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April 25, 2005

Special Delivery

"WHAT'S UP?" my mother asked me that rainy Saturday morning. Yes, I was still living under her and my father's roof, working my way through some small debts -- an inevitable post-trip curse -- while saving up for new opportunities in travel and/or real estate.

"I'm going out to deliver these postcards," I told her.

"Why don't you just mail them?"

"That's not the point."


IF YOU RECALL DAY 40: Postcards From A Weirdo, way back from November 2003, you'll remember that in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, I journeyed to the island of Floreana, home of "Post Office Bay," the old meeting point where sailors and seafaring traders developed a traditional postal system in which one could leave letters or packages on the island so that another sailor going in the direction of the shipping address would simply deliver them by hand. If you remember that entry -- and I'm sure you do -- you will also recall that nowadays, the packages of these seafaring traders have been replaced by tourists' postcards, and of the hundreds of postcards left there, only four were addressed to people in my home vicinity. To quote myself from November 2003:

I was designated to take the mere four cards addressed to the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area, which I plan to deliver when I can, or face a bad curse according to Tatjiana. So, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Johnson of Westport, CT; Mrs. Connie Marince of Trenton, NJ; Amy & Joe Red Delicious of Greenwood Lake, NY; and Jeff Benney of Whippany, NJ... if you're out there, you can expect a weirdo (me) knocking on your door with outdated postcards sometime in 2005 (or until my money runs out, whichever comes first.) I suppose with that kind of delivery timeframe, that puts me on the bottom of the parcel delivery hierarchy, just after Mr. McFeely from Mister Rogers Neighborhood.

My mom had a point; I could have just put stamps on the four postcards (picture above) and have a mailman deliver them -- the postcards that I left at Post Office Bay were delivered that way, according to those that received them -- but where's the story in that?

"So you're going to all these people to see what hijinks ensue?" Blogreader RachelJC commented to me over drinks the night before.


THE HIJINKS BEGAN TO ENSUE when I hopped in the driver's seat of my brother markyt's Mazda Protegé, which he graciously lent me for the weekend. It was a rainy morning, the kind where you'd rather just sleep in, but I was determined to accomplish my mission, the one last mission of The Global Trip 2004, to finally give me and all the Blogreaders -- the "Fellowship of The Blog" -- some much-needed closure.

It was only three miles from the house to the border with New York State, over the George Washington Bridge. I made my way up through the Bronx (home of Blogreader Moman's famous Bronx Tours), and up I-95 to the border with Connecticut -- two state border crossings within an hour. (Border crossings between states are common in northeast U.S.A., and without nearly as much hassle as my land crossing between Ecuador and Peru.)

Connecticut, the fifth state of the United States, has its place in American history. It was in here that the first constitution was adopted in 1639, where the Frisbee and the Polaroid camera were invented, where World Wrestling Entertainment keeps their corporate headquarters, and, most noteworthy (at least to me), it is where Tony Danza moved to and saw Angela naked in the shower in Who's The Boss?. Nothing welcomes you to Connecticut more than a big traffic pile-up on the Gov. John Davis Lodge Turnpike, and rather than sit in a lane while the rain came down, I took a quick pitstop at the Connecticut Welcome Center Rest Area for a pee break and a free tourist map of Westport from the tourist information desk.

As the southernmost state of New England, Connecticut's towns evoke a colonial charm with quaint downtown stores -- now selling trendy clothes instead of churned butter -- near the cherry blossoms along the Saugatauk River. My first delivery point was not too far away from the downtown area, but I managed to get lost anyway in the confusing back streets of small town America. Eventually I found the little road off a small road off a main road, and found the big, ranch style house with the address on the postcard. From what I gathered, I was in the kind of neighborhood where everyone felt secure; the garage door was wide open, as well as the front door, but no one was to be seen until I rang the doorbell.

"Hi I'm looking for a Mr. and Mrs. Richard Johnson," I said to the old white-haired man who came to the door.

"That's me," he answered. He had a confused look on this face, the kind of look like he just woke up to see a stranger at his door.

"Uh, I don't know if you know the tradition of hand-delivering postcards from the Galapagos," I started.


"But I'm here with a postcard from your friends," I said. I showed him the handwritten names of his friends on the postcard to prove to him that I wasn't some random weirdo off the street -- well, at least one without any reason for being there.

"Oh?" Mr. Richard Johnson said. He looked at the card and skimmed it briefly.

"It's a year late, but I thought I'd bring it anyway," I told him.

"Well, thank you."

The encounter was brief, and I left him be so that he could go back to sleep, or whatever else it was that he was doing before I rang the doorbell. I head back to the car with a smile on my face and a feeling of relief; you never know if the person you're delivering to is more of a weirdo than you are.

One down, three to go, I thought.

"TAKE ME DOWN TO THE PARADISE CITY, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty... Take... me... home... Yeah, yeah..." I sang to myself along to Guns 'N Roses blasting out of the radio speakers on K-ROCK, the local New York City radio station and home of the nationally-syndicated Howard Stern Show. "Take me down to the Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty... Oh won't you please take me home..."

Axl Rose was just one artist I sang along to in the private comfort of my brother's car as I flipped through the radio stations (other artists included Mobb Deep, Maroon 5, Dr. Dre, and Alicia Keys), driving back across the border into southern New York State. I cut across westbound on I-87, drove over the Hudson River again via the Tappan Zee Bridge, and entered Rockland County. It was another half hour or so until I reached the border with Orange County, New York State's bucolic version of "The O.C." Replacing the affluent California houses, palm trees, trashy drama, and snappy theme song of Fox's The O.C. TV show were mountains, oak trees, a thick, misty fog, and an all Christian rock radio station -- as soon as I seeked to 88.9 FM, on came some modern Christian rock song called "Only A God Like You."

My next destination, the village of Greenwood Lake, NY, was only 44 miles from New York City, but socially- and politically-wise, it seemed a thousand miles away. With a population of just 3,411 people, this small village in the lower Catskill Mountain region near a lake of the same name, was the kind of place where everyone knew everyone, a place where people had pick-up trucks with "Proud to be Republican" bumper stickers, a place where everyone gave me weird looks like I was a suspected terrorist. I guess I sort of brought that upon myself, not just because I was alone and wasn't White (it was 91.7% White, according to the 2000 census) but because I was sneaking around town with my old traveling habits, taking photos with my little spy camera -- including a couple shots of the post office, the one federal building in town. I had failed to realize in the Galapagos that the shipping address for my next postcard was not for a house, but for a P.O. Box., which is why I went to the post office in the first place.

"Excuse me, do you work here?" I asked the one guy I saw inside.

"No," he said in an American accent. He was an Asian man, quite possibly the only Asian guy in town -- or possibly a weirdo like me delivering postcards.

"Do you live here?"


"If I want to drop something off in a P.O. box, do I have to put a stamp on it?" I asked.

"Is the P.O. box here?"

"Yeah," I said, hoping my specification made the answer easier.

"I don't know."

He pointed to the "Greenwood Lake Only" slot, which had a sign that said "Local Postmark Only." What that meant, neither of us knew. "There's a stamp machine over there," he pointed out before going on his way.

"But it's out of order," I said when I took a closer look -- but the man was already gone.

First I tried slipping the postcard underneath the little P.O. box door, but it was too narrow, so I had no choice but to mail it with a stamp, so that a postal worker could deliver it literally six steps away. Fortunately I had a stamped envelope for such an emergency, and put the postcard inside with my business card and a post-it note explaining myself. I put it in the mail slot and went on my way -- before this old woman who looked really suspicious of my presence called the cops or something.

Two down, two to go.

BACK ACROSS THE BORDER IN NEW JERSEY, I stopped for a mid-mission break at McDonald's for a Big Mac and to figure out the best route to my next destination with an old road map and some printouts from Google Maps (another one of PC Magazine's Top 100 Sites). Soon I was southbound on I-287 headed for the New Jersey suburb of Whippany, home of the Whippany Railway Museum, which I only know about because its old locomotives just so happened to catch my eye while I was driving. Whippany was also the hometown of my next lucky sendee, a Mr. Jeff Benney. Not surprisingly, I got lost for a bit -- internet directions always suck, no matter how fancy the map interface is -- but I managed to find my way into the Oak Ridge townhouse development complex across the street from a big Lucent Technologies office. From the looks of things, hardly anyone in the complex was around since almost every driveway was empty -- except for the townhouse that matched the address on the postcard. I rang the doorbell and suddenly heard the footsteps of a figure come to the door.

"Are you Jeff Benney?" I asked the guy behind the screen door. He looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s, although you really can't judge someone's age by physical appearance these days. (Just the week before, someone mistook 30-year-old me for a middle school student, which is a fifteen-year-old tops!)

"That's me," Jeff said.

"I'm hand-delivering a postcard from the Galapagos," I said, handing him the card. The penmanship on it was sort of sloppy, but it was understandable because I knew about the motion of the boats, and the fact that everyone seems to rush through postcard writing just before landing at Post Office Bay on Floreana Island.

"Oh?" He cracked a grin.

"I don't know who it's from; there's no name." The closing on the postcard was simply "Love, Me."

"That's my wife." He took the card in his hand.

"Uh, it's late by a year and a half."

"So you were there in the Galapagos?"

"Yeah, in October 2003," (I really meant November), "But I've been traveling since then," I said. "I only got back last month. That's me," I said, pointing out my business card paper-clipped to the postcard.

"Well, thanks," Jeff said with a smile, shaking my hand.

Just one more to go...

IT WAS ANOTHER HOUR OF DRIVING, down to where I-287 met the New Jersey Turnpike's Exit 10. I head southbound to Trenton, capital city of New Jersey, just across the river from the state of Pennsylvania. I soon discovered Trenton was hodgepodge of different economic classes, when I got lost yet again; just a couple of miles from the dignified buildings near the capital complex was a run-down ghetto of boarded up buildings. I drove all around looking for "Princeton Pike" with no luck, and I was starting to feel the pressure because sundown was soon approaching and I really didn't want to deliver the card at nighttime. Not only that, but the road where Princeton Pike should have been on according to my directions was actually Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, which, from the looks of things, perpetuated the stereotype that Black comedian Chris Rock famously pointed out once in a stand-up routine: "If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they're lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is, 'Run!' I don't care where you live in America; if you're on Martin Luther King Boulevard, there's some violence going on." (Of course not all MLK Blvd.'s are like this; I used to go to school on one in Newark, NJ of all places, and it was fine.)

The sun was setting, and so I succumbed to the inevitable thing for a guy lost in a car. I'm talking about throwing all manhood out the window and asking for directions. A young gas station attendant led me in the right direction -- it turned out that Princeton Pike was actually not in Trenton, but in the pleasant suburb of Lawrence Township next door. Trenton and the zip code written on the postcard were probably for postal distribution zoning or something.

"ARE YOU CONNIE?" I asked the old woman who answered the door at my final delivery destination. She reminded me of Nina, my homestay host in Irkutsk, Russia, only much, much friendlier.


"I'm hand-delivering a postcard from the Galapagos Islands," I said, showing her the card.

"Oh really."

"It's late I know."

"How did you get it?"

I briefed her with a short lecture about the tradition of Post Office Bay, and how I picked up the postcard addressed to her way back in 2003. I gave her the card and she recognized the senders' names.

"Oh! These people just came back from an African safari!"

"Oh yeah?"

"I'll have to call them." She was pretty happy about my special delivery and skimmed the postcard. "This was two years ago."

"Well, I've been traveling."

"Slow delivery."

"Yeah, I know."

"Well, thank you!"

She closed the door, and I went on my way, feeling fulfilled. Mission accomplished.

After eight hours of driving all over the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area, I rewarded myself to my favorite homemade ice cream at the Halo Pub (which I once mentioned in a Blog entry in a conversation I had with Amanda in Chennai, India) in Princeton, NJ, home of the famous ivy league university. That night, I head back home up the New Jersey Turnpike, grooving along to the tunes on the radio again. There wasn't much traffic congestion and the highways were clear -- perhaps it was a metaphor to my future ahead, now that all matters of The Trip had been settled.

AND SO, THE FINAL EXCURSION of The Global Trip 2004 had come to an end, bringing me full circle, tying up loose ends, and bringing closure to the around-the-world journey and the Blog. (You were just at the edge of your seat, wondering about those postcards, weren't you?) It was the "season finale" of "The Trinidad Show" if you will, which would go on hiatus until it is renewed with a new trip (not yet determined), or at least until the time some weirdo, by some chance, comes to my doorstep hand-delivering a postcard from the Galapagos Islands.

The End.

If you enjoy this daily travel blog, please post a comment! Give me suggestions, send me on missions, let me know how things are going back home in the USA. Knowing that I have an audience will only force me to make this blog more entertaining as the days go by. Don´t forget to bookmark it and let a friend know!

Posted by Erik on April 25, 2005 12:58 AM
Category: Epilogue, U.S.A.

The End?! That's so.... final.

Posted by: Td0t on April 25, 2005 09:48 AM

TDOT: Well, I can't think of anything trip-related that's left to write about. And so, that's it, that's it then (until there's something new to say). As you know, I spend more-than-an-average amount of time on these Blog entries instead of writing them like instant messages (like some of the TravelPod Blogs, jokes PC Magazine), and I really need to use my time to work on other things now. Besides, the trip IS over -- a sad, but true reality.

"Can't we all just, move along?"

Don't worry, when the next big thing happens (not yet determined), you guys'll hear about it. ;)

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 25, 2005 10:09 AM

wasn't that the dorm with the asian club meeting was in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle?


ok this is a 2 part question......

"it's really gooooood...."

Posted by: markyt on April 25, 2005 10:23 AM

MARKYT: Actually, traveling around the world was pretty aw.. awesome.

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 25, 2005 10:26 AM

ERIK TGT - *high five*

Posted by: markyt on April 25, 2005 10:29 AM

I'm so sad now :( Not "The End". Hurry up and save money and go on another trip soon!

Posted by: Liz on April 25, 2005 10:58 AM

I've only started to read your blogs couple of weeks ago, and luckily I still have lot of catching up to do. Thank god, your blogs will occupy me until my departure date of June 1st for the 13 month trip. Congratulations for the job well done, and thanks for great stories, photos, infos and inspirations.

Posted by: vbrookie on April 25, 2005 11:13 AM

VBROOKIE: Thanks and you're welcome. Now get back to reading! :)

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 25, 2005 11:37 AM

Yes Sir! :p~

Posted by: vbrookie on April 25, 2005 11:51 AM

All good things...

Posted by: Td0t on April 25, 2005 12:26 PM

Are ALL of the loose ends tied up? Did you get reimbursed for those medical expenses (*cough* helicopter ride from the roof of the world *cough*)? How much did the whole kit and caboodle cost? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop?

Please give me a reason NOT to remove this from my (Open in tabs bookmark list in Firefox)?

See, I'm begging... someone send this guy RTW, all expenses paid this time, some freelance travel writing, anything... must waste more government time!

Posted by: Duaine on April 25, 2005 03:08 PM

DUAINE: Yes, all but the $250 deductible; About $29K; The world may never know.

Don't erase the tab just yet; as I said, when something trip-related comes up, I'll write about it.

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 25, 2005 03:15 PM

Hi Erik

I am a lurker ... I am sad to see the end to this blog. I have been a faithful reader. I even discussed your blog in my class ... and am using it as my guide to my upcoming trip to Europe.... It's been great following it ... one of my favourite past times :-)!!! Wish you all the best.

Posted by: Blog reader on April 25, 2005 04:52 PM

Wait, you got lost? No....

Posted by: RachelJC on April 25, 2005 07:37 PM

that was a nice end.

Posted by: Nicole on April 25, 2005 09:33 PM

the end? wtf?

Posted by: scott on April 25, 2005 09:37 PM

I kept hearing Jim Morrison singing as I read the last paragraph....

"This is the end, Beautiful friend
This is the end, My only friend, the end"

Posted by: Lisa on April 25, 2005 10:46 PM

Hey Erik,

You're such a sweet guy to deliver those cards. I know I treasure the cards you sent me.

I hope to get to the East Coast by the end of the year. See you then. Hopefully you won't be too busy.


Posted by: socalgirl on April 26, 2005 06:45 PM

Hey Erik

Out of the 29K what was the single most expensive item? Tickets? Lodging? Food? Internet?

Posted by: anthony on April 26, 2005 08:14 PM

End? Ouch!

Some questions (and sorry if I missed reading them):

1. So what is the final cost for the whole trip? Money spent for everything..did you keep any record of it?

2. How about shopping at all these places? You bought nothing to take home in all these exotic countries? Any memorable purchase you got back to US (other than that iBook holding metal thingy from India - any plans to put it on EBay or will it be a permanent fixture in Sir Eric Museum (TBD))?

3. Currency - did you get at least one sample currency - coin or notes - from all these countries?

Thats all. Thanks again for a great ride all these months!

Gaja from INDIA

Posted by: Gaja on April 26, 2005 09:36 PM

Bravo. Congratulations on accomplishing what you set out to do, and GOD's blessings to you in whatever you do next.
Thanks for the good party, too.

Posted by: Alyson on April 26, 2005 09:53 PM

NOOOOOOOOOO! Is it really over???? sniff....sniff...

Thanks so much for this blog! It was great to meet you and find a kindred spirit out there!

Enjoy yourself back in NJ/NYC and hopefully we can meet up again, maybe somewhere exotic next time!

Posted by: Michelle in Michigan on April 26, 2005 09:54 PM

"This is not the end; it is not the beginning of the end; but perhaps it is the end of the beginning." ~Authour Unknown~ (From my high school yearbook 1969. It was a very good year!)

Posted by: Janice on April 26, 2005 09:59 PM

the fact that you were taking photos while driving is scary to me.

T-minus 1 day to NYC!

Posted by: Noelle on April 26, 2005 10:02 PM

ANTHONY: Single most expensive item? A certain helicopter ride from the Himalayas back down to Kathmandu -- but that's not of the $29K (I was reimbursed). Does a tour count? If so, my train and homestay package across Siberia was the priciest. Otherwise, it's just a plane ticket.

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 26, 2005 10:15 PM

GAJA: 1) About $29K; No, I didn't really keep any records.

2) Ah, good question. Nope, I didn't do much shopping, although I was tempted to. I couldn't really buy stuff on the road because I didn't have room for it. Sure I could have shipped it home, but that costs money, and anything I would have shipped would have just stood on my shelf collecting dust anyway. I figured the photos and the stories would be souvenirs enough. In the long run, I ended up saving money for other things.

3) Yup; I made it a point to do that at least.

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 26, 2005 10:41 PM

Erik: I am heading to Guilin and Yangshou (China) for 4 days on an overnight soft-sleeper train. I checked out your entries there for my pre-trip research. As long as I am in China I will be coming back to your blog often! Thanks again!

Posted by: Janice on April 26, 2005 11:07 PM

SCOTT: The Blog is not dead... it lives in YOU. Hahaha... Seriously, book another trip and get out there again! ;)

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 27, 2005 09:18 AM

MICHELLE: Likewise! Does "exotic" involve 5-inches of snow in April? :P

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 27, 2005 09:24 AM

JANICE: "This is simply the beginning."
-Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), Die Hard

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 27, 2005 09:26 AM

ERIK one last request if possible.

Can we see the visa stamps on your passport! Any weird looking ones from any country? Just take digital photos of the visa stamps and wipe out your passport number and name/DOB and publish it.

Heck you can even have "Best/worst/cheap looking visa stamps" stuff too!

Yeah, I have weird interests :)

Gaja from INDIA

Posted by: Gaja on April 27, 2005 11:03 AM

I'm gong to use the postcards Erik sent me as bookmarks if he writes a book someday! I have the everest one on my refrigerator.

and yes I have the hyenas book. I bought it when it first came out because I buy a lot of the traveller's tales books, then I got addicted to the blog and found that Erik was in it!

Posted by: sara on April 27, 2005 11:49 AM

Check out today's USA Today. There is a quick mention of the Global Trip on the bottom of Page 4E of the bonus Smart Travel Section. Its listed as a bonus to the BootsnAll site. Take er' easy....

Posted by: udda on April 27, 2005 03:09 PM

I found the USA Today article on-line - they even have a link to your site. You're really popular!!

Posted by: Yvette on April 27, 2005 03:40 PM

UDDA/YVETTE: WOW, thanks! This is news to me too; they never tell me anything.

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 28, 2005 01:40 AM

Erik, nooooooo this can't be "The End" - what am I suppose to read at work? work stuff? puhlease. Congrats on and USAToday, more good things to come I'm sure! :)

Posted by: Yun on April 28, 2005 04:44 PM

YAY!! A new person!!!
Welcome Yun.

Posted by: Dtella on April 28, 2005 04:46 PM

New poster... old reader... :-D

Posted by: Yun on April 28, 2005 04:47 PM

about time!

Posted by: Dtella on April 28, 2005 04:48 PM

I'm shy...

Posted by: Yun on April 28, 2005 04:50 PM

(for best effect, imagine this is being said by the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy) Uh excuse me Mr. Trinidad, but I believe your beloved "Family Guy" is set in the state of Rhode Island, not Connecticut…

Damn Erik, that's a lot of driving for one day! You didn't hit any traffic?

Posted by: dunlavey on April 29, 2005 01:37 AM

DUNLAVEY: "Aquaman, you can not marry a human; you're from two different worlds!"

Connecticut, Rhode Island, same thing. But you're right, and so I've corrected myself above. Instead of Connecticut being "the stage of Seth MacFarlane's hilarious Family Guy cartoon," it is now "where Tony Danza moved to and saw Angela naked in the shower in Who's The Boss?"

Remember that episode of Family Guy when Peter set up the Quahog parade dedicated to that famous shower scene?

Posted by: Erik TGT on April 29, 2005 09:28 AM

Somehow I missed this one when it was posted. Geez, I knew I jumped the gun when I opted to ... un-make this my homepage. ugh, there, I admitted it. perhaps I didn't want to see it end.

I forgot about the postcards you picked-up; tho I am surprised you didn't misplace them for the last 2 years. I would have. Too bad you didn't do this on a weekday, you could have visited the old office in your travels!

Posted by: Christy on May 6, 2005 07:01 PM

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