In Search Of…: A Finish Line

I’m in Tennessee right now. A far cry from Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday. But, not much has changed.

To recap, I spent most of Saturday in Lubbock, which was a surprisingly enjoyable time. Lubbock has that perfect “college town” feel to it, with enough amenities to make it worth exploring.

After Lubbock, I spent Sunday in Austin, which was a bit disappointing. Austin is clearly one of those cities that has outgrown its size, and the city is trying to play catch up. There were so many people everywhere. I get that it was a weekend day, but even moving in some parts of the city was difficult.

I spent that night in a small town in Oklahoma, driving through Dallas in the process. Dallas was huge and predictably chaotic given that the Sunday Night Football game was being played in Arlington.

Yesterday morning, I drove to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and got to enjoy that tiny little mountain town a bit before heading here to Memphis.

Again, not much has changed in that space of time. I’ve seen and done a bit, but nothing, I feel, of note in terms of this trip. But as I’ve been slowly approaching home, I’m starting to spend more time ruminating and planning. I’m nowhere near an answer or solution yet. I want to completely remove myself from the road, have a proper shower, and reflect on the trip as a whole.

And there are some key things that I’ve learned as well. Some things were reinforcements of previous beliefs, others were new. But I’ll spend some time as well thinking about how I want those things to reflect themselves in my life going forward.

I want to see my family and friends again and in general, just experience a life where I’m not living out of my car. Bold, I know.

I may not know exactly what’s going to happen over the next couple of months yet. But I can’t wait to start figuring it out. And to everyone who has followed along, texted or messaged me, and generally been happy for me, thank you. It helped me get through the rough patches and reminded me of how lucky and privileged I am to have been able to do this.

In Search Of…: A Canyon

One of my favorite things about being out here has been the proximity of so many National Parks. California has nine, Utah has five and Colorado has four (Alaska has eight, but that’s not within reach). Kentucky is surrounded on all sides by states that have National Parks, in addition to its own. But all of those states combined have six total parks. It’s not even close.

So, after visiting Zion, I made my way south to the Grand Canyon. It was actually much different than I anticipated. For some reason, I had in my head that the Grand Canyon was basically a big, long hole in the ground surrounded by desert. It couldn’t have been more different.

GC Tree

The first thing I noticed was the forest I drove through to get there. Many pines and other year-round trees paving my way to the canyon, due mostly to another surprising fact: the elevation. It’s about 7,000 feet above sea level, which explains the climate.

Once in the park, there was more forest all along the rim and different types of trees all through the canyon, changing depending on the various climates in the canyon itself. It’s such a complex ecosystem that I wouldn’t have guessed had I never been.

I stopped at a couple of the viewpoints and went down part of one of the trails. I didn’t go very far, which is probably good because it was a struggle getting back up. It’s something that I underestimated about this trip, but I do wish I was in better shape. I’d be more capable of exploring some of these areas and seeing new things. But as I said before, it just gives me more goals for the future.

In the gift shop, I learned that the Grand Canyon has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, just this summer. This means that its one of the more than sixty places in the world that are the best for stargazing. The low light pollution lends itself to this and gives me further reason to go back to the park.

GC In Tree

After leaving the park, I headed for nearby Prescott, Arizona. It’s a place I’ve always had eyes for, largely because it’s relatively inexpensive and near some forestry. Much like many of the places I’ve been, however, it didn’t resonate with me. Pictures can only tell so much of the story, and as I said before, the people will truly explain the place you’re in.

So, for the first time in the last three weeks, I got a hotel room. And it was much needed. A proper shower and bed were really great, and it was nice to not have to rearrange my car. And the complimentary breakfast in the morning would prove to be very necessary for my journey the next day: Sedona.

In Search Of…: A Sunset

While I’m still in California, I’m trying to be careful about how and where I proceed. The wildfires are doing a number on Los Angeles and the surrounding area, and I’m trying to be respectful of the efforts being put in to stop them. I’m here on essentially a vacation and there are life-threatening situations happening around me. Not to put a damper on the proceedings, but I felt like it was worth noting.

So, that being said, Sacramento was a bit of a home base for me for a few days. After my experiences on the coast, I was eager to get back to it, but first, Lake Tahoe.

There were a handful of reasons I wanted to visit Lake Tahoe. It was one of the places I had multiple people telling me was a must-see before I left. Nearby Squaw Valley is also the start of the Western States 100 Ultramarathon, the pinnacle of ultra-endurance racing. At one point it was high on my list of things I’d like to participate in. I’d like to get back to that point.

The trip up to Tahoe felt much longer than the two hours it took to get up there. But once I was there, I didn’t know what to expect. I could see glimpses of the lake, but couldn’t get a good feel for it until I made it to the park entrance and walked out to the shore.

Tahoe Shore

It was by far the most beautiful place I’ve been so far. I stayed a lot longer than I thought I would because I wanted to explore as much as I could. But I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

I stayed another day in Sacramento and then made my way toward the coast once again. The destination this time: Big Sur. I’ve heard so much about how beautiful Big Sur was and wanted to see it for myself. And, technically, I drove right through it.

My phone GPS lost signal and didn’t make it clear as to where I was supposed to turn off at. So I drove past a little inn and some shops, and then I was back in the woods. Big Sur gone. I have tried to avoid quick turnarounds and such, trying to take care of my car. So I drove on. I figured I would have other opportunities to see some amazing sights on the coastal drive.

I headed south and drove for miles along the ocean, trying to find a perfect spot. I wanted to watch the sunset from the coast and finally found it, about a half-hour before the sun finally set.

Ocean Grass

I sat on the edge of a cliff, watching the sunset with only the sound of the crashing waves below me. I almost feel guilty getting to have all these experiences over and over in such short succession. It’s not generally supposed to be this way. I’m very lucky. I’ll close with some additional photos.

Tahoe Splash

Ocean Shore

Tahoe Me

In Search Of…: Arches National Park

An update from the road!

I started yesterday morning in Moab, Utah, about 3 miles outside of Arches National Park. Moab is perfectly situated near the park, so I was able to get in early and beat some of the crowd. Prior to starting this journey, I had discovered a deal the National Parks Service had on its website. A year-long pass that will give you access to any National Park for a one-time cost of $80. Basically, if you’re going to visit more than two National Park’s in a year, it’s worth it to get the pass.

The pass gave me not only a much less expensive experience, but I was also able to essentially skip the line into the park. The entrances to the parks have several gates to pay at, and one to the side for pass holders. At Rocky Mountain National Park, it was just a swipe station with no attendant.

Arches Walkway

Once I was inside the park, I started the steep climb toward the main part of the park. And honestly, it was hard to focus on the road ahead of me. Even the beginning of my journey was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had never been to the southwest, so it was a totally new experience.

I got farther into the park and couldn’t stop turning and staring at everything around me. I was in awe. In all of the planning of this trip, I knew I wanted to visit a lot of National Parks. I couldn’t anticipate how beautiful these places would be. I feel like I’ve said this many times over already, but pictures truly don’t do them justice.

After a few short stops in between, I made my way to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The trail was long and steep, which lead to a few nice conversations with fellow park goers. Most of us (myself included) were struggling up the path, which turned into discussions about what brought us there and where we were from. It was nice to have a group to share in the misery of climbing, and the beautiful views at the top.

Arches Arch

After, I was headed for the arches deeper in the park. I hiked the half-mile to the Broken Arch, and this was the part of my day that I resonated with the most. The arch was beautiful, but it was also here where I found a new bit of confidence, and a new mantra.

All through this journey, I’ve noticed a pattern of negative self-talk. If something goes wrong, I’m blaming myself. And while it’s not terrible or overt, it is toxic.

I’m learning to accept every part of me. Continuously beating myself up because I took a wrong turn or didn’t plan something right only leads to the negativity I’ve been trying so desperately to get away from. I’ve spent a lot of time cutting away the negativity in the forms of other people and experiences, but haven’t spent the same time removing it from myself. 

The more aware I become of these things, the more work I can put into correcting those negative patterns and grow. And important to that growth is understanding that if I do fail, it’s ok. Which is where my mantra came from.

“In all things, I did my best.”

I don’t think I’m the first person to have that thought, but it was the phrase that came to me while having this moment in the arch.

Following this moment, I was ready to exit the park. I had originally passed up The Windows on my way in but decided to make one last stop on my way out. It was clear that it’s proximity to the entrance, combined with it being later in the day, made this a popular part of the park. It was also the place with the highest congestion of arches.

Arches Selfie

A lot of visitors, including a school field trip, made for a lot of people to work around. And it was clear how impressive this part of the park was. Everyone was head in the clouds, in awe of how these magnificent bits of architecture could be naturally made. It was a very humbling experience.

After the Arches, I drove myself to Salt Lake City, roughly four hours away. Going to spend a couple days here, so I’m looking forward to slowing it down for a bit.