Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 1999

S LESSONS ON THE ROAD

September 7, 1999

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Two lifelong Lawrence friends are postponing college for one year to tour the United States and Canada by pickup.

Lawrence teen-agers Logan Smith and Michael Coggins, along with Wheatley the loyal dog, will depart Thursday for an extreme tour of the United States and Canada.

We're talking a nine-month, 15,000-mile, figure-eight extravaganza. No motels. No five-star restaurants. No frequent-flyer miles.

Just two 19-year-old guys and a golden retriever cruising highways and dirt roads in a 1988 Chevrolet Silverado.

"We've been through 13 years of school, and it was great. We learned a lot," said Smith, who graduated from Free State High in May. "We feel we need to take a break, see the country, the real world."

Coggins, a 1999 Lawrence High graduate, said the goal was to hit the road for a firsthand education of the continent's people, places and things. It's better than studying the subjects in college, he said.

"The main difference is we're not going to be taking classes."

The trio will depart for Missouri before drifting through Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. They'll take three weeks to work from Chicago to Maine. A tour of the East Coast should take a month.

If all goes as planned, a swing through the South will bring them home for Christmas. The Southwest is the post-holiday target. The plan is to drive from San Diego to Anchorage before angling back to Kansas through mountains in Canada and the United States.

Currently, Mexico is out because of tough rules about bringing a dog back into the United States.

The agenda will remain open, reflecting whims of the road warriors.

"It depends on what's out there," Smith said.

They'll visit friends, family and potential colleges along the way. Campsites will be their homes away from home. Meals will emerge from a traveling kitchen. Both will cook.

"We've been practicing," Smith said.

Smith, an Eagle Scout, said he had dreamed of traveling cross-country since third grade. Coggins was a late convert, having been convinced by an outdoor-loving cousin, Noah Hughes, that there was merit in delaying the college experience.

While on the road, they'll communicate by e-mail with a laptop computer. Here's how to contact them: cogsdawgs@excite.com.

How did parents and siblings respond to the road-trip proposal?

"Surprisingly supportive," Smith said.

Coggins said one of his sisters, Becca, raised a red flag. "She didn't want me to turn into a granola or hippie."

The guys expect to be challenged -- Mechanical trouble? Lousy weather? Strange encounters with people?

But they're not worried about Wheatley. The dog enjoyed a recent 2,000-mile warm-up trip to northern Michigan. His only need: stuffed toys to bite on before shredding.

"I go to garage sales," Coggins said. "A 50-cent bunny is better than a $16 one from a store."

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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