Wethersfield Life Article

by
Neighbors

“An American Dream” lived on the road

Glenn Maynard’s new memoir recounts the funny and not-so-funny things that happened on a yearlong cross-country journey

by Doug Maine

 

Glenn Maynard’s newly published memoir, “Strapped into the American Dream,” recounts the yearlong, 35,000-mile trek he and his wife took as newlyweds across the continent in a rebuilt 14-year-old recreational vehicle.

“We paid off all our bills… We took the wedding money, quit our jobs and sold our cars,” Mr. Maynard said. “Everyone we told about it always wanted to do that; it’s an American dream and that’s what it was, our American dream.”

It was 1992 and they paid $5,800 for a 1978 Dodge Rockwood RV with a new engine (which they sold after the trip for $4,300). They hit the road a week after their wedding, on May 3, departing from his parents’ home in Glastonbury, and returned on their first anniversary, April 24, 1993.

Mr. Maynard, who has a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Connecticut, a communications degree and a nine-year-old son named Andrew, described his book as “a memoir of people we met, places we stopped, funny things that happened, not so funny things.”

Except for two trips on airplanes, he hadn’t been outside the Northeast. Growing up in Glastonbury, “because I was the youngest of six kids, we packed up and went to Misquamicut every summer – no need to go anyplace else,” Mr. Maynard said.

It was while he and his then-girlfriend Tracy were in Florida one winter, sitting in her cousin’s whirlpool in 70-degree weather, that they decided that there had to be a better way. They brainstormed and eventually came up with the idea for the great American road trip.

As they traveled, Mr. Maynard wrote about their experiences for two newspapers, the Glastonbury Citizen, in his hometown, and the Bristol Press, where his wife had lived and he had moved in for a time. From the beginning, he planned to write a book about the journey. “I filled out 10 legal pads while I was on the trip. That’s what’s in (the book), the best of,” he said. He did most of his writing in the morning, “because we never knew where we were spending the night.”

Living the dream, on a budget

 

Every mile was new. “It was just a dream to hit the state line signs,” he said. His wife took a picture of him as the fifth head on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

“People in North Dakota, everybody waves to you; Texas, too,” he said.

Along the way, they met gypsies in Sedona, Ariz., and people who had spotted Bigfoot in the hills of Idaho, and survived tornadoes in Florida and an earthquake in Colorado.

A total of 50 tornadoes struck one night in Florida while they were staying in his wife’s cousin’s mobile home. They hunkered down inside, watching the roof move.

“We found people very friendly to us because of what we were doing, people helping us out if we needed help,” Mr. Maynard said. “A guy on Mackinac Island (in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) was so excited about what we were doing he gave us free passes on the jet ferry.”

In Jackson Hole, Wyo., they couldn’t find a place to stay. There was a sign along the side of the road warning that overnight camping was prohibited. “We said, ‘let’s just see,’” he said.

They awoke the next morning to find themselves close to a shear drop, above a narrow valley across from another shear rock wall. Never bothered by local authorities, they stayed a second night before traveling on.

Another night they parked by the Yellowstone River and fell asleep to the sound of the river rushing by.

They did these things to save money and because they had the sense that they would never be able to do it again once they returned home and to their regular work lives.

Highlights included seeing the ruins of Native American cave dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, which were “like little apartment buildings in stone.”

Also in Colorado, they spent half a day climbing to the top of a sand dune. “You’d climb just five steps and you’d be totally winded,” he said. Once they reached the top, they heard the sounds of an approaching thunderstorm. “It took us like five minutes to get to the bottom, like slide steps all the way down.”

The place that impressed them the most was Bryce Canyon National Park in Southern Utah. “That was just the greatest, followed by Zion (National Park) … just massive rock formations, different colors of redstone and sandstone, big mushroom-shaped rocks,” Mr. Maynard said.

“Montana’s Glacier National Park was another notable one. You just drive up into the snow no matter what time (of year) it is and you get dizzy just looking down,” he said.

“We did 23 national parks. That was the main thing, hitting all the national parks,” he said. “In Wyoming, we went through towns with, like, six people. I mean cities like Casper are really low-key.”

Plans and the unplanned

 

“We had a map of the US, so we would tackle the northern states in spring and summer and the southern states in fall and winter,” Mr. Maynard said. “We thought we’d be warm the whole year, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Over the course of a year, they drove 35,000 miles and visited each of the 48 contiguous states. Gas was a major expense, given that the RV got just eight miles to the gallon.

“We had our first breakdown three days into the trip. We went to Rhode Island and it stalled three times in the middle of the road and we had to have it towed to a service center,” he said.

The RV also had thermostat and radiator problems high in the mountains out west. “A lot of nice people tried to help us out,” he said.

“We would research the states to see where we wanted to go and see if there were any free campgrounds … A lot of times it didn’t work out,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but it was an adventure.”

Despite the hardships and running out of money at times, they never thought about quitting.

In Las Vegas, they stayed in the parking lot of the Excalibur Hotel. “It was a huge lot; they had shuttle service to places… As long as you’re in their casino dropping your money, which we weren’t, they’re happy and you can stay as long as you want,”

They had to leave when they discovered their holding tanks were empty, which became apparent when they turned on their shower and got only a drip, drip. From then on they boiled fresh water or used tap water wherever it was available. Washing their hair meant sticking their heads in a sink or bucket and then shampooing.

When they came upon a campground with showers, “that was like the best hotel around,” Mr. Maynard said.

They stopped in Arizona for two months and got jobs because they needed the money. “We got down to a couple of hundred dollars when we were in Arizona and there was flooding and it kept raining, if you can believe, in Phoenix,” he said.

They jumped to accept job offers from a law firm, but then learned they would have to wear a suit or other proper business attire, which they had not brought along and could not afford to buy.

As a result, they ended up taking $5-an-hour jobs on a production line, bottling and capping lotions.

“We were damn glad to have that job,” he said, but after about three weeks they decided to quit and flew through a number of states, making it to New Orleans just in time for Mardi Gras.

“We knew people, a friend of a friend who let us stay in their driveway for a day or two, and they took us into the city for our first parade and from there we branched out,” staying in the Big Easy for a week, often using the bicycles they had brought along.

After the trip

 

The wild beauty of the West got Mr. Maynard and his wife wondering whether they could live in such a beautiful place and get work. They ended up moving to the Denver, Colo., area, where the economy was booming at the time.

“I was working in restaurants and I was working nights so I would write during the day,” he said. He finished the book about the trip and a fictional book.

“When I first finished, it was a honeymoon/travel book,” and was close to being published in Colorado, he said.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon proved short-lived and the book had to be changed when he and his wife divorced.

“We did our travels, we came back, six months in Colorado, then the wheels came off the marriage,” he said. “But it had nothing to do with the close quarters for the year. It was a great trip.”

After four years in Denver, he returned home to Connecticut, having missed the beaches, fall colors and his family.

He spent a year rewriting the book and then blasted out letters to agents. None expressed interest and another year went by.

Finally, one agent said he couldn’t help but did know of a small publisher that might be interested. The book came out earlier this year, published by Strategic Book Publishing.

“So, when I finally held it in my hands… To actually see those words inside a hard cover was unbelievable,” Mr. Maynard said.

While the publisher was working to get the book mentioned on social media sites, “my job is to jump in and keep it going. I’m learning on the fly,” he said.

He dedicated his book to the Oprah Winfrey Book of the Month Club. “I figured I’d get it in there. You never know; what the hell? The worst that can happen is she doesn’t see it,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s living on Middletown Avenue and working as a business analyst for United Healthcare. He still has the fictional book he wrote in Colorado, but needs to give it a good going over. “I’ve just got to make sure everything is fine-tuned before I get it out there,” he said.

WLGlenn Maynard is the author of “Strapped into an American Dream,” the story of his yearlong trek in a rebuilt RV.

 

As seen in

LIFE

Wethersfield

Aug. 09

 

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