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Thoughts from the road...

I'm writing this article sitting on the front porch of a small cottage overlooking Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona. As usual, I am up early and hope to catch the sunrise over the red-rocked canyon walls. I am taking my first road trip vacation since 1970 and am enjoying the chance to know again that stretch of America that unfortunately has become “fly-over” country for me.

So far, the breakfasts I have had in little roadside coffee shops in towns like Jackson, Lone Pine, and Kingman have been a lot better than the normal fare you find in the friendly skies.

There is also something special about driving a stretch of empty, open road when you aren't in a hurry and don't have any particular place to go.

Two days ago, I had breakfast in Long Pine, California. Outside the coffee shop, they have painted two red footprints on the sidewalk. If you stand on these footprints and gaze in the direction of a red arrow that is also painted on the sidewalk, you can see the snow covered peaks of Mt. Whitney. Mt. Whitney used to be the tallest peak in the United States until Alaska came along. Still, at 14,494 feet, it is impressive.

Leaving Lone Pine, I drove a couple of hours east to the lowest point in the United States, Death Valley, California. Death Valley is full of hostile sounding places like Furnace Creek, Devil's Cornfield, Badwater, and Funeral Peak. It is very pleasant in spring and winter, but lives up to its name in July and August when temperatures exceed 120 degrees.

While resting at the Death Valley Visitor's Center, I was struck with how short a journey it was from the lowest point in the United States to one of the highest points at Mt. Whitney. I find this a lot like life. We sometimes find ourselves at a low point, whether it is in our personal or professional lives. This low point doesn't go by geographic names, but by emotional ones such as unhappiness, disappointment, and despair. However, when we find ourselves at a low point, we need to remember that a better place is close by if we only keep looking up.