Recounting Charles Salvatore’s trip
By Kyle LoJacono
When Charles Salvatore set out on his trip across America April 20 he knew it would be tough, but not as hard as it turned out.
The Zephyrhills resident completed about 1,400 of his 5,600-mile journey from the city to Sterling, Ala. Even though he came up short, Salvatore is still the first person to go as far on a 50cc motor scooter, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Salvatore, 24, planned the trip to raise money and awareness for the American Liver Foundation’s Southeast Regional Division. During the weeks leading up to the trip he raised enough money to pay for his journey and donate $2,313 to the foundation, according to the division’s vice president Katherine Cline.
Salvatore recorded his trip, which can be viewed on www.youtube.com by searching for Charles Salvatore Alaska trip.
The Laker recently talked with Salvatore about his adventure, which he called “One Man’s Journey,” and his plans to continue supporting the foundation.
Q: What was it like to hit the road for the trip?
A: It was crazy. The first day was very exciting, but it rained a lot from Gainesville to Tallahassee. It was so cold that day I could see my breath.
Q: What was the worst part of the trip?
A: The sitting. My tailbone was bruised by the time I reached Houston.
Q: How frustrating were the delays you had?
A: I got pulled over three times in Florida and five times overall and that slowed me down a lot. Most of the time I had to maintain 40 mph by the signs, but the wind and rain and slowed me down to about 23 mph and the cops thought it was too dangerous for me to be on the highways.
Q: Did you think of turning back sooner?
A: I actually broke down in Alabama because I was way behind schedule and needed to go another 200 miles to reach New Orleans. I didn’t think I’d make it, but my fiancée (Billy-Jeen Gutierrez) talked to me about why I’m doing the trip and that got me back mentally. We took some stuff off my bike so I could go faster and I got to New Orleans in five hours.
Q: Will you continue to support the foundation?
A: I’m hoping to get something together with Zephyrhills High School where the grade-level that donates the most money to the foundation each quarter gets a big trophy. I’m talking like 6-foot. I’ve got some other fundraising plans.
Q: I understand you named the scooter Louisiana, why and how did it hold up?
A: It was such a relief to get to Louisiana that I had to name my bike after the state. It was so good to me. I’m pretty big (about 300 pounds), so it had a lot of weight to carry…I don’t have it right now because it’s stuck in Moore, Okla. at a motorcycle shop and they said it would cost $800 to ship it here. I want to get it back to auction off to raise money for the foundation.
Q: You had a close call in Oklahoma didn’t you?
A: I was on the side of the road with no (shoulder), so I was really close to the road. A double semitruck hit me in the side. I was only going 25 mph because I was going up a hill. I wasn’t hurt, but I was mentally messed up. People said it would happen, but I didn’t think it would. Then I talked with the people at the foundation and they thought it wasn’t worth my life so we called it off.
Q: Going so far must still make you proud though, right?
A: No one’s ever done it before. People with the Guinness records wanted me to go at least 3,000 miles and I went 1,600 miles because I had to take some back roads when cops thought it was too dangerous on the highway, but it was only 1,400 on the main roads. I have witnesses and I recorded it all, but I don’t know if they will accept that as a record or not.
Q: Would you do anything like this again?
A: I would never do it on something as small as a scooter. There were huge storms a lot of the time. There was a tornado the last day I was in Texas. It was super super windy and that slowed me down and I’d want something a little bigger.
Q: How has the experience changed you?
A: I’ve changed a lot from the trip. It makes me appreciate the land and Mother Nature. I didn’t expect the wind and rain to slow me so much, but I know it is powerful now. I grew as a person and it made me see what’s important and it helped lead me to my new career choice.
Q: And what is that?
A: I’m switching from going to school to be a chef to military service. I always wanted to go into the military and I want to join the Navy. I love the water and I wanted to be a marine biologist growing up, but I was just bad in school.
Q: You were going to the Art Institute of Tampa, so are you leaving it?
A: Yes. I like being a chef, but I decided why do something I like when I could do something I love.
—To donate to the American Liver Foundation, visit www.liverfoundation.org and click on the “donate” link on the upper left side of the screen.