Road Trip! 6 Incredible Cross-Country Journeys

There's nothing quite like a road trip. You pack your bag, empty the change jar for gas money, grab a map (or not), and hit the highway, seeking adventure around every turn. And with summer upon us, there's no better time to strike out on your own to discover what life has to offer. If you need a little inspiration before you go, here are the stories of people who traveled across America, from sea to shining sea.

1. Escaping at 195 mph

According to his story on, when Richard Jordan's fiancée left him, he wanted to run away. So, Jordan did what any gear head would do—he sold everything he owned and bought a brand new sports car. But he didn't buy just any sports car. Jordan bought a $180,000 black Lamborghini Gallardo, featuring a 512 horse-power V10 with a top speed of 195 mph. With that kind of car, you can escape just about anything, including a broken heart.

Jordan roamed through the lower 48 states for over a year, with no particular place to go. He stayed in motels as he crisscrossed the nation three times. While he was out finding himself, the police found him, too—he was hit with 53 speeding tickets. But his driving record wasn't the only thing that took some dings by the time he finally returned to his hometown of Dallas.

While most used Lamborghinis have about 10,000 miles on the engine, Jordan's has 91,807 miles. And because the vehicle didn't receive all of the recommended maintenance a high-end sports car needs, it doesn't run anymore, either, leaving him with a really nice-looking paperweight. But to Jordan, that was a small price to pay for the experience.

2. Rolling Across America

At the age of 53, David Whittaker, a wheelchair-bound ex-Marine, was homeless and suffering from Congestive Heart Failure. With a poor prognosis, Whittaker made it his mission to do something positive with whatever time he had left. So, in May 2009, he set out to drive his motorized wheelchair from Key West (the southernmost point in the lower 48 United States) to Blaine, Washington (the northernmost point in the lower 48), spreading the word about homeless veterans everywhere he went. 

Moving at an average speed of less than 5 mph, his trip was slow-going. He was scheduled to be in Blaine by October, but mechanical setbacks, like 17 flat tires in Florida alone, significantly delayed his trip.  Then in November 2009, Whittaker was riding along the sidewalk in Long Beach, California, when a driver ran a stop sign and plowed into him, totaling his wheelchair and putting him in the hospital.  This unfortunate series of events meant he had to stop short of his final destination. But considering he rode from Florida to California in a wheelchair, while helping fellow veterans in need, it seems fair to say Whittaker's trip was a success.

3. The $10,000 Technicality

The year was 1896 and the Estbys—Helga, her husband Ole, and their eight children—were about to have their Spokane, Washington, house reclaimed by the bank. Desperate to save the family farm, Helga and her 19-year old daughter, Clara, set off in the hopes of winning a much-publicized wager from a now-unknown New York City fat cat. The wealthy bettor was willing to pay $10,000 to the first woman brave enough to walk across the country without a male companion.

The pair left Spokane on May 5, carrying little more than a compass, a curling iron, some red pepper spray, a revolver, and $5 between them. During their journey, to raise money to feed themselves and replace their worn out clothes, the women did odd jobs before moving on again. In this manner, they arrived in The Big Apple on December 3, 1896. However, the bettor refused to pay the $10,000 reward, claiming the rules stipulated that any takers had to arrive before December 1.

With no money to their names, Helga and Clara were stuck in New York City for the winter, but were able to return to Spokane in the spring of 1897. When they arrived home, the farm had been foreclosed and their family refused to speak to them, believing that the pair had run off to live in New York City.

4. One Wheel, Fifty States

To raise money for an Inuit tribe in Alaska, Lars Clausen jumped on his unicycle in April 2002 with a plan to ride across the United States. As part of his training, he kicked off his journey by cycling through Alaska, before then flying to Washington state to begin the long haul. For the next four months, Clausen rode his 36" unicycle for 50 to 60 miles every day. However, at one point in June, he broke a Guinness Record by riding 202.5 miles in only 24 hours. With this pace, he reached Ellis Island in August, having traveled nearly 5,000 miles.

But Clausen wasn't finished yet. Along the road, he decided to go ahead and break another Guinness Record by becoming the only person to travel through all 50 states on a unicycle. So he turned around and rode another 5,000 miles on a different route, back to Washington, helping him hit all 48 lower states on his round-trip voyage. With Alaska in the bag, and just a quick flight to conquer Hawaii, Clausen rode one wheel into the history books. His final tally: 50 states, 9,136 miles, and approximately 5,118,000 pedals, in only 205 days.

5. A Very Quick Getaway

Even if you don't have a lot of vacation time to spare, that doesn't mean it's impossible to go on a cross-country road trip this summer. Legally it might be difficult, but that didn't deter the first official "Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy" race, also known as "The Cannonball Run," that took place in 1971. Leaving from the Red Ball Parking Garage in Manhattan, eight teams of drivers made their way across the country by whatever route they chose in whatever type of vehicle they wanted, all in a race to reach the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California, in as little time as possible.

Because they were shooting for the best time, it should come as no surprise that four of the eight teams received a total of 12 speeding tickets, with one cited for going 135 mph in a 70 mph zone. But speed wasn't the only factor to consider, because the more you had to stop for gas, the less time you had on the road. To combat this, one van had a specially designed refueling system that could feed the fuel tank from one of five 55-gallon drums of gasoline sitting in the back of the van, all while the vehicle was cruising down the highway.

Dan Gurney and Brock Yates won the first official Cannonball Run in their Ferrari Daytona, covering the full 2,863 miles in 35 hours and 54 minutes at an average speed of 80 mph. That's an average speed, mind you, as Gurney was famously quoted as saying, "At no time did we exceed 175 mph."

6. Just Walkin'

Matt Green is walking. Just walking. He started walking at Rockaway Beach, New York, in late-March and will eventually stop walking in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. He pushes everything he needs with him on a modified baby stroller, including camping gear, clothes, and a cell phone, which he uses to update his blog,, on a daily basis. But why is he walking, you ask? Green's not walking to save the whales or to find a cure for cancer. He's simply doing it for the adventure and the experience of a lifetime.

Because he's just walking, Green travels a reasonable 15 miles every day and even takes the occasional day off to rest. When he gets tired at night, he camps out in the woods, or asks a farmer if he can put up his tent in the front yard. He doesn't carry a lot of food, instead preferring to buy from local vendors whenever he gets hungry. However, he's also received a lot of free meals from strangers who welcome him into their homes or pick up the tab at the local diner. Occasionally they'll even offer him a comfy bed to sleep in that night.

Someday, probably in nine months or so, Green will reach Oregon. But for him, what's important is the journey. Really, though, that's what any great road trip should be all about.
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We know you've had some amazing adventures out on the open road. Tell us all the exciting details in the comments below.

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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