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Cathy Free: Man hitting the road to fulfill father’s dream

SHARE Cathy Free: Man hitting the road to fulfill father’s dream

Fifteen years ago, James Keeler had his bags packed for the ultimate road trip: 48 states and 25 interstates in less than six days.

In a custom-built van equipped with a 250-gallon gas tank, he and two friends were hoping to break the Guinness record of five days, seven hours and 15 minutes for driving through every state in the lower 48. Then the unthinkable happened. James' mother died.

"I was half-tempted to strap her to the roof in her rocker," jokes James, 67, recalling what Chevy Chase did to his Aunt Edna in the comedy flick, "Vacation." Ultimately, respect and decorum prevailed. The trip was canceled and James rolled up his maps, intending to return to his dream someday.

But that didn't happen. James developed blood clots in his legs and couldn't sit for two hours a time, let alone 127. He figured that was the end of his nutty but spectacular idea. Until now.

At sundown on May 4, James' son, Joshua, 23, will hit the road with two buddies in his 2005 Toyota Scion to complete the trip his dad had to call off. This ride won't be for the record books, though. Concerned with public safety, the Guinness Book of World Records banned cross-country speed records more than a decade ago.

Still, Joshua, Joey Stocking and Adam Gautherum hope to break the old record anyway, if for no other reason than to say "we did it" before careers and marriage put a crimp on their adventures.

"I grew up looking at my dad's maps all over the floor," recalls Joshua, "so when one of my friends announced he was getting engaged, I called Joey and Adam and said, 'We're doing this trip right now before it's too late."'

Eager to share their story, the Keelers wanted to get together at Salt Lake City's Chanon Thai for a Free Lunch of chicken curry — one of Joshua's last good meals before he begins a five-day diet of gas station hot dogs and burritos.

After driving to Boston, he and his friends will rest up, then head out on a 7,216-mile journey painstakingly mapped by James. Zig-zagging from Vermont to Washington state, they'll end up at the Four Corners Monument on May 9. "Four states in 10 minutes!" exclaims James. "It's the perfect ending."

They'll barely cross into some states like California and Texas, but a GPS device will document every leg of the journey, lest anybody assume the guys are actually cooling their jets at a Holiday Inn.

"People think we're crazy to do this, especially with the price of gas," says Joshua. "But I did the math. We'll need 357 gallons, but divided three ways, it comes out to $400 each. That's pretty cheap for one heck of a week."

James wishes he could tag along, too, but he says he's content to check road and weather conditions for the team on the Internet. "To get this done, they'll have to cross 15 states entirely, including Montana," he says. "I have a friend at the Montana Highway Patrol. I told him, 'You see these boys coming through, don't pull 'em over."'

When I offer to take Joshua and his pals to lunch upon their return, Joshua grins. "That would be great," he says. "But first, I think I'll be needing a shower."

To follow the adventure, go to greatamericanroadtrip.us

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