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$4,318 pledged of $3,100 goal
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All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

By Bethany Herron
$4,318 pledged of $3,100 goal
backers

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

About this project

UPDATE 5/18: Fully funded! THANK YOU!! Check out the updates for stretch goals and new rewards (Last Scion novena candles)!

UPDATE 5/15:
Every backer at the $25 level or up now has a chance to win a handcrafted, unique, one-of-a-kind Buddy Christ shrine! Check out the updates for details!
___________________________________

Twelve years ago today, I was sitting in a field in North Dakota, locked out of my car after getting too excited to see a recreation of Copenhagen's little mermaid statue in a small town park. A retired private investigator named Daniel wandered by, and proceeded to spend the next two hours rounding up local farmers' kids with arms small enough to reach through my back window to unlock the door, while telling me all about the history of the town, the statue, and the statue's creator. 

We bonded, hard. We talked about my trip, and what it meant to be American, while staring at a tiny sad mermaid in the middle of wheat country.  

my pickup Tach, in a North Dakota field
my pickup Tach, in a North Dakota field

As shocking as this may be to hear, the 2016 election process was difficult for some. What shook me more than the endless news cycles and strange outcomes was the realization of how sharply divided Americans have become, in so many ways, and how the city/country division feels wider than ever. I'm city, but with my rancher ancestry, I've always felt at home in both settings. 

Today, I’m sitting on my keister on a saggy couch in my micro-unit studio apartment in the Bay Area. Despite being surrounded by a teeming metropolis rich in art and career options, I am very much alone. I had cold tomatoes for dinner last night. As for sex... let's not even go there. (Not now, anyway. Buy the book. Or fund the podcasts, where I will probably talk far too frankly about California's drought years...)

I need to break out of isolation, and find a reminder of what's best about America, what unites us all. But a dozen years later, as the gap continues to grow, can I still make those connections? Are we really still one country, united under roadside weirdness, with liberty and justice for all? I want to investigate the sources of our division, and have the hot-button conversations that you usually try to avoid at Thanksgiving - politics, globalization, entitlements, privilege, maybe even a little religion - and share what I find with you.

With your help, I’ll spend four weeks retracing my route from twelve years ago, visiting truck stops, roadside attractions, and little spots of weirdness in search of human connection, American unity, and hope. 

Stripes and mr. peanuts
Stripes and mr. peanuts

I'll even add a bit to the roadside scene myself... Last time on the road, in the throes of my Kevin Smith fangirl-fever, I bought a case of Buddy Christs, from Dogma, at Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash with the intention of creating roadside shrines.

The second Buddy Christ Shrine, in Albany, CA
The second Buddy Christ Shrine, in Albany, CA

During this trip, I'll be scattering them in my wake, creating my own little roadside meccas, honoring the great American visionaries who came before me and sharing my own religion the way that feels the most genuine to me... That is, with a fair bit of slightly-sacrilegious humor and a lot of kitsch.

I'll be interviewing visionary artists, the creators of roadside attractions, and their neighbors, talking politics, divisions, and how the last ten years has treated them. I'll blog & create podcasts all along the way so that you can share in the experience. (You can see a few examples of my past travel blogging here and here.) In August, it'll all be pulled together into a book, which will then be pitched to publishing houses and agents (but which will find its way into backers' hands no matter what, thanks to my self-publishing experience). 

We are, in fact, a united country. I deeply believe that, but it's easy to forget in this political climate. I'd like a reminder, and I'd like to share it with all of you.

Trip Details:
June 2 - June 11: San Francisco to Portland
June 12 - June 30: Oregon to Maine, northern route
July 1 - 4: mini-break with the sisters in PEI
July 5 - July 17: Maine to NYC
July 18 - August 5: NYC to San Francisco, southern route

From August - December, I'll be editing and polishing, with a goal of getting printed backer rewards out by January, 2018 (though it may be closer to June, 2018 or slightly later, if a pitch is picked up by a publishing house).

Where the $3,100 will go:
$1,500 - Gas
$1,000 - Lodging (Clown Motel, haunted B&Bs and the like)
$300 - Entrance fees (Idaho Potato Museum, Weeki Wachee & the like)
$300 - Backer rewards (New Salem Sue postcards, shrine "gems" & the like)

BUT... STRETCH GOALS! The above is really only half my budget. I'm pretty committed to doing this trip, so I'm planning to rack up some debt if I have to. So if we're already past that $3,100, don't let it stop you from donating! I still need your help!  

Full Budget: $6,700
$2,100 - Gas
$2,000 - Lodging
$1,800 - dog care
$300 - Hostess gifts
$300 - Backer rewards
$200 - Reward printing & shipping

Anything above and beyond the $6,700 will allow me to:

- Avoid sleeping in my car most nights
- Thank you even better, by improving the level of supplies for backer rewards (Noro, instead of Red Heart)
- Add-on dog care (my sweet 13-year old puppy gets very, very sick in the car - like, uncontrollable muscle spasms - so the precious flower must stay home) 
- Upgrade my podcasting equipment
- Add video equipment
- Additional Buddy Christ shrines: right now I am planning on three, but I could make up to a dozen, with some primo glam if funding goes wild.

Thank you, for supporting this project, AND AMERICA. United, we stand by the side of the road, snapping pictures.

 _____  

Many thanks to Emily Bonn for allowing me to use "Hit The Road Tonight" from the Whoreshoes album, Get Lucky, in the video! You can find her playing in the Vivants now.

Risks and challenges

I've already minimized most of the risks that would keep me from getting on the road: my amazing job is giving me a two month leave of absence. I have friends staying in my apartment, so I'll have no distractions.

All that's left are the risks of the road. Worst case scenario, a crash or the like stops me from completing the route. But if my first 100,000 miles spent sleeping in my truck (without a single accident or incident) taught me anything, it's that the risks of solo road tripping are highly overrated. I'm a safe and cautious driver; I'll make it back to SF.

As for the writing portion, I've got that in the bag. Eight years of grant writing jobs prove that I can deliver on a deadline. I got this.

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    Lucy the Margate Elephant

    Thank you! I'll send you a postcard from a random roadside spot, with my appreciation and quick update on where I am and what I'm doing. Plus maybe a shout out on the blog, because technology and real-time updates are a thing.

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    Prada Marfa

    An e-book of the collected stories from the road trip, plus all the rewards on the road up to here.

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    Salvation Mountain

    Your very own, physical, professionally printed, signed, coffee-ring stained copy of the collected stories, plus all the rewards on the road up to here.

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    Hostel in the Trees

    And YOU were there too!! At this level, if you send me a hi-res photo of your face, I'll pop your head on a popsicle stick and take you to a roadside site of your choice. You'll never get another photo op like this!

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    New Vrindaban

    Send me somewhere! Have a favorite spot? Big or small; Mount Rushmore, or the big Muskie Bucket in Ohio? Send me there! I'll blog about the visit, and take a photo of popsicle-stick you, if you like. Or send me to photobomb your sister-in-law, or bring a rainbow flag to your highschool roommate; anyone within 50 miles of my route is fair game.

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    Love Valley

    My love and thanks, made physical. I'll knit you a little something-something, and send it along with the book. Limited to only 6 lucky people, 'cause I'm a slower knitter than my sister... plus, all the rewards on the road up to here.

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    • Hand knit item (scarf, gloves, hat or similar)
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    Rte 50, the Loneliest Highway

    Come with me!! At this level, you can send me somewhere - and you can come with! We'll take a little road trip, and have a little adventure. (Let's quantify little as anything within a 120 mile radius.)

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    Rte 66, the Mother Road

    Can't come with me for real? Come virtually, and tell your friends you did anyway! Send me a proxy - a friend, or a popsicle stick with your face on it - and we'll skype you in (if wifi/cell towers allow). And you may not know this, but I am a photoshop queen; I'll add you in after the fact and send you a nice commemorative photo.

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    House on the Rock

    FOR BAY AREA BACKERS ONLY.

    Upon my return, we shall celebrate you. I'll host a party - themed to the roadside attraction of your choice - for you and ten of your friends. The food shall be scrumptious, the libations flowing, the trip slideshow immaculate. At the end of the evening, you shall be presented with a one-of-a-kind knick knack from your chosen site, a mystery souvenir like no other.

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    Buddy... This one's for you.

    A Buddy Christ Shrine of your very own. Create a roadside attraction in your own front yard, with this beautiful (kitschy) objet d'art. Delivered to you wherever you might be in the USA.

    Includes:
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