Our attempt to summit the highest peak in North America was a success. Although we did not reach the top, we endured some of Alaska’s harshest conditions on an unforgettable climbing expedition. Even a week-long blizzard and sub-zero temperatures were not enough to deter us from accomplishing our dream; rugged exploration and adventure on a world-class mountain. After three weeks on Denali, it was time to leave Alaska and embark on the third leg of the journey; the return to Miami.
This is the continuation of Miami to McKinley, a travel story provided to Ford Social by Eric West and Eveline Wessels about their adventure across the U.S. and to the top of Mount McKinley.
Any 6,000-mile road trip is sure to be full of surprises. We had long since abandoned any itinerary. We realized on the drive to Alaska that the best-laid plans were, perhaps, to have no plans at all. Our Ford Explorer would again serve as our base camp as we navigated the northwest United States in an attempt to visit points of interest we did not experience on the road trip from Miami to Alaska. Our first extended stop was in the state of Montana.
Montana’s harsh winters are balanced by beautiful summers. Wildlife in Montana is abundant and incredibly diverse. Deer, elk, moose, sheep, bear and upland game birds are all common sights in Montana. What surprised us the most about Montana, though, was the hospitality and friendly nature of the locals. This was all encapsulated in a man we met named Bill Phelps. We met Bill at Bitterroot Valley Log and Timber Homes. The company’s showroom, a 7,000 square foot log home, just off of highway 93 in Victor, Montana, drew us in for a closer look. Bill’s dog, a yellow lab named Nessy, greeted us at the door. After a tour of the facility, Bill invited us over to view his log home just down the street. He had built the home some 20 years earlier. That visit led to an invitation to stay the night in Bill’s small guest cabin adjacent to his home. Bill taught us all we would ever need to know about log and timber homes, and he became our friend and set the standard for the type of people we would soon be meeting on the road back to Miami. We wish we knew more people like Bill.
Our next stop was Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada. Perfect weather and stunning beauty was topped off by a chance encounter in a souvenir shop with a childhood friend named Eric Manke. We hadn’t seen Eric in over 20 years, but we rekindled our friendship in just a matter of moments. He and his family invited us to spend the next two nights on their lakefront condominium just outside of town.
The road trip moved us east to Colorado. Our first stop was the skiing village of Vail. Eveline and I hiked from the base of Vail Village to the top of the Vail ski resort to play frisbee golf, or disc golf, at one of the highest 18 hole courses in the world. On the hike down from the course, we encountered a group of men painting the gondola support poles. One of them stopped us to say hello. Dressed in a white coverall suit with large smears of gray paint on his face, he simply introduced himself as Greg. Greg lived in the nearby ski town of Breckenridge, or Breck for short. He assured us we would love it in Breck and gave us his telephone number to look him up in case we wandered that way. We indeed made it to Breck, called Greg and were invited to his log home to stay for two nights. At just over 10,600 feet above sea level, Greg’s home had incredible views of the Breckenridge ski resort. Greg also humored us with his pet, a red fox named Natasha that visited Greg’s home each evening before sundown in search of eggs that Greg would leave outside his front door.
On our second evening in Breck, Greg insisted we meet some of his friends who would be leaving their second home in Breck for their permanent home in Dallas the following day. We agreed and headed down the steep switchback road which brought us into a more residential part of town. There we met Dave and Hiya Hoffman at their second home which they named Sky Dance. Considered a “ski in – ski out” home (literally being able to ski in and out from your back door), the log and timber home slept over 20 people. More impressive were the Hoffman’s. Dave and Hiya were a type of special that is far too uncommon in everyday life. We openly shared our company’s concept of Showing Up and how it had led us to so many interesting and generous people across America. Greg, Dave and Hiya were no strangers to Showing Up in their own lives. They understood that genuine interest to share, inspire and grow with others always leads to a life overflowing with success and happiness. It wasn’t long before we were invited to Dallas to visit the Hoffman’s and their family.
We arrived in Dallas four days later. The Hoffman’s home was equally as impressive as Sky Dance in Breckenridge, but all the glitz was quickly muted by real southern hospitality. It wasn’t long before we were at a great Mexican restaurant somewhere downtown. Dave went into some detail in explaining the organization that he chaired since his retirement two years ago. The Hoffman’s were taking their time and resources to help abused children in the Dallas area. Some of the children’s stories were horrific, but the stories of success related to Dave’s contributions made us like the Hoffman’s that much more.
It’s tough to summarize four months on the road with the one you love. It’s even tougher to write an ending to such an amazing script. So here we will leave you with what we leave all our Showing Up fans with; the message that your dreams are important. Your dreams deserve your time. Nothing takes the place of your presence and Showing Up works!
About Eric West and Eveline Wessels
Eric West and Eveline Wessels are adventurists. From ocean crossings to climbing the highest mountains in the world, Eric and Eveline inspire audiences with their Keynote Performances around the world that encourage others to believe in their dreams and take action by Showing Up. Learn more at ShowingUpAgain.com.