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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

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THE ROUTE

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  • New York, I am back

    Posted on February 26th, 2011 Nicolas 86 comments

    Crossing the Hudson River

    Crossing the Hudson River

    On Saturday, February 12, I reentered the Manhattan Island after 456 days on the road. My trip took me through 37,000 miles of adventures I would never forget.
    But in the immediate, as I was driving through the Georges Washington Bridge, I could not completely unwind, since there was pressing matters to take care of. As I entered New York State, I could not really just drive around. In fact, I had to be very discreet, as my registration and inspection had expired months ago.

    Arriving in Times Square.

    Arriving in Times Square.

    So it is with very little fuss that I crossed the city, dropped my dad in a hotel and continued toward Brooklyn after stopping twice on the way to see some friends.

    Parking in New York can be challenging, even for a world class traveler.

    Parking in New York can be challenging, even for a world class traveler.

    When I got to my old neighborhood, I stopped to the auto shop I used to spend time at, and also the place where I got my vehicle ready for this extraordinary trip. Everybody was doing well, and it was great to see a lot of old friends.

    I arrive in Brooklyn, at the auto shop. Singh, Mike and others.

    I arrive in Brooklyn, at the auto shop. Singh, Mike and others.

    Next, I went back to my old house, and met with my landlord, Jay. He was aware I was coming back, and had space in the driveway for my truck. It is where it is going to stay for few weeks, the time for me to settle down and get the paperwork sorted out.

    Reentering Brooklyn by the Manhattan Bridge.

    Reentering Brooklyn by the Manhattan Bridge.

    All my belongings are there as well, in the basement since 2009. I don’t really want to open boxes as long as I don’t have an apartment, so even now, two weeks after coming back, I am still wearing my expedition-style clothes as I roam the streets of Manhattan. I did shave my beard as people were looking at me a strange way, I thought.
    Jay gave me some mail which arrived a while back, and it turned out that I was in a more complicated position that I thought.
    Apparently, I broke a new record without even knowing it. It seems that some papers didn’t go through after I left, resulting in some problems with the Department of Motor Vehicle. Consequently, as I was driving happily in exotic regions, my driving license was suspended. Which probably makes me the only man in history who drove around the world with a suspended driving license…

     

    It feels good to be back in New York which is the place I still call home.

    It feels good to be back in New York which is the place I still call home.

    As night was falling, I took the subway back to Manhattan where I met a small group of people to have drinks in the Lower East Side and celebrate the successful expedition.
    In the few weeks following these events, I have been of course readapting to the life in the city, but also working hard to prepare my future. I am staying at Sergio’s apartment for few weeks, and from there I am straightening my administrative status, and trying to find a job.
    I think I may be too exigent in my job search as of now. After everything I saw in the last months, I need something that will be very challenging and exciting. I can’t work just for the money, I need more. As promised, I will let you know when something comes up. I sent my Carnet de Passage back to AAA, which will allow me to get back the huge guaranty I had to leave in order to be able to cross borders.

    The Carnet de Passage.

    The Carnet de Passage.

    I have been reconnecting with my past in the last two weeks, spending time with people who matter to me. Of course it is strange to be back here, but I can already tell that I am still in love with New York, which is a relief. After all, I need a place I can call home.
    I will be busy in the next few weeks, and months. First of all, I have to find this miracle job. Then, I will update this website so it is easier to navigate through the different places I have been to, now that the chronological order matters less. Dan – the friend who spent some time with me in Peru – gave me a hard drive with the video he shot while we were traveling, and I would love to make it available on this website as well. In the upcoming time, there will be more maps and details on such expedition preparation, so it will be helpful for travelers. Also, I would love to work on a book. But it is going to be a side project, something I can work on once I have a job.
    So please keep checking here for new content. There will be other updates, and I would love if you guys could stick around.
    My apologies for not updating the website earlier. Apologies also to the hundreds of people who emailed me but still didn’t receive a reply. I will be working on it soon!

  • When it begins to look like our traveler is going to make it around the world

    Posted on February 11th, 2011 Nicolas 143 comments
    Driving through Utah.

    Driving through Utah.

    Indeed, as I am writing this, at least than 400 miles from New York City, it does look like I am going to be able to do it. On Saturday, after fifteen months on the road, I am going to reenter the city via the George Washington Bridge.
    For the longest time, while advancing through remote countries, I have been reluctant to say I was driving around the world. I always preferred to declare I was “trying” to go around the world. Now it may be time to change that.
    Few days back, after spending the night in southeast Utah, we were back on the road and passed the Colorado state line. We were still going through arctic temperatures, and I couldn’t help but be amazed that the truck never gave me much problem, no matter what climate I was in. In temperatures ranging from -30F to 130F, the vehicle started right away each time. The steering box is not leaking as much now, since the liquid is not as thin in the cold, and my fridge doesn’t complain either after having kept food cold through the hottest climates on earth. Basically, me and my dad are the only one to object to the ridiculous freezing temperatures.

    Mesa Verde National Park, dwellings in the cliffs.

    Mesa Verde National Park, dwellings in the cliffs.

    Nobody knows what became of the inhabitants.

    Nobody knows what became of the inhabitants.

    Shortly after entering Colorado, we leave the main road to penetrate the Mesa Verde National Park. A civilization of Pueblo Indians lived in the cliffs there around AD 1,200.

    Nobody knows why they disappear in the next hundred years. Disease or just looking for better life conditions may have been the cause. Regardless, it is fascinating to visit the dwellings protected from the natural elements by the cliffs.

    The visit is very uncomfortable because of the cold and snow, and soon enough we are back on the road.

    I drive through the mountains of Colorado after stopping for lunch in charming Durango.

    Leaving Mesa Verde Park.

    Leaving Mesa Verde Park.

    Everybody does a good work at keeping the road relatively free of snow, so the progression is easy. We spend a night in Alamosa, and in the morning I spend some time finding a new power converter for my laptop, as I forgot mine in the previous motel. I guess I can’t complain, given that I really didn’t loose much in this long trip.

    In the Colorado mountains.

    In the Colorado mountains.

    Once the mountains are behind, we go a bit south and enter Oklahoma. It is the first of many days driving through monotonous landscapes. There are not many photos to take, and I apologize for the banality of the ones I present here. As I was traveling though foreign countries, I noticed that most inhabitants spent a lot of time outside, therefore I could witness easily their intimate life. Now, because of the cold and the very different ways of our western life, I am just going through mostly empty landscapes.

    Leaving Colorado.

    Leaving Colorado.

    Many people think my accent is pretty funny tough, when I stop for food in restaurants along the route. It seems like they don’t see many foreigners driving through. Food is not great in the many places we stop at, but the option of cooking outside is not here anymore. It is beyond doubt not a culinary tour anyway, and we eat in the cheapest places around.

    Church in Oklahoma. Everything is flat and immense.

    Church in Oklahoma. Everything is flat and immense.

    You can drive straight lines for hundreds of miles.

    You can drive straight lines for hundreds of miles.

    We stop quickly in Guthrie, a town north of Oklahoma City, famous for its brick and stone Victorian buildings. The place seems to be empty of its inhabitants as people are awaiting a fresh snowstorm later in the evening.

    Guthrie, few miles north of Oklahoma City.

    Guthrie, few miles north of Oklahoma City.

    After a night in Oklahoma City, we visit the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, which is fun and features interesting painting exhibits.

    The Oklahoma City Capitol. Notice the oil well just in front.

    The Oklahoma City Capitol. Notice the oil well just in front.

    The Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

    The Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

    More driving brings us to Fort Smith, at the border with Arkansas, where we spend the night. The following evening sees us in Memphis, Tennessee. The place is somewhat depressing usually, but even more under the snow and bad weather.

    In the morning we walk in the city center, and here too, streets are empty. Poverty is rampant in the city named after the capital of ancient Egypt.

    Memphis skyline.

    Memphis skyline.

    One of Memphis many churches.

    One of Memphis many churches.

    I can see my father begins to be tired by the long trip. Maybe I miscalculated a bit when I planned the trip back, as it is a lot of driving every day, more than what I am used to.

    Egypt is on the news every night as well, and I think of the people on the road in Africa, trying to do the eastern route as I did last year. It was already not easy, but now it has to be more difficult.

    Beale Street, Memphis. Where people go out to bars.

    Beale Street, Memphis. Where people go out to bars.

    The Djibouti-Yemen route I used may see an influx of visitors now, even so I believe I was the first one in many years to have used it.

    The world famous Gibson guitars factory.

    The world famous Gibson guitars factory.

    Back in the U.S., we continue to drive toward Nashville, where I have diner with Mrs. Marti, with who I have been emailing since the beginning of my trip. A little incursion south the following day allows us to visit the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg. It is worth to visit if you are around, but I would not do hundreds of miles to check out the site.

    Typical landscape in eastern Tennessee.

    Typical landscape in eastern Tennessee.

    The county is dry, so I can’t even get one shot for the road before I leave for Chattanooga. A nice surprise awaits me there, as the city is very agreeable. Katie – another follower of the blog – takes me around in the nighttime for a visit, and it looks like people have a nice quality of life and enjoy living there.

    Jack Daniels bourbon distillery.

    Jack Daniels bourbon distillery.

    Barrels of Jack. Wish I could take one for the road.

    Barrels of Jack.

    Named the “dirtiest city in America” back in the 1960s, you would be surprised by its evolution. Nowadays it is very green, there are plenty of waterfront paths for pedestrians and bicycles, a pedestrian bridge also across the Tennessee River, and many museums can be found across the city.

    Lynchburg, Tennessee.

    Lynchburg, Tennessee.

    Too bad I am not visiting during the summer, I bet there’s enough to spend few days without getting bored. But I have to get going, and after Katie gives me nice samples of southern food, I am back on the highway.

    Another familiar sight in Tennessee.

    Another familiar sight in Tennessee.

    This time I am going north, and for good. There will be no more sinuous paths. I am going to New York, and should be there before the end of the week.

    Sunset in southeast Tennessee before entering Chattanooga.

    Sunset in southeast Tennessee before entering Chattanooga.

    Crossing Virginia takes a long time, especially because I try several times to get to the Blue Ridge Highway. The 75 years old road was part of the New Deal’s efforts to provide jobs to the unemployed of the Great Depression. I already used part of the ribbon of highway along the high Appalachian ridges when I left NY in 2009, and wanted to take the same route to come back.

    Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Unfortunately, after driving few dozen miles, the road was closed. Once again we were punished by the snow. We attempted to reenter the road several time at different points of its 400-miles path, but it was closed everywhere.

    A lake along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    A lake along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    On Thursday night I arrived in Winchester, northern Virginia. I was now only a few hours away from New York.

    Fixing coffee in front of one of the numerous motels we stayed at while driving across the country.

    Fixing coffee in front of one of the numerous motels we stayed at while driving across the country.