Full Circle – Arizona Highways

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Arizona Highways

Arizona highways carry travelers on epic journeys through diverse landscapes.

Arizona Highways Magazine carries the imagination to dry deserts, snowy mountains, forested slopes, deep canyons, and sparkling waters.

Arizona Highways

The Backstory

Once upon a time there was an hour of the school day set aside for students to sit in silence in a large room and study. We called it, Study Hall. I occasionally used this time to catch-up on homework, but it was more often used as my personal time to escape into a good book or magazine.

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Arizona Highways

Originally serving as the High School until 1965, the old Junior High building in Odessa, Missouri was erected in 1912. It was my school from 1980-1982, during my seventh and eighth grade years.

I have vivid memories of wandering through the musty old library searching through stacks of literature, some of which may have been there since it first opened.

I spent many hours in Study Hall reading the works of classic writers like Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, Robert E. Howard, and Joseph W. Lippincott. Classic titles like, Call of the Wild, Conan of Cimmeria, and The Wolf King carried my imaginations to far away places like Alaska, Alberta, or the fantasy world of Conan’s Hyborian Age.

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I didn’t actually start my Junior High days in Odessa. In 1980 my dad had the big idea of moving back to Colorado Springs. He used to live there back in the 1960s as a young man and wanted to return, so he flew out there in the summer of 1980 to start a new job. He stayed with his long-time friend, Bill, while saving up money and searching for a home. Read TOM for more details.

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Arizona Highways
An aerial view of Colorado Springs. Pike’s Peak looms in the distance.

My parents decided that I should go ahead and join dad in Colorado so I could start school there, rather than changing schools mid-year. So, I boarded a plane in Kansas City with Bill’s wife, Nancy, in August of 1980 and flew to Denver.

For the next 3 months this small-town Missouri kid experienced the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and utterly fell in love. The scenic wonders of the mountain west were unlike anything I had ever seen in the Midwest. Granite peaks towering high into the sky with snowy tops, thick forests of pine and aspen, boulder-strewn rivers and streams gushing with white water rapids. I was mesmerized by the abundant natural beauty.

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There were several weekends where Bill and Nancy took day trips into the high country. I was invited to join them a few times and will never forget those moments of jaw-dropping wonder as we crested high mountain passes to behold the beautiful distance of a magical Rocky Mountain valley.

Places like Wilkerson Pass, or Monarch Pass flowed out before us to the distant horizon where even more towering peaks reached to the sky. Equally compelling were the times we stopped at a scenic overlook or roadside park, stepping out into the crisp autumn air to smell the forest and listen to the rustle of bright yellow aspen leaves in the cool wind. Simply stunning.

I can’t express how sad I was when dad informed me that Colorado wasn’t working out. I recall clearly the day I sat in the back row of the Greyhound bus and stared out the rear window while Pike’s Peak slowly faded from sight as we traveled for hours and hours across the lonely Kansas flatlands back to Missouri.

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Arizona Highways
The Greyhound fleet was not this nice in 1980. Back then, it was like riding in a school bus all day long!

I received a warm welcome back from friends and teachers as I walked the halls of the old Junior High building. The Study Hall was on the top floor, offering a nice view of the surrounding neighborhood. I sat there staring out the window for hours at my little home town, but all I could see were images in my mind of Colorful Colorado.

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One day I was in the musty old library looking for something to read and found a magazine called Arizona Highways. I don’t recall which issue it was, but the beautiful cover photo caught my eye immediately and drew me in, because it triggered memories of Colorado.

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Arizona Highways

So began my new love affair. Colorado was the old flame, but Arizona had my full attention.

The fantastic images and stories I found within the pages of Arizona Highways magazine were every bit as mesmerizing to me as my memories of Colorado.

Over the next few years, until graduating high school in 1986, I read every copy of Arizona Highways I could get my hands on.

It became a personal goal deep in my heart to one day travel to Arizona and see this beautiful place for myself.

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The Full Circle Moment

Much like a first love, I never forgot about Colorado. Dreams of Arizona helped me move on, but Colorado was forever imprinted upon my heart. After leaving Odessa in 1986 to start college and my adult life, I found myself continually thinking about returning to the Rocky Mountains.

When I finally finished my degree in 1992, I took a 2-week trip to the Denver/Colorado Springs area to search for a job. I was convinced I had my dream in-hand after conducting five interviews with a telecommunications company in Colorado Springs. That’s right, five interviews!!

It’s all just a formality after three interviews, right? Nope. I was not hired, and I experienced that same 1980-sadness as I drove across the vast Kansas prairie once again with my Rocky Mountain dreams fading away behind me.

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Arizona Highways
Me and the kiddos. Summer vacation, 1994.
Somewhere in the San Juan National Forest.

For whatever reason, my plans for life in the mountain west were not God’s. He took me on an entirely different path over the next 20 years.

Colorado and Arizona were never in the picture except as vacation spots. I traveled there many times over the years, especially into Southwest Colorado where the Four Corners meet.

The gorgeous San Juan Mountains around Ouray, Durango, and Silverton became a new love for me, but my home remained largely in the Midwest region around Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. By the time my children reached adulthood and my marriage to their mother came to an end, my hopes of finding a home in the Rocky Mountains were long forgotten.

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Enter Cheri. If you’re a follower of my Eye of the Beholder stories about the RV Life then you know about Cheri’s big dreams to do life on the road exploring America. Check out my 5-part Trial Run series to learn more.

In 2016 and 2017 I found myself exploring some spectacular Arizona landscapes in an RV. We spent our first RV winter near Tucson. I recall clearly that moment in 2017 relaxing in the cool waters of the RV resort pool staring up at Picacho Peak when I remembered the days of my youth sitting in Junior High Study Hall dreaming of Arizona Highways.

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The Meaning

Despite having lost all hope with the passage of time since 1980, my desire to live in the mountain west was never lost. When I experienced that full circle moment in Picacho, I knew in my heart that I would someday soon be calling Arizona my home.

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Arizona Highways

That became a reality in 2022, as noted in Issue #7 of my Newsletter. We found the right house, in the right location, at the right time, all according to God’s Perfect Timing.

I can now explore nearly 150,000 miles of Arizona roadways as often as I choose and experience places like Sedona, Flagstaff, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and hundreds more that I imagined so many years ago from the pages of Arizona Highways.

What an amazing blessing! I think the process of waiting has made me appreciate it more, and the practice of patience drew me closer to my Maker.

Psalm 27:14

It is still a mystery to me why Colorado was never in the plan, but I know there are still many years of life ahead of me and anything can happen. My next big idea is to explore some possibilities for a summer spot I can take the RV to. I’ve been imagining a place with some elevation, around 6000-8000 feet, where I can escape the Arizona summer heat.

Could it be that God has already destined an amazing spot for Cheri and I in a beautiful Rocky Mountain valley that we both remember from our youth? How awesome would it be if both dreams came true, living in Colorado for the summer and in Arizona for the rest?

Lamentations 3:25-26

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Steve Coryell