Why a grandmother and grandson are visiting every U.S. national park

92-year-old Joy Ryan and her grandson Brad Ryan have spent the past seven years crisscrossing the U.S. with the goal of visiting every national park. “Grandma Joy’s Road Trip,” as they call it on social media, began after Brad found out his grandmother had never seen a mountain before. Joy and Brad Ryan join Geoff Bennett to talk about their adventures.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    92-year-old Joy Ryan and her grandson Brad Ryan have spent the past seven years crisscrossing the U.S. with the goal of visiting every national park. Grandma Joy's Road Trip, as they call it on social media began after Brad found out his grandmother had never seen a mountain before. And that started them on a trip of a lifetime.

    Joy and Brad Ryan join us now. It's great to see you both.

  • Joy Ryan:

    Thank you.

  • Brad Ryan:

    Good to see you.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And Brad, you had the idea for this quest back in October 2015. And ever since then, you both have been steadily chipping away, visiting every one of the 63 national parks. What prompted this idea?

  • Brad Ryan:

    I think there's just, you know, this innate desire that I had to make sure that the sunset of her life was filled with as many memories as we could pack in. And because she had a willing spirit, and she showed that she still had a lot of adventure left to live, when we went on that first trip by climbing mountains with me and camping and enjoying all of the things that blew me away, I didn't see any reason to stop.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And Mrs. Ryan, when your grandson suggested the idea for this trip, how did you react? What was your response?

  • Joy Ryan:

    I said, yeah, I'm ready to go.

  • Brad Ryan:

    Yeah.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Did you know it would involve camping outside and kayaking and rafting and mountain climbing and the whole thing?

  • Joy Ryan:

    Yeah, but I'm willing to try anything once.

  • Brad Ryan:

    Yeah. You know, we really just — we didn't know what we were getting into until we were just thrown into it. We arrived at the Elkmont campground in the Smokies at like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and it was pouring down rain. We ate a lot of ramen noodles on a budget when we did our 28-day camping trip around the Lower 48 for the first time, but it was nothing but joyful, honestly.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And Brad, how has this changed your relationship? This traveling together?

  • Brad Ryan:

    I always tell folks, you know, I think every family has some, you know, some good and bad in it, and it's really helpful and healing to be able to work all of that out through conversation. You know, everything kind of comes to the surface eventually, and you just work it out. And at the end of the day, nature is kind of that that equalizer.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Mrs. Ryan of the 62 national parks that you've visited so far, what's been your favorite?

  • Joy Ryan:

    It's challenging to pick one. But I had never seen a whale in my whole life except on a picture. And when we went out to the islands in California, one jumped up right in front of me and it was miraculous. It really was.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    I also saw a picture of you, I think it was in Alaska, you were in a helicopter. And you could just see glaciers off, you know, in the distance.

  • Joy Ryan:

    Yeah, it was an exciting trip. I can tell you that. But we had it and we had a good time. And thank heavens, the pilot knew what he was doing.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Mrs. Ryan, how has all of this traveling changed your perspective, how has it changed you as a person?

  • Joy Ryan:

    Well, I've lived in the same district and the same house for 67 years. And it's just hard to imagine all the beautiful, wonderful things that you find outside. And it's just made — it's just been miraculous. And I've enjoyed every minute of it. And it gave me something when I get older, I can sit and talk about.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Yes, ma'am. Well, it is — it's been a real joy to speak with you both. I wish you all the best. And after your trip to the American Samoa, I hope you'll come back and tell us all about it.

  • Brad Ryan:

    Well, thank you.

  • Joy Ryan:

    Thank you.

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