I don’t know what it is about a road trip that gets me excited like a kid on Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s the idea getting a piece of that classic Americana; a lone car down an open road, hands out the window slowly gliding up and down as you feel the texture of the wind. It could be getting the chance to slow down, taking my time to get from point A to wherever Point B may be.
A lot of the best moments of my life have played out on the open road, from using our tax refunds in college to drive from Northern Idaho to Southern California, to taking six months to live the van life across the country (before it exploded). I’ve discovered time on the road is a necessary ingredient to a full soul. This year, my destination was a little more figurative than usual, but I was determined to take some time and explore the road on my own.
This Fall provided idyllic road trip weather, warm in the day and cool at night. I planned out a trip that would include some time with friends and about a week exploring every sort of road imaginable in Utah by myself. I was looking forward to going where I wanted, when I wanted without having to confer with anyone else. Like the cowboy riding off into the sunset, but instead of a horse, I had a 4Runner. Was it safe, was it practical, was it just a waste of time? I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I knew I had to go.
The first couple days of my adventure started with a road trip out to the San Rafael Swell for a canyoneering camp out. I brought along my Big House 4 so I could have plenty of room to share with my fiancée when we were together and so I could spread out all my gear and camera equipment, since I’d be “working” while on the road.
I’ve come to believe that adventures truly are better shared, despite me planning my escape after our time here together. There’s nothing like being outside all day with friends and then staying up around the campfire until you can’t hold your eyes open any longer, being completely uninhibited in the moment and then recounting those moments years later, asking “do you remember when…?” That weekend, my Big House turned into a home, filled with friends, and laughter and only a few hours of sleep when it was absolutely necessary. We couldn’t have had a better weekend of adventure, hiking, exploring some beautiful and deep canyons while also punishing ourselves with long days and little rest. As the weekend drew to an end though, it was time for me to start my own solo trip.
I packed up camp, hesitant yet still determined and headed out on a seemingly endless dirt road. Over the next few days I saw Monoliths, rainbow colored hills, rocks appearing to glow blue, orange spires, slot canyons, natural bridges, and giant monuments. I drove down miles of washboard roads, through washes, up and down rocky ledges, through some of the most beautiful “highways” in the country. I found absolute silence for maybe the first time ever, standing on top of a painted mound with not a soul in sight.
In some of the most unique car camping spots I’ve ever found, I allowed my mind to get bored without the crutch of a cell phone to try and keep me distracted. Through the day, with work intertwined, I had some serious conversations with myself. Being alone on the open road or setting up camp for the night allowed me to open my mind for the first time in a long time. Those moments of self-discovery were hard, to be honest, but forced me to explore some inner dialogue I had on silent for so long.
While I still believe adventures are better shared, these moments I had to myself were eye-opening, a wake-up call, something that needed to happen this year. I took to the open road to go and explore some new places, but what I ultimately explored was myself, who I am, and who I want to become in the new year and beyond. This road trip was a journey only I could take, and Point B turned out to be me.
Ross is a full-time Adventure and Outdoor Lifestyle Photographer based in Vail, Colorado. If he’s not exploring the mountains of Colorado, you can most likely find him exploring slot canyons in Utah! Follow Ross on Instagram @rossbernards