We were at a friend's house in Asheville, North Carolina perusing the Internet late on Wednesday night when Lauren made a pivotal discovery: "Donald Trump has a rally in Charleston, West Virginia tomorrow night," she said. "And Bernie Sanders has a rally in the same town starting at noon." I was incredulous. "Seriously!? How did we not know about this?" I stammered. "Because you never checked." This was true. But it wasn't too late. We checked the drive time from Asheville to Charleston and learned that it was just five hours away. "We can do this," I said. "I mean, we've got to do this. I'll go tell Peter." 

We awoke at 5:30 a.m. the following morning and drove up and over the Smokey Mountains through beautiful countryside, a thin mist clinging to the dips in the rolling landscape. As the sun came up we were passing through Appalachian farmlands and churches in golden green meadows between the endless trees. By noon we had made it through North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, arriving at the South Charleston Community Center just in time for the doors to open up for a crowd of several hundred people waiting in the parking lot. 

We approached some official-looking people at the entrance and met a woman named Jean, asking her if it was okay if we set up the scroll. "Oh, that would be wonderful!" she said. "But I have to check with the Secret Service." She consulted several federal agents, cops and security guards inside and came back out with an enthusiastic thumb's up. "You can do it!" 

Wasting no time, we ran back to the van, pulled out the massage table, dowels, banner, duffel bag with the scroll and several backpacks full of camera gear, setting up the Manuscript Across America table in a frantic but organized Daytona 500 pit-crew/fire-drill style that by now had become a pretty well-oiled maneuver. The moment that we got all the pens out on the table, they opened the doors for the crowd to file in. Fortunately, everybody had to pass through metal detectors at the doors, so the line moved slowly enough for us to interact with most everyone as they passed by. 

People were happy to see us out there and anxious to share their thoughts about Bernie Sanders and their hopes for what he would bring to their community. Many West Virginians had concerns about the environment, several folks mentioned wanting cleaner drinking water, and a handful of mothers and fathers expressed concerns about their children having a viable future. We interviewed a guy who was tired of corruption in the government and another woman who was brought to tears when asked about her daughter. "Save us Bernie!" was a common theme, voiced with a hopeful desperation as if there was no other path to salvation.  

Jean came running back up to us at the table. "I've got good news!" she said. "I've reserved three seats just for you in the VIP section." We thanked her for her overwhelming kindness. To put the cherry on top, she even invited us to stay in her home in Floyd, Virginia if we needed a place to stay.

We hustled to take down the scroll table and stash everything back in the van so it would be ready to take to the Trump rally across town a few hours later. I was able to get through security with two cameras, three lenses and an audio recorder. Their only stipulation was that tripods weren't allowed. Easy-peasy. Jean escorted us to our VIP seats to the right of the podium and we mingled with locals as a representative to the state legislature played guitar and sang for the crowd. "Country Roads" was a hit, with extra emphasis on the "West Virginia, mountain momma" part of the chorus. 

Bernie came to the stage with an uproarious welcome from the crowd, though there couldn't have been any more than 1,000 people in the gymnasium-type setting with 20 - 16 in red letters on the scoreboard. His speech was moving - a series of peaks and valleys that always came to a crescendo of applause and the unanimous raising of "A Future to Believe In" signs. He spoke about making healthcare available, honoring Native Americans, increasing jobs, promoting education and even gave Peter a shout-out with his "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for Bernie" sign. 

Two-thirds of the way through the speech, Lauren let me know that if we wanted to get to the Trump rally, we'd have to leave now. We did want to get to the leading Republican's event - not to support it, but to experience the other side of the coin first-hand. Our journey had been largely defined by liberal - but beautiful - interactions up to this point, and it was time to get a sense of the opposite extreme... 

It was about a ten-minute drive from the Bernie Sanders rally to the Charleston Civic Center where Donald Trump was holding his own West Virginia event, but it might as well have been on the other side of the world. The sensation was like leaving the beach in a slight breeze and being swept up by a tornado a few blocks inland. 

We managed to find a parking spot in a multi-level garage and scrambled to get all the scroll table gear assembled once again, this time bringing the pop-tent as well to protect the manuscript from the rain. An endless line of people had formed at the entrance to the Civic Center that newspaper's had said could hold up to 15,000 people. We began to set up the table under the awning by the front entrance. A few seconds later, private security and several cops were shooing us away from the door, notifying us that we couldn't be there. "It's just a community writing project," I explained. "We're taking a thousand-foot scroll across the country and letting people share their thoughts on it." "Well you can't do it here," they said. I instructed Lauren to start filming and pleaded with the cops a little longer. Eventually they struck a compromise with me, saying that we could set it up a short distance away, as long as it was off the curb and not under the awning. Right on cue, the rain stopped falling and we seized the opportunity to set up shop, front and center. 

It took a moment to get the ink flowing from the Trump train, but the second the first pen hit the scroll, it was nonstop action for hours. Once the written contributions started pouring in, people assumed that Manuscript Across America was some sort of pro-Trump petition. To be fair, several people at the Bernie rally thought that we were following Bernie across the country and setting up the scroll at all of his events. Nevertheless, a rather frantic stream of Trump supporters shuffled up to the scroll, picked up a pen, left their mark, and hustled off into the rally. There were plenty of "Build that wall" comments, an abundance of anti-Hillary sentiments, and no shortage of pro-life and pro-God inkings. More common than any actual response to the questions I was asking, though, was that people just signed their names. 

I began filming short interviews with the folks as they passed by the scroll. "What do you think America needs most right now?" I would usually begin with. "Trump" was the unanimous answer to this one. "Why Trump?" I would ask. "Because Trump." That happened a lot. But there were, of course, several more thoughtful answers. The vast majority of Trump supporters were hopeful that he would bring an abundance of jobs back to the state that has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation - specifically by expanding West Virginia's coal industry. Another common response was that America needed a real leader - a charismatic wildcard - to instill all of those values that had fallen by the  wayside like Christianity, strict border control and an even stronger military. 

A teenager came up to the scroll, confided in me that he still wasn't sure who he was going to vote for, then wrote "Never Trump" and walked away. Moments later, a ten-year-old girl crossed out his contribution and left her own.

The line of people was relentless. There were literally thousands upon thousands of individuals who passed by, many of whom wrote something down. We had to roll out over sixty feet of paper to keep up with the incoming ink. It was also fascinating to notice that more than half of our Sharpies were ruined in the process - either by being taken, driven so hard into the table that they no longer worked, or dropped into puddles on the street. True, people were in a bit of a rush to get inside the rally, but we had also crossed the entire country without so much as losing a single pen cap. At the Trump rally, nine of our pen caps vanished in three hours. 

It's hard to put into words the feelings that were elicited in me throughout the event. I tried to approach the rally with an open mind, and did my best to engage people as I had done at any other stop along the Manuscript Across America tour. I'm not trying to pass judgement on Trump supporters or republicans in general, but the experience was so drastically different than any other place that we had set up the scroll that it does give me pause to think. I don't want to say that what I witnessed was ignorance, but it's hard to come up with another word for the responses I got from some - but certainly not all - of the people I tried to converse with. I respect that people have different values in this country. I respect that people's political, environmental, economical, social and religious agendas are all different. What I can't respect, no matter how hard I try, is when people can't respect one another. 

I didn't show up to the Trump rally with disrespect in my heart. Yes, I will most certainly admit that I showed up with a long list of stereotypes that I was anxious to see come to life before my eyes, but as much as I had expectations for how a certain facet of Americans would act, I was willing, for the most part, to honor those differences. But the aspect of some of the people in attendance that I didn't, nor can't, nor won't ever understand, is the hate. 

I witnessed hate of all types at the Trump rally. Hate based on race. Hate based on religion. Hate based on gender. Hate based on sexual orientation. This is what I can't come to terms with. It angers me. It saddens me. It downright scares me. 

A small group of Trump protestors showed up just before we were about to leave. The Civic Center had already closed its doors with a max-capacity crowd of 15,000 people inside, but there were still more folks outside who would have liked to go in. The protestors held up a variety of signs and accused the Trump supporters of being fascists and nazis while the Trump people accused the protestors of being communists. The yelling escalated. Racial slurs. Middle fingers. Hot tempers on both sides. How polarized are we as a nation? How polarized are we as a global community? The scene was frightening. While I can see where the protestors are coming from, I can't say that they were speaking out in the most tactful or respectful way. They were antagonizing the opponent in a way that demanded confrontation. 

I'm still digesting. I'm still processing. Today has been the first day I've been able to actually slow down and reflect since we left California. I keep thinking of one of the protestor's signs that read, "Make America hate again." I get it. There's a whole lot of ugly coming out of the woodwork as a byproduct of the Trump campaign. But no matter what side you're on, no matter how different we are, we have to find a way to respect one another or there's not going to be anyone left to hate in this world. 


The miles, smiles, faces, places, gas stations, laughs, interviews, interactions, insights & interstates blur together in a beautiful whirl of movement.

Movement! I wish we had more time to linger in each town – to mingle with locals for long, lazy hours & learn each intricate truth to the depth it deserves. Sadly, our ambitious itinerary simply doesn’t allow for such luxuries. It’s a double-edged sword, I suppose. On the sharp & shiny side, we get a snapshot of more than 35 states in two months. – a chance to see a huge chunk of this country & connect with as many people & places as we can. On the sword’s less glamorous edge, we’re forced to skim over so many captivating stories that it is, quite literally, painful.

Yesterday, for example, we met an amazing woman who lives & works at a vegan farm in the mountains outside of Albuquerque. They grow all of their own food and rescue animals who would otherwise be raised for human consumption. She invited us to come tour the farm & even offered to cook us up a nice vegan meal. Great stuff, right? With more time, we surely would have gone, but the detour wasn’t feasible with eleven hours between us & Austin. As it is, I’m typing this in the passenger seat at half-past-midnight as Peter captains our ship southeast towards the Texas capital.

Which brings up another point: the data! Holy crumplecakes. We’re constantly filming, photographing, audio-recording & writing. When we finish the day or night’s official scroll set-up, we return to wherever it is that we’re staying and load the material onto our computers. Then we back it all up, twice, on two separate portable hard drives. Then we go through the footage, select the best photos, edit a couple interviews & compile time-lapse movies. From there it’s on to Facebook to share the journey on the Manuscript Across America page. Then I do it all over again on the official website for the folks that don’t have Facebook. When that’s done, I pull out my journal or computer and try to wrap my head around what’s happened, let alone what’s happening. Then I look up from the screen just in time, just now, to glance an incredible mural that Peter spotted of an eagle with the American and Texas flags as wings, “In God We Trust” painted in the center. “Should we do it?” asks Peter. “We gotta,” I say. So we pull off the road in the sleepy town of Lampasas & set up the cameras for some shots. We put the camera timer on and ran up to the mural, leaping in the muggy Texas night for a series of pictures as we giggled at the absurdity of what we were doing. These are the moments I crave – the random detours to stop & appreciate beauty for longer than a 75-mile-per-hour frantic out-of-focus drive-by clip of the West Texas oil fields or wind turbines or migrant workers or general stores or Billy the Kid museums.

But there are nuggets. Plenty of them. We lucked out in Albuquerque and met Don Schrader, perhaps the most well-known man in the entire city. He lives simply – hasn’t paid taxes or ridden in a car in decades. He survives on less than $5,000 per year and lives incredibly well.  Skin leathered with sunshine & eyes full of wisdom. He had a little hand-cart full of thirty or so Granny Smith apples from the flea market. What a guy. He was more than happy to sit down with me for an interview and we chatted for a good twenty minutes after that. These are the moments I crave.

I’ve taken on a lot. There’s no way to capture everything. Even when it is documented, it’s a challenge to frame the shot right, make sure the audio is set up correctly, hold the camera still & control the hundred other variables that end up making the difference between a quality documentary & an hour-long YouTube video. I have to shake my head & laugh when I think about the reality of this odyssey. Sure, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on photography, but making a movie is an entirely different can of worms – a can that I had scarcely put the opener to before promising folks a documentary & writing up an itinerary that even the most driven traveling musicians would likely dismiss as ridiculous.

Who’s idea was this anyway? Oh right. I’ve been overwhelmed more times than I can count, but I’ve been overjoyed enough for that not to matter. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m plunging headfirst into the unknown with nothing more than a dream to guide me. I’m challenging myself to share as much truth & beauty as physically & mentally possible without losing my own precious mind.

Don’t worry about me, though. It’s 1:41 a.m. and there’s a country song on the radio called “Must Be Doing Something Right.” And I must be. We must be. Because otherwise why would I be wide awake, inspired & full of optimism as we enter the eleventh hour of Texas travel? That’s just it – the traveling. It stirs something within you. Even if the pace is frantic, even if a billion incredible stories go untold, even if every conceivable aspect of this journey goes incredibly wrong, it doesn’t matter.  We’re doing something: write. We’re doing something, right? We’re doing something right.


Greetings! Peter and I made it to Las Vegas, Nevada late last night & had the scroll set up on the strip by 10 p.m. A strange sensation to unfurl a piece of paper for free expression in Sin City. We chose a spot by the fountains at the Bellagio and waited to see how the project would be received. I was pleasantly surprised to strike up thoughtful conversations all night with a host of characters, including Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, former Showgirls, families with kids, locals, and travelers from Germany, Finland, England and all over the United States - all of whom wrote on the scroll. One of the former showgirls may have said it best: "Las Vegas is a small town in a big city." It was fascinating to engage with so many strangers and learn about what living and working in Las Vegas is really like. Taking the time to truly connect with others was a new Las Vegas experience for me, but it paid dividends - quite literally. I made several new friends and received invitations to stay with folks back in their home towns. A guy named Jet was deeply moved by our efforts to cultivate community & understanding. When I told him we were going to head back to the van to sleep in a parking garage pretty soon, he rolled his eyes and reached into his pocket and gave me a $100 casino chip to help fund the project. Good people out there, you just gotta take the time to be genuine. We interviewed some insightful homeless people in the wee hours of the morning and finally retired to the Vansion to get some rest. The night yielded new knowledge, new connections and new respect for a place I had largely overlooked on previous trips as a place where personal contact wasn't possible. Granted, several people were convinced that the scroll was just another way to make money. "How much to write something down?" one guy asked. People weren't used to seeing free, voluntary writing experiments on the strip, but they dug it. I ended up adding my own two cents to the scroll as well: "I know they call this Sin City, but I see an awful lot of light shining through the darkness." Overall, a great kick-off to Manuscript Across America's first out-of-California installation. We even managed to leave the next morning with more money than we had come with. Viva Las Vegas!


The first unfurling of the Manuscript Across America scroll at Lucidity Festival April 8th - 10th was a great success. A prolific outpouring of expression came to grace the paper over the weekend. Some folks came by to read others' contributions, some stayed and wrote for several minutes, a few created art pieces over the course of many hours, and one particularly curious character didn't realize that the paper had been put away for the night so opted to write on the imaginary scroll instead. Overall, the messages were centered around love and gratitude, but there were several humorous insights as well, including "Feck Pefucktion." I'm guessing that somewhere between 60-90 feet of scroll were filled up in all. Impressive!

The following Tuesday, April 12th, we headed up Highway One for a session at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. It was a gorgeous, mellow afternoon on the front deck of the library "where nothing happens." Several children drew pictures on the scroll, including a young girl from Tiburon who wrote "All we need is love" & "End the war way now. I'm tired of it." An army veteran wrote a 20-minute rant but preferred not to be interviewed. A kind couple from Eugene, Oregon wished me luck and gave me twenty bucks. 

Thanks to all who have contributed so far and I look forward to interacting with many more of you out on the road. Stay tuned for the first out-of-state installations beginning April 21st in Las Vegas, Nevada. 


Another morning in the mountains of Lake Tahoe. There's even a few new inches of snow on the ground. The peculiar thing is that I'm not skiing it. Granted, I've enjoyed some 40-plus days on the slopes this season, but my motivations have made a definitive shift in the direction of Manuscript Across America. The first scroll signing event - the Lucidity Music & Arts Festival - is just nine days away. Nine days! With that in mind, I'm focusing my energy on the conversion of a massage table into a message table that will hold the glorious scroll - and on raising funds to support the journey. There have been plenty of moments of doubt during these months of preparation - moments where I look at a map of the country or my bank account statement or my dilapidated VW van - but there has always been an underlying feeling of belief in the project itself. A belief, quite simply, that the mission I'm taking on is a good thing. With that unshakeable conviction, I'm prepared for anything. Even if Manuscript Across America is the exact opposite of what I expect (what do I expect?), it will undoubtedly be an educational and beneficial experience for me personally. It will enable me to grow, one way or another, into a better human.


Bit by bit, the project is coming together. One piece at a time. One word at a time. One Facebook post at a time. One Indiegogo contribution at a time. One Craigslist massage table purchase at a time. One $200 trip to the hardware store at a time. One surreal dream that awakens into an astonished but inspired reality at a time...


I just launched my Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign! An exciting step, but with just $50 out of $10,000 raised so far, there's a long way to go...

An interesting mix of excitement and anxiety, but at the end of the day I've got faith that good people will prevail to support good things.


The time is almost here to launch my Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign. Dialing in my project description, bio, promotional video and perks. Hoping to raise $10,000 for the journey of more than 10,000 driving miles - an even dollar per mile. Or, if you consider the fact that the American public will be filling up a 1,000-foot long scroll of paper with their written contributions, that comes out to $10 per foot of wisdom. Not bad. 


Just ordered the scroll! 1,000 feet long, 3 feet wide, weighing in at 40 pounds. I feel like I just made a public announcement of having a very oddly sized baby...


As I continue to share the general concept of Manuscript Across America with friends, family, teachers and strangers, I'm confronted with a few common questions: Where are you going to go? How do you actually plan on your project creating any changes? Do you really expect people to take time out of their busy schedules to write on your scroll? 

In regards to where the scroll will roll - largely where the wind blows. While I've outlined a general zig-zag pattern across the country that includes California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, New Orleans, "the South," "Appalachia," Washington D.C., Ground Zero/New York City, Detroit, Flint, Ferguson, Ohio, Iowa, Indianapolis (home of the On the Road scroll), Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Seattle and Oregon, I remain a firm believer in the magic of spontaneity. Inevitably, we'll meet people in a city who will direct us to a distant relative's house in a small town we've never heard of - or experience car trouble on a remote highway and call it home for a week. With that said, I also want to be sure to visit a diverse cross-section of American society - the richest and poorest towns, the most liberal and conservative cities, the obvious and the obscure. 

Will Manuscript Across America actually change anything? Is it really just an ill-fated hippie pipe-dream? I see where you're coming from: privileged, guilt-ridden optimist goes on whimsical road trip to save the world. I get it. In fact, I have to rise above my own doubts, fears and skepticism on a regular basis. It's a daunting mission. I'm simultaneously inspired beyond belief and scared shitless. But I truly do feel called to take on this project, regardless of how much of a "success" or "failure" it turns out to be. That's the adventure, the leap of faith, the risk, the reward. Sometimes I wonder how I even came up with this crazy idea in the first place. To be honest, I can't actually remember. It just arrived - poof: Manuscript Across America - which is another reason I'm so compelled to go. When I do find myself questioning the mission, my motives, the logistics, the costs, the sacrifices, etc., it always comes back to one thing: if nobody ever attempted to do something good, nothing good would ever happen. Imagine a world without your favorite writers, musicians and artists. Imagine a world without civil rights activists, community leaders, peacekeepers, equality seekers, guardians of the environment. Imagine a world where all of your heroes had decided it would be easier to just say fuck it. Quite frankly, we'd all be fucked. 

Finally, will people really take time to write on the scroll? Some will. Some won't. But don't you think it will be fascinating to see who does and who doesn't? Do the rich have more time to spare than the poor, or vis a versa? Do people in small towns really move slower than in big cities? What factors will motivate each individual who does choose to sign the scroll to participate? What wisdom will come of it? Who knows. But I'm excited to find out. 


Just sent off emails to the likes of Volkswagen, Office Depot, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, 89.5 KVMR in Nevada City and Nahko/Medicine for the People. Trying to connect the dots of places to go, people to see and ways to rally support for Manuscript Across America. 


Well, the wheels of my Volkswagen may not be rolling yet, but the wheels of my mind are spinning at an encouraging R.P.M. (Realizations Per Morning). I'm busy sending off emails to potential sponsors, planning a Kickstarter campaign, designing a logo and searching for the ultimate documentarians to come along and film the journey. 


Ah, yes. With the new year a new slate - a new blank scroll if you will - to fill in with the words and wisdom we discover along the way. As for me, happy to be making some progress with the building of this Manuscript Across America website. It's my first venture in website creation other than my blog ( So far, so good. Onward we go, out on the road and into the soul...

Seeds of a Dream

It all began at Lucidity Festival, sensing a lack of the written word at an otherwise all-forms-of-expression-imaginable event. The creation and continuation of "Step Write Up" has since inspired me to take the concept on the road - out into the country at large to get a better understanding of America's heartbeat.