Westward Bound - My Family Travels

There were four Smiths, one minivan, and too many pieces of luggage to count. But the family was anxious to get moving, and nothing could stop them from reaching their ultimate goal: the magnificent and ultra-American destination, The Grand Canyon.

When my dad first told me we would be driving to the Grand Canyon instead of going on our annual summer beach trip, I was a bit confused as well as disappointed. Driving? I thought. From South Carolina to Arizona?  In the infamous gold minivan? How would we pack for such a trip?  And, most importantly, how would we not go berserk after being cooped up in a car together for so long? 

My weak attempt at protesting the trip ultimately failed; however, I came to the realization that I would never forget this trip, whether it became the best experience of my life or the most traumatic.

I felt the excitement of the unknown as we pulled out of the driveway toward our first stop: Atlanta, Georgia.  Four hours later, we arrived.  I was eager to continue driving, but my younger brother had a plan of his own: a stop for burgers and fries.  This particular meal, though clearly unhealthy, would become one of the staple meals of the trip. 

            We then rode through Birmingham, and continued until we reached a campground in northern Alabama.  Camping on the first night was a bit of a gamble, as we had just traveled more than eight hours in one day and were on the edge of each other’s nerves.  As if that were not enough, the mosquitoes were on a feeding frenzy and we had forgotten the silverware.  Our negativity soon vanished when we made s’mores.  Our first night had ended on a good note, and I was confident that the trip would not be a failure as I had once thought.

            On the ride to Nashville, our next stop, my favorite radio stations had gradually weakened until they vanished, and I was becoming immune to the taste of burgers.  But soon after rolling into the city for another night’s stay, I was dumbfounded by its tangible energy.  Countless music legends emerged from this place, and I could see and feel the history everywhere.  We were so caught up in the fascinating area in and around Nashville that I had almost forgotten our original destination.  Alas, we had to leave, but the city was a definite highlight of our trip.

Throughout our journey west, we passed through several other cities including Checotah, Oklahoma (“Birthplace of Carrie Underwood!”), Amarillo, Texas (location of the Cadillac ranch, a row of ten old cars buried halfway into the ground), and Santa Fe, New Mexico (home of several crystal blue lakes and the greatest apple pie on earth).  Each of these places had a unique personality and served as a wonderful prelude to the Grand Canyon.

When we finally reached the Canyon by train, I was astonished at the immense expanse of reddish rock.  We were only on the South Rim, and there were hundreds more miles that we did not see. We hiked on a trail that led into the canyon and the view and weather were near-perfect.  Later, as I peered through a telescope into just one piece of the remarkable canyon, I realized the sheer amount of patience, cooperation, and preparation it had taken for my family to reach what once seemed like such a lofty goal.  Forty-eight hundred miles and twenty-five postcards later, I know for certain that the story of my family’s journey will be my favorite one to tell through the years.

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