Back in the U.S.ofA.

It’s been a while since I offered an update on my life. For those of you still interested in what I’ve been up to, I’ll quash that interest here and now. It’s been a fun two months though, believe me.

Last I left you, I was in Mexico City in that shady hotel room with my bike shipped off and all of my belongings stuffed into a small backpack. I borded a bus for Oaxaca (pronounced wuh-HA-kuh) and intended to travel further south by conventional means. Well, I got to Oaxaca and cheked into my hostel. Oaxaca is a beautiful city, and the hostel was nice and clean and full of nice and clean people. But something was amiss. I found it impossible to make an attempt at befriending the fellow travelers sharing the space I was in. I went to bed after reading for a bit, not having said a word to anyone all day except the girl at the bus ticket desk and the girl at the hostel front desk. I woke up the next morning feeling the same way, so I headed into downtown Oaxaca to see the sights. When I got to the centro, I realized I had no desire to see anything around me. I went into the cathedral and then had to abruptly leave when my stomach told me it had something it needed to do very soon, and that I needed privacy in order to do it. It was no big surprise- for the past couple of days I had to be careful not to venture too far from the men’s room. I rushed back to my hostel and fixed my problem, and then laid down to read the Lonely Planet guide for the places I was looking to visit next. I knew this would reinvigorate my excitement for traveling. An hour and a half later, I was not the least bit excited. So I called up my friend Bruno, whom I visited in Albany, NY but has since moved to Houston, TX. I asked him to pick me up from the Houston airport the following evening and he agreed, so I booked a flight to Houston, and was on the plane less than 24 hours later.

This was two months ago. Looking back now, I’ve got no regrets ending that part of my trip when I did. If I had gone on any further without any excitement it would have only given me unenjoyable experiences, tainting my nothing-but-positive memories about the whole trip. Ironically, as soon as I flew into Houston life got fun and exciting again. I’m convinced the whole issue stemmed from my lack of conversational Spanish skills. I couldn’t make friends, and that’s not the sort of lifestyle I like. Do I wish I had gone on further? Considering the situation I was in, absolutely not. I wish I had been excited at the end of the trip like I was at the beginning. If that were the case, I would have found a way to keep going, even without money. But no, I’ve got no regrets. And although I was without a bike from then on, my trip was still far from over.

In Houston I had a great time catching up with friends and enjoying the pleasures of American comfort foods. Unfortunately, it was another week before I could ingest anything without running immediately to the men’s room. I must have eaten something I shouldn’t have at some point in Mexico. Anyways, I didn’t have any plan for what I would do next. I flew to Houston on a whim and decided I would figure things out as they came. Luckily while there, Bruno helped me find an online ad for a job which was right up my alley. A website which collects and organizes parking info for cities around the country had posted an ad looking for an organized person with a bicycle to ride around town and take photos and collect parking lot/garage information for use on their website. I soon found out that they had posted this same ad in a number of cities around the country, and a brilliant idea came to me. I emailed the people who posted the ad and explained my situation, and thought I might be of use to them in multiple cities. They weren’t offering to cover travel or lodging expenses, but at this point I had a lot of friends around the country who I wanted to pay a visit to. If I could travel to a different city each week and work during the day and visit with friends in the evening, it would help me get back on my feet financially, satisfy my still-active travel bug, and help me see friends that I haven’t seen in a while. Luckily, the company thought this would benefit them quite a bit as well, and gave me a list of cities around the country they needed rates collected for, and told me I could pick whichever ones suited me.

So from Houston, I took a bus to Dallas and stayed for a week with my friends John and Gaby, both of whom I went to RIT with. I borrowed John’s bike and spent my days seeing the city of Dallas, which I had never seen. While there I got to ride a motorcycle for the first time, only further convincing me that I need to buy one when I settle down somewhere. We also had a chance to go to a Dallas Stars hockey game with seats right on the glass, next to the penalty box! From Dallas I went to Baltimore, working the city during the day and staying with my friends Matt and Brandon at night, who are fellow RIT electrical engineering alumni. Unfortunately, my last night in Baltimore, I was running to catch up to the two of them when I jumped down a small flight of three or four stairs. I landed wrong, and tore my ACL. I knew with certainty what had happened at the moment of impact, with the pain of an ACL tear still fresh in my memory from the first time. The next morning, I took a train to Buffalo, mitigating the pain with copious amounts of ibuprophen, and briefly saw my family when I got there.

In Buffalo I had just enough time to pack some cold-weather clothes in another bag before I jumped on a Denver-bound plane, which I had already booked so that I could work while in Denver. Because of my knee, I was in no shape to work, so I let my employers know that any plans of us working together in the immediate future had to be put off the table. I was bummed for a number of reasons. Obviously I was in a lot of pain, but that was the least of my concerns. I now had no source of income. Worse than that, I knew that I would need surgery and time to recover afterward, and that it would be months before I was able to run or jump or climb, or do any of the generally fun activites I enjoy. Things that I had been looking forward to getting back into for the last few months on the road. Oh yeah, and it was fairly pointless to apply for jobs knowing that I couldn’t start until after I have surgery and can walk around comfortably. Oh well, though, there wasn’t anything I could do. I got the knee checked out by a doctor while in Denver, and an MRI confirmed what I had already known. My ACL was torn. It could have been a lot worse though, at least the pain went away sooner this time, and I had health insurance, unlike wen I injured it before.

So now I was in Denver with little to do. I was staying with my cousin Elise like I did when I visited Denver on my trip, and I ventured out a few times to see other friends, like Adim from RIT, who was my partner in crime when we crashed a Denver Cruisers pirate-themed bike ride back in September. We spent an evening with Anthony and April, who had gotten engaged since I had seen them last, during that infamous Great American Beer Fest weekend! Lauren and I are attending their wedding in about a month, so it was especially nice to be able to congratulate them in person! Speaking of Lauren, she had been in Thailand and Cambodia since I had seen her in Puerto Vallarta. She was flying back to the US soon, arriving in Seattle the day before Valentine’s Day. Flights from Denver to Seattle were conveniently cheap, so I flew to Seattle and saw the city for the first time. After a lunch with my friend Renee whom I hadn’t seen since I was about ten years old, I met up with Tom and Kristen, who you’ll remember only if you’ve been keeping track of my progress since I started. I stayed with them at Kristen’s mother’s house (Hi Francine!) in May. I met Lauren at the airport when she landed and we checked out Seattle briefly before heading to Portland, where her parents live.

This is actually a pretty big deal for me, since at the start of the trip I was three years into an as-then successful plan to be without any serious relationships until I was thirty years old, and now here I was about to meet her parents. It’s funny how things can change. The Big Meet went well, as her parents seemed to like me well enough. We (brew)toured Portland, another city I had never been to, before Lauren and I flew to Colorado. We stayed in Fort Collins for a couple of days, which felt like coming home for me, and went to Breckenridge to see some more friends before flying to Buffalo. I had planned for months to be in Buffalo this week, since my dad was having a fairly important surgery. To those who were wondering, the surgery went well, and dad is recovering. The long-term outlook is also pretty positive. I thank you (and pops does too) for your thoughts and prayers along the way. We got my car back on the road, which allowed Lauren and I to embark on an epic road trip which we had been planning to do since I had made the decision to come back to the US. The road trip has taken us to New York City, New Jersey, DC, New Haven, and now Boston. We’ve got friends and family in a lot of places, so every stop is a reunion to some degree. From here we’re heading to the Pittsburgh area, Rochester, and then back to Buffalo, where we’ll hitch up a trailer full of my crap and head further west. We’ll make stops to see friends both new and old along the way before hitting the brakes in Fort Collins, where I’ll get knee surgery and look for a real job while Lauren gets more clinical hours under her belt in preparation for applying to vet school.

So all in all, life is good apart from the whole knee thing. If I’ve ever met you, beware that I may call you up at random and demand we catch up over a cold one. However, in keeping with my preferred way of life, I can’t give you much warning because I like to be as spontaneous as yeast in a Belgian brewhouse. Sorry, that was pretty beer-geeky. Suffice to say I’m pretty spur-of-the-moment.

This is my sign-off with certainty. Life has been good, is good, and will always be good if I let it. Keep an eye out for a book down the road, and feel free to get your hopes up that I may do something crazy again in the future. Although depending on how long I can keep Lauren believing that I’m not a boring schlub, the next one might not be solo. I mean, come on, you didn’t think I would give up my single-till-thirty plan for someone if I couldn’t convince them to ride around the world with me, did you?

See you down the road,

Jesse

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5 Comments

  1. Jesse Gubb
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

    Sorry to hear about your ACL. We met on the way into Chicago, and I’ve been following along here since my friends and I returned from our cross-country tour. Epic, admirable, and always interesting. I’m jealous and inspired.

    I’m living in Boston now, if you’re still here and you’re searching for a place to stay, a homebrewed IPA, or someone to swap road stories with. 617 721 7381.

    Good luck, have fun!

  2. Rob
    Posted March 20, 2011 at 10:04 PM | Permalink

    Epic trip! I was first prompted to look at this website when I saw an article in The Hamburg Sun back in June. I’m a Hamburg native/resident and RIT engineering alum so I was somewhat intrigued. I’ve been following ever since. Hope you keep posting even though the trip is over!

  3. Posted March 25, 2011 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

    You had a fantastic journey. We loved reading about all your travels and the people you met. We still think of how weird it was you landed at our remote farm place and your story is still front page news on our website. We would love to catch up with you whenever you are out in Iowa.

  4. Posted March 31, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    Incredible journey, Jesse! You and I met almost a year ago in Cleveland while you and your buddy Al stopped in for coffee across from Great Lakes Brewery. Your adventures have further inspired me to pick up my life and follow my dream of migrating to Portland, OR…a city that I’ve been talking about living in for years. Thank you for that. I have a similar sense of restlessness that I have (against my better judgement) suppressed these past few years in exchange for this unsatisfactory stability and an umbrella of safe living. Your journal has helped give me the strength to let go of the anchors that I’ve been allowing to weigh me down for so long and finally move on. If all goes as planned, I should arrive up there in less than a month.

    If you’re ever in the area, look me up. I’d be more than happy to share a pint or five. God knows there’s plenty of it to appreciate up there. In the meantime, all the best of luck to you and never give up on the journey, no matter what. -BC

  5. Rob Murillo
    Posted September 2, 2011 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

    Hey Jesse,

    It’s Rob. We met in Boulder. Sorry to hear about the ACL, but you still had an amazing journey. I wish you all the best and drop a line if you get out to Boulder.

    Ciao!!