by Angelina Rosa Truax
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
– Andre Gide
Parkinson’s disease doesn’t allow you to enjoy life most of the time. It takes you over so you can no longer speak or walk. Your mind is active and sharp, but your body has betrayed you to not be able to communicate your thoughts. My dad was a fighter; he didn’t let the disease bring him down. If there was something that needed fixing in the house, he was right there; he even laid down the walkway to our house brick by brick, fighting off the shakiness of his disease. It took him a long time to finish, but he was proud when the last stone was placed. Since I was his favorite, he called me outside to be the first one to walk on the finished walkway. I felt that anything he did was more special than anything else; from him presenting me with a rocking bed for my doll, to sneaking gummy bears and cokes with him in the basement.
When my mother planned and executed our cross-country trip, I was eleven. I remember packing up our van (nicknamed “the beast”) and driving off into the sunset. Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, California, Oregon, Yellowstone; those were just some of the many places we went on that trip.
After camping and staying in countless hotels, we made it to Sequoia National Park. The park was breathtaking; the trees were so tall you couldn’t see the tops of them. The entrance to the park was a tunnel through a gigantic fallen tree. The crisp mountain air was just what we needed. The campsite was a welcomed sight, with showers, pools, and activities for us kids.
Being so content with where we were, we didn’t waste much time looking at the scenery. We unloaded the car, bringing out our tents, sleeping bags, and put our food into a container where the bears couldn’t get to it. As an eleven-year-old, the claw marks on the wooden box made me nervous. My dad assured me that everything would be alright and to make sure we leave no food out. He always had a way of calming my nerves.
During this time, I was small, wearing jeans, a white tee-shirt, and the pink converses that seemed to never leave my feet. The laces were blue with white polka-dots that were never tied unless my mom saw and insisted I tie them up. In the distance, I heard my name being called. I jumped over massive puddles and cut my elbow on a branch I didn’t see until it was too late. When I got back to the campsite, a park ranger was talking to my parents. The bears were getting a little too close to campers. We had the option to stay at our own risk and urged us to get rid of all of our food if we wanted to visit.
Since none of us wanted to encounter an angry, hungry bear, we started the cycle of packing everything up and driving all over again. Our next stop was Las Vegas to visit some family. If you are curious to know what those relatives are like, just watch Vegas Vacation. We needed to drive all night, which my night owl dad didn’t mind, so I shouted SHOTGUN! We weren’t the only ones who wanted to get away from the bears. The line to get out of the park seemed to last forever.
One of the great amenities that my parents provided us in “the beast” was a television. My siblings switched from watching movies to playing video games as our mother fell asleep from the van’s rocking. Soon, the entire back of the van was snoring after a heated video game session ended.
During the overnight excursion, my company was my dad, the desert, and the stars until morning. My Dad and I had a special bond, always able to discuss anything. He taught me everything I know; I am the smart one. Ever since I was seven years old, he would quiz me on the periodic table of elements. We talked about Mike Tyson, the Titanic film, bands that came on the radio, and famous people in the science world. He spoke with me about neurology and how he thought he could boost his immune system. He was a smart man, always writing formulas and solving them. He will always be my inspiration to learn about more than what is in front of me. I kept him company all night, laughing and getting excited the closer to Vegas we got.
About forty miles from Las Vegas, we got hungry and stopped for a break. We stopped at a truck stop in the middle of the desert. There were enormous trucks and funny looking characters inside. We filled up the car with gas and contemplated waking the others for food. Since we were having too much fun together, we opted to go into Denny’s, just the two of us. The waitress came and took our order; she was a short, pudgy lady with big red hair and lipstick that was everywhere but her lips. Her eyebrows were painted on, and it looked like her coke-bottle glasses were thicker than my dad’s. We were, and I still am, both predictable eaters; I ordered chicken fingers, and he ordered chili. After more discussions and laughter ensued, I felt our connection had deepened that night. Once our check was paid, we got back to the car and drove the rest of the way. The sun was coming up over the Las Vegas strip when the rest of the family started waking up. The best night was over, but I was sure we had more to come.
The Bureau of Land Management website can provide information on where you can camp for free. https://www.blm.gov/
The US Park Pass website where you can purchase a park pass for the national parks in the United States for one low fee. The pass covers over 2000 recreational sites. https://usparkpass.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw4f35BRDBARIsAPePBHyUr6H_nJqDsxY35e9_ETMb4jxOuzmGNBP1jMc7mWyBmJacUfHgJ_0aAo45EALw_wcB
The websites included in tip #3:
To get the lowdown on amenities, gas stations, grocery stores, hotels, hospitals, and local attractions on upcoming exits. https://iexitapp.com/
For farmer's market schedules across the country. https://www.ams.usda.gov/
A guide to the restaurants you’ve seen on TV and where they are located. https://www.tvfoodmaps.com/
Locally owned food that’s better than fast food. https://roadfood.com/
For finding the best gas prices. https://www.gasbuddy.com/
Music, local radio stations, podcasts, and more. https://www.iheart.com/
Subscription free roadside assistance. https://blinkapp.net/
Last-minute hotel finder. https://www.hoteltonight.com/
Stargazing and learning what planets and constellations are above you on any given night. https://starwalk.space/en
Mobile offline maps from around the world. https://maps.me/#gsc.tab=0