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April 6, 2010

Only five weeks remain of this nine month odyssey, and I’m starting to tally up the results. This trip was conceived last year because Logan’s reading speed, self-esteem, and interest in school were all trending badly. Today, his reading fluency has clearly improved (as much as if we’d stayed home? Maybe.) His self-esteem is at an all-time high (he’s 50skatekid! As seen on Fuel TV!). He still doesn’t thrill to adding fractions or writing book reports — what kid does? — but he now manages these obstacles, instead of dodging them. On these counts, this journey has fulfilled our hopes.

At the start of our journey, Logan dreamed of getting sponsored and becoming a pro skateboarder. That hasn’t happened. But along the way, he’s added a few new tricks to his repertoire, picked up some free gear from generous skate shop owners, and even collected some in-kind sponsorship (thanks DC, One, and Filtrate!). More importantly, he’s seen behind the curtain of the skateboarding world, through exposure to the industry’s distribution, manufacturing, trade shows, and talent. This baptism into the skating world comes with a mixed blessing: realism. He’s learned that most “pro” skaters don’t earn a living wage. Undaunted, Logan still chases that goal, while hedging his bets with inquiries into other careers and plans for college.

People are usually too polite to ask about the money, so I’ll just ‘fess up. The T-shirt sales never really got off the ground. Our focus on education — and resultant neglect of the e-commerce initiative — caused a lopsided balance sheet, mainly propped up by one plastic card. On the other hand, we had never heard of couchsurfing.org when we set off, but it saved our lodging budget, among other benefits. All said, we’ve spent an average of $30 per day. A big nut over nine months, but still the best money I’ll ever spend, and an investment that will reap dividends throughout Logan’s life.

And mine. Anyone who has done extended camping, bike touring, or overseas backpacking has had the eventual epiphany: “This bag contains all the ‘stuff’ I really need.” After reaching that ascetic realization, the personality slides next into the crucible; fluff vaporizes and substance remains. I now realize what a fool I’ve been. I wish this were some cliché epiphany, suitable for a pop-song, but my revelation is disappointingly unromantic. Meeting people all across the country, at all levels on the IQ ladder, caused me to reevaluate my own ranking. I realize I have been overstating my mental powers, fooling even myself.

I think that the 32 weeks of our quest, to date, has refined us both, calibrated us more accurately with the truth. Logan has learned the devilish details of a ‘pro skater’ career goal. I’ve seen through the “stuff” filling our basement. Before this trip, Logan lowballed his own intellect and I oversold mine. We head toward the home stretch, changed men.

Also posted on the blog Band of Fathers

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