Tag Archives: road trip 20

Road Trip ‘20 … Day 3-5, Dallas

The sun had set over the Dunes. And now, I was going to head southeast to Dallas. I was singing Amarillo by Morning. Twelve more hours behind the wheels. I love driving but this was getting to me.

My son and his wife had just bought a new house and we had a house warming gift. Well, half a gift. I had a collection of gift cards that I was going to put in a plant. So now, I had to find a plant that would go with her babies … not that kind of babies. She has two good size girls, each with four legs.

So, after a couple of spots, a plant was procured and prepared. I headed to my son’s place of vocation. Now, nobody was supposed to be admitted without their temperature checked, but maybe I just had a trusting face. So a young intern (?) let me in a side door. I made it to security where they called my son out to this unknown gentleman who had gotten in stealthily.

No, wow. No, so cool. No, great to see you. No, hug. Just, “What are you doing here?” … oh yeah, and a fist bump. Social distance and all. And he added quickly, “hey, you can take me to lunch.”

The next two days were good food and great times together. No big events, just meals around different tables, time talking, and being together. Steak cooked by my daughter in law, burgers from Rodeo Goat, chicken and burgers from Marty Bs, and breakfast from Seven Mile Cafe. Shopping and more. DFW is known for the food and it didn’t disappoint.

One of the happiest times was just hanging out at the kitchen table trying to figure out how to switch phones. I passed my iPhone 11 to him for his 8. Between the two of us, we finally got it. But not after laughs and lots of miscues.

Those minutes shared, just him and me, that was the reason I drove over 4000 miles. Yeah, that’s the reason. Hiking and parks were good. But the moments with him, that was the big enchilada. Oh yeah, his wife too, but she is the icing (don’t take that personal, new daughter-in-law).

On Friday, I went to my fav coffee shoppe ... Buzz Brews. But alas, the store had been closed … and a lock-out notice on the door. My one trip downtown had a disappointed ending.

Saturday afternoon, I broke my heart when I drove away. The departure was one of the hardest ever. Never before had I felt this depth of temporary loss.

God has a way of getting my attention on something else. The engine light came on. I took it easy. Prayed. And trusted. It got me home, just misfiring occasionally. But I never lost the emotional hardship of the separation.

I made it home. And we have a great anticipation for their trip here in July for a wedding.

Don’t ever lose the appreciation for those minutes with loved ones. Treasure them. And don’t let any opportunity slip by.

And in the end, it’s great to know all who call on the Lord will be together forever in heaven. That’s comforting, so comforting.

Road Trip ‘20 … Day 3, The Great Sand Dunes

Sand, Sunset, Sleep, Shouting to God.

This was my last day in Colorado. The fourth of the National Parks on my to-see list for this trip. Who knew it would also be a true God moment. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Another hotel and another bed. It was nice, especially knowing that I would be driving through the night at the end of this day. I headed out early to get to what would be a highlight of the adventure – the Great Sand Dunes. This unique phenomenon varies from 6-8 miles long, is almost 800 feet high, lays nestled at the foot of Alpine covered mountains, and is open 24 hours for visitors (unique in the NPS).

One parks their vehicle at a tree line which is like a curtain that one walks through into a magical world. First after the tree line is the river basin that has to be crossed. More of a nuisance to most, mere inches deep most of the time, but spots can go deeper. Some stopped right there and lets their day be like at the beach – sun and snacks in chairs from home.

Then a short walk further through what appears to be river floor just waiting for heavy rain to fill the river with water … heavier rocks that wouldn’t blow way and hard packed soil.

As you get closer, you realize the intensity of the Dunes. What appeared like ants zig zagging the crests were people headed to the top.

To walk straight up would be about a mile trek, but you can’t walk straight up. So it’s a couple of miles step by step in a surface that often wants to eat your leg in its soft sand. Hundreds of people of all ages walk the zig zag. Scores sliding down the Dunes on devices rented or owned.

I wondered if the path most were taking was because it was the smartest or because the first person that day took it and everybody else just followed it like little lemmings.

Around lunch time, I headed back to town (I left a book at the hotel / such a dummy), had more Mexican food, and headed back to the park. I drove around the wilderness section where I saw a family of deer, a coyote that trotted right in front of me before dashing into the brush, and some extraordinary nature.

I slept in the truck a bit, awaiting sunset. I had two goals – to experience the sun setting over the Dunes and observing the stars from what is one of America’s Dark Spots – highlighted for its unique black skies to see further and a more abundant star field. Alas, only the former would be fulfilled tonight. For storm clouds were rolling in and stars would be blocked from view. So I would enjoy the sunset and head out to my most important destination – Dallas to see my son. But first – sunset in the Dunes.

The crowd had lightened to under 50. The sun was slowly going behind the mountains. And the shadows were getting longer.

That’s me!

The wind was picking up. The footprints from the day were already being erased, as if no one has ever set foot there that day. It was in this somber moment that I felt deflated, as if nothing I ever did really mattered, like all I had ever done really was just waiting to be erased like the footprints in the sand.

I was exhausted from the trip – and life. I was feeling lonesome on the Dunes with no one there with me I could call a friend – a feeling many often experience in life. And I felt a little insignificant and overwhelmed as I saw the majesty of the mountains, the immensity off the Dunes, and the darkening of the day – and saw myself as basically, nothing. I cried out to God – literally yelling. “What do you want from me?”

And then I heard it. It was a clear voice, at least to me.

“Be a Nehemiah”

Be the Nehemiah? What? That’s it?

So I thought about it. You see I am starting to dig into the book again, into the life of this leader, visionary, man of prayer. I am starting to explore his burdens, his strategies, his faith. And I never thought I would be challenged like this.

Be the Nehemiah.

Be a leader for my wife, my son and his wife, my flock, and my community.

Be the Nehemiah.

Be a man of prayer – broken by sin, burdened for people, bringing everything before the Lord.

Be the Nehemiah.

Planning and preparing for opportunities – divine and miraculous. Always looking and ready for what God has in store for us.

Be the Nehemiah.

Caring, compassionate, courageous, contagious.

Be the Nehemiah.

An ordinary man used by God to do extraordinary things for His glory.

Be the Nehemiah.

If nothing else comes from this road trip, I have this moment.

Be the Nehemiah.

But more will come – for the next day, I will see my son for the first time in eight months. But that’s tomorrow blog.

Road Trip ‘20 … Day Two, the Afternoon

Black Canyon behind me, sun appearing and melting the snow, great breakfast from Starvin’ Arvins … so south I head. My destination, Cortez, Colorado. A tiny little spot just outside Mesa Verde National Park.

I weaved between the mountains, stopping for gas and the occasional photo to send back to my lovely. She once asked where I would love to live and I answered Colorado. She didn’t get it till she saw these pics.

No, she’s not packing her bags. But if I have influenced anything in her life it is an admiration for the mountains. She had never seen mountains before our honeymoon in Cashiers, NC. Colorado peaks differ from those in the Blue Ridge. They are, well, rockier. It’s said the mountains of Virginia are older, smoothed out over time. I don’t know, as I get older I get wrinklier. Nuff said.

Tiny towns and large ranches, cattle and cottages, this place has such a diversity. There is something refreshing about a drive through the mountainous countryside.

Cortez offered authentic Mexican cuisine. I find that at gas stations in Texas, but it was good. As I entered Mesa Verde, I was taken back by the vastness of the park and only one road from start to finish and back again. The museum, visitor center, and stores were closed. But camping was open, so I did visit the general store there.

The trek in and out was filled with sights and history. Traffic was mild so very little stress of too fast or too slow. As I parked, a fellow Virginian pulled over and said it was great to see another from the commonwealth. We chatted briefly but he headed out.

Mesa Verde is known for the Pueblo villages in the side of the canyon walls. Villages older than the Pueblo are there, but these are some of the best preserved sites. The trail and tours were shut down, but one could still walk around a bit. This unique park actually predates the park system. It was preserved long before Teddy starts the NPS.

It looks tiny, but those are pretty good size dwellings

Wide open spaces. One could fall in love quickly here.

My day wasn’t over. Another 5 hours before sleep. From Mesa Verde I headed to the a Great Sand Dunes. It was there I would walk dessert dunes and see a sunset spectacle. It was there I would get a direct challenge from the Lord. But that’s for tomorrow.

Lesson from this stage of my journey … God’s creative side is way diverse. Beauty comes in many forms.

Road Trip ‘20 … Day Two, the Morning

Cold and Alone.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I checked and rechecked the weather … upper 60s and clear … not 25 and snow. But as the hotel worker said, Colorado weather is schizophrenic and you never know what to expect.

I brought no cold gear, no beanie, and no base layer. So I layered, five layers on top, three on bottom. At least I had my best Salomon boots designed for snow and mud … and that’s what I would have today.

Black Canyon. One of the least visited National Parks. They only give 15 permits a day to hike the Gunnison Trail, so I had to get there early. It was beautiful. A soft snow cover on the mountains like a powdered sugar frosting. The early morning light showed an unexpected splendor.

I and one other arrived before the ranger. And the other hiker had a dog. And then something new happened to me … the dog bit me. I shared this on June 10th … read about it here. A shock to say the least, and set a mood for the hike. The trail was muddy, icy, and cold. I was alone. The ranger said they would only come look for me if I didn’t turn my slip back in by the next morning, so I had to get out on my own. Deep wilderness, hazardous conditions, cold-wet weather. What more could I ask for?

The easy trail to get to the real trail
Looking up to where I had started

So off I went; or more correctly, down I went. A one mile trail down – alternating between 20 and 60 degrees in angle. It’s called Black Canyon for the steep canyons cliffs keep the sun out most of the day. I did pretty good, lasting about 1/2 mile or more before I slipped. And then I slipped again. I got within eyeshot of the river and I was very wet and very cold. I decided I had nothing else to prove. So up I went. Best to attempt again when not alone under threat of a long night if a mishap.

By the time I got back to,the top, scores of visitors where around doing the open easier trails. They were riding the rim road and having photo shoots over the top of the canyon. But I felt I had made an accomplishment that day.

So I headed to town, had the brakes looked at, got breakfast, and headed south to my next National Park – Mesa Verde.

Big Meal at Starvin’ Arvin’s

But one last note from the mountain … roses. In the white, cold, icy conditions … I spotted the beautiful color from a rose. I know the ice didn’t help it, but even in the blight is beauty.

Lessons I learned …

  • Sometimes it’s okay, even wise to not be alone. We need others.
  • Best plans of men are never completely fool proof. Things go wrong (like weather).
  • There is always beauty if you look for it.
  • A good breakfast with friends (Peg Leg) is always a delight.

Tomorrow – mountain pass and mountain village

Road Trip ‘20 … Day One (part B)

Chaos in Colorado!

So Kansas finally yielded to Colorado, finally. I had been on the road for 23 hours. My first goal was Colorado Springs, a beautiful city at the foothills of the mountains.

One of the highlights of the city are its red rock formations of the Garden of the Gods. This spectacle of nature and magical landmark is one of the most photographed sites in the state. With a back drop of Pike’s Peak, the delightful views of 300 feet towering sandstone formations left me in awe.

Chaos #1 … But I barely made it to the site. Before the Garden of the Gods, I thought I was going to meet God face-to-face. I stopped at the REI and I had a car mechanical issue. When I was headed downhill towards a red light, the brakes started to give way. They slowed me but not quick enough. I thought I was going to slowly drift into a busy intersection. Prayer, crying out, prayer. And I stopped. Low fluid … greasy pads … driver’s mechanical curse. I survived. All is good now and no issue the rest of the trip. I credit the prayers.

Peg Leg came with me

But the day wasn’t over. Six more hours to the location I was headed to … a bed to call my own. The mountain roads were clear, the scenery was powerful, and the anticipation to my first stop kept me going. I stopped in Gunnison for dinner. Arby’s.

Chaos #2 … they were out of roast beef. That’s crazy. So I ordered turkey. But before I could eat it, I dropped half the sandwich on the car floor. Oh well, I had less then an hour to go. I wasn’t going to let it get to me.

Chaos #3 … I was getting close but the weather was going fight me. First, the clouds darkened quickly. Then the sun set leaving the roads dark. Some fog was setting in. And then … snow. Snow? They said high 60s. I brought no cold gear. But before that, I had to make it to Montrose. The mountain roads were steep. They wound tight with curves and sharp hairpins. Some moments in the storm left visibility to just the few feet in front of me. So again I resorted to … prayer.

Twenty minutes of intensity left me drained … especially after 31 total hours behind a wheel. I made it with energy enough to drag my bags upstairs and crash. My last thoughts before my brain shut down we’re what would I wear tomorrow to hike in the cold. But that would wait. Sleep won the discussion.

Lessons …

  • Even getting close to ones destination doesn’t mean troubles are over
  • God’s creation is amazing
  • Prayer is a good practice in any situation

Tomorrow … snow bites my bones, dog bites my knee, and I bite some authentic Mexican food in Cortez.

Road Trip ‘20 … Day One – Breaking Curfew

PREFACE: this will be a collection of personal thoughts and practical lessons learned along the way on this seven day road trip. This is Day 1, Part A.

It was a stealthy adventure. I took advantage of a lull before my responsibilities go back to full swing in a few weeks. I headed west to surprise visit my son whom I haven’t seen in eight months. I knew his work schedule (I had connected with his boss … cohorts everywhere).

But I didn’t tell his new wife. Could I trust her? Love her, yes. But would she let it slip and ruin my surprise? She was trying to plan for me to do a surprise visit in August, but I was ahead of the game in this sneakiness. Only one woman do I trust with secrets.

So Sunday afternoon, I loaded the 4Runner and headed out from Virginia and went west. It wasn’t a direct path to Dallas. I headed by way of Colorado. If you look at a map, you will see this is a long way (a very long way) to get to The Lone Star State.

Calvin and Tiffany gave me a poster of National Parks’ bucket list. I planned to knock four of them off before I got to Dallas. The first on the list was the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. There were some snags to this. First, the Arch isclosed due to COVID. However, you can visit the grounds and walk around. And a second snag, the city was in a curfew lock down due to riots and violent protests … this is the city in which the former police chief was killed.

I planned to arrive at 6am, when curfew was lifted but before rush hour. I got there at 4am. Then, I took a wrong exit and ended up in a seedy part of town. Maybe being early morning and I was breaking the law just made it look seedy. I weaved around the city streets to arrive around the Arch. No parking lots were available, no way to get out and walk, nothing seemed to be working out. And then … a car started following me (at least he was going the same way I was and he was behind me).

Would I be arrested? Would my road trip end here? Would Lisa have to come bail me out? Or worse? A lot goes through one’s head at 4am when you’re breaking the law. I made my way to the area directly in front of the Arch, snapped my photo of proof, and headed out.

Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois down. Now Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. Would I ever get through Kansas? Miles and miles of wind farms. I did get a view of Arrowhead Stadium, but the Royals’ stadium blocked the view.

I made it to Colorado, but that’s for Part B. Mountains, brakes fail, snow storm, Arby’s runs out of roast beef … crazy times.

Road Trips are fine … life is kind of like a road trip anyway. We journey through life till we reach our final destination. Some plans work out, some don’t. There are highs, there are lows.

Here are some opening lessons I learned …

  • I loved the adventure, the experiences, and seeing new places. But there is something about being around people you love that make it better. Fortunately, the real goal of this trip was seeing my son, not marking off places on a list. And that made the trip worth it.
  • I wish would’ve spent less time doing the trails and more time with family … even if only a couple hours after his work
  • I would’ve rather have taken him along with me on the road trip. Some of my best memories in life are the road trips with Calvin. Next time, no other option.
  • Soooooo … spend time today with people you love. Appreciate them.