• Madelynne Juenger

Mad & Abby Take on the USA

Last month, I found myself inside the Philadelphia airport with a standby ticket in one hand and a phone screen open to both the weather app and my horoscope in the other. Poor weather and crowded airplanes had kept me from boarding a flight for the past week and I was anxiously wishing for clear skies and a pass from my pal Mercury who was busy brooding in retrograde. Luckily, the stars swayed in my favor and I soon found myself swinging my bags overhead and nestling into the very last open seat of a very crowded airplane.


If you remember back to January, I wrote a post about a failed attempt to accompany my friend Abby out on her trip to California. A last minute fever paired along with weather complications had kept me stuck on the east coast and dreaming of a sun filled road trip all winter long. Thankfully, spring break left me with the opportunity to do just that (but in reverse, of course) and I was soon flying across the country to meet Abby in Phoenix, Arizona.


We spent the week driving coast to coast and I documented our trip in countless photos and incoherent fragments kept in notes on my phone. We covered quite a lot of ground across the USA, so I thought it would be fitting to split it up into a little series and to share them all with you as an ode to our lovely and beautiful and crazy planet.


Stop one was the sky! Specifically, the sky from Pennsylvania to Arizona and the beautiful clouds that inhabit it. Because I was nestled quite snuggly into the middle row of the airplane, I kept leaning forward to try to get a glimpse of the current atmospheric situation. However, I was sharing a plane with very sleepy, obviously unimpressed people who kept their blinds shut the entire time and found the inside of their eyelids more entertaining than the atmosphere we were hurdling through. Maybe I don’t fly as often as the savvy businessperson/traveler, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing airplanes are. I mean, we are flying through the air people! Flying!


This made me think about how many other things we take for granted in life…We’ve become so accustomed to these amazing technological advances that we don’t stop to appreciate how fantastic it is that we can step into this metal contraption in snowy Philadelphia and walk out the other side into sunny Arizona. We are constantly surrounded by beautiful things, and interesting cities, and innovative technology, but because they are a part of our daily routines, we become numb to them. Sometimes it takes hurdling through the air to the opposite side of the country to reignite a bit of wonder and appreciation for our weird little planet.


So I did just that.



Abby picked me up in Phoenix and we drove through Arizona while pointing out every single wildflower and cactus plant on the side of the road. I spun around in a parking lot and we walked outside with our arms open wide towards the sky. I forgot how lovely the sun feels on bare arms. It felt like I was hugging the universe and the universe was hugging me right back.

We drove down the road to a playlist of Dolly Parton’s hits and began counting how many times we passed billboards advertising the supposedly famous attraction of “The Thing”. Though we knew very well that it was probably a stupid gas station gimmick, our curiosity was peaked and we pulled over to a random store in Arizona to witness it for ourselves. And let me tell you, we were not disappointed. Confused, yes. But disappointed, no. Of course, I won’t tell you what it is (that would spoil all the fun!), but if you ever find yourself driving down this particular Arizona highway, then just know that your trip won’t be complete without pulling over to see “The Thing”.



We stopped for the night at Faywood Hot Springs and pitched our tent under a cloudy, yet beautiful sky. Abby is definitely a pro camper by now and can set up a tent by herself within a matter of minutes. I, however, cannot. And though my “help” was well meaning, it definitely made the process a bit more…interesting. I jumped at every sound from the other campsites and continuously blinded myself with the flashlight, but Abby kindly put up with me and my naive city ways.


After the tent was finally standing, we changed into our bathing suits, befriended the local campsite cat, and did our best to find the “coolest” hot spring. (Or at least the one that wouldn’t literally boil our skin off.)


We sunk into the pools and floated in the waters as our new cat friend paced back and forth, scaring us every so often when we forgot he was there. The quiet New Mexico night was soon broken up by our conversation as we quickly tried to catch each other up on all the important events that had occurred the past three months. And as we sat there in a hot spring in New Mexico, we began to laugh at how silly it all was. Here we were out in the middle of nowhere catching each other up on life in Philadelphia and Chico, California while discussing our other friends who were scattered all over the globe. It made some events seem silly and small, but others seem even more important and meaningful. It’s funny to step out from your routine and to look at your life in a different situation from a completely new light. On one hand, it’s sort of like an out of body experience, but on the other it feels a bit grounding. I guess it’s all a matter of keeping perspective and balancing the back and forth’s no matter where your physical body is located.




We woke up the next morning to at least ten different animal noises calling out to us from outside of our tent. The sky was cloudy, but felt especially vast and we quickly dressed and ate a breakfast of cereal and oranges before departing on to the next stop.


At this point in our trip, we had only been adventuring together for less than 24 hours, but it already felt as if we had been traveling for days. The act of leaving a routine that consisted strictly of school and finals and entering into the desert of New Mexico was weird and odd and liberating and surreal. The next few days consisted of many car sing-a-longs, many “laughing so hard you begin to cry” situations, and plenty of “leaping into the air and skipping through the world” photo opportunities. All of which, shall be properly documented and placed here for your eyes to see, but for now I leave you in the beautiful desert of New Mexico! Good night and happy adventuring, friends!





x Madelynne

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© 2019 Madelynne Juenger