I glanced down at my watch and everything was blurry. I rubbed my eyes a few times and glanced once more. 5:27am. Caleb looked at me and said in an exhausting tone, “we made it.” I must have stared at him for a solid ten seconds before I realized where we were standing.
The early morning air was still thick and humid from the day before as I walked around the cobblestoned courtyard in a daze. I paused for a moment and looked up at the buildings that towered above us. “How did we get here?” I let out a sigh of relief and gave Caleb and Peter a quick smile shaking my head and they returned the gesture. Two days prior we were stranded in Mishawaka, IN (full story in previous post) demoralized that this expedition had most likely come to a startling end. But thanks to the overwhelming kindness of a car dealership and its employees, we stood at the entrance of National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington D.C. What seemed impossible was now a reality.
With that being said, how do you thank two guys you just met at a dealership who offered to drive you 600 plus miles through the night and then immediately turn around and head back home? Of course with the only thing we had to offer—ice cream.
After sharing a scoop or two of ice cream in the courtyard, we said our goodbyes to Rob and Phil (who we are forever grateful for) and parted ways. Having been awake for more than 30 hours, I suggested to Caleb and Peter the only thing that seemed logical at the moment—to grab coffee and watch the sunrise on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We traversed our way through the District’s streets as the city began to slowly awake. We climbed to the top of the Memorial to pay our respects to Mr. Lincoln and we looked at each other laughing at how we got here.
As we sat on those steps watching the birth of a new day, I couldn't help but reminisce the past 8,611 miles. I thought about the kids we met in each state and their excitement to share their pledges with us. I thought about the incredible families like the Sweeney’s, who saved the day by scooping ice cream for hours in Tulsa, OK and the Krawczyk’s, Schneider’s, and Adelson’s who made us feel like family. I thought about Will Robins, Graham Picard, and Peter Walton who joined us on the road and tirelessly gave everything they had to this expedition. And I thought about Caleb and Cameron and all the (sometimes delusional) hours we spent on this expedition and getting the truck ready. One thing is certain; we have countless of stories and memories to share with our future grandchildren.
The next day, Cameron flew in from California and we presented our journey to the employees at National Geographic. It was a humbling experience being on that stage sitting next to Caleb and Cameron sharing our stories from the road. After the presentation, we had the privilege of serving ice cream to National Geographic and what felt like the entire metropolitan area of DC.
The time then came for Betty to depart headquarters on yet another tow truck. We didn’t think we were going to be this attached to a ’88 Chevrolet Step Van we bought off of Craigslist, but it was an emotional moment watching her depart for northern Virginia (where she would rest until we figure out what to do with her).
With 2 events left in New York City, we traveled to the Empire State by bus. Peter and Caleb stuffed their backpacks full of cups, spoons, and pledges. Magnolia graciously shipped ice cream to the schools we were presenting at as we now relied on public transportation to get around. Our final events were encouraging as the kids at the UN school and Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate school greeted us with great enthusiasm. Just as thousands of kids across the country have done, they shared with us stories of places they love to explore and why they want to protect it.
As we were cleaning up our last event, Caleb, Peter, and I looked at one another and realized this was it. I took one more last bite of avocado ice cream as Caleb said, “well that was a fun summer...”
We created this project with the hopes that it would be sustainable even after we left and Betty was no longer on the open road. Our hope is that the kids wouldn’t just remember the ice cream or the truck but rather the message that they have such a great capacity to do incredible things and protect the things they love in this world. And most importantly that we believe in them wholeheartedly.
The expedition doesn’t end here. In fact this is just the beginning There is so much more to come. As we close out part 1 of the journey, we are excited to embark on part 2 of the Ice Cream Expedition—telling the story. We are in the early stages of creating a documentary of our trek across the country and we will continue to share more stories and photos from the expedition here.
To everyone we met along the way. To those that believed in us and opened their doors and provided a delicious meal and a warm bed. To those who encouraged us and shared stories and dreams that we will forever cherish. To those that flagged us down on the road and gave us a smile. And to all those who supported us. We truly thank you. This expedition wouldn't have been possible without you.