I love summer road trips, and Chicago is a great place to start a journey. So I was thrilled to hear, earlier this month, that local photographer Nick Gerber was setting off of a pretty epic 1,710-mile drive from Chicago to the Grand Canyon. Taking this route through six states, he made it alone. And he agreed to let us show the shots he took from the road.

Here, also, are a few thoughts he wrote down about his journey:

This week-long spontaneous road trip was awesome. Despite going alone I met new people, gained new experiences, saw amazing things. The feeling of being free of everything was very tangible. This is something I’ll do again, without question. The only things that I would change would be to go with a companion (or a couple) and to go for more time, because despite only having to manage myself, being able to split drive time and…talk to people…is nice.

The thing about going on road trips is that we can see as things change—and not only geographically. The way food begins to taste different. The way you start to see people’s faces changes. Accents and attitudes. Ideals and beliefs. Road trips come with ups and downs (there are always more ups than downs) but more than anything it slows down a person’s psyche so they can get in tune with the place they are, not the places they’ve been or the places they’re going. It teaches us to live in the moment.