Who knew that a trip that I took with my mother to visit my grandparents in Arizona at their fifty-five and up mobile home community was exactly what I needed? All through high school I had been hearing from my seniors that junior year was the absolute worst-and they were right. My advance placement classes were stressful, my friends were falling apart, and Ohio had just been plagued with snow piled higher than my ten year old sister. My mom and hopped a plane from Pittsburgh International Airport to Phoenix, Arizona. When my grandparents picked us up at baggage the last thing I wanted to do was be dragged to some tourist spot.
We drove out of Phoenix and into the winding Apache Trail. Incredible colors reflected off of water in the perfect mirror image of the red-brown mesas. We pulled off at an old-time general store and restaurant named Tortilla Flats, which was surprisingly crowded. Inside the restaurant the bathroom doors were painted with the caricatures of showgirls and my mom and I laughed at the sight of my grandma’s head on such a young figure. In fact most of the people in the joint were elderly, but that didn’t stop them from standing behind the stalls to snap a few pictures. As we pulled out of Tortilla Flats I made up my mind to make this trip something I would never forget. To put down my cell phone and unplug my iPod in order to take in every scene, and learn what the West had to teach me.
The next four days were filled with road trips to every place we could fit in. I ate the best meal I’ve ever tasted at a small Mexican restaurant with a bouncer at the door. I still crave that quesadilla to this day. I stood on top of mountains, saw ruins in Casa Grande, and hiked trails. We spent a night watching people of all ages skydive out of planes and then glide down to the safety of solid ground. I met a seventy year old woman who had done over 1,000 jumps and saw the same look of excitement and pure joy from every first timer had after they removed their goggles. I listened to stories from my grandparent’s friends and watched Shawn White take a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics. I don’t know how many times I heard the comment that my mom and I were “the best looking fifty-five year olds” some of the residents had ever seen.
By the end of the trip I had learned why my grandparents ventured in Arizona for part of every year. Before, I had thought that it was three months of my life they were missing, but I came to realize that it was three months of their lives that they were living. They had no schedule, good friends, good food, and a million adventures to choose from everyday. They saw the beauty of the landscape and they were free to enjoy it. I learned that age cannot hold you back, and that the world is just begging to be explored by people who think they have no time. People like you and me.
For Apache Trail:
For Tortilla Flats:
For Prehistoric Ruins:
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