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The to-do list
There are things to be learned from Brett Rounsaville's journey across America — stuff your dad probably told you when you were young, but never really believed himself.
Like, “people are generally good.” Or, “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
In the realm of you-can-doers, Rounsaville should be put somewhere between doctors, American presidents and reality TV stars. At 27, he gave up a comfy job as a designer for Disneyland Resorts to start work on his “50 List” — a written collection of the things he wanted to accomplish in life.
Think, hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon or riding an ostrich.
People keep calling it a “bucketlist,” and Rounsaville's hoping that's not the case.
The rules were simple. He couldn't spend any money on lodging. And he couldn't go home until all 50 were done. He created a Web site to post updates, videos and podcasts.
And then he set off, with four t-shirts, a pair of jeans and a whole lot of tech — including a Mac Book Pro he calls Charlie, a cell phone, wireless Wi-Fi card, wireless mic kit for podcasting, digital camera, video camera and a handheld GPS (for geocaching).
“It wasn't a well-planned thing at all,” says Rounsaville, a Fresno native, who attended Manchester and Computech, before graduating from Sierra High.
But in just over a year, he's completed 43 of the 50, including taking part in a Civil War re-enactment (No. 12), telling Donald Trump he's fired (No. 21) and riding the fastest roller coaster in the nation (No. 36).
There have been struggles.
Like walking to the top of the Empire State Building (No. 6), which took more than just the physical stamina. Fire marshals mandate the very top is only open for one-day a year, and only to the athletes in the Empire State Building Run Up. And that's invitation only. Rounsaville had to convince the race sponsor to let him be on the cleaning crew. He started at the top and worked his was down. Hey, whatever it takes, right?
And just getting from point A to point B, is complicated when you're spending little or no money. He takes the train when he can and uses Craigslist to find rideshares.
But he's also hitchhiked. He only takes the bus when he has too. Because he hates the bus — it's the worst way to travel.
That he just spend most of the last of his money on a bus pass is testament to one major drawback to a trip like this. You don't get many moments of comfort.
“Expect discomfort often,” Rounsaville says.
His worst days were spent trapped with no ride in Arkadelphia Arkansas. It was 48 hours in the rain, without sleep. When he was finally picked up by the local police, he was just wandering, soaked, toward Texas.
There's been a lot of wandering.
Rounsaville's first stop was Lancaster Pennsylvania, a place he sought out because of it's large Amish population. Milking a cow on a Amish farm was No. 9 on his list, so it seemed logical. He just wandered around, talking to everyone, until someone said, “OK.”
And this is where we find out what Rounsaville learned on the trip.
Someone will always say OK. The trip wouldn't be possible, but for the generosity of others.
“People are good,” he says. That's not some West-Coast hippie dream. It's everywhere you go, he says. “It's not until we get into groups that we become jack-asses.”
His parents, supportive as any parents could be, didn't quite believe he could do it. Plus, who wants the neighbors to know their kid to quit a job to become an “unemployed vagrant?”
Then, they saw him on "Goodmorning America.”
National morning television is totally legit (and No. 22 on his list). So now, when Rounsaville doesn't update his Web site for a few days, he gets a call from his dad, and it's not, “where are you,” or “are you OK?”
It's, “why haven't you posted.”
And yes, there was a moment when Rounsaville could have backed out. It was a week or so before he left and he was sitting on Huntington Beach under the stars, with the breeze and the waves rolling in, and it was one of those moments where life was perfect, for a guy who had never traveled much, had never been east of San Diego. But he packed up Charlie and left anyway.
“I had to see what else was out there.”
To follow Brett Rounsaville's journey, or to donate or offer help, visit www.amtrekker.com