‘The Summer of Love’: Couple travel 10,000 miles for 25th wedding anniversary

Tim and Alice O'Mara, of Front Royal, took a 46-day trip across the country last summer. They stopped in Las Vegas to visit the church where they were married 20 years ago. They also visited the Grand Canyon, shown behind them. Courtesy photo

FRONT ROYAL – Alice and Tim O’Mara decided to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary via a nontraditional route. They packed their suitcases, hitched up their bikes and turned up the radio for a cross-country adventure they self-titled “The Summer of Love.”

They traveled for 46 days, through 26 states for a mere 10,440 miles. They even purchased a new car for the big adventure.

“I think we’ve always had a traveling nature,” Tim O’Mara said when asked why they decided on a cross-country trip. “I know I have,” Alice O’Mara added.

Tim O’Mara said he had been planning their adventure for sometime, but life has a way of sneaking up on you. “Timing is everything,” he said.

Last summer they both had the time, with Alice O’Mara, a library assistant at Leslie Fox Elementary School  out of school for the summer and he momentarily unemployed,  they agreed it was finally time to go on their dream road trip.

“With both of our kids out of the house now, we’re kind of like empty-nesters,” Alice said. “I tell the girls all the time that because they’re both so independent and are able to take care of themselves, we were able to go across the country and not really worry about home.”

So the O’Mara’s did some serious planning.  Tim O’Mara decided on locations, lodging and routes. Their path would lead them to old high school sweethearts’ homes, friends they hadn’t seen in over 25 years and relatives they only saw on various holidays or family reunions.

Alice admitted to being a little leery of the trip at first because she wasn’t sure where the road would take them – literally. She likes to know where she’s going, her husband noted.

“It was hard to imagine being able to do something like this,” she said. “It’s hard doing something you’re not entirely use to. Structure keeps me somewhat sane.”

The cross-country adventure began in Front Royal in June and took them to cities that included Ashville, North Carolina’ Macon, Georgia; Siesta Key, Florida; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Lake Tahoe, California; Denver, Colorado and Louisville, Kentucky; and finally Columbus, Ohio.

“As we got closer to the end of the trip, I caught Alice saying she wished it could last a few more weeks,” Tim O’Mara said.

It was the mindset, Alice said, adding they we were just enjoying one day at a time.

Favorite hot spots included anything water related. Alice O’Mara jokingly said she’s part mermaid and loves spending time at the ocean. Her husband picked up stickers for his ever- growing sticker collection at every spot he could. Thousands of pictures were taken, and they ended each evening by making a video collage that they shared on Facebook.

They saw the Prada museum. Enjoyed a pierogi festival. And biked in New Orleans.

However, as the trip progressed, they decided to make one dramatic change: they threw their planning and rulebook out the window, turned up the Grateful Dead and followed their hearts.

“It got to the point where it was too overwhelming to think about all the places and people we wanted to see,” Alice O’Mara said. “I think it was the best decision we could of made.”

With the plan and rulebook gone, the couple decided to rely on their network of friends and family across the country. They began posting their travels more frequently to Facebook, where members shared favorite eating spots, places to travel, and must-see hot spots in each town the O’Mara’s visited.

“We had no idea what an impact our trip would make with our Facebook family,” Tim said. “People all across the country where cheering us on, asking questions, making suggestions and even offering up their homes for a night or two if we needed a place to stay. It was incredible.”

One stop along their cross-country trip was more monumental than most. Married in Las Vegas 20 years ago, the couple made a stop at the same Vegas church in which they were married. They even took a picture at the same alter where they said their “I do’s.”

“I surprised her with a new ring,” Tim O’Mara said. “We had a long-standing joke that when we celebrated our 20th anniversary I would buy her a new wedding band.”

“We didn’t make it to all the destinations we had planned,” he said, adding that they are gearing up for Round 2, which will cover the Northwest and Northeast. They have also discussed visiting Europe and tropical islands.

Tiny moments are what Alice O’Mara said she took away from the trip. Make sure you enjoy them, she said, while appreciating what’s around you.

“Sometimes you’re just looking for life inspiration,” Tim O’Mara said. “And we got an abundance of it. Tenfold to what we even thought we’d get.”

Correction: The O’Maras have been married for 25 years.