I grew up in Colorado, which means I grew up with mountains. My earliest memories are of the sweet smell of pine sap, scrambling over lichen covered boulders, fishing in ice cold rivers, and seeing the sun set over the mountains. The biggest city I knew of was Denver, which I once drove across in twenty minutes. Denver cannot be compared to New York.
Over the summer my mother, sister, and I packed up our orange Escape and drove halfway across the country to New York, New York, the city we’d be sleeping in for a week. It took us two very long and highly taxing days to drive there.
We arrived in New York in the rain, which had persisted across three quarters of Philadelphia and all of New Jersey. Our time there was a flurry of activity. All the places and things that were familiar to me from movies, books, and television were suddenly real. We ate pizza cooked in a coal-fired oven. We walked around Times Square and shopped at the biggest Macy’s I have ever seen. We heard jazz in Central Park and saw exhibits in the museum. We visited the Statue of Liberty. To do all of this we had to experience the many joys of the subway system. For each un-crowded and air-conditioned train we caught there was one with what felt like hundreds of hot, sweaty, uncomfortable people pressed up against each other.
Without a doubt, the single most amazing event of our stay was the opportunity to see Wicked on Broadway. We arrived at the Gershwin Theatre, took our seats, and chatted idly while we waited for the show to begin. Once it did, I was mesmerized. I love all musicals to some extent, but Wicked reinforced my ardent desire for my life to be a musical. The costumes were flawless, the stage was breathtaking, but the two stars, Elphaba and Galinda, were what tipped it over the top. Each was perfect for their character and had amazing vocal ability. I wish it could have gone on forever.
It took us three days to drive home. The trees slowly thinned and the humidity gradually lessened. We stayed in a hotel the first night. The second night we found Lake Sara Campground in Missouri and spent the evening eating hot dogs and s’mores cooked over a campfire.
The final day we had only Kansas left to go through. While the plains are beautiful in that they appear to go on forever, they also make driving awful because they appear to go on forever. By the time the sun had set completely we were all feeling strained, but a look at the night sky changed that. We were in the middle of nowhere with no towns or cities for miles, and it seemed as though we could see every star in the universe. The Milky Way was a bright band across the sky and the individual stars were clearer than I have ever seen them.
We arrived home at two in the morning, exhausted and exhilarated from the trip. I collapsed onto my bed to sleep and thought of the contrasts. I’d gone to an enormous city and stargazed in a nearly deserted part of Kansas. I’d stayed in hotels and slept on the cold, hard ground. I’d come from dense forests to plains to my beloved Rocky Mountains. And though I love Colorado and everything in it, I also saw that there’s something beautiful in every part of the world.
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