America: Consider Yourself Discovered

In the past week, we've outrun a tornado, met the latest and greatest of the Jackson family clan (Jolee, daughter to Greg and Carolee), watched the sunrise over Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, and climbed both Angel's Landing and the Narrows in Zion National Park in Utah. Okay, so technically neither of us wanted to risk that final half-mile death march on Angel's Landing, but we made it all the way to Scout's lookout, and were back down at the base by 9 am this morning. Not too shabby.

It is hard to believe how far we have gone in one month. We plan to be home by Sunday night, which means we can change our clothes and unpack our bags and sleep in our own beds, but it also means that this little mini reality we've been daydreaming through is coming to a close. We'd say it would be hard to pinpoint favorite places, foods or experiences, but in the end the same things stand out: the jazz in New Orleans, the rivers in Tennessee and North Carolina, the happy and fun Pittsburghers and their Pittsburghese, the fried artichoke salad at Tia Pol in New York City, where Mr. Dave Peterson works...

Our trip back west has been a bit of a hustle, with its own unexpected adventures. We zipped in and out of Iowa's ugly Lake Manawa, where the water had rumors of E. Coli and it appeared that whomever didn't live in Omaha proper came to live in the park. Nebraska was surprisingly beautiful and about as chock full of historic sites and places as one could imagine, including the Pony Express Station. We had hoped to camp at Wildcat Recreation Area, about 30 miles outside Sidney, and the park was stunning, but about half an hour after we'd parked the car, we saw the clouds brewing overhead and overheard tornado warnings on the radio. So instead of visiting Chimney Rock, we drove north through Wyoming in the driving rain, and spent the night with Julia's cousins in Colorado. From there we have zigzagged through Utah's five phenomenal national parks, and are now staying at Julia's fifth grade buddy Sarah's house about two miles outside Zion National Park. The view from her backyard is easily worth as much as whatever it is they pay in San Francisco's Pacific Heights or Malibu. With a lot less people, and a lot more wildlife.

Tomorrow we make the long drive to Yosemite, for one final night in our trusty tent before heading home on Sunday. Home--where is that again?

Many thanks to Team HJ, the Alpers, Pat & Dale Bibee, Rim Vilgalys & family, Allie & Toya, Jes Consiglio & family, Cleve & Lindsay, Adam Taylor & Dave Peterson, Coleman Hamilton, Greg & Carolee, Zion expert Sarah, and everyone else who made this trip and its subsequent excursions possible.

Happy summer...