It was eight in the morning and the sun was already searing in the sky. I lay on top of my dry sleeping bag, something unheard of when you have camped in the Northwest your entire life. I was almost accustomed to the sound of cicada bugs high in the trees by that point. I opened my eyes, expecting to simply see the tent above me, when instead I was surprised to see a swarm of tiny green bugs trapped in the same tiny tent as me. I have never seen so many insects in my life! That’s how I knew that I was at last in Texas.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Being from the state of Washington, summer had just begun and it was still constantly dumping rain. Many of my friends were all going on luxurious vacations to exotic places where the sun actually came out. My family, deciding to be different, packed our trailer full of stuff and some-what aimlessly hit the road on a quest for sunshine.
Half asleep and excited, my family piled into my dad’s Ford truck at 4:20am, leaving Washington and headed as far east as we could make it in one day. After hours on the road the sun began to set, reflecting off of the many rocky hills in Utah, and we knew it was time to call it a day. Billboards advertising “Laser Lips” and “Golf Carts” whizzed past us as we continued along I-15 the following day. We spent time exploring Arches National Park by hiking right up to the “Balanced Rock”, receiving an ATV tour over rolling red stones, and cooling off by white water rafting on the Colorado River. I felt like Mufasa in the Lion King movies, standing high above Moab on those rocky buttes. The dry, vast landscape was miraculous.
A sign reading, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” welcomed us as we entered for the first time. We hit Colorado twice on our trip to Texas and back, giving us the chance to experience the diversity of the state. First we visited the ancient Puebloan cave dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. I was in awe, trying to understand how any human could endure such harsh climates their entire lives.
Rag time piano music filled the dusty air as we strolled through the tiny town of Silverton. We enjoyed an old fashioned gunfight reenactment and toured an old museum, learning that the surrounding mountains had many hidden gold, silver, zinc, lead and copper mines. Our second appearance in Colorado was just as amazing as the first. We spent much of our time scaling America’s highest continuous highway that brought us 12,090 feet to the top of the Rocky Mountains where we were greeted by patches of snow and grazing Bull Elk.
We stopped in Roswell, New Mexico just in time for the annual UFO Festival. We visited the “Alien Zone” to get pictured with goofy aliens and ate a sweet treat at a spaceship-shaped McDonald’s. Immediately after “Area 51” we strolled 750 feet under the Guadalupe Mountains in what is known as the Carlsbad Caverns. The “Big Room” is one of the largest underground chambers on the planet, and is large enough to hold six football fields. The heat was unbearable at that point, evidence that we were almost to our final destination.
Although my family’s quest for sunshine may not have been the same as a lavish Caribbean cruise, I was not disappointed. 3 weeks, 8 states, and 5,600 miles later I gained a new appreciation for the land that I love. America the beautiful.
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