Some days, we don't drive the RV at all. And then there are days we (Pete) drive for hours to our next destination (record longest drive was 11.5 hours from Montana to Washington). So, on those days when there is nothing for miles, we listen to Sports Podcasts (thanks Humpty & Canty for keeping me in the sports know and thank you NY Giants for giving them unlimited material this season). Other favorites include: Serial, S-town, & can't forget the magic of country music driving through the middle of the country. One driving day, "When Was The Last Time" came on by Darius Rucker. And as I am listening, repeating the chorus over and over, and the verses in between, I think about how every single day of the last 4 months I have done something for the first time. Every. Single. Day. From the big stuff like first time RVer to my first time visiting the West Coast; to more daily adventures, like looking out the window and seeing sandstone formations as tall as mountains or hiking a cliff with 1,000ft drop offs on both sides and only a narrow cliff ledge to cross with chains to hold as protection. My personality is not the "do something for the first time" type. I like structure. I like to know what I am getting into...what's coming next. I like habits and routine. I guess that's why my Granddad, the most traditional old-school southern gentleman there is, remarked about this RV trip, "that doesn't sound like Ashley." Maybe it is that very thing that has inspired others. IF ASHLEY "let herself go...let her hair down" (Darius Rucker), maybe there is something to this. Not everyone can quit their job. Not everyone can leave what they call home. Not everyone can do 6 hour hikes in their favorite National Park. But everyone can do something for the first time, at 20 or 80. And at 29, I wish I hadn't waited until now.
For example, many people over the years have been telling me I have to go out to California. And now, after driving through the Golden State, I think it is a perfect summary of our entire country. There is literally everything, and its huge!!!! We started in the north seeing the Redwood & Sequoia Trees that can only grow in specific elevations and with just enough precipitation. Cool, crisp mornings in the Redwoods is a vast contrast to our time in the desert where a quarter mile hike to a viewpoint left us parched and tired. Joshua Tree National Park was the 1st time I saw a desert in real life (it's not quite Egypt). And of course you can't talk about California and not praise the coastal areas like San Fran, Big Sur, Santa Monica, & San Diego. Camping on the beach close enough to hear the ocean through your closed window every night and to be steps away to see the sunsets on the West Coast...it's almost as if the sun is dancing with the water below. Being from SC, where you have mountains to the West, beaches to the East, and not very much in between draws a large contrast to California which has: the World's Largest Tree (General Sherman), a forest in the desert (Joshua Trees), huge cliffs with the powerful Pacific Ocean looming below & a city that has perfect weather every single day (no humidity...what?!?!) Did I forget wine country and Yosemite National Park? The only thing Cali needs from it's neighboring states is the fun of Vegas and the Hoover Dam.
I think when one thinks of California, images of Hollywood or the beach come to mind. But in several National Parks in the state, like on Moro Rock in Sequoia or Death Valley, you can see stars so bright they look fake, because the closest city is hundreds of miles away. I'll say it again, California is huge! Another thing that is huge...WE MADE IT CROSS COUNTRY and are heading home. Granted we have a lot of National Parks to see on the way back, but we did it! We made it across the country in 29ft of space and still like each other (most days haha). And what an added bonus doing something for the first time, with someone you love. Someone that pushes you beyond your routine, habits and comfort zone. And no matter how scared you are, the thrill you get is shared with the person that knows how much it took to get you there. Do something for the first time...And drag someone you love with you. You don't have to take my word for it, neuroscientists have found that the brain is hardwired to enjoy novelty and challenge. These experiences produce dopamine. So a stimulated brain is a happy brain :)