I'm about to pull the plug on a large web site project that I've been working on infrequently over the past nine months. Last year, I drove through each of the contiguous United States (in other words, all but Alaska and Hawaii) over the course of several long trips. I thought it would be fun to create a special "48 in 2003" site with a page for each state.
Alas, it just didn't worked out. The writing was tedious and the results were boring. My manic form of travel (often 400+ miles per day) made some states a blur, and the few interesting stories I had were lost in the passage of time. If I had hatched this idea at the beginning of 2003 instead of near the end, I could have laid more groundwork along the way; I would have paid better attention to details and taken notes. Instead, the story came out weak.
Editing photos was even harder. With hundreds of photos to crop, resize, sharpen, and caption, I was overwhelmed. Plus, there was a huge imbalance in the number of pictures from each state. While states such as Maine, Texas, and Nevada were well-represented, I had no photos from about ten states and just a few lame snapshots from others. On top of all that, I was concerned that the last two sections I added to my cycling web site (Texas 2003 & Central Arizona 2001) failed to generate the enthusiastic reaction that my Coast to Coast and Grand Illinois Trail sections did. My "48 in 2003" quest paled in comparison with my Coast to Coast tour. Multiple trips lack the epic value of one long journey, and traveling by car is less intriguing than traveling by bicycle.
This weekend, I thought up a new idea that would salvage some of the work I did on the "48 in 2003" project. Instead of narrating a journey, I will concentrate on destinations. I won't be limited to one year's experiences, either, so it may never really be finished. It should be more interesting and useful to visitors, and it will give me a framework for documenting future (and past) travels. Tentatively, I will still divide it by state. Each state's page will have a list of places, and each place will have a page or more of photos. This way, I can put related photos from different trips together. I will still have to do a lot of photo work, but at least I don't have to tie it all together. My first thought was to call it "American Places," but since that is William Zinsser's book title, I will have to come up with something else. This may not sound radical to most blog readers, but it is a major departure from the way I have documented trips online in the past.
For inspiration, I am thinking of The Who after they created Tommy. They were working on a concept called Lifehouse. It fell apart, but the pieces turned into Who's Next, one of their finest albums with "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Baba O'Riley" (aka "teenage wasteland"), "Behind Blue Eyes," etc. I hope to gather the extant pieces of "48 in 2003" and create a Who's Next.