Introductory Expating

Despite my remedial Spanish and the shop owner's impressive level of intoxication, eggs were eventually procured. A number of failed attempts with a calculator required his wife be disrupted from whatever work she was performing in the back. She was unamused by his sloppy incompetence. Some things are the same everywhere.

NATIONAL PARKS GUIDES: CUYAHOGA VALLEY

Cuyahoga Valley is quite literally an oasis tucked inside the massive suburban sprawl of Northeast Ohio. The park can be anywhere from 15 minutes to a half an hour away from civilization. Akron, Canton, Kent, and Cleveland and countless towns are all close by.

NATIONAL PARKS GUIDES: WHITE SANDS

This was one of our favorite campsites. The star gazing was some of the best ever, and because of the valley's alignment, you get a fantastic view of both sunset and sunrise. The cost of access is almost ludicrously low, and we were more than happy to spring for a sled and some wax at the gift shop and spend a few hours careening down the dunes.

NATIONAL PARKS GUIDES: HOT SPRINGS

The focus of this park is unabashedly the history of the region and the importance it played in the transformation of medicine at the time. The tours offered at the Fordyce Bathhouse are dripping with historical trivia, and walking through the building offers an incredible view into a time capsule of the United States during the Victorian-era.

NATIONAL PARK GUIDES: MAMMOTH CAVE

We were enchanted by the Historic Tour. This was one of our top experiences with our heroes in khaki. The history of the cave, from military asset to World Heritage site, is incredible. We just came to see "a hole in the ground", and came back out adventurers.

END OF A ROAD; CONQUERING THE DIVIDE

Early on, I learned about the concept of literary deconstruction and examining works of literature through various lenses to break them down and analyze them. It becomes increasingly difficult not to see the signposts all around when you apply a socialist or feminist bent to your observations. Our journey across the country in many ways acted as a highlight reel or slideshow for the United States as a whole. Our adventure was the best education I've had to date. Even as we traveled, social media and current events kept us plugged in, placing us everywhere and nowhere all at once. We directly witnessed so many different human interactions, and being removed from the geographic and cultural confines of the Rust Belt, the answers to questions weren't as readily apparent. We were able to see the nation from so many different angles, applying the techniques of literary and cultural criticism through it all. It reaffirmed many of our beliefs, it also led us to question others. At the very least, our experience has given us newfound empathy for those we don't always agree with, and renewed vigor in formulating our personal philosophies.

END OF A ROAD; UNRAVELING THE MYTH

With so many highs it was difficult to choose favorites. On a different day we might name another place. How does one judge descending into the New River Gorge against wading in the Colorado's frigid waters on a Glen Canyon beach? What makes learning about the one-armed, explorer, cartographer and general badass John Wesley Powell any less intriguing then witnessing Native American dance? Is the culture of the Puebloan people preserved at Bandelier National Monument any less important than the sculpture gardens at the Nasher Center? Is anything more beautiful than stumbling upon the expansive crater of Valles Caldera at sunset, or watching J look upon the Pacific Ocean for the first time, or having a cool lake to ourselves on a sweltering Texas day?