I recently completely a road trip from Utah to North Carolina and back. In my car. With my family. As I watched the changing landscapes of the United States, I paused to think about how much those roads remind me of life itself.
Between my house in Utah and the city of Denver, CO, the roads are winding and often narrow. We ascended to 11,158 feet before descending into the plains of eastern CO.
Many people would say that the mountain roads are beautiful while the straight, flat roads are boring. Though I enjoyed the stunning vistas of the Rockies, it was a relief to get to the other side of Denver. Carsickness disappeared, and I could see where we were going for many miles instead of wondering what was just around the corner. Where I thought I’d be bored, I felt relieved!
*The exciting and/or difficult events in my life help me appreciate the long, flat stretches where it seems like nothing is happening.
After a long drive through Colorado, Kansas surprised me. I’d pictured endless, flat fields of corn, but I was wrong. I saw windmills, oil rigs, and beautiful, rolling hills. (Yes, there were fields, too, but not all of corn.) When twilight came, I even glimpsed fireflies, which comforted me after a long, stressful day. Kansas is also one of the best states for finding roadside attractions because they are so well-advertised. I wish we’d had more time to stop, but we had to press on.
*Don’t judge based on what other people say. Make your own opinions when you’ve actually gotten to know someone or something.
Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky
The shrubs of Kansas gradually got taller until they turned into full-blown forest in Missouri. It was no longer possible to see around every corner, but we knew where we were supposed go. This was the most frustrating leg of the drive because of several traffic jams, but we eventually made it to Nashville. It was harder to enjoy the beauty of the drive since it took a lot longer than expected.
*Don’t let the traffic jams keep you from enjoying the ride. Keep going, and check your GPS when you can’t see very far ahead.
Rolling hills gave way to the gentle slope of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. A common criticism from Utahns is that the Smokies (Appalachians) aren’t “real” mountains. No, they’re not the same as the jagged peaks of the Wasatch front, but nothing compares to driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. The Rockies look their best during winter when their peaks are covered in snow.
*Comparison is a thief of joy. Find the beauty in what you already have, and don’t put others down because you think you’re better or waste time being jealous.
We spent a couple days at the beach on Oak Island in NC. I assumed it would be the best part of the trip. Though it was incredibly fun, I came away with a sunburn that plagued me for weeks since I didn’t wear enough sunscreen. I remember the pain better than the sand in my toes or the sound of the crashing waves. 5 minutes of time would’ve save me a lot of grief later on.
*Don’t taint something good by being unprepared.
Virginia, West Virginia
Virginia and West Virginia arguably had my favorite views of the whole trip. I especially loved the bridges in West Virginia. They didn’t have to be cool, but they were!
*There are hidden gems everywhere, so pay attention.
Ohio, Indiana, Ilinois, Iowa
Through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, the views didn’t change much. I appreciate those fields for growing my food, even though they weren’t exciting to look at. Our stop in Nauvoo was peaceful and restful, worth the detour through rural IL.
*Don’t underestimate a place (or person) you don’t know well.
Nebraska was an unexpected gem. Like Kansas, there were many signs pointing to attractions. We wanted to stop more often but didn’t have the time. One of our most pleasant dinners of the entire journey was at a park next to a pizza place in Lincoln. It’s an unlikely combination but exactly what we were looking for in that moment.
*Sometimes you find what you need in the most unexpected of places.
In Wyoming, we saw the landscape change from plains to mountainous desert. That was a happy thing, especially as we headed south through the Uinta Mountains. On the last leg of the journey, we saw almost no cars, but we didn’t care. It was the right road to get home.
*The path might be lonely, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one.
*There’s no place like home, even if it’s in the middle of nowhere!
One More Thing About Roads
When we left on our road trip, I was convinced that our old car was going to have problems. My husband and I joke that we drive on a lot of “flat tire” roads: those really bumpy ones where it feels like something is broken on the car. Our trip was full of these roads. Some made the car bump, though rhythmically. Others had seams that make a clacking sound when you run over them. In more rural areas, the roads were not as well-maintained and made the car shake a little. I realized that my fear about the car having problems was unfounded. Sometimes (often) the road is just bumpy.
Life is a road trip, but it’s not all bad. I’m grateful for all this trip taught me about my own journey. I think we’ll do it again someday!
Read my other posts about this trip here.