The Highway Star... Andy's Month Long Odyssey To The U.S.

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I love living in Costa Rica and having lived here for more than two years I can honestly say Fran and I consider it to be home.  So while I no longer view the U.S. as my home, it is still the place I go to visit friends and family.  So in June, with our rainy season just getting started, I decided to cash in on the last of my Delta Frequent Flyer miles and head off to the States, all by myself. 

The plan had me flying into Atlanta, rent a car and drive my ass off for the next 30 days.  During that month, I would visit with friends and family, many of whom  I have not seen in over 30 years as well as a few fans of the Boomers Offshore website. 

And of course, everything was centered around my two favorite past times... whitewater rafting on West Virginia's Gauley river and watching Deep Purple rock their collective asses off.


May 28

Atlanta, GA

Fran dropped me off at the Liberia International Airport.  Her only request that was that I use "common sense" when making any important decisions.  My month long adventure began in Georgia with visits to dear friends Tricia (Atlanta) and Anne (Lake Hartwell).  Even though it was Memorial Day weekend, road traffic was light but the cops were thicker than flies on dung.  Thank goodness for cruise control.


May 30

Charlotte, NC

It's Memorial Day, the day we honor our brave military who made the ultimate sacrifice.  It's also an excuse for friends and neighbors to get together and gorge themselves on food and drink.  I'm staying with my old friend and neighbor Sal.  And when I'm not partying, I'm out shopping, buying all those necessary things we can't find (or afford) in Costa Rica.


May 31

Knoxville, TN

I left Charlotte early with a goal of making it to Louisville before nightfall.  After grabbing a cup of coffee from my favorite barista, I hit the road.  Traffic was very light.  I cranked up the iPod, set the cruise control and I was on my way.  Making a short stop in Knoxville Tennessee, I visited with long time friend (and video music star) Jolynn Newhouse.


JOLYNN NEWHOUSE

After a great lunch, I was back on the highway this time opting to cruise Kentucky's more scenic back roads.  The sights were spectacular, and for just a few moments, I actually felt a tad homesick.  As the sun began to set I realized I was not going to make Louisville by nightfall so the search began for a place to stay.  My trusty GPS guided me to the town of Somerset.  There I found a nice motel, hot shower, some respectable Chinese food and cable TV.  I was good to go.


June 1

Middletown, KY

The drive to Louisville was easy going and for over an hour, I was the only car on the road.  Having spent 10 years of my life in the "Derby City", I was anxious to hook up with old friends and neighbors.  The highlight of this stop was a reunion with my old buddies from my days serving on the Middletown Fire Department.  It was great getting together and swapping war stories and wondering what did we do right in order to have survived this long!!!

Following the reunion, I cruised over to the Four Roses Distillery where I got a private tour from the Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge.  Even though I am a dyed in the wool scotch whiskey drinker, I have to admit sipping some of the Four Roses single barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey was pretty damn good.


MFD  REUNION

BREAKFAST

FOUR ROSES TOUR

UNO MAS POR FAVOR

June 2

New Albany, IN

After the tour, I drove across the river to New Albany Indiana to meet Larry Vogt and his girlfriend Jeannie.  Larry and Jeannie are fans of the Boomers Offshore videos and website and are seriously contemplating retiring to Costa Rica. 

LARRY & JEANNIE

In a previous email to me, they said that if ever I was in the area to drop in and say hi.  Well I was in the area so I dropped in, said hi.  We proceeded to indulge in some more sippin' of fine Kentucky Bourbon.  I have to admit, this stuff is beginning to grow on me.  After drinks we ate some incredible BBQ and did a whole bunch of talking about expat life before turning in for a good night's sleep.


June 3

Baroda, MI

My next stop was Baroda Michigan, a small town located just 60 miles north and east of Chicago (as the crow flies).  Here I reconnected with long time friends Ron and Carol Easton. 

Since Ron is a self-professed aficionado on fine beers and Irish Whiskey, it doesn't require a genius to figure out what we did that night?

WHISKEY BY THE FIRE


June 4

Ft. Wayne, IN

Following a great night's sleep and hearty (albeit not heart healthy) breakfast, I hit the road again, this time motoring my way to Fort Wayne Indiana to see friends Karin and Tom.  To my surprise, I attended a party of friends and neighbors, all of whom were of German heritage or German expats. 

TOM & KARIN

I felt kinda weird because most of the conversations were in German.  There wasn't a single "sí" or "como está" mentioned the entire night.Since the drive was relatively short, 3 hours, I took advantage of my available time and did some needed laundry.  I checked my GPS for the nearest laundromat and within minutes I was standing face to face in front of a long bank of very intimidating clothes cleaning devices.  Looking particularly pathetic, help came my way in the form of a rather large, tattooed individual of no specific or identifiable gender.  This person asked me if I needed help and I responded with a "hell yeah!"  Two hours later my rucksack was replenished with clean, fresh smelling clothes.

LAUNDRY DAY

LAUNDRY DAY

LAUNDRY DAY


June 5

Columbus, OH

While it has been fun getting together with old friends, it was now time to hit the road and head East to West Virginia for some "ass kicking" whitewater rafting.  While on the way, I remembered a fantastic German restaurant in Columbus Ohio that served the most awesome wiener schnitzel and had an incredible selection of German draught beers. 

Since it was lunch time, I said WTF, and told my trusty GPS to take me to Schmidt's Sausage House, post haste.  Sometimes memories fade but in this case it was everything I remembered.  After a great lunch, I needed to get back to driving.  Next stop... Lansing West Virginia.


June 6-8

Lansing, WV

I can't travel through West Virginia without stopping and participating in my favorite past time... whitewater rafting.  I hooked up with an old friend and river guide, Rob Coffelt.  Rob is the River Manager (HMFIC) for Adventure's On The Gorge.  Not only did he get me a great deal on rafting the two best rivers on the East Coast, Rob decided to get out of the office and act as our guide for these two days of bone crunching action.

My son Mike drove out from Washington DC to join me as did the son of my ex-neighbor from Charlotte.  If anybody is interested in an adrenalin filled vacation in West Virginia, look no further than Adventure's On The Gorge.

ZIPLINE

HEADING OUT

CALM BEFORE STORM

NEW RIVER GORGE

SWEET'S FALLS

ALL OVERBOARD

AFTER RAFTING

HYDRAULIC HOLE

BUDWEISER  :-(

THE INEVITABLE

 


June 9-12

Lancaster,PA

The rafting was great but now it was time to head north and east to see my other son and his family.  They all reside in Amish country, Lancaster PA.  This was a key stop for me on my travels.  First, my oldest grandson, Jayden, was playing in his first Little League Championship and secondly, I had the privilege of taking my two sons to see my favorite rock band of all times, Deep Purple.  Short video from concert.

Jayden's team won their games and went on to win (a day after I left) their league championship.  The concert was almost awesome but it was obvious that age beginning to take it's toll on the band. 

PRE SHOW IN NJ

VIEW VIDEO


ROCKING THE HOUSE

JAYDEN KICKING ASS

PRE SHOW

SEAN & FAMILY

SPENCER BEING SPENCER

Now here is the weirdest thing...

In between baseball games, I was grabbing a burger and a Coke in a local McDonald's.  Out of the blue, a man and woman walk up to me and ask me "is your name is Andy Browne?"  I said cautiously, "Yes."  He then asked, "From Boomers Offshore?"  I again cautiously answered "Yes."  He then introduced himself as Ed something or other (I can't remember" from Freehold New Jersey.  He proceeded to tell me how much he and his wife have enjoyed our Costa Rican video series and that they are planning a trip within the next 6 months.  How cool is that?


June 14-16

Boston MA

This is my first time back to New England since moving to North Carolina in 1997.  The plan was simple, reconnect with a bunch of previous work associates, visit my old house (of which I have no memory) and eat some awesome lobster. I later learned that my old buddy Tim Lyons from Tempe AZ, whom I have not seen in almost 20 years, was consulting in the Worcester area.  Thank you Facebook!  We got the chance to drink some nice wine (from a bottle) and share some great stories.

 

BOSTON HOUSE

F3 SOFTWARE REUNION

MY LOBSTER

ME & TIM


June 17-18

Arlington, VA

The only reason for stopping in Virginia was to reconnect with my younger son Mike and his girlfriend New Jen.  I had the opportunity to baby sit my third favorite dog, Houser Browne and then chow down on some really good Chinese takeout.

SHARING DRINKS

OFF TO A WEDDING

BABYSITTING HOUSER

CHINESE TAKE OUT


June 19-22

Charlotte NC

On the way back to Atlanta before flying home, I stopped in Charlotte for a second visit.  Besides, I need to pick up all my booty that I bought on my first visit. Of all the places we've lived, Charlotte feels most like home because this is where our friends are.  All the other places is where acquaintances live.  Sorry about that but that's the fact Jack!!!

DINNER AT BONEFISH GRILL

COFFEE AT DILWORTH

DARCY AND BRIANNA

THE BILL WAS A KILLER

SAL THE TWO FISTED DRINKER


June 23-24

Leesville, SC

Suwanee, GA

Atlanta, GA

My final stops included visits to the homes of two guys whom I had not set eyes on in over forty years!  The last time I saw Fred Robbins and Jan Seigler was when we all attended JFK Junior High in North Miami Beach Florida in 1965.  Since then, we all went to different high schools and colleges, got married had kids and (you know) grew up and had lives.  We spent several hours reminiscing but unfortunately my schedule was such that I needed to press on.  But Fred and Jan, along wives Vicki and Nancy know our door is always open should they decide to pop in for a Costa Rican visit.

FRED ROBBINS

JAN SEIGLER

After the visit with Fred and Jan, I connected with Boomers Offshore fans Paul M. and his "elusive" wife Megan.  I say elusive only because I have yet to actually meet Meghan in the flesh!  She always seems to be "out of town on business" each time I come to town.  Perhaps one day soon they will make their way down to Costa Rica. 

Breaking bread in Atlanta is always a treat.  Paul, knowing my penchant and longing for a good steak, made sure that I would nit leave Atlanta hungry.  He made reservations at a trendy upscale restaurant called Hal's which served an incredible 12 ounce Filet Mignon.  This was (by far) the best cut of beef I have ever eaten and that even included the Kobe beef I ate in San Francisco years back.  For breakfast the next day we headed over to Goldberg's Deli where I was had some of the best Jew food around... lox and cream cheese on a toasted bialy with onions and capers.  And what would lox be without "potato latkes" (pancakes to my non-Jewish readers).  Damn it was good.

HAL'S RESTAURANT

GOLDBERG'S DELI

GOLDBERG'S DELI

My final stop before headed home was at the home of my friends Joyce and Charlie Goldman.  Joyce was one of Louisville neighbors from way back in the day.  It was great just kicking back, drinking some decent beer (not Budweiser) and having some awesome BBQ.

 

JOYCE & CHARLIE

The following morning I made my way south to the Atlanta airport but not before finding a UPS store to return my rental cell phone and turn my car back into Avis.  Here is where I almost screwed up. I forgot to fill up the damn car with fuel before returning it.  When I turned in the car, they assessed me $150 for gas!!  "Holy shit Batman, how do you spell financial rape?"  Thinking quick, I told the person behind the counter that I had purchased the "prepaid fuel option."  She said I didn't.  I say I did.  And in the interest of good customer service, she sold it to me... after the fact, thereby saving me $100.  Whew... dodged another bullet!


EPILOG

Saturday, June 25: It's been a month since Fran dropped me off at the airport in Liberia.  Now, facing a five hour wait in Delta's International Lounge, it's a good time to reflect and share thoughts on my 30 day odyssey.

Overall, I had a great time but it could have been better had I shortened the trip's duration by a week.  Four weeks on the road, solo, is too much.  On a positive note, I'm glad Fran decided to stay home. 

Sure I missed her but had she decided to come with me, she would have had a miserable time for I spent exactly 101 hours 24 minutes driving 4681 miles.  So in retrospect, her decision to stay home was a wise one.

I stayed in the homes of friends as well as a few Boomers Offshore fans, reducing the need to pay for costly or "skanky" motels.  That helped immensely keeping travel costs in check.  I'll admit, it was a bit weird staying in the homes of people with whom you only have an email (maybe Facebook or Skype) relationship.  But it proved to be fun, for all my U.S. hosts were cordial, generous and were eager share information about their reasons they were contemplating moving to Costa Rica.  Plus, I really enjoyed sharing stories about our life and what precipitated our move here.  In addition, being able to reconnect with old friends was fantastic.  I just hope that these relationships are not one sided.

I doubt seriously that I will be making such a trip ever again.  If any of our friends want to get together, it will most likely be on Costa Rican soil.  Our door is always open.

EPILOG

As promised, at 7am on Sunday, just 12 hours after landing at

Liberia International Airport, I am doing what I do best...

hanging out at the beach!



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