My first recollection of the West was during my early teens as I rode the First Baptist Church bus for the annual youth ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado. Despite the unimaginable misery of that event, I survived and returned without any real psychological scars, only to find that I had fallen in love with the American West with hardly a taste of what it is really like.
During high school I was fortunate enough to travel during the summer with my dad on business to Montana and Oregon and then ski trips back to Colorado (on an airplane) during college spring breaks. When I graduated from Samford University in 1992, I hopped in my Chevy Silverado blazer with my puppy Jake and headed West to work for the U.S. Forest Service. I worked on a fire crew in the Willamette National Forest in Oregon where I rented a small house on the Mckenzie River and traveled around a bit fighting fires and seeing a small part of the world called the Northwest. Being from the Deep South, yes North Florida is the Deep South, we live in an entirely different culture and environment. People were intrigued with me, my accent and my love of grits, and I was fascinated by them. That first year after graduating I developed my fly fishing skills, learned to be on my own and saw some of the most beautiful country on planet earth.
We have always tried to save up and take some good trips and the Teton Valley on the border of Idaho and Wyoming is one of our favorite places to go. Buffalo, elk, Tetons, Yellowstone, fly fishing, wildflowers, snow ..... We took the kids several times when they were young, but had not been back in a while. So two summers ago we decided to take an epic voyage and rented a motor home and headed out for 16 days and 7,600 miles across the United States. (Margaret had it all mapped out of course). We went as far west as Glacier National Park, via the Badlands in South Dakota, then down thru Idaho, caught the rodeo in Jackson, WY, hit Colorado and headed back east. If you truly want to see how empty and enormous and beautiful our country truly is you've got to just get in the car and drive. Yes, we were the Griswolds, but I would do it again in a second.
Like the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve been everywhere man”, I have been fortunate to have seen a lot of our country. Everywhere I've been has it's pros and cons, things I like and dislike, but I always come back to the beauty and romance of the American West. Whether it’s drifting the Snake River in the shadow of the Tetons, or wading in the Gallatin south of Bozeman, or watching a rodeo in Cody, it's all good to me. I am fueled by what’s around the next bend and what’s over the next pass that drops me down into that valley. Most days I dream of the day we can get out there again ..... Ole Horace Greeley had it right all the time .... "Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country."