have driven across it.”