I managed to spend almost my whole summer break in Colombia last year, and didn’t post once… I have failed as a writing wanderer. But I’ll try to make up for it.

This summer break, I’m taking a 6-week, 6500+ mile road trip west to see as much as I can of America’s tightest cluster of national parks (before they get sold off).  I’m using a combination of camping and Airbnb stays, so it should be quite the adventure.  I’ll try to post every few days, with the choicest of my photos.

Day 1:

I took very few pictures on my first day of driving.  The reality is, if you’re on the interstate or highway, driving across the South is abysmally boring. It’s an endless vista of orange earth; gently rolling green hills; farmed fields; roadside forests of pine, scrub oak, & sweet gum with the occasional blossoming magnolia or mimosa for interest; lily-pad filled ponds; and periodic cypressy swamps. You may get a giggle at a kudzu covered road shoulder, a tiny thrill at the I-10 tunnel in Mobile, or a brief sense of history crossing the Mississippi, but beyond that, there’s not much to see if you’re from ’round here. Back roads and country lanes are ever so much more intereIMG_2108sting, but much slower.  I wanted to get west as quickly as I could, having driven across the South countless times, so I hopped on I-10 as far as Mobile, worked my way up and over on some state highways to I-20, and ended up just outside of Texarkana, Arkansas.  It was a long, dull, gray day of driving, made longer by persistent rain and a number of traffic-choking accidents. 12 hours became 14.  Still, I arrived at my first Airbnb stop, and was happy to unwind to the sound of frogs in the nearby lake.

Day 2:

After a brief stroll around the property at my oIMG_2112vernight Airbnb, and a peaceful turn around Holly’s beautiful meditation labyrinth, I got on the road.

Another long, rainy, dreary day of driving. This time mostly through a bit of Texas, and all of Oklahoma- which I discovered is the all road construction, no movement state.  Still, even in the downpour, I began to see interesting things. Most especially, wind turbines… I can’t explain it, but they make me happy in a way most things probably shouldn’t.

Then it happened.  It does every time I travel, but I can’t remember it happening so quickly.

I fell in love.

My stomach swooped, my heart swelled, I was covered in chills, my eyes filled with tears. I was present, right here, right now. Time stopped in a moment of crystalline clarity, I saw everything at once, and nothing but this moment of intense presence mattered. It was sunset on the southern Plains, just outside of Buffalo, Oklahoma, shortly after the rains cleared up, and I fell in love with this trip. Joy, complete and entire. Pure, unadulterated joy.

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This, folks, is why I travel.

Sunset on the Plains is breathtaking. It seems to last forever, and the grass absolutely glows.  There was no way I could adequately capture it on camera, but I tried.  The light lingered long after the sun went down, and I crossed into Kansas with a sky in some of the most incredible colors I’ve ever seen.

Day 3:  Love, love, loving the prairie!  It is almost magical. There are birds EIMG_2146VERYWHERE, the sky goes on into infinity, and at night the grass is alive with fireflies, as far as you can see.IMG_2154

It was a third, long day of driving, but after prairie came – suddenly on the horizon, appearing out IMG_2181of the distant haze – mountains. Snow capped, bald topped, peaked in pines… mountains.  And at last, around 4 local time, I arrived in Great Sand Dunes. IMG_2182

Finding camping was a challenge.  I couldn’t book ahead because the reservable sites were taken, but I was hoping to find at tent space at a nearby private campground.  Alas, that too was full, but the helpful rangers suggested I head up (and I do mean up –  the whole rough, rocky way) to Zapata Falls, where they thought there should be sites.  Even there, the campground was full, but the host said, “You’re not the only one” and pointed me to the No Camping day use area, where a number of other folks had already set up for the weekend. I felt a little weird about all the No Camping signs, but when in Rome…

And so, I set up for the next two days.IMG_2183

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