If there was anything my grandfather loved more than spending time with his family, it was enjoying quality time in new and exciting environments. When my cousins and I were growing up, our grandfather would take us on numerous adventures, from hiking to skiing to kayaking in the ocean. But my grandfather had even bigger ideas, which was why he offered his grandchildren an opportunity to each go on one of Road Scholar’s Grandparent programs once we were old enough. I remember flipping through the computer printout of program options, each to some exciting place across North America. My grandfather loved learning about Native American history and art, and I wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, so, in late June of 2006, we were off to South Dakota! Our adventure was based out of Rapid City, which offered great accessibility to the many monuments and natural wonders that surrounded us. One of our first stops was Mt. Rushmore, after which we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial. I was especially impressed with the size of the Crazy Horse Memorial, and how it was (and is) still in the process of being built. The rest of our days were filled with lessons on both human and natural history — we traded off between visits to museums filled with Native American artifacts and dinosaur bones and adventures outside, including panning for gold, horseback riding and exploring Badlands National Park. At the time, it was a unique experience for me to meet other kids from across the country, but our program activities made it easy for us to bond. There was also plenty of time available for just the kids to hang out and get to know each other, like on bus rides where we made up songs and clapping games, and at our hotel, where we climbed around on the rock structures outside while some of our grandparents watched nervously. It was also one of my first trips traveling with just my grandfather. There were activities where each grandparent and grandchild could spend time together, like on rides on the local alpine slide. These quieter moments with just the two of us are some of my favorite to look back on, and I know one of the things my grandfather treasured most about these trips was the one-on-one time he got with his grandchildren. I have been fortunate enough to go back to South Dakota twice since my Road Scholar trip, and both times I have enjoyed leading around my family and friends, sometimes traveling in the very footsteps of our journey so many years before. To me, learning about history, culture and natural wonders is important, but experiencing them in real life is what truly makes an impact. Being able to see and experience things that I never would have back home resulted in memories that I carry to this day, and I have Road Scholar — and especially my grandfather — to thank for that.
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