What I did on my summer vacation

It’s been nearly a year since I attended a Meet, Plan, Go! seminar in Minneapolis. The organization teaches individuals how to take career breaks and travel for months or even years at a time. I knew that I would never be able to take that much time off, but I did promise myself after that seminar that I would take a two week vacation – something that most never do during their working career. With husband’s family reunion planned for July 2011, we decided to wrap an extended vacation around the reunion. I dubbed it The Great American Road Trip.

After 16 days and nine states there are too many stories and too many pictures to put a summary of my summer vacation into one blog post. Every state was beautiful and unique in its own way, so it’s impossible to say what my favorite thing about the trip was. I do, however, have favorite moments that took the trip from good to great.

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is a 48-mile scenic drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake. Sweeping up to over 12,000 feet, you are eye-level with the mountains. The trees disappear. Elk and marmots romp in wildflower fields. The clouds seem close. So close, I felt like I could reach up and push them away with my fingers. The drive is harrowing; I encourage not to look over the edge while winding through the mountains. But a definite must-see of purple mountain majesty. I could come up with nothing more than “wow” when we crested the first curve at the Continental Divide, and still can’t think of a better description.

Somewhere in Wyoming on Hwy. 85, we came upon a field that looked like a river of wildflowers spilling below. Husband pulled off the highway at a gravel inlet with a gate. There was a sign at the barbed-wire fence stating that the landowner welcomed visitors to explore the land, provided the gate remained closed and no animals were approached. What a find. We let our selves into the pasture and carefully walked to the edge of the highest point, listening for rattlesnakes along the way. The field was spellbinding.

In New Mexico we watched the light, which reflected golden off the earth. The area around Taos was hazy because of wildfires, which I think just made the pictures more mystical looking. At the Rio Grande we walked across the bridge that crosses the river. It is not for anyone afraid of heights. Even I gulped when a stiff wind came up as I was hanging over the ledge, clutching my camera and I trying to shoot as steadily as I could. But sometimes you have to dangle.

More than one person has said, “I bet it felt good to come home and sleep in your own bed.” I’ve even caught myself saying it when I don’t want to bore people with my travel stories. But in reality, I could have kept going. The discovery of each place, those little moments like finding a field of wildflowers – that is what fuels my wanderlust. I can only hope that desire never goes away.

The pink school house

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Husband saw the pink school house as soon as we turned from Hwy. 64 to Hwy. 285 outside of Taos, N.M. Perhaps the giveaway was a big mural painted on the building that said, “The Pink School House.” It looked photo worthy, the gate was open and there wasn’t a “no trespassing” sign, so we drove in.

We took a few pictures, and then I noticed them – an Igloo cooler, a grill, a hot tub. Holy bats. This was someone’s house! And there we were, snapping away in the front yard. We quickly packed up and sped out. Thankfully the owners weren’t home!

The mountains of New Mexico

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Husband and I spent the morning in Fort Collins, Colo., and planned to cruise into Taos, N.M. by dinner time. On paper it worked, but then we hit these mountains. Hairpin turns and 25 mph zones put us in much later than expected, but the drive on Hwy. 64 was completely worth it. It was a surprise for both of us. A very beautiful surprise.