TAMPA, Fla. — This week a Tampa grandfather, and World War II veteran, reunited with his granddaughter following a ten-week cross country road trip.
From the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to Mount Rainier in Washington to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, 22-year-old Anna Randal has driven 21,000 miles across 25 states since June 1.
“I spent all summer hiking in the different national parks and everything,” said Randall who lives in North Carolina.
Her 1995 Ford Econoline van wasn’t just her vehicle of choice, it was her home, complete with a kitchen and bedroom that she installed herself.
“Before the pandemic started I was supposed to be a professional backpacking guide out of Asheville, North Carolina,” said Randall. “I was supposed to have housing with the job and so when I lost the job I lost the housing so I moved into the van.”
Randall didn’t look at her journey to 11 national parks as a vacation, but as professional development, after all her major at Appalachian State is Recreational Management.
“Adding to my resume by doing a lot of different hiking in a lot of different terrains and altitudes and temperatures and things like that,” said Randall.
The most rewarding part of her travels was reconnecting with her 94-year-old grandfather George Hudgins, who served in both World War II and The Korean War.
“And so I was traveling the country, I was like, ‘hey papa, I’m in Wyoming today,’ and he would be like, ‘I went there when I was this age and I did this and this,’ so it’s awesome because I got to hear all these stories that I might never have heard otherwise,” said Randall.
The two spoke on the phone on a daily basis. Randall said finishing her trip in Tampa to give her guardian angel a hug was the best way to end her travels.
“It always made me feel like I had somebody looking out for me on the road, which was really awesome. And so I was super excited to come back and share some of those memories in person now,” said Randall.
Hudgins said he’d like to think he passed on a little bit of his own resourcefulness, bravery and maybe even good looks to his granddaughter.
“I am definitely proud of her, she is so sweet and pretty and we never would have believed anything like this,” said Hudgins.
Being isolated most of the summer due to the pandemic, speaking to Randall on a daily basis was an imaginative way for him to take his own cross country trip.
“I was afraid I was interfering I called so much, but she was always so sweet to tell me where she was and where she was heading,” said Hudgins.
Randall is now heading back to her home in North Carolina. It will be a summer neither of them ever forget.
“It was cool getting to connect through our travels even when we are far away,” said Randall.