We arrived in New Jersey at my Aunt Teddi’s house. The hospitality they showed us was far beyond our expectations. We all felt as if we were part of the family. The first day there we went to the beach and relaxed. Now on this trip we will have touched the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean!
That night we went to an amazing Habachi grill where the food seemed endless! Thank you Aunt Teddi for that!
The next day we set out for the Big Apple.
We spent some time walking around and using the subway. We then went and honored those lost in the 9/11 tragedy. The new World Trade Center. It is a beautiful building.
That evening we met up with Aunt Teddi, Uncle Dan and my cousin Mikki-Jean for a Yankees game in the city! The Yankees won 4-3 with a walk off home run by Ichiro Suzuki!
Then to start the day off today we went to another MLB game at Fenway thanks to my father!
On Friday we arrived in DC and spent the day walking around the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.
That night we drove over to my friend Ellie’s house.
That evening we happened to lock ourselves out of the house and while playing Settlers of Catan on the back patio the landlord showed and up trusted us enough to let us in! The next morning we got up and set out to see all of the museums and the White House.
The security at the National Archives reminded me that I still had my camping hatchet in my backpack. I thought for sure I was going to be pulled aside but they kind of just laughed and told me to take it home. We saw the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, along with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. Really powerful sights to see. We then walked around the Smithsonian museums.
The Wright Brother’s original plane.
Natural History museum.
On Sunday we left DC and headed over to Arlington National Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard and viewed John F Kennedy’s gravesite.
Nothing puts America’s wars into a more real perspective than Arlington. But equally eye opening was Gettysburg which we then drove to next.
We took this ambitious road trip because we know our young lives allow for it now but most likely will not in the future. Our hopes for the trip were to gain experience in handling practical situations, gain perspective about the cultures and lifestyles within America, and to see places that we may never see otherwise. Each of those expectations has already been met, and frankly the proceedings of this trip have gone much smoother than we expected them to. A major factor in that smoothness has been the way we’ve been provided for in random ways. Most of the sweet provision has come from Drew’s relatives or family friends, all of which have been mentioned in earlier posts. Those have been sweet times and such blessings along the way. But it is the four guys from Tennessee that not only hiked but also forded a river with us, and then were willing to be fellow comrades in the hitch hiking process and go so far as to pray for us and then offer monetary provision that I want to extend even greater thanks to in this post.
It is always a great opportunity when we get to interact with locals. The conversations are memorable and always insightful. Our friends from Tennessee however were more than just fellow hikers and nice people. They were used by The Lord to be a source of provision and light. These men were bold enough to pray for three strangers, and then they did what is often the missing link in the Christian witness, they showed us love and genuine care by surprising us with a free meal. I want to thank Caleb and Nathan and the guys from Tennessee for truly living their lives for Jesus and in the process living for three random strangers.
I love seeing The Lord at work.
After Bourbon Street the three of us were itching to get back out into the wilderness. From New Orleans we drove 10 hours or so up to Tennessee to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We arrived at night and just slept in our car. The next morning we started our day with a hike to Chimney Tops. It was a 2.4 mile hike down and then a small 1.1 mile incline.
The view on top was not disappointing.
On this trail we met a group of amazing people. There were 4 guys from Tennessee who quickly became or friends. Instead of hiking the 2.4 miles back up we all decided to try the trail that was closed due to a bridge being washed away. We all managed to ford the river and hitch a ride on the other side. As all 7 of us rode up in the back of a pickup truck, Collin’s water bottle slipped out of his backpack into the road. Once back at our cars we all exchanged thanks and our friends from Tennessee said a prayer for us. We left towards Gatlinsburg and as we pulled over to retrieve Collin’s water bottle our friends had beat us there. Caleb ran over and handed it to Collin and ran back to his car. I noticed when he handed it to Collin there was something inside. 19 dollars! They gave us 19 dollars for no reason! We all were blown away at their generosity. I don’t think any of us could stop smiling until we got to Best Italian in Gatlinsburg. If you guys are reading this, thank you so much. You are all amazing people and we won’t forget you.
The next day we drove over to Shenandoah National Park for just a quick hike. The park didn’t seem like anything special to us. We took a small home down to a waterfall.
On the way up we came across a mama black bear and two cubs. Only 50 feet away we watched the cubs play and climb trees.
Last we all slept in the George Washington National Forest and today we head towards Washington DC!
From San Antonio we headed for Youngsville, Louisiana. The home of my Aunt Donna and her family. She graciously allowed us to stay at her home and cooked two amazing meals! I got to meet my 4 year old cousin, Delaney, for the first time also!
Also, courtesy of Aunt Donna and Shawn was a swamp tour. We saw about 5 alligators and learned more about the swamp ecosystem then I even thought there was to learn.
We departed Youngsville and began our drive towards New Orleans where we unfortunately had to drop off our friend and fellow traveler, Robert. Because of his broken tooth he had to fly home much earlier than expected but a good time was had nonetheless!
After the airport we entered the city and spent the rest of the night exploring the culture of New Orleans. From Cafe du Monde to the French Quarters and finally to Bourbon Street.
After we awoke from the rest stop benches we slept on, we headed out for San Antonio, TX. We arrived in San Antonio and settled into a hotel room graciously provided by Robb Sanderson. After a quick dinner we drove downtown to the riverwalk, a winding river in the center of downtown that has been surrounded by hotels and restaurants. Small passenger boats motored through the river like the jungle cruise at disneyland.
We exited the riverwalk and came face to face with a piece of American history. The location of the final stand between Santa Anna and his army several thousand strong against a group of about 200 rugged frontiersmen including Davy Crockett. The texans held off the Mexican army for two weeks before they were overrun, but this battle led to a unification of the states in an attempt led by general Sam Houston to push the Mexican army back and liberate Texas.
Strange how one can live for 21 years, granted, in a place of beauty, yet be completely unaware of some of the worlds greatest natural phenomenons there are to see. Everywhere we go is as if in a different world from the last place. From granite cliffs and waterfalls, to sandstone and canyons, uniquely formed spires of rock, and trees that have petrified to stone, and finally our latest stop, the stalagmite and stalactite pinnacles within the Carlsbad caverns. And all this within 9 days. 9 days ago I didn’t so much as dream of such places. 9 days ago Cars Land at Disneyland was my reference for towering red rock and sandstone, and had someone told me that Carlsbad Caverns look like the inside of the line for Indiana Jones (x1000) I may have laughed at the idea that such a made up scene could ever be real. And those are the reflections that strike wonder in my brain. Wonderings like, what else have I not seen? what else have i not even heard of? how many more such places are yet to be discovered (at least under the earths surface)? and how many different worlds can there be within this one earth??
Their is variety of terrain and landscape on this planet that can only become real once you’ve stood before it in awe. The marvels we have witnessed have come to be by way of natural weather from the beginning of time. But the world in all it’s glory is not meant to bring the attention of men to weather patterns. Natural phenomenons are given to men by God, in grace. The grace I find in them is the reflection of his power, care and creativity. The sites we have seen are mans window to a God who loves all. A God who can take a shapeless planet and through natural causes create a vivid, unique, varied and awe inspiring one. This God is gracious enough to show man his love through creation so that man will be drawn to him. And once a man is, he then becomes the earth in the hands of God. An opportunity for redemption and beauty to sprout.
My wonderings lead me many places. My mind is ready to explore all that is put before it. I value science, I believe science. I would not deny the weathers hand in shaping these national parks. So yes, my wonderings lead me many places. But they always come to rest in one place. That place being the character of God and his willingness to work through natural causes in order to give man a reason to seek him.
Romans 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
My wonderings are my own. If they strike wonder in you, well I hope it is wonder that benefits. If they cause feelings of disconcertment, well then your options are to ignore them, or talk to me about them. I don’t pretend that such a conclusion as I hold to is easy to accept. I welcome the struggle even in my own life. Jesus welcomes it too.
I hope to never stop wondering. If you have, go to a national park.