Random thoughts from the road

As I write this, Dan and I are winding uphill—between 8-9000′ in elevation—somewhere in eastern Wyoming, past tall cliffs interspersed with evergreen forests and into Big Horn County. We just passed a sign indicating: “Moose next 5 miles.” So naturally we’re watching for big horn sheep and moose.

Photo by Zachery Perry on Unsplash

We’re on Day Seven of a three-week road trip that has so far included overnight stays at RV parks in Glenns Ferry above the Snake River in Idaho, Craters of the Moon National Park, Teton National Park, and Cody, Wyoming.

Craters of the Moon National Park – Idaho
Elk antler arches stand at all four corners of the city park in Jackson, WY
The Tetons from across Jackson Lake
Packed up and ready to head out to Yellowstone
Old Faithful Lodge — Yellowstone
We saw an entire herd of buffalo later in the Badlands,
but one lone buffalo in Yellowstone
Cody is known as the Rodeo Capital of the World
Trying out for the rodeo

Some of my favorite things about the trip so far:

1. Exploring new territory

Dan loves the great outdoors and exploring new places as much as I do. We’re camping, hiking, and—before the trip is over—will be paddling in icy-clear waters from Oregon to Wisconsin … and back.

2. This plan-as-you-go journey

Not that Dan doesn’t have a rough idea where we’re going and what we want to see and do along the way, but he hasn’t booked too many nights ahead. We’re staying flexible. “If we like someplace, we can stay longer,” he says.

Dan and I are living well in this post-widow(er) season of our lives.

I think there are several factors when it comes to living well. Thriving during a particularly hard stretch, for example, requires a focus on the good … even in the middle of loss and sorrow. It’s counting all the ways we’re loved, though life might not be unfolding as we’d hoped/planned.

Part of living well also involves venturing out, taking risks, trying new things.

I realize that venturing out will look different for the person in a wheelchair than for Dan and me, but it’s really about being brave and trying something new, learning something new, making a new friend, or stepping into a new bit of creativity via paints, plants, hammer and nails, clay, or flour and cinnamon.

It’s so much easier—and comfortable—to sit on the couch and watch other people live adventurous, creative lives than to step into something new or challenging.

When Dan bought the adventure van, we didn’t know how we would do in confined spaces for any length of time. (It’s Day Seven, and we still like each other.)

Magnolia magazine has a manifesto, and part of it reads:

We believe in courage, in cartwheeling past our comfort zones and trying something a little bit scary every day. We believe that failure needn’t be a negative thing; rather, we learn from our mistakes and fail smarter next time.

Cartwheeling past our comfort zones. I like that image.

Another of my favorite aspects of our road trip is this:

3. Doing next to nothing.

Taking our time, taking side roads, taking naps. Reading books, working Sudoku puzzles, crisping up salmon in a frying pan, browsing through museums and historic lodges, baking scones in our outdoor collapsible oven, hiking a lake trail, sitting at a picnic table, consuming watermelon, polishing off ice cream cones (you noticed a lot of eating there, right?).

This thought from Bobbi Lerman, writer:

Dolce far niento. When I learned it translated to “the sweetness of doing nothing,” it became my favorite expression. … Doing nothing is hard work. It takes intent, focus, and cultivating your imagination.

Some of our time has been spent reflecting on our love story and how God brought us together.

Me: “Three years ago, could you have imagined what you’d be doing today with a new wife, a new home, a new (previously-owned) adventure van on a three-week road trip?”

Dan shook his head. Nope. None of that was on his radar screen three years ago as a new widower.

Yet, here we are. Leaving Cody, WY, behind and driving east toward Custer, South Dakota—enjoying the terrain we’ve never seen before and enjoying each other’s company in this compact space.

Right before pulling out of Cody, Dan and I had breakfast in the restaurant of the historic Irma Hotel, built by William Cody and named after one of his daughters.

Irma Hotel – Cody, Wyoming

Across the street is the Rawhide Coffee Shop and of course the word Chai displayed in large letters on the sign caught my attention. Inside the coffee shop, painted on a small stretch of wall are these words:

The world needs who you were made to be.

Rawhide Coffee Shop – Cody, WY

Dan and I were made to find each other for this season of life. We were made for adventure and trying new things.

We were made to be who God wants us to be as a team in reaching out to others walking a hard road. Because we both walked a hard road. And we know the way up the steep hills, and around the boulders, and over the tree roots that can trip an unsuspecting hiker.

Go ahead. Venture out. Cultivate your creativity, your imagination. Focus on being still from time to time. Be really great at who God made you to be.


What is it about marriage?


What if you could write history?


  1. Cheryl White

    Marlys, this was great! I feel like you took a page/chapter out of our buck list – except, instead of hiking we would probably have been on one of those 3-wheel motor scooters (handicapped scooters – don’t laugh, that’s the last line on my buck list. #100 – Get the not-needed-until-now scooter 🙂 Love your blogs.

    • Marlys Lawry

      Ha-ha, Cheryl! I can just picture you roaming the US in a motorized scooter!

  2. Marlys,
    I love that statement: “The world needs who you were made to be.” I would add: “So be who God created you to be.”

  3. Al Huntley

    Marlys & Dan,

    In your wanderings if you get near Medora, ND, I’d recommend you take in the Pitchfork Fondu and the Medora Musical. Their final weekend is the 10th of September. You can also take in the Theodore Rosevelt NP.


    • Good tips, Al. I’ll run this by the Chief Navigator (also known as Dan).

      This just in: The CN has the Roosevelt NP on his list of places to stop on the loop home. And we’ll definitely have to check into the Pitchfork Fondu! Sounds up our alley!

  4. This post was such an interesting read. I love the quotes and the journey the two of you are on in the adventure van. God bless every mile and new encounter. Great pictures and tag lines, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2024 Marlys Johnson