I’m no Johnny Cash so I won’t try to rhyme all the places we’ve been, but wow did we ever go sauntering (read “the before” post here). We can truly sing along with Cash that we’ve crossed the desert’s bare, man and breathed the mountain air, man.
Santa Barbara, CA
Grand Canyon NP, AZ
Zion & Bryce NPs, UT
Santa Fe, Roswell, & Carlsbad Caverns NP, NM
Austin & Houston, TX
New Orleans, LA
Memphis & Nashville, TN
Mammoth Cave NP, KY
Gateway Arch NP & Kansas City, MO
Mt. Rushmore NM, SD
Devil’s Tower NM, WY
Billings, Great Falls, & Sheridan, MT
Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, & Jackson Hole, WY
Craters of the Moon NM & Ketchum, ID
By the numbers … Eight thousand miles. Twenty-nine days. Fourteen states, plus a couple more that we quickly passed through. Twelve nights of camping in ten campsites. Eleven national parks and monuments. No more than three nights in any place.
We drove and drove and didn’t drive each other (too) crazy.
When we spent a sabbatical summer in Costa Rica, we called it our “God treasure hunt.” We attended an expat church and spent time learning about and volunteering with various ministries and animal rescue projects. We also collected pictures of hearts we discovered in nature – in flowers and foliage, once even at the center of an onion – as small reminders of God’s love.
This trip was entirely different. We set out to see the US, to encounter her beauty and the kindness of her people. After some ridiculously difficult years in this country, it felt like a redemption in the form of a road trip.
Of course we saw God everywhere: in the staggering beauty of the national parks, in caves and valleys and rivers, in stalactites and stalagmites and hoodoos, in elk and squirrels and fireflies. In the people we had the pleasure to visit, including my mom. In the unique experiences we had along the way, in art and music and food, in culture and history (never underestimate the power of proximity in bringing history lessons to life. History was never my favorite school subject and I saw so much that popped all those names and dates into place).
An overwhelming sense of ease I can only attribute to God pervaded every day. Remarkably, even when things didn’t go to plan, they turned out better. For example, Dave accidentally double-booked us for the same night in Houston and New Orleans. The Houston hotel graciously refunded the room charge, we saw what we’d landed in Houston to see (NASA), and we enjoyed one more night in New Orleans in the nicest accommodations of the whole trip. And let’s just call it a miracle that we never had an issue with the car.
We didn’t make it to Glacier National Park, and Quinn would like more time in Santa Fe, and we’ll just have to figure out how to take more trips. We have confirmed that we are excellent road trippers.
At our last campsite outside of Ketchum, Idaho, we were directly across from a river. Dave spent a couple of hours fly fishing while I sat in our campsite and wrote in my journal. My eyes occasionally rested on a flower to my left, a single tall stock of small white flowers. The same flowers had been everywhere for days, plain on their own yet pretty in abundance.
However, when I eventually stood up, I gasped: those tiny blooms formed a perfect heart. I laughed and imagined I could hear God laughing with me, like he had been watching and wondering how long it would take me to notice. Like God had sent me a token of his love, a perfect flower finish to a mostly perfect trip.