Starbucks biggest fan comes to Victoria

Winter - One man, All starbucksFor me, the theme-song of the open road is the 80’s jingle “Man in motion”, from the movie, St. Elmos fire and Vancouver’s Expo 86. This was part of my personal soundtrack on a road trip across a big slice of Canada that year. For Winter, of, the theme of his open road goes way beyond a transitory one hit wonder from the eighties.

The rhythm of Winter’s world is the snare drum tap of concrete highway ticking past small towns ground down by the sleepless ravage of sun, sand and wind.

Winter has seen all the seasons, the sun at every angle, from West to East, day by day. His orchestra is scored with telegraph poles, marking a cadence for medians, on ramps, and exits leading to the next destination. Winter’s open road is the crisp sound of wind whistling past and a bass clef of road noise only he understands.

Say hello to Winter. Winter could be the last of the great American explorers or a new generation of geographic visionaries.
When the coffeecrew spoke to Winter he was in Florida visiting several Starbucks locations.

Winter, you see, has a goal in mind – visiting each and every Starbucks outlet on the planet Earth. Now from initial impressions, this would appear to be well nigh impossible. Of course it’s impossible. Starbucks opens several corporate coffee outlets every day in distant locations.

No normal man (or woman) could possibly hope to climb this mountain. Winter, as I found out, is not your average guy.

Setting out on this implausible mission, triggered by a casual conversation in a Starbucks cafe, Winter began his sojourn in 1997.

Someone mentioned whether or not it was possible to visit every starbucks in the World.

An idea was born. Between then and April of 2004, Winter put over 300,000 miles on his Integra, knocking over more than 4000 Starbucks locations in North America alone. Winter hasn’t restricted himself to corporate locations in North America alone. No, as his venture has gained media exposure a few sponsors have dropped in return tickets.

One of his guest spots, on the “Wayne Brady Show”, he scored return tickets to England. Winter’s trip to Japan was financed out of pocket.

So we asked: “Winter, what makes or breaks a visit for you?”

“Well, to start with, I have got to have a half-cup of coffee. I announce myself when I arrive, explaining in my own words the nature of my project…” “and I carry a number of media clippings and articles about my project..”
Winter asks for a manager or assistant manager, looking for a complimentary mug of. Responses are mixed but more often than not, one of the baristas on the floor knows who he is. In general, Starbucks head office is a little arms length with Winter in much the same way oil companies eschew inventors of gas saving technology!

None of this adventure comes cheap. With a double major in Philosophy and Computer Science, Winter is no dummy. He picks up software development jobs where he can to fuel his next mission. His short term goal is to master .NET technology to better himself and enhance his marketable skills. Alas, Winter lives for the road and my distinct impression was that it is not really about the coffee. Somewhere along the line the real addiction became the open road. The sights, sounds and smells of the open road are a lure that, for Winter, are irresistible. After 48 states, it is safe to say that Winter has seen every ocean, every bay, every gulf, every prairie, every flavor of town, country and city. The two states remaining are South Dakota and Hawaii. (Tickets anyone?) What’s more, Winter describes this whole project as “Too rewarding..” to abandon. This single comment prompted me to dig deeper.

Winter’s cityscape is more than just a demitasse of bitter brew. Underneath the crust of sameness, city to city, are some of his favorite diversions. Winter is, after all, a scrabble master and wordsmith in training. Winter likes to eat (who doesn’t) and his favorite foodie joints are a highlight in his travel endeavor. Endless driving jags have an impact on Winter’s early thirties body and he knows where all the best Swedish deep tissue massage places are. If these enticements were not enough to keep Winter rolling, a love interest he has nicknamed Schmoopie keeps him on the straight and narrow. She finds him “interesting” – interesting enough to send him gas money to alter his caffeinated trajectory into her town.

Winter is, if you would, the Zen master of the concrete trail. He owes a debt of gratitude to Lewis and Clark and a tip of the hat to every rough neck that broke ground for migration mediums like route 66. The highways and byways of North America are truly diverse, a river of commerce and an unending stream of humanity on the move. Despite this, there is only one Winter and his vision is long and unending.

It’s one o’clock in the morning in a Walmart parking lot somewhere in Florida. Winter sounds oddly awake at this hour and psychologically prepared for the next leg of his endless journey. If he is lucky he will get a few hours of good sleep in the back of his Civic hatchback and awake to the sound of John Parr’s catchy lyrics…

“I can see a new horizon, Underneath the blazin’ sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s, Flyin’ higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion, All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future’s lyin’
St. Elmo’s Fire”….

Winter returns to Vancouver Island this Friday and Saturday – November 24 and 25, 2006. Catch him if you can.