June, 1998
Chapter 1

Dear Reader,

          This "behind the scenes" column was not a part of the True America original plan -- who would have thought that people would be interested in my part in this adventure? After many queries from readers and friends, I posted brief updates on my progress, both geographically and emotionally.

          During the quiet months after this trip, as I was editing the site for the CD, I chose not to revise and "improve" Mark's Trail, as I feel it is important to maintain the carefree, spontaneous way in which it was written. You will find that this saga is weak for the first few months, but that it gets fairly interesting throughout the journey, to a pretty strong ending. It has been a great place to show photographs, and to write about subjects that didn't warrant a full article -- it really has become an important part of my portrait of America.

P.S. About the CD photos. There aren't too many during the first few months, as I didn't have good equipment (batteries, memory cards) at first. I didn't even get many good shots of my home state of Maine!

True America Tip

During this 19-page (month) tour, you can open any of hundreds of articles and photographs, so you can either breeze through it in 10 minutes, or enjoy the ride for many, many hours. Think of this not so much as a web site, but as a novel, which you can enjoy from start to finish, and leave off and pick up many times. To leave, simply remember which chapter (month) you are on. To return, use the U.S. map on the main page, and click on the small, black square for that month.

This is the big, beautiful, ugly home which I left to begin my Odyssey. The 4,000 square-foot building sits about 10 feet from the lake, with 3 stories of glass walls overlooking the water, and a large, flat rooftop great for parties. But the house was unfinished, and decadent and it leaked like hell when it rained. Living here was like dating a beautiful woman whom you know is perfect for you in every way, except that she's a heroin addict. When our relationship ended, I couldn't just find another home -- for there could never be a home as beautiful as this one -- so I ran away. That's really what I did, and boy, did I run.

I ran for 19 months, and it's all here for you, in the safety of your computer. Come on and run with me!

Date: June 8, 1998
Location: At my brother's house, near Camp Legune, North Carolina, the official stepping-off point of this tour.
Recent Stops:
Next Stop: CANADA (change of plans!) to pick up a trailer, then New York State.

# 1. Sea Lamprey Hit-Men
Thursday, June 11, 1998 -- Willsboro, New York -
What are these two men doing? Shouldn't they be at work?
Wouldn't you like a job where your office is thousands of acres of rivers and streams around the largest lake in the U.S.? Read about these two G-men, on the trail of aquatic parasites.

# 2. Field of Dreams
Friday, June 12, 1998 -- Plattsburg, New York
"If you had to lose most of your senses and could only have one, would you not choose to keep your sense of beauty? If you could only keep one ability, would you not keep your ability to dream?"

# 3. Swords into Picture Frames
Saturday, June 13, 1998 -- Willsboro, New York
Would you want this in your backyard?
The empty, two-hundred foot deep, underground silo which once housed this nuclear-armed missile might make a nice swimming pool, but why did our government spend billions of dollars making quonset huts for a framing factory?

Date: June 14, 1998
Location: East Montpelier, Vermont
Recent Stops: Plattsburg and Willsboro, New York
Next Stop: MAINE
Notes: RAIN!

# 4. The World's First Website
June 16, 1998 -- Williamstown, Vermont
It's the only spider web farm in the world. Does this surprise you?
Posted June 22, 1998

Date: June 19, 1998
Location: Brunswick, Maine
Recent Stops: Oxford, Maine
Next Stop: Massachusetts
Notes: Weather is looking much better, but the rivers up here are all high and raging from the tremendous rains. Portland got over six inches in a few days. Water is on everybody's minds here, with the ice storm last winter and now this.

Brought the trailer here to my old friend Don Hill's house and we're modifying it to gear up for the year-long journey. It weighs about 300 pounds and I don't like towing it behind the bike, but it will make me pretty much self contained. I'll be able to stop anywhere for the night and work inside.

Aaron at the Times Record interviewed me about this trip and I understand that his article was picked up by the Portland Press Herald. You know, I once lived in Maine for about fifteen years and the first time I get my picture in the paper, it's a story about my leaving town! Go figure.

# 5. The Seven Thousand Mile Dream
Saturday, June 20, 1998 -- Surry, Main
She traveled around the United States on horseback, rode a dogsled through the toughest areas of Newfoundland and was last seen canoeing the waters of Maine.
Posted June 23, 1998
# 6. Through rain, sleet and five-foot swells
Monday, June 22, 1998 -- Great Pond, Maine -
Take a ride on one of the few remaining U.S. Mail boats in the country, as Donna Doucette braves the wind and dodges rocks to deliver the daily mail. It is said that this service was the inspiration for the mail carrier in the play; "On Golden Pond".
Posted June 26, 1998

# 7. Octogenarian focuses on Barbie
Thursday, June 25, 1998 -- Saco Maine -
A lifetime ago, Al Carbee excelled in art school. Today he pursues his true passion.
Posted June 29, 1998

NOTE: I have been reprimanded for not giving enough attention to this column, so you will find (yawn) a lot more reading in this week's report. This is my chance to bend your ear a little, thank the people I've met and let you know what life is like on This Crazy Trip.

Bob on the edge, above the clouds! I took this shot while several thousand feet up, on the edge of a sheer drop-off. This winding road had no shoulder or guardrail, and I grabbed a quick shot, before some yahoo roared up and bumped Bob to his death!

Date: June 31, 1998
Location:N. Woodstock and Lincoln, New Hampshire
Recent Stops: Kancamaugus Highway, Mount Washington
Next Stop: Vermont (for 2 more stories)
Notes: The days are just flying by and I don't have enough time - I should spend two weeks in each state! Started my NH trip on Mt. Washington and hung around for The Climb to the Clouds auto race up the Mountain. They were trying to break six-minutes in their eight-mile climb to the top. I removed my trailer at the base and, just for laughs, I timed myself going up. Well, sure enough, halfway up I stopped for a photo and my camera was locked in my right saddlebag and my keys were locked in my trailer at the base, so I had to go back down and the time got really screwed up.

I tried to find a story in the auto race, but just didn't see anything. I felt out of place there - don't know why. So I headed down to the "Kanc" (that's the Kancamaugus Highway, for you southerners) and rode west.

If you've ever driven the Kancamaugus Highway, you know that it is isolated and you know that, if your fuel light comes on just after the sign saying "no gas for thirty-two miles" then you really ought to turn back. You know that, if you don't turn back, you're taking a chance, especially if you're towing a gas-guzzling camper-trailer. And, since you were foolish enough to keep going, after the first ten miles or so, when you start climbing up the mountain and start using even more gas, you stop kidding yourself that maybe they put the sign there by accident. By now you're praying to the Gods of Fuel-Injection, asking them to sip-sip-sip-please! And then you finally make it to the top and you dream about the gas station at the bottom of that damn hill twelve miles distant and you know you'll pay TEN DOLLARS A GALLON if you have to and of course, it isn't there.

Well, I made it to a gas station without pushing, but I surely didn't deserve it.

Looking for a campsite, I went down a dead-end road and cruised past a party in progress out on someone's lawn. They cheered me on as I passed by (they cheered everybodyon) so pulled in and said; "hey, can I crash here?" Someone handed me a beer and the host pointed to a clearing for my camper. Thanks Tom and Jay Lapointe and the gang from UNH, BC, Colby, Simmons, Brown, Tufts, Wellsley and Villanova!

The next morning I rode into Woodstock and fell in love with the place. Everyone was nice to me (not easy, letmetellyou) and I became friend's with Damian and Gary down at Sea to Thee, Grady and Diane at the Frog Rock (formerly the original Road Kill Cafe) Ben, Anne, Harry and Bertha at Cold Spring Campgrounds and Lorna at the Union Leader, who was nice enough to write a story about me and TCT (This Crazy Trip).

I found a great story here about a super teacher and spent a few extra days writing it. This is my last night and I better leave before I wear out my welcome.

There. You asked for it.

(Left to right) The magnificent crew at Sea to Thee Seafood, the gang at Frog Rock with their reptilian humor and the Harley inside the Frog Rock - "Hey Grady, mind if I park in here?"

# 8. A Life in the Clouds
Friday, June 26, 1998
Mount Washington, New Hampshire -

Sarah Curtis actually enjoys working in the place known to have "the worst weather in the world" where, as far as we know, the temperature has never pushed above 72 degrees and it will snow every month of the year.
Posted June 29, 1998
# 9. Cross Culture
Sunday, June 28, 1998, Warren, New Hampshire -
After teaching for years at the college level, Dr. Peter Faletra turned to teaching public school and he forgot that high school students lack the ambition, motivation, desire and courage to succeed.
Posted June 31, 1998
# 10. Last Train to Clarks-ville
Friday, July 3, 1998 -- Lincoln, New Hampshire -
He has been entertaining New Englanders for nearly fifty years. Meet one of America's oldest (and funniest) bear trainers and his family.
Posted July 7, 1998

True America Tip

In-depth, broadranging topics. Jobs you love to daydream about while you pretend to work. Products made here in the U.S.A., like nowhere else! Watch Mark in some of his most embarassing moments! People who represent our great cultural diversity. A lighthearted exploration of the slightly bizarre, or magnificent. A short trip down America's favorite roadway. What it takes to maintain a Harley for 50,000 miles.

THIS SIGN WILL HELP YOU REVISIT articles after you take this tour. All 126 feature articles have been collected into 7 groups. So if, for example, you like the article on ice hockey ( Slip Shot) for which Mark nearly got pucked while playing in a hockey game, you might check out Tryouts to read about Mark's other most embarassing moments. The Features are of a general nature, while some articles focus on Dream Jobs, or how things are Made in the usa. Enrich yourself with our country's great diversity of people with Our Country, Tis of Thee and enjoy the slightly bizarre, or simply extraordinary, with Holy Cow! The next sign will take you on a short ride down Route 66.

Finally, people were so fascinated by the task of maintaining a motorcycle on a 52,000 mile trip, that I created a Repair Log.

THE STORY OF THE SIGNPOST - I do have less artistic talent than an elephant in a puddle of paint. But, sometimes I get lucky. This web site went through many changes during the tour, but I am most pleased with the menu bar that serendipitously ended up resembling a signpost. After about a year of making random buttons and piling them on each other, I met up with my brother, Douglas, who said; "They look like that signpost you see on MASH." I made the buttons look like arrows and added a post and decor, and those random, ugly buttons soon looked pretty cool. Thanks, Doug!

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