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Observations from the road: The “Thankfulness edition” at the end of our “Not all who wander are lost” tour

Lunch in Claremont with Claire

Tuesday, August 19th (and day #19) – is the last one of the cross-country Not All Who Wander Are Lost tour. Later this morning I’ll be flying home.  I can’t wait to see Candice and Andrew (who leaves for his senior year in college on Friday morning). 

California or Bust

But I also want to put a wrap on the wonderful two-and-a-half weeks Claire and I had on our exploration of this amazing country we live in. It has been an experience I’ll never forget.

I’ve had several parts of this series where I’ve thrown together random thoughts that I’ve entitled Observations from the Road.  For those who want to see them in order, you can find them here as:

So this grouping of random thoughts wraps up the Observations From the Road posts as well as the series on our cross-country tour.  I’ve entitled it The Thankfulness Edition, for we could not have driven 4,590 miles and passed through 13 states without the help of many friends, family members, work colleagues, college acquaintances of Claire’s, and strangers.  I’ll miss some who should be thanked, but I hope to capture the vast majority. And I have book-ended this post with the first (above) and final picture taken on our trip.

The first person who made this all possible was Candice – When I mentioned several years ago I wanted to drive cross-country, Candice never made anything but supportive comments along the way. When I asked if she wanted to join us, she said, “I’ve driven cross-country before, and once was enough.” However, she could see the excitement building in Claire and me as we began to plan out our route and get closer to departure, and then she became our #1 cheerleader along the way.  Since I’ve left Facebook, Candice regularly allows me to posts items I put on More to Come…. With this trip, she took on the responsibility of seeing that the posts were up as soon as possible after I wrote them, and she talked up our trip with friends at church, family members, and others she saw over the past couple of weeks.

The other thing that made this trip possible is that our family financial planner (again, that would be Candice) never once questioned the cost of the trip…even as the Visa bills kept coming in and a certain rental car company (Enterprise) didn’t honor their quoted rate for a one-way rental and drove us to another company that treated us fairly…but at a cost than was higher than my initial estimate. Early on she said, “This is a trip of a lifetime for you and Claire, and I don’t want you to worry about money.” This means a great deal to me, as I count on Candice to keep our family budget in line. She simply said, “We can do it” and that was the end of the conversation.

Thanks to those who made suggestions – Sometime about 2-3 months ago, I sent around a sketchy itinerary to some family, friends, and colleagues and asked them for thoughts on things we should see.  And did they ever respond! So many of the great places we visited came about as a result of suggestions.  Then, once we got into the trip, others emailed additional suggestions, and we took them up on a few of those as well.  So – at the very real chance of leaving someone out – I want to thank these terrific itinerary planners:  Kathleen and Herb Crowther (for the Cleveland area); Susan Morse (for her Chicago recommendations); Genell Scheurell, Janet Hustrand, and Oakley Pearson (for several thoughts in the Midwest and Great Plans – with Oakley getting special points for the “Ball of Twine” recommendation); Liz Welsh McGonagle (for the Minneapolis thoughts and for making the Twins game happen); Barb Pahl (for numerous route suggestions and individual place recommendations in the Great Plains and Mountain regions – with special points for pushing us to go way north and visit Glacier); Jeff Grip (who made our magical day at Taliesin possible); Mark Huppert, Kevin Daniels, and Anthony Veerkamp (for a host of suggestions in Seattle, San Francisco, and all along the west coast); Constance Beaumont (for the Portland tour and especially for the Astoria suggestion); Sheri Freemuth (for Idaho and eastern Washington thoughts); Jenny Buddenborg (who suggested – among other things – the fantastic University of Mary in Bismarck and then helped make arrangements for a tour); and Jackie Tran (who passed along suggestions in San Francisco).  If I have forgotten others, please forgive me. Kyra Stone made great food suggestions in Madison (which led to an immediate weight gain of five pounds on my part). And – as I’ve mentioned numerous times – a big thank you to those who comment on Yelp!  We couldn’t have eaten so well without you!

With Kathleen Crowther in Shaker Heights
Claire with Aunt Susan and Zoe
Bruce and Shari Shull with Claire and DJB

Thanks to our Hosts – Just when we thought we couldn’t take another hotel room, one of our friends or family members offered up a place to stay. We got three of them in photos – Kathleen Crowther (husband Herb was taking the photo) in Cleveland; Claire’s Aunt Susan and Cousin Zoe in Chicago; Bruce and Shari Shull in Gig Harbor, Washington; and Constance Beaumont in Portland, Oregon.  Somehow, we were having so much fun with Constance that we forgot to get a picture!  Nonetheless, thanks to all of these wonderful people. Claire and I loved seeing you and getting to know you better.  It was a true highlight of our trip.

Thanks to the Readers of More to Come… – Every day I would hear through comments on the blog, emails I received, or from comments Candice and Claire were receiving on Facebook and Instagram, about how many people were reading – and apparently enjoying – these updates on our progress. Your kindness spurred me to try to capture the true wonder and fun of our adventure.  A special thanks to Janet Hulstrand – who is a wonderful writer. Janet would send along comments and suggestions for places to visit, she encouraged her twitter followers to read the series, and she would simply “like” virtually every post that came up during the trip. Janet’s praise is high praise in my book.  In addition to Janet (who has followed the blog for years), I had some 5 or more new bloggers begin following More to Come… after reading a post or two in this series. Finally, it was great today to have virtually everyone who came up to give Claire a hug on campus say something along the lines of “I’ve been following your road trip and it sounds amazing!” The fact that a couple of Claire’s friends even characterized the old man as “awesome” was just icing on the cake!

I’m thankful for this amazing country – I’ve written about the plains, mountains, valleys, coast lines, Great Lakes…you name it…so I won’t go into any of that again.  But to look at our landscape day after day, as it changes going east to west and then north to south, is an incredible experience.  I saw so many places and things I had never seen before.  Every mountain range we crossed was unique and breathtaking. Our rivers, lakes, and oceans are incredible. And – unfortunately – we have destroyed much of what is wonderful about our landscapes through horrible development decisions, greed, commercialized farming (have you ever seen a commercial livestock feed lot – you’ll never eat McDonalds again), extraction of oil and gas, and the list goes on and on. I’m thankful I had a chance to see it in this condition, and I’m thankful that the mellennials of Claire and Andrew’s generation appear to be bent on trying to undo our destruction. Let’s hope they have enough time and political will to succeed.

I’m thankful for how taking things off a bucket list leads to new thoughts on adventures – Claire and I talked about bucket lists on several occasions.  Claire decided that the 47 Things to Do While You are At Pomona would be a good start to a bucket list, and I agreed. Then, we started talking about all the states we had visited: 13 on this trip (11 of which were new to Claire).  That got us to thinking about how many states in general we had visited, and the number was 48 for me and 34 for Claire.  So guess what’s now on our respective bucket lists?  And we decided while unpacking today that our next road trip would begin in Alaska – which is one of the two states I’m missing.  (Nevada is the other.)  I love a sense of exploration so early in life.

Claire at the Fort George Brewery

Finally, I am eternally grateful to Claire – I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better traveling companion.  If you have to spend 18 days in a car with someone, it had better be someone who is intelligent, quick-witted, funny, thoughtful, inquisitive, curious, flexible, and loving…and I could throw in a dozen or more descriptors except that her face will already be turning red.  It also helps that she’s a good driver and likes to try any local IPA that the bartender suggests! (Those two things do not happen at the same time.) We had some serious talks along the way, as Claire was dealing with a couple of issues that she’ll be facing her senior year in college.  Not once did she speak ill of anyone or try to blame others for her situation. Instead, she always looks for the good, and then builds off that perspective. This doesn’t mean she is naive – far from it. But she has an inherently positive and expectant outlook on life. I wish I could capture a small piece of that perspective to use in my dealings with others, as I would be a far better person.

Claire is not one to judge. I know she wants to help me with my (over) eating and exercise, but her way of talking about it is only supportive and loving. When I think of how she made the decision in high school to only eat healthy food and to become physically fit, I marvel at her discipline. But she doesn’t push her way of living or point of view on her father, her family, or her friends.

Claire is open to what she can learn from others. We shared “playlist” time from our various iPhones during the majority of the trip, and not once – even after 10 bluegrass songs in a row – did she reach for her ear-buds.  Imagine that – a 21-year old going 18 days in a car with her father without once tuning him out with the old ear-buds trick. It is my experience that this is almost earth-shattering in its precedence!

So I’ll end by quoting myself – in the Central Time edition of Observations from the Road: 

Claire is a wonderful, sensitive, and thoughtful individual – which, of course, I knew in the Eastern time zone before I left on this trip.  But I just wanted to say it again today.  She is one in a million.

I know that every father thinks that about his daughter.  I’m just glad that I had the past two-and-a-half weeks to confirm it – once again – about my daughter.  I’ve loved every second with Claire and I’ll never forget these memories.

More to come…


Image: Claire and DJB chowing down in Claremont at the end of our tour.


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. Lolo Kable says

    Your whole trip was wonderful and such a pleasure to read and look forward to each night. Congratulations on a safe trip and one that began and ended with loving togetherness!


    • Thanks, Lolo. It was a wonderful trip, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the updates. All the best – DJB

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