Saturday, July 10, 2010

I was traveling to Kenya, but got stuck in New Jersey

Traveling over 3 different continents in the course of 48 hours is bound to run into bumps and hiccups along the way, especially if you go through Newark, New Jersey…

Before I express my opinions on the great state of New Jersey, let's update the first leg of this journey to Kenya. If you've known me for any amount of time, there are two things I absolutely despise in this world and will not do unless I absolutely need to: organizing and waking up before 8am.

Unfortunately, I had to do both yesterday as we left the house in Carson City to prep our trip to Kenya. When you're carrying out a production in the field, you are required by some force of nature to organize your gear, and believe me it is one of those 'easier said than done' deals. In my backpack and Portabrace, I divided up a Canon 7D, 3 lens, Rode Videomic, Redrock Shouldermount, Zacuto Eyepiece, 3 hard drives, 10 tapes, Canon XH-A1s, 2 lavs and receiver, 2 shotguns and receivers, 3 chargers, 2 travel charger kits, my Mac, and all the clothes and toiletries I plan on using over there. Impossible task, I know, but I managed to do it without breaking any straps yet (knock on wood).

We woke up at 8am to load up the car, picked up Rori at 10, and were on the road to San Francisco by 11. Strange enough, these are the parts of any trip that I tend to remember the most. It's that mind-numbing traveling when you all know what the job is ahead of us and you can feel the excitement between everyone. You learn a lot about people when you spend a couple hours in a car with them, yet alone 48 hours of solid traveling. I'm proud to say that this team is pretty solid, and we all have our hearts and minds fully invested in our mission (even with all the jokes we crack along the way).

Dropping us off at SFO looked something like this:

Yes, that is the entire production in one SmartCart. It's the boring part and most strenuous aspect of my job: hauling equipment. It's not that fun dragging that stuff 6000 miles away, but you gotta do it.

Not a lot happened at SFO for us. We kicked it, filmed B-Roll, and just relaxed for the most part. The plane trip to Newark, however, was perhaps one of the worst flights I've been on.

We left at 10:30pm, and from the moment we stepped on the plane I remembered vividly why I hate domestic flights. I don't know what it is, whether it's American Capitalism or stupidity, but we have the smallest and most uncomfortable seats in the entire world. Combine that with crappy service and no food and you have the workings of a miserable 5 hours of living.

As I worked on sleep depriving myself, I did have the fortune of spending my insomnia on staring out the window at a side of America I haven't seen before. I've been to Chicago once, but outside of that I really haven't travelled East of the Rockies. The conditions were perfect, allowing me to see the heart of America as it sleeps. We flew over what looked like Kansas City, Chicago, the Great Lakes, and parts of Canada.

As we approached Newark, I got to see the sun rise over a thunderstorm, and that awesome sight of instant morning. If you've ever travelled East overnight, you know what I'm talking about. Behind you is the darkness, and up ahead is a very vivid horizon. The stars graze the sun and for about 15 minutes or so you seem to float between the days. It's very inspirational and fulfilling if you let your mind wander and meditate on everything you hold dear in your life.

Then….we arrive in Newark….

Let me prelude this by saying that I only got about 2 hours of sleep on the plane ride in. We arrive in Newark at 6:30am local time flying through heavy turbulence and fog to arrive at the most disgusting ghetto of an airport I have ever been to. The place resembles a prison from the 1950's: cement pillars shaped to look like decorative architecture but in reality you know that the architect was drunk and really didn't give a crap about the place.

Honestly though, who can blame him? It's Jersey! The hot humidity isn't like a tropical island, but more like a dream crushing blanket sent by the devil to suffocate you with it's smog-filled air. It's so bad that the roofs are littered with dead birds. Yes, in the tram I saw at least 5 pigeon carcasses rotting on the concrete.

The lobby reminded me of a Jr. High cafeteria. You have tons of socially awkward people pushing and shoving each other around just to get to the front of the line for the same service offered to everyone else. Everyone speaks with a God-awful accent and somehow lost their manners when they were about five. They fit right in with the flock of pigeons that walk along the baggage claim carousels and taxi drivers that only nod when asked a question.

As you can tell, I am a bit sleep deprived, and it was much worse at 6:30am. We booked a hotel for about 6 hours to sleep and freshen up, then it was back to this rathole that I'm currently sitting at, waiting for my plane ride to Brussels. Final verdict: Jersey sucks. I'll come back to visit NYC, but West Coast > East Coast hands down.

Whew….I'm glad I got that off my chest. It was a rough 1st leg, but now that we only have 2 hours left on this layover I'm glad to be done here and ready to move on. Our next leg is a 7 hour flight to Brussels, 3 hour layover, then 10 hours to Nairobi, Kenya!

Our mission is well underway, and in spite of everything I'm having a blast along the way. And, to end this entry, I would like to leave you this image.

New Jersey: Where dreams go to die….


  1. Hi Ryan, I'm glad your trip to Kenya is fianally on the first leg and probably the worst part getting there. Sorry Newark airport was bad. Too bad your lay over wasn't in Cleveland I could have picked you up at the airport and you could have relaxed at my house why you were waiting for your next plane. I'm looking forward to following your trip and can't wait for some pictures. Try to catch a few zzz's on your next flight and I'll be praying for you and your team safe arrival to Kenya. Talk to you soon.

  2. Jersey is everything people think hell will be! As bad of an experience as it was, I am glad you got to see it because we can share our anguish of a terrible place together. I am excited to read this by the way and will be following you on your journey!

  3. Please don't judge the entire East Coast by Newark. It represents it as well as a penguin represents birds, it is the outcast for sure. I've had the pleasure of seeing a lot of the East Coast and New England on my tour and it is beautiful.

  4. Haha I'll try my best was super depressing seeing Manhattan from Newark and knowing I couldn't go there this trip. I'll have to pay a visit and then make a decision