Cole Guidry says you're not likely to experience scary, adventurous things while sitting on the sofa - so that's why he brought his red couch on his cross-country road trip this summer. He passed through North Dakota and spoke with Prairie Public's Danielle Webster.
He wanted to go to Alaska, and make sure to cross all 50 states off his bucket list: that's how Cole Guidry's initial idea for this road trip began. He says it eventually evolved into an eight week, 15,000 mile cross country excursion that would hopefully inspire people along the way to do something they might be nervous to do before it was too late. In 2015, Guidry's father passed away unexpectedly. Then last year he also lost his mother. While he was going through her things, he found a letter she had written to him years earlier but had never sent.
"It's basically just a mother describing why she loves her son so much. And in it, she goes on and on about how proud of my writing and my art and my humor, and there's a line where she says, 'use those things to change the world or change the way people view it.' And that line was very impactful for me, because, I wanted to do it. You know, I didn't want to let my mom down."
Starting from his home state of Michigan in early June, his first stop was Dyersville, Iowa at the Field of Dreams.
"There's something just really magical about that place. It still looks very much like the movie. Before I left, I watched the movie again - I don't know why, but I watched the movie and at the very beginning Kevin Costner says 'I'm 36 years old and I haven't done anything special in my life,' and it just HIT, you know? It was like, that's ME, and I just connected with the character. So I had to stop, it was on the way, and I felt like it was a great launching point for everything I'm doing. I'm trying to do something special, and they've kept it alive all these years."
From there he went through Nebraska and into Colorado, meeting up with friends he hadn't seen in fifteen years. His sister met him in Denver and together they drove up through Wyoming and Montana to spread their parents ashes, before parting ways in Billings so Guidry could continue his trip through to Salt Lake City, Utah. He says a moment he'd had near the Bonneville Salt Flats many years ago was part of the reason why his red couch came with him on this trip.
"When I was 21, I think, I took a picture - I was driving a truck that had a bunch of marketing material in it, one of which was a big red couch. And the truck broke down in the Salt Flats, and it was going to take the tow truck four or five hours to get to us. So we got so bored, we just started pulling stuff out and taking pictures. One of those pictures is me lying on a red couch in the Salt Flats. So when I was putting this idea of a trip together, I looked over one day and saw this picture on the wall. I was like, 'why don't I just do that everywhere?' Just bring this couch, and take this picture everywhere I go. And that's kind of where it started with the couch - I wanted to recreate that picture."
After leaving Bonneville, he continued through Nevada and up into Oregon, hopping on over to the Pacific Coast highway heading north through Washington and then into Canada towards Alaska, which he says has been his favorite part of his trip.
"Just those long stretches of absolutely nothing, and when you do stop it's just one thing. It's a gas station, slash restaurant, slash gift shop, and that's it for the next 60 to 80 miles. And you walk in and everyone's just super nice. It's almost like stepping back in time, I felt like I was traveling in the 50's or 60's where, that's just how you did business. There's no credit card reader at the pump, you pumped and went inside and said 'I just pumped this many liters' and they just believed you. So there was something really wholesome and honest about that experience that really reignited my faith in humanity, and that there is a whole lot of world out there that isn't the world I was left."
On his way back down through Canada, Guidry went through Banff and back through Montana before reaching North Dakota, where he took in the Medora Musical and explored the Enchanted Highway before moving on toward Fargo. He says his mother always called him a loner, so the solo-road trip hasn't been too stressful on him. But he also hasn't been completely alone either.
"So, Mr. Bear was a gift from my co-workers at my going away party. Really, it was that they didn't want me to travel alone. So it was half gag gift, but half serious. So I took it seriously. As soon as I got Mr. Bear, he sat in the front seat, he's buckled in and propped up so he can see. He's very much a part of the trip. There's something about him, a lot of people like Mr. Bear. I get a lot of comments about how he's doing, where's he's at - especially when I take a picture without him. Ultimately how I'm viewing it is, he's kind of like that child version of me, he's very much treated like a child and he acts like a child a lot of the times. So for me, I really get to play with that symbolism and imagery of me on this trip, but trying to reconnect with a younger version of myself."
Once he moves on from Fargo, Guidry plans to head toward Duluth before crossing Wisconsin and heading back into Michigan. He and Mr. Bear have seen a lot of places and people along the way, but he mostly hopes to have inspired others to do something a little crazy with their own lives, while they can.
"Now that it's coming to an end, I really don't want to stop, for a lot of selfish reasons. I think I've learned a lot about myself. The feedback I've gotten from people who follow has been incredibly positive, people say that they've changed the way they see things and that I've encouraged them to maybe do something even if it's small - that they're more willing to get up, get out and do it - instead of waiting for the perfect time."
You can follow the adventures of Cole Guidry, Mr. Bear and their red couch on Facebook at Have Couch Will Travel, or at www.havecouchwilltravel.com.