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FishGuys Across 'Merica!
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<2002 - photos
Way back in fall 2003, some of us FishGuys cooked up a crazy plan to tour the whole US at lightning speed. After months of logistical planning, 2 of us actually made it. We went 8200 miles in only 14 days, silencing the cries of naysayers and beating our own time estimates by 2 whole days. We didn't fish that often, but we saw as much of the American countryside as one could hope to in such a short period. So here goes; an abbreviated re-cap of the whole trip starting with day one. I'll add some more pictures when I can scan those Don took with his regular camera. And someday I'll make all of our video into a short movie.
We left work early on Thursday, June 3, and got on the road by 4pm- dangerously close to rush hour to be traveling down I95. You really have to respect Donnie, he made a folder for each leg of the trip with printed directions, and various info about the places we would be near. That night, somehow we got lucky, met little traffic, and made it to Tennessee around 3am. We slept in the first hotel we saw after realizing we were completely exhausted. This became a common practice throughout the rest of the trip. We woke up the next day and drove all the way across Tennessee. We visited Graceland; what a hole. Yeah, sorry Elvis fans, that place sucks. Once we saw it was $18.50 to get in, we didn't even go past the welcome center. Donnie jumped into the picture area in front of these people long enough for me to snap a pic... they had to pay for theirs.
We hurried out of that dump, and pushed on through Arkansas. Given such a cursory glance, it seemed like a pretty odd place. There was farmland everywhere, but the crops weren't in straight lines, the rows were squiggly, I had never seen anything like it. We could barely understand the waitress at the restaurant we stopped at. But she was as nice as could be, and we both had great meals, including chicken fried pork loin and BBQ brisket. As we left the waitress hollered, "Herbick!" After some clarification we realized that "hurry back" is a slurred out common phrase in the area.... Don drove long after I gave up and fell asleep that night, and got us respectably deep into Texas. We couldn't wait to get to Austin...
Maybe some members of PFG's Philly audience already know, Town Lake in Austin, TX is considered by many to be the premier carp venue in all of North America. It was worth driving as far south as Austin, adding almost 1000 miles to our trip. Matt had planned to come cross country with us from the beginning, but his new job wouldn't give him the time off. He opted to take the time that he could, and fly to Austin to meet us. he got there early, and fished as we were driving though Tennessee and Arkansas. He met up with 2 members of the carp anglers group that we had chatted with previously online, Zach and Paul; very nice guys. They drove down from Dallas just to meet us. Here they are hauling big while don and I were in the car.
Don and I arrived the next day in the early afternoon. Paul, Zach and Matt were already at the spot, waiting for us to bring some rabbit food and other carpy sundries. I had hardly dropped my bag and Zach was handing me rigs and bait that were proven winners for him at Town Lake. We all fished together, until another CAG member and one time winner of the Austin Team Championship, Richard, visited, but did not have room to fish. Paul and Zach opted to fish with Richard at another spot for the rest of the day and that night. So for the rest of the day, we fished solo. We caught plenty of fish, including my best ever at 32.5 lbs. The last picture below is of us leaving the spot. we neglected to plan for all of Matt's gear fitting into my little Honda accord along with 2 weeks of gear for Donnie and I. We finally squeezed it all in there, even Matt's "hobo engineering style" rod tube.
Our second day in Austin was intense. Not long after we arrived, we met a homeless guy, named Joe, who spent the rest of the day with us. He was nice, meant well, but drank quite a bit. By the end of the day he pretty much stopped making any sense, and had made us all uncomfortable in several ways. He really liked getting into our fish pictures, talking jive nonsense politics, and philosophizing. During the day we caught several nice fish, and I caught 2 turtles. We also met the red face duck, well known to local fishermen, and Carp anglers Group members. I had seen pictures of him before we ever even dreamed of going to town lake. When we finally left, we had to leave Joe there, passed out on the ground.
Although it was difficult to leave Austin and the likely prospect of 40 lb carp we rolled out the next morning West through Texas into New Mexico. We drove all day and night, got a sleazy hotel, woke up and did it again.
We drove and drove across Arizona.
At one point, we saw a wind storm in the distance. As we
approached it a piece of debris on the roadside blew up into the
air and danced around high above the cars like a plastic grocery
bag in a Philadelphia alley. It swooped downward directly at us,
and it became clear that it was a big heavy mud flap that must
have broken off of a tractor trailer. Of course, it
smashed into my car as we coasted at 70 miles per hour, tearing
of my side view mirror, and scaring the shit out of us.
Hoover dam was a bit disappointing. Security vehicles made it
impossible to get a glimpse down the gorge. The road across was
still pretty interesting, It looked like a tiny city. On
the other side of the dam, casinos sidled the road even in the
middle of nowhere. It wasn't long before we reached Las Vegas.
I had never gambled before this, never been in a casino, and
something about the sagging faces on the people playing slots in
the gas station made me feel weird. I guess it was just
that I knew I was about to blow fifty bucks on expensive liquor
and lever pulling.
We tried desperately to make it to the coast before sunset. Due
to our precise schedule, it was our only chance to see the
sun go down on the ocean. Getting really close it became
clear that we drove about 45 minutes past a crucial turn. We
missed the sunset. It was sad, but camping next to the
water was good enough. In the morning we took some
pictures, got breakfast, paid well over three dollars per gallon
for gas, and drove. The route up the coast was windy and
slow, so after about 100 miles, we took it to the highway. The
golden gate bridge was a milestone, but uninteresting. It's
really just a dumb bridge. It seemed so important to see
it though, until the route it put us on ended up being a cruel 3
hour traffic jam.
The Columbia river is beautiful. We saw springs shooting from canyon walls here and there as we followed it from Portland across most of Oregon, though the southeast tip of Washington State and into Idaho. Our camp site was in Lewiston, ID which is across the river from Clarkston, WA. Around 1200 miles of our trip followed the Lewis and Clark trail. The campsites were close to the water, but not close enough to fish next to our tent. We caught some fish, including two species that were new to us, a mountain whitefish, and a blue sucker; no sturgeon though.
The few small fish we caught and the stench of the nearby sewage
treatment plant motivated us to leave a day earlier than
planned. This gave us a time cushion that helped keep our
spirits high for the next few days.
The following day was exciting and full of anticipation. We were due to arrive at Yellowstone and were all set with our fly rods, and all the right flies. On our way in we even got some friendly tips from a local guide. Before we set up camp or wetted any lines, we saw buffaloes, moose, deer and elk. without even trying. From what I understand the moose are more rare and seeing them was lucky. Too bad we weren't so lucky fishing. We didn't catch a single fish. Fly fishing can be really frustrating when it's windy. Back at the camp site there were some really nice people set up next to us that insisted on feeding us, and we all got drunk and laughed it up. The route we took out in the morning went right past Old Faithful. We didn't stay long enough to see the geyser erupt.
Wyoming is probably the most diverse state we crossed. It transitioned from cool Montana mountains to hot wild west desert in less than an hours drive. We made sure to buy substantial amount of fireworks after we ate breakfast in Cody. Once again, we were racing the sun to get to Mount Rushmore before dusk. Unlike the rush to the California coast, we made it in plenty of time. It wasn't much better than the golden gate bridge though... Rushmore is a lot smaller than I had pictured.
Another few hours and we were in Pierre South Dakota at a crappy hotel only minutes from the giant Lake Oahe. Much of the next morning was spent scouting for a good campsite on the water. The shoreline goes on forever, and it's littered with campgrounds. Once we picked a site, we baited up the water, and it wasn't long before fish were splashing all over the place. We caught carp after carp for a few hours. They were all small, but that only meant that we didn't stress too much over fishing.
After we caught our fill we cooked a great meal on the fire and enjoyed a few beers. It was one of the most fun days of the whole trip. I don't really remember exactly how it came up, but we expressed mutual feelings of exhaustion over this whole expedition. We came to agree that the last stop planned on Lake Erie wasn't so necessary and we would rather get home with three full days left to rest before returning to work. It was really funny how we both felt this way but were afraid to say it until we were a little drunk. And even more funny was how relieved we both were after the discussion. The following day we packed up and left for the final drive. We both wanted to get home so badly, that we drove the almost 1600 miles straight through taking turns sleeping. It took just over 24 hours. We arrived in Philly two weeks after we left almost to the minute. It never felt so good to be home. 8200 miles, not bad.