My goal is to raise $9,490 for breast cancer research - a dollar for every day my mother, Lorraine Raimondo, battled breast cancer. I'm driving across the country raising funds for every mile I drive.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pop Quiz results

May 30
Miles Driven:58
Funds Raised: $50
Butte on left, mesa on right

Pop Quiz results: Well, no one completely accurately answered the question: What is the difference between a butte and a mesa? I received a couple answers that weren't entirely incorrect, but did not state the difference. The answer is: A butte is taller than it is wide, a mesa is wider than it is tall. However, there were two entries that weren't completely wrong. So, Kia Quinn and Jeff Janechek will both be recieving some Cowboy Tatoos! Now don't you regret not entering? Thought so.

Now if you pay real close attention there are all sorts of messages along the road communicating to you, if you just take the time to look. Like these I found speaking directly to me in Oakland.
Hidden message: I knew I wasn't lost!

Hidden message: Change your underwear

Here's a photo of my friend Kathleen, film editor extraordinaire. She took me out for some great Indian food in Oakland. Yum!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bad Day

May 28 - 29
Miles Driven:1,093
Funds Raised:$182

Well, this is was not the best day of my trip. It started out with lost cameras and ended with the highway patrol.
Yes, unfortunately, somewhere in Murphys, CA someone has a nice digital camera and a brand spankin' new camcorder. So, unfortunately, I can't show you the giant pancake (14" in diameter!) that they serve at "Coffee And" in Truckee, CA. Nor can I show you the statue that honors the Donner party, those pioneers that attempted to cross the Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, they attempted to cut off 200 miles with a shortcut that wasted 6 weeks. They then, tired and beat, rested for 5 days before setting off again. This was their fatal mistake. Winter set in early, half of the party (42) died and the other half survived by eating some of the dead. Too bad they couldn't have gotten their hands on some of those giant pancakes.
I picked up my brother Paul on Sunday. We stopped in Angels Camp, CA to say hello to George and Pam. George runs O.A.R.S. the adventure travel company that ran the Galapagos trip I went on. We just missed the hopping frog festival the week before, rats! We then headed to Murphys, CA - one of the top ten coolest small towns - rated by Budget Travel Magazine. Well, it seemed cool, however, I couldn't really fully embrace the town knowing someone is now in possession of my cameras and all the video footage of my trip thus far. There is a historic hotel, Murphys Hotel, where loads of important people have slept including John Astor, Samual Pillsburg, Thomas Lipton, Mark Twain, Daniel Webster, William R. Hearst, J. P. Morgan. I also thought WC Fields slept there, until I figured out the W.C. was on the door to the bathroom (Wash Closet).
Ulysess S. Grant's room

We had a good breakfast at the counter at Grounds, posted a reward sign for my cameras and set off for Yosemite National Park. I popped in my Johnny Cash CD to cheer me up, sang along to Cry,Cry,Cry, which is what I felt like doing.
Yosemite is bee you tea full! Say that fast. Although it was Memorial Day and therefore really crowded, it didn't take away from the breathtaking waterfalls, huge granite rocks and towering pines. We hiked up the side of a waterfall. I had to stop at one point, because the ledge was just too scary for me. (I suffer from a pretty bad fear of falling). Yosemite National Park
My brother Paul and me, Yosemite
Yosemite National Park

We left the park before sundown and were sailing along, pretty happy with ourselves that we took a route with no traffic. Paul was at the wheel and just after he mentioned "hey, I'm going 80 down this hill without even touching the gas" we were soon joined by a highway patrol car that pulled both us and the car ahead of us over. California Highway Patrol
So, not really my favorite day, but at least nobody had to eat anybody.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ely, NV to Truckee, CA

May 27
Miles Driven: 360
Funds Raised: $50
Chipmunks dodged: 2

I left Ely, NV bright and early and spent most of my day on Highway 50, self proclaimed “The Loneliest Road in America.” I’m not sure I felt all that lonely, but it sure was boooooring!!! Here’s what it looks like:

OK, so at first glance you think, not bad, some interesting desert, a bit of mountain. OK, well stare at that picture for another 5 hours and then get back to me on whether it’s boring or not. At one point I seriously considered placing a pillow against the window and resting my head to the side. I quickly came to my senses, as this would surely lead to a nap. However, if your car alignment was good, you could probably get in a nice 30 minute snooze and not veer off the road.
Early on I stopped in Eureka, NV. Nice little town that was once booming. Between 1873 and 1896 it produced more than $50,000,000 worth of silver and lead. In 1880 the population was 8,000. They had an Opera House, 5 fire stations, 2 militia and 9 graveyards. By 1950 the population dropped to 500. They have a good museum in town run by Christine Knudsen. (Photo below).
Christine Knudsen and her Mom, Lela Shepherd

After Eureka, it was pretty much highway, highway and more highway. I did run into a hail storm and then some rain. This just meant I had to go slower and take more time on this tiresome road.

Right before you get to Fallon, NV there’s a turn off to some sand dunes. Well, this is quite the hotspot for ATV fanatics on Memorial Day weekend. The place was packed with campers, trucks and ATV’s. (All Terrain Vehicles). I tell ya, boy did I stick out like a sore thumb with that silly PT Cruiser! This one guy with the confederate flag on his ATV kept circling me suspiciously. There were quite a few confederate and skull and cross bone flags. Gee whiz, I certainly wasn’t in NYC anymore.
those dots on the dunes are ATV's

One of these vehicles is not like the others....

Moab, UT to Ely, NV

Marie at Mom's Cafe - Salina, UT

May 26
Miles Driven: 407
Funds Raised: 400
Roadkill spotted: 105*

Left Moab, UT to head towards San Francisco. My destination for the night, Ely, NV. (Ely is a small mining town with a population of around 6,400 but this fluctuates depending on the mining industry. Its elevation is 6,421 and is in east NV close to the Utah boarder.)

The drive down interstate 70 is beautiful. Stopped at a great small town, Salina, UT, for lunch. If you ever find yourself in this area, the place to eat is Mom’s Café. I sat at the counter and received excellent service from a great waitress by the name of Marie. (Photo above). She’s friendly, quick and tells it to you straight. I overheard a woman ordering some food to go, she mentioned one thing on the menu and Marie responded, “Oh, don’t get that, that’s nasty.” My food, a fish sandwich, was delicious! Plus, I got a chance to read a paper you just don’t get in NYC.

Across the street from Mom’s Café is a great used book and CD store. The CD collection was small but exceptional! I picked up some Radiohead, Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell CD’s.
Then I drove for what seemed like forever, until I got to Great Basin National Park. I took a tour of Lehman Caves given by Bryan our guide. It was supposed to be 60 minutes, but it took 90 – that Bryan knows his stalactites from his stalagmites. My favorite part of the history of the cave was the period when a couple by the name of Rhodes took over back in the 20’s.
Bryan, guide at Lehman Caves
The Rhodes

I arrived in Ely, NV around 7:30 and checked in to the Four Sevens Motel. (No not the Four Seasons, the Four Sevens). Very clean, beds a bit mushy but overall just fine. Plus, you get either a free coffee or a free margarita! I was a bit baffled, not sure how I get the margarita. Turns out you head over to the Nevada Hotel to get it. The Nevada Hotel was once the tallest building in all of Nevada. I think it stands around 6 floors high. There’s a casino and a 24 hour restaurant. Seemed like the place to go.
I must admit, I was a bit intimidated, what with it being a casino/hotel which advertises “bikers welcome”. (Which seems to hold true based on the row of bikes out front.) I headed into the restaurant and grabbed a seat at the counter. Again, super friendly waitress and as quick as whip with the service! This place is packed and the staff works hard. I had a delicious calzone (and I’m picky about my Italian food) and chatted away with some great locals, Michael and Betty Kothe and Gary Weaver(pictured below). Such friendly people with a ton of interesting stories. Turns out Betty has taken Michael to the hospital 21 times, but Michael says only 19 count. There was the time his intestines got all tangled up, another time his back went out. He’s originally from Alaska and they both lived there for awhile. They had great recommendations of where to go if I ever head up that far north. Gary is originally from Pennsylvania but has lived in Ely for 19 years. After a long drive alone, these folks made my night with their great stories and welcoming disposition.
Michael and Betty Kothe, Me, Gary Weaver

*How the roadkill number was calculated: The roadkill was calculated by me ticking off on a pad of paper every time I passed some road kill. Eventually, this became so frequent that I could no longer keep both my hands off the wheel that often. I then put a post-it on the side window and ticked away on that, requiring only one hand. I only counted roadkill on my side of the road. If there were several patches of roadkill very close together, I assumed it was all the same animal that had a wide splatter zone, and therefore only counted it as one. The total number has a margin of error of +/- 10.


Miles Driven: 20
Funds raised: 225
Most of today was spent cruising hotel parking lots looking to tap into their unsecured wireless internet access and doing laundry.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Canyonlands National Park, UT

May 24
Total Miles Driven: 27
Total Funds Raised: $25

Quick, Pop Quiz! What is the difference between a Butte and a Mesa? First one to email the correct answer to will get a souvenir from the desert. (You must be a donor or pledger to qualify, some restrictions may apply.)
Spent the day in Canyonlands National Park, where plenty of movies have been filmed. Here's me standing where Thelma and Louise rode off the cliff!

Do you know what makes the rocks red? Hmm, didn't think so. It's iron. Did you know that by the time the water from the Colorado River reaches California it has already been used 7-8 times by humans? Well, gotta go, I'm exhausted from keeping this boulder from falling off the cliff (see below) and these Alvin and the Chipmunk underwear I bought at the Dollar Store are starting to bug me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Moab, UT Colorado River

May 23
Miles driven today: 23
Funds raised today: $655

Today was a great day for donations! So many generous people out there! From kids giving up their babysitting money to strangers writing a big check! The online donation method should be up on the site soon, so stay tuned. And thank you to all of you who have forwarded the blog along. Friends of friends are now making donations! I am also going to begin to feature the people you are honoring/remembering with your donations/pledges. So, please send along a photo and some words about who you are honoring and I’ll feature them on the blog.

Again, I can’t describe enough the beauty of Moab, UT. Today James let me tag along on a trip down the Colorado River. Even my pictures don’t do it justice. They were taking 50 school kids down the river. I rode on the lunch raft, with Kirsten the guide, James and Cody – a great dog! If you ever do make it to Moab, there’s a great restaurant – The Desert Bistro – which I highly recommend!



Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hole 'N the Rock - Moab, UT

May 22
Miles Driven Today: 40*
Funds Raised Today: $25*

*Total funds raised and miles driven are always available in the upper right hand corner of the blog.

If you are ever in Moab you’ll most likely spend your time doing all sorts of adventurous trips like river rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing, because that’s what Moab is known for. However, you MUST NOT miss the Hole ‘N the Rock home!!!
From 1945 to 1957 Albert Christensen carved and excavated 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone to build a 5,000 square foot home for himself and his wife Gladys in the side of a giant rock. Unfortunately, Albert died of a heart attach at the age of 53, otherwise, I’m sure he’d have kept carving away for as long as he could. He still was working on another room when he died.
Here’s the deal, he inherited this land with the giant rock. He carved the home as well as a diner, called the Hole ‘N the Rock diner. The house is actually a lot more comfortable than you would think. There are windows along one side and it maintains a dry temperature always between 65 and 72 degrees year round. The ceiling is high and it has wall to wall carpeting. Poor Albert only got to live in it for 5 years before he passed away. Gladys continued to live there for another 17 years.
OK, so if that’s not odd enough. Albert also taught himself taxidermy! Now, if I was starting out a new taxidermy hobby (which I may) I think I’d start with something small, like a bird. Not Albert! His first project was Harry, his donkey. And well, let’s just say you can tell he taught himself. Harry, who stands in the home, has Frankenstein scars across his face. It’s really creepy. The guide was rambling away standing next to Harry, and I just couldn’t keep looking at that Frankenstein donkey staring back at me! I don’t care if he had a flowered bonnet on, it didn’t distract you from those scars! He also did a couple horses (I’m telling you, Albert thinks big!) which also stand in the home in these unnatural stances. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let you take pictures inside, which was my biggest disappointment of the trip so far. But I took some pictures of some postcards so check them out!

Hole 'N the Rock - out front

Hole 'N the Rock - Gladys' room

Harry the Donkey

Monday, May 22, 2006

Las Vegas to Moab, UT

Miles driven: 471
Funds raised: $100
Bugs killed on windshield: a real lot

May 21 – Said my farewells to Sharyl in Vegas Sunday morning and headed east on route 15. Once you hit the northwest corner of Arizona it becomes the most breathtaking scenery all the way to Moab. The road meanders through huge rock formation the color of sand, surrounded by rolling hills of desert specked with cacti, desert flowers and tumbleweed. Yes, actually tumbleweed crossed the road several times during my drive.
Just after entering Utah I stopped at the best Wendy’s in the nation, no make that best in the world. Why is it the best in the world? Well first, they serve, as all Wendy’s do, the mandarin chicken salad. Now if you know me, you know I eat a pretty healthy diet and visiting a fast food restaurant is a fairly rare occasion. But this salad is fresh with junks of chicken and a nice quantity of mandarin oranges. The best part is that in separate air tight packs come sliced almonds and crispy Asian noodles. And they give you a nice quantity – not some chintzy bag of crumbs. But the main reason this particular Wendy’s is the best is the view! It’s surrounded by a landscape of red rocks that’s just amazing. Throw in a mix of fun music – I heard Elvis Costello, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, A-Ha – and it’s really, really clean. Top that off with the great hairdo’s all the workers had and you’ve got yourself the best Wendy’s in the world.
Setting off again on the road I decided to try out the Avis Assist. This is Avis’ navigation device. It’s actually a cell phone. Here’s how it’s supposed to work. You press a serious of buttons prompted by a voice and then it connects you to a live person. They are supposed to be able to detect by the device your exact location. From there you tell them where you want to go – this can be as specific as a Kinko’s in Cedar City - and they download the direction to the phone. It then speaks and shows on the small cell phone screen the directions as you go along. Sharyl and I tried it out several times from San Diego to Vegas. Well, it’s yet to really be of any assistance. Here’s one of my favorite conversations that happened after I left the Wendy’s parking lot.
Avis Assist: What is your device number?
Me: 123 456 789
AA: Where would you like to go?
Me: I’m looking for a Starbuck’s (for internet connection) along my route to Moab. (They were previously given Moab as my destination which is supposed to remain in the database.)
AA: Where are you?
Me: Well, I am on route 15 in the desert in southwest Utah. Can’t you tell from the device?
AA: Is there a sign somewhere you can see that can tell you where you are?
Me: Well, it’s really just a long stretch in the desert, not really a town. There’s no sign. You can’t detect where I am?
AA: Not when you are calling from your cell phone.
Me: I’m not calling from my cell phone. I’m calling from the Avis Assist device.
AA: What’s your device number?
Me: 123 456 789
AA: The nearest one to you is in St. George.
Me: I believe I’ve already passed St. George. Is there another that’s along my route, I’m going east to Moab. (I start to rattle off from memory town’s I know I go through) How about Cedar City?
AA: No Starbuck’s in Cedar City.
Me: Beaver?
AA. No.
Me: Richmond?
AA: No.
Me. OK.What about a Kinko’s or a Borders Books.
AA. No in Cedar City. No in Beaver, No in Richmond. There’s one in Logan, UT.
Me: Is that along my route?
AA: I don’t know.
Me: Where is it in UT?
AA. I don’t know. Do you want me to download the directions to your device so you know how to get there?
Me: Not really, until I have an idea where it is. It might be 100 miles out of my direction. You can’t tell me where it is in UT?
AA: No, I live in Portland, OR. I’m not familiar with that area.
Me: I understand you personally couldn’t possibly be familiar with all the roads in the country. But the Avis Assist system can’t determine the direction it is from my current location?
AA: I’ve never been there.

There was a previous time when it lost our location enroute. We called back to reconnect and were asked “How fast are you driving?” “75.” “It loses connection if you drive faster than 55.” “But the speed limit is 75??”
Anyway, I called my brother Paul who quickly found me a location along my route with impeccable directions. Pauly Assist beats out Avis Assist tenfold.
I arrived in Moab around 9:15PM and checked into the Lazy Lizard Hostel. It’s back off the road. I rented a cabin for a mere $27 a night. It’s a very laid back place with an organic, hippy vibe. The cabin is cute and air conditioned! The bathhouse is clean. There was a group of people hanging out in front of the main building in an area with some chairs and tables under a few trees surrounded by a low stone wall. One guy was playing the guitar the rest where just chilling out, taking in the amazing stars.
My car was parked on a slight hill right in front of this area. So, there is this button on my key for the car that’s labeled “panic.” Here’s how it works, you accidentally hit it when you are opening the trunk. The car begins to beep nonstop very loudly and flash its headlights on and off. This continues until you somehow figure out how to turn it off. This happens particularly when you are in a really mellow or serene atmosphere – like at 9:30PM in front of a bunch of vegetarians playing guitar – throwing you into a “panic” as you desperately try to figure out how to turn the thing off, while you mutter “Sorry. I’m really sorry.”
After a quick shower, I met up with my friend James who I met down in Ecuador. He works for the adventure company, OARS. He’s here training a new team for the trips out of Moab. He made us some fantastic fish tacos and listened to me ramble on nonstop since I hadn’t spoken to anyone in person all day.

Best Wendy's in the World

Lighthouse in the Desert

Yes, that's a light house in the middle of the desert in the landlocked state of Utah.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pioneertown to Vegas

Miles Traveled:356
Funds Raised: $100

Pioneertown is a crazy place. It’s this old movie set for westerns. A bunch of residents of Pioneertown were dressed up like characters from a typical western. You had your cowboys, your gunslingers and your Miss Kitty’s (except these ladies had tattoos). I couldn’t get a straight answer of whether this was a special occasion or they dress up like this all the time. Roy Rodgers built a bowling alley here way back when and it’s still an operating alley. The bars and the bowling alley were real, all the other buildings, like the jail, the bathhouse were sets.
A man with a pistol that goes by the name “Diamond” (pictured above) gave us the lowdown on the town. It’s a great place, and I’ll be having my next milestone birthday party here. After witnessing a real, live reenactment of a shootout we headed to Joshua Tree National Park.
What can I say, other than its beautiful and there’s plenty of those Joshua tree’s (not just one like some of you thought). We drove around a bit then went to the Keys Lookout and ran into Jeremy, Bob and Jeff (previously erroneously referred to as Steve), the guys we met the night before at Pappy’s and Harriett’s. We joined together for a quick hike up some hills for a spectacular view of the desert. The desert is, ok stating the obvious, but really hot and you get really thirsty just like in the cartoons.
From there we decided to try the scenic route to Vegas given to us by Diamond. It was a long, winding road through amazing desert, however what he described as “oh, 3-4 miles” to the next street to turn on, was actually around 25 miles. At around 23 miles, we thought we may be lost. So we pulled over to a lone station in the middle of nowhere where a group of bikers were leaning against the wall. I walked up carrying my map and asked every so nicely, “Hi, who can help me with directions?” Silence. Me, nervously shuffling. Finally, in a German accent, the blonde biker with the spiky hair said, “Where you trying to go?” “Vegas.” Which in response, 3 bikers just pointed east and said “that way.” Well, I knew it was east. I was looking for actually names of roads to take. Anyway, I hopped back in the car and headed east and soon came to the road Diamond had mentioned. The good thing was this road lead straight to the World’s Largest Thermometer” which read 104 degrees when we got there. That was around 5PM. See, like I said, the desert is really hot.
Finally got to Vegas around 9PM and were hosted for the night by Sharyl’s sister Robyn and niece Morgan. We were tired and hungry. We headed to the old strip hoping to find a cool, old Vegas style place to eat. We wondered a bit and then saw this neon sign in the distance like a beacon. It was a steak place called the Flame. (See photo below). Oh, it looked perfect. We headed towards it salivating, and then just stood by it for awhile because the arrow on the sign directing you to the restaurant was pointing straight to the ground. Well, we eventually realized that it was just part of a neon sign museum along the road. But we just stood there, wanting so much for it to be real, thinking, hmm, is there a stairway to under ground? How do we get in? Through that parking garage? We finally snapped to and slumped back to the main strip. We went to Binion’s where we feasted on giant plates of Chinese food. And the rest, well as they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Free Beer

Rats! Looks like we came on the wrong day!

Joshua Tree National Park

World's Largest Thermometer


The Flame Steak House - Vegas

Don't try to eat here, because its not a real place anymore.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Joshua Tree, CA

May 19, 2006
Funds Raised: $195.00

Spent the morning packing up the car for the big trip. Not being someone who regularly drives, I came to the realization that having a car is like having a giant purse! Said goodbye to the family (that's Dad, sister Beverly and niece Jasmine pictured above) in San Diego and picked up my college pal, Sharyl Holtzman, from the Solana Beach, CA train station to begin the trip east. She came with a completely pink care package filled with dashboard worthy trinkets to deck out the car. Our destination; Joshua Tree Musical Festival. On the way we found a great road side burger truck, Nessy’s – on route 15 – which was packed with burley men and the turkey burgers were as big as my head. I don’t think I need to eat until Sunday.
The music fest is on a campsite out in the desert. Think of it as Burning Man Jr. Plenty of organic food, flowy apparel and good music. And, these people’s hula hoop skills put me to shame! Favorite bands were Al Howard and the K-Z-3 Orchestra and Kinky.
Got my first sponsor! Guayaki Yerba Mate – a natural energy drink. Very tasty! I do recommend it– not too sweet- refreshing. (By the way, I have no motivation to say anything good about a product if I don’t really mean it. Nobody is paying me, they just hooked me up with a nice care package. But I wouldn’t take it if I didn’t like it.) Check out more in the sponsor section or at
After the fest we headed to the ultimate roadside joint, Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. We arrived just as Fifty Cent Haircut was taking their gear off the stage. Met some great guys from Massachusetts, Jeremy (aka “worm” and the biggest Graham Parson’s fan I’ve every met), Bob and Steve. Jeremy promptly made a donation in honor of his aunt. Overall a great night!
We headed back to the Desert High Motel which I highly recommend! Good price, very, very clean and free internet access! It’s right on route 62 if you are ever heading this way.
Well, gotta run, it’s Saturday morning and I don’t want to miss the reenactment of the robbery of the Pony Express in Pioneertown at 10:30! Check out more photos below!


Great roadside stop for burgers!!


Stephen and John from Guayaki - Organic Energy Drinks - Joshua Tree Music Festival

Joshua Tree Music Festival - Hula Hoop Man

Pappy & Harriett's Pioneertown Palace

Jeremy - Donor of the Night Award Recipient

Jeremy at Pappy & Harriet's