12 Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

6 Hitting My Stride and Taking Control

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Memories of rednecks, four-wheeling, shooting guns, and grilling corn ran through my mind as I crossed the border into Indiana. It had been only two years since I last visited the state, and I was eager to experience it all again. One thing had obviously changed: The town of Milan, where the movie Hoosiers was filmed, had become a metropolis — at least in my eyes. When I last visited the Tush family in Milan, located in southern Indiana, I couldn’t fathom living in such a rural hamlet. But after staying in even smaller places in Wyoming, Montana, and Oklahoma, Milan didn’t seem so tiny after all.

I was in Milan to visit Amy Tush, the former track coach at Northwestern University in Chicago, and spend the weekend with her family. I had been Amy’s assistant coach a few years earlier, and we had become close friends. Her family knew I was excited by my return to Indiana, and remembered how much I enjoyed four-wheeling the last time I visited, so they prepared another weekend of wheels for me. As we drove together to their friends’ backyard ATV course, I was once again struck by the endless parade of pro-life billboards and American flags. Along the way, we saw children fighting over whose turn it was to play with a wheelchair, an odd but telling reminder that cars, motors, and wheels seem ingrained in the culture of Indiana. When we arrived at the enormous farmhouse where the Tushes’ friends live, they strolled right over to offer us cold beers. “How ya been, Danny?” Marvin asked. “We’ve been following you on the news.” “Doing great! Looking forward to riding again,” I replied. Though he was a grown man and father, when it came to motors, Marvin was as excited as a kid.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

5 Halfway Point Is Getting Rough

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It was 9:30 p.m. when I pulled over to take a picture of the “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign. After 980 miles, the two-day drive had pushed my body to the limit. It was mid-February, and I had driven away from Mississippi’s sixty-degree warmth into Wisconsin’s six-degree cold. Having spent a month in the South, I wasn’t prepared to face the wintry chill of the Upper Midwest — specifically, in the small rural town of Theresa, about an hour northwest of Milwaukee.

The owner of Widmer Cheese Cellars, where I had arranged to work in Theresa, had reserved a room for me at a local motel. Wisconsin is considered the nation’s dairy state, and as such, produces over 2.6 billion pounds of cheese per year. Mr. Widmer, the owner of Widmer Cheese Cellars, had hired me after seeing a message from me on his desk, asking for work. The day before he got my note, his son had seen me on The Today Show and mentioned that I wanted to work at a cheese factory in Wisconsin. Mr. Widmer had offered me a place to stay, but his daughter contracted the stomach flu, a virus I wanted to stay far away from. That night, I walked through the motel lobby with my usual luggage: computer, camera, and toothbrush. “I’m here checking in; last name is Seddiqui,” I told the concierge.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

9 Adapting to New and Different Cultures

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Am I in Amish Country yet? I wondered as I drove through the rolling hills of Lancaster County. I couldn’t be; there was a gas station back there. On the pavement of the two-lane highway, there were white circles every twenty meters; I later learned that these are there to warn cars to keep a two-circle distance from one another to prevent tailgating. As I drove around a turn, I spotted a horse and buggy trotting along on the shoulder of the highway. No way; this is so unreal, I thought to myself. But there they were, a little girl and her father riding in their own lane next to the heavy car traffic. If not for the large reflector on the back of the black boxy buggy, I might have overlooked it as it was obscured in the shade of the trees. So the reflectors are important modern additions. I drove slowly and carefully as I approached from behind. I could hear the horses’ hooves pounding the pavement and was eager to catch my first glimpse of the Amish.

When I finally arrived, I searched for a place to eat and found a “Pennsylvania Dutch” restaurant. I didn’t recognize any dish on the menu. I ended up eating chicken croquettes, Amish breaded chicken. It was so good, I wanted every other dish I’d never heard of. From the window of the booth I sat in, I saw a line of horses and buggies following one another to a park across the street. I decided to walk over and see what the occasion was.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

8 New Curves and Bumps in the Road

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Driving up the coast of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, the region between the hilly Piedmont and the Atlantic Ocean, I could barely tolerate the humidity. I was sweaty and sticky, and at times, the sun was so bright, I felt like I was getting a tan inside the car. But sunshine alternated with dangerous thunderstorms, as the radio kept warning me, and several times I had to pull over to the side of the road to brace myself for the high winds and pouring rain. Thanks to Mother Nature, it wasn’t necessary to pay for a car wash.

I had planned on making a brief stop in Savannah, Georgia, but the city is too beautiful for a passing glance. The neighborhoods are shaded by ancient weeping willows, and everywhere you look, there are outdoor cafes, courtyards with fountains, and well-kept parks and public squares. The residential streets are lined with elegant southern mansions I’d only imagined before arriving in Savannah. So I decided to spend the night and even contemplated staying the weekend. But I knew I had to keep moving to get to South Carolina to start my next job. South Carolina’s welcome sign greeted me as I crossed the border: “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places.” Perfect. It was beautiful, and feeling lighthearted, I was smiling from ear to ear as I drove through the marshlands and waterways, watching egrets flying above. I drove toward the coast to reach Kiawah Island Resort, where I was scheduled to work. South Carolina is known for its tourism and resorts, so I had arranged to work at one of the state’s — and the country’s — most prestigious golf courses.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

10 Hitting Curveballs

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You’ve gotta come to Newport by Sunday morning,” Tim urged. It was Saturday night, and I was standing in Times Square on my second date with Tara. I wanted to stay through the weekend and spend more time with her. There seemed to be some potential, and I found myself wondering if she would become my girlfriend.

“Looks like I have to go,” I told her. “But I’ll come back.”

Tim Walsh, Ambassador of Tourism for the city of Newport, had e-mailed me months earlier about working in the tourist industry at the Visitors Bureau. He didn’t specify the exact job I’d be doing, but it didn’t matter — after reading his e-mail, I was convinced he was offering me a job in the right industry for the state of Rhode Island. Tim had contacted me while I was still trying to figure out what kind of work best characterized the Ocean State. My research and the advice I’d solicited from local residents had not been sufficient, and Tim proved to be persuasive.

“Great interview on NPR. You should work for us when you come through Rhode Island. Which month will you be here?” Tim wrote. He even offered to arrange for me to stay with a local family for the week. I’d never before relied on a stranger’s input to help me choose a job, but Tim sold me on his proposal, to work during the “Blackships Festival” in July, when, he pointed out, Newport is “the sailing capital of the world.”

See All Chapters

See All Chapters