“In silence you hear who you are becoming. You create yourself.”
WELCOME TO ALASKA: THE LAST FRONTIER
Alaska was a magical place. It mesmerized me in ways that I still can’t comprehend while sitting on this American Airlines flight back to Los Angeles.
This was my final frontier, if you will. My 50th state visit. My incredible Star Trek-like voyage to the edge of the world.
Alaska reminded me of three places as I viewed it from above. Hawaii (island-like), Scotland (tons of greenery) and it’s neighbor to the east, Vancouver (greenery and water all around). My 50th state visit was to the city of Anchorage, located on the Southern part of the state and rich with green vistas and lakes galore. Flying in to the city was beautiful.
Perhaps part of the magic of Alaska came from the first surprise which occurred before I even landed on the beautiful state. I don’t even think of Alaska as a state by the way. It felt like an island to me. And the first surprise came when I saw a sunset in Los Angeles at 8pm and 5 hours later, over Anchorage, Alaska another sunset at midnight (Alaskan time, which is an hour behind California).
During a recent trip to my 49th state (Hawai’i), I made a new friend who surprisingly met me in Alaska for the icing to my ultimate American journey. Her name is Elisa.
Elisa is a wonderful treasure of a human being and loves to travel and explore as much as I do. She lives in Portland and we ended up spending 48 hours together and exploring the city of Anchorage.
Among a few of the explorations?
The Sydney Laurence Theatre (check them out here) where we watched a 40-minute presentation with visual montages of the Aurora phenomenon (“The Northern Lights”) that had been captured by Dave Parkhurst, an amazing Alaskan photographer, since 1981. Truly captivating.
Walking around downtown and sharing our similar views about how quaint the city of Anchorage was, like we had stepped through a time machine.
Kumagoro, a sushi place that turned out to be pretty good.
F Street Station, the oldest bar in Anchorage, where we enjoyed Grilled Halibut, Alaskan King Salmon and whiskey shots with our waitress (she was fun). Everything was freaking delicious and fresh!
And The Alaska Zoo, where we saw everything from Polar Bears to Porcupines to Bald Eagles to Yaks to Black and Brown Bears to Tigers to Owls and a big ass Moose. I had never seen a Moose up close and could not imagine accidentally hitting that thing with my Prius.
There was definitely one bizarre thing Elisa and I noticed while there and it was that we felt quite loopy and slow at times. Was it the zero elevation? The effects of the Aurora Northern Lights magic? The mysterious and magical nature of this Twin Peak-like area which, at the time we went (2nd thru 4th of July 2017), daylight stayed with us for 19 hours, 4 minutes and 47 seconds?
It was so hard to get used to daylight at 11 o’clock at night. It was downright weird and the curtains at the hotel had to be drawn in such a way that the sunrise didn’t wake us up at 4am!
19 hours of daylight! Holy mackerel. That was quite the experience. Imagine going to work everyday this summer at 2pm, getting off at 10pm and it’s ALWAYS daylight! We did manage to see a few black curtains through the windows of certain homes. I’m glad I got to experience it for sure but it totally weirded me out.
I’m so glad that I partook in this adventure to engage and learn so much about this great country and it’s great lands. I hope others do the same and take road trips more often than they hibernate in their respective cities and states. Hawai’i and Alaska were definitely magical icings on the cake for me.
I think back to last summer when I started this journey through the first 48 and I think, “Wow, I did all that throughout the height of the ‘Black Lives Matter movement’.” Imagine, an African-American man drove through 48 United States and 3 Canadian counties and never experienced racism or violence from the police. I like to think it was the Prius (hahaha) because I mean, really, who is worried about a Negro in a Prius?
Or maybe it was my energy. I had certain rules about how I drove and why and where and I tried to stay as positive as I could. Good energy breeds a positive life.
This was a wonderful experience and I hope it inspires others to get off their butts and do the things they keep SAYING they’re going to do. I talked about doing an American road trip for years and last summer, I told myself to shut the fuck up and just do it. I sat down, laid out a plan and made it happen.
The best part about all this? No matter who I meet who is US-born, I can say I have been to their home state. I have stories for every single state and I hope to blend my positive energy into the universe by sharing them with the world.
“I enjoy privacy. I think it’s nice to have a little mystery. I think because of technology a lot of the mystery is gone in life, and I’d like to preserve some of that.”
WELCOME TO HAWAII: THE ALOHA STATE
I’ve been living in Los Angeles for 17 years. I had never been to Hawaii. The thought of the 5 and a half hour flight always deterred me from traveling there, even after hearing the amazing stories about the Hawaiian islands.
The flight time was honestly such a poor excuse because I’ve been to Paris, France 3 times. LAX to Paris is 10.5 hours nonstop. 11.5 hours on the way back! Tsk Tsk Steve.
Well … I finally stopped making excuses, booked a short little trip to Maui for a few days and I have to admit, not only did I enjoy myself but I wanted to stay on the island indefinitely.
Maui, part of the Hawaiian archipelago in the Central Pacific, is simply: MAGICAL. It’s the Disneyland of island paradises … without the creepy characters following you around all day. And yes, everything is expensive as well, just like Disneyland.
Trust me, coming from a man who was born on one island in the Caribbean (Dominica) and grew up on another island (Antigua), I know what island magic feels like.
The Delta flight time of 5 hours didn’t even feel that bad. And the TV’s in the back of the headrests helped a lot. I watched some TV shows, a movie (Live by Night — a Ben Affleck film) and found some time to knock out a couple well-needed naps.
Upon landing, I picked up my rental car from Thrifty, who I give props to for an effortless process and took my butt to Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, where I was staying for 3.5 days.
Quick observation about the Kahului airport: Why are there so many damn Starbucks?! I counted 4 from the moment I left the plane until I got to Baggage Claim. People are seriously addicted to this coffee thing. Yuck.
My stay on the island of Maui was filled with clarity, fun, magic, sunrises, sunsets, cocktails, golfing, BBQ and a new set of cool ass friends.
Clarity stands out among all the items I mentioned above because I honestly never thought about work. I tried. I really did. There were a few times when I tried to review certain work-related tasks in my head and I swear the island wouldn’t let me.
I guess you can say that’s where the magic came in to play because Maui basically blocked any kind of negative energy I tried to bring on the island. She kept me on the path of happiness and paved my sunny days with ultimate relaxation, freedom and a clear, spotless mind.
During my trip, a series of events randomly started at the Tiki Cocktail bar at my hotel on Friday night and led me to making 4 new amazing friends who I ended up drinking with, dancing with, BBQ’ing with, laughing with and philosophizing with all weekend long.
I still can’t believe how open, inviting and friendly the locals were to me. It was quite the contrast from the big city life where one road rage incident can ruin your entire day. And to make things even cooler, I took a selfie with a turtle for goodness sakes! A freaking turtle! Come on son. That’s ethereal.
S/O to Kuvi, Jordan, Sarah (kickass bartender) and Elisa for making my trip even better than I ever imagined.
49 states down. 1 to go!
Some quick Maui travel tips:
Rent a car
Go out and meet the locals
Go cliff diving if you don’t mind swimming
Ka’anapali (Royal) Golf Course is a fun course — when you get to the top parts of the course, take a minute and enjoy the views
If you can wake yourself up early every morning, take a nice stroll along the beach
Enjoy the sunsets
The final state in the #WhereIsSteve travel trilogy will be Alaska. Maybe it was also fitting (or magical) that I met a young lady who had moved to Maui from Alaska as well on my trip. She was a friend of some of the locals I met at the Tiki Bar.
I shared my 48-state road trip journey from last year with her and she was impressed. I also told her about Hawaii being my 49th state and hopefully, Alaska will be my 50th state this coming July. She provided me a lot of helpful information on where I can go and what I can do once I get to Alaska.
“When I was young, I used to have this thing where I wanted to see everything. I used to think, ‘How can I die without seeing every inch of this world?'”
WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA: THE GOLDEN STATE
My friend Terry helped me with the drive from Portland, Oregon to Oakland, California. It was a long one. 10 freaking hours! 13 including rest stops for breakfast, bathroom breaks, lunch and maybe dinner.
Terry was great. She’s from Long Beach, CA and just got a job driving tour buses in Hollywood so I knew I was in good hands. Plus, it turns out that she had never really done a road trip like this one and was like a kid in a candy store when the scenery turned magnificent. It was great catching up with her because she gets very busy. We laughed our asses off as usual driving down the 5 freeway. At times, the scenery was boring as fuck but sometimes, it was just beautiful. Northern California is sneaky with her mountainous vistas. It’s pretty neat. Mount Shasta is a perfectly example of that. Apparently, it’s a POTENTIALLY active volcano, which I did not know until I did some research for this blog today. Uhh, what the fuck?!
But seriously, Mount Shasta was a beauty and maybe one day she will just get tired of sitting there and explode? Too soon? Hee hee.
HUGE SHOUT OUT TO TERRY. SHE’S AWESOME!
I also managed to catch up with a wonderful friend of mine while I was in Oakland: Alah. Alah and I have been friends for a few years but only get to see each other every so often. She picked me up from my Holiday Inn hotel and we went to this spot called “Eureka” in Berkeley, CA.
My goodness, that place was super cool! Alah and I ordered food and drinks and laughed the night away while losing track of any kind of time. She had a beautiful family to get home to, so … oops. It was a nice way to punctuate what has been an amazing journey across the beautiful landscape of America.
Thank you Lah. And uhh, I still don’t think that stripper in New Orleans deserved any cab fare from me! Hahahahahaha.
After Oakland, I jetted to the Golden Gate Bridge and had a little fun. Check it out.
Then to put an exclamation point on the entire experience, I treated myself to a round at one of my favorite golf courses in the world: Pebble Beach Golf Links. What an amazing place. I stayed here a few years ago during an (expensive) golf vacation and it’s still in the top 3 best vacations I have ever had next to Paris, France and Ibiza, Spain.
THANKS AGAIN TO EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTED AND FOLLOWED ME THROUGHOUT THIS ENTIRE JOURNEY.
What can I say about Oregon? Over the years, I have heard so much about the golf, the craft beer festivals, the scenic drives up and down the coast and the comedy scene. And yet, I never managed to visit. I’ve flown over her a few times to visit Seattle and Vancouver but never took the opportunity to see what everyone was raving about.
Earlier this year, I was signed up to attend a 4-day, 3-night golf tournament in Portland and my original plan was to enjoy what Portland had to offer but my golf “vacation” fell through.
And now, here I was, driving through the Southeastern part of Washington, heading west to Oregon and enjoying one of the most beautiful drives I have ever seen in my life. From the moment you get on the 84 freeway heading west, starting around Bowman, OR, there’s water on your right and beautiful, cascading mountains and trees on your left for about 100 miles. Although it was really windy (~21mph), I paid special attention to keep my car steady. At times, it felt like I was in a video game because of all the beauty that was framed around me.
About 14,000 years ago, cataclysmic floods scoured out the Columbia River Gorge. Early visionaries engineered an inspired drive along its towering walls. As America’s first scenic highway and a National Historic Landmark, this 70-mile/113-kilometer route is indeed the “King of Roads.”
One of North America’s grandest rivers, the Columbia is at its finest as it rolls through the Columbia River Gorge, framed by sheer walls of basalt, cloaked in firs and ferns and rare endemic plants, accented with waterfall after crashing waterfall.
The only edit I would make from the quote above is: “… the King and Queen of Roads.” It’s THAT beautiful.
After a 5 and a half hour drive, I arrived in Portland and called it a night. I needed to prepare for a 12-hour drive to Oakland, California the next morning.
So even though I soaked up the beauty and ambiance of The Columbia, I still didn’t have enough time to enjoy the city of Portland. It’s ok. I’m sure I will see her again. And when I do, there will be golf, comedy and beers on top.
“I’m just always looking for characters that change, because I want to get better, as an actor and as a person.”
-Jeffrey Dean Morgan
WELCOME TO WASHINGTON: THE EVERGREEN STATE
So I took the advice of the couple I met in Bowman, North Dakota and didn’t take any chances by stopping in Spokane, WA when driving from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. When I did stop, it was for a VERY BRIEF fanta selfie snapshot. I was actually really anxious to drive along the 84 freeway in Oregon, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in North America.
HERE ARE MY OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
Keep in mind that I took the route below and I do know that Washington is quite beautiful. I think I just happened to stumble upon the boring path.
Spokane airport is 36 minutes away from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. So when I’m ready to go back and have some more fun, I can take an easy LA to Spokane flight. Score!
Along the 90 freeway going Southwest is desert-like and brown. Area 51-ish. A combo of driving through Palm Springs, Nevada and North Dakota.
I drove into this small town called Kennewick. It had some nice, cool homes. Came out of nowhere. Then all of a sudden, I was back in the desert again. Barren land for miles and miles.
Washington is known as “The Evergreen State”. Not on the East end it’s not. Not along the 90 and 82 freeways. It’s brown, brown, brown.
And one more thing: big thanks to the old powers that be who named the state of Washington and the district of Washington, D.C. You made things confusing for a lot of people and probably hurt someone’s chances to win a Daily Double on Jeopardy.
[on filming Breaking Bad (2008) in Albuquerque, NM] “I actually hated it during the pilot. I loved working, obviously. But I would just go to work and then go back to the hotel and I couldn’t find much to do. But when we started shooting the series I fell in love with the city. I’m from Boise, Idaho and it reminds me of a bigger version of that place. It’s just nice to get away from the hustle of Los Angeles and the skies are endless out there. It’s like a beautiful painting every day.”
WELCOME TO IDAHO: THE GEM STATE
It’s hard for some people to believe and they still ask why but I lived in Idaho for almost a year back in the year 2000. I was trying to move out to Los Angeles from North Carolina and it was the closest I could get to California. I worked for a company called Micronpc.com that made Personal Computers. It was great. I lived in Boise and loved it. It was a very small city and not much was going on but you could find things to do, especially in the summertime. The air was clean and you were surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Coeur D’Alene was an even better place. This city was my next stop in Idaho after chillin’ in Missoula, Montana. My friend Jody lives there and it was so nice to see her after so many years. We worked together at Myspace between 2007 and 2011. We had a great time golfing and bar hopping. Coeur D’Alene definitely surprised me and it’s now on my list of top places to go for a nice, short weekend.
We played golf at The Coeur D’Alene Resort Golf Course which is a magnificent place to play golf. The golf course itself was fun and the views of Lake Coeur D’Alene were magnanimous. I can’t wait to make a ton of money and buy me a place along that lake. Apparently, there are many celebrities who have homes in the area.
Which brings me to an interesting point. You never hear celebs complain about places too much. Imagine someone saying, “Hey, I’m from Idaho. You ever been.” Your first response would probably be, “Heck no. Why the heck would I want to go there? I don’t even like potatoes.”
Rich folks know better. They travel a lot, have great friends all over the world and have experienced more than folks with a closed mind. Thereby, many people not knowing about the beauty of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. It’s the kind of place you would definitely judge based on what you heard from strangers or what you saw on the news. But after experiencing it for yourself, you start to think: ‘How can I own property here or visit this place on a regular basis?’ At least in the summertime! It’s THAT beautiful. No joke.
Check out the video I made for this trip. We had such a great time.
“I’m a free man. I don’t wear anybody’s collar. I’m not obliged to smile if I don’t want to. That gives me a lot of perverse pride — I really am a person who could stop doing what I’m doing right now, go off to Ceylon tomorrow and live among the fishermen.
I make a living without having a job; I don’t cater to anybody. I believe that’s the hardest thing to achieve in this world — any kind of autonomy, any kind of independence, any kind of freedom.
So, I’m very, very proud of the fact that I’m an independent.”
-George Clayton Johnson (co-writer on Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen — born in Wyoming)
WELCOME TO WYOMING: FOREVER WEST
Wyoming is home to one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States: Yellowstone National Park. I only touched a tip of her iceberg by visiting the Mammoth Hot Springs. I drove from Billings, MT to Gardiner, MT and entered from the Northwest end. You are immediately blown away by the views, the mountains, the wildlife and all your worries about the world melt away. While you’re in Gardiner, you can see folks canoeing and grabbing binoculars to see the wildlife in the distance. It’s pretty cool.
It costs $30 to get into Yellowstone National Park. You’ll notice how negligible the price is after you experience the time of your life.
There are a few different ways to enter Yellowstone. The West/Idaho side. The Northwest/Gardiner, Montana side. The Northeast/Cooke City, Montana side. The East/Cody, Wyoming side and of course the Southern/Dubois/Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming side.
Be careful when driving in from Gardiner, MT. You will see animals crossing the road as you drive into Yellowstone. The speed limit is upwards of 60mph before you get to the entrance to the park so you can easily run into something without thinking about it.
Quick word of advice based on a sign I saw: “Don’t feed the animals. They are dangerous.” Hey look, it’s their park. Their neighborhood. I believe the sign. Carry on bears, wolves, deer and birds.
Among the activities you can enjoy at Yellowstone are: whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing, camping, biking and visiting the hot spring.
The best time to go to Yellowstone is in September, according to a Wyoming resident I spoke to. There’s a lot more wildlife out at that time and there aren’t as many tourists.
I already have plans to go back and spend more time there because even though I was only there for a couple hours, the visit had already affected me. It was great. I felt totally free and my mind was completely clear.
“An inner anger is poison. A person who is angry is poisoning them self and poisoning the environment.”
WELCOME TO MONTANA: THE TREASURE STATE
Montana, South Dakota and Idaho were the states that surprised me the most on this road trip. Mostly because of their external beauties and how many activities there were to be enjoyed in these areas. Montana is a huge fucking place. Yes, Texas is the biggest state in the Continental US but Montana sure felt like it while I was driving through her. It was so big, I spent two nights in two different cities: Billings and Missoula.
Here’s a size comparison of Montana and Texas.
This is crazy. I still don’t believe it even though I have been to El Paso and Dallas, Texas and I know how brutal it is to get from one to the other (635 miles). Add another 239 miles to get to Houston and that adds up to about 12 hours of driving. Holy Bison ass, Texas!
CHECK OUT MY OBSERVATIONS ABOUT MONTANA
In the middle of nowhere, auto-correct doesn’t work even if you have a signal on your iPhone. The phone just sits there, spinning.
It’s not unusual to drive on the freeway and all of a sudden go from 90mph to 65mph to 45mph to 35mph to 25mph in under 2 minutes. Sometimes it’s because of construction. Other times, you’re passing through a town that looks like 41 people live there.
Expect signs like this one and take it very seriously: “NEXT GAS EXIT: 82 miles”.
Montana was not as flat and brown as my drive through North Dakota. She will reward you with rolling hills, valleys, beautiful mountains, pretty lakes and lush, green vistas.
Do you really hate people and technology and never want to be bothered again? Move to the middle of North Dakota or the eastern section of Montana. More specifically, along the 12 freeway between Bowman, ND and Miles City, MT. I guarantee ZERO visitors except for some Bison and migratory birds. You’re welcome.
There’s no one in your rear view for 100+ miles between Bowman, ND and Miles City, MT. It’s awesome and creepy all at the same time.
It’s scary when you’re going 90mph and a huge semi-truck speeds by and shakes your Toyota Prius. Whoaaaah! Hold on tight.
The end to end drives (east to west or vice versa) of Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Montana will clear your mind and bring things into perspective very quickly. It’s a gem many should experience at least once in their lifetime. No talking. No music. Just drive and listen to your inner self.
If you just had a really bad break up, do this drive: Bowman, ND to Miles City, MT. Your head will magically clear and before you know it, it’s “Becky, who”?
There’s a lot of roadkill in Montana. Get used to it and be alert.
There are lots of vehicles with oversized loads (Jesus, did I just write that?): Tractors, semis, semis carrying homes, semis carrying cars and semis carrying farming equipment. Sometimes, you will have to drive behind them for a few miles before you can pass and go on your merry way. Practice patience. You’re going to need it.
“When I was a kid, I dreamed about fame, you know, how cool it would be to be in a movie and to be on television. I thought about certain movie roles or certain lines from movies by myself in the shower and thought I could do that someday. But I never really believed that I ever had a chance.”
WELCOME TO NORTH DAKOTA: LEGENDARY
Legendary for what?
REPEAT AFTER ME.
There’s nothing in North Dakota.
There’s nothing in North Dakota.
There’s nothing in North Dakota.
There’s nothing in North Dakota.
North Dakota is the planet Mars with brown blades of grass. And a Bison. Yeah, 1 Bison. You can drive for 100 miles and only see a Bison. It’s the most bizarre thing. It’s also not strange to not see any police for 150 miles.
I was hoping during every single mile that my car wouldn’t break down. I thought about it constantly. Out of all the drives I had done up to this point, North Dakota was the drive that made my hands and feet sweaty. You are in the middle of NOWHERE! It’s the perfect location for Area 51 and El Chapo’s hideout compound.
I purchased a parcel of land in North Dakota just in case Donald Trump gets elected. Nawh, I’m just kidding. I bought the parcel in Wyoming. Hey, you have to stay prepared. I also did some research and there are no KKK factions in North Dakota. So, yes, that’s a great start!
And by the way, this is how I go to Trump rallies!
Like I said, you have to be prepared.
Moving on, I briefly stopped for food and gas at a town called, Bowman. It’s a nice, little town. Everyone was quite friendly. I bought a funny t-shirt that said, “BIG COCK Country”. I couldn’t resist. And the fried chicken they sold at the rest stop was delicious. Yummy.
I met a nice couple at the rest stop while taking my Fanta selfie. A black dude and his white girlfriend. The girl asked what I was doing and I told them about my road trip around the country. They both asked where I was going next and after mentioning Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, they immediately warned me to stay away from Spokane, Washington. I guess they don’t treat blacks very well there? Everything happens for a reason, I guess and I did end up listening to them. While driving through Washington later on, it seemed like the only reason to go to Spokane was to use the airport so you could get to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.
On my way west toward Montana, I did see a police officer on the side of the road looking for speedsters. Thank goodness I was not speeding at that time because I can’t imagine what it would be like to be pulled over in North Dakota by a police officer, who is probably bored out of his fucking mind.