J.Go.West- A Tom and Jor Adventure

Day 1 || Nashville, TN || Family

Visiting with my cousins at the beginning of my trip helped me adjust my tempo. I have been rushing around frantically after leaving my job because I was so unsure of what lies ahead.

Baby Hazel once again stole my heart and Tom loved this Tennessee beauty.

Slowing down sippin' on gin and juice, grilling out and listening to baby squeals of joy. I finally felt free from the stress that I no longer worked a corporate job.

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

Thanks to my family for helping set the tone for this trip. Thanks to my road trip compadre Tom for the seven amazing years we have spent together. I am trusting God and excited to see what adventures lie ahead for us.

>>next stop: St. Louis, MO <<

Day 2 || St. Louis, MO ||

After a pretty short drive to St. Louis and we arrived at our Air BnB in the middle of the city. Our hosts Nathan & Brighton were amazing and since we are not planning an itinerary they helped us with ideas for our short stay. We knew we wanted to see the zoo because, well it's free and we are cheap. It was an amazing zoo and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting St. Louis.

20,000 steps later we were exhausted and ready to eat. However, we knew we wanted to get a good view of the city and the Arch before it got dark. After finding a park with an amazing view of the city we got to stop and watch the sun set below the Arch. Sweat and dirt dried to my skin but it was worth it.

We grabbed a late dinner at a Mexican restaurant (can you tell what my favorite food is??) then we walked down to the city museum and stumbled into a display of art like I have never seen before.

The city museum is a play house museum made out of primarily repurposed architecture pieces. St. Louis, Missouri blew my mind with the amount of imagination and creativity that went into this museum. Nothing is off limits. You can climb, crawl, jump and slide throughout the entire building. I absolutely loved our night in St. Louis, because even though we were there for less than 24 hours, we explored the city and spontaneity paid off.

We have a 13 hour drive to Colorado tomorrow which means I will be driving the first leg starting at5am. Good thing I'm a morning person.

>>next stop: Colorado <<

Day 3-4 || Rocky Mountain National Park, CO ||

14 total hours on the road and we made it to Colorado! I didn't have cell service, which was a blessing in disguise because Tom and I got to fully focus on the here and now. I know I have mentioned I love to hike and be outside, but just the two of us camping was new for me. We got in to the National Park and luckily there was a camp site available. We backed up our ol' Ford Ranger into the site and were in awe of our view. 360 degrees of a beautiful mountain skyline.

Next, we knew we had to "set up camp" as the Boy Scouts say. However, neither of us have EVER set up a tent without the assistance of a responsible adult, so we are sitting there with a pile of metal rods and a disfigured tarp just hoping we can piece it together. Two heads are better then one...right? Well, kind of, but after a solid 15 minute struggle, we were understandably frustrated. But do you wanna know what's better than two heads? Directions, aka the papers that I never actually read when I buy something new. I am always so anti-reading the manual but tonight, I made an exception. We had the tent up 5 minutes later.

We did it. I think putting a tent up together should be a universal sign of making it in the relationship world. Seven years later and we've made it.

The sun had set before we knew it, and we slept like babies.

The next morning we got to watch the sunrise over the snow-covered mountain range and I zone out on this for what seemed like forever until we got up to go hike.

The 6 mile hike was on a trail called Deer Mountain (~10,000 ft) and it was some serious cardio... that "I can't breath" type of cardio, a feeling I hadn't experienced in a long time - like, since dorm days when we had to walk up and down 7 flights regularly. Three steep miles later, we made it to the top and were left in awe of our view.

While we were hiking, I had a lot of time to think. I found myself staring down at my feet, moving to stay balanced as I dodged roots, rocks, and horse poop. If I looked up, I might fall or worse, get poop on my new Chaco's. I'd stop where the trees would clear and I'd see the beauty surrounding me.

This lead to me thinking about how this present moment can relate back to our lives. A lot of times, we're told to "focus on the bigger picture" when discussing life. I agree and disagree with that statement. I don't think we can ever fully understand the bigger picture. God does not always reveal his plan right away if even at all. So sometimes all we can do is focus on what's right in front of us, on the tiny steps our feet take trying to avoid the roots and rocks. Other times, we get to see the enormity of the mountains with all the peaks and valleys. We see the bigger picture and what each individual step led us to. We reach a peak in our life and get to feel like we are a part of something bigger. I am the small steps and I am the mountain because God is with me with each tiny step and he sees all.

Day 5 || Denver , CO || Rain

We left for Denver in the late afternoon thinking we would just pass through and grab dinner on our way to Colorado Springs, Mother Nature had other plans and decided to rain without ceasing.

As the experienced campers we are, thunderstorms would not have been an issue...

Thankfully, our amazing friend Yuki came to the rescue and offers to put us up for a night. Denver was a cool city and we loved being able to catch up with friends.

Also, my whole body is sore from our hike yesterday so yoga will be happening in the near future.


>>next stop: Colorado Springs, CO<<

Day 6 || Colorado Springs, CO || Pikes Peak

We drove straight to pikes peak from Denver thinking we would ride the Cog Railway up to the top. Our plans changes and we decided to drive all the way to the top. We had a scenic picnic at the base of the mountain and as we got higher in elevation I felt high on life. Actually, I was feeling light headed from the change in elevation. Our friend Yuki had warned us about this but I did not think it would affect me. I continued to drink water and smash PB&J sandwiches until the feeling subsided. When we got to the top I was amazed at the view. The picnic spot we had just come from looked like a small spec on a map. I definitely recommend making this drive up to Pikes Peak if you travel to Colorado, just be ready to feel elevated.

Day 7 || Colorado Springs, CO || Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods was so close to Pikes Peak but felt like a whole different world created just for the gods. The name has to be from the enormous orange god-like rocks that were throughout the entire garden. My rock-climbing friends would have LOVED this place because there were so many good places to climb. Tom and I free climbed a bit but we were in no way equipped to take on these gods. Our campsite was close by and convenient and I would definitely recommend it if you are planning to do some hiking nearby.

Day 8 || Moab, UT || Arches National Park

Finally got some yoga in at Arches National Park! Tom and I got in late and since we weren’t on a schedule it was slightly stressful finding camping because the park was full. However, watching the sunset in the park made it all worth it! Sometimes when we are stressed it is better just to focus on the present moment. We had no clue where we were going to be staying that night and had already been told the park was full. However, we decided to go into the park and explore anyways. I am so happy we did because we got to see the coolest Arch (even cooler than the one we saw in St. Louis!) Thank God we made it to an RV/Campsite in Moab minutes before they were closing and found a great spot to camp for the night. God is good!

The next day we woke up and explored Canyonlands. Once again the views gave me chills and it was so great having my best friend to explore with me!

>>next stop: Bryce National Park<<

Day 9 || Moab, UT || Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon was stacked up in such a way that I felt like I was looking at a scene from Game of Thrones. The Castle-like canyons were bright orange and went on for miles and miles. We did not spend an entire day here because we wanted to try and find a campsite in Zion National Park. However, the half day was perfect because we were able to see a lot like the Agua Canyon, the Natural Bridge, and Fairview Point. By going to the visitor center we were able to quickly plan on what we wanted to go see. By this point I am sick and tired of PB&Js, so we made a quick pit stop for canned tune and pita bread for quick cheap and easy meals.

>>next stop: Zion National Park <<

Day 10-11 || Springdale, UT || Zion National Park - The Narrows

I felt like Alice in Wonderland winding through narrow hallways getting smaller and smaller as the giant rock structures continued to touch the sky.

Hiking The Narrows in Zion was unlike anything I have ever hiked before. We were trudging, floating and even swimming throughout the "trail" and that in was way different than what I am used to hiking. The canyons that formed the narrows were so beautiful they looked hand sculpted- the Potter even made nooks and cranny's for the birds to nest. I forgot I was in a desert when I would walk through hanging gardens, where all of the green vines would beam out from the sides of the rocks. There was so much more that was indescribable. It's hard to capture it all- what I saw, what I heard, what I smelled, how it made me feel...I just can't put it into words.

This trip has challenged, stunned and awed every ounce of me.

"It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." -Alice

Zion National Park is my favorite park so far and I am so happy we spent more time here, I could have stayed here for a whole week just exploring everything Zion had to offer.

>>next stop: Vegas? <<

Day 11 || Las Vegas, NV || Vegas baby

Our decision to hit up vegas was a way last minute drop of a hat decision. We found a last minute hotel and were able to sleep in a real bed! That and the epic pool at the flamingo were the highlights of vegas because when we got to the hotel we showered then passed out! That was not in the plan but I guess the time change and all of the driving caught up with us. So I think we were the only people in all of Las Vegas that were asleep before midnight. I definitely want to come back here but may need more caffeine and a good group of my girls! We did make our way out to the Hoover Dam which was pretty cool to see. It was huge and had an astounding number of tourists tromping around taking selfies.

>>next stop: The Grand Canyon<<

Day 12 || AZ || Grand Canyon

Whenever you think of a good ol' American Family taking a cross country road trip, the first image to come to mind is the grand canyon. I never took a trip like this as a kid and I cannot imagine trying to herd the five of us kids across the country so I think my parents dodged a bullet. However, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to see the enormity of the grand canyon. We arrived in the late afternoon an after setting up camp we were able to drive to the south rim at Mather Point and watch the sunset. I swear it got more beautiful every minute as the sun slowly lowered until all you could see was a bright pink sun like I've never seen before. Sunsets out west are the absolute best!

We hiked the Bright Angel Trail that was 3 miles down. People continuously warned that the hike down is the easy part, it's getting back up that is hard. Of course Tommy and I are flying down the trail and all I am thinking is "no way it will take us twice as long to hike back up, we are fit this will be a piece of cake" They were not lying...on the hike back up I felt like I had to keep stopping because at this point we were already hot and tired from hiking down the canyon. The view was really cool because you were able to see just how far you had come down. Do not take the warnings lightly about staying hydrated and bringing salty food to eat along the way. That made a huge difference for us!

>>next stop: heading home. we will see where we stop<<

Day 13 || New Mexico / Texas / Oklahoma ||

As you are quickly realizing, Tom and I are not planners so all we knew was what date we wanted to start heading back. We did not decide where we wanted to stop or how long we would stop until we were on the road. I loved this because I could look at any good spots to stop while Tom drove.

We ended up stopping in New Mexico for the night and staying in a motel that reminded me of the place Tuca Salamanca from Breaking Bad stayed. Turns out the motel actually was used to film a scene for some popular crime show, which did not surprise me at all.

New Mexico had really friendly people and I am obsessed with how bright their license plates are! Which may be a weird observation but what else am I supposed to look at while I am stuck in a car for hours??

The next day we drove through Amarillo, Texas because one of my clients told me about a Cadillac Ranch that we had to stop and see. We pulled over on I-40 East and walked on to a field where old Cadillacs were shooting out of the ground like corn stocks. Someone handed us a bottle of spray paint as we walked closer and we added to the crazy graffiti. I wish stops like this became a common occurrence for highways where people could crate collective art. The idea of connecting individuals who can be from all over is such a beautiful concept. Now if only I could create this concept into a reality..on random highways...without getting fined. Well, if anyone has any ideas that would be so amazing!

We ended up driving all the way to Oklahoma City because we were feeling like we wanted to cover some ground and make it farther if we had the energy. This decision led to us finding free camping in a parking lot by a boat dock in Oklahoma City. Again, random, but God worked it out. We fell asleep to the sound of the water hitting the lake shore, it was very relaxing even though we were only 75% sure we were allowed to sleep here.

Day 14|| Hot Springs, Arkansas || Hot Springs National Park

I woke up early and we headed for Hot Spring Arkansas. We had no idea what to expect, but were excited to explore a new park together.

Hot Springs is the cutest town and I am glad we decided to camp here for the night. The national park campsite was very nice and we were able to find a shady spot to set up our Eno hammock. Everyone there seemed very relaxed mostly because they were retired and now worked as park volunteers.

I did not know that the "Hot Springs" we were going to see would be throughout the town itself. There were bath houses lined up on the main street that at one time had been filled with people who wanted the medicinal benefits of the natural spring water.

The visiting center doubled as a museum that preserved the devices and tubs that were used for natural remedies to help with a lot of different aches, pains, and diseases. Baseball teams would come to Hot Springs, Arkansas to train and use these public baths for physical therapy. The park volunteer did an amazing job telling us about the town and you could tell how much he loved Hot Springs. He told us all about growing up here and his family and he also swears by the medicinal benefits of the natural spring water and still gets treatments done today.

We got to experience a public bath house and it felt like we had gone back in time. Then, we walked down the street to the Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery which was inside of an old public bath house that they recreated into a brewery. The beers were all made with the local spring water.

The next morning we packed up and left. On the way out I went by one of the public hot springs faucet and made my instant oatmeal. The volunteer told us people use it to make their tea in the mornings so I figured when in Rome...

Hot Springs, Arkansas could not have been a better spontaneous decision on our part and I would love to come back someday and visit.

>>next stop: Atlanta, Georgia<<

Day 15-16|| Atlanta, Georgia || Hotlanta

Originally, we were just going to head home, but since I was recently self-employed and Tom did not get scheduled until Tuesday we decided to spend the last weekend of our trip with my best friend and her awesome fiance in Atlanta.

We spent time catching her up on our trip and eating amazing ice cream from Jeni's. My new favorite place that my cousin in Nashville had first shown us at the start of our trip.

If you're ever in Atlanta for the weekend you have to check out the Sweet Water Brewery. Apparently, they have recently expanded and for just $10 you can take a free tour, try out a variety of their beers on tap, and keep a cute pint glass as a souvenir. I am so thankful for good friends to round out the end of our trip.

Tom and I were at the home stretch.

>>next stop: Queen City! <<

|| Charlotte, NC || Home

Finally home we had mixed emotions. We finally got to sleep in our own bed, but we wouldn't wake up in the back of his pickup from the rising sun. It had finally sunk in that I would be starting over. This new chapter of my life where I am my own boss is here. I am promising myself to treat everyday like an adventure. I will trust God with every step. Even though there is so much ahead of me that I am unsure of the outcome, I know two things for sure: God is not finished with me yet and I have nothing to fear.

"Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- his good pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

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