On a crisp Ohio morning in late November, Michael Oberdick climbed into his car and settled in for a long ride. A very long ride. Over the next 12 days, Michael would cross 13 states and drive 2,000-plus miles through the American Midwest. But this wasn’t your typical road trip. Instead of stopping to see the sights, Michael stopped to see repair shops. His goal: meet as many people in the electronics repair community as possible.

Michael Oberdick repair

Michael Oberdick sets off to visit repair shops around the nation. Image cred for this and all images in this post: Michael Oberdick

Like the people he set out to meet, Oberdick is in the business of fixing things. He runs iOutlet in Ohio, which sells pre-owned Apple products and repairs consumer devices. “For the third-party repair guys, like myself, in the smaller locations—in the long run, we need to stick together,” he said. “We need to share information and ideas so that we can compete with the big franchises.”

In fact, that’s how the trip got started. Michael is active in online repair forums and he’s a member of Repair.org, a repair industry trade and advocacy group. He loves to talk shop—and he figured it would be nice to talk shop with repair folks in their actual shops. He fielded the idea on Facebook and was blown away by the response. Repair pros from all over the US invited him to visit. So Michael dropped everything and hit the road for repair.

Michael’s road trip map. Screenshot from Michael Oberdick

All told, Michael stopped for 34 meetings with repair pros from Chicago to Atlanta and everywhere in between. Together, those pros are a part of the vast network of small businesses that keep this nation’s devices in working order. Small independent shops, especially, offer consumers a competitive, personalized repair option. They fill in service gaps in small communities that manufacturers can’t cover. And they make it that much easier for consumers to fix the devices we rely on every single day.

“You take a piece from every single person. Every single person has something unique about them that I would have never thought that someone would ever do in a repair shop,” Michael said. “I learned a little piece of information from everyone. Now I get to come back and use those [best practices] and share that information with other people as well.”

Michael might be back home in Ohio for the time being—but the road trip isn’t over yet. He’s gonna head back out in 2017. Next time, he wants to visit shops in the North East and on the West Coast. If you want a visit, feel free to drop Michael a line.

“This was a very cool experience and I want to continue doing it,” he said.

Julia Bluff is a writer, blogger, and repair advocate at iFixit.com

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