I highly recommend that everyone, at some point in their life, drive across the country.
It’s important to know about where you live and be familiar with what things look and feel like in different parts of our nation.
I’ve driven across several times. And every time I do it, I’m reminded of how much I genuinely like Americans. As divided as we can be, we also share some inexplicable spirit; a drive tempered with a kindness that can only live in people born free.
My drive across the nation this year was done with my 11-year-old son riding shotgun. It was more of an introduction for him, but it was no different in the results it yielded in my heart and soul. I came away with a newfound respect for certain things and a surging optimism about the future and the general state of the world. In short …I think we (the United States) are gonna be okay.
There are things I might change if I had the power to. There’s some trouble with which we’re always going to have to contend. Still …I like us. A lot.
One of the stops on our journey was the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never seen it, and you live close to it, finish reading this and then get in your car and go see it …now. There’s a reason it’s a wonder of the world. It has become a bit of an American punch line and it resides in the ubiquity reserved for Elvis, apple pie and Christmas morning. But looking over the great expanse can and will put everything – including your own existence – into perspective. And, if you’re really looking, you’ll never be the same after seeing it.
The tricky thing about the Canyon is how long it takes to get to it. It’s not a road side attraction. You don’t just pop off the highway, grab and ice cream, see the Canyon, then head back to the water park. Getting to the Grand Canyon requires time and commitment.
My father took me to see it when I was 10. It took my breath away. But even so, I didn’t fully appreciate the moment I was experiencing. I was tired and hot and sleepy and grumpy. And I allowed all those things to influence what could’ve been a truly transcendent moment.
As it turned out, by the time my son and I reached the Canyon, he was all those things I just described. We had driven all day. We were hot and hungry and by the time we paid our $30 bucks to get in to the national park, I was starting to think jaded, “they’ve-turned-this-national-treasure-into-a-money-grab” thoughts. The traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. My son couldn’t stop whining and wishing we’d just forgotten the whole thing and gone on to Vegas. If I’m honest, I was agreeing with him.
We’d already driven over 70 miles of two lane road. That was AFTER driving for six hours on the interstate. Now, we were trapped in throngs of people and vehicles creeping toward some destination that seemed like it was getting farther away with every agonizing minute.
But finally we got to a parking lot. And we found a parking place. We jumped out of the rental car and stretched our legs, arguing about which direction to walk. As we both huffed and puffed and sniped back and forth about how hot we were and how much of a bad idea this was, we round a corner and topped a rise. And just as our whining began to wane …there it was. A gorge sliced into the earth so far deep and so far wide it can hardly be described with any accuracy.
Once again …it took my breath away.
My son, who had been impressed with very little to that point, was silenced instantly. And as we stood dumbfounded and spell bound, a woman yelled out the word “yes!” and people broke into applause. A man just had taken his girlfriend out onto a jutting rock inside the canyon and proposed. My boy and I looked at each other and kind of smiled. That’s something you just don’t see everyday.
We were both fairly silent while exploring the southern rim and getting whatever inadequate pictures we could snap. We took in every angle we could get to and tried to take it all in. But two human eyes simply cannot take it all in. So, finally we sorta half saluted the marvel …and headed back to the car.
My son fell asleep on the drive to Vegas and kept quiet for most of the rest of the drive. The Grand Canyon had settled us down a little.
Since we’ve been home, we haven’t talked a lot about the trip. And I know that he was miserable for much of it. I can’t say that I blame him. Locking a kid in a car for 5 days is a tough proposition. But last night something on TV was showing the Grand Canyon. I blurted, “Hey buddy! There’s our Canyon!”
He stared at the screen and finally said, “Yeah. But it’s a lot more beautiful in person.” I smiled to myself. He was right. It is. And I’m glad he recognizes the wonder of it …after the fact.
Getting to the Grand Canyon is not easy. For us, there was nothing fun about it. It was grueling and God awful …until we got there.
That is a metaphor for the truly great things that happen to us; the wonders (if you will) in life. Very often the journey isn’t what you think it will be. It is often laced with uncertainty and deflated expectations. Sometimes we have pressed on toward something for so long and we’ve worked so hard to get there that we doubt the destination will live up to our efforts. Is it worth it? Should we keep going? What’s the point, anyway?
All I can say is that if you press on long enough, you will eventually get to a true wonder. And it will be so deep and wide and life-changing that you will forget the perils of the journey completely. They won’t even matter anymore. Because the wonder will re-set your eyes and reshape your beliefs on how amazing things can actually be …if you just keep going.
They say it’s about the journey …NOT the destination. Maybe that’s true.
But sometimes the destination is the Grand Canyon. And true wonders are worth every horrible mile.
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