MikeO's "inspection of the colonies" and Seán's "took a little ride" ride report showed me a side of the US that wasn't in the tour guides.
I think a critical ingredient to ADV's rise was how we were naturally drawn to adventurous characters. Sean was incredibly entertaining and inmates (more on that word later) would message me saying how much they LOVED his stories. They had everything: love, adventure, conflict, a dog...
When SmugMug was young, he stopped by with his dog on the way to Guatemala where he was going to teach English as a second language. I knew how good a writer he was so I offered him a job and he became employee #7, I think. He wrote the line "Your photos look better here" which SmugMug still uses in various places. He is a key player in SmugMug's education and VIP support. He was just on Skype with @rtwPaul helping with something.
Here's what he casually wrote in 2007 on his ride:
By 11:30 am I've returned to sea level, and the Pacific comes into view. The sun is shining and I am warm enough to take off the wooly. For better or worse, I am determined to bring every bit of color I can with me as I venture further north. I'm still not sure when I'll get home, but when I do, I want to look like I have been very far away. Wife beater armed, Mr. Sol, do your stuff!