What would a summer letter be without another road trip?
This year Evan wisely stayed up in Bozeman for the summer, so our journey began with Zach, Sydney and I driving up to see him at the end of June. After three and half days in beautiful days in Montana and some fun family time, Sydney flew off to SoCal for the week while Zach and I embarked on another almost 1,000 miles to Seattle, stopping in Missoula, MT and Pullman, WA to look at colleges. We pulled into Missoula just in time for the record heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest. The heat didn’t keep us from falling in love with the town – and the school (University of Montana, the archrival of his brother’s school, Montana State University-Bozeman).
Pullman was a dud – at least for Zach. When we got to Seattle though, the weather had finally settled back down to the high 70’s/low 80’s – whew! We were staying downtown, and after we got settled into our room, we walked over to the Pike Place Fish Market, which had a plethora of Zach’s least favorite things:
- Homeless people (not a slight on people living on the streets – rather it’s become an inside joke amongst us that we tease him about)
Needless to say, Seattle and the University of Washington were crossed off his list. The other reason we were in Seattle was to see my friend Andy, with whom I have been friends since I was 12. Andy and his family live in the northwest suburbs, right on Puget Sound (spectacular), and Zach felt much better with no tents on the street nor crowds (there were still birds).
All said, when we pulled into Sea-Tac airport, we had added 1,750 miles to the rental car’s odometer. That week was another reminder on how different things look when you are on a road trip, especially a long road trip. In spite of the fact that driving is hard on my eyes, and I simply don’t like sitting that long, it is quite an experience to embark on a journey that was not just short of 2,000 miles. Starting in Colorado, we passed through Wyoming to Montana. We drove across most of southern Montana, then skirted along the top of Idaho, and then all across Washington. Every place was different: the landscapes, the weather, the people, and the real estate.
While traveling is a blast, it is a blessing to come back home to Colorado. Besides travel, another thing I like to do during the summer: Sunday afternoon hikes. To me, Sunday afternoons are a great way to end the weekend and prepare myself for the week. There seems to be an extra layer of quiet and calm, and not only because there are fewer people out on the trails.
If you are thinking that I am so “outdoorsy”, think again. Just the other day I went for a hike and there was a sign warning of rattlesnakes.
I almost turned around and went back to my car because I do not like snakes. But I like hiking more than my fear of snakes, so I continued my trek up the east side of Mt. Falcon. Like road trips, I do observe things differently when I am moving slower and not in a hurry.
Even though Sunday afternoon is not nearly as crowded as a Saturday morning, there still can be a fair number of people along the trail. Enough people that I noticed the difference in how we passed each other. There were people who give a mild wave or hello, there were people who didn’t look up, there were people who begrudgingly give a grunt after a hello from me. Then there are the people whose smile and demeanor catch you off-guard. I passed this one guy, whom I am guessing to be in his early 20’s. By the rate at which he and his group of four were moving, along with his attire, I am going out on a limb to say he doesn’t hike often – which is sort of irrelevant, but I think is good background information. Everyone in his group smiled and said hello, but as I passed him, he had an exceptionally cheery “Hello!” and a beaming smile on his face. Which in turn left me in a better mood.
This encounter made enough of an impact that I remembered it, and then got to thinking: who am I on the trail? Do I want to be the curmudgeonly guy? Do I want to be the guy in a hurry? Am I going to avoid people? Or do I want to greet people with a smile? And not only on the trail.
It’s not that I need to make it my job is to smile at everyone in life. On the other hand, do I want to argue for being the cranky guy? Always in a foul mood, stressed out, or overwhelmed – is that how I want to show up in life?
Don’t get me wrong – there have been many, many times in my life where I was upset, stressed out, or in some other cranky mood – going for a hike or a run was literally what I needed to re-adjust my temperament. Moving my body outdoors does dramatically improve my mood and outlook, and there is also a ton of information on smiling. Smiling literally changes your body chemistry and mood. Google it!
Smiling might even make an impact on other mental blocks.? On Zach’s scale of phobias, birds and homeless people don’t bother me. Crowds on the other hand: there’s a reason I don’t go to concerts. Eh, maybe smiling won’t help with that one.