I just returned from possibly the longest road trip I will ever partake on – 4,024 miles roundtrip from Champaign, Illinois to Los Angeles California. The purpose of the trip was to volunteer with Aids Project Los Angeles (APLA), a support organization for people who are HIV+ or who have been diagnosed with AIDS. With 12 other college students, we set out at midnight from Champaign to make sure that we would have plenty of time to get to LA at our expected arrival. We were quickly through Illinois and Missouri, but Oklahoma just seemed to never end. By the time we reached Texas some of us were set on not stopping at our halfway housing in Amarillo because we had thought up a better plan, not to mention it was 3 in the afternoon and many of us didn’t think we would ever be able to get sleep. So we convinced everyone that we should just clean up and hit the road again so that we could make a small detour to the Grand Canyon. The plan was to sleep in the vans at in Grand Canyon National Park and wake for sunrise, and you better believe that is exactly what happened. The biggest surprise was a little snow storm that we had to drive through and freezing cold temperatures at the canyon that had us all huddling in sleeping bags while taking in the sunrise, but numb fingers were definitely worth it.
Once we got to Los Angeles it was a fun filled week of volunteering, sight-seeing and getting to know the other students on my trip. Some of the highlights from the trip since it would take an excruciating amount of time to explain everything would be:
- Hearing inspirational stories from AIDS survivors
- Seeing the success of an organization that started in a closet and has now evolved into an ever expansive helping machine
- Helping out at the food bank – this was my favorite part about volunteering and makes me want to get involved in the food bank in my local community
- Santa Monica Beach and seeing the Pacific for the first time!
- Getting to know everyone on my trip (surrounded by the same people 24hrs a day for 7 days speeds up the “getting to know you” phase)
- Having a few more days of warm weather before returning to the dreary winter days of the Mid-West
On the return from LA we decided to take the route through the Rockies, landing us in Las Vegas for lunch and the noon Bellagio Fountain Show and Denver for sleeping where we crammed 13 people into a motel room – one more thing I never thought I would do and probably never will again.
Until my next travels – Memphis in March