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By:    On: 2010-12-16

On a journey to 50 national parks in 217 days, unexpected things happen.

Scenery of awesome proportions. Astonishing wildlife. Delightful food. Big slices of American history.

But perhaps the best of the unexpected is the people we meet. The ones who arrive out-of-the-blue to encourage us. Who suddenly show up to brighten our day with stories about their own adventures. Their own challenges. Their own dreams.

We learn a lot from the people “out there.” They range from a weekend getaway-ers to full-timers, living a stress-free life of freedom and fun. And everything in between.

People building a home in Guatemala showed up at our door in Redwood National Park.

A couple trying to develop a plan for their life – facing a chronic cancer condition and overwhelming job demands – spent an evening with us in Mount Rainier.

A worship-leading duet poured encouragement on us in, of all places, Montery, lifting our spirits at a crucial time.

In Bryce National Park, the campground hosts gave us some life lessons about what is important and what is not. They’ve been full-time RVing for 14 years. We told them we were trying to figure out how to afford to do this full time. Their advice was simple and direct: you can’t afford not to.

Death Valley was the place where a Ranger – a former sports performance psychologist – tracked us down to deliver father’s day and mom’s birthday cards from our daughter. And gave us his entire career story with a “lessons learned” section in less than 2 minutes.

An entire family – kids, parents, and grand parents – greeted us in Olympic National Park. They were touring the west in a Sprinter van, and spending nights in motels. Their shared experiences were knitting a tighter, stronger family.

In Williams, Arizona, we met a man who started a garage museum. It was a step back into the 40s and 50s – he had collected everything from oil cans to gas pumps for over 25 years. One day, he decided to leave corporate life and start his museum.

In a brief half an hour he served up a lesson in economic fundamentals garnered from a lifetime of learning.

A singer-song writer befriended us in an RV park, and talked about her experiences as an artist-in-residence at Glacier National Park. She offered to write a music track for an audio-visual presentation of our road experiences.

People have shared stories with us about their dreams and their hopes, their calamities and successes, their families, concerns about our nation. We could write a book about it all, there is so much they had to say that is worth hearing.

These are things we did not expect, nor invite. We showed up and the rest unfolded before us.

There is something special about such people. We consider them all friends, compatriots on this road we call life. They make up the fabric of America. And we are grateful for having met them, shared time with them, and learned a thing or two (or three) because of it.

The only way to connect like this is to get out on the road. To make yourself available and open to hearing people’s stories; to hear them talk about life as it comes to them.

It is one of many blessings we experienced on the Tour.

And it just might be the best blessing of all.


Couple from Redding, CA - Airstream           Rob & Jan - chillaxin' before dinner in the
Interstate experts - who befriended           Sprinter Interstate
us in Zion National Park


Death Valley ranger who tracked us down to    Road trip family, Olympic National Park
deliver greeting cards from our daughter.


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