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I Blame 59 National Parks On My Sister

Several years ago my sister, Vickey, took up photography as a hobby. Eventually, her dream became to be a professional photographer—a dream which she has started to realize. Vickey’s best friend is my wife Shelly. Through their friendship, Shelly developed a passion for photography. She too aspires to be more than an amateur. In my humble opinion, she has mad skills, especially in the area of landscape photography.

Shelly and I have talked numerous times about how she could become a professional photographer, but nothing much came of it. We lacked a plan and a forum. Like everyone else, we need our paychecks no matter how weary we were of working for large organizations. A television commercial changed everything.

You may have seen the commercial where a man, his son and father are on a quest to visit all of the National Parks in the United States. The commercial shows them going from park-to-park in an Airstream camper. We saw it too and thought it was an interesting idea—I have no idea what company is featured, only that seeing all the Parks would be a life changing experience. Shelly and I share the love of travel and started to fantasize about the idea.

Now back to “it’s my sister’s fault”. Earlier this year, Vickey suggested that we take a family trip to South Dakota. She had never been there. Shelly is from South Dakota and I went to Black Hills State University. We hadn’t been back to the Black Hills since 1988, so we agreed to make the trip over the long 4th of July weekend. As we visited the spots we were familiar with, The Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and Devil’s Tower we realized how much we missed South Dakota and how much we loved the parks. The long weekend ended much too soon.

When we got back to Kansas City, I began to research the National Park Service. It turns out that there are 59 National Parks and a total of 401 “units” managed by the Park Service. Who knew? I also learned that it is just not possible to visit all 59 parks in an Airstream. To see them all would require a few boat and plane rides too. My research online revealed that lots of people had visited all of the National Parks over a lifetime of travel. A few such as www.58before18.com were attempting to visit all of the National Parks in a short period of time. I hatched the idea of why not make it a sprint and visit all of the 59 National Parks in 59 weeks. I could not find anyone online who had done it. 59nationalparks.com was born.

Much to my surprise, when I presented the idea to Shelly, she was open to the idea. To do this would create a certain amount of insecurity—quitting our jobs, renting out our home, what to do about our dogs, what would our family think, etc. We decided to go for it, likely changing our lives forever.

We hope that our journey will inspire others to pursue their dreams. We view the journey as a celebration of freedom and an exercise in spirituality. Our purpose is not to discuss how beautiful the parks are (think everyone knows that), to promote a political agenda, or to review the parks and other attractions like Trip Advisor. Rather, our purpose is to chronicle what it is like for two people (and two dogs) to make such a trip. We start on April 1st at Hot Springs National Park and will end at a park to be announced on July 4th, 2015. We expect to have some fun along the way. Thanks Sis for your inspiration.

Don