Of all the questions that apply to this trip, “What is it?” might be the easiest to answer. Accordingly, I think it is a good place to start as I begin to write about this trip and attempt to understand it myself. This will be a pretty dry post, but the information is (hopefully) all relevant.
I’ll begin by giving a brief overview of the song that inspired the trip. “I’ve Been Everywhere” tells a story of a traveler who is picked up by a trucker. He then proceeds to tell the trucker of all of the places he has visited on his travels in four rapid fire verses. It was written by Australian composer Geoff Mack in 1959 and was first recorded by an artist named Lucky Starr. This original version features all Australian places, though the chorus is the same as the versions most Americans are used to. It is the fastest version I’ve heard and definitely deserves a listen for the vocal performance alone:
In 1962, the song was adapted to feature American places. The story goes that Geoff Mack, the original Australian composer, simply requested an atlas of the Americas and chose places that rhymed well together. It is unclear why he decided to include places beyond the United States. The US is by far the most prominently featured country totalling 76 of the 93 places (82%) mentioned. All told the song names locales in 38 states and 9 countries, covering almost the entirety of the Western Hemisphere.
The American version of “I’ve Been Everywhere” was first performed by Nova Scotian, Hank Snow. His version can be heard here:
The song has been covered, rearranged and adapted to represent a wide variety of places. I think that the contemporary listener is most familiar with Johnny Cash’s version of the song, which was not recorded until 1996, 37 years after the song was originally written…..you might say he was a “Johnny come lately”…..sorry. It’s not my favorite version (way too slow for me!) but here it is:
As far as I can remember, the idea for the trip came during a long day driving between Lincoln, NE and Baton Rouge, LA. Depending on the route chosen, one could potentially visit 10 of the places mentioned in the song on that drive alone. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, it couldn’t be that hard to hit all the places could it?” The process of actually mapping out all of the stops was both discouraging and alluring. The idea of a simple trip was destroyed, but the idea of a grand adventure was born.
One of firsts tasks to begin planning the trip was to actually chose which places to visit. For instance, the song mentions “Springfield” of which there are 41 in the United States alone. Some places were pretty easy to choose either because they are major places (like Chicago) or because there are no other places that share the name (like Schefferville, Quebec). Furthermore, there was an extreme bias given to places that are accessible by road. Part of this was purely logistical, but the song does include the lyric, “I’ve traveled every road in this here land”. There are no mentions of planes or boats. Thus, “Kingston” will be Ontario rather than the more notable Jamaica. Beyond those criteria, I basically just chose whatever place I felt was more notable when there were multiple possibilities for a location. It was an inexact science.
I’ll link the maps of all of the places below.
North America (click to zoom in)
So what this trip is is pretty simple: To visit each of the places mentioned in the song. All told, my estimations for the route of the trip will have me covering around 40,000 miles. I will pass through all 49 continental US states and between 18 and 22 different countries. (We’ll see how Venezuela is doing by the time I head that way) I want to do the trip as thriftily as possible, so I’ll camp most nights and eat very simply.
Perhaps an additional ‘what’ that should be answered is what I expect this blog to be. At this point I’m really not sure. I do know that it will be an effective way to let people know that I am not dead, which will hopefully be helpful to my parents. This blog might be just a simple report of daily happenings, or it could include some deeper thoughts. We’ll just have to see.
Thank you for reading! Next time I will try to answer the question of ‘Why.’ It should be a sticky topic. 🙂