Ohio to Alaska, Day One

The idea of an epic trip is one thing, actually going on it is quite another. While the trip was challenging in some ways, it was also one of the most amazing trips we’ve ever taken and spurred our love of travel to a whole new level. That trip birthed an idea for our lives that we didn’t even know at the time.

(If you missed the first story in this series, you can find it here before you move on.)

Day 1 started early at 5 am and was the most boring day. We knew it was coming and we were certainly excited about this opportunity of a lifetime, but it required driving past the cornfields of the midwest that we were used to—the flat plains of Kansas. We dreamed of the mountains and pacific sea shore as we drove along. This was also a trip I had taken many times in my early adulthood back and forth from Colorado to Ohio. There was nothing new to see and Kansas seemed to be an eternity.

In addition, I was relearning to drive without cruise control. My foot felt like it was lead and then it was on a cloud and then it was lead. I just could not get it to stay in one place to keep a consistent pace. Getting a speeding ticket early on our trip was definitely not something I wanted to happen. Not to mention that we had a long drive the first day, nearly 17 hours and definitely did not want to extend that driving time by sitting on the side of the road with a peace officer. I also didn’t want to extend it by driving too slow and losing too many minutes without even realizing it. 

This was also our first day of making smoothies in the car while heading down the road. We pulled our fruits out of the cooler while getting gas and blended our nutrition (spinach) & sweetness (bananas, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries to name a few) up quickly while taking expedited restroom stops at the same time. We just couldn’t afford wasted moments while refueling.

For dinner, we had lunch meat, more spinach and tomatoes (for me) and other veggies to wrap up in whole wheat or spinach tortilla wraps. And chips, Heidi could not go without her potato chips no matter how healthy the rest of our diet was. She didn’t need to do this anyway, she was primarily supporting me since she mostly enjoys healthier foods anyway and definitely did not need to diet. 

It was good, we made good time on our drive, and thankfully did not get pulled over that day. Though it was early August and the days were long, we pulled into Deer Trail, Coloardo after dark around 10:30 pm. We had made it to the east coast of Colorado as I used to say in my high school days to differentiate between the eastern portion of the state that looked like Kansas and the mountainous westside.

My sister Terri was living in a new-to-her house since we had last visited and we slowly creeped down the dark street looking for house numbers along the dirt and dust. After finding it, we quickly exited, greeted my sister and her family and tried to minimize conversation so that we could get as much sleep as possible for our 5 am departure.

5 am came early. But, we were ready and excited for the day ahead. As we awoke, we realized that Deer Trail would not have any latte’s waiting to awaken us fully so we broke out our Starbucks Frappucino bottles and drank up. They were small, but met the minimum need of bringing my body to life. We pulled out shortly after getting our showers and started down the wide open highway of I-70 peering at the horizon for the mountains rising behind Denver.

Memories came flooding back as I began to recognize the sights along the way, first passing Byers, the location of my high school graduation town and my first job, The Golden Spike Inn. Strasburg came next, where my wrestling arch-enemy attended high school. Next up was Bennett, where we lived when I was seven, where my sister lived and we had Christmas one year at 75 degrees and where another wrestling arch-enemy attended. Lastly, we began to pass through Denver as I recognized many of the sites along the highway. Exits, buildings and even the old Stapleton Airport filled my mind with memories from long ago.

As we passed through Denver, we began to see the mountains get larger and larger, clearer and clearer since they started as mere shadows in those early morning hours. Finally, we began the raise in elevation and started up the foothills, and that is when the trip began to change us.

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Shawn’s wrote a book about his life growing up on the move titled—NEVER SETTLED: a memoir of a boy on the road to manhood

Published by Shawn D. Congleton

traveler, writer, lover of God, thinker, family dude, in no particular order

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