I love roadtrips. Positively, absolutely and unquestionably love them! Researching, planning and coordinating a route to and through places I've never been and thoroughly anticipate the discoveries I'll make while on the trip—makes me happy. Finally getting behind the wheel takes it up another notch. I experience some nervousness as well, but the feeling of freedom on the open road trumps all.
I also love national parks. Positively, absolutely...you get the picture. To me, they represent the best idea that any government has ever initiated—setting aside a pristine natural space for the exclusive enjoyment of people from around the world. Such places not only allow people to learn about the host culture, history, traditions and environment, it also provides a place in which to simply, be. It's a wild, open place in which the human spirit is able to rejoice.
A question once came up that made me think about which I love most—roadtrips or national parks. Which came first? It's hard to separate the two because for me, they came along hand in hand. My first roadtrip helped to fulfill my desire to see my first national park. But it was also my strong desire to visit a national park that spawned the idea of a road trip.
In began in middle school in the 70s when taping up folders was the thing to do—at least it was at our school or maybe it was something our parents brainwashed us into doing so they wouldn't have to buy new folders as often. At any rate, nearly every kid had a simple two-pocket folder that had some nice picture or whatever appealed to its owner on it. To preserve its original condition, a clear acrylic was put on the front and back, and then either a matching or contrasting tape was used to hold it in place and cover up all the edges. I was actually pretty good at doing this if I do say so myself. ; ) My folder had a beautiful picture of a snow-dusted Yosemite National Park; the plastic was a smokey gray, and the tape a contrasting white. I handled it carefully, so much so that it lasted me through much of middle school. It was also my very first introduction to natural beauty that's best described in the word, "grandeur," as in "...the austere grandeur of mountain scenery." During classes, I'd look at the picture and promised myself that one day I'd go to Yosemite. If you can believe it, this was the first time the idea of traveling anywhere on my own to explore nature had ever occurred to me.
Years after college and having "graduated" from neighbor island travels to Maui, the Big Island and Kauai, I reasoned that the next step was flying to the continental U.S. or the "Mainland" as we casually called it and still do. My friend, Cheryl, and I were in our late 20s and I wanted to see more. I love to drive, so it was only natural that I was the pilot and Cheryl, the navigator (I became a bit grumpy during the one and only time she did drive, so we knew our roles after that!). Being with someone to share in a travel adventure to places we'd never been was—hand's down—the best feeling ever! I was so excited to get away from my small home town and explore the greater "world." Hey, you gotta start somewhere!
And so I joined AAA (I figured membership could come in handy, and it sure did during several roadtrips) and picked up a map of the entire U.S. I was so beside myself with glee as I scanned the map spread out on my bed—the network of roads dotted with numbers, state borders and towns and cities was incredible. So many roads leading to places we had yet to discover...so incredibly vast. My friend wasn't as much an "explorer" as I was, so my goal was to pick a route, introduce it to her (while bouncing inside waiting for agreement), mention "shopping at the outlets," and then I could proceed full steam to planning and coordinating. Luckily, she liked nature and I was open to shopping, so it worked.
This first roadtrip of ours was an exploratory outing, 13 days including travel dates. If I could have made it longer than two weeks I would have been overjoyed, but Cheryl said she would miss home—huh??? I couldn't relate. Well, after poring over the map, an easy first-time route presented itself. Fly into Los Angeles, mandatory first stop Yosemite National Park (of course!), then take the I-5 to San Francisco, Oregon, Washington State, then head back down along the coast cutting onto Highway 1 when we could. Along the way, we would visit the main highlights (this wouldn't be our last trip, so we could save something for later), do some new activities, eat a lot (my philosophy is that you can't possibly get to know a place without enjoying the local food) and I would drive like a maniac in order to get us to our destinations in a timely manner!
Driving the road into Yosemite was so cool, knowing that I'd soon see the real deal—the actual Yosemite Valley pictured on my folder so many years ago. Breathtaking is one word I'd use, and it was incredibly so. The next day we took a tour up to Glacier Point. The valley floor with Curry Village spread out 3,214 feet below us...there are no words to describe the view except for one—such "grandeur" is absolutely priceless.
This trip kickstarted a lifelong desire to see, hear and feel new places, and was followed by more travels across the Mainland. Setting foot in natural places have become some of my most treasured moments that have allowed my spirit to soar above mountain peaks and ranges, across bubbling mountain streams and through aromatic forests. A bit poetic perhaps, but in my heart, so true.
My trips have become a foundation for my solo travels. I gained the desire to see more; confidence in myself that I could drive anywhere; the notion that there are no wrong turns, only new discoveries; as well as the idea that "Hey, I could do this by myself!"
What was it that tuned you into your desire to travel? Please share!