One of my closest friends landed an amazing opportunity to be a guide runner for a para-Olympian in the 1500m. Kyle was able to live in beautiful Chula Vista, California while he trained for the Olympics! Yes, he did run in RIO, and the runner he was guiding placed 6th overall in her division! After the Olympics ended, he was still able to guide her for other races, but Kyle wanted to start pursuing a new chapter in his life (currently, he is preparing for teaching English in South Korea- I basically need to write a blog just about how his awesome life). Before his contract ended, I called him saying we should just road trip back to Oklahoma together! And that how it all began.
I bought an airplane ticket during my winter break. The day I left Oklahoma, the weather was -10 to 15 wind chill… So glad I left to sunny California. First thing I noticed in California when I was soaking in the sunshine, the Cali natives all had jackets on, and kept telling me how cold it was. Guys, it was about 50+ degrees with sunshine and no wind!
This was my first time in California, and I would definitely recommend going to San Diego for a vacation. I was able to stay at the Olympic Training Center with Kyle, which is an awesome place to see. Just walking around a small area you can see a track, motocross track, soccer fields, running trails, and a lake filled with people paragliding, skiing and other water sports. However, my favorite part of San Diego was watching the sunset at La Jolla. La Jolla is the best place to enjoy the day; there are shops, a big field to play games on, and my favorite part was the beach filled with seals. The crazy part is as I was watching the sunset at La Jolla, I remembered about six months before I watched the Sunrise on the same exact ocean while in Taiwan.
on the road
Our next stop was on the road. Since Kyle didn’t really know where life would take him when he started his job at the Olympic Training center, which meant when he first drove out there he put all of his belongings inside of his 04 Toyota Camry (yes-everything he owned). Let us just say it was very tight squeeze! Especially with my travel stuff added on. The entire car was filled from top to bottom, no cruise control, and we ended up taping the car antenna with duct tape to stop it from tapping the window every time we went over 50mph. But hey, the car worked and got us home (spoiler).
While on the road, the first stop was of course unplanned. We made it about 45min out of Chula Vista and spotted an entrance to these massive sand dunes; this was actually one of my favorite spots of the entire trip. We ran up and down sand dunes like mad men, and raced each other to the random spots in the dessert. Looking back, the best parts of the trips were the unplanned moments; if you are ever traveling leave time in your schedule to just let life take you places you never thought of. This spot is filled with my favorite pictures too!
Our first night we stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff is a runner’s paradise, because there are tons of running trails, perfect weather, and high altitude! Our goal in Flagstaff was to somehow run with the NAZ Elite running team. Thanks to Craig Lutz (professional runner on the team) and twitter (I slided into the DMs) our dreams came true! We were able to run with some of our favorite Pro Runners- Craig Lutz and Scott Smith. The entire team is extremely cool! BIG THANKS NAZ TEAM FOR THE RUN AND GEAR!
After the morning run, we of course made a detour to Sedona. Going back to Sedona is definitely on the bucket list; each turn is filled with amazing rock formations, and steep canon walls. Side note- make sure you bring money, because there is an entrance fee for each part of the park. We ended up hiking around sliding rock, mostly because it was free and we did not have (still don’t have) any money.
Getting a taste of mountains in northern Arizona, Colorado called out to us. We ended up changing our original plans of staying in Santa Fe, New Mexico to head over to Colorado Springs. First on the list was hiking Garden of the Gods. This park is so easy to drive around to see many beautiful rock formations, and tons of spots to hike. Kyle only had running shoes, so watching him hike in the snow and ice was a “sight to see” in itself.
During our stay in Colorado, we challenged ourselves to The Incline in Manitou Springs. The Incline is only for crazy people; The Incline is a mile long staircase that has an elevation change of 2,000 feet. Not only that, we went in the winter when the steps were covered in snow. The hike takes an average of 1 hour for most people who attempt the climb, but of course, Kyle and I are going to race up it. Kyle ended up finishing in 35 minutes, and I finished in 38 minutes. Biggest mistake was bringing a backpack to carry my camera and waters! The extra weight was not worth it. If you are crazy person, you should do The Incline. The feeling of reaching the top is incredible.
Once we completed the Incline, we headed back to Oklahoma City. Overall, we traveled over 1,700 miles within 4 days of driving in a Camry filled to the brim. The mentality of the trip was to just do what we wanted to do, and go from there.
Next road trip? Well, I am hoping to make a trip to see the Solar Eclipse in August! In the Meantime, Shoot us a message of any questions, Photography sessions, or just to talk!