On my drive home last Sunday, I was a little choked up after Sandra called me later in the afternoon. Sandra had spent the afternoon paying her respects to the family of a friend of ours who was killed in a car accident last week. One second, her 22yo son was driving her to work in the morning, the next second....this beautiful, vibrant, wife, mother and friend was gone, as well as the driver of the car that t-boned them. Fortunately, their son survived but he will have to live with this the rest of his life. Across the nation, Dylan and I noticed literally HUNDREDS of crosses and memorials alongside our highways. No doubt a cross will be erected at the intersection where our friend and the other driver lost their lives. The most poignant cross I saw was on a very lonely stretch of Route 66 in Arizona. At the apex of a curve, a freshly painted cross with fresh flowers stood there. As I drove by, I was able to read the date painted on the cross. 1978 was the year some mother's son died in a horrible car accident. I know it was horrible because any car accident where someone dies is horrible. Someone still tends the cross that bears his name after all these years.
Why do I bring this very sad topic up at the end of such a fantastic, happy adventure? Because it is a reminder of how very precious life can be. One minute, you can be happy and in a great mood and the very next second, a loved one could be gone. Every single freaking day - EVERY DAY, we must appreciate our loved ones. We need to accept their faults, forgive their mistakes and cherish that part of them that made them a loved one in the first place. Every one of us rides in a car almost every single day. It's part of our lives and something that we take for granted. Statistically, it is also the single most dangerous thing that most of us ever do and, for some of us, it may be the last thing we ever do. Love those around you. Life is too short not to enjoy life and do the things that bring a smile to your face and to the faces of those around you.
I'm a changed man now because of this adventure. If I feel myself slipping into complacency and losing that spark for life, all I have to do is look back upon the summer of 2010. I can't take things for granted anymore. I've seen the boarded up storefronts in Kansas. I've seen the people walking the streets aimlessly in Louisiana. I've seen farmers tending desolate fields in Colorado. I've seen the ramshackle homes that our Native Americans live in. I've seen signs on the side of the road in America's heartland saying, "This is a NO-METH zone" I've been humbled. I think everyone should take a "road trip" of sorts. Even if it's a quiet moment alone to think about your family and everything that is "good" in your life. Remember, it's all about balance. Accentuate and embrace the positive. Minimize or eliminate the negative.
Though Dylan and I were never really pushed to the limits of human endurance or anything like that during our trip, we were quite a ways outside our comfort zone and I think we learned a lot from that. Speaking for myself, I feel energized and strong - not just physically but mentally. I learned a lot, not only about myself but about life. I have such an appreciation now, whereas before, one day just blurred into the next and my whole life was a cesspool of complacency. I think that, if I ever feel that cesspool filling up again, all I have to do is re-live a moment from this trip. I'll go for a mountain bike ride or I'll take Dylan camping. Maybe Sandra and I will have a quiet weekend away in Tahoe or explore and take pictures in a National Park - anything to break the cycle of boredom and monotony.
I've enjoyed writing this blog everyday and I'm happy that I could share this with my friends and family. Give a hug and a kiss to your loved ones, don't stress and enjoy life!!!