A little introductory information: We, Jesse Chung, Nevan Swanson, Philip Kiefer, Aidan French, and Bo Bleckel, hereafter referred to as The Ball Kids for our love of all ball-related sports and games, are driving from Maine to Zion National Park in the state of Utah to backpack for a week.
A little after Nevan finished his class on Friday, the five of us stuffed our supplies into an unwieldy bag strapped to the roof of Philip’s Subaru Impreza, crammed our gangly bodies into the car, and said goodbye to our friend Luke forever. We pointed the car south, with plans to spend the night with my (Jesse’s) parents outside Washington, DC. We arrived around 2 am, under the impression that the worst of the driving was over, and were graciously welcomed by my parents, who had valiantly napped in order to be awake for our arrival.
The next morning, we received surprising news! Luke, whom we’d believed optimistically had been left behind in Maine, had--determined to share in our experience, no matter anyone else's plans--caught a flight down to DC in the hopes of joining us. We begrudgingly accepted him into the ranks of The Ball Kids, and received a dowry of sorts from Luke's parents in the form of their Audi Q5 after picking him up in Bethesda, MD. (Matt and Ellen, we are eternally in your debt.)
Seated and spaced considerably more comfortably, we set off westward. Driving was uneventful— everyone drove the speed limit, which of course meant that no one was pulled over for cruising across Ohio at 22 mph over the limit, and no one was fined $166. Late in the evening, I operated a manual transmission car on a road for the first time, driving through dense fog and heavy rains to great success and general awe. We arrived in Kansas City at around 3am central time, after a disorienting series of timezone and daylight savings time changes. Bert Berkley, grandfather of future elected office-holder Kate Berkley, generously welcomed us into his home.
After a delicious breakfast the next morning, Mr. Berkley gave us a fascinating tour of the beautiful and impressive art that he and his wife, the late Joan Berkley, had curated in their home over the past 50 plus years. We made plans to meet Bert for Kansas City barbeque on our way back east, and reluctantly departed his hospitality, heading towards the Rockies.