A loving grandson has taken his 89-year-old grandmother, who had never seen the ocean or the mountains, to 29 national parks to make her dream come true.
Joy Ryan, known as Grandma Joy, lived a humble life in Duncan Falls, Ohio, said her grandson Brad Ryan, a 38-year-old veterinarian from Washington, D.C. She had left the state before, but she hadn’t seen much at that time.
Ryan, who grew up in Ohio, said Grandma Joy not only avoided seeing an ocean her whole life, but she also never saw mountains or “sand dunes, a cactus, a major river, or pueblo ruins.” It prompted him to find a way to show her those things.
Since 2015, Ryan and his grandmother have made their road trips across the entire country and visit 29 national parks to give her the “life of adventure she had never been able to fulfill.”
They went on their first joint road trip four years ago to Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Ryan said he was inspired by his grandmother’s sense of adventure and love of nature.
During the summer of 2017, the grandson-grandmother duo went on a massive 28-day trip around the country to visit 21 U.S. National Parks.
As of August 2019, they have spent 50 days on the road traveling more than 25,000 miles through 38 states in every corner of the country, he said.
“When she says, ‘I probably won’t be back here again,’ it always affirms that tomorrow is never guaranteed,” Ryan said. “We have an obligation to lean into joy with every spectacular sunrise and chorus of birds that greet the morning.”
He tracks their trips through the “Grandma Joy’s Road Trip” Facebook page. It’s full of photos of him and Grandma Joy enjoying the great outdoors.
Through his travels with Grandma Joy, Ryan said he realizes that “time is the most precious, fleeting commodity we have.”
“Being two people who value nature and wildlife (I am a wildlife veterinarian), there is no better use of that time than exploring the biodiversity, breathtaking wonders, and hidden treasures of our U.S. National Parks,” said Ryan, who is a wildlife veterinarian at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
Their heartwarming story has reached the hearts of many following their journey.
“Everywhere we go, people are inspired by Grandma Joy’s spirit and attitude,” said Ryan. “She believes you’re never too old to try something once whether it’s rolling down a sand dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park or hiking 5 miles round-trip to see the Alum Cave Bluffs in the Smokies.”