“This car climbed Mount Washington”

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

At 7:30 am we set off. My father and I wove back and forth over damp rocks, climbed stairs, and slalomed cairns until the first glimpse of our destination — a cell tower — broke through the grey sky. Adrenaline pumping and boots racing at the sight of this momentous checkpoint, we picked up the pace and rushed to the peak of the tallest mountain in the northeastern part of the United States. Clouds blurred the silhouettes of the other Presidentials into thick pencil lines, while fluorescent lights painted the gift shop, cafeteria, and numerous bumper stickers that declared “This Car Climbed Mount Washington.” There my eyes were met with stares that asked, “Why are you guys so wet and dirty and sticky?” My head slowly shook as I thought, “Because I spent the past three days working for this moment.”

Flash back to four years ago: my father was leaving for Oakland, California. The U-Haul van with the irrelevant fun fact on the side left the east coast and traveled the path of back roads to highways until he reached his golden coast. Despite his decision, which my mother called “childish, immature and lacking in foresight” due to its transportation and monetary challenges, we maintain a strong relationship and have a good time when we are together.

From Pinkham Notch our steps covered miles; our voyage to the summit of the six thousand two hundred and eighty-nine foot peak had begun. When we encountered the sign that read “Now entering the most hazardous weather area in the United States” and saw the rivers of white lightening illuminate the charcoal clouds, we took a selfie and kept going. At the summit I found that the arduous way had been more fulfilling than a car ride, for if this were not the case there would not have been any judgmental looks.

When he returned to California we wrote letters to avoid falling farther into the rut of texting and email, not because we think we are hipsters, but because of the personality expressed by pen on paper. His decision to cross the country challenged my motivation to keep in touch. At the same time, the high costs of the Bay Area challenged his motivation to stay in his new home. Both my father’s journey west and our journey up Mount Washington ended differently than we had expected, but we achieved our goals and learned from our experiences.

Our voyages together and separately do not always end positively, but what counts is that we make the effort to reach our goals. Traveling across the middle of a continent is long and boring, especially on United, but we cross it, nonetheless. Summiting Mount Washington was not easy, yet we carried our gear six thousand feet into the sky despite the challenges. When we reached our destinations, they were not what we had expected — but we had done it.

What I’ve learned these past five years, a continent away from my father, is that separation, rough relationships, failures, and unpredictable achievements have been the most memorable parts of my life. His moving away and being blind to its impact, answering his calls even when I am out with friends, backpacking and the memory of that summit are all branded in the back of my mind. Together we always take the messy way to our goals, whether it is hiking through lightning, U-Hauling to unknown and unforgiving lands, or writing our messages with pen and paper. Our relationship is defined by this arduous process. Even though it might appear unfamiliar to those outside, it has taught me to appreciate our journeys, heed our mistakes, and most importantly, to keep taking the long way round.

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