The following is the third article in a recurring series featuring Kevin Lu and Joe D’Amelio’s cross country roadtrip, #RoundaboutUSA. The series will run every Monday and will tell the story of their journey from each explorer’s perspective. Previous articles can be found at https://test.passionpassport.com/category/articles/.
Kevin and I began our adventure in Newport, Rhode Island. Our first 24 hours were much like the days and nights that would follow: exciting and eye opening, filled with kind people and beautiful scenery, yet long and exhausting, consumed with questions about how to best navigate our first experience on the road.
On our first afternoon, we met “Captain Bill” who invited us to join him on his 50-foot sailboat later that evening. He took us out on a nice, long ride all around Newport’s bay and then we hung out with him and his wife in the boat’s living quarters. It seemed as though our trip was off to an amazing start.
Night fell and we needed to find a place to stay. We didn’t have any accommodation booked and, never having taken a road trip before, didn’t even know where to start in order to find an affordable, safe place to stay. Knowing how important it was to stick to our budget, I suggested that we sleep in my car.
Right away, Kevin refused. He was adamant: he wanted to find a hotel and was not going to spend the night on the side of the road. Sternly, I asked him to remember our budget. If we started off the trip spending significantlty on accomodation, we would never be able to afford all that we had planned. I also reminded Kevin that this trip was all about new experiences. We would have to take risks, we would have to challenge our comfort.
After much persuasion – and after seeing how unrelenting I was – Kevin finally, unhappily, agreed.
We woke up the next morning feeling bewildered. Where are we? What day is it? The night had been excruciating. We parked on a busy street and the sounds of people bar-hopping into the early morning hours had kept us awake. The street lights were so bright that, at an unknown hour, we searched for clothes and blankets to line the windows. We were exhausted. Yet, feeling pressured by time, we rolled ourselves out of our seats to go off and explore. We had planned our trip to be 60 days long; that meant that no matter how much we loved any one city or area – and no matter how physically drained we were – we had to see the sites quickly and move on. That was never easy to do. There was so much to discover, so many people to get to know. And sometimes, we just needed to let our bodies rest.
We left Rhode Island and headed toward Maine, stopping in Gloucester, Massachusetts along the way. We were destined for Acadia National Park, the famous natural wonderland where the ocean meets the mountains. The drive there was long and we arrived with just a few hours of sunlight to spare. Kevin and I wasted no time, running around like little kids. It was just as beautiful, just as naturally enthralling, as we had imaged it to be.
We were told that if we woke up early enough the next morning, we could drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and – because of our position on the east coast – be some of the first people in the country to see the sunrise. The possibility of being the first people in America to see the sunrise sounded incredible. We set our alarm clock for early the next morning and immediately drove to the designated spot.
Unfortunately, because of Cadillac Mountain’s elevation, the morning fog was incredibly thick and we couldn’t see anything through it. Kevin and I stood there, utterly disappointed. We wouldn’t be the first people to see the sunrise. We wouldn’t get an incredible picture from the top of Cadillac Mountain. We wouldn’t get to experience the beauty of a Maine morning the way that we had hoped. To compound our frustration, we couldn’t stay on at Acadia National Park another day and hope for a clearer morning. We had to continue journeying onward.
Though we remained optimistic that we’d see different beauty elsewhere, we learned in that moment that optimism doesn’t always result in the perfect circumstances – or the perfect pictures – we thought our trip would consistently offer.
Despite the fact that Maine was a bit a diversion from our route around the country, I managed to persuade Joe to stop there. I had been to Acadia National Park several years earlier and vividly remembered its unique natural landscape. I wanted to see it again; to appreciate it through the lens of a different adventure.
Joe suggested we stop in Newport, Rhode Island on the way and I obliged. As it turned out, our time there was a fairly accurate preview of what the rest of our journey on the road would be like: an emotional and physical roller coaster, full of really wonderful ups and really challenging downs.
The highlight of the first few weeks of our trip was our aerial tour of Newport. Somehow Joe was able to convince Bird’s Eye View Helicopters to give us a free tour of the island. It was my first time in a helicopter and the experience was nothing short of amazing. It gave me the opportunity to photograph the town from a completely unique perspective. It was a wonderful up, indeed.
Shortly after the helicopter ride, Joe managed another feat: he befriended Captain Bill Raley right in the streets of Newport, who ended up offering us a ride on his sailboat. Without any hesitation, we agreed to join him. In a matter of hours, I had explored the town by land, air and sea.
As nighttime approached, I started to get tired and wanted to rest. To my surprise, Joe asked if I would be willing to sleep in the car right where we had parked in downtown Newport. At first I thought the idea was completely insane. Sleep in the car? In the middle of town? Then, slowly, Joe helped me realize that our shoestring budget would likely benefit from an occasional night in the car. Occasional. This would be rare, I thought. (As I would later discover, that was a false assumption). I went along with it and tried to get some rest.
I knew before I left home that this trip wasn’t always going to be about comfort and leisure but I never imagined how tough it would be – how physically exhausting it would be – from day one. That first night, I hardly slept and wasn’t excitement or anxiety that kept me awake; it was the glare of the street lights and noise in the town. It was a challenging down, indeed.
Words and photos by Joe D’Amelio and Kevin Lu.