As we rolled into an abandoned desert gas station at 1am, I knew we were done for.
To my left, a shirtless trucker filled up while simultaneously puffin’ his cig. To my right, the land was so desolate that even a tumbleweed wouldn’t hear us scream.
After a nose-plug-and-go bathroom visit and some candy to stay awake, we made our way semi-safely out of that hellhole for three more hours of pitch black driving up to the Grand Canyon.
While this epic, mishap-filled road trip may sound like a crazy college adventure, it wasn’t. Yes, there was booze. And of course there were laughter fits. But unlike college…
I was road tripping with my mom.
My young-at-heart, adventurous mom.
While we’ve traveled as a family to Africa, Canada, and pretty much everywhere in between, this was the first time my mom and I hit the road together. From the get-go, I knew we’d be in for an adventure — my mom did give me her coveted “I can’t read maps” gene, after all.
But despite a couple missed turns and near-heat stroke, we made it out alive and, in my case, enlightened with several lessons you can only learn while road tripping through the desert with your mom.
Don’t underestimate your elders.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I planned a three-mile hike into the Grand Canyon. I watched YouTube videos, read trail reviews, and asked friends for recommendations, but — as any hiker can attest — you don’t really know what to expect from a trail until you’re on it yourself.
(Especially when a heatwave — in fact, one of the Southwest’s worst heatwaves from this year — decides to hit during your trip.)
I mean, my mom’s in good shape and all. But she’s also my mom.
As she often likes to do, she proved me way wrong. With cautious strides, we made it slowly but surely down the South Kaibab Trail’s slippery, steep and winding dirt path. We spent the hike down speculating what our dogs were doing back home and, of course, planning our meal selections for the night.
The hike up? Well, let’s just say we were taking it all in (read: not willing to waste energy on words). With a slower, much more lethargic ascent, we both made it out in one, sweaty mess of a piece. She kept up the whole way.
Slow travel is good travel.
Our hike through the Grand Canyon was slower than I’d anticipated (thanks, heatwave), but those water breaks gave me more time to stare off into the distance and truly appreciate being inside the Grand Canyon — a trek few visitors actually take.
Slow travel doesn’t have to be an extended period in one set place — it’s also about pace. While we only spent half a day in the Canyon, having that extra time to look around instead of blaze up and down the path made me realize just how important slow travel really is.
Our slow approach to hiking the Grand Canyon helped us soak it in and really be in the moment. Had we sped through our hike or only viewed the Canyon from the rim, we would’ve missed the special moments, like petting mules at the rest stop, climbing rocks to see hidden views, and enjoying our surroundings (from the comfort of the shade, of course).
Your parents weren’t always your parents.
They were adventurers, rock stars, rebels, and badass explorers who, in my case, hiked Kilimanjaro, hitchhiked across the country, stargazed next to Egyptian pyramids, and took round-the-world trips.
On our hike down, my mom regaled me with stories of her college summer spent working in the Grand Canyon, and how she and her best friend snuck out at night to stargaze, played good old-fashioned college drinking games in her dorm room, and once even hitchhiked all the way to Las Vegas.
So…yeah. She definitely wasn’t always the calm, fix-everything mom I know today. She has more stories than I’ll ever be able to top.
Time is limited — make those memories.
This was the first time my mom and I had taken an adventurous trip like this, and we still excitedly tell tales of our Grand Canyon adventures (and debacles) to my wide-eyed, overly protective, “You did what?!” father.
Sure, the trip was only four days long, and yes, I realize it’s a trip that many people take — but my mom and I made it our own. I’ll always treasure our celebratory post-hike cheers or the “Oh crap” moment when we realized we were alone at an isolated, uber-creepy gas station.
We won’t be able to travel with our parents forever, and that’s why I make as many wild, outlandish family memories as I can now. I still travel on my own, with my boyfriend, or with friends, but I’m sprinkling more and more mom-and-dad travels in there to savor the moments while I can.
Age is a state of mind.
Age means absolutely nothing unless you let it. My mom and I hiked the Grand Canyon, steep trail and all, and came out alive and ready to hit up the bar to celebrate (after a shower, of course).
We road tripped along a pitch-black highway into the wee hours of the morning, dodging elk and staying awake with some tunes, a pack of Lifesavers, and a serious session of gossip.
And, despite the heatwave climax — I’m talking 115-degree temps with no shade — we trekked out to the beautiful Horseshoe Bend, and wiped the sweat off enough to smile for a selfie.
Sure, the scenery and photos were beautiful, but these adventures were far from easy. My mom was way more adventurous on our Southwest expedition than most people my age who I know. In her mind, she’s an adventurer — not an age bracket — and that’s the way to live.
The world we’re exploring today is not the world my mom enjoyed in her twenties. After hearing her crazy round-the-world tales (like the time she and my dad got charged at by an elephant while honeymooning), I was more motivated than ever to go out and make ridiculous travel memories that I can share with my future, map-illiterate children.
And like all good stories, my tales will begin in an abandoned, sketchy rest stop.
Have you ever tried to travel with your parents? Share in the comments!
A good article Stephanie. Safety is an important aspect of the female solo traveler, yet being with someone you can trust such as a family member is a great idea from both a safety point of view and an enjoyment point of view.
And age really is a state of mind.
The gas station stop sounded quite scary, and we should always be alert when visiting such places.
As a female solo traveler and a womens self defense instructor I’d like to share a safety tip of my own which I hope your female readers will read, remember, and share with many other women and girls far and wide.
I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over five years and we teach a very effective technique which I feel should should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and there is an extremely effective technique what we teach to women of all ages, which I feel we should all share as far and wide as possible.
The technique is the “groin grab” self defense technique which is to be used against a male attacker, which is now taught in many womens self defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…
To execute this technique, you’re going to take your hand and quickly grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Quickly grab hold of, or snatch the testicles and dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.
Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. DO NOT LET GO OF THEM. This is very important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. DON’T. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. If he initially starts to fight back then you tuck your head in and keep squeezing his testicles until he faints. This only takes a matter of seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help. I’ve heard of two older women who dragged their attackers to a place of safety while holding them by the testicles. It may sound odd but testicles are so vulnerable and sensitive that this technique also works very well for women. I also like to share the story of the woman who was threatened with the words “do as I say or else…” by the younger man who attacked her, but she turned the situation around and he eventually ended up collapsing and begging her to phone the police while she maintained a tight grip on his testicles.
It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.
If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. We, as women have no part of our bodies as vulnerable as a mans testicles. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack by a woman. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men who are very uncomfortable with thoughts of women beating them in combat) try to convince you otherwise.
I once worked with a group of Somali women who informed me that grandmothers, mothers, and daughters between generations shared this powerful method of fighting off men. They even have a name for it in Somalia and they call the move “Qworegoys”. They were surprised that women in the West didn’t seem to share this information as much as they expected them to, and even more surprised that most women didn’t even seem aware of this technique.
I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepared to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls as far and wide as possible in any way you can help. It could one day be a life saver.
Thanks for sharing