the call of the open road
We spent the last two weeks on the road in the western part of our country, reconnecting with friends in Salt Lake City, visiting a couple of national parks in Wyoming, soaking up Americana on July 4th, and exploring Idaho’s natural wonders – a beautiful state that had sneaked under our radar until now.
Somewhat paradoxically, much of the United States had been a complete mystery to us until D joined the Foreign Service. Both of us grew up on the East Coast. S had lived briefly in Seattle and went to school in Ohio, making her the better traveled one in our dyad. D had barely set foot west of the Mississippi before moving to Chicago for graduate school. Between the two of us we had visited only two of the country’s 60 national parks prior to D’s first posting to Kenya in 2011.
Although we’ve spent the bulk of the last seven years overseas, the Foreign Service also has provided an opportunity for us to explore our own homeland. At the conclusion of each overseas tour, we receive between four and six weeks of home leave. Congress intended this leave to ensure that members of the diplomatic corps remain firmly wedded to American culture and values, lest they forget where their loyalties lie by spending too much time abroad. We’ve taken full advantage of this opportunity by setting aside some time each home leave to acquaint ourselves with the many diverse parts of the United States.
Partly by design and partly by happenstance, we have been working west to east. Our first home leave road trip took us around California. Next we explored the southwest, and now we’ve added two more western states in Idaho and Wyoming in which we’ve set foot for the first time. We also have visited more than 15 national parks along the way, and aim to visit all of the others by the time we are done.
Considering our very limited and last-minute preparations, which included booking accommodations while packing out the house during our last week in Kigali, this trip came together rather nicely. The first week was rough because of the kids’ jet lag, but the call of the open road proved impossible to resist, and we’re glad that we stuck it out. In fact, despite vowing at one point never to road trip with the kids again, we are already brainstorming ideas for our next cross-American adventure. This country is simply too immense and beautiful not to explore.