I’ve been sitting on the idea of a blog for a long time now. I just didn’t know where to start or how to go about introducing myself...and I still don’t have a clue. But enough is enough, and done is better than perfect. So here I go. And by the way, hello, I’m Maryanne.
I’ve gotten to do some pretty cool things. Among them, I’ve rafted the Rio Pastaza, repelled down a 140’ waterfall, and hiked the rainforest in Ecuador. I’ve sailed the South China Sea to Corregidor Island, listened to my great aunties and great uncles reflect on Japanese occupation during WWII, walked our family’s rice fields, and celebrated Tapulao Fiesta in the Philippines. In Italy, I stood in awe of Michelangelo’s David, stared in silence at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, scaled 294 steps to the top of the Tower of Pisa, prowled around the Coliseum, and took a water taxi down Venice’s Grand Canal. I’ve cried at the Garden Tomb, prayed at the Western Wall, waded in the Jordan River, looked out over the Judean Desert, and stood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Most recently, we went to Alaska, were I was lucky enough to see the Northern Lights and Dawes Glacier, spot Bald Eagles at Tongass National Forest, watch salmon swim upstream in Skagway, and wander around Juneau eating popcorn from the drugstore. And lets not forget seeing the sweet babushkas of Ukraine with scarves covering their silver hair, sitting in the rain waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, riding horses in the Beartooth Mountains, being photobombed by moose while fishing in Shell Canyon, taking the train to Malaysia, staying at retro motels on Route 66, or watching daylight turn to dusk in Singapore’s Supertree Grove.
Like I said—pretty cool things. But as amazing as those adventures were, if you twisted my arm and forced me to pick a favorite, I’m going with the time BJ and I spent two weeks in the summer of 2015 touring the western United States as nomads. We put a bright red camper top on his black ’96 Dodge Ram, named it the Red Roof Inn, and hit the open road. It was a long wheelbase, so we had room for a full-size air mattress, a couple hampers of clothes, and a cooler. We showered at truck stops, which horrified my mom, who initially assumed it was locker room style with only a cheap vinyl curtain separating me from a dozen burly truckers. (For the record--you get a very tidy private bathroom with clean towels and a door that locks.) We also learned a whole lot about where NOT to park overnight.
By virtue of the name, you’d think a rest area would be restful, but that was not the case. Strange characters (perhaps in actuality no stranger than two people sleeping in the back of a truck) came and went at all hours, so it was a bit unsettling. On the plus side, though, if we hadn’t been up guarding against invaders, we would’ve missed the spectacular lightning show in the Arizona night sky. Another night, we pulled our pickup behind a truck stop and nestled between two big rigs. We definitely felt safer, but a whole parking lot of tractor trailers with their engines running doesn’t exactly make for quiet slumber...or clean air. In yet another failed attempt at sleep, we parked the Red Roof Inn at the far corner of a Wal-Mart. It was absolutely perfect—until 3am when the parking lot sweeper came around. He swept within inches of us, rumbling so loudly that we wondered if there were earthquakes in Oklahoma.
But the most memorable night was when we tried out a hotel parking lot in Pocatello, Idaho. We pulled around the building and backed against the shrubbery. It was perfect—very quiet and with just enough street lighting that we weren’t fumbling for our toothbrushes in absolute darkness. The night air was cool and clean, so we opened the camper top windows and let the breeze whisper us to sleep. For a few hours, the universe mockingly allowed us to exult in our comfort, but we were eventually awaked in the middle of the night by water blasting us from both sides of the truck. It’s crazy what comes to your mind when you’re lying on an air mattress in the back of a truck in the middle of an impromptu monsoon. I wondered, Did someone turn a hose on us? Are we being carried away in a tidal wave? Can a case of water somehow spontaneously explode? It took me and BJ a solid fifteen seconds to gather our wits and slam the windows shut. By that point, water dripped from my hair, our sheets were soaked, and puddles were starting to form in the corners of the truck bed. It was then that we realized we had parked directly over the hotel’s sprinkler system, and we got the lion’s share of the water load.
Soggy adventures notwithstanding, what we lacked in sleep, we more than made up for in memories. On that trip, we saw the Grand Canyon for the very first time. It was, indeed, very grand. But perhaps just as majestic was Utah’s Zion National Park, which is still one of the most magical places I’ve ever beheld. In the super cool town of Cody, Wyoming, we ate burgers at the Irma Hotel and marveled at the beauty of a Plains Indians Grass Dance Competition. We followed the buffalo through Yellowstone and held our breath driving out the dizzying Dead Indian Pass. Further on down the road, South Dakota gave us the Badlands and Mount Rushmore and pecan rolls at Wall Drug. We talked about nothing and everything, and we followed up it up with the kind of laughter that shakes your soul free.
Whatever turns life takes from here on out, I will always have that trip. I’m waiting to see if anything ever tops it. To date, nothing has, and if that never changes, it’s fine by me.
Until next time...be safe, and see you on down the road!
Maryanne Tuck Grimmett
First time at the Grand Canyon! I've been lucky enough to go back at least three times since then. It never gets old.
BJ--My travel buddy, my friend, my favorite person in the world. I thank God for the gift of time with him.
Want to fall in love with life? Go to a Plains Indians Grass Dance Competition. I've always wished I could find the people in this photo again. They looked so happy and so intertwined. The joy on their faces was good for my soul.
Such colors! We were in awe. It was pure, unadulterated majesty from start to finish.
Art in motion. It was truly an honor to behold. I could've stayed in that moment forever.
Don't believe in magic? Clearly you've never been to Zion. If I'm ranking the National Parks I've been to, I'd definitely put Zion, Monument Valley, and Yellowstone at the top of the list. And speaking of visiting National Parks...save money and see more by getting an annual pass!
The colors! The textures! The layers! It's an artist's dream.