CHARLESTON, W.Va. — I recently had the opportunity of a lifetime, and thankfully I took it.

My son Hank has a summer internship with a firm in California. He and I decided to use the opportunity to put in a father-son road trip ahead of his starting day with the company. It turned out to be quite a bucket list check off.

We were able to see the Gateway Arch in St. Louis from the inside, the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, the Las Vegas Strip, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Buck Owens Crystal Palace, and along with wake take in some of the most amazing scenery my tired old eyes have ever witnessed.

It’s fascinating to watch the scenery change as you move across the country. The changes are subtle as you travel, but it doesn’t take very long to realize you’re not in West Virginia any more. Almost as soon as you cross the Ohio River there is a change in the landscape as things start to flatten out. Then you hit Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. A mountain man immediately notices things just got a lot more flat. Rolling into the Texas panhandle and up to the New Mexico border there are even more changes. You notice a few mountains–but nothing like the mountains you’re used to and almost nothing is growing. Eventually our journey moved into Arizona with views seen by these eyes only on post cards or John Wayne movies. The experience was completely different across the Mohave Desert, into the fertile San Joaquin Valley, and eventually into San Francisco and along the Pacific Coast Highway.

WVMetronews/Chris Lawrence.

Hank and I along the west coast on California Highway 1

It was an emotional journey for me too. I was reminded of a similar trip my late dad took by himself to California in the 1950’s. He pulled out and headed west with a desire to visit some of the unique national treasures he had only heard about in books. I recently found pictures of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam–which at that time was often referred to by its original name Boulder Dam. The neat thing about those pictures, nothing has changed–the dam and the canyon still look the same. Although time changes many things, other things are enduring.

I was also reminded along this trip that my time with my children is fleeting. I have one son already out of the house and married. Soon to be a college graduate I suspect the days of hanging out with Hank for extended periods of time may be nearing an end as well. I still have my daughter Savannah in high school, but that time is rapidly eroding as well.

My dad often liked to quote Shakespeare when he and I would have discussions along this line. “Time stops for no man,” Daddy would always tell me. He was certainly correct in that assessment.

I would encourage anybody to do two things. Spend as much time with your kids as you can before the opportunity is gone and second stop talking about visiting America’s great landmarks and start going and doing it. It’s a big country and there’s a lot you need to see.

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