...for 250 days. For those of you that have been following along since the beginning, and I’m talking like, the very beginning, you’d know that Father’s Day 2018 I announced to the world that I would be undertaking the most meaningful, and daunting, project in my 23 years of existence. (If you missed it, or would like to see what The Dad Book looked like a year ago, you can see that video here.)
13,000 miles, 50 dads, you know the spiel. 301 days would pass between announcing my plans for The Dad Book and April 14, 2019. If I were a betting man, I too, would have stacked my chips on the odds that I had given up hope on The Dad Book after 301 days of not starting. However, for those of us that still believed a beginning was in sight, thank you. Your support was felt in ways I can’t explain.
The morning of April 14 started in classic Michigan fashion: dreary gray skies, sleet and a high of 40 degrees. Welcome to spring, amirite?! The morning was a blur, consisting of throwing as many socks, boxers, t-shirts and other warm clothing I could into the passenger side dresser my dad and I had built inside Vanah White (if you’re new here, Vanah is my 33 year old Volkswagen Vanagon, and yes, she’s still a beauty after all these years).
With clothes being the last necessary addition to the van, I spent the afternoon with Taylor and my parents. We ran through my final checklist about 25 times: Oil dipstick, full. Plenty of snacks, check. Louisville slugger for protection, you batter believe it (I’m sorry, these dad jokes are starting to rub off on me, but you have to admit, that one was a home run. OK, I’m done).
Checklist complete, van ready and one final home cooked meal from my momma.
I was officially ready to hit the road.
I dropped Taylor off at her apartment with a kiss and wave goodbye and was off to Portage, Michigan by 5pm. But Nate, that’s like 20 minutes away? What kind of lame road trip is this? Don’t fret, I had to grab my Nikon camera from my sister’s house to document this endeavor.
While my nieces and nephew were insisting that I bring them back ponies, turtles and a monkey from “my trip to Japan” (I guess The Dad Book needs to clarify brand objectives) I said goodbye to my sister and brother-in-law. With camera in hand and another wave and hug goodbye, I hopped in Vanah White, entered “Planet Fitness Elkhart” into Apple Maps, and prepared for the 55 minute drive to Elkhart, Indiana, about 2 miles south of the Michigan border. I figured if I broke down Day 1, at least it would be a cheap tow back to mom and dad’s house.
Now 7pm, with 33 year old headlights guiding me 25 feet at a time through sleet and rural farmland, Vanah and I trekked south.
As a Volkswagen owner, you’re hyperalert whenever driving.
“What was that noise? Was it the engine?"
"No, just a cow mooing."
"Is that person honking at me because of how slow I’m moving, or did they read my sticker, 'Honk if Anything Falls Off?' ”
Add to this edginess a cocktail mixed with 2 shots excitement, 8 shots nervousness, and a side of 5 car honks on a two-lane road to get an idea of how that 55 minute drive went. Shoutout to CCR and The Eagles for putting my nerves at ease.
As I pulled into the Elkhart Planet Fitness, a sense of relief and joy could be seen by the ear to ear grin on my face. I had finally made it. 7,224 hours had passed between Father’s Day 2018 and April 14, 2019. 7,224 hours of questioning whether I was capable of taking on something this big. 7,224 hours of hearing, “So you really think a 33 year old van can travel 13,000 miles? I wouldn’t take that thing more than 10 miles down the road!” 301 days of pondering whether I should go back to climbing the corporate ladder instead of selling vintage toys and clothes on eBay to make money. I was out of Michigan, the furthest Vanah White had been from Kalamazoo since owning her and The Dad Book had finally begun.
A 2 hour workout to burn off the excitement of beginning my journey ensued, with a warm shower to wrap up the night. Bundled in sweatshirt and sweatpants, I was ready for my first night of living in a van.
I drew in my curtains, grabbed some beef jerky (thank you again to whoever supplied 2 packages of Jack Link’s, aka, the good stuff) and put on my stocking hat and gloves, as the temperature hovered around 35 degrees. I dove under the covers and with hands shaking from the cold, I shot off a text to friends and family to let them know I was safe and heading to bed.
Just before bed, I wanted to snap a photo to commemorate Day 1 on the road. As I went to grab my Nikon, I noticed it wasn’t where I put it. Then I couldn’t remember putting it anywhere to begin with. Sure enough, the pressure of getting ponies, turtles and a monkey for my nieces and nephew was too much and I had set down the camera at my sister’s house. If that was the only thing I forgot, life on the road couldn’t be so bad.
Drifting in and out of sleep, I heard two guys walk past the van around midnight.
“Yo dude, do you think someone is like, living in that van?”
“Yeah man, forsure, but let’s leave him alone.”
Thank you, gentlemen, for giving me a good laugh before going to bed.
Day 1: Complete.
Be sure to follow @TheRealDadBook on Facebook and Instagram to hear more stories and see pictures during my 250 day trip across all 50 states. To learn more about The Dad Book, head on over to www.TheRealDadBook.com/about. If you’re looking to get in contact with me, shoot an email to Nate@TheRealDadBook.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. See you on the road!