Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking down the Bright Angel Trail within Grand Canyon National Park.

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If I had it my way, I'd spend all my time, money and energy on the road -- enjoying the big and small things around us.

But the reality is, I can't. I have a full-time job, which I (reluctantly) use to pay off my student loans.

But when I can hit the road, believe me: I'm on it.

It's been about a week since I wrapped up an 11-day road adventure with my girlfriend. We explored four national parks, drove through six states, visited several breweries and met all sorts of people along the way. Our major stop was California's Central Valley, a hot, flat and agricultural land where I grew up, went to college and made a promise to travel more.

I'm not gonna unload every detail of the trip here. Just the highlights:

  • For the second time, I visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, where I marched a sand sledge up a dune only to suffer a complete wipeout at the bottom. Don't worry. I didn't die;
  • I explored the the Grand Canyon for the first time, and it's everything it's cracked up to be. My girlfriend and I made Colorado proud by hiking down the canyon and then up without much difficulty except for, like, 16 water breaks;
  • I returned to the California's Central Coast, where I lived and worked at a daily newspaper for nearly a year before I served in the Peace Corps. That place is still awesome, with amazing food, people, nightlife and scenery. We made some time to climb Bishop Peak, which, even at a low elevation, was still quite a challenge;
  • After three days of driving and staying at Airbnbs, we finally got some rest and relaxation in Modesto, Fresno and Sacramento, Calif., where I reunited with family and friends over beers, homemade Cambodian food and just plain old catching up;
  • We rented bikes and rode through hilly San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge, arguably the most worthwhile activity during the entire road trip because of its cost -- $30 apiece -- and incredible views;
  • On our way back home, we made a quick detour to Yosemite National Park. By "quick," I mean maybe, like, an hour but the drive eastward from the park was devastatingly gorgeous;
  • Finally, we made it to Zion National Park, where we found an oasis called the Emerald Pools trail, got toasted in the hot sun and drank watered-down beers at a brewery just outside the park entrance because, you know, it's Utah.

During the trip, my girlfriend and I continued a tradition of ours by taking pictures in front of each state sign. But we didn't get out of the car for Colorado as it was late by then and we wanted to simply get to the next Airbnb.

And perhaps, we didn't want to face the fact that we were returning to reality.


Chhun Sun is a sports reporter with an emphasis in preps. He joined The Gazette in April 2015 and covered public safety for three years before joining @gazettepreps staff. The Thailand-born Cambodian-American has been in journalism for nearly two decades.

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