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My Incredible Journey

Have you been on a road trip across the country? Most people have not and would not dare to undertake such a time consuming and tedious task. Traversing the distance of about 3,000 miles of American landscape from the West Coast to the East Coast will take you through wide open plains, towering Rocky Mountains, bustling cities, roaring rivers, and windy roads. These are only some of the obstacles and sites that I passed on my car trip from Seattle, Washington all the ways down to Clarksburg, New Jersey. The experiences that I gained from the trip so long ago will reside within me forever, and I will always be able to recall parts of the story.


When I was but a wee lad of 4 years, my mother and I took a plane ride to Seattle to visit great aunts and uncles, distant cousins, and old friends. My grandparents had also went before us and did not know that we were coming, so we were able to surprise them and boy was it a great surprise! Imagine walking into your sisters house in Seattle to find your little grandson and daughter from New Jersey in the living room. It was a joyous trip filled with memories. I can still remember standing on the moving walkway, looking in awe at the mysterious sharks and fish surrounding me in the Seattle Aquarium and taking pictures of Mount St. Helen from the porch of my cousins’ house. I even had the chance to drive up its side with my family. My mom and I took a quick trip down to Portland, Oregon, one of the most beautiful places I have been. Eating at a restaurant along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, we gazed out of the window to see hundreds of chubby seals shuffling around the beach and on the docks. It was a two week planned vacation, and too bad my father could not join us, as he had to stay home to care for our many pets. The time to leave drew near when my mom contracted a terrible earache and had to go to the doctor. She had a bad ear infection, which would not go away for weeks even with antibiotics. The doctor strongly suggested staying off the airplane as the quick change in pressure could cause her ears to pop and receive permanent internal damage. However, we were both eager to return home by then, and a thought formulated in my mom’s mind. “Instead of flying, why not drive home,” she thought. Once she knew what she wanted to do, not even the strong opposition of her parents could change her mind. We rented a big pick-up truck and off we went into the unknown with nothing but a road atlas to guide us.


I still remember the states we crossed in order starting with Washington and then Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and into Jersey. Each one has a story but some are more interesting than others are. The most dramatic occurred in Montana. While passing through a minuscule and rural town in Central Montana aka “The Middle of Nowhere,” we realized that we were lost. We stopped in a tiny boutique shop in town for directions and met an extremely friendly old woman who owned the shop. We stayed for hours chatting with her and even snapped a few pictures, one I still have of me holding the American flag outback of the shop. She told of a road that goes around the mountain shadowing the town and comes out to a major highway that will take us several hundred miles east. Locally called the “Oh My God” road, she described it as “Safe, quick, and well used.” We said good-bye before departure and took her advice. We found the road easily enough and were soon winding in no definite direction along this steep sloped, rocky mountain on a narrow dirt road. We gained much altitude. The side of the road bordered a steep precipice. There was no railing protecting a car from an endless drop to its destruction, and the death of those within. The road was barely wide enough for one car. When we nervously rounded a sharp turn, a huge van came out of nowhere from the opposite direction and forced us to move close to the edge of the road. However, the van did not stop its movement forward and slowly but surely pushed us closer to the cliff. One of our back wheels fell over the side and I looked down upon a roughly 10,000 foot drop, but the driver of the van continued on persistently between our pick-up truck and the safe side of the road. The two of us were both screaming “Oh My God!” and “This is it!” until finally the malevolent van squeezed through and allowed us back onto the road. Looking back at the van, I could swear I glimpsed the kind woman in the driver’s seat of the white van. She may have been wrong about the road being “safe,” but it did get us swiftly to the highway and allowed us to continue our journey back home. We sure did learn why they called it the “Oh my God!” road!


The remainder of our four-week journey across our nation was not quite so dramatic thank God! Nevertheless, it was the trip of a lifetime. We encountered a huge herd of massive bison crossing the vast plains of Wyoming and snapped some pictures that we still have. Down in Colorado we stopped for a break from the dreary drive in a largely uninhabited area. We spotted eagles, lizards, and deer. Along the banks of a lake, we found the fresh tracks of a cougar, or a mountain lion, and soon after heard the loud roar of the deadly creature coming from the nearby by trees. Deer scampered everywhere, and a gunshot rang through wilderness. Frightened out of our minds, we rushed back to the car and quickly high-tailed it out of there. During the long ride through Kansas, we stopped in a Days Inn for Halloween, where they were conducting Halloween parties for the kids. Not having a proper costume, I improvised and raveled myself in toilet paper from the hotel room. It turned out to be a perfect mummy costume. I still have the picture. We would travel for 6-7 hours at a time before stopping to rest, and I acted as the navigator and topographer of the journey, using the 1999 World Atlas to map out routes through each state. I actually managed to find our way back home safely from 3,000 miles away, quite the feat for a four-year-old. The trip solidified my everlasting interest in maps and geography, and even though we now use a GPS to find our way around Memphis, I can still identify every state, major city and landmark in our country. The final stretch across Pennsylvania seemed to never end, but upon finally arriving home, four weeks after we left Seattle and six weeks after flying out of Newark Airport in New Jersey, I was ready for a long nap. My dad had a surprise of his own waiting in store for us, our first computer ever, a Windows 98!


It has been a quick 10 years since my memorable trip. Seeing so many places at such a young age helped me to understand my place in this enormous world in which we live and how much there is to see and experience. Just within our beautiful nation, you can find lush coniferous and deciduous forests, endless flat plains, towering mountain ranges, raging rivers, dry deserts, gorgeous coasts, cities, and everything else you can imagine. There is so much to explore and learn about on this planet alone that not a thousand lifetimes can give you the chance to see it all. The trip has made my mother and I very and we still share tight bonds and go on little adventures whenever we get the chance. The many snapshots I mentioned taking throughout my trip were not just physical pictures on a camera, but also mental snapshots and memories of great times a long time ago, and even though these pictures will eventually grow fainter over time, the fond memories and lessons learned from this trip will stay with me forever. I can say that I went on a real venture through an unknown world, armed with nothing but a car and a road atlas. I had no greater adventure than that until my move from New Jersey to my new home in Memphis, TN, a new state that I had not crossed on my journey, and a completely new story is unfolding here.





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