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"A Mask and a Minivan" - Our Pandemic Road Trip (Part 9 - Epilogue)

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

This is the ninth post about the 5-month road trip my wife, daughter, and I took in the first half of 2021. If you want to start at the beginning, you can go back and read a little of the background/ context behind the trip.

I took a long hiatus from these posts, but am finally getting around to finishing them.

A trail in the Baker Wetlands (Kansas) shortly after our trip ended.

Looking back now quite a while after our road trip ended, I thought I'd just sum up some of the details of our trip and drop a few lists about the highs and lows – plus share all the pics that I didn't get around to with earlier posts.

Total miles (point to point only, excluding excursions and driving around): 6,074

States visited: 21

National parks visited: 7

National park I'd be most excited to return to: Crater Lake

Favorite hike: Smith Rock State Park in Oregon or Rattlesnake Recreation Area in Missoula

Most beautiful place we stayed in: Bend, Oregon

Place I most wanted to stay longer in: Missoula, MT

Favorite stretch of driving: Hard to say, but as of right now I'm particularly remembering the eastern stretch of the "loneliest road in America" in Nevada along Route 50. Idaho into Montana is up there as well.

Houses purchased: 1

Urgent care/ ER visits: 2

Most memorable thing eaten: Hole donuts in Asheville, NC

Low point: Eating Culver's outside the Honda Dealership in Glenwood Springs, Colorado on the way to Moab as we were getting our car fixed and my shingles headaches in full effect. I'm not hating on Culver's, but shingles sucks.

Most cathartic moment: Waking up in Baker, Nevada and feeling that everything was going to be okay (even though we had a lot of trials still ahead).

% of our daughter's life spent on the road as of the end of the trip: ~45%

The Drive

Our route, more or less:

Some Final Words

It's been over a year since we returned to Lawrence and finished our road trip. Since then we've gone on five additional 1000+ mile road trips – three times to the east coast (mostly to visit family), once down to southwest Texas and New Mexico on vacation, and most recently all around Colorado. During these trips we've seen more beautiful scenery and stopped at eight more National Parks (for the record: Cuyahoga Valley, Big Bend, White Sands, Guadalupe Mountain, Rocky Mountain (2nd visit), Great Sand Dunes (2nd visit), and Black Canyon of the Gunnison).

None of these trips were nearly as long – either mileage or time-wise – as the trip we took in the first half of 2021. Still, the biggest difference between these road trips and what I shall call our "grand pandemic road trip" (or GPRT for short) was not distance or length of time; rather, it was that the GPRT was open ended – and in this way felt like a "true adventure."

Let me see if I can articulate what I mean by this...

When used as a verb, the word "adventure" is defined as: to "engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory." The key words here are hazardous and unknown. Or in other words, in the moment, you don't know if everything is going to end up being okay. When this is actually the case, it is terrifying. However, when you come out on the other side – and most of the time you do – you're somehow enriched, transformed.

Many people claim to be adventurous or to want an adventure (I'd guess the over/ under on the percentage of dating profiles that use "adventure" is ~50%). But I think what most people mean, if they are being honest, is that they want a simulated adventure without the actual downside of adventuring, or that they want, in retrospect, the feeling of having been on an adventure. Yet, what I learned on our GPRT is that simulated adventure, while dressed in the same attractive garments as real adventure is not the same and cannot lead to the same personal growth. Big change is forged in the crucible of hard times.

So, what's my point? I think it's just this: when we find ourselves going through something really tough, standing at the edge of doubt and despair, maybe what's really happening is we're having what, in retrospect, we'll consider a great adventure. We just don't know it yet.


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