WESTPAK’s founder and Board Chair, Herb Schueneman, departed on his long-awaited bucket list “Epic 4-Corner Journey” on 16-September-2020, with his reliable 1985 Camry, Ebenezer, towing the Herb-designed and built Silly Susan trailer.
During the last seven weeks, the trio has had a safe and wonderful experience; they’ve visited family members and life-long friends all around the country, plus three of the continental US’s four Corners. As of 04-November, and ~90% of the Journey under the tires, Herb’s got Ebenezer hauling the rig west through New Mexico, with a planned stop in Tucson, Arizona. Then on to the adventure’s 4th Corner and a visit to WESTPAK’s test lab in San Diego, California. Herb intends to arrive home on Sunday, 08-November.
The following are excerpts from emails he sent along the way.
16-Sept-2020: On 16-Sept-1920, dear mother was born and that makes today her 100th birthday. Now THERE’s an epic for you! That is the reason that my journey started on this particular day. She taught us lots of stuff and epic journeys into an unknown environment was certainly one of those things. Thanks, Mom!
17-Sept-2020: Today’s drive was almost entirely along the coast of Oregon and it is just beautiful. If you ever get the chance to take a leisurely drive (or even better a motorcycle ride) along this coast, by all means take the opportunity.
19-Sept-2020: It’s true; day #3 is now history and ONE of the FOUR corners of the lower 48 states has been visited! Well, almost visited. After traveling about 1100 miles from home to Neah Bay, WA, the Makah Indian tribe which controls that piece of real estate decided to close the area to all except residents of the tribal community. I don’t really blame them for their decision, but I wish they would have published that piece of news somewhere other than 1 mile before their gate.
Tomorrow we head east toward our second corner – in Maine. It will take another 15 days and about 4,000 miles to get there, but I AM retired, you know…. This evening I had a nice chat with son Steven and tomorrow I will try to hook up with Chuck Tudor who some of you know from his association with WESTPAK and San Jose State University.
20-Sept-2020: Today started at the charming river side home of Chuck and Judy Tudor near Wenatchee, WA. We had a super visit but far too short. Even so, we were able to solve most of the world’s pressing issues before I hit the road early this morning. Great folks and I miss them dearly.
From Wenatchee on the eastern slopes of the Cascade mountains, one must climb about 3,000 feet to the “high desert” that forms the center of the state of Washington, sometimes referred to as the Columbia River Basin. “Welcome to TRUMP COUNTRY” proclaimed one large billboard on the roadside. Route 2 will be our home turf for the next several days or so.
22-Sept-2020: Today started in the small town of Libby in western Montana, about 10 miles west of the Idaho border. The first major stop was Glacier Nat’l Park about 70 miles down the road from Libby. But it didn’t happen. The Ranger at the guard shack informed me that I struck out before the day even started: I was too long – 21 feet is the max they allow (not sure why) – STRIKE 1. The gates on the east side of the park are closed so I couldn’t even drive through as I intended – STRIKE 2. I didn’t have reservations, and Covid-19 requires reservations to save somebody somewhere (not sure who or where or how) – STRIKE 3 and you’re OUT OF THE PARK! Oh well, next time, I guess…
Ebenezer likes the plains much better than the mountains and we made good time on the flatlands.
27-Sept-2020: This morning’s adventure started out in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior’s shore on County Road H 58 heading east toward the Tahquamenon Falls on the Tahquamenon River. At a rest stop along the way, several people wanted to know the background and history of Silly Susan and, as usual, I heard all about their attempts to do something similar and a nice conversation ensued.
Our overnight stop was at the home of Amy and Malechy in Traverse City, Michigan; Amy is my niece and Malechy her hubby. Son Dorran, a high school senior, was there as well and we had a delightful visit. After a restful evening, it was wheels rolling at 8:30AM headed south eventually to Benton Harbor where I grew up.
28-Sept-2020: Today we headed south along the western coast of Michigan’s lower peninsula to Holland where brother-in-law Larry and brother James were waiting. We then drove to a near-by park and hiked out to a bench that Larry had dedicated to his wife and our sister Kathie with a very nice plaque. She and Larry had come to this spot often to enjoy the natural setting and it seemed appropriate to dedicate this spot in her memory.
29-Sept-2020: After a refreshing and enjoyable stay at the estate of oldest brother Richard, I resumed the epic journey early on this Tuesday morning with clean clothes, a cleaned car and camper, some needed repairs and upgrades, and a full thermos of “Uncle Truckers” coffee. It was a chilly morning and Ebenezer wasn’t sure about this whole thing but off we went.
The first stop was the gravesite of dear Mother & Dad about 10 miles south of Richard’s place. The site was bright and brisk and deserted with the morning dew still thick on everything around. It was a peaceful visit but emotionally difficult, it always is. Two of my best friends were there in some form and their presence was quite powerful. It’s something I’m not very good at describing and explaining but to deny the effect of their presence would be more untruthful yet. After a half hour of struggling with this dilemma, I resumed the trek still trying to deal with the reality of their passing.
After another hour of southeasterly travel, I joined younger brother Joseph at his Middlebury, Indiana home. Joe is retired from the motor coach business but still gets called back to deal with special circumstances or issues where his expertise or certifications are helpful. He is raising his 8-yr-old granddaughter and has begun the process for legal guardianship. His commitment to her is indeed inspiring. Back on the road…
02-Oct-2020: This update comes to you from New York on the banks of Lake Ontario. I can now claim to have viewed all five of the Great Lakes which is something that was on my bucket list. Standing on the shore of any of the lakes, they all look very similar; large bodies of water that stretched to the horizon and are the color of the reflected sky. Taken together, they are extremely impressive without a doubt.
My time on the road has taught me, among other things, that the world around us may be a beautiful place but the people in it are the most important gifts that we have.
03-Oct-2020: Happy Saturday to all from the hillsides of northern New Hampshire. After a 260-mile day, we were able to find an out-of-the-way campsite with no facilities and $35 cash only, but I was happy to take it. The day started at Stowe Bay camp on the shore of Stowe Bay lake, about 20 miles south of Potsdam, New York. The city is somewhat famous for the SUNY campus located here. If memory serves, this was a hotspot of protesting during the Vietnam era. The political signage in this area is about equally split between Republican and Democratic candidates, as near as I can tell.
Approaching the Vermont border, we passed close to Plattsburgh, New York where I attended Air Force ROTC boot camp in 1968. That was 52 years ago! I had no desire to go back and see where that event had occurred. Tomorrow, Sunday, it’s into the state of Maine where we will get close to the extreme northeast corner of the United States. The current temperature here is in the low 40s with light rain falling. Indeed, autumn has come to the New England states.
05-Oct-2020: Today was significant because we reach the halfway mark of the journey, the second of four extreme corners of the lower 48 states. We started in Millinocket, Maine at a camp chosen because it was private and would accept people from out of state. It turns out that they are indeed private but located on public lands and therefore subject to the two-week minimum requirement imposed by governor Mills several weeks ago.
We came across the start of route 1 at the Canadian border and it goes continuously south to Key West Florida, a distance of about 2,800 miles. From there it was on to Madawaska, which is right on the Canadian border, about 30 miles south of Montréal. This is where the Four Corner Park is located and that was my destination for the day. It’s a very neat spot that was all privately funded and built. There are dozens of stone plaques in the walkway dedicated to people who have conducted four corner journeys, many of them on motorcycles. I stayed there for almost an hour because it was such a special spot for me as it designates the halfway point of my journey, 6,500 miles from my California home.
08-Oct-2020: Today started out innocent enough at a nice place called the Tidewater Campground, Hampton, New Hampshire. Its most notable features were very large red oak trees have a nasty habit of dropping large acorns at supersonic velocities on Silly Susan all night long. Upon impact, they sounded like M-80s going off 3 feet above your head. Several of them hit the trailer skylight showering the inside, and me, with water that had condensed on the inside. Interesting evening. Traveling on I 84 west of Boston was enjoyable with more good fall colors and no left-turners in front of us cutting us off. The truckers on this interstate were aggressive but nothing we couldn’t handle.
Because we are getting close enough to New York City, I made the decision to try and meet up with my daughter Nancy and her husband Mike this evening rather than waiting until tomorrow. Nancy agreed and we made the trip down the New Jersey border and into Jersey City where we had agreed to meet in the parking lot of DG-3, a printing firm that Nancy used to work for. After arriving at the designated meeting location, Nancy pulled in about 30 seconds later. After unloading few things and securing Ebenezer and Silly Susan, we headed for her place in Manhattan and a great reunion with Mike and their two sons, Dylan, and Harrison. All smiles from there on.
09-Oct-2020: WOW!! A day with ZERO MILES on the road!! We spent the entire day playing PAPA in NYC!! And it was delightful! After a morning delivering the two boys to their designated activities, we returned to “the Pad” where I took a mid-day shower that was sinfully delightful. The afternoon was spent at the soccer field doing what parents and grandparents do at a soccer park.
We then wandered north to a new park on the Hudson river that overlooks Mike & Nancy’s place and the weather cooperated completely. It was very pleasant, and we enjoyed meeting friends and making new ones. Tomorrow promises to be more of the same and I am quickly getting to enjoy this “no drive” time of the Epic Adventure.
12-Oct-2020: The last three days were scheduled as “down days” meaning that they would be dedicated to rest and visiting rather than driving and discovery. That’s exactly what happened, and I couldn’t be happier about it. While visiting with Nancy’s family, we took a leisurely tour of Central Park before the predicted rain; even let their two dogs run free to try and catch squirrels (never even came close).
On Monday, we toured The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET), focusing on their outstanding display of Egyptian artifacts including some amazing statuary, burial tombs and methods, carvings of every description, and especially the wonderful jewelry. To my amazement and their parents’ delight, the boys were tolerant and well-behaved for the most part. The Covid-19 distractions were handled well by The MET with the possible exception of their food service mess, but we got through everything we wanted to see and were happy with the overall experience.
Tomorrow is back on the road and more miles toward our goal of about 12,500 miles of which about 7,500 have passed under our tires. My sincere appreciation to Nancy and her wonderful family for their amazing hospitality during my visit. They welcomed me into their family routine; I was thrilled to be a small part thereof for a far too short time.
13-Oct-2020: This is the first day back on the road after a delightful four day stay with daughter Nancy and her family. After some minor adjustments to Ebenezer, we hit the road about 10 o’clock and headed south. Although I normally like to avoid toll roads, I use them extensively because of the complexity of the traffic in this area. Our destination was Cape May, at the south end of the New Jersey Peninsula, in order to catch a ferry across the Chesapeake Bay at 2 PM.
The ferry ride across the Chesapeake was delightful. There were about 60 to 80 cars or other vehicles and about 200 people on this particular ride. It takes about two hours but seems to go by very quickly. Once into Delaware, we decided to stay on the coast and drive down the barrier islands that seem to be the summer playgrounds for a lot of the folks around here.
The political signs also reappeared, and Trump was a clear winner in this area. A short time later, we passed Lake Somerset Camp and pulled in to spend a delightful evening.
15-Oct-2020: Today we are headed to Clemson, South Carolina and a reunion with Pat Marcondes, a dear friend from San Jose, California. Pat is an instructor in the packaging program at Clemson University and a former employee of WESTPAK, Inc.
17-Oct-2020: After a night at a Red Roof Inn in Spartanburg with a REAL shower, we headed for the home of Pat and her hubby David.
The world lost one of its truly amazing individuals when Pat’s previous spouse, Jorge Marcondes, my mentor and dear friend at San Jose State University, passed away in 2003 after a long battle with a brain tumor.
Pat and David are both instructors at Clemson and are two of the reasons that Clemson State University is such a wonderful place for an advanced education. They have an amazing home they designed themselves focused on sustainable and recycled material usage, guest accommodations, ADA friendliness, minimal energy usage, and marvelous warmth throughout. They welcomed me warmly and we had a marvelous visit, one of those that are hard to express with mere words. Together with some of their amazing friends, we solved all the worlds pressing issues and still had time for the last half of the Clemson football game. Greg Batt, another good friend, and Clemson Packaging instructor, joined us briefly; it was delightful to spend some time with him too.
After fixing a flat tire on Ebenezer, we were back on the road early Saturday afternoon headed for Savanna, Georgia, about 200 miles east.
19-Oct-2020: I just spent some wonderful time with brother Bill Schueneman and his wife Pam on St. Simons Island, Georgia, which was nothing short of marvelous; a “real” bed, a shower, great meals, wonderful conversation…. It’s what the world should be made of. Sunday was church and then a visit to the viewing area of a large auto-carrying ship that turned over and drifted in their bay and is in the process of being taken apart and removed. Not sure what caused such a situation but clearly the captain of said vessel had a bad day. Shall I say a Classic Bad Day….
20-Oct-2020 The day started at St. Simons Island Georgia with a welcomed cleaning of my road machines; Ebenezer (’85 Toyota Camry) and Silly Susan (camping trailer). This was followed by a WESTPAK Board of Directors meeting comfortably attended from the back porch via Ring Central and all worked well! Amazing, really. We then hit the road after three totally delightful days at the home of Pam and Bill.
21-Oct-2020 After a nice breakfast, we cleaned up the camp and hit the road headed for West Palm Beach and the home of Curtis and Carrie and their daughters Serena and Mia. Carrie is my brother Tom’s daughter and a delight to be around.
22-Oct-2020: After a very diligent amount of traveling, we finally arrived at Key West and the third corner of our four-corner trip. There was a cute little beach there called Southernmost Beach where I was tempted to take a swim, but I was deterred by the presence of three very large people wearing disgusting bathing suits.
Visiting the end of Route 1 was significant because we had visited the beginning of RT 1 two weeks and 2,448 miles earlier in Maine. We then headed back up Rt 1 to find a suitable camping site which we did at Sunshine Key. This was a large parking lot covered with stones the entirety of which was less than 1 foot above sea level. They charged the ridiculous sum of $126 for an overnight stay but I paid it gladly and quickly went to bed.
24-Oct-2020: The rest of the day was spent mostly in rain driving north and west trying to escape Florida which we finally did late in the day. It’s obvious that Florida is really four or five different states with people and topography varying all over the map. It would be an interesting place to study when time and resources allowed. We finally found a place just over the border into Louisiana. It was raining heavily, there was no one in the office, and it was dark. We found a place after driving around for some time and took it out of desperation. Sleep followed but not much of it.
25-Oct-2020: The rain finally stopped sometime in the night and I started to break camp early, about 6:30 AM or so. For the first time in his history, Ebenezer wouldn’t start. The smell of gas indicated that flooding in the engine had occurred but that is almost unheard of with a fuel injected engine. When it finally did start, it ran poorly and eventually died after the check engine light came on. This is not good. Not good at all. Two hours and lots of prayers later, we finally did get underway but with lots of apprehension as you can imagine.
Occasional Trump signs were the only political message, almost like it was a foregone conclusion of who you should vote for. The center of Mississippi was full of gun clubs, Confederate flags, and similar.
26-Oct-2020: Ebenezer, Silly Susan and I set out for a well-deserved motel room for the night and arrived about noon in Fort Worth at the home of Gaylene, a friend that I had met in New York City last Thanksgiving when Mike and Nancy invited me out for dinner. Gaylene had been attending to her poor doggie, Gracie by name, who’d suffered a terrible seizure.
28-Oct-2020: Still hanging out at Gaylene’s place and enjoying time off the road. We visited Ron and Nancy Schueneman who lived nearby in Hurst, Texas. What a delightful visit we had! Ron and I hadn’t seen one another for at least 10 years and he is a spitting image of his father, uncle Art. Nancy is her same delightful self and an absolute pleasure to chat with. She had prepared an early dinner for us and it was delicious. I left them a copy of Bill’s latest book, “When Harry Met Leona”, and they were delighted.
30-Oct-2020: We traveled to the farm home of Gaylene and Cynthia’s (she is an associate and close friend of son-in-law Michael) father Lonnie, who was celebrating his 91st birthday. He lives about 85 miles south of Ft. Worth; we had a marvelous visit that even included a haircut offered by Cynthia and gladly accepted by her husband, Mark, by her father, Lonnie, and by ME!!! First “official” hair trim for me in about 11 months. I felt gratefully lightheaded afterwards!! Another of life’s little pleasures, I guess.
02-Nov-2020: Ebenezer, Silly Susan, and I are on the road again headed to Snyder Texas, about 250 miles west of Ft. Worth. Found an RV park with a vacant spot for the night. West Texas is FULL of cotton with large ranches and even bigger machinery to support it. Also present is loads of pecans, peanuts, corn, and even herds of longhorn cattle. The land turns to desert and is used by incredibly large solar farms, wind farms, and the ever-present oil wells. The only vegetation capable of this environment are scrub mesquite and similar lonely bushes. Yes, this IS Texas after all.
03-Nov-2020: Next stop is in Tucson, Arizona, and the home of brother Jim and his wife Elaine, hopefully tomorrow afternoon, God willing. I hope to be back home by Sunday.