COPPER HARBOR, Mich. (WLUC/Gray News) – A man and his grandmother are more than halfway finished with their journey to visit all 61 United States National Parks.
Brad Ryan and his grandma, Joy Ryan, recently made their way up to Isle Royale in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This was their 32nd National Park in the last four years.
"It's went by really fast because you keep looking to the next park and you never know what you're going to see," said Joy Ryan.
She was 85 when they started on their journey, and in the first eight decades of her life, she rarely left her small hometown in Ohio.
"She's always wanted to see mountains, deserts, and of course, a lot of the charismatic wildlife of the United States," said Brad Ryan. “So, I really want people her age to see that it’s never too late to start working towards a dream.”
Brad and Joy Ryan were separated after his parents’ divorce and were apart for nearly 10 years.
"I didn't speak to my grandma for most of my 20s and as I got older and started to reevaluate things,” said Brad Ryan. “I reached out to her and the open road was our chance to fill in the gaps of a decade of lost time and also to have those tough conversations that allowed us to heal and build something stronger than we ever would've had before."
They have not only healed, but are making wonderful, lasting memories through a shared experience.
"Walking across Joshua Tree in the summer when we didn't have many people there, that was like a Doctor Seuss fairytale," said Brad.
"I liked the redwood trees - you can't imagine, you look up and you can't see the top,” said Joy Ryan with a laugh. “We saw this sign - we could drive through a tree for $5, and so we drove through it and Brad said he didn't think he was going to make it through or not with the lights on his side."
They expect to finish their journey in the continental United States in November and will just have 10 more parks to go in Alaska, Hawaii and American Samoa.
"It's been a wonderful trip and we've met wonderful people and you always have good stories to think about," said Joy Ryan.