The Adventure Begins
I recently had the pleasure of taking a trip to the American Southwest with some very good friends of mine. The trip was planned by our fearless leader, Jan (pronounced “yawn”), who is an extremely organized and regimented Swede. We needed someone to take charge and he certainly did. He spent countless hours researching potential routes, points of interest, accommodations, and modes of transportation.
In the months leading up to the trip, Jan would regularly send out emails with suggestions and options and ask for our input. We would, in turn, respond with, “Sounds great,” or, “Whatever you think is best,” and then carefully file away the emails for future reading. It is a wonder he did not get frustrated with our lack of input and decide to either go it alone or find other more-engaged travel partners. Luckily for us, he did not. He deserves full credit for the bulk of the planning and the ultimate itinerary.
After careful consideration (mostly by Jan), it was determined that we would start and end our tour in Las Vegas and make a big loop (The Grand Circle) covering over 1,600 miles. We would visit six national parks, multiple state parks and several other sites along the way. We decided to forgo the use of an RV and rent a minivan, which would be more flexible and practical when accessing the parks.
The other members of our crew included Jan’s lovely American wife, Dawne, and the ever-pleasant Swedish couple, Stefan and Ann. I always say that you never really know someone until you travel together. Spending day after day on the road with people can result in some uncomfortable and awkward moments, unless you have similar temperaments and expectations. Having known all of the crew for many years, I knew we would be a great fit – and we were.
We had so many laughs along the way as we took in the breathtaking scenery and landscapes. On some days, our plans were pretty nailed down and we would visit a specific national park for the bulk of a day. On other days, our plans were more open-ended and flexible with only a general direction in mind and a list of potential places to investigate along the way. On the open-ended days, Jan would typically ask for input and he was usually met with four blank stares. He would then politely remind us that we had not completed our homework assignments. This then resulted in four of us frantically searching the internet (when we had coverage) or leafing through travel brochures to find suggestions for the day.
After gathering in Las Vegas (one of my least favorite places on the planet), we headed out in late April, in our trusted Kia Sedona. The contrast between the man-made, plastic, neon world of Vegas and the sights we were about to experience could not have been more stark.
Note: Photo credits to all Grand Circle Posts go to Jan, Dawne, Stefan, Ann and me.