Revisited: The Great Quest West

Infinite wrong turns and spontaneous decisions will only ever lead to adventure. Where would you go if you could go anywhere? In immaculate timing my brother had just quit his desk job and I was fresh out of college. On an unparticular Wednesday he asked if I wanted to go on a road trip, naturally I didn’t think twice. August arrived with the sunrise, the air was warm and the world was sleepy, everyone seemed to be on their own escape. The first rule of an authentic road trip: don’t have a plan. Within the first five hours we realized we had to trash our itinerary and let the road take us where it will. 6,643 miles, 17 days, 8 states, a 6-person tent, 5 bug bites, and 2 rental cars, led us to one incredible feat. Are we camping in Utah or New Mexico tonight, who knows? I learned to stop asking questions, which was a challenge for my tendencies, but I experienced the illuminating freedom of uncertainty and now I’m hooked.

Some might grow a little mad stuck in a moving vehicle for five hours a day, but I found it therapeutic. I do advise that the road is no place for wandering minds. Peace lies in the revolving playlist blasting through the speakers, the triple digit heat beaming through the windows, and unreliable maps that cause detours. I have an unwavering fascination with my countries’ own backyard. Inspired by my grandfather, the top item on my bucket list is to visit all fifty states in the USA. This magnificent journey has introduced me to a few of my new favorite destinations in the world.

Highway 101 will fulfill every expectation you never knew you had. There lies a blissful danger weaving up the windy road near Big Sur. The fog dangling off the cliffs blur the edges of the Pacific. The monstrosity of the Redwood trees will place your petty problems in perspective. The quaintness of Oregon’s small beach towns remind you of your carefree childhood. Seattle proves that transportation via ferry is five times better than standstill freeway traffic. Crater Lake at sunrise is the quietest moment you will ever hear, but I don’t advise driving through the unfamiliar forest in the dark of night until three in the morning. Yosemite brings together nature lovers from all corners of the globe.

Don’t sleep in your car on the roof of a Las Vegas casino’s parking lot in scorching temperatures. If you want to see the glory of the Emerald Pools in Zion, wait for the spring. Utah is underrated and lively and beautiful. Drive the scenic route 12 and camp in the Dixie National Forest with cowboys and elusive brown bears. Gabriel’s restaurant in Santa Fe is some of the best Mexican food you will have in your life. White Sands is heaven on Earth even if it’s hot as hell. Arizona will teach you valuable lessons such as deserted campsites are in said condition for a vital reason such as forty-mile per hour windstorms that will collapse your tent while you attempt to sleep. Carlsbad Cavern will keep you up at night wondering what other marvels live beneath your feet. You’ll discover that Southeast California is truly desolate and Salvation Mountain is more of a psychedelic religious trip. Joshua Tree has native hieroglyphics that you will strive to decode. You’ll realize that Big Bear Lake is just a few valleys away from the big city. You’ll learn that you feel more at home sleeping under the stars than surrounded by skyscrapers. You’ll learn that you’ve misjudged all your dreams for life. You’ll learn that freedom survives without walls.

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