A Trip Around the World

The circumference of the earth in 24,901 miles.  As of this writing we have traveled 22,949 miles.  At a minimum we need to travel 827 miles in order to get back home on the route we are planning on taking.  That means we will have traveled at least 23,776 miles by the end of this trip, or, put another way, we will have traveled just 1,125 miles short of the entire distance around the world.  Wow, what a trip!  As mentioned briefly in the previous blog post, we traveled to the last unique state on this trip, which was Nevada.  It was a proud moment for us all when we stuck the 44th state on the map on the back our our motor home.

Photo May 20, 3 03 12 PM With 44 U.S. states, 4 Canadian provinces, and one Mexican state, our trip of a lifetime is beginning to come to a completion.  So much gratitude and satisfaction consumes us as we look back in awe of the near completion this marathon of an adventure.  What was once just a conversation matured into a thought, then a dream, then a hope, then a reality.  That reality was conceived into a family experience, which now we feel we have done everything we first set out to achieve.  It is almost difficult to believe that we have done it all.  But the truth can’t be denied.  Maybe some day we will drive to the five states we skipped (and fly to the one that we can’t drive to).  But that adventure will need to be reserved for another time.  Until then, we will be more than content with what we have already achieved.

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Attempting to Catch Up

Due to lack of internet and time spent traveling, exploring and adventuring, we have gotten far behind on our blog writing.  Our last blog post setting was in Zion, South Utah yet I sit here in Montana trying to figure out how to write (and remember) all that has happened between now and then.  Because I hate to be behind, and because I want to be able to write more in the moment, I will attempt to use this blog post as a way of “catching up.”  Though I will do no justice to the things we have seen and the family we have visited, I feel it necessary to do so at this time.  I will give a quick summary of how we got from Utah to Montana, and then include some select photos from each location with some quick commentary.  I apologize for the lack of depth, but internet has been a major challenge to get in the national parks and I feel the next month of blogging is too valuable to miss simply because we are “behind” on the blog post.  So, here we go.

From Zion NP we drove to Four Corners (the intersection of Arizona, Utah, Colorado & New Mexico.)  From Four Corners north to Arches NP.  From Arches, back west to Bryce Canyon NP.  From Bryce north to Ogden, UT where we spent 3 nights with my cousin, Yvette’s, family including seeing my Auntie Yvonne , from Hawaii, who was visiting as the same time as we were.  From Ogden to Boise, ID where we had dinner with Mel’s Uncle Ken & Aunt Shirley.  From Boise south to Jackpot, NV (last unique state to visit on the trip).  And from Nevada to Big Timber, Montana- bringing us up to date with where we are today.

FOUR CORNERS:

All four kids in all four corners of four states at the same time.

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ARCHES NATIONAL PARK:

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Maybe one of the most photogenic places we have been on our trip, Aches was a giant play ground for hiking, climbing and exploring.  This park was one our family’s favorites and was rated as #1 by Asher.

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A place we truly could have played and explored much more fully, these pictures only convey a glimpse of the joy we experienced.

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BRYCE NATIONAL PARK:

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A much more unique park than we first realized, Bryce NP introduced us to a new geological structure called a Hoodoo.  These Hoodoos are tall slender spires created from the continual freezing and defrosting of water in the rocks day after day.

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UTAH FAMILY:

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We chose the right weekend to visit my cousin, Yvette, and her husband, Shawn.  As soon to be empty-nesters, their oldest son, Keola, happened to be in town from college and we got see their youngest son, Keanu, finish his last day of high school.  What’s more, my Auntie Yvonne was visiting from Hawaii, so it was a spontaneous mini-family reunion. We even had a chance to celebrate Lydia’s birthday a few days early.

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BOISE FAMILY:

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We traveled from one family to the next as we visited Mel’s Uncle Ken and Aunt Shirley in Boise, ID.  It was a quick dinner with their daughter, Wendy, and son-in-law, Jason, at the pizza place where their grandson, Micheal, works at.  Short but sweet.

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JACKPOT, NEVADA:

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For the sole reason that we wanted to stick one last sticker on our map of the United States, we visited Jackpot, Nevada.  I will actually talk more about this in my next blog post.

One Month to Go

I feel a strange mix of swirling emotions as we begin to realize that our “adventure of a life time” is beginning to come to an end.  Our official return date has been firmly established as June 19th, exactly one month from today.  Upon reflection, I have begun to see that this trip was more like a pilgrimage than anything else.  A pilgrimage is defined as “A journey to a sacred place for religious reasons.”  We did not realize that we had, in fact, set out on a pilgrimage when we first began, but it is now quite obvious to me that this is truly the case.  I must admit I have had little experience with pilgrimage before in my lifetime.

My deepest thought about a pilgrimage is that the returning pilgrim can never be the same again.  I made a mention of this in a previous blog, but this thought is so strong in me now that it is worth repeating.  As we think about returning home, we are challenged to consider how to reintegrate into life.  This is the strange mix of emotions that I mentioned earlier.  How can we enter back into the life we have always known when we have been forever changed?  What will our “new life” be like now that we have experienced such a life changing voyage?  Will our “old life” be compatible with our “new life” or will our “old life” require a complete overhaul?  What will our friends and family think of the changes that have taken place in us during our time away?  What changes await us in the future due to the changes we have experienced on this journey?  All of these questions, and more, swirl around in our hearts and mix themselves with our feelings of missing everything back home- missing all our family, friends and everyone else who has been so supportive of us during our time away.

We deeply miss and long to see everyone of you who have so patiently awaited our return.  We now no longer feel how long it will be until we are home, but feel the closeness of our arrival back.  We are challenged to stay present in the moments we have left on this trip and enjoy every last experience as we are distracted by thoughts of returning to what we left behind.  This trip has been so good, yet we long to embrace those we deeply love.  We have learned and we have changed so much, and our love for everyone has grown more complete in way that only a trip like this could invoke.

Both joy and butterflies, mix with a triumphal sense of completion as we anticipate our arrival back home in the soon coming days ahead.  “We can never be the same again” is the mantra that continually repeats itself inside my head as I consider the days ahead.  A deep curiosity compels me now to wonder what the future will hold.

Zion

Zion- known in the Bible as the “Mountain of God.”    Zion National Park, named so by the Mormon travelers who settled there, is abundantly filled with peaks named after references to scripture; the Three Patriarchs- Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the Great White Throne, the Watchman, Angels Landing, the East & West Temples, North & South Guardian Angels.  These aptly named peaks create an atmosphere for the soul that fosters peace, life and wonder.  Unlike the Grand Canyon, which we stood on top of and looked down into, Zion grants easy access through the river valley of its great canyon walls.

Photo May 08, 11 46 33 AM With perfect weather during our trip, we took the parks free shuttle bus to the furthest accessible transit drop off and hiked a mile into the canyon alongside the Virgin river.  At the end of the trail we saw what is called “The Narrows.”

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The further up the canyon one goes, the closer (more narrow) the canyon walls come together on each side of the river, to the point of “The Narrows.”  At this point, the “trail” becomes the river itself and to move any further into the canyon, one must hike in the river.  Apparently this is a very popular thing to do in Zion, during certain times of the year.  Unfortunately for us, this part of the “trail” was closed due to “high water flow” during our stay.  We did capture many great photos and enjoyed  our time as a family, hiking together and feeling the tranquility of the moment.

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As usual, the kids completed all the activities the park required to earn their Jr. Ranger badge.  For the first time, though, Mel and I become Jr. Rangers too! (Yes, anyone, at any age, can become a Jr. Ranger.)  So we can proudly wear the Zion badge along side of our children.

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I imagine that many more hikes await us some day in Zion NP.  But for this trip we made the most of the time we had there and again, we had to move on.  Photo May 06, 4 35 59 PM

 

The Grand Canyon

This post must begin with a short story from my childhood.  When I was 12 years old my father and mother took me and my brother (10 years old at the time) to the Grand Canyon.  Not only did we visit, we backpacked down into the canyon (about a one mile drop) across (about 10 miles) and back up the other side.  Of all the memories of my childhood, this one is the greatest and most profound to me.  As a child I remember the beauty, the grandeur, the immensity of the great Grand Canyon.  It impacted me greatly and as a result I recognize how it has effected me now even in my adult years.  The Grand Canyon is my first memory of backpacking, an activity that is among my most treasured to this day.  I have even begun the valued legacy of taking my children backpacking and teaching them skills to live in the outdoors.  And though backpacking has a special place in my heart, it is not the most profound impact I had on that adventure as a child so many years ago.

When I was hiking in the Grand Canyon as a child, the magical colorful tapestry cast it’s spell on me and I was given a “vision” that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.  Strange as it may sound, I remember the Grand Canyon as the first time I “knew in my heart” that I was going to be an entrepreneur.  Though I may not have been able to put it into words at the time, I did “receive” my first business idea in the high walled cliffs of that Great Canyon.  As a 12 year old boy, I envisioned myself selling candy bars in a make-shift vendor kiosk outside our local grocery store, putting the competition out of business by underselling them by 5 cents per candy bar.  As a child this idea was brilliant, and, though I did not follow through with this original idea, the vision to start my own business has followed me my entire life.  Often times when people ask me how or why I started my own business, I tell them this story.

So, as I have seen this childhood story inspire me throughout my life and prove itself to bear fruit, I was filled with greatest anticipation upon our arrival to the Grand Canyon.  The Canyon will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Like so many other places, words are inadequate to describe its wonder.  In an attempt to capture the awe and beauty of this place, we took many more pictures than this blog post could hold.  Of these pictures I also hand sketched a pictured of what I saw.  Please enjoy these pictures, that can in no way actually give you the experience we had on our visit.

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A few noteworthy things to include in this blog:

At the east end of the park is a tower built in the 1930’s.  It was filled with native art and was in a beautiful lookout location.

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We learned that scorpions glow in the dark under black light.  We found a tiny scorpion (about the size of a quarter) and, using Asher’s secret ink pen complete with a tiny black light, took a picture of the glowing creature at night.  Yes, the picture above is a real picture taken with my camera.  Weird, huh?!

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The kids became official Jr. Rangers of the Grand Canyon.

And, of course, lots of family pictures by the rim.

Back at our camp, Caleb and Lydia created “Bug City” complete with a bug lounge, restaurant, and cabins.

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Asher and Eva had camping plans of their own.

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It maybe be many years before we will ever know if the Grand Canyon effected our children the same way it effected me.  One thing that is for sure, it is a beautiful place to work on school and learn about creation,

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a place we will always remember.

Crossing into Mexico

Though not one of our original planned destinations when we began this trip, we decided it would be fitting to cross over into Mexico since we would be so close to the border and none of our children had ever been to Mexico before.  We decided to cross into Mexico south of Phoenix at a National Monument called “Organ Pipe Cactus” (a place we had never heard of before).  We spent two nights at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and learned about how both plants and animals are able to survive in the harsh climates of the desert.  There was plenty of cactuses (hence the name of the park), lizards, sunny skies and dry air. It was quiet, peaceful, and not many people around.  Mel says the desert has its own kind of beauty and the variety of cactuses were quite fascinating. That about sums it up. And (of course) the kids earned their badges as Jr. Rangers.

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The National Monument was only 5 miles away from the Mexican border.  We decided not to drive our motor home across since we would have been required by law to purchase Mexican auto insurance.  Since the nearest Mexican town, Sonoyta, was two miles from the border, we decided to ride our bikes across (we checked with the border patrol before we did this).  The bike ride was relatively uneventful.  We rode our bikes two miles into the town and back.  We spent about 1.5 hours in Mexico.  I would have liked to stay longer but we needed to get back since we weren’t prepared with enough snacks and water to keep us going in the hot sun.  If nothing else, the kids, for the first time, got to see a world quite different than the one they live in everyday.  It was fun, hot, and well worth the trip.

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Short but sweet, another “first” adventure for the Miller family.

 

Arizona Family

After recovering from our tire blow out in New Mexico (see post dated May 2nd), only 20 miles away from the border of Arizona, we were on our way again to visit Mel’s family in Chandler, AZ.  We were fortunate enough to time our stay with them during a birthday party for Mel’s cousin, Emily, so we were able to see many of her extended family all in one place for the party.  We even celebrated Mel’s birthday (April 23rd) while we were there with them.  Included in the party guests were her Uncle Paul and Aunt Rhonda, cousin Emily and her husband Matt along with his mother, Mary, cousin Dusty and his wife Caitlin, and 6 second cousins.  All in all a party of 19 people!!! It was a fun time had by all.

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Of the festivities, playing at the pool was among the highest rated activity of the children.

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And to all us Seattle folk, we were caught by surprise to find ripe grapefruit hanging from the trees in the back yard.  It was the first time we have ever eaten grapefruit straight off the tree.  The fruit was even still warm from the sunlight.  Nothing like sun ripened fruit.  YUM!!!

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In the morning we attended the local Nazarene church service and went out to lunch with the family at Cafe Rio.

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The two days we stayed with them was a blast though not nearly long enough.  It was a special treat to see our families and young children together, playing with each other and seeing how much everyone has grown since we last saw one another.

Arizona Family, it is our prayer that God will continue to bless all of you and that your family will grow and flourish.  We look forward to the next time we will be able to see you and the continued explosion of the young ones.