Well, the first time.
I've mentioned it before, but I thought I'd share the story. And the ridiculous photos. So here it goes.
Nine years ago, during my senior year of high school, I was all set to go to college like a good little girl. I even had a roommate lined up. We were discussing our dorm's color scheme in between classes. But then something happened. Through friends at church I kept hearing about this wild and crazy cool ministry school in Redding, California where students were getting their lives changed and having their faith in Jesus ignited in a way I had never experienced. I was intrigued. Something inside me leapt at the thought of abandoning all good reason and just going for it. Moving to California. Having this experience for myself.
So. I decided that if there were ever a time to completely changed the course of my life and try something outside the box, being 18 and straight out of high school seemed like the best option. It took some major convincing to get my parents to okay such a bold move. My dad wasn't pleased. California was far. And he had worked very very hard to provide for all his kids to go to college, and here I was... asking to instead to go an unaccredited ministry school as far away as possible within the U.S. I mean, I kind of get why he wasn't thrilled. He's such a good father and he just wanted the absolute best for me. But I explained to him what I had heard about this place and all incredible things that were happening at this school and church, and after we both visited and spent some time out there, I felt absolutely sure. It was definitely a place that I wanted to immerse myself in and a program that I wanted to experience for myself. Dad consented. Mom bought me laundry detergent. It was decided.
The thing is, the more I talked to other people, my friends and family members who were also interested in the school, the more we all got excited and there was a bit of groupthink going on and suddenly - I found myself in the middle of a wonderful, vibrant gang of outside-the-box souls who were, indeed, on board for the adventure too. Before I could even finish laughing about the irony of it all, my sister and her husband, a couple of my friends, a couple of my cousins AND my boyfriend (yes, in case you're wondering, that's STEVIE) all decided that we were in on this gig together - we were going to trek across the country and go to ministry school. Together. We were going to take out loans, find jobs, invest in some camping gear and just do this California thing. It was an enormous risk. It was probably going to change our lives forever. It was very possibly going to ruin some of our best-laid plans for stability, security, savings and career trajectory. It was going to abandon all of our hopes for the American dream. Abandon all normal.
It was going to be SO. MUCH. FUN.
I can't tell you how many people thought I was joining a cult. The college advisers at my private high school couldn't really figure me out. Why an unaccredited school? Why?? But I had my safety net of people and I had my goals and most of all, I had that incredible feeling of peace that trumped all the whispers and judgements of those who didn't understand.
That's a really long way of saying that in August of 2006, I hopped into my '97 Honda Accord with Stevie by my side, and we (along with our 4-car caravan!) began the road trip of a lifetime: from Georgia to California. Two weeks. All the states. And ALL the awesome stops in between.
Our caravan consisted of 7 people and we all took turns picking out destinations that we wanted to see along the way. We did some of the obvious sights, like the Grand Canyon and Route 66. And we did some super weird ones, like catching the dancing ducks at the Peabody Hotel and driving through the Petrified Forest. Logistics were crazy. If we stayed at a hotel, we would all hunker down in one room (to save on cash!), which included two dogs and all our bikes. Because we couldn't very well leave our bikes hitched to the back of our cars in the parking lot - there are looters lurking! But hotels weren't the norm, we also did a good bit of camping. KOAs became a friendly stop, especially as we entered the West. And I'll admit that we bathed in more than one body of water. I told you- we did some super weird things. And kind of quickly slumped into hippie life. And when I say that, I mean it. I found mud in my hair weeks later from the Colorado River "bath".
I could talk for hours and hours about this trip, but I might as well just show you.
|The Peabody Hotel, Memphis. Famous for the ducks.|
|Beale Street strolling, Memphis.|
|Blues City Cafe (BARBEQUE!!!), Stevie giving me a wet willie in front of Wet Willies (he's a gross boy), and BB King's Blues Club. We did Memphis pretty darn well.|
|Oh yeah, we went to see the King, too.|
|Most of my "on the road" shots were something like this.|
|That's my bro and sis-in-law's vehicle ahead. Along with their dog Abby. And their cooler.|
|Kansas is full of hay. Just full of it.|
|Entering Colorado. It was the first time I had ever seen the Rocky Mountains and I FREAKED OUT.|
|We hiked a 14er up to Kite Lake (no we didn't hike the whole thing - we drove to the trail head), but it was one of the scariest things I've ever done. Because we didn't take the trail, and instead FOLLOWED THE DOGS up the face of the mountain. The rocky part. The dangerous part. The top two photos should give you an indication of the terrain we covered. All I can say is that I was praying and crying through parts of the hike. And then we got to the top and saw people taking the trail down the other side of the mountain and we were all like, WHAT THE.|
|We made it! Along with my Kelty backpack, Stevie's graduation gift to me that year. I still use that bad boy.|
|We had a lot of time to chat. Like, a lot. We played the game of , "tell me something I don't know about you!" and by the end of the trip, we pretty much knew everything. EVERYTHING. About each other.|
|Rainbows are a good indicator on a road trip.|
|That's my girl. My first and best car, Audrey. May she rest in peace.|
|I mean, yeah.|
|I remember this because everyone ordered beer samplers and I COULDN'T. Oh the days of underaged-ness.|
|I remember Stevie remarking that he had never seen the speed limit set to 75. I'm telling you, the West is WILD.|
|We camped and mountain biked in Moab, Utah visited Arches National Park, and I was kept awake by coyotes those nights. These are the things you don't forget people.|
|Isn't it crazy how fake this looks? It was real. REAL I TELL YOU.|
|And then we made the obligatory stop at the Grand Canyon. You can take a moment here. I know.|
|We found ourselves on Route 66!|
|From there we hightailed it through the rest of the stops, including a brief visit to Las Vegas. For some reason I didn't have any photos from Vegas... I guess what happens there truly stays there.|
|The first thing we did when we arrived in Redding, California? Ate at In and Out. I was convinced I would live there forever. Right there. In the parking lot of that glorious fast food joint. HAVE YOU HAD THE MILKSHAKE?!!|
I lived in Redding for two years, and had the privilege of forever altering my life for the better. Stevie and I still believe that our time in ministry school was the best investment we could have ever made in our relationship and marriage (8 years in June! Crazyyyy.) And my bond with these incredible people that I trekked out there with? To this day, it's pretty rock solid. Nothing brings you together like sharing bath water in Lake Powell and brushing your teeth together in a crappy hotel bathroom at 4:30am. I have taken this drive several times since 2006. In fact, I have trekked back and forth across this country 4 times now. But nothing was quite like that first time, when I took the Kerouac cruise with this incredible group of friends and we devoured the sites and cities that make this nation great. And every time I think about this trip, I want to do it all over again.