Friday, August 19, 2022

West Bound

My Dad and Mom were born in Idaho and Montana respectively and, while they settled on the east coast in the years after college, the majority of their families stayed out west. Growing up, my dad was committed to getting us out there every other year. Our station wagon and tent road trips were primarily to visit family, but along the drive we would stop and see sights. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to see so much of beautiful, unique America.

A couple years ago we started throwing around the idea of giving that experience to our kids, though the idea of such an extensive road trip was daunting. This year, as our summer started to fill up, there was a week in July that stayed opened. I had a strong desire to go, even though we had a couple vacations already booked. Knowing next summer the girls would be 18 and 16 and likely tied up with jobs and boyfriends, I really pushed for it, feeling like it could be one of the last trips just the five of us (and for that matter, one of the first just the five of us). On Sunday I booked everything and we left on Thursday.

As it turned out, we got the news that my cancer did not have curable options just as we were headed out the door for the airport. There could have been no way for us to time that, but it was God's generous and kind gift to us. Before word got out to the world, we had five days to huddle close, cry together, and manage feelings that felt too big. We shared our raw emotions and plowed through impossibly difficult conversations. We saw the things we wanted to see, but kept a slow pace to allow for the moments we needed.

We witnessed God's big and wondrous creation, reminding us that we are the created ones. And ever so slowly we began to loosen our too-tight grasp on life and instead hold it with an open hand.

We landed in Denver late at night so we let the kids sleep in a bit on Friday morning. After stopping for takeout breakfast, we drove to Shaun's childhood home in Arvada, where he lived from ages 6-13. We walked the paths he walked daily to his elementary and then junior high school. The kids played in the neighborhood park where he played (though the wood had been replaced with plastic).

After hearing so many fun and interesting stories from Shaun's childhood (and more than once "and this used to be an open field"), we returned to our rental house in the heat of the day and hung out. 

(trying to figure out the selfie stick :)

When we were ready to head back out, we drove to Red Rock Canyon.

And the Denver Broncos stadium where we were able to walk around, but not inside.

He and I have spent many hours watching football together over the years.

We couldn't resist having Outback for dinner. :)

The next morning while Shaun and the kids packed up, I met up with Shelva, my friend going back to our teen years, for coffee.  

And then we spent a leisurely day driving through the Rocky Mountains. We stopped and got out at every scenic overlook, amazed at the beauty and the changing terrain.


After stopping in a cute little town for sandwiches, Shaun found a spot where we the kids could put their toes in the Colorado River.

We grabbed dinner and got settled in our Utah condo. It was a large three-bedroom with nice amenities on the grounds.

A new twist to a sunrise location for me. 

Our first stop of the day was Zion National Park. We took the park's bus, stopping at a few places to get out and explore. Ideally, we would have spent a couple days there, hiking and seeking out hidden wonders, but time and mobility issues determined that we keep it simple.

Then we got back in the car and took the scenic (and partly harrowing because of the switchbacks) route to Bryce Canyon, first going through Red Canyon.

We got back to the condo and Shaun and the kids hit the pool and hot tub.

This is not trick photography....he really did eat a bowl of Lucky Charms that was as big as this looks.

This day was the Grand Canyon! We opted for the North Rim, in part because it was closest to where we were staying in Utah and also because only 10% of visitors go to that part and we were up for quiet over crowds. It was supposed to be about 100 degrees but we waited out a 20 minute downpour and the temperature dropped into the 60's! 

This sunrise was especially beautiful and sacred to me. God dropped the old hymn Be Still onto my heart. I couldn't remember many of the words, but when I looked them up it was like being wrapped in a warm blanket.

We spent the morning at the condo place and then left at checkout. 

We stopped at a very warm Hoover Dam, where my two engineer-brained boys took it all in.

To say we did it, we drove a bit out of our way to cross the California border.

While Shaun took care of returning our rental car, the kids and I explored the hotel and played games.

Then we walked to "The Strip" in Las Vegas. The girls souvenir-shopped and then we walked around and caught a fountain show. 

None of us cared too much for Vegas, but they have cheap hotels and a very accessible airport. We took off at 7am and had a 3-hour layover in Chicago. We arrived back home with full hearts and in time to get the kids to church for Mid-Week.

 Our trip out west was a gift. I would even go so far as to call it a miracle. 


Ashley Beth said...

I’d call that time together savoring God’s creation and one another’s company a miracle, too. God graciousness astounds me. What a treasured time you all had together exploring some beautiful places. You’ve seen parts of Colorado that I’ve never seen even as a Colorado native. Red Rocks is still on my list! I was born in Glenwood Springs and one of our mattress stores is there as well. It’s 3 1/2 hours from where we live but it’s a cherished place that holds a lot of history for us personally. Cool that you guys got to pop in and visit! Praying for you and your precious people every day, friend.

Amy said...

Wow! Amazing! I'm sooo glad you made it happen! I can sense the 'closeness' in all of your pictures. One of my favorites is you and Shaun in front of the stadium. And I will NEVER get used to pictures of those parks. Truly unbelievable!

The Bug said...

I'm so glad you guys took that trip! It would be a dream for Mike and me to do that. Sigh.

Also? I could TOTALLY eat a bowl of Lucky Charms that big. And really, by the time I refill my bowl several times it's that much anyway. Ha!