Cory and Randy Shaw, members of Congregation Ariel in Dunwoody, have decided to do what many wish they could do – get away from the pandemic. Since Jan. 3, they have been traveling through the United States, visiting national parks, and spending time in nature. In doing so, they have forged closer relationships with G-d, nature and each other.
“It’s a challenge living in suburban America to feel G-d in your everyday life,” Cory said. “Before this trip, I did my best to maintain that connection, and davened every day. Even then, though, it was a struggle at times. But this trip has inspired me to connect with G-d like never before. Every morning, I wake up inspired and open my siddur. One of our goals when we set out on this trip was to see G-d in nature, and we do.”
The couple created a Facebook page to document their adventures, called “Pick Up & Go,” which is a play on words. They travel around the country in their pickup truck, fondly named “Waldo the Wonder Truck.” The Shaws share photos and videos of their adventures with 400 followers of the page.
So far, they have visited places such as Saguaro National Park in Arizona and Big Bend National Park in Texas with plans to continue traveling through May.
The couple’s adventure began in Vicksburg, Miss., where they spent several hours exploring the Vicksburg Civil War battlefields. Randy Shaw said he loves U.S. history. Then, they visited their first national park of the trip – Hot Springs, Ark. From there, they spent Shabbos in Austin, Texas, with their son Jake and his family.
Cory is an active member of the Jewish community, having worked for the Weinstein Hospice and Jewish HomeLife for many years, in addition to the couple’s involvement with Ariel. While she misses her friends and Jewish community back home, Cory said that technology has played a part in helping her keep in touch.
“I have a very close and tight-knit community of friends back home, and I miss them a lot. But the great thing is that with technology like WhatsApp and Facebook video, I can still talk to my friends and feel close to them.”
The Shaws are shomer Shabbos, Shabbat observant, which presents a unique challenge while on the road. Randy once served as a kosher butcher at the Dunwoody Kroger, so Cory jokes they are a bit “spoiled” when it comes to having fresh, kosher meat around the house. She adds that they have not been able to find a kosher butcher on the road. Instead of chicken and beef, they settle for tuna fish and eggs, and pop into cities in search of kosher food stores and kosher prepared foods.
While on the road, they find an Airbnb or other lodging to stay at every Shabbat. They look for places that have a kitchen, where they can prepare their own foods, and a washer and dryer to do their laundry. The Shaws also look for places that are “COVID safe,” which means little to no contact with the hosts and advanced cleaning procedures.
When asked what her takeaway so far is from their adventure, Cory said, “Appreciation for life, especially family. After being married and having a family for so long, I realized that sometimes you can take those relationship for granted. Now Randy and I are spending every single second of every day together, and I am loving it. We feel closer than we ever have. This isn’t just a path through nature, it’s a path to appreciation and gratitude for family, friends and the world around us.”