Photo dump up to day 55 of our national park road trip highlighting California cities including the capitol and a relaxing 4 day stay with friends in San Diego, along with 6 national parks!

Redwood National Park – California

Santa Rosa, California

Sacramento, California

Yosemite National Park – California

Sequoia National Park – California

Kings Canyon National Park – California

Pasadena, California

San Diego, California

Joshua Tree National Park – California

Death Valley National Park – California

Next update should include Great Basin National Park in Nevada and the Mighty Five in Utah!

Until next time, Meryn


Photo dump through day 33 of our National Park road trip highlighting 2 US capitol cities and 4 National Parks!

Spokane, Washington

North Cascades National Park – Washington

Seattle, Washington

Olympic National Park – Washington

Olympia, Washington

Mt. Rainier National Park – Washington

Salem, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park – Oregon

Be on the look out for our next update to include Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley National Parks

Until next time, Meryn


A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems
Author: Mary Oliver
Publication Date: November 1994
Genre: poetry
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Sadly and surprisingly, this was a DNF for me. I found it so boring. Do I even know how to read poetry? I don’t think I jumped into this at the right time, tried to force it on myself. I’m not swearing off poetry, but this wasn’t it. Will circle back at some point, TBD.

One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: romance, LGBT
Method: ebook read on Nook

I had relatively high hopes for this one. I really enjoyed McQuiston’s debut Red, White, and Royal Blue but I just found this to be such a different vibe. I get why people love this, that’s fine, wasn’t for me. I liked the mixed media, almost 2000s chat forum vibes with the inclusion of various news clippings, craigslist postings, etc. However, I can’t get over the crass, crude, and childish undertones and dialogue. Also, I now know WLW romance is not for me, I basically glazed over every sex scene. It’s a no for me.
Buzzword Readathon: July selection

The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: fiction, fantasy, contemporary
Method: ebook read on Nook

Another hugely, hugely hyped book that didn’t deliver for me. I enjoyed the short chapters and the musical references. But other than that, it was just fine. I thought it was going to be so much more, like I fully expected to sob and connect to the main character, and that just didn’t happen. I can definitely see why people love this, it just didn’t go far enough for me.
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

Endless Night
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication Date: 1967
Genre: mystery
Method: ebook read on Nook

This was my first Agatha Christie and it won’t be my last! Before diving in, I was concerned it would be dull and predictable given its age, which was my experience re-reading a Nancy Drew classic last year, but no! Suspenseful, smart, unexpected, and gothic. Slow to start but definitely intriguing and sinister that kept me engaged and constantly guessing up until the end. Really interesting cast of characters with one of my favorite tropes or themes → marrying into money or coming into money and how that changes a character’s life and lifestyle. Overall, very enjoyable. Definitely interested in reading more classics from Agatha Christie.
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: mystery, thriller, horror
Method: ebook read on Nook

Let me just get it out of the way – automatic deduction of 1 star for incorrect use of the term “physiotherapist.” Nothing grinds my gears more than the assumption that physiotherapist is a universal term because it’s not, it has regional significance and connotation. This is a common mistake I’ve seen from Australian and Canadian authors, but I can not offer forgiveness. This story is set in the US, therefore the US term “physical therapist” should be used. This is a hill I will die on.
*Steps off soapbox* I thought this book was great. I found it suspenseful, gripping, and eerie. Also, relatable in a scary, I-could-be-raped-and-murdered-at-any-moment-on-this-cross-country-road-trip, kind of way. Definitely had my heart racing while I read in the middle of the night in a pitch-black tent. I’ve seen negative reviews for the two different timelines and how similar the two main characters are in their respective timelines, but that made the story really enjoyable for me. As the reader, I liked being one step ahead of the main character in the present day given what we were uncovering from the flashback chapters.
While the story centers around the mysterious disappearance of main character Carly’s aunt, there are other adjunct mysteries and supernatural elements that kept me engaged, guessing, and trying to connect all the pieces to the puzzle. I’m intrigued by this author. I’ll likely pick up The Broken Girls, a 2018 release, and The Book of Cold Cases, set to release in March of 2022.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


Quick photo update through day 16 of our National Park road trip which includes 1 National Monument and 3 National Parks

Scotts Bluff National Monument – Nebraska

Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming

Glacier National Park – Montana

Next update will be a round up of our time in Washington, including Spokane, Seattle, and the 3 national parks, North Cascades, Olympic, and Mount Rainier

Until next time, Meryn


This is the trip of a lifetime, it deserves to be cataloged, documented, and remembered.

I love to document – professionally and creatively

During the planning stages of this 3 month road trip, Kyle often times asked me what I was most excited for. Of course there were family, friends, cities, and National Parks on my list, something else that really, really excited me was the creative freedom and endless possibilities to share and preserve these memories

NOW – these are the ways I’ve been capturing and recording memories so far during the first 2 weeks of our trip!

1 | Daily Journal

This is the place where I jot down our daily itinerary and whatever highlights, thoughts, feelings, and memories I might want to refer to later. While I would love this to be a beautiful, Instagrammable bullet journal, for now, it really is just chicken scratch, imperfect, and sloppy, but it gets the job done

I have started to include different lists here and there to expand on and revisit throughout our trip e.g. list of favorites and list of essentials

Blue Possibility Journal by Artist’s Loft linked here

2 | Instagram
Sharing life day to day while on the road, from our most recent brewery stop to our current National Park. I’ve been sharing both in my stories and on my feed in my personal Instagram and have made occasional posts about my current ebook read on my Bookstagram account

3 | Tik Tok
I’m still very much trying to figure this platform out. I don’t know that short form video is for me, but I’m giving it a go. Haven’t gone viral yet, but it could happen

4 | Passport To Your National Parks®

A classic for any lover of the National Parks. A handy travel companion that is functional and educational with color-coded regional maps and space for cancellations and commemorative stamps. The website description says it all, “The Passport Classic Edition is an ideal, economical, and portable way to preserve your fondest memories of America’s national parks.”
Passport can be found here

5 | Meryn Made Blogs
I did a fair amount of sharing while preparing for this trip including updates to our itinerary (most recent linked here) as well as my Road Trip TBR (linked here) and my personal To Buy List (here)

My plan is to share updates on the blog every 1 to 2 weeks that are a quick, basic overview of our itinerary with a handful of pictures – primarily to share on Facebook. GART update 1 can be found here

LATER – ideas or products I want to explore to commemorate this epic road trip!

6 | Postcards
While we plan to send out postcards to friends and family throughout the trip, I am also collecting a ton of postcards for future projects. One of my ideas is to bind them with binder rings (see below). Given the ring system, we could add in our own photos and journaling cards to further personalize the keepsake!

I’ve made a point to collect both cheap gas station postcards as well as really nice, and honestly expensive, postcards that are like mini pieces of art that could one day make a epic gallery wall installation – see pinterest inspo below

7 | Photo Books
To commemorate a 10 day, European vacation, I made a customizable photo book from Mixbook – exact style linked here, see below. Tip: you can almost always find a 50% coupon somewhere on the internet

I’m highly considering starting on a very simple, photo only book near the end of our trip so that we have it to share with friends and family right when we get home

After our trip, I’ll start in on a more in depth and comprehensive photo book which I hope will be both beautiful and a keepsake for our memories, but also semi-educational with facts about each National Park we visited

8 | Still Novel Art Prints

I stumbled upon Still Novel on, where else, but Instagram and love the idea of combining both an image with text highlighting facts about one specific city or state

According to their website, Still Novel prints “celebrate the destination and the journey. Our 16×20 Signature Travel Print tells the story of a trip and details that made it memorable”

9 | National Park Explorer’s Map
I have Tik Tok to thank for exposing me to this product and the husband and wife duo that run this business! The National Park Explorer’s Map is a magnetic map to display tokens of the parks you’ve visited. I like this as an alterative to the mass marketed scratch off maps as this system allows flexibility as new parks as added or upgraded to National Park status

10 | Mixed Media Scrapbook

I am the proud owner of this vintage, 1980s America’s Wonderlands full color book that I bought second hand for less than $30. My edition definitely has some wear and tear, but I think that gives it charm. Initially when I bought it, I thought I would be taking it into each park and stamping the corresponding pages, similar to that of our National Park Passports. What I didn’t realize when I bought the book was that the pages were glossy, which had me worried about smudging, so I scrapped the stamping idea for fear of ruining the book

What I think I’ll do instead is add in our photos and memorabilia directly into the book with adhesive photo corners and journaling cards. I’ll display the book on our coffee table and hope curious minds will open to find a surprise!

Until next time, Meryn




Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, booktube per usual


Summer reading, last minute details and purchases for our 3 month road trip


Honestly the bare minimum, attempting to eat all the food in our fridge, freezer, and cabinets before we move out at the end of July


Wixey’s donuts for my birthday at work, grilled cheese from Manhattan’s, Kroger donuts for out last day in our Holland apartment, Joe’s KC BBQ and ice cream at Silas and Maddy’s in Olathe, Kansas


Catawba Island Brewery (Port Clinton, OH), Brewery Becker (Brighton, MI), Boulevard Brewing Company Beer Hall (Kansas City, MO), Afterword Tavern and Shelves (Kansas City, MO), Causal Animal (Kansas City, MO), Boiler Brewing Company (Lincoln, NE), White Elm Brewing Company (Lincoln, NE), McKinney’s (Lincoln, NE)


Camping in Brighton, MI, St. Louis, MO, Kansas City, MO, Lincoln, NE


The absolute freedom and badass energy and vibes from quitting my toxic job in healthcare to travel the US


Summer and road trip TBR list


Physical and mental space from my work in healthcare


Disappointed by Riley Sager’s newest release Survive the Night, a little sad but mostly excited to wrap up work at my nursing homes, nervous about living on the road for 3 months, stressed about moving out and cleaning our apartment, to be 100% honest, also stressed about finances prepping for this trip, extremely frustrated by my company and their mismanagement of my retirement accounts, impressed by my own gusto and risk taking

Listening // Books + Podcasts

Listening // Music

Songs: Almost by Hozier, Breathe and This Kiss by Faith Hill, Breathe (2 AM) by Anna Nalick
Spotify Playlists: Rom Com Pop Hits as recommended via Tik Tok, Grand Teton by Parks Projects


The announcement of Alex Snodgrass’s second cookbook The Comfortable Kitchen, My 28th birthday, last day of work, the start of our “first retirement”


You are easily replaced in the eyes of management, everyone wishes they could do what we are doing, ya’ll just need to do it


Silicon bands, playing cards and dice for our road trip

Instagram Monthly Mood Board

Until next time, Meryn


And in the blink of an eye, we’re already 5 days into our 3 month road trip. We, *cough* Kyle, has driven just over 900 miles through 6 states. Only one minor inconvenience so far requiring 2nd windshield replacement in 3 months. Lots of good food, great beer, and even better friends and family to share it with.

Day 1 | Toledo, OH → St. Louis, MO

Bald eagle sighting in Ohio, windshield crack within the first 100 miles, evening walk around Busch Stadium then to Gateway Arch National Park

Day 2 | St. Louis, MO → Kansas City, MO

Gateway Arch National Park visitor center and museum, beers at Boulevard Beer Hall, dinner at local dive bar The Peanut

Day 3 | Kansas City, MO

Lunch at Joe’s BBQ, Kansas City Public Library, beers at Casual Animal Brewing Company, Afterword Tavern and Shelves, Up-Down KC

Day 4 | Kansas City, MO → Lincoln, NE

Touring James and Rikki’s new house, windshield replacement at Safelite, dinner at Toast, beers at Boiler Brewing Company

Day 5 | Lincoln, NE

Coffee at The Mill at Innovations, lunch at Hub Cafe, beer and music bingo at White Elm Brewing Company, dinner at McKinney’s to watch USA win the Gold Cup

What’s to come

While the first few days of this trip were focused in and around major cities, the next leg is much more nature and camping focused. After making our way through Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff National Monument, we jump into primitive and backcountry camping once we get to western Wyoming where we will explore Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

Until next time, Meryn


A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Survive the Night
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Survive the Night was my most anticipated book of the year, and I’m so disappointed. I have a lot to say and not enough room. Full thoughts can be found here. But the quick of it is the two biggest plot twists were predictable if you’ve read Sager’s entire back list, which I did in 2020. Based off the synopsis alone I was able to guess the conclusion, and I was right. Regardless, I was still entertained and caught by some smaller plot twists. A very quick read I sped through in less than 16 hours. This is my lowest rated of Sager’s books at 4 stars, but definitely the most disappointing given how much I hyped it up in my head. I just can’t give it a 5 star rating having guessed the two biggest plot twists.
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

Author: Madeline Miller
Publication Date: April 2018
Genre: fantasy, fiction
Subgenre: Greek retelling, Greek mythology
Method: paperback

Absolutely, 100%, WORTH THE HYPE. I don’t often annotate books, largely due to the fact that I mostly read library books, but this paperback from my collection went through it. I’m talking dog eared corners, underlined passages, curled cover, and the occasional sweat droplet from reading on the stair master. The writing style and imagery was beautiful. The story was epic and expansive. I savored every chapter of this book, going as far as rereading the first few chapters to really soak in the Greek mythology. I can see myself revisiting the story of Circe, adding new annotations and thoughts. I may be in the minority, but I really lost interest chapter 18 and beyond as Circe progressed through motherhood. Even so, a four star read. I can’t wait to dive in Song of Achilles, I have high hopes it will make me sob.

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
Author: Layla F. Saad
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

I did myself a disservice by listening to this audiobook instead of actually utilizing it as a workbook, as intended. Some discussion points I enjoyed included tone policing , white exceptionalism, color blindness, optimal allyship, and called out vs. called in. Even so, I found the journal prompts and the end to be repetitive. Glad I listened to it, but my learning continues.

Impactful passage: Following advances in sciences such as the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, scientists were able to examine human ancestry through genetics. Science has proven that the concept of race is not a biological fact but rather a social concept. According to Dr. Harold P Freeman, who has studied biology and race, “If you ask what percentage of your genesis reflected in your external appearance, the basic by which we talk about race, the answer seems to be in the range of .01 percent. This is very, very minimal reflection of your genetic makeup.

People We Meet on Vacation
Author: Emily Henry
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: romance
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

No doubt, a 5 star read. And for a multitude of reasons. The first being the various levels of relatability because I don’t think I’ve ever related to a book more than this one. And no, I definitely don’t mean the romance. Main character Poppy’s parents are literally my parents. “I’m the product of a cheapskate father and a sentimental mother, which means I grew up in a house filled to the brim with junk.” And I’ve never felt so seen in a single line of text in my life. Later we get, “Or the fact that our garage was riddled with things like once used duct tape Dad was sure he could repurpose.” Anyone who has met my Dad would whole heartedly agree, these men are one in the same.
I also enjoyed how current this story felt with relevant references to influencers, Instagram, movies, the Bachelor franchise, all that pop culture stuff. The multiple and reverse timelines were a welcomed surprise, as Henry’s previous novel, Beach Read, was told linearly – other than some minor flashbacks. Prior to this book, I hadn’t really read a friends-to-lovers romance and I think I just found my trope. At least when it’s presented in this way, where we get years and years of build up, like a long history of friendship. I love a good origin story, usually in the context of parents, but this works too.
Sometimes when I finish a book, I feel like objectively its fine, but just came to me at the wrong time. But this was definitely right book, right time. A book jam packed with 12 years of vacations spent between friends when I myself leave for an 11 week vacation with my best friend/partner at the end of the month, felt like fate.

The Last Garden in England
Author: Julia Kelly
Publication Date: January 2021
Genre: historical fiction
Subgenre: WWII historical fiction
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

Three separate timelines, five female POVs, all intertwined through one beautiful, atmospheric setting, Highbury House and their immersive gardens. I have a thing for books about houses, it just a fact I’ve accepted. Add in an abundance of flowers? Sold.
Historical fiction usually isn’t my jam, especially set in World War II, but the stunning cover drew me in. If there ever was hope of loving a WWII centric story, it would be this one. Where most WWII novels focus on the men serving, and thus lose my attention, this story is a glimpse into what life was like for the women who remained at home and their efforts during the war.
During WWII, Highbury House is transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. I was so hoping for one of the women to become a “reconstruction aide” (as they were known during WWI, e.g. modern day physical therapists) and assist in rehabilitating the injured men. There were subtle mentions about the health and wellbeing of the men, but overall this very much was a story about women. Even so, I thought the story was wonderful.
My only one regret is not looking into the audiobook before starting my physical copy from the library. After finishing the book, I noticed there are five narrators of the audiobook and it has received great reviews – now I’m kicking myself for not looking into the audiobook!
Buzzword Readathon: July selection

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


It’s no secret 2020 was an incredibly hard year, full of heart ache and heart break. I had 9 patients die in 11 days. For context, that was a quarter of the building. It sounds dramatic, but I don’t think I’ll ever recover emotionally. Then you add a management team that not only laughed at the request for hazard pay for time spent working in COVID units, but then approved company wide pay cuts at the turn of the year. Talk about demoralizing and dehumanizing.

While I strategically turned my $0.78 pay cut into a $3 raise (that’s a story for another day), I knew I was putting a huge target on my back. In lieu of the pay cuts, diminishing morale, and the release of the COVID vaccine, Kyle and I started to plan a summer vacation to get away from it all.

What started out as a dream, 2 to 3 week road trip to see my brother and visit a couple National Parks out west, quickly expanded as our imaginations ran wild and our road trip wish list kept growing. It became clear to us that we weren’t planning a 2 week road trip, but instead a 10 to 12 week cross country road trip.

And thus, the Great American road trip (or GART) was born.

We knew we would need to quit our jobs and decided on the end of July. It just so happened we had no weddings and no other commitments in the months of August, September, and the first half of October.

We jokingly started calling this our first retirement, but the sentiment has really stuck.


Why should we wait to travel when we’re in our mid to late 60s? Shouldn’t we be exploring the USA and National Parks in our 20s? When we physically can climb mountains? Hike 20 or more miles? Sleep on the hard ground? Live off of pop tarts and goldfish?

No pets. No house. No kids. It’s now or never. So we picked now.

In February, July seemed so far away, but here we are, just a week left until we leave.


This definitely didn’t happen over night. The planning nor the saving.

Kyle and I spent about 3 weeks finalizing the list of cities, states, and National Parks we wanted to visit along the way, knowing our 3 main stops would be Lincoln, Seattle, and San Diego because these are the major cities where we could stay for 3 to 4 days with friends and family. From there, Kyle spent another 4 to 5 weeks researching each NP to read up on relevant COVID restrictions, securing back country permits, and getting campsite reservations for primitive sites inside a majority of parks. I’ve been focusing on setting up hotel reservations in the major cities we are stopping through and compiling a list of local coffee shops, bakeries, donut shops, breweries, barbeque joints, pizzerias, etc., and of course, used book stores.

Financially, this has been quite the undertaking. We started saving back in March of 2020, when we were hoping to just go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton in October of 2020. That didn’t happen due to COVID restrictions, but never the less, we continued to save. By February of this year, we had saved about 3k with the goal to have 10k set aside for the trip in total.

We haven’t even left Ohio yet and I think combined we’ve already spent 6 to 7k, cue heart palpitations.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much new camping gear we’d be buying e.g. a new light weight tent, NEMO sleeping pads (2), camping pillows (2), backcountry backpacks (2), light weight day pack (1), trail runners (2) , 2 burner camp stove (1), backcountry stove (1), bear spray (2), bear canisters (2), assorted tools, kitchen supplies, first aid kits and medical gear.

One of the largest expenses has been our new Canon point and shoot digital camera, which we hope to have for years and years to come. Then of course we needed to buy a camera case, strap, and tripod. Our new motto became, another day, another hundred dollars.

We made a majority of large purchases from REI at the end of May when they ran their anniversary sale where we scored a lot of big ticket items for 20-30% off. Given the amount of weight I lost in 2020, I needed to update my camping and hiking wardrobe. I bought shorts and base layer items from REI during the sale, then sourced short sleeve and long sleeve polyester tshirts from Goodwill and found some really great stuff for a couple bucks each.

While the upfront cost of all our new gear has stung, it’s a relief to know we bought high quality gear that we likely won’t have to upgrade or replace for 5 to 10 years, maybe even longer. Other than buying groceries and replenishing first aid kits and medical supplies, our future camping trips shouldn’t cost anywhere close to the cost of this 11 week trip.

This time next week, our adventures begins. We are so excited to explore the stunning and diverse landscapes of our vast country – from the rainforests of Washington, to the Glaciers of Montana, to the deserts of California, to the red-rock formations in Utah, and everything in between.

Until next time, Meryn



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SUMMER + ROAD TRIP TBR linked here


I first drafted this blogpost on June 4, 2020. With this being the last week of work of my first full time PT job, it’s time to reflect

1 | Patient
I definitely feel like I am more patient since working with predominantly the geriatric population. I used to get irritated very quickly trying to help my parents trouble shoot tech issues and now that I do it all the time at work with patients, it doesn’t make my blood boil nearly as much

2 | Protective
When the COVID19 pandemic hit and all nursing homes went into lockdown, restricting visits from loved ones (for good reason), those who work in nursing homes, effectively became stand in family for all of our residents, a task I didn’t take lightly. I’m not exaggerating when I say it tore me apart to know my residents weren’t getting to be with their loved ones, in some cases, even prior to death. I know as healthcare workers it’s not recommended to get attached to your patients, but how could I not? We were the only family they had? Especially as the therapy team, we became such a source of joy and happiness for our residents who were isolated from peers and loved ones

3 | Flexible
There’s really no choice but to be flexible working in the nursing home setting. Thought you only had a 6 hour day so you decided to sleep in an extra hour? Ha, jokes on you! You have 3 surprise evaluations and a 9 hour day. I feel like at this stage in my life e.g. no kids, I am able to manage the variability in work hours day to day, but I can’t see doing this long term once kids arrive. At that point, I’ll be seeking out a job that covers only 1 facility, or maybe 2 small facilities at most to manage the schedule a family with two working parents demands

4 | Intuitive
In the past 2.5 years, I’ve come across a wide variety of patient personalities, from the most highly motivated, to self-limiting, to the most apathetic. While no two patients are the same, I definitely have gotten better at “reading people” aka being able to call people out on their bullshit, both figuratively and literally

5 | Unflappable
No, I did not pull that word from my personal vocabulary. I Googled, word for calm in high stress situations and out popped unflappable, see also composure. I have had a handful of moments in my short career where I have felt fearful and scared for my safety as a result of the actions or exchanges with a patient, most commonly a psych patient. Hell, one of my sites just had a patient elope after breaking 3 windows on the top floor of our building! While there are times I’m apprehensive to approach certain patients or to give undesired instruction, I find that I am more confident in my position of power and authority

Until next time, Meryn