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Our Father's Day stories: My dad, my adventure pal

Kelsey Bradshaw
Kelsey Bradshaw and her father, Ron Bradshaw, in 2005. [BRADSHAW FAMILY PHOTO]

My dad and I are the fast walkers of the family.

We always have ended up a few feet ahead of my mom and brother when we go anywhere — to restaurants, through amusement parks and on hikes. I like to believe it’s why my dad, Ron Bradshaw, took me to hike the Grand Canyon when I was 11 years old.

I was the co-pilot of our trip. As we drove to Arizona, I would move my body through the two front seats to the back of my dad’s hunter green Jeep Wrangler and make us a sandwich every few hours. I got mustard on my Mia Hamm jersey.

The plastic Jeep windows chattered as we stretched through New Mexico, where it felt like the green hills and swirly roads would never end. I counted the “DO NOT PASS” signs on every rounded corner we took. We ran through Doobie Brothers, Meatloaf and Pink Floyd CDs.

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I watched at gas stations as my dad paid with cash and meticulously wrote down the $22.16 he spent to fill up. My dad is always writing numbers down, because there’s a spreadsheet for that, and everything else.

We made time to stop in Roswell, New Mexico, and I got alien erasers and pencils. I watched "Jerry Maguire" for the first time. We ate pizza.

After a few days, we said goodbye to the Jeep and started down the South Kaibab Trail. The trail is known for having no water stops, making our packs particularly heavy with water jugs.

We stood to the side as mules passed us, and I listened to my dad say “howdy” to everyone we encountered.

I wondered if we’d ever make it to the bottom. But we did, because we’re fast walkers.

We set up camp before heading over to Phantom Ranch, a lodge, for a steak dinner. I ate M&M's, and my dad drank a beer.

He bought me postcards stamped with “mailed by mule from the bottom of the Grand Canyon,” and I sent one to my fifth-grade boyfriend. I told him about the stars, which seemed all-consuming from our tent.

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My dad snapped photos of me playing in mud on the banks of the Colorado River and carefully crossing two bridges.

On our way up the Bright Angel Trail, some older hikers called me a “billy goat” while my dad beamed with pride. We ate Starbursts given to us from a group of college girls on a trip. My dad told anyone who would listen that they needed two hiking sticks, because one wouldn’t do the trick.

Once we made it to the top, we ate ice cream and McDonald’s chicken nuggets and slept for a good, long while before heading home — the perfect end to our adventure.

We went back to the Grand Canyon four years later to do it all over again, this time bringing along my little brother Jeffrey. We've gone camping and snorkeling together, and my dad kept me focused through college and coached me through my first half-marathon.

There have been other adventures, too.

Last summer when my mom was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a truly terrifying kind of blood cancer, my dad kept our family on pace. I drove home to Dallas every weekend the month my mom was in the hospital.

Armed with spreadsheets and doughnuts for the nurses and two gigantic shoulders to cry on, my dad made sure we all kept moving. I never wanted to cry in front of my mom and make everything worse, so I’d call my dad, the man with a plan and a spreadsheet.

I cried to him from my car, a hallway at work or after a run. He reminded me to take it one step at a time.

Those feelings still bubble up, months after my mom has left the hospital. For my dad, too.

But we’ve figured it out together. We just keep walking.

Kelsey Bradshaw is a breaking news reporter at the American-Statesman. This is part of a series of our staff's personal Father's Day stories.