I was prepared to write about my ten-year reunion with colleagues from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, where I was employed as Brand Protection Manager. I also considered writing about reuniting with fellow coworkers at Snowbird Mountain Resort, where I moonlighted on weekends as a ski instructor. I had planned to share many memorable moments from my adventures living and working in Utah. But my story took a different turn.
This is a story about a journey and what I learned along the way:
The road we travel is often more important than the destination we seek.
The story begins with my travel adventures on the road to Utah. It’s a westward journey to areas unanticipated and unimagined. It’s about people, places and experiences along the way toward my destination.
Slow Travel Experience – I set aside a month for this western journey. Rather than fly, I decided to drive west from the Lake Country area of Wisconsin to Park City, Utah.
Why drive? So I could bring along plenty of gear for all the adventure sports I was planning to enjoy. At the time, I did not realize this decision would lead to other adventures, as often the case with slow travel.
Packed for Adventure Sports – As a multisport athlete, I regularly participate in a wide variety of outdoor sports. For this trip, I needed my alpine and cross-country ski equipment, snowshoes, hiking boots and trail running gear. With so much gear, it was impractical to fly.
Since I had the time, I opted to drive west with a friend. We decided to take the slow road to embrace the adventure. When Susan and I started our westward journey, we were open to new experiences. We came prepared.
Prepare for the Unexpected – Trip preparations included a car tune-up, towing cable, emergency car battery recharger, weather radio, smart phone with GPS, audio e-reader, warm blankets, water and food. This may sound excessive, but we would be traveling in unpredictable winter weather conditions across miles of open road.
Our first unexpected encounter came close to home. A car swerved and nearly sideswiped us. I used my horn to alert the driver. Rather than acknowledge the mistake, the driver exhibited road rage. Twice we picked up the phone to call 911. Finally, we made our escape by dashing to an exit on route to our destination.
Creating New Memories – After our run-in with the road warrior, we needed a calming experience. We visited my uncle at New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa. This beautiful abbey was established in 1849. I have visited the abbey many times throughout my life. It’s a cloistered monastery of self-sufficient Catholic monks who belong to the Order of the Cistercian of the Strict Observance.
When traveling abroad, you may have visited monasteries and cathedrals, but have you taken time to visit a monastery within the United States? You can tour this monastery online. Learn more about New Melleray Abbey and the Trappist way of life at: www.newmelleray.org.
New Melleray Abbey is a very peaceful and spiritual place. It is nestled in the rolling countryside near Dubuque. Its residents enjoy a monastic way of life in what was once an agrarian community. In 1999, they transitioned from farming to manufacturing as a means of remaining self-sustaining. The Trappists now produce handcrafted wooded caskets, urns and keepsakes, which they sell online at www.trappistcaskets.com.
After a delightful lunch with my uncle, we left the abbey to continue our westward journey. The fog cloaked us like a monk’s robe. Whiteout conditions remained with us as we traveled across Iowa into Nebraska. This would not be the worst weather we would face along the route. Much worse conditions would lie ahead.
Plan Ahead – As we drove, hotel accommodations were arranged by Susan’s husband for our stay at The Cornerstone Mansion in Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska and home of Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway
The Cornerstone Mansion is a 17-room, yellow brick mansion built along Omaha’s historic “gold coast.” World famous architect Henry Ives Cobb designed this Gothic Revival building. It was built in 1892 as a wedding gift for Bertha Yost Offutt from her parents. Mark O’Leary and Julie Mierau now operate the mansion as an inn.
The inn is located across from the Joslyn Castle, a lavish, historic 35-room, 19,360 square foot Scottish Baronial mansion open to the public.
Enjoy the Moment – Our stay at The Cornerstone Mansion was extended twice because of severe winter weather. The storm made driving dangerous. In parts of Nebraska and Wyoming roads were closed.
The inn is within walking distance ofdowntown Omaha, where we explored restaurants and shops in the Old Market District. It is alsoreasonably close to the John Beasley Theater, where Eugene Lee, a regular guest at The Cornerstone Mansion, wrote and is currently directing the play East Texas Hot Links.
Joslyn Art Museum was nearby. Recently, the museum underwent a reinstallation of its American and American Western collections. The museum houses paintings by one of my favorite Hudson River School artists, Thomas Cole.
During our extended stay in Omaha and while housed at the Cornerstone Mansion, we became acquainted with guests at the inn. Every morning, we shared a delicious family-style breakfast together,where we exchanged stories and became acquainted with one another and the area.
Although I never imagined an extended stay in Omaha, we enjoyed our visit. Nor did I imagine snowshoes would come in handy in Omaha, but they did as we trekked our way around the city.
As we continued our westward journey, we remained open to new experiences and whatever lies ahead.
One of Life’s Lessons – What lies ahead is unknown. All we can do is come prepared to embrace the adventures life offers us.
I have traveled to many exciting places around the world with the Olympic and Paralympic movements, but never did I imagine writing an adventure story about being caught in a blizzard during a western road trip, and about the wonderful people I met along the way.
We don’t have to travel to exotic places to experience new adventures. The journey begins wherever we are; it is not the destination to which we travel.
© 2012 Anne Wall, All Rights Reserved.