Grateful Traveler: The Road Not Taken

Locations in this article:  Las Vegas, NV

More Zion National ParkWhen George Carlin died a couple of weeks ago, like many, my first response was sadness.

He was married to a friend of mine. I knew how completely they depended on each other and how deeply she would miss him.

But second to my shock at his passing was a feeling of regret. Because Sally (his wife) had always wanted to take a road trip together and I had always turned her down.

The idea started when she mentioned that they’d bought a home in Las Vegas and that they were spending a lot of time there. For me, Las Vegas has always stood for one thing. Aside from stopping to eat at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant, I saw it strictly as a place one drove through on the way to Zion and Bryce National Parks.

In all my years of travel, all the time I have spent camping, backpacking and visiting the natural splendors of countries around the globe, I have never found anywhere to compare with the beauty of Southern Utah. When I mentioned this to Sally, she said, “Hey, we’ve never been there. Why don’t we all go?”

At the time my daughter was about four, and in a contest with a hummingbird to see who expended more energy per minute, my daughter would have won. She was no one you’d want to spend days with in a car unless you were unconscious, her grandmother or a doting parent.

And George was … well … George was famous. So famous that wherever we went people would recognize him. So famous that whenever he answered their home phone – and he was always very nice—I was always tongue-tied and intimidated.

So famous that I found myself pulling away from a friendship I’d had for decades. I just couldn’t imagine casually hanging out with George and there was no way I could envision the five of us— my husband, my daughter, Sally, George and myself— together for days traveling to Bryce and Zion.

And now I’m sorry. Because that trip will never be taken by the five of us.

Zion national parkSo for me, it has come to stand for all the things we think we’d like to do but never get around to. My excuse was fear and lack of imagination.

But looking back I can’t imagine why we didn’t go. So in George’s honor, I hope everyone will get out and take a chance on something.

It doesn’t have to be a trip. Maybe it’s a new job. A relationship. Putting your hand out “Eskimo-style” to help another person.

If it’s travel that calls to you, this year you might want to blow through Vegas and head up the road two hours. There stands, inviting and virtually free, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Should you see a tall blond woman hiking the trails with someone small and dark, stop and say hello. Perhaps it will be Sally and me and, like George, we’re not intimidating at all.

By Jamie Simons for Photos courtesy of the National Park Service.

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