Life on the road with Rob Czar from ThreadBanger.
Crafters will know Rob Czar best as a presenter on ThreadBanger but you might not realise quite how well travelled he is. Midway through our American road-trip, we read that Rob had reached his 48th state and knew he'd be the perfect person to hit up for some travelling tips.
Has it always been a goal of yours to travel all of the United States?
It has been for a really long time. The moment I started seeing the diversity of the country and all the really cool little nooks and crannies spread throughout, I became determined to see as many as possible.
Tell us about your first trip and at what point did you have the goal in mind to visit them all?
Let's start off with a couple of fun facts.
1. My Parents hated airplanes and refused to fly anywhere. Ever.
2. I grew up in Miami with oceans on either side of me and an eight hour trip north just to get out of the state. With that said, we took the occasional trip out of state to visit family, but not much more than that.
So, when I graduated high school, I left for that old Hollywood Dream and headed to LA. It was there I got a job traveling for a gameshow called "Street Smarts" and had my first real experience with the continental US. We traveled for 3 months at a time shooting primarily in high travel locations like NY, LA, Las Vegas and Miami, but it was really our trip to Chicago during the second week of September 2001 that changed it all.
I was staying in downtown Chicago at a hotel across the street from the Sears Tower and awoke to the news of September 11th. Our hotel was immediately evacuated due to our location and our trip to Chicago cut short. Stranded with no flights available for a week, a couple of us decided to rent a car and drive across the country back to LA. It was the first time I saw middle America and those states you don't hear too much about. The ride was slow and allowed me to really appreciate the sprawl. It was then I really decided that this country needed to be explored a little more.
"You can have an adventure anywhere really if you just put your mind to it."
Did you do research before you left or did you just see where you ended up?
My explorations have been somewhat accidental and strangely unplanned so I've never done much research. Just ended up in random places, honestly. You can have an adventure anywhere really if you just put your mind to it.
Which were your favourite states and cities?
So many, thats a rough question. Heres a few:
New Orleans could be my number one all time favorite. It's like going to a completely different country. The music, food, architecture, history, way of life, language - all completely different. Incredible brass bands playing in clubs the size of a thimbles, crawfish boils, mardi gras. I'd live there full time if I could.
Asheville North Carolina, this is one of those nooks I was speaking of. It's a super small progressive mountain town, everything locally owned and made. There're drum circles in the town square at dusk. Just a really amazing way of life.
Wisconsin and Minnesota come in towards the top as well. People usually look at me weird when I say that, but every time I go, the people are some of the friendliest I've ever met, the cheese curds are delicious, everything just seems so quiet and normal. Living in Miami, LA and NYC most of my life, I kinda like that.
And, although its really hot there at times, Austin TX knows what's up! There's honestly like 10 more places I want to talk about here so I'll just give some names. Bar Harbor, Maine, Louisville, Kentucky, Healdsburg, California, Sedona, Arizona and Vermont.
Which was the craftiest city you've been to?
There's a few for sure. I wanna say Austin, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City. All very different but the common thread (no pun intended) was the amount of creativity and appreciation for crafts and the arts. And the amount of community supporting it. Tons of shops, events, groups, makes you feel like we really have a chance to change things in the consumer marketplace.
Where are your favourite places to stay - camping outdoors or city hotels?
Camping is always a good time. In the trunk of my car there's permanently a tent and sleeping bags just in case the opportunity presents itself. Hotels are cool if you got the cash but I've had my fair share of fun staying in hostels. They're great ways to meet folks and save cash.
Favourite mode of transport?
They don't get enough cred, but trains are cool as hell. My family took a train trip to California one year across the country when I was really young. I don't remember it that well but recall it was a long trip, to say the least. Tons of people with tons of stories. Since then I've taken a number of trains all up and down the coasts and across the country a multitude of times. All awesome experiences. Ex-cons, tourists, family trips, runaways, all sorts of folks on those things. Never under estimate the bar cars.
Train Tip: If you have the dough, look into getting a sleeper car. Those seats are not comfortable after a couple days.
What places wouldn't you go back to ?
(And I apologize to these states in advance) Iowa, Nebraska (Editors note: Ignore this!), Wyoming: Nothing but corn. Hundreds if not thousands of miles of endless corn. Ever seen 'Children of the Corn'? ….Nuff said.
South Dakota and North Dakota: I was convinced for a long time they just made up these states to round out the continental 50. When have you ever met anyone from North Dakota? I finally passed through once on a cross country drive. They don't call it "Big Sky Country" for nothing. There is absolutely nothing there. I remember I stopped into a dive bar one night. I kid you not - the record scratched when we walked in. All these dudes in 10 gallon hats and flannel shirts sitting at the bar looked over as we went to order a couple drinks. Most memorable the were two guys in the back sitting on buckets, fishing out a small hole in the floor. The bar was built over a river (which was kinda cool I admit) and the beers were 75 cents each. Needless to say we bought the entire bar a round for less than 20 bucks and became friends with a good lot of them.
What have been some of the highlights of your travels?
Funny story. On my second year, my job decided to get me my own RV so I wouldn't have to live in what was inappropriately referred to as the "slave ships" which housed 20+ bunks and a variety of tour carnies. The RV was pretty deluxe, a technological wonder on wheels really. We flipped it over on a rural Missouri highway one night. It was kinda crazy. We surprisingly made it out alive with minor injuries and was back on the buses a week later. Nice while it lasted.
What have you learnt about America from your travels and which places surprised you the most?
I've learned a lot about the geographical character of each place thats for sure. The following are just my opinions so if you take offense to any of these, just chill.
East Coast, by far, the superior coast. Everyone's friendlier and just have this sense of community I don't experience on the west coast. Lots of culture, lots of style, a plethora of different musical heritages.
The West Coast has a lot of diversity as well. You can see thousand year old forests, hike throughout the deserts, play in snow, or go swimming in the ocean all within a couple hours of each other at almost any given time of year.
Middle America is kinda the good life I think. A lot slower, a lot less culture than the coastal states but in turn more tradition, religion and and just a simpler more structured way of life.
Do you have any tips for life on the road?
A good tips I guess would be to talk to the locals when you get into town. Ask where the coolest streets are, where their favorite restaurants or bars are. The internet can point you in the right direction with good research, but trust me, the locals know where it's at. People pride themselves on their suggestions and want to be looked at as experts. They'll go on and on if you ask them the right questions. Never underestimate the friendliness of folks.
Another good tip is to try new things. I mean - you should be doing this all the time in life but especially when you're in new places. If you're going to Kentucky, try some whiskeys, If you're in Amarillo TX be sure to get some BBQ. In Sonoma, California, taste some wine. See the sites, hang with the locals and don't be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. The chances you're going to visit this particular city or place again is probably pretty slight so be sure to go all out!
Do you think you'll ever make it out to Alaska and Hawaii?
Hawaii is really expensive. Would love to knock that one off the list though. I'm the type of person that if I went I'd immediately start coming up with a plan to move out there somehow. The good news for Alaska however, is my wife has family out there so thats probably going to happen a lot sooner. I remember this one time my dad bought a video camera at a flea market and the previous owners left their vacation footage in it. There were moose and salmon swimming up stream, footage of huge bears. It looked super cool. Towards the end of the tape however the couple turned the camera onto themselves to make a little movie. My dad stopped it before my innocence could be damaged. Regardless it looked like Alaska was pretty rad.
Where else would you like to go in the world?
Good question. Everywhere else would be the boring answer, but at the top of my list right now is China, Italy, Spain and Africa. The places that are the most diverse I want checked off sooner than later.
What's next for you?
Hopefully something crazy different. I'm toying with the idea right now of moving abroad. Germany I heard is kinda awesome. To experience the Paris art scene would be pretty cool. I think since America is pretty much checked off the list, the next logistical step would be to start making the rounds throughout eurasia. Check back with me in a couple years and I'll give you the update. Till then, ciao! (you see, I'm already getting into the European spirit :)
Check out ThreadBanger for more from Rob. Which states, or places in the world, would you love to visit most?