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.

In Search Of…: Week 1

It’s been one week on the road, and I’m really settling in. The beginning of this trip was inherently going to be less experiential. While it included places that I wanted to see, they weren’t places that I had planned the trip for. Every place I’ve been thus far has had its good and bad qualities, but no one place has stood out to me either. I’m a big believer in my gut feeling, and it hasn’t spoken up yet. But I’d like to share my experiences, both for people looking to follow along, and as a more in-depth recounting than my daily journal provides.

DAY 1

I left Louisville last Tuesday morning. It was mostly a relaxing trip to Chicago, and I was able to let it sink in a bit that I was actually beginning this journey. But when I got to Chicago, I made my way downtown and got overwhelmed pretty quickly. I hadn’t really been in a city like that for much of my life, and I got turned around a few times. Eventually, I headed for the suburbs, frustrated and flustered.

Once on the outskirts of the city, things didn’t get a lot better. The traffic seemed to be bad anywhere I went, and eventually, I ended up at a Starbucks seeking refuge. I sat there, catching up on some reading and emails, trying to plan my next move. Eventually, it was well past rush hour, and I grabbed dinner and found someplace to settle in for the night. Day one did not go how I had planned, but I was ready to reset the next day.

DAY 2

I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep the first night, mostly because I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get downtown. That ended up being a great decision, as I found a parking garage close to Millennium Park that was, by comparison, a cheaper option. And as one does when you visit Chicago, I got a few pictures of The Bean.

The Bean

 

I had no idea, however, that The Bean’s proper name is Cloud Gate. It was created by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. Despite it being a very touristy thing to do in Chicago, it was still neat to see in person.

I headed through Millennium Park and went down to the waters of Lake Michigan. It was a very overcast day, but I was really enjoying seeing so many things that were so drastically different from my regular routine.

Lake Michigan

After coming back toward to park, I headed down to the Chicago Riverwalk. Unfortunately, on a cold, overcast day, the Riverwalk merely echoed of the party that surely ensues on summer nights. After making the rounds here, I went back to the parking garage and decided I needed to be a tourist one more time. I was ready for a Chicago deep-dish pizza.

Now, being that I was on my own and it was lunchtime, I didn’t truly get the full experience. But one of the highest-rated pizza places in the city, Pequod’s, had a great lunch deal. Five bucks for a 7” cheese pizza. I was all over it. Pequod’s was a tiny dive bar-ish parlor, so I knew the pizza would be great. And it didn’t disappoint. The crust is caramelized with cheese and made for a unique way to round out my time in Chicago.

Milwaukee

After lunch, I was headed for Milwaukee. Only a couple hours away, I trekked north to see what else I could discover. I landed in a park on the shore of Lake Michigan and found one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve been in.

There were several Collectivo Coffee shops spread out through Chicago and Milwaukee, but this one was located in an older building with tons of character. The patio space was also uniquely decorated, and the coffee was great, as well. But I wasn’t done.

Coffee

My next stop was to Lakefront Brewery. Having worked at a brewery, I’m always interested in the similarities and differences between where I worked and others. Lakefront had an impressive setup, and their lager was delicious. But the sun was starting to set, and I had one more place to get to.

Minneapolis isn’t exactly close to Milwaukee, but I needed to balance out my driving to get to Denver by Friday. So, I headed west and got in late. A busy day down.

DAY 3

MIA

Thursday was fairly straightforward. I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art that morning, which was an amazing free museum of art from all over the world. After that, I had my long day of driving, going from Minneapolis to Rapid City, South Dakota.

DAYS 4-6

Friday was mostly driving to Denver. Once I met up with my friend and his wife, we spent the weekend trying different restaurants and breweries. We also drove to Rocky Mountain National Park and spent some time in the park exploring. Pictures can’t do it justice.

RMNP

DAY 7

Yesterday, I headed out of Denver early and made my way through the mountains. I was headed for two small mountain towns in Colorado, Ouray, and Telluride. But first, I got caught in a literal winter wonderland just outside of Glenwood Springs, CO.

Glenwood Springs Snow

Telluride was interesting but very touristy. I understand, being that it’s ski season and all. But it was a big turnoff for me. I didn’t stay long.

Ouray had a particular draw for me because it was the setting for a novel I want to write. But after visiting, I decided it wasn’t the right fit. I liked the city a lot, though. I stopped in at another brewery, and while the beer was good and the people were amazing, I decided that would be my last alcoholic stop on this trip, and most likely ever. I realized I still have a lot of negative emotions associated with alcohol, and it’s going to be necessary for me to continue to grow to cut those ties to my past.

I would say that’s the biggest takeaway for me early on in this trip, really. I saw myself falling into old, submissive patterns instead of being the elevated, in-control person I have become. The past may have shaped me, but I can be grateful for the experience while also not wanting to revisit it.

I’m committing myself to continue my growth and embracing the real beginning of this trip. As much as I’ve learned about myself in the last few years, I know I have a lot more to learn, and I can only do that by moving forward and leaving the past firmly in my rearview mirror. That journey begins in Utah.

Mountains

I’ll be trying to make this a daily or every couple of days post going forward, so there won’t be so much crammed into one post. Thanks for reading!

An Ode to my Hometown: The Beginning

With my road trip fast approaching (three weeks!), I wanted to reflect on the places and events that shaped me into who I am today. My family and friends are obviously my biggest influences, but I love them. I haven’t always loved my hometown.

From a very early age, I wanted to leave Louisville. It was never so much an issue with the city, but more the allure of other places. When I was a teen, it was Boston. In hindsight, Boston is an interesting choice for me to have wanted to live. I can say now that my teenage years were perfectly suited for the edge and angst in Boston. I would have been a perfect fit in Boston as a teenager.

But that transitioned pretty quickly in college. I was a part of the equipment staff at the University of Louisville, and we got to travel to road games. One of those road games was to Corvallis, Oregon to play Oregon State University. And it left a necessary impression.

We flew into Eugene, then drove the hour or so to Corvallis. I had never been on a plane before, but once we got into the air, I felt a lot better about the experience. The drive to Corvallis was beautiful. Tall evergreens surrounding the road; the hotel we stayed at designed like a log cabin. It was the first time I had really gotten away from the deciduous hills of the midwest. And I fell in love.

The west suits my developed laid back style better than my teenage dreams, and I knew I needed to, at the very least, make it a habit of venturing out there with some regularity.

But this post is not about why I need to go on this road trip. It’s the beginning of a short series displaying my appreciation for where I grew up because it was only recently that I began to feel that appreciation. And what better way to kick this off than with the beginning: my childhood home.

We moved there when I was maybe 5 or 6. It was the house that my grandfather built, that my mom and uncles grew up in, and it was where my brother and I spent all of our formative years. It’s where I had my first kiss, met some lifelong friends in our neighborhood, and wrote my first poem.

The location of the house is very intentional in my story. If we hadn’t moved there, I would have gone to a different grade school for sure and probably high school as well. I would have never met the friend from the neighborhood that died just this year from cancer. Hell, I might not have gotten my first job, which I stayed at for ten years. I had a terrible interview, as most 16-year-olds probably do, and until the manager mentioned that he had grown up around the corner from where I lived, I was definitely not getting that job.

All of this is why I wanted to start here. With this location. It truly was the beginning for me. It unknowingly set me on this path toward this trip, and while I’m grateful and privileged to be taking this trip, I will always have that love and appreciation for the places that got me here.

Thank you for reading. I know these posts won’t mean much to most, but every moment that someone takes to read anything I write means the world to me.

 

I’m Moving!

I’m moving! Seriously, I’m moving across the country. I want to share my story not just because I’m excited, but because I want to connect with more people across the country. I wanted to give details about my exploration but wanted to do so in an easy, quick way. I also wanted to cover as many aspects of the trip as possible, so I naturally turned to journalism. The 5 W’s and H are my compass: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

WHO

Me! And only me. I’ve gone through a lot and I would be lying if I said that part of my journey wasn’t to spend some time alone and ruminate on things. I’m being very intentional about this being a solo road trip, and I can’t wait to spend a few weeks just…being.

WHAT

A road trip! I want to travel on the road because its the greatest way to see the beauty all around us. One of my favorite parts of my last road trip to Colorado was how awestruck I was by Kansas. Most people associate Kansas (and much of the “flyover” states) with being boring fields and nothing to see. They were some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen. The soft, rolling hills and beautiful ambers, golds, and beiges were a perfect, warm way to enjoy the drive.

WHEN

By the end of the year. My current goal is to leave my job by October 22nd and be on the road the next day. I’m getting a lot of work done on my car as we sit here, so I’m being flexible on when I leave for financial reasons. That is my target, but 100% by the end of the year. Side note: my job knows I’m leaving and is being super flexible with me, which is great and a privilege.

WHERE

West! I say that generally because I genuinely don’t know where I want to live. I have IDEAS, I’ve never visited, let alone lived in most of these places. I know I like a ton of things about the state of Washington, but maybe I get there and hate it. That’s another reason I’m doing a road trip. I want to be able to stay in or leave any place at any time. If I arrive in a city and can instantly tell the vibe is off, I’m out. I have great intuition and know when something isn’t for me.

I worked with someone about four years ago at a running store named Todd. Todd was one of the most eccentric, interesting people I’ve ever met. Part of that was a story that he told me about his experiences. He was from Indiana but traveled with some friends to Colorado. They were headed to Steamboat Springs. Todd described riding into the valley Steamboat sits in and getting that feeling. The feeling of home. Goosebumps on the arms and legs, almost nauseous gut. That’s what I’m after.

WHY

I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life. For years, I’ve viewed my life in three parts: my learning stage, my execution stage, and my prime. It’s not to say that I’ll stop learning, but I’ve learned a lot of necessary skills to help me execute on ideas and plans that I have. I’m single, have no kids, and almost no debt. I’m grateful for every opportunity those privileges allow for me, and I intend to use my flexibility to my advantage. There’s a lot of people who would look at someone like me and think me a failure. No college degree, not married, no house. I look at myself and see someone who is full of life experience, thirsty for more, and just entering my prime.

HOW

So, how can you follow along? I want to do a pseudo travel blog for my journey, so follow along here for sure. Additionally, I want to do videos and post pictures on my Instagram and Twitter, so follow me @sunkencircle for those as well.

Lastly, I want to thank anyone who has been in my life up to this point. Every good and bad interaction, friendship, relationship, heartbreak, bits of support, and criticism has lead me here. My family and friends have been nothing but supportive of my decision to move, and I couldn’t ask for a greater support system.

Does anyone have some stories about places in the west that they’ve really enjoyed? Really couldn’t stand? Let me know!

~

Photo by Lawton Cook on Unsplash