For my 2,000th sunrise I set out to be 1,024 miles from home. One mile for each dollar contributed. Here’s how it happened…

Sunrise No. 2,000 was June 22, 2024.


After 5.5 years of sunrise, this road trip was a dream come true, and I feel was a proper celebration of the passion and hard work of pursuing 2,000 consecutive sunrises.

The road trip totaled 3,094 miles of driving through 11 states, including 10 nights and 10 new sunrise locations in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, and Illinois.

The plan was to choose a destination along the perimeter of the purple circle, 1,024 miles away from Marquette.

Possible destinations included: Chinook, MT; Greybull, WY; Colorado Springs, CO; Mangum, OK; Winnsboro, TX; Shreveport, LA; Laurel, MS; Troy, AL; Mt. Vernon, GA; Charleston, SC; North Battleford, Saskatchewan and Saint John, New Brunswick

Overnight stops, including 3 nights in North Charleston and 2 nights in Cherokee, NC.

About as accurate as a driving route as I could recreate with the Google Maps API. This excludes a few stretches of getting off the Interstate, namely in West Virginia.

Thank you contributors!

Ali, Amy, Ann, Annie, Barbara, Brian, Cassie, Cherry, Christopher, Dawn, Donna, Elizabeth, Gary, Griffin, Gytis, James, Jennifer, Joy, Justin, Kate, Katey, Kathy, Katie, Kurt, Kyle, Laura, Laurie, Lourdes, Margaret, Mary, Matthew, Meredith, Pamela, Rachel, Sara, Sidney, Stephen, Tabetha, Teresa, Tracy, Victoria, and especially Tieka.

I am forever grateful for your support. Thank you for putting faith in me to do things a little different. Without any one of you I literally wouldn't have made it was far as I did.


The Sunrises

DateNo.LocationTown
June 191,997Tawas Point State ParkEast Tawas, MI
June 201,998Blanchard River Nature PreserveForest, OH
June 211,999New River GorgeBeaver, WV
June 222,000Botany BayEdisto Island, SC
June 232,001Lighthouse Inlet PreserveFolly Beach, SC
June 242,002Pitt Street BridgeMount Pleasant, SC
June 252,003Clingmans DomeSevier County, TN
June 262,004Waterrock KnobMaggie Valley, NC
June 272,005Ohio RiverRising Sun, IN
June 282,006Montrose Bird SanctuaryChicago, IL

Recap

After the campaign of 1 mile for every $1 contributed, I had 17 days of planning before hitting the road on July 18. I spent approximately one week exploring all the possible destinations, from New Brunswick to Manitoba to Montana to South Carolina and more.

Ultimately choosing Charleston, South Carolina, I had about one week of planning, choosing the route, deciding where to stay, what dates would land where, and ultimately where I would be for sunrise no. 2,000.

The trip brought me through 11 states in ten days, driving nearly 3,100 miles to chase ten new sunrise destinations.

Had I planned the trip for total driving miles instead of as the crow flies, I would have hardly gotten outside of Michigan.

Looking for an archive of the trip? The best is to head to @BugsySailor on Instagram and click into the πŸŒ… 2K highlights.

Why Charleston?

While there were so many exciting potential routes, in the final days I had it narrowed down to two destinations, Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick and Charleston, South Carolina.

Ultimately, I chose Charleston for three reasons.

  1. I loved the route. It allowed for sunrises along the Great Lakes, farmland, mountains, ocean, small towns, and big cities. I was especially drawn to the opportunity to sunrise in the Great Smoky Mountains and finish with a social sunrise in Chicago.

  2. Dead trees in the ocean. Yes, I drove 1,300 miles to take photos of dead trees in the water. For years I have been wanting to get to one of two Boneyard Beaches in South Carolina, one on Bulls Island and one on Edisto Island. I have been captivated by these landscapes.

  3. Sentimental reasons dating back to the Hometown Invasion Tour. In 2006/07 I took on my first major project, road tripping to all 50 states in a year, staying with people I had never met. It changed my life forever and is where I fell in love with the American open road. One of the most significant stories of that journey was the stories of my beloved 574s. This story deserves a new home, but you can find it here.

New Sunrise Milestones

I had not thought of all these when leaving for the trip. For the time being, new sunrise milestones on this road trip include…

Before this road trip, the furthest sunrise since the inception of YOTS, was Belle Isle, 363 miles away from Marquette, as the crow flies. This road trip set a new milestone for furthest sunrise, furthest southern sunrise, furthest eastern sunrise, as well as highest and lowest elevation of sunrise.

Campaign and Budget

The initial campaign was simple. I would make the goal of being one mile away from Marquette for every dollar contributed. That total mileage would get me to 1,024 miles. I included an option to throw in some snacks and a coffee for the road, many more contributed to that than I expected.

With a goal of 1,024 miles away from Marquette for the 2,000th sunrise, I was pretty darn close. My Airbnb was 1,023 miles away and the 2,000th sunrise was 1,039 miles away as the crow flies.

Had I done this with total mileage instead of as the crow flies, I would have hardly made it around Lake Michigan. I mean, I still did a road trip around Lake Michigan, just in more epic fashion.

I’ve done similar campaigns in the past, but I wanted to go further with this one. As I lean into the idea of being a ‘content creator’ (that makes me cringe a little), and taking contributions, I wanted to be as transparent as possible in where those dollars were spent, as well as how much I contributed personally.

Revenue

Contributors56
Net revenue/contributor$25.95

Expenses

Expenses averaged $202.81 per day for 11 days.

The trip cost me approximately $778 in the end. I wish I would have thought of this advance, but for those contributing, I would have liked to go dollar for dollar. However, there is still the unknown cost of gifts for contributors, which will likely be several hundred dollars.

There are also opportunity costs which will remain unknown, such as being away from the shop during it’s busiest season, and having to pay more in payroll to keep the doors open. I came back significantly behind on several tasks, especially The Sunrise Gallery, which requires frequent care and attention during the busy summer months. Had this been about making a buck or two, it would have been much wiser of me to just stay put in Marquette and hustle through the summer season.

For those who contributed, I sincerely hope you found value in this journey. The documentation process, bringing me somewhere entirely new, the transparency of it, and helping bringing a little sunshine to thousands of other people. It would certainly be nice to do this all again.

Gas, Mileage and Driving ⛽️

Knowing the route I intended to take, I made some very loose estimates of how many miles of driving and how much gas would be required.

I loosely estimated 3,000 miles of total driving. Plugging in different routes all gave me approximately the same number, 1,024 miles away from Marquette meant about 2.5x miles driven. That landed me at 2,560 miles and knowing there would be several side journeys from my lodging, I rounded up to 3,000.

EstimateActual
Mileage3,0003,094
Miles/Gallon35.033.4
Gallons of gas85.792.6
Cost/gallon$3.50$3.34
Gas Cost$300.00$309.70

Ultimately, I am very proud of my estimates. A few takeaways…

  • I didn’t realize how much cheaper gas would be as I traveled south
  • My car’s (a 2012 Ford Focus SEL hatchback, in blue candy metallic) MPG digital readout was consistently 2-4 MPG higher than the actual results
  • I kid you not… if I had driven exactly 3,000 miles with my actual MPG of 33.4, I would have spent exactly $300 on gas (89.8203593 gallons at $3.34 = 300.000000062). That’s precision.

In the end the only difference is that I drove a few more miles than expected. This was mostly due to an extra day in Charleston and Cherokee, which added extra miles for morning sunrise excursions.

Oh yeah, I did all this in the southern heat, in the middle of a heatwave, in the beginning of summer, without air conditioning in my car.

Official anthem of the road, “All I Do Is Drive” by Johnny Cash.

Spending Locally πŸ’°

Wherever possible, I paid with cash at local restaurants and coffee shops, and reserved my debit card for hotels, Airbnb, and gas stations. For those who contributed, I wanted to further their dollar in the most conscientious way.

Ever since Hometown Invasion Tour, one of my Rules of the Road is to spend locally. Eat at local restaurants, shop at local stores, avoid chains. When you do, a much larger portion of your dollar remains in the local community.

I’ve learned a lot more about this since opening my own retail space in 2017, Upper Peninsula Supply Co. “On average, 52.9 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses is recirculated locally, compared to less than 13.6 percent of purchases at chain stores.”

To take this further, use cash. Roughly, it keeps an extra 3% in the community rather than giving it to the payment processors and credit card companies.

For this road trip, I did fairly well in this regard. Spending with more cash is something I’d like to get better at as I know how much it affects my own retail shop.

For eating, I am proud to say I only made one purchase from a chain, which was a large order of Arby’s curly fries at one gas station, somewhere between West Virginia and North Carolina.

Coffee ☕

What would sunrise be without coffee? And what would a road trip be without coffee? In fact, the argument could be made that this project is as much about coffee as it is about the sun.

With eleven days of travel, I consumed 14 coffees. I think that’s pretty reasonable. Thoughts?

Coffees14
Coffees/Day1.27
Cost w/o tips$48.48
Cost w/tips$54.51
Avg cost w/o tips$3.46
Avg cost w/tips$3.89

The financial breakdown of coffee is difficult as I appear to be a stiff tipper, but I did tip at every local coffee shop, but one. However, some of those tips were merged with snacks and meals as part of the purchase. Three coffees were free, either at a hotel lobby or a provided by a friend. Removing the free coffees, the average cost/coffee goes up to $4.41.

I drove 3,094 miles and purchased only one gas station coffee. I tried an iced coffee at Love’s gas station in Bastian, Virginia. It was not good. And considering the temperatures, most coffees were iced coffees, so I didn’t make that mistake again.

Spending at local coffee shops drove up the prices, but also retained more money in those communities, per the note above. I also paid with cash at nearly every coffee shop.

Here is every coffee consumed:

It’s interesting to see, that on the longest, most important day of the trip, Sunrise No. 2,000, that I didn’t even have a coffee.

* Tip included with meal or snacks

Check out the local coffee shops on Instagram! Coffee is one of few luxuries I spend on in life. Local coffee shops is also one of the reasons this project exists in the way that it does, and largely where this project took form. On this trip, I’d often gas up, then find a local coffee shop in town to sit down and do a little work. For me, part of the extra cost is them providing a table I can sit at and take up space for an hour or two. And this very work gets done (writing this very sentence from Provisions MQT).

Thank you to all the baristas.

Please support your local coffee shops.

Meals and Snacks 🍳

Ok, this is where the budget gets a little out of hand. As you all know eating out is expensive, though I wanted to treat myself while in all of these new places. I tried limiting myself to one big meal per day, which worked out pretty well, and the rest of the food was snacks, etc.

For an eleven day road trip I spent $423 on food, this did include picking up the tab for a table of four a few beers, a six-pack to go for a pal, and includes tips. For meals, I averaged paying 22% for tips, which added $68 to the total. In total, I spent $40.34 per day on food. Yikes, back to ramen noodles for the rest of summer.

I certainly don’t always eat like this, but felt I had earned a nice meal at the end of each day.

Along with my notes on coffee shops, I made sure to try and eat at local places, pay wish cash where possible, and as mentioned, tip decently. During the eleven-day road trip, I only made one purchase from a fast food restaurant and/or chain, which was a serving Arby’s curly fries while driving through Virginia on my way south.

Best meals of the trip

  1. Sichaun hot karaage from Jackrabbit Filly in North Charleston, SC
  2. Burger with shoestring fries from Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor, MI
  3. Omelette from Ann Sather (on Boradway) in Chicago
  4. TheRooster from Black Circle Bistro in Beckley, WV

Lodging 🏨

Lodging is certainly the most expensive part of travel. For a total of 10 nights, I averaged $117.56 per night of lodging. Excluding the one night of couch surfing in Chicago, I averaged $130.63 per night.

Given one week of planning, I tried to find the best balance of convenience and cost. Charleston being the most expensive and longest stay, was certainly the most challenging. I could have stayed closer to some of the sunrise locations, closer to downtown, but cost would easily double in some of those scenarios.

I used to love Airbnb, but financially, it’s just not viable anymore. Even the swankiest hotel, The Hancock, a very nice venue, was significantly cheaper than Airbnb.

During the Hometown Invasion days I stayed in over 100 households in a single year. Selfishly, I think I’m beyond that now. I value my own space, routine, and boundaries a lot more than I used to. More so, I’m just a lot more particular in my old age.

Conclusion 🏁

What worked? What didn’t? And when do I get to do this again?!

For five years I have been dreaming of something like this for sunrise and I was able to lean into an old version of myself. Essentially, I lived out a micro version of the Hometown Invasion Tour, road tripping to all 50 states in a single year (well, flying to Alaska and Hawaii). … I never did watch any sunrises on that trip, but the partnership I had with Jeep that year, resulted in a Jeep Compass wrapped with a sunburst of all things.

I loved this trip. I’m proud of the planning and execution of this 2,000th sunrise road trip. With a short turn around time and a fast pace, I poured into it just about everything I could, this summary included, and there’s nothing of significance I would change.

Between managing a retail shop and a film festival, and creating a reputation for myself in and around Marquette, there aren’t many places I can go, including sunrise, where I can feel truly anonymous. Being on the road for ten days where I didn’t know a soul lifted a lot of social anxiety, I was able to relax in a way I hadn’t for a long time. For the first ten days of the trip, I’m not sure I talked to a single person for more than ten minutes, and I quite loved that. Having several days of uninterrupted time, on a schedule I made for myself, and several hours of driving each day, allowed me to have some much needed time to process where this sunrise journey has taken me in the last five years, and where it might take my next.

In five years of sunrising, this is the most time I have ever devoted to this project, blocking out ten days for the sole purpose of chasing the morning sun. It was a dream come true. And selfishly, one I feel I had earned after the commitment I’ve given to these sunrise years.

On sleep
Quality and quantity of sleep was a pretty significant concern heading out on this trip. I often joke that these sunrise years are less about sunrise and more about a massive research project on sleep.

There were a few things stacked against me.

  1. I don’t sleep well in new places
  2. I don’t sleep well in the heat
  3. I don’t sleep well when I’m antsy and excited for the day ahead
  4. These are the earliest sunrises of the year
  5. 300+ miles of driving each day, without a convenient place to nap

I was much more ambitious with my sunrising than a usual sunrise in Marquette. Many of the mornings I was out the door by 4:30 a.m. A few of those mornings, especially No. 2,000, were pretty groggy and difficult. But I managed and was feeling pretty good by sunrise. The stimulation of being in a new place kept me going through the day, and thankfully, after going hard every day, I was able to sleep quite well most nights. Thank goodness for cold, cold A/C.

Oh yeah, speaking of A/C, I did the entire 3,100 miles without air conditioning in my car. I rarely use it in Marquette, even in the summer, and I probably should have checked to see that it was working more than two days in advance of my departure. I burned up (well, my left arm and left knee) and roasted in the car, but I also chose to embrace the heat and I leaned into being a Yooper melting in the Southern humidity in the midst of a heatwave.

Position of the sun
Given that 2,000 was just two days after the Summer Solstice, the sun was as far north along the horizon as could be. Though I very well know this now, I made the assumption that South Carolina mostly faces east, since it is on the east coast. However, much of its shoreline faces more south than it does east, and when the sun is at its northernmost position, that poses a problem. In most places, Edisto Island included, the sun is parallel to the shore this time of year, when I was envisioning it being mostly perpendicular.

Ahhhhh, tides
The position of the sun lead me to the original plan of visiting Bulls Island for Sunrise 2,000. But challenges began to mount as the time of departure neared. I even found a charter and a connection with the charter company. However, I overlooked something glaringly simple. This Great Lakes kid entirely forgot that the ocean as these things called tides. Yeah, that’s a thing that exists.

Turns out that high tide on June 22, was right about at sunrise, preventing access to Bulls Island. This is what had me change destinations to Edisto Island. While beautiful, and a stunning morning, I still had to contest with a sun rising parallel to the beach, which was not ideal. As for the high tide, it didn’t allow me to get as far out on the beach as I hoped. With my tripod setup in the sand, every few minutes the waves began to encroach and I would have to move a couple feet further back.

Despite these challenges, which were not the case the following day at Folly Beach, I stay committed to my chosen destination of Edisto Island. It was glorious, and where I wanted to be at the furthest most point of this road trip, alas, I couldn’t change where the sun would rise on June 22.

Perhaps I can make another trip to Bulls Island, when the tide is low and the sun is further south.

Visiting new old friends
There is one particular connection to Charleston that has had me thinking of an eventual return for nearly fifteen years.

In 2007 during Hometown Invasion Tour, I briefly met Justin. After complimenting his New Balance shoes, he acknowledged he had an extra pair at home and offered to come back the following day and give me a pair of my own. He lived up to his word. I wore those shoes nearly every day for the remainder of the trip, and for much longer.

Eventually, my dear friend Khalid would gift me a pair to replace my own. A multi-year tradition unfolded in which we would gift each other pairs of shoes, and a rule was formed, anytime one buys a paid of New Balance 574s, they must also gift a pair to a friend. At the time Justin gave me a pair, the number 574 meant nothing to me. Since, it has become a significant tradition in my my life. I even own 574s.com.

Eventually years would go by and I wanted to reach out to Justin and let him know of the tradition he inspired. I was sad to learn that Justin took his own life later on the same year I met him. Justin’s daughter, Avery, was just weeks old. Mark, who hosted my in Charleston and introduced me to Justin, Folly Beach, and Angel Oak, would eventually put me in touch with Justin’s sister. And in 2011, when Avery was four years old, I sent her a pair of shoes to pay forward what her father had given me.

Read the entire story of 574s here.

For over a decade I have been in touch with Justin’s sister and mother, and now more recently, Avery’s mother. It was me hope that I would be able to meet Justin’s family while in South Carolina. Perhaps due to my lack of planning, or a rushed trip without advanced notice, I wasn’t able to meet up with them on the trip, but we were able to reconnect through some messages and I’m grateful to hear how they are all doing, including Avery. Justin, and his family a thousand miles away, have felt like close friends, and have left an impact on my life I’ll never forget.

My friend Mark, who was the connection between Justin and I, also passed away recently.

Beyond Edisto Island, Angel Oak, and Folly Beach, it was these connections that had me wanting to get back to South Carolina. It felt like fate, that the final distance contributed, put me right in the path of these core memories.

Maybe it sounds corny, but I feel a piece of me has always been in Charleston.

While I’m sad I didn’t get to meet Justin’s family, there was a very intentional photo selection. For each sunrise in the Charleston area, I was sure to wear my latest pair of 574s (Thank you Tara!). 574s have a very distinguishable shoe print, certainly one I’m familiar with, and if you look close, you’ll see that shoe print in the video of Sunrise No. 2,000 and in the sand of Sunrise No. 2,001. I think a traditional nature photographer would be annoyed that their own shoe prints were in the frame, disturbing the natural scene. Certainly I could have chosen a different composition, or even removed them, but this was a deliberate choice. Finally, I had made it back to Charleston. Thank you Justin, and thank you Mark.


That was a pretty long summary, and just a glimpse into what 2,000 sunrises has meant to me. One day, I hope, there will be gobs and gobs more of sunrising ramblings. You made it this far, and I’m grateful for that.


A look back at sunrise No. 1,000

Leading up to No. 1,000 I had several wonderful conversations with Danny Freedman who wrote this piece for Hour Detroit.

Additionally, this feature from Pure Michigan nicely documents a portion of Sunrise No. 1,000.