Celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary with a road trip to every one of its 412 parks, memorials, and other properties sounds audacious—crazy if you leave behind steady incomes and daily showers to do it. What do you call it if you make the circuit, as Mikah Meyer and Andy Waldron plan to, by spending three years traveling in a 72-square-foot cargo van?
Historic. Meyer, 30, and Waldron, 24, hope to become not only the youngest people to visit every park—and one of the first openly gay couples—but also the first to do it in a continuous trip, according to National Park Travelers Club secretary Craig Bailey.
After visiting local park sites since April, the two left town on Father’s Day, in honor of Meyer’s dad, who died at age 58 in 2005. Meyer found solace in the road then, too, driving 1,200 miles from Nebraska, his native state, and this time he’s keeping his father’s model VW Beetle on the dash of the van. “There’s a part of me that’s doing this for my father since he never got to retire,” Meyer says. “He loved driving.”
Architect Kevin Wyllie donated his time to install a maple interior with a bed, a storage space, a ten-gallon water tank, and a refrigerator that pulls electricity from solar panels on the roof. A fan and insulation tucked behind wood panels will come in handy next summer when Meyer and Waldron hit Montana’s Glacier National Park, where high temperatures can hit 100, with lows in the 30s.
The most important features may be the two small desks. “I designed the van knowing how relationships go,” says Wyllie. “We always need the separation place.” The pair will use the desks for work—Waldron will be consulting remotely while Meyer, once a residential-program director at Georgetown Prep and a professional chorister at Washington National Cathedral, will be keeping a blog at tbcmikah.com and writing a memoir.
Waldron says he’s a bit intimidated by the sheer scope of the journey, but Meyer is reassured by what he learned on his last jaunt—the healing power of road trips: “They show you things about yourself and the world you might not discover in your normal stasis.”
This article appears in our August 2016 issue of Washingtonian.