America the Beautiful
So, after living for two years in Japan I was expecting a bit of reverse culture shock. I experienced it badly after my 6 weeks in India, and was prepared for the worst. I was made even more nervous by seeing some people have regrets about leaving Japan once they had returned to the States. However, that was simply not the case. And I continue to enjoy the things America has to offer.
I was really able to enjoy this great nation of ours about two weeks ago when I did my solo road trip from Orlando to Salt Lake City. I drove through eight states and was blown away with America's beauty. My first day of driving took me from Orlando to Chattanooga, TN. And man, had I wished I had planned more time in Chattanooga. It was a really cool little town that reminded me of Savannah with more mountains. I was able to ride my bike around town and ate a lovely meal at a restaurant that actually does have a sister location in Savannah, The Public House. It was an awesome meal and people were super friendly. I happened to stay at a hostel for fellow climbers and bikers called The Crash Pad, and if I am not camping, I will always stay there. The people are awesome and it is so conveniently located in the heart of downtown but also like 15 minutes from Lookout Mountain. Did I mention there was a brewery next door? There just wasn't enough time to explore it all.
My next day took me to Kansas City, Missouri. It was my longest driving day of my trip, but it was an incredibly beautiful drive. I went through all kinds of terrain, and Kentucky just holds a special place in my heart. I made it to Kansas City in time to ride my bike through Swope Park, my first official day on a real IMBA trail. I could hardly contain myself. It was just a beautiful day. I had heard great things about Kansas City, but due to pure exhaustion I decided not to explore and just crash for the night.
Day three was my most nerve wrecking and exciting day. I only had to drive through Kansas and a bit of Colorado before I got to my destination of the day, Denver. My friends were waiting for me at the end of the day, and the thought of being in a city and staying put for two days to explore was enough to keep me going through the windy plains of Kansas. Although there is a great beauty to the wheat fields as far as the eye can see, the 45 mph wind gusts while having a bike on the back of my car slightly weakened the beauty due to fear.
I finally made it to Colorado in the early afternoon, and drove out to Boulder to ride the Marshall Mesa trail, as being on my bike makes me so happy. After soaking in the mountains and extremely dry air, I drove to my friend's apartment where he was waiting for me, all smiles. I was shocked to find that the mountains are not as close to Denver as I had once imagined. I did enjoy the city greatly. I ate, arepas, pumpkin chocolate chip ice cream (sorry SP), Cuban food, and the most delicious zucchini pancakes. I got to see an awesome concert venue, and plenty of mountains, as well as the most picturesque town of Golden, CO. It was a quick and amazing two days in Denver.
The last day was the most amazing day for landscapes. I wished I could've stopped every 5 minutes to take pictures. Driving through the snowy Rocky Mountains and going through Breckenridge and Vail before getting to the deserts of Utah and I just can't even stop myself from gushing about that entire drive. I highly recommend that you drive from Denver to Salt Lake City once in your life, for the views at the very least.
And now, here I am nestled in the mountains. Enjoying the nature I was seeking. The mountains are much closer than they are in Denver, and I have all my passions available at the palm of my hand. Something that I will not take for granted. Only America could allow me to see all I saw on my journey WITHOUT paying for toll roads and not even flinch at the thought of me traveling alone. Here in America, I can transplant myself across the nation and still have a friend base I can tap into, feeling part of a community instantly. I get to do the things I have been dreaming about so long, riding, climbing, and hiking. And for once I have a choice of ALL THREE!
We tend to forget what this country is really like in lieu of everything that is publicized on the news or social media. But, I have to say the REAL America is still out there; beautiful, warm, and ready for exploration. I challenge you to go discover her for yourself!