The Bucket List: Taking Grandpa To The Grand Canyon

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Jake Cain is an entrepreneur and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He spends his free time driving around the country in his late 90’s conversion van, affectionately known as the “Monster Van” with his wife and 3 boys.

The Bucket List.

Popularized by the 2007 movie starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, the term “bucket list” became synonymous with the list of things you’re going to do before you die. 

BucketlistFor Sarah’s grandpa, one of the places he’d always wanted to visit was the Grand Canyon. There had been some talk of making it happen over the years, but it just hadn’t materialized for one reason or another. 

Life has a way of doing that to our “I’d like to go there one day” kind of plans. 

Or the “we should take the kids there” plans, and then you blink and your kids are graduating high school.

(If that sounds like you, read until the end and I’m going to give you a pep talk).

Fortunately, we were able to help turn the Grand Canyon from an “I wish we could go” place to a “Remember when we went” place for Papa and Granny.

Here’s the story: 

Making It Happen

Every once in a while when we were taking other road trips out West, Sarah would say things like “I wish my grandpa could see this…” 

On our eternally long drive home from Key West, our conversation shifted from wishing to planning.

I always err on the side of doing your bucket list plans as soon as possible.

2020 only strengthened that belief. 

I lost friends, including one of my best friends, and we all generally saw how fragile life can be. For the elderly, I felt especially bad about the loneliness and isolation so many were forced into during the pandemic. 

Granny and Papa are fortunate to live surrounded by their kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids, but still, the restrictions in place meant that there was a lot more sitting around going stir crazy than there would be in a normal year. 

So with all that in mind, Sarah and I agreed that if Grandpa was ever going to see the Grand Canyon, it needed to happen soon. 

We also believed that our Monster Van driving family was in the best position to make it happen. 

Plus, we didn’t have a Grand Canyon bumper sticker, which was a problem. 

Bumper Stickers

So on the drive back from Key West, we wondered aloud: 

Could we actually pull off a road trip out west with grandparents who are 80+ years old? 

Would they want to go on a trip that far? 

How would we bring it up? 

Working in our favor was the fact that we’d taken several trips with Papa and Granny to Tennessee over the last 10 years. 

We felt like those went well and they always seemed to have fun, enjoy being in the van, and like being around our kids.

Working against us was that folks in their 80’s have a pretty set routine, and generally speaking are set in their ways. Which meant the conversation could go something like this:

Me: We’ll leave on the first Tuesday in June! 

Grandparent: Sorry, we can’t go. Tuesdays are the day I go buy stamps at the post office. 

Popping The Question

Sarah visits her grandparents often, but she wanted me to be there to help with the “do you guys want to drive to Arizona?” sales pitch. 

So we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, which is sure to warm anyone’s heart. 

Then, we basically just laid it out that we were hoping to go out West again and said they should go with us. 

At first everyone kind of looked at each other and shrugged, kind of waiting for someone to say something.

Then, Granny said, “We’ll have to go buy a suitcase, I don’t think we have one anymore.”

The trip was on. 

Making It Epic

In past blogs, I’ve shared my personal reservations about calling something a “once in a lifetime” trip. 

However, when you’re planning a 2 week road trip with 2 people in their 80’s, you’re probably planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip… 

So I wanted to do my best to make it epic. 

Step 1 was getting a custom road trip song written. This wasn’t on my radar at all, but driving through our neighborhood, I saw a yard sign that said “I’ll write you a song about anything for $50.” 

It seemed so perfectly random, and I discovered that the sign was in the yard of Ryan Fine’s parents. Apparently, Ryan started making money this way in Nashville when he lost his job during the Covid lockdown. Read more here. 

I filled out a form letting him know who was going, where we were going, and other notable details I could think of and he sent back this: 

The next step was to get matching road trip t-shirts, of course! 

Fortunately, our talented friend Ashley Scribner is able to draw anybody as a cartoon. So she put together this design for us and we slapped it on some Custom Ink shirts: 

Screen Shot 2021 07 17 at 3.01.16 PM

Then, the final and most important step is actually planning out an agenda that everybody will enjoy. 

Fortunately, that’s one of my special talents

Special talents

Trip Planning 101

Planning a 2 week, driving-heavy trip with a couple of senior citizens and 3 energetic kids age 10 and under was an interesting challenge. 

Papa and Granny can both walk, but not very far and not for long. 

So I was focused on finding overlooks you see with minimal walking, scenic drives you could see from the car, and breaking up the long drive into bite-sized chunks where possible. 

I mapped out the route and ended up with a 13 day, ~ 4,000 mile trip that included 4 national parks, meeting up with family, and plenty of good food. 

Here’s how it went: 

Meet Me In St. Louis 

We started by picking up Granny and Papa in Kentucky, loading up their stuff and hitting the road. Of course, we had to take a group photo with the new matching shirts: 

shirts Our first stop from Cincinnati was a night in St. Louis. 

As you might expect, Sarah and Grandma got their Judy Garland fix on the way: 


The boys, on the other hand, got their Icee fix at our first stop for gas. As you may have heard in the road trip song, Papa is an easy mark when it comes to buying Icees at gas stations. 


When we arrived in St. Louis, we met up with the St. Louis chapter of the Eastham family for some pizza, past, and family fun. 


It was exciting to see everybody and a fun way to start the trip. 

Kansas City Barbecue 

If you’ve followed along with my past road trips, you may remember my affection for Jack Stack Barbecue. 

I awarded it the prestigious “Favorite Thing I Ate” award on our month-long trip back in 2019 – which is a high honor for any restaurant, I’m sure. 

The plan for day 2 was to end up in Salina, KS – so the highlight of the day was stopping for “luncher” at Jack Stack.

(“Luncher” is the term Hudson coined for the 3:00-ish lunch/dinners we ate with Granny and Papa)


I can report back to you that the cheese corn, burnt ends, and brisket are all still mouth-wateringly delicious. 

Besides the barbecue luncher, we also found time for Icees again: 


This time we discovered via highway billboards that Mcdonald’s had a frozen Coke, which meant that our group (namely, Sarah) became a lot pickier about where we stopped for Icees for the duration of the trip. 

While drinking Icees, we watched Lucille Ball eat candy: 


After that, we stopped at Dagney’s for ice cream in Salina before going back to our hotel. 

Salina Ice Cream

Now that I reflect back on the photos, it was starting to look like our trip was planned by the Willa Wonka Travel Agency. 

Willie Wonka

Colorful Colorado

After stopping for dessert every hour on the hour in Kansas, we made a quick stop to refill our diabetic testing supply kit and then hit the road. 

The next stop after Kansas was near Denver, CO. 

Of the ones I’ve seen Colorado has one of the most photo-op worthy signs as you’re entering the state. I slammed on the brakes and swerved right so we could take this: 



While Colorado sounds a lot more exciting to drive through than Kansas, it’s still pretty boring until you start getting near the mountains. After that, the drives, even from the interstate were incredibly beautiful. 

However, even driving through the plains grandpa was pretty impressed by the countless windmills we saw along the way. 


Once we arrived near the Denver Airport, we stopped at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Refuge. It’s a free drive you can take through a protected area and view wildlife. The headliners are the bison, but unfortunately, we didn’t get very close to any on this drive. 

We did still get to see prairie dogs and a pretty big buck that the kids got pictures of:  Wildlife Viewing

Rocky Mountain National Park

We headed West again from Denver and headed for Estes Park and an afternoon at Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Since we didn’t get to see bison on our wildlife drive the day before, we were hoping we’d get lucky and see some elk in RMNP. 

Right before we entered the park, we noticed traffic was stopped awkwardly at an upcoming intersection…

Jackpot! We got to pull over and see about 10 of them hanging out in a grassy median.

IMG 6445

After our elk encounter, we headed in for our first national park visit of the trip: 


Papa and I charted out our path for the day. Grandpa’s vision problems mean that reading road signs are no longer a strong suit for him, but he likes to have a sense of where we’re headed at all times. Map

I should note that inside his home state of Kentucky, Tom has an uncanny ability to tell you when a river is coming, when you’re about to enter a new county, and what notable event happened off of virtually any exit in the state. (Even with limited vision)

Once in the park, we headed up Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road in the United States. You get above 12,000 feet, and near the top is a Visitor Center and gift shop. 

We did have one scary moment where grandpa got a little dizzy and lightheaded in the gift shop and looked like he was about fall like a tree in the forest. 

All of this took place while I was still parking the car. 

Fortunately, Sarah saw it happening and steadied him until he could get straightened out and continue on with the shopping. 

As you may know, one of Sarah’s famous mottos is “The shopping must go on!” 

Later in the day, I asked grandpa about getting dizzy at the gift shop. He nonchalantly said “Yeah, I think that elevation messed with my pacemaker…” 

Mark that down in the column under “Things I probably should have considered ahead of time, but didn’t.” 

Before we headed down the mountain, we pulled over for a late June snowball fight: 

Snowball fight

Then, we stopped off at one of the park’s picnic areas and made sandwiches for a lunch with an incredible view. Grandpa was feelin’ the Colorado vibes so strongly that he threw up a peace sign for the picture. 


Just to keep it interesting, we even got to drive through a pop-up sleet/snow storm for a few minutes when we were near the pinnacle of Trail Ridge Road. 

There’s never a dull moment at Rocky Mountain National Park – you should definitely go. 

Driving To Rifle

Whenever we’d been in the Colorado and Utah area before, we didn’t take the route we did on this trip, which was a good thing. 

The drive on Interstate 70 gets pretty special between the Rockies and Utah.

We ended up staying the night in Rifle, CO, and were lucky enough to enjoy some up-close views of red rock cliffs right next to the highway – it looked very Utah-ish. 

In fact, early on in this drive I heard a cool moment with my co-captain, Grandpa Tom. At some point, he commented to me that he’d never seen anything like this and then quietly thanked God for how good he’s been to him. 

It was cool. 


Colorado National Monument

Because of the route we were taking to go straight to Moab, we passed right by the Colorado National Monument. 

I’ll admit that I’d never heard of it before planning this trip. 

Again, I would describe it as Utah-ish – meaning lots of red rock and a desert-like environment with some awesome overlook points. 

Grandpa even walked down some stairs to take in one of the overlook points, so I decided it was worth taking a selfie to prove we made it. 
Colorado NM

We also made a stop into the Visitor Center to get a lay of the land and find out what kinds of wildlife to look out for. (We came up empty on wildlife spotting.)

Colorado NM4

Here we are out in front of the stylish entrance sign:  Colorado NM2

Overall, I wouldn’t plan a trip around it, but it’s definitely worth the stop if you’re passing through this area. 

So come to the Colorado National Monument, where the peaks are high, and the safety railing is low.

Colorado NM1

“Ok, grandma… that’s far enough… just turn around and smile!”

Utah: Radiating Beauty

If you’re into red rock mountains and cliffs, Utah is where you need to be. 

Be warned, when you go to Moab and to Zion National Park, super cool places like the aforementioned Colorado National Monument lose a little of their luster. 

It’s still beautiful, but you’re always comparing it to the vast beauty of Utah – which is very hard to top. 

I’m happy to report Utah is still amazingly beautiful.

However, this time around our trip threw us a curveball that nearly derailed the second half of our trip. 

Things started out great. 

Just look at how happy we were here: 


But little did we know the problems that lurked around the corner…

(I imagine reading that last line in the creepy voice of Keith Morrison from Dateline.)

dateline 1 morrison

Red Cliffs Lodge

I’ll just do you a favor right now. If you’re going to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, or just visiting the Moab area for any reason – stay at Red Cliffs Lodge

Whether you’re looking for a pool with a view: 

Redcliffs pool

Horses on property that look like they are on the set of a John Wayne movie (he actually filmed here). The photo below captures Grayson in that moment where you’ve been standing by the fence calling for a horse to come over to you… then he actually does and you’re like “That’s too close – I’m outta here.” 


Of course, feeding the horses with the free carrots and apples from the onsite restaurant was one of Granny’s favorite things on our whole trip: 


Redcliffs horses

Heck, you even get an amazing breakfast buffet with a view that you might think looks fake…


Besides the views and amenities, the service we experienced was at Chick-Fil-A levels.

If you know anything about me, that’s about the highest praise I can bestow on a business. 

(More on that in a moment)

Arches National Park

Right outside of town is perhaps Utah’s most notable national park – Arches. 


Believe it or not, it’s widely revered for its natural arch formations: 


We visited during the day with Granny and Papa, and the June heat was rather oppressive. 

Let’s put it this way, when the signage you see everywhere reminds you that it’s so hot you might die… it’s too hot for me. 


So we took in the park mostly from the van, getting out for very short walks and photo opps. 

I also spotted people with fancy camera equipment and asked them what they were filming. It turns out, it was CNN doing a story on the national parks being overcrowded.

Arches CNN

I ended up getting interviewed, but apparently, my answers didn’t fit the narrative they were going for and I was left out of the finished story. We did make a 2 second cameo appearance though. Click here to see it. 

For Father’s Day, we did end up coming back with just me, Sarah, and the boys to hike up to Delicate Arch. 

The last time we visited, we only saw it from the lower viewpoint, which is comically far away. 

It’s not as bad as Crazy Horse,  but you definitely need to plan on taking the hike up to Delicate Arch to get a real appreciation for it. 

We went around sunset, and it was still steamy as we made the 3 mile roundtrip hike. 

As you get near the end, it has some pathways that would make any parent nervous. These are the moments where you want to shout out a reminder like “Hudson, stay to the right and walk slow!”

But then you don’t say anything because you figure as soon as I say “Hudson…” he’ll turn around and fall off a cliff. 


In the end, we made it: 


By the way, the arch itself is right on the edge as well – which makes for a tense walk up as you approach to make the obligatory picture. 

Afterward, we were just naturally relaxing when some stranger happened to capture us in this organic, totally unplanned moment: 

Delicate Arch1

We ended up staying until the sun went down, which is when the beauty of Moab and Arches National Park really starts to shine. Delicate2

As a little bonus, we were chatting with the man, Eduard, who took our family’s photo under the arch and discovered he was from Canada, but was in the US on tour playing the harp. 

I’d never met a professional harp player before, so we ended up doing the 1.5 mile return hike together and got to hear about how he and his wife travel the world and support a ton of great causes with their concerts. You should check out Eduard Klassen’s website here.

He’s my new favorite harpist. (An honor that used to belong to Yolanda Kondonassis.) 

Canyonlands National Park

The other national park in Moab is Canyonlands, famous for it’s “Island in the Sky.” 

Honestly, it’s a pretty fitting description: 


The depth and the vastness of the views at this place are certainly something that can’t be done justice in photos. 

So I’ll just suggest if you see this sign, drive on in and look around: 


Monster Issues

We went to Canyonlands on what was supposed to be our last full day in Moab. 

The only problem was when I came back out to the car after stopping by the grocery store, I noticed a neon green liquid running out from under the van. 

It looked like something out of the critically acclaimed Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze.


I knew this wasn’t good, but I know nothing about cars, so I turned to my trusted friend, Google. 

It looks like this was coolant, which means my car was in danger of overheating. 

I don’t know how much the weather contributes to overheating, but it was about 110 degrees on this particular afternoon, which I figured could only be bad news for me.

I had a car full of unsuspecting people and a bag full of fried chicken and side items for dinner that I’d just bought from City Market. 

So I made the executive decision to not mention this little hiccup and just try to get back to the hotel. 

One reason Red Cliffs Lodge looks as peaceful and scenic as it is, is because it’s not exactly in town.

It’s about 25 minute drive from Moab, which meant that I had some tense moments watching my temperature gauge creep up to uncomfortable levels as I wound my way back to Red Cliffs.

To make the palms a little more sweaty, you have basically no cell service for the entire 25 minute drive back to the hotel. 

So if my plan went awry, we were going to be hitchhiking back with a couple in their 80’s, 3 small kids, and a woman who would have likely just attempted to murder her husband. 

“But was Jake’s tragic fall from the cliff REALLY an accident? We’ll investigate after a word from our sponsors.” 

Screen Shot 2021 07 24 at 12.04.44 AM

Fortunately, we did make it back to Red Cliffs Lodge and got to eat that fried chicken. 

It was getting close to 5, so I broke the news to Sarah that something was wrong with the van and I started making some calls. 

The responses weren’t too encouraging. 

Moab is a small town that fills up with tourists. There were really only a couple of shops in town, and one of them told me it would be 2 days until he could even look at it. 

When I talked to the other guy and said “we’re supposed to leave for Arizona tomorrow” he replied, “it sounds like you might be in Moab for a while…” 

That left me feeling so anxious I could barely finish my chicken.  

After all, the Grand Canyon was the big bucket list checkmark we were after on this trip and it was coming up next. 

In fact, we only had 2 nights planned to be in Arizona, then we were headed back. 

So if we were going to be stranded in Utah for days or weeks, I was going to have to scramble to reschedule all of our other stays during the height of travel season. 

The good news is that I found Cody at Point S Auto Service who said if I could get there at 7:30 in the morning, he’d try to help. 

This is where the Chick-Fil-A level of service I bragged about earlier kicked in from Red Cliffs Lodge. I went to the desk and explained my problem, and asked if they might have some coolant on the property I could use to get me back into town without overheating. 

Sure enough, the lady made a call to the manager on site who managed to find a jug of it and brought it to me. 

So I got it into town by 7:20 AM and went and waited by the Point S door (they didn’t open until 8:00). Mind you we were supposed to be checking out at 11:00 AM and driving 6 hours to Williams, AZ – so I was hoping I could get in and they’d figure out some quick fix to get us back on the road. 

Much to my dismay, after I lined up at the door, other people started pulling in and getting in line behind me. By the time they actually opened, there were 8 people in line waiting to get in and talk to my buddy Cody. 

I guess he had told all of us “Hey if you get it here tomorrow at 7:30… I’ll try to squeeze you in.” 

It wasn’t looking good. 

To fast forward a bit, true to his word he got it in before lunch and told me the radiator was shot. 

Of course, nobody had a radiator for my 1999 van in Moab. 

Luckily, he called and found one in Salt Lake City and arranged to have it overnighted so they could get us fixed and on the road with only a one day delay. 

I was relieved that we now knew the problem and the timeline, but now I had a new problem. 

How am I going to get back to Red Cliffs Lodge? 

I pulled up my Uber app… no drivers. 

Lyft… same story. 

So I called the Chick-Fil… er… Red Cliffs Lodge and told them we were going to need to stay one more night, and then asked if they had any suggestions on how I might get back to the hotel from downtown Moab. 

The lady put me on hold and then came back and said “My manager Judy said she’ll come to pick you up. Where will you be?” 

“Oh… wow. Ok, I’ll be at City Market and I’m wearing a blue shirt.”

Sure enough, though a shuttle isn’t an official service of the hotel, Judy drove her personal vehicle into town, picked me up 30 minutes later and brought me back to the hotel. 

We had an excellent talk on the way back, and she said whenever our car was ready tomorrow she’d get a van so she could take all 7 of us and our luggage down to get the car so I didn’t have to backtrack and pick everyone up. 

I was so blown away by it. 

I said, “Thank you, Judy.” 

And she replied “My pleasure.”


Monument Valley

We stayed one more unexpected, yet lovely night at the Red Cliffs Lodge and then the next afternoon Judy took us down to Cody’s place and we picked up the Monster Van. 

It was already after 4:00, which meant it was going to be a late arrival into Williams, AZ. 

That didn’t stop us from driving past Monument Valley and seeing where Forrest Gump stopped running: 


Forrest Gump Forrest Gump Stops Running 2 650x500 2

If you’re going from Moab down to Grand Canyon, doing the few extra minutes to pass through Monument Valley is certainly worth it. 

Arizona & Bearizona

By the mercy of God, we finally arrived at our amazing Airbnb house around midnight PST. which was 3:00 AM to our EST bodies. 

We were exhausted, and given the day we lost we only got to spend about one hour awake in this place: 



We headed out early and started by driving through a nearby wildlife park called Bearizona:


We got an up close look at wolves, bison, caribou, and of course, bears: 


The best part of the experience is when Hudson, who hadn’t really been paying attention to where we were going, figured out that these were real animals. 

As we pulled in to the park, the first thing you come to are a pair of Rocky Mountain Goats that happened to be standing very still. 

I pulled up close and stopped the van, then finally one of them started walking. 

Hudson was astonished and shouted “Wait!! They’re real?!” 

After he realized we weren’t driving through looking at animal statues, he was a lot more locked in and focused on the Bearizona experience. 

In fact… 

Another Hudson gem happened about 10 minutes later when he was the first one to spot a wolf. He yelled out “Look! There’s a wolf!” 

We were all asking “where?!” and kind of unsure if he’d actually seen a wolf. 

Then, I spotted the wolf too and said “Oh yeah, I see it.” 

To which Hudson replied “PFFEWWW! I thought I was about to be the boy who cried wolf.” 


Grand Canyon

Originally planned for day 2, we were now in the position of cramming 2 days worth of sites into one day on the agenda. 

So we headed up to Grand Canyon after Bearizona and we finally made it: 


We picked up some sandwiches on the way and had another nice picnic with a view: 


And of course, no trip to the Grand Canyon is complete without ice cream overlooking the canyon: 


As we’d hoped, the Grand Canyon was worth the wait for Granny and Papa – who really seemed to love it: 

Gpgc gpgc1 Grannygc groupgc

The Long Road Home

One thing the Grand Canyon isn’t known for is its close proximity to Cincinnati. 

In fact, I discovered that it’s rather far. 

So we spent about 5 days slowly making our way back, but we found a few places that broke up the trip quite nicely: 

Amarillo By Morning

Of course, I played that song as we drove into town… 

After that, we headed over to the famed roadside “art” exhibit known as the Cadillac Ranch: 


We even painted our name on one of the cars, which based on the number of visitors at the time this was probably painted over about 45 seconds after we took this picture. 


After all of the energy we expended on our art project, we were hankerin’ for a Texas-sized steak. 

For that, you needn’t look any further than the Big Texan: 

It’s famous for the 72 oz steak challenge, where you get an hour to eat a 72 oz steak and all of the side items that come with it. If you do it, you get your meal for free. 

I came into this trip halfway convinced I was going to try it. 

I’ve never been a competitive eater, but I thought it could be fun to see how much I could eat and it would be a pleasant memory for us all. 

As our trip to the Big Texan drew closer, I started having second thoughts. My dad made the valid point that an unintended consequence of gorging myself with a 72 oz steak could be that I may get physically sick at the thought of eating steak for the foreseeable future. 

(He’d tackled an unofficial White Castle challenge many years ago that produced a similar result for him.)

Given my affection for steak, I thought this might be too big of a risk. 

I couldn’t turn my back on the meat that I love. 

When we walked in and I saw a few people doing the challenge, it was confirmed in my spirit that I had no chance of eating that steak. 

So I wimped out and ordered a 24 oz steak, and had to pay for it whether I finished or not…

The Big Texan is certainly an experience. There’s just a lot going on in there. They’ve even got a shooting range for kids while you wait for your table: 

Despite the fact that it screams “tourist trap,” the food we had was quite good and fairly priced for the size. The kids meals even came served in a cowboy hat that they get to keep.

The Gathering Place

I won’t say much here other than if you ever stop over in Tulsa, Oklahoma with kids – take them to The Gathering Place playground. As you can see below, it’s a huge, over the top play area that’s like something a kid would dream up. 

Gatheringplace3 Gatheringplace2 Gatheringplace1

Precious Moments

Raise your hand if your grandma had a few precious moments on display when you were growing up. 

I see those hands. 

All of us, right? 

Well, in her Precious Moment collecting prime, Granny had a collection that would be the envy of any morning mall walker. 

So when I saw a highway sign for a Precious Moments Chapel as I entered Missouri, I was a little confused. 

What the heck is a Precious Moments Chapel? 

At first, I drove past it. Then I remembered how much Granny loved her Precious Moments so I decided to turn around at the next exit. 

It turns out, that was a great decision. 


The chapel was truly in the middle of nowhere. It was very far off the highway, and down a country road that seemed like it couldn’t possibly be the location of a company’s headquarters. 

But alas, it is. 

We drove past the company headquarters for Precious Moments and then the chapel, which was the brainchild of Sam Butcher – the artist and founder of Precious Moments. 

It was really well done, and it was almost like a catholic church with all the stained glass – but in this case all of the biblical characters had that familiar precious moment look to them. 

Grandma absolutely loved it, which made it worth the stop. 

Remember, part of planning a great road trip is having things that every single person is excited to see. 

Happy Birthday Surprise

After a final stop over in St. Louis, we arrived back home 13 days after we’d set out on our journey. 

It was Granny’s birthday and her granddaughter, Nicole had set their mantle up with decorations and a couple of framed pictures from our trip.


It was a sweet surprise to return home to. 

We had a truly memorable time, but in the end, it always feels awesome when you get back home. 

About Your Bucket List…

I said in the intro that if you’re the kind of person who has a lot of “I’d like to go there someday” places on your list, I’d like to give you a little pep talk. 

Let’s start the pep talk. 

You need to start putting plans in place to make your “bucket list” trips as soon as possible. 

It was really an honor to be the planner and chauffeur for Granny and Papa’s first trip out West.

How many people in their 80’s are in good enough health to make a trip like this happen? 

At the same time, there were a couple of points during the trip when grandpa would be talking to me in the car and he’d comment something along the lines of “I can’t believe it took me 80 years to see this.” 

Hearing those kinds of things was kind of cool, like “you finally did it!” Yet, it was kind of sad at the same time. 

I spent some time on this trip reflecting on the experience of seeing the places we saw as a 38 year old man like me vs. someone who is into their 80’s. 

The first difference I thought of was your mobility as you age and how it affects the way you experience things. Granny and Papa can both still walk, but of course, it’s a limited amount and there are certain perspectives you can only see (like the Delicate Arch) if you’re physically able to make the trek. 

Secondly, Papa’s vision isn’t too sharp at this point in his life and I noticed several times when I’d point out a distant mountain or river and he’d say something like “I believe you… but I can’t see it.” I realized on several occasions we were standing right next to each other, but we were seeing very different things. 

The point I’m making is that nobody really has a bucket list destination and thinks “I’ll just go when I’m 80.” 

But life is really good at getting in the way of places we hope to go and things we wish to do. 

So to my very small audience of friends and family who read my travel blog, (And to the even smaller segment of you who have read to the end of this enormous post), I encourage you to go for it. 

Whether it’s the Grand Canyon, Maine, giant sequoia trees, or whatever it might be – why not do it as soon as possible? 

Next year maybe? 

There will always be plenty of reasons to not go, but after accompanying an 85 year old who just experienced a “bucket list” destination for the first time,  my guess is that he wouldn’t hesitate to say “I wish I would have gone when I was younger.” 

This trip gave me renewed clarity on just how blessed I’ve been to travel with my family, but also to do it while I’m still young and healthy enough to really see and experience all of this beauty. 

Even at 38, you never consciously think about the fact that one day my legs won’t be able to handle the hike up to Delicate Arch. One day my eyes won’t be able to see just how far the Grand Canyon actually stretches. 

It’s kind of depressing, which I guess is why young people like myself never think of things like that. 

But at this point, I’m all-in on the idea of experiencing as much as I can with my family while I’m still blessed with the health and the ability to do it. 

So if you’re reading this and you’re 35, 55, or 75, it’s time to make a plan for that trip you’ve been talking about FOREVER and actually make it happen. 

If you need some inspiration, grab this book off of Amazon.

11 thoughts on “The Bucket List: Taking Grandpa To The Grand Canyon”

  1. You are an amazing son and writer. Really enjoyed reading your blog. I’m proud to be your mom and yes I’ll mow your grass while you’re traveling the world!!

  2. Thank you Jake for letting us experience your many adventures! You are an amazing blogger. I am so happy that you are so blessed to be able to make these amazing trips with your family! These are the best memories you can make!
    Thank you for taking Granny and Papa on their trip of a lifetime!!!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog.
    It was very entertaining and interesting.
    You are so right “If not now then when”.

  4. Such a journey, such a gift for you all. So glad you had the opportunity to create these family memories together.

  5. Thoroughly enjoyed reliving your trip – and what a great thing to do for Tom & Carol – priceless memories! I couldn’t agree more about doing your bucket list ASAP. January 25, 2012, I had my first cancer surgery just a few months after my 68th birthday – The first time I was sick, other than the flu, or in the hospital. Who would’ve ever guessed just 8 years later I would’ve had a total of 10 surgeries and a life-changing stroke, Tom’s quiet remark about how good God has been got my attention. I’ve always been very thankful for everything Pat & I have been able to do, but enough? I sat down and recapped all of our travels we’ve been blessed with over the years.

  6. This is just wonderful!!! I agree 100%!!!!! Thank you! What a gift for all of you!! As family gets older they just love being a part of things too. Even though they may not be able to actively participate they can visually and peripherally be a part of it. And they LOVE it!!

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