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RANDY+ASHLEY

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We are just-out-high school sweethearts, parents to four kiddos, dog lovers, comic movie fans + adventurers, educators ... and we are destination wedding photographers based in Colorado who love traveling + adventuring together as much as possible!



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Blizzards, Shut-Down Freeways, Airline Mishaps and More
The Obstacle is the Path: Our Wild Adventure to California

Mar 31, 2017

Have you ever experienced something and while you were going through it – you just couldn’t help but laugh?

And then afterward, you wonder how you ever even made it through?

That was our weekend just a few days ago, and now that we’ve finally caught up on the sleep we totally didn’t get over the course of 96 hours … I just had to share about it because I always want to remember the crazy little moments in our adventures together. Just a heads up – every single photo taken was with my iPhone, so sorry for the terrible quality (most of these were lifted right off my Instagram Stories actually). Haha!

It all started on Thursday night. We checked the weather forecast, and saw there was some snow coming overnight and in the morning. No big deal, we love snow. I mean really – we LOVE snow. We thought we’d wake up and leave a bit early, we have a big 4-wheel drive vehicle, we got this. So we try and fall asleep, but the wind is so terrible that I keep waking up every 10-15 minutes because I’m afraid our RV is going to tip over (seriously, 35-40 mph winds are NOT fun in a camper!). But we made it through the night, even if Randy was giving me some serious side eye because I kept him up all night with my incessant tossing and turning.

Except. Well, we woke up and it had snowed nearly 10 inches overnight.

what 10 inches of snow looks like

And it was basically white-out conditions on the roads.

So we checked our flight status and Southwest said we were “on time” flying out of Denver, so I thought – hmm, maybe it’s just bad in Colorado Springs? We packed up the dogs, and started heading to the Ranch where our dogs stay when we’re out of town (luckily the kids were already at our friends’ house since we were leaving so early in the morning).

Now, usually it’s a 25-30 minute drive to the Ranch from where we’re camping. It’s pretty quick, and right on the way up to Denver.

Almost two hours later, we pulled up to the Ranch after getting directed and re-directed due to road closures and white-out conditions. OMG. We checked the flights again (still said “on time”), and the drive time – and we definitely weren’t going to make our flight!! So I called Southwest and the lady on the other end literally said, “oh honey, bless your heart. All of the flights out of the entire state of Colorado have been canceled for the whole day.”

Deep breathe in. Exhale slowly out. Mutter a curse word or two.

This was NOT happening.

Immediately, we start making Plan B – which was to drive to the closest open airport. Albuquerque is about 375 miles from where we were (usually about a 5.5-6 hour drive) … so we immediately turned around and started hustling down to New Mexico. We changed our tickets to the latest flight of the day (8:05pm), so we could have 13 hours to make it down there. We decided if we missed the flight, we could take the 6am flight to Vegas and drive straight to the wedding that started at 1pm. Backup plans on backup plans!

You know, just in case.

The roads were pretty terrible, but, we started chugging along down the interstate. We get all the way to Walsenberg on the I-25 (about 50 miles north of the New Mexico border), and it’s dead. stopped. traffic. As in, cars are literally turned off and parked because the Raton Pass has completely shut down.

One hour goes by.

drinking coffee and eating donuts while stuck in a blizzard

Two hours go by.

Randy goes a little stir crazy …

We doze off for a bit because it’s completely white outside and we’ve been up for hours.

taking a nap in traffic

A third hour passes as we peacefully snooze on the freeway, surrounded by stranded cars, watching the inches of snow pile up around us.

hour three stuck in the same spot

It looks like something out of The Day After Tomorrow outside, and we finally wake up about 10 minutes before we move half a mile up.

Then a fourth hour went by.

snow cloudscows in a snowstormtree in a snowstorm

At last, we started moving and got all the way to Starkville, which is the last town before going through the Raton Pass. There are hundreds (if not a thousand or more) cars all over the place. Everyone is starving and needing gas, so of course the one fast food place has a line a mile long (it took another 45 minutes just to order some lunch). The Pass is still closed, and we find a police officer who kind of looks slyly both ways and whispers “go back to the last exit and wait until you see movement, the pass is opening at 4:30!

So we did what he said, and wait a bit. While I have phone reception, I start calling and texting our friends in California who we knew could pinch-hit for us in the event we missed our wedding the next day (you know, in case plans B and C don’t pan out). We had two friends willing to totally drop their weekend plans to help us out – thank you Derek + Karey, you guys are AMAZING people and we absolutely love you both! Thank you for making us feel at ease knowing our couple would be taken care of in the event we missed our flight.

Finally after we got our couple taken care of in the “just in case” scenario (plan D, I think we’re on now?), out of nowhere, we see the big emergency vehicle that had been blocking traffic coming toward us … and we immediately hopped back on the free way and it was smooth sailing right down to New Mexico! The hundreds of cars on the frontage roads were scrambling to get onto the freeway and there was absolutely no one but us on the road.

Thank you, Officer!!

So we check our travel time again, and it says we’re getting to the airport at 8pm. Remember: our rescheduled flight leaves at 8:05pm! So Randy, ahem, steps on the gas a wee bit and we start gaining some time! YES!! Things are going right!!!

And then, we see brake lights. And Waze lets us know there’s been an accident up ahead.

We see flashing lights. Cops. Ambulances. Firetrucks. We are parked, once again, on the freeway. Every minute we gained, we totally lost. Thankfully, after nearly 30 minutes in traffic, we inched by and it looked like everyone was okay from the accident (but two cars were totally trashed, yikes!).

que sera sera

I don’t even know HOW we made it, but we pulled up to the parking lot at the Albuquerque airport at 7:58pm.

We have SEVEN MINUTES to get to the airport, check our suitcase, get through security, and get on the plane.

You guys – the shuttle driver drove like a bat out of hell and got us to the front doors in less than a minute. We RAN through the doors, yelling “WE ARE LATE AND WE HAVE TO CHECK A BAG!!!” and the Southwest team behind the counter started working on getting our suitcase checked before we even got to the counter. They threw our boarding passes at us, and told us to RUN.

So we ran. Remember: I’m still recovering from a ruptured calf muscle, so, I’m half running and half limping and well aware that things are jiggling everywhere, it’s so not pretty and I’m not even caring.

We get to security and there wasn’t a single soul in line. We got through security in less than 45 seconds. Could have been faster but I swear the TSA agent is the human-version of Flash from Zootopia (you know, the DMV sloth), ha ha ha!

We grab our cameras and our shoes and start running to the other side of the airport (because of course our gate is as far away as you can get from security) … we’re taking the escalator two steps at a time … we can hear people saying “ooooh, someone’s laaaaate!” and I’m jiggling everywhere and Randy’s carrying all our gear and despite it being freezing, I’m pouring sweat and out of breathe and jiggled out of everything (sorry, not pretty, I told you so!) and I’m just repeating “don’t leave us” over and over again in my head.

I wish I could see the security footage, because I bet it’s pretty hysterical. Hopefully it doesn’t end up on YouTube somewhere!

We get to the counter … and the flight has just been delayed by 25 minutes. They just barely started boarding … and we MADE IT. I may or may not have fist pumped and cried for a solid 6 seconds out of pure relief.

we made it

So we get on the flight (the one thing I HATE about Southwest is we rarely get to sit next to each other, boo!) and land in Phoenix. Our connecting flight is delayed by nearly two hours, because we didn’t have a pilot – and when he finally shows up, not even kidding – people broke out in a round of applause.

hour 18 and no coffeewhere is our pilotso tired omg

Finally we take off, and we land at Ontario at just about 1 in the morning.

We grab the first shuttle we can, head over to the rental car place to pick up our car. The whole time we’re dying because the car smells like a mixture of old cigarettes and dirty socks (which reminds me, I need to call Avis about that …), but we drive out to Palm Springs to my parents’ house and get there at about 2:30am – which is 3:30am Colorado time.

Meaning we were up and traveling for 23.5 hours by the time we pulled up to my parents’ house.

we made it

Twenty-three and a half hours.

The next day (Saturday), we slept in until 9 in the morning (yes, even me!!) and got to hang out with one of our favorite couples ever (heyyy Jack + Jeff!!!), and basically it was the most perfect wedding ever. It was chill and exciting all at once, full of laughter and happy tears, an amazing wedding party, fun guests … it was damn near perfect. I can’t wait to share more from it!!

So then Sunday rolls around … and we have a just-after-sunrise engagement session with one of our amazing 2018 couples (heyyy Shelbi + Chase!). Of course, we get there early to scope out the area – just early enough to hear a very loud crash and someone screaming. Yep – some guy on a motorcycle ran head-on into the back on an Explorer at about 45 mph and had flown a good 10-15 feet from the accident sight. Again, I’m half-running and full-jiggling as I run up a hill in the desert to the road while calling 9-1-1, Randy runs ahead of me and we get over to the kid (well, he was in his early 20s, but to me – that’s a kid. I’m old. F***, haha!) … I’m calmly talking to him, asking him questions to see if he’s coherent and responsive (he was!) and Randy’s checking him over (yay for military training!) and keeping him still while we wait for the ambulance shows up. Ambulance shows up, eventually our couple shows up and we rock out their shoot in the desert heat.

Since our flight doesn’t take off from Ontario until 8pm, we head back to my parents house, still not believing the weekend we’ve had. My parent’s dog (my childhood dog) is basically living his last days, and my dad asked Randy to help him prepare a final resting place in their backyard for him. So Randy spent the whole rest of the day digging a huge hole in my parents’ backyard (poor guy, he’s such a trooper). I don’t really want to think about saying goodbye and burying Spike – he’s nearly 17 years old, and he was my first puppy best friend. Anyway. I’m sure we’ll share more about that later.

16 year old airedale

So we head back out to Ontario, and in all the conversations we had with Southwest about backup plans and alternate flight routes – our return flight home got canceled. Luckily, we got to the airport a couple hours early and after about 30 minutes, they were able to get us back on the plane. YAY!

when southwest cancels your flight

We fly to Phoenix, and then on to Albuquerque because even though the airport in Denver is back open – our truck was at the shuttle parking lot in New Mexico! We landed at roughly 1:30 in the morning (I may have dozed off on the plane, and had my elbow slip off the tray … sorry single serving friend!), and start just driving back to Colorado because we didn’t want to get a hotel room (we just wanted to get home to the kids and the dogs) … and somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we just got too exhausted and pulled over and slept in the truck at a truck stop.

Not even kidding.

Our truck is many amazing things – but it is NOT comfortable by any means. The seat belts were digging into my sides and my back and I couldn’t get comfortable no matter what I did. And since our truck is a diesel, it was really loud (we had to keep the heater on since it was below freezing outside and all we had was the clothes on our back and two little kid blankets that either covered our top or our bottom – there was no full coverage option).

I literally can’t even make this stuff up, you guys. We slept in our truck at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere.  Sorry guys, no crazy photos or videos of THAT hot mess!

We slept (ish) until the sun started coming up, and drove straight home … and ended up pulling in to our campground about lunchtime.

welcome home to colorful colorado

Basically, it was the longest three days ever.

And we had the time of our lives.

Even though it was literally the comedy of errors by the time we got home, we just laughed pretty much the whole time. We didn’t dare say “what else could go wrong?” but I think we both were thinking it every time something else got thrown our way.

Despite not having internet while we were stranded on the highway (and therefore nothing to do), we just talked the entire time. We laughed and joked about how crazy our life is. We reminisced about blizzards we endured while living in North Dakota. We were both super thankful the kids and/or the dogs weren’t with us (because that might of been torturous). Since we only got to sit next to each other on one of the four flights we were on, we talked to our single-serving friends and ate our peanuts and did our best to stay awake.

You see, friends – we could have given up. We could have said “forget this, it’s too hard, we’ve got our couple covered … we should just turn back.” But we didn’t. We couldn’t. It’s not in our DNA to roll over and give up, because as long as we’re together – we know everything is going to be okay.

If you didn’t know this already, Randy and I have matching tattoos that say “The Obstacle is the Path.” We got them on one of our dating anniversaries a few years ago – because over the last 15 years, well, we’ve had a LOT of obstacles to overcome (personally, professionally, spiritually, physically, mentally – you name it). But we realized that obstacles are meant to test us – they’re meant to make us think outside the box, come up with alternatives, and to sit back and enjoy the ride. The obstacles ARE the path we’re meant to be on!

the obstacle is the path hand lettering

Now if you’ve read it this far (pretty sure this is the longest blog I’ve ever written): thank you for sticking it out! Hopefully whatever obstacles you’re facing don’t seem quite as bad now!! Hahaha!!

I’d definitely love to have you follow along our wild travel adventures – I share daily InsaStories behind the scenes of our crazy life on Instagram!!! Click here to follow me now!

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