A FOOT and light-hearted I take to the open road!
Healthy, free, the world before me!
The long brown path before
me, leading wherever I choose!
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune,
I am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more,
postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)
I blame it all on my grandmother.
As a young woman, in 1923, she came to the United States. Born and raised in Tübingen, Germany, she had to, because her family was in severe financial difficulties in a time of depression. Her father, being a doctor, hadn´t learned anything useful – like gardening, milking cows or anything of the kind – nor had my grandma. She had her good education, though, and an innate curiosity. So she and her sister were sent to the USA to earn hard currency and send it home in order to support the family. Her sister got married in the USA, my grandmother came back after three years.
Later, when I was a kid and listened to her stories – being a help, a nanny in rich families’ houses – I always thought that she must have had hard times, but then I saw her eyes shining with joy and contentedness. So, to me –ever since – the USA were a wonderland, a desirable destination, a place where I wanted to go.
And now I´m here – finally! I might soon be a grandmother myself, having a 25 year old daughter. My husband is a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley, and we settled down for half a year in a nice home in the Berkeley Hills. I´m not much of a risk taker. At home, I have my job as a teacher. A husband, a house, a garden, my family, friends, a very structured life. Coming here, I expected to see a lot of nice places, landmarks, meet new people (which I did) – I did not expect to meet this adventuresome person– myself.
How fun it is to travel! We have been on the road for many weeks in July and August. From my hometown, Hannover (Germany), I flew to Seattle to meet my husband there. He had left three weeks earlier in order to get things fixed over here. With our car and a travel trailer, we took the 101, the coastal highway. Our first destination was the Olympic National Park. Amazing! Snow covered mountains, all kinds of animals, a rich vegetation. We went for some hikes and enjoyed our stay on a State Park Campsite (they are very well maintained up there in Washington), although it was pretty freezing at night and we got to know this coastal morning fog that sometimes doesn´t disappear until sunset.
Driving on the coastal highway with a 42 feet long vehicle was a bit of a challenge sometimes, but all went well. California welcomed us with sunshine. We were so impressed by the Redwood National Park, I´ve never seen such big trees before! After a short “Hello” to Berkeley a few days later, we turned eastward. Of course we had all these National Parks on our agenda. I can highly recommend a visit to “Canyon de Chelly” – a not very well known National Monument in Arizona. Not only is it a beautiful place, but it is also Navajo tribal trust land with a resident community within the canyon.
Bryce Canyon was a fairy-tale-like feature. We saw the most impressing starry sky when camping in the Mojave National Preserve, whereas Las Vegas bedazzled us with all its synthetic beauty. We travelled on the Colorado River in a rowing boat for one week (breathtaking geological lessons included), and we watched dolphins close to a beach near Santa Barbara.
Now I´ve some stories to tell – to my children and to my (not yet born) grandchildren …
But most importantly: It´s not only about arriving. The journey is the reward 🙂