This trip was not just fun & cool cause we got to see a lot of things it also taught Steve & me a lot about each other & ourselves. It was a very good trip for us both & I personally have a whole new level of inspiration & motivation for life & the things I want to do with it.
We had a rough lay out of the route we would take before the trip but like most things, we changed it a little along the way. So we went---Atlanta---Biloxi, MS---New Orleans, LA---Austin, TX----Albuquerque NM---Wigwam Tepee hotel---Grand Canyon---Vegas----Bakersfield, CA---Big Sur, CA---San Luis Opisbo, CA----San Fransisco, CA----Mendocino, CA (Redwood Forest)----Yosemite National Park----Lake Tahoe----Salt Lake City---Vail, CO---Nashville, TN. These were our main stopping points, there were of course lots of stops & stays along the way.
Before leaving for the trip we painted the van to increase awareness & make sure people knew just why this trip was so important to us. Here are some photos of the van. :)
So let's talk favorites & then stand out stories.
New Orleans--- for sure some of our favorite, the gumbo & baguettes were incredible. Also some of the yummiest crawfish I've ever had.
Austin---they make eating out of trailers classy. Almost all the good food spots were in trailers along the side of the road & in parking lots. Torchy's tacos & the crepes mille were amazing.
New Mexico---holy wow! Everything is covered in green chili & amazing. Full of flavor & the perfect spice.
Lake Tahoe: Unreal. The drive around the lake is incredible with all the different views of the mountains & lake. Also, the view from my friend Lisa & her boyfriends house at Tahoe is incredible---you just can't have a bad view there I don't think. We will be visiting Tahoe again for sure in the summer!
Redwoods: Talk about overwhelming. These trees are incredibly huge & so cool. We also got to drive through one---was sweet! This was actually our motivation for this trip & so glad we experienced it!
First of all the people we did get to visit along this trip & spend some time was great. As well as the strangers we met along the way---but I'm going to go into that in a bit.
- In Albuquerque we got to see Steve's Aunt Mimi & cousins Sean & Elaine. It was so much fun to get to spend some time with them & Elaine's & her boyfriend just happened to be home visiting the same time we took our trip, so it was perfect timing. We def shared lots of laughs, got to explore Albuquerque, & ate lots of yummy food! Aunt Mary even hooked us up with a great massage chair which not only came in handy on the trip, but is great to have around the house.
- My friend Lisa is lucky enough to call Tahoe home! She helped give some great tips when planning the trip & opened her & her boyfriends home up to Steve & me without hesitation. It was so good to get to spend some time with her as I haven't seen her in a few years. She showed us around & taught us all about Tahoe. She fed us & even sent us on our way with lots of goodies! We will def be back to Tahoe visiting soon. Somehow I didn't get any pictures of Lisa & me--- too much fun & too busy looking at the views, but here's their AMAZING view from their house.
- So, Steve's friends from high school work at Vail & they got us set up in this ridiculous suite in the Arrabelle in Vail. Unreal. So good to spend a few days hanging out with Casey & Colin & getting to see why they never moved back home. ;) It's easy to see with how amazing Vail is, the people there are incredible, the sights are amazing, lots of good food, shopping, & always something to do. The suite was a nice break from being on the road & staying in cheap hotels. We recouped for the drive back home in Vail & def enjoyed every minute!
- Of course we had to make a pit stop in Nashville for a night to visit my best friend Cori & her husband Caleb & got to spend time with their sweet baby, Alaina. Although a short visit, it's always good to see your best friend. :)
Some other favorite memories in brief : Grand Canyon, sleeping in a tepee (Wigwam), every view of the mountains, all the sun sets, getting to walk on the beach, seeing so many different things each day, never being bored even on days we drove long hours, watching Steve's face light up each time he saw something cool (everyday) & then of course the blessings & lessons.
First of all EVEN getting to take this trip is a blessing itself, so that is important to mention. Thanks to everyone that helped out to make this possible. Few needed thank you's: Danny & Jen for watching our fur babies, my in laws for checking on the house, my neighbor Dave for helping out with the van, Erica for our hotel in Vegas, & Steve's mom for our night at the mineral spa in San Luis Opisbo & everyone that donated for gas money, chipped in for hotels, & prayed for us.
The whole time on this trip we wanted to spread awareness; hence the van & it was a great blessing to us when people would approach us asking questions, would find us online, or even would offer random acts of kindness. Just wanted to share a few of the stories we had happen. In just about every state we had someone comment on them liking the van or asking more detail on ALS. I know that we touched a lot of peoples lives with this trip & our lives were touched by some very special few as well.
In Austin we were sitting at a gas station & a guy came & knocked on my window. Catching me off guard, he asked "Can we donate any other way than online." I muttered out, "Sure you can give me money now." Realizing that probably sounded rude I then reached back & pulled out a tshirt explaining the story he immediately gave us some cash & asked for a shirt.
Also, in Austin the guy at the parking garage liked our van & let us park for free & bought a shirt.
Driving along through Texas we decided to stop and eat and the first real restaurant we saw (no more fast food please) & we spotted was a Chili's. While eating, a sweet girl (Shylah's blog) approached us & explained she had seen the van & that she had Muscular Dystrophy. Although ALS & Muscular Dystrophy are different they do share some similar struggles, and this girls strength while encouraging Steve to remain positive was incredible. She was very sweet & it was a great reminder that everyone is battling their own battles, but with the right attitude you can overcome them. She wrote a blog about her experience meeting us : .http://sunshineshy.blogspot.com/
In Arizona we took a quick pit stop at Denny's for breakfast. We were sitting there eating our breakfast when the waitress came excitedly over to tell us, "That woman paid for your breakfast." Almost in tears I walked to the woman hugging her & she then told me her experience with ALS & said that she will be praying for us. Such a blessing to have the reminder of nice people out there & also to see how much the staff was blessed by this experience.
While soaking up every minute at Big Sur we met a great couple who came & asked us about the van. The couple was very sweet asking more details on Steve & me & how Steve was doing. They both were very happy to see us traveling & offered to take a picture for us. We ran into them a few times which was nice always seeing a smiling face each time. Felt like seeing a long time friend again. :) We've managed to stay in touch emailing back & forth sharing stories of our adventure & she also wrote a blog on our experience meeting: http://jeanhuangphotography.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/show-thanks-give-hope-los-angeles-portrait-photographer/
Still enjoying California, driving on the 17 mile drive in Carmel (also incredibly beautiful). We were stopped on one of the Pebble Beach vista points, when a couple approached us asking if that was our van. Of course we can't deny the van :) Turns out they were from Atlanta too :) Small world right! Immediately they found us online & have reached out to offer to be of any support we need & even bring dinner :) Love small world stories.
In Vail while wandering around the Vail Village we walked into a shop where the owner immediately started conversation with Steve & me. He was very in tune with speaking with Steve & then asked if he could read a passage out of the book he was reading. The man explained he was Buddhist & that he believed that no matter what religious belief you were of that he was to show kindness & caring to every person & that Steve could relate to this reading. He then read the importance of staying positive, having a calm mind through meditation, & the importance of kindness. He gave Steve a scroll of a saying, "Right from the moment of our birth we are under the care and kindness of our parents and then later on in our life when we are oppressed by sickness we are again dependent on the kindness of others. Since at the beginning & end of our lives we are so dependent on kindness, how can it be that in the middle we neglect kindness towards others." -Dalai Lama. Steve was very touched by this & saw it as a reminder to stay positive through his fight.
Every person we interacted with blessed us in some way, but I wanted to share some of the specific stories with you.
So this trip was a voyage to really show others that if you want to do something badly enough, to do whatever you had to do---in order to do it, who knew we were teaching ourselves this lesson plus much more. Along the trip Steve & I had to learn a lot of compromise. We spend more time together than most couples do already due to our circumstances, but on the road there's no getting away from one another. It was a very good growing experience for us to gain more tolerance, patience, & love. We also grew together through each experience. It's not until you get home & have time to reflect that you really can see what you got from something & I will say that this taught both Steve & me that although there are days where we will need to stay home & rest---we need to not get too comfortable with being "home bodies" there's a huge world out there to explore & with each adventure we learn more about ourselves, one another, & the world. It was amazing to see different cultures within our own culture. See how different people interact, listen to them talk, & learn how each & every one of us while so different are capable of getting along.
The street performers in New Orleans were talking about one love, the hippies we met in the redwoods taught us of peace & tolerance, the Indians in Arizona showed us the importance of embracing who you are, the Buddhist in Vail reminded us of the importance of having an open mind. Each person you come across has something to teach you & if you don't pay attention you could miss the opportunity.
Being home for a week now (& finally recovering from post trip sickness) I am so inspired & motivated. So many things I want to do with my life, so many things Steve & I want to do, & also motivated to get my butt in gear to make some money so we can do trips like this OFTEN. Yes, often. We are motivated to have less & do more & we are willing to do whatever we have to do to assure we can travel as often as we can.
Be looking out for some new projects in the next few weeks as I scramble to accomplish my inspirations.
I could go on about this trip forever, as it was a life changing awesome trip, but instead I'm going to leave it at that. Here are two links to the photos we took:
Lots of love!