On The Road

Last week my family piled into Kethry, my well loved F150, and put an additional 3200 miles on her tires in 10 days. Depending on where you are at risk wise, this was either wildly inappropriate, somewhat questionable or perfectly fine. There were a few times, particularly at crowded visitor’s centers, when I questioned how wise we were being, but other times along the empty stretches of road we had to ourselves that we all relaxed a bit. We did our best to go above basic precautions and tested when we returned home, and made different choices than we would have in the “before times”. I’m happy we were able to do this road trip, boy did we need the open road with no work, no school and desert air.

I thought about doing the regular, hum drum day by day recap of what we did and what we saw, but those are a dime a dozen. What really mattered was our time together, the way we processed our grief over our adventure dog not being with us for this trip (although we found his lookalike in Beatty!), and how we experienced each stop and each mile together. There was plenty of time lost in our various devices, miles of silence broken only by Sirius satellite radio, and the occasional exasperated parental comment. More often was laughter (“Look! A big hole in the ground!”), genuine awe (everything about Zion National Park), and checking in with each other.

I discovered that my son loves to collect pins, something which was never on my radar; I’m still capable of 17 mile (by foot and by bike) days but man do they take more out of me; it’s cliché but true, my son needs to spend more time out in the wilds; and my husband and I have already lost track of how many anniversaries we’ve passed but we’re set for as many more as we can manage.

As a former (one season) state park ranger, I struggled mightily with some of the crowds and issues we saw at the parks and spaces we visited. The line to the Grand Canyon was a wild 45 minute wait just to get to the entrance station! I want all those folks there, to really appreciate everything around them, to be more than just “selfie” tourists…while my family is doing similar things. Perhaps if it had been a bit later in the spring we might have hiked or biked more, but the cold and the elevation got to us in various ways.

The hardest part of the trip, for me, was the drive through the Navajo reservation, along Highway 89A in southern Utah/northern Arizona. It’s hard to even begin to articulate why, beyond the basic, wrenching history and “we have so much” level. The conversation of the path forward for our country is so fraught these days, but unavoidable. I’m doing my best to self educate, to listen and learn and raise my son with the most empathy and understanding and care that I can, but it never seems like enough. Equally rough but for slightly different reasons was our one night stay in Las Vegas and the requisite drive down The Strip; I’m not overly prone to anxiety but I definitely needed the soaking bath and a few episodes of “The Office” to calm down enough to sleep that night. I don’t think reading the uncut version of “The Stand” at an impressionable age helped much.

The two highlights from our trip, we all agree, include our full day biking and hiking Zion National Park (in my super enabled opinion, the absolute best way to experience that particular park if you can), and our late evening visit to the Red Rock Scenic Area just outside Las Vegas. Kade exploded from the truck after a long day cooped up and immediately set off Tom’s “that’s not safe!” stepdad radar by leaping from rock to rock and crawling way too high and declaring he’d like to try rock climbing.

My happiest moment came biking back to the hotel in Springdale, Tom and Kade on their bikes just ahead of me, tired and sore and feeling like my eyes couldn’t see all the beauty fast enough. That day was the fullest my exhausted heart has been in a year. On the last day, during the last long drive over the Cascades and back home, Tom and I had one of those conversations that can only occur when you’re locked in a moving box together for hours. It was sorely needed, for both of us, but we didn’t have the space for it while still stuck at home, mired in day jobs and school and distracting but wonderful trips to the barn.

I found that peace and quiet I so desperately needed on a solitary morning hike in Sedona. There is something about a high desert spring, among the red rocks and the elder juniper trees that’s impossible to articulate, only experience. Life is good, On The Loose.

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After years of borrowing horses, working to ride and catch riding, I finally have my own horse, a spicy chocolate mare...but also a demanding day job (who doesn't?), a nerdy husband, a soccer loving kid who needs to be parented (by me, duh), and the ultimate trail buddy, a chocolate Labradork!

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