The Conundrum of the Travel Blogger

Creating a travel website like this one is, to be honest, a lot of work.  I created a travel website during my last major road trip, back in 2001, which I called DelsJourney.com.  And that one was a lot of work, too, as I posted dozens of stories while traveling around the U.S., New Zealand and Australia for over a year.  Many times during that trip I’d fallen so far behind with my updates that – as much as I wanted to keep traveling – I felt compelled to pull off the road for a week or two, stay in a campground or a motel, and just write non-stop, posting five or 10 updates.  Then I’d get back on the road for a while until I pulled over again and wrote some more.

The same has been true with this trip.  When I was planning this current trip around America, I casually decided – without thinking much about the implications – to create a travel website.  Apparently I’d forgotten how much work it would be.  I figured that I’d just write quick updates each evening while sitting around a campfire. Sad to say that it hasn’t worked out that way because, in typical Del fashion, my idea which started out so small at first just kept growing and getting more elaborate in my mind.  Joking a bit here:  this is how my life works and I think partly explains why I’m still single.  Once I start getting into something, I usually take it to the nth degree until I’m worn out. 

Initially I was planning to just post a brief text update each night on my website, maybe three or four sentences.  But then I decided to add photos and captions.  Then I decided to add maps.  Then I learned how to take panorama photos and wanted to post them on the website.  Then I wanted to add videos.  In fact, the main reason I spent the entire summer in Colorado instead of traveling around the U.S., like I’d planned, was to:  1). Teach myself the Joomla website format, 2). Figure out how to post maps and panorama photos, and then 3). Get caught up with my website, writing several dozen updates from April through August. Each update takes me about three hours, given all the photos, maps and things, so that was a lot of work.

The reason I’m saying this is not to whine or evoke pity – which I’m very good at doing, by the way (and is another reason I’m still single!)  Rather it’s to let any budding travel bloggers out there understand just how much effort is required in creating a travel website.  Oh yes, I could’ve taken the Twitter approach, writing a quick 140-character update each evening after dinner:  “Today I went to Yellowstone!”  “Today I visited the northernmost point of the U.S.!”  Or I could've done something quick on Instagram or Facebook.  But big whoop – that would’ve been boring and I didn’t want to do that.  

I decided to create a website like this partly for the sake of any readers who wanted to travel with me vicariously.  But mostly I wanted to do it for myself and posterity.  I’ve taken a lot of trips in the past that have now faded into a fuzzy obscurity, like the six-month road trip I took around the U.S. in 1995 when I visited about 40 states – but which I can barely remember now, because I get it mixed up with all my other road trips.  I wanted to document my travels on this trip thoroughly so I can relive my adventures, experiences and sentiments many years from now when I’m old and gray.  Well, older and grayer.

Creating an extensive travel website like this presents a real conundrum, because you can either spend your day traveling and exploring, or you can spend your day writing about your travels, but it’s difficult to do both.  I really want to explore and travel but, at the same time, I want to write about my travels in sufficient detail to convey what I've experienced.  Many times during this current trip I’ve had to put on the brakes for a few days or few weeks or – in the case of Colorado – an entire summer and write updates.  Therefore it can get frustrating at times, because often while I’m huddled over my laptop in some library writing updates on a beautiful day, what I’d really like to be doing is traveling and exploring. 

As I spent the summer in Colorado, watching the days and weeks roll past, I kept looking at my schedule, knowing that I was falling farther and farther behind.  Heck, I’d planned to be on the East coast by July but here I was still stuck in the Rockies.  It got pretty stressful for me at times (yes, even road-trippers feel stress), because I knew there were so many places that I still needed to get to, like northern Minnesota and northern Maine, before the weather turned cold and snowy.  

If you're thinking about creating a travel website someday, take heed and don’t do what I did, thinking that you can take a road trip around America in a few weeks or months and post an extensive story about it at the same time.  You can do one or the other, but unless you have a personal secretary, or you’re willing to spend a lot more time traveling than you initially planned, or you’re a lot more proficient than me, you’ll have a hard time doing both.  Again, my intention is to warn and not to whine.

I was feeling that stress here in Wisconsin in late September because I knew that I still had a lot of traveling to do, visiting lots of extreme sites before the weather turned bad.  So for the next few days, I just drove with a goal of getting through northern Maine and visiting the five extreme compass points there by the end of September while the weather was still decent.  I had to make tracks.

And that’s what I did – the next few days I just drove.  There weren’t too many Extreme Geography sites here in the Midwest or places I hadn’t seen before, having lived for many years in Michigan and Wisconsin, so make tracks I did.

Wisconsin to Ohio

 
 
Above:  I drove east from Madison, going through Chicago, then continued east and camped at East Harbor State Park, near Toledo.  The next day I continued east on the Interstates and spent the evening with my old college friend, Jake, and his family near Syracuse.

 

I left Madison on a warm, drippy Saturday morning and pressed on, through Chicago where I spent $15 in tolls on the Interstates.  Yes, fifteen bucks.  We don’t have many tollways in the West, so this concept, having to pay to drive, was new to me. 

I said goodbye to the Windy City and, with a much lighter wallet, crossed into Indiana, then I jogged north into Michigan briefly, wanting to pick up the Great Lakes State (state #24 and counting) on this journey.  I drove across southern Michigan for an hour, then dipped down into Ohio, where I followed the turnpike past Toledo. 

Well after dark, I pulled into East Harbor State Park, which is located on Lake Erie near Sandusky.  It was a Saturday evening, which is usually the hardest time of the week to find an empty campsite.  In fact, I really hate looking for a campsite anywhere on a Saturday evening; it’s not fun.  But it was also late in the season, so the campground was only half full and I found a good spot.  It was a pleasant and surprisingly warm evening, and I pulled out my cooler and ate a quick dinner by the light of my candle lantern. 

I was near Toledo, which is where my great-grandfather George Leu arrived after emigrating from Switzerland back in the 1860s (he spoke German so he pronounced it “Loy,” though we pronounce it “Lou”).  I’ve never been to Toledo but, I mused, someday I’ll get there.

From Madison to Toledo

 Ohio to New York

I got up early and checked out Lake Erie, which I hadn’t seen in 15 years.  Yep, still the same.  Then I continued east. 

Driving through Cleveland was a breeze; not much traffic here on a Sunday morning.  Then I pressed on, continuing on Interstate 90 past Erie, Pennsylvania and into New York, states #26 and #27 on this journey so far, then I reached the Syracuse area around 5 p.m.  I knew this area pretty well because my brother Don had lived in Syracuse for many years and I visited him several times.  Don moved to Connecticut a while ago, but I still have a friend who lives in Syracuse. 

Remember Jake, who you read about on my September 11, 2016 update?  As I described so eloquently (?) in that update, when Jake and I were in college at the University of Wisconsin, we spent a frosty evening camped in the back of his pickup truck in a Wyoming rest area on Interstate 90 – the same Interstate near where he lives now, come to think of it.  That was on a December evening back in 1982 when it dropped to 25 degrees below zero.  If you check my September 11 page, you’ll see a picture of bleary-eyed Jake the next morning, holding his truck’s battery under a hand dryer in the dingy Rest Area restroom, trying to thaw it out.  Very humorous, I thought at the time – and I still think.

Anyway, Jake no longer sleeps in Rest Areas.  Instead, he and his wife Carol now live in a nice house in Jamesville, near Syracuse and just a few miles from where my brother had lived for several years.  I’d written to Jake earlier in my trip and told him I’d be coming through Syracuse, so he told me to stop by if I could, rather than sleep in a Rest Area.  And that’s what I was doing here.  When you share an “interesting” experience like that with someone, you form a lifelong bond. 

I pulled into Jake’s driveway around 5:30, rang the doorbell, and was instantly greeted by two of his three wonderful girls – the third one I’d meet a little later at dinner.  I hadn’t seen Jake and Carol since my DelsJourney trip through Syracuse in 2001, so we spent a lot of time catching up over dinner.  And then we did some more catching up after dinner.  It was great to see them again and it was nice to finally meet their girls. 

I slept in their guest room that night, which I decided was a lot more comfortable than the back of Jake’s pickup truck.  And the best part?  The next morning I didn’t have to thaw out the battery.

Ohio to Syracuse