92-year-old Joy Ryan had never seen a mountain. Her grandson then made the decision to take her to every location with the word “national park” in its name.
Brad Ryan took a moment to appreciate the sight in front of him, which included mountains with flawless peaks, a green valley, and an unending stretch of uninhabited Alaskan wilderness.
However, it wasn’t the Arctic tundra in front of him that most astounded him; rather, it was his grandma, who was trudging over it.
Brad, a veterinarian from Washington, D.C., remarked, “Grandma Joy is kind of a superhero.” She defies the stereotype of a 92-year-old.
Ryan has traveled extensively with his paternal grandmother, Joy Ryan, whom he refers to as “Grandma Joy,” including their trip to Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park in August of last year. They have a similar goal of visiting all 63 U.S. national parks. They have reached 62 since they began the effort in 2015.
Joy, a resident of Duncan Falls, Ohio, remarked, “It’s beyond anything I could ever have dreamed in my life.”
They have amazed at Joshua Tree National Park in California and Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park together. In Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, they rolled down a dune, went on the bridge walk at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in Lansing, West Virginia, and observed brown bears catching fish at Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.
Brad, who came to D.C. in 2018 and consults with numerous veterinary hospitals in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, said, “It’s all been beautiful.” With my granny by my side, “I’ve been able to travel so much of the country and meet so many people.”
Seven years ago, the project to create a national park started on its own. Brad was shocked to learn that his grandmother had never actually seen a mountain in person despite the fact that he was well aware of her deep love for the outdoors.
At the time, Joy had been a widow for 20 years and was living alone in the small town where she had grown up. He had just started his final year of veterinary school at Ohio State University.
Brad remarked, “I wanted to be able to give my grandmother a chance to view that first mountain.”
He thus inquired as to Joy’s interest in taking a road trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Joy was then 85 years old.
What time are you picking me up? was her reply.
They loaded up Brad’s Ford Escape Hybrid in October 2015 and set out, traveling through the night. When they got to the park, Brad remarked, “Also not only saw mountains, but she climbed mountains with me.” She was grinning even as it was pouring rain.
Brad claimed that before their first trip, he was having mental health issues and that his grandma had encouraged him to be strong.
He added, “I was attempting to help her, and she ended up saving me in the process. From there, we simply felt there was more we wanted to see and experience as a couple.
His grandma concurred.
I’ll go whenever he wants to do something, Joy remarked. “I’ve witnessed stuff that most people would never experience in their lifetime. It’s been simply great.
Brad used the word “idyllic” to describe his bond with his grandma as a child.
We were quite close throughout my childhood, he recounted, adding that he has clear memories of her and him going frog catching at their Duncan Falls neighborhood park.
Brad remarked, “My grandma was the one who was extremely insistent that I be out in nature, and I think my love of animals, in part, came from the exposure that I got from her.”
But when Brad was in college and his parents got divorced, their relationship deteriorated. He and his grandmother didn’t communicate for ten years.
Brad said, “Over time, I finally reached out to her, and we really had to start our friendship from scratch.
He claimed that as they started spending endless hours on the open road, the process of rebuilding their relationship sped up. They have traveled approximately 50,000 miles side by side.
What would normally be a conventional grandson-grandparent relationship became the closest friendship Brad had ever imagined. We have covered every possible angle when it comes to presenting our life tales, in my opinion.
His grandma concurred, saying, “I wouldn’t exchange him for anyone.” “He is my closest pal. That much is certain.
Brad launched a GoFundMe campaign after the first trip, which he paid for, as he knew they couldn’t afford to visit all the national parks on their bucket list. In one fundraising cycle they raised around $3,000, while in another they raised almost $9,000 in total. Using the money, they were able to take a month-long road trip in the summer of 2017 and visit 21 national parks.
Brad, who also donated some of his personal cash, stated, “We were being very conservative with our money and wanting to see as much as we could.
Later that summer, they took a nine-day road trip to tour numerous parks, including Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Biscayne National Park in Florida. In June 2018, they visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.
In order to share their trip with family and friends, Brad started documenting it on social media in 2019. Numerous businesses and travel agencies started contacting them once their tale started appearing in local news, offering to support their journeys, according to Brad.
Furthermore, he continued, “We’ve had a lot of ordinary folks make donations, too,” noting that many strangers had also offered to host them at their houses. “Generosity has driven the entire process.”
Joy thinks that because their tale shows what is possible, it connects with strangers.
She stated, “I guess we simply kind of wake them up.”
The two set off on a 45-day road trip through 20 national parks in 14 states in September 2019. When Brad was between jobs, they went on longer vacations like that one and he used his vacation days for shorter getaways.
Joy, who worked at her neighborhood grocery store until she was in her early 80s, accepted difficulties like scaling mountains, spending the night in a tent, and white-water rafting on each trip.
Joy, a grandma of four and mother of three, declared, “I’m always prepared to try anything unusual.”
She claimed that she feels comfortable with Brad by her side.
He is really thoughtful. Joy replied, “He always holds my arm. “He is the most adorable boy. He just brightens my day. I wish there were more grandmothers with boys like him.”
Brad acknowledged that he had to alter some of their activities to accommodate his grandmother’s limitations, but he added that “there are lessons to be learnt by slowing down, too.” “We’ll give it a go! is what she answers 90% of the time when I ask her if she wants to do something.”
Joy explained that this is the case because “I never worry about how old I am; I simply do it.”
Brad, who brought his grandmother to D.C. in March to witness the cherry blossoms, said that between trips, “we try to see other significant places.”
They hope to visit the last national park on their list, the National Park of American Samoa, during the coming year. They both agreed that the last stop would be bittersweet.
Joy predicted that the day will be both happy and sad. We’ll begin visiting state parks.
Brad does intend to keep taking his grandmother on trips around the nation and even the globe. He claimed that doing so has been the most satisfying thing he has ever done.
As her grandson, Brad observed, “I find peace in seeing her life story unfold very differently than it otherwise would have.” She was now able to begin living the adventurous life for which she had been longing her entire life.
Watch their adventurous video below for some inspiration: