The last nine months have birthed a new Joshua & Ryan. We have grown immensely since last Thanksgiving, 2011, when we decided to embark on a five-leg, 33-city Meetup Tour, an irreplaceable experience, something we’ll likely never get to do again—at least not the same way. Suffice it to say, we have learned more—experienced far more—than we expected. Below are some selections from our journals.
Leg 1: November 2011
We have had our car towed in St. Petersburg, Florida. We have now “worked” from the same beach where Joshua scattered his mother’s ashes two years prior. We have hugged Occupiers, attorneys, Couch Surfers, retired-CEOs. We have met a Knoxville man who fasted for 40 days.
Leg 2: December 2011
We have been pulled over and searched for drugs by the Kansas Highway Patrol. We have slept on a kind couples’ floor in Missouri and listened as their tourettic neighbor howled obscenities throughout the night. We have slept in our car in the middle of the Arizona desert a few feet from poisonous insects and snakes. We have (well, Joshua has) vomited in a bathroom in San Francisco minutes before speaking to our largest crowd of the tour. We have drunk the best tea in the world with our friend Leo. We have, from a distance, mistaken the bright lights of Reno for the bright lights of Vegas. We have been stranded in a blizzard in rural Wyoming. We have searched (unsuccessfully) for John Stockton’s bronze statue in Salt Lake City. We have slept in a loft in Milwaukee. We have awkwardly signed autographs in Chicago on the eve of New Year’s Eve. We have had meaningful conversations with an 83-year-old woman and an 11-year-old boy.
Leg 3: March 2012
We have showered with Texas well water. We have signed more than one Kindle with a silver Sharpie. We have walked in the rain with Chase Night and a pair of red-headed twins in Little Rock. We have appeared on NPR in St. Louis with the legendary Don Marsh. We have exercised at rest stops in dozens of states. We have been recognized by readers on the streets of Nashville and Dayton, and, later, in Seattle. We have thanked people like John Schultz for driving up to eight hours to meet us in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
Leg 4: May 2012
We have eaten fish tacos in Rochester. We have smashed a writing hand—Joshua’s right hand—in a faulty window and bled all over Coney Island. We have read a 715-word sentence from Joshua’s new novel aloud in front of a crowd in NYC. We have fallen up stairs while exiting the subway in Manhattan. We have witnessed a white Scottish terrier wearing an argyle sweater smoking a Camel Light in Brooklyn. We have taken it to the streets of Boston. We have fed homeless people on the streets of Pittsburgh and Cleveland. We have graded homework for Joshua’s online writing class and taken phone calls for Ryan’s mentoring sessions while on the road. We have given an MLK-style speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We have seen the largest condom store we’ve ever seen in Philadelphia.
Leg 5: July 2012
We have driven from Ohio to Des Moines to Portland to Seattle to Vancouver and back. We have shoveled horse poop in front of a polygamist family while the sun set into the Utah mountains. We have visited Mount Rushmore and had much of the experience tainted by myriad advertisements and entire towns predicated on buying shit. We have driven past grass so green that we weren’t sure if we were in Iowa or Ireland. We have mistaken much of South Dakota, with its bails of hay atop rolling hills nestled against flat fields, for a giant PC wallpaper image. We have witnessed Independence Day fireworks in downtown Boise. We have parked on the side of the road to take in the ferocious forest fires of Wyoming, bright and blood-orange and uncontrollable as they lit up the night sky. We have spoken alongside our friend Joshua Becker at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit. We have slept in a supposedly sleepless Seattle. We have borne witness to what is perhaps the most visually astonishing place on Earth: Western Montana, driving past its flannel plains and evergreen mountains and skylines of a cowboy portrait, and past its cobalt rivers overhung with century-old pines with flecklets of sunlight shining through them on the water bending down river, to the place beyond its sprawling canyons where fields divided by train cars simmer in the afternoon heat. We have watched the sun set cinematically over the water during our final meetup in Vancouver. We have spent time in Canada, staying up late and laughing, playing guitar and singing songs, spending quality time with some of the most amazing people we’ve ever met.
A Panoramic View
We have seen both coasts. We have driven more than 20,000 miles in our tour bus (Toyota Corolla). We have set foot in 40 US states. We have traveled more during our 31st year on Earth than the previous 30 combined. We have enjoyed 33 outstanding meetups in 33 unique cities. We have spoken in front of nearly 2,000 people with audiences ranging from two people to nearly 200. We have laughed and cried, and laughed at the fact we were crying. We have eaten meals and had meaningful conversations with outstanding people doing outstanding things, all of whom we first met on the Internet. We have made new friends. We have been inspired by scores of people and their amazing stories of transformation. We have, in our own small way, helped spread the message of simple living. We have stopped talking about living and started living.
This essay was inspired by the opening of David Foster Wallace’s classic Harper’s piece, the title essay of his brilliant collection, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Check out photos of the Meetup Tour on Facebook, Google+, and Spyr Media.