Thursday, July 30, 2009

People vs. Places

Recently someone on my triplet email list posted about their summer vacation last year and their plans for this year. They had toured factories all over a particular region of the country, and were looking for other off-the-beaten path adventures for this year's trip.

For a moment I was envious. You see, I want to take my kids to the jelly belly factory too. And Mount Rushmore. In fact I was really tempted by these signs on Day 3—

Passing up the opportunity to see the largest prairie dog in the world was hard for me!

I thought a lot about this as I drove. (I've had a lot of time to think recently...) Every time that we go to visit Utah I have this little conversation with myself. I tell myself that we will do something touristy this year. That we will go and see something interesting.

But we never do.

We go to different houses—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. And then we just hang out. The kids play and play, and I talk and talk. And we love it.

So I'm going to stop planning to do something in Utah, and acknowledge that this trip is entirely about people. We love living in North Carolina, but we really hate living so far away from some many people that we love. This trip is our time to renew these relationships, which is more important than the worlds largest prairie dog anyway.

Other vacations will be about adventures, and usually we manage some adventure in the traveling part of our journey. One year it was the new Nauvoo pagaent, one year it was the St. Louis Arch, and this year it was Arches in Moab. (pictures coming soon, I promise!)

But for the most part, we're really here for the people.

Day 3 — Kansas City to Denver

On Day 3 we left Kansas City and drove to Denver. One of the first cool things we saw was what I assume was the Kansas State capital building, in Topeka. Which makes me even more curious to know how the WVa people keep their dome so shiny, since this one looks like the Utah dome.

Next we drove past Ft. Riley, where we saw a whole bunch of apache helicopters parked together. Unfortunately we only got a picture of one. They are huge!

Driving through Kansas proves that I am very easily entertained. I loved looking at all of the clouds. Especially through my new sunglasses, which, though they hurt my ears, provide increased saturation to everything I look at.

I have a question about Kansas. What is it with the churches? Maybe everywhere has churches like these, and you just don't see them because there are hills and taller trees. But in Kansas every now and then you'll see a small community, and then rising above everything else, an ornate church. We even saw a sign for the "Historic Cathedral of the Plains" but did not stop to investigate.

At one point we passed a stop freight train and enjoyed looking at the graffiti. My pictures didn't turn out (something about being taken while driving 75mph?) so I found this one online. Where, you might ask? Why at! Who knew! I am curious about train graffiti. Do the train people like it? How do people do such interesting art with cans of spray paint? Do their fingers get tired from holding the little nozzle???

Late in the afternoon we started seeing gloomy skies ahead of us. We stopped at a rest stop and were startled by the ferocity of the wind. Then we started seeing lightning in the clouds off in the distance, and finally we drove into torrential rain. Ok, not torrential in the "North Carolina you'd better pull off the road because you can no longer see a thing" sense, but still a good downpour.

Later after we arrived at our most excellent hotel in Denver there was a huge storm, complete with lots of lightning outside of our 4th floor hotel window. It was awesome— very thoughtful of Denver to have arranged such a nice storm for me!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 2 — Kentucky to Kansas City

Whew! Day 2 was a long day! I had hoped that we would leave my brother's at a decent time, but we didn't. Instead I let the kids stay up late and play, so we all slept until 9. And then the laundry took a long time to be done. By the time we left it was almost lunch time, which made a long, long drive to Kansas City.

My first pictures are from the night before. When I got into bed there was a thunderstorm going--and of course that made me happy. I opened the curtains so that I could watch and was quite entertained. After a few minutes the biggest lightning bolt flashed that I have ever seen--probably at least 5x as wide as a regular one, and it seemed to be as tall as the sky. The thunder rumbled the whole house.

I had a brilliant idea. Since the storm was obviously not passing quickly, I thought I would try to see if I could take a picture of the lightning. At our house most of the lightning is obscured by the trees, but my brother has a great wide open view from the back of his house. I stood in the back door and turned the camera to continuous shooting, and started taking pictures. I had to mess with the settings a lot, and I finally ended up shooting at 1/10th to 1/6th of a second. Any shorter and nothing showed up at all, any longer and any lightning just washed out the picture. These pictures aren't as dramatic as I'd like, but I'm still quite excited that I "caught" lightning in about 5 pictures. (Out of 583 pictures!)

And now back to our drive. The first big city we came to was Louisville. Now I know nothing at all about Louisville except that it's bound on two sides by the Ohio River, and it has amazing bridges. Each bridge is designed differently, and each one is beautiful. One of my favorite things about the bridges is that when you get up close to them so many of them look like they're made out of enormous erector sets!

I just counted on Google using the satellite view and I think there are 5 bridges. I had planned that Jason could take some pictures for me, but he and his cute cousin Kate had stayed up playing games until 1:30 AM, so he was completely zonked.

So I held the camera and hoped that I was pointing in the generally correct direction. I think my pictures turned out really well.

(I needed to crop the pictures a lot & rotate them a little, and I did it on I can't recommend this site highly enough. It is awesome & free too! I've never seen anything like their rotate function!)

This last bridge is the one that we actually drove over. Because of the angle & all of the trees I couldn't get a good picture of it, so I found this one online. It's quite dramatic.

We crossed into Indiana for the next part of our trip. I was interested to see that Indiana held the answer to one of life's most enduring questions.

It also looks like they have a place made specifically for me in Indiana.

In Indiana we saw more rocks blasted away to make the interstate. For some reason it is fascinating to me to see these places--to see all of the different rocks that are exposed this way.In the afternoon we got to St. Louis, which is another of our favorite places to drive though. When I was a teenager we lived in a small town in Iowa on the Mississippi River. We actually went to church in a building in Illinois, and so we crossed the Mississippi River 2-4 times per week, sometimes more. We always loved it, and I love it still.

St. Louis is also great, though, because of the arch. The interstate comes up to the arch and then makes a sharp turn taking you past it. This configuration means that you see it from a lot of different angles. Jason took all of these pictures from the moving van--they turned out great.

I loved driving across Indiana (I slept through Illinois) and Missouri. The rolling hills are so beautiful, and as much as I love my NC trees, it's nice to see so much sky. One lovely sight we saw was after we crossed the Missouri River. There was some water on the far side--possibly flood plain--and there were tons of herons standing in the water.

As we reached Kansas City and passed the signs for Liberty and Independence, I was amazed again at how much the pioneers traveled even before they started their long journey to Utah. It was only last year that I realized that when they lived in Missouri it was on the western side (duh--"Far West"!!!), and that when they had to leave Missouri they went all the way back across the Mississippi. Crossing Missouri took me at least 4 hours in my van at 70mph. I can't even imagine how long it took them.

Kansas City was the end of Day 2. We were exhausted by the time we arrived, and I let the kids take a quick swim & then I popped them into bed & collapsed myself.

P.S. For breakfast my sister in law had recommended that we try a new cereal that she had— Kashi Digestive Care w/ probiotics, or something like that. I'm always interested in trying healthy food, so I had some. So did Jason. We weren't really excited about the prospects of eating a breakfast cereal that had dried broccoli in it, but it wasn't too bad. What was really bad was the effect on our digestive systems across the entire state of Missouri! Note to self: No more experimenting with anything involving excessive amounts of fiber while traveling!!

Day 1— NC to Kentucky

Our trip pictures this year start with a picture from the night before. Jason was in Virginia at EFY and Josh had flown to Kentucky a few days before to spend time with his cousin, so we only had the little kids at home. At bedtime the girls asked if they could have a sleepover in Jared's room. Rachel was going to sleep in Josh's loft bed and Jenna wanted to sleep in the hammock. I ok'd the bed but nixed the hammock and told her she could sleep on a pad on the floor. When Russ went in to check on them before we went to bed he came out and told me that I needed to go see. This is what I found:

Jenna had taken a laundry basket, turned it upside down, covered it with a blanket, laid on it, and was using a stool for her head. I was amazed that she had managed to stay on it for 2 whole hours! But of course I put her down on the floor.

This is the earliest (by far) that I've ever left for a trip that didn't involve a plane ticket. Because I needed to pick up Jason & his cousin and her friend Niamh (pronounced Neeve, how crazy is that??) from EFY at 8AM, I had to be on the road early.

I saw a beautiful sunrise over Lake Hyco (no pictures, sadly) and enjoyed watching the sun rise as a ball of orange/pink. This was a treat for me since I'm normally pretty anti-sunrise!

The drive up to Virginia is really beautiful.

The only complication was Jared getting carsick after the first set of switchbacks, and throwing up all over everything. Himself, his pj's, all of the clothes for the day that were sitting beside him to be changed into, the seat belt, and an assortment of other things. Thank goodness I'd brought paper towels, and if I ever do that drive with kids again I'll bring a bunch of grocery bags in case of car sickness!

Fortunately he wasn't too traumatized and he was easily distracted a few minutes later when we stopped for a quick peek at a beautiful view and saw these campers on the far side of the river. What fun this would be!

Here's the main building at SVU, where EFY was held. It is just stunning. The kids appeared to have had a good time, despite having to take lots of precautions because of the swine flu.

Driving through the mountains of West Virginia is always very beautiful & peaceful.

Charleston, WV, is a fascinating city. It seems to be in a narrow valley with a river running right through the middle of it. We got to drive across several of the bridges which always entertains us.

The dome of their capitol building is really beautiful. It must be made of different stuff than the Utah capitol building. (Is it capital or capitol? Do you only use "o" for the one in DC??)

One of the things that always entertains us is seeing the names of places we pass. My favorite yesterday was a sign for Lake Moomaw in WVa, but Licking River in KY was also good. Here is a sign that is always a favorite.

When we got to Lexington KY we saw the most awesome water tower. This is the best picture I could find of it--it had different pictures all around it. As you can tell, they're into horses here.

I love visiting my brother because his family is such fun, but also because it's so beautiful here. Miles & miles of black fences. He says they're black from creosote. Whatever reason, they're lovely.

Also lovely--barn quilts!

All along the interstate you can see where they've blasted away hills to make the road.

Then, when you drive through the town you can see all of these old walls made from the same kind of rock that lines the interstates.

Quote for the day from a cd I was listening to---I'm going to have to think about this!
Hell is caring most about things over which we are powerless.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Come Fly With Me

Every year that we've driven across the country to Utah I've kept a trip journal and sent trip reports to family and friends. I've loved sharing the fun we've had and the strange and beautiful things we've seen with the people that I love.

Trip reports were one of the reasons that I wanted to start a blog. I loved the idea of being able to more easily combine my pictures with my words, and I love having a record of what we've done.


I hope you enjoy our trip vicariously. I read a quote the other day that made me think about driving to Utah. Charles Kuralt said,
Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.
I disagree completely. Interestates may make it possible to travel without stopping at a stoplight and without seeing Main St. of a million small towns along the way. But as we drive the 2100 miles to Utah we will see 2100 miles of landscape that makes up America, and that is a sight to behold.

From the beautiful mountains of Virginia,

to the pioneer landmarks of Nebraska,

National landmarks at sunset,

Sunflower fields in Kansas,

And beautiful sunsets,

We see a lot of amazing things from the interstate.

I wonder what we'll see this time!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Things I Noticed at the Beach This Year

We usually go to the beach every year with Ken and Alisyn and their family. This year we all went to the Keys instead, and Ken's family planned a family reunion week at Big Bertha. We were sad not to be planning a beach trip with them, but we have family reunions too so we understood and tried not to pout too much. Happily, we found out a couple of months ago that part of Ken's family couldn't come until Wednesday afternoon, and they invited us to come for the first three days.

We had a most excellent time.

I noticed a few things at the beach this year, and thought I'd share them with you.

- Sending the kids out for a "walk" on the beach on Sunday evening accompanied only by Uncle Ed (Ken's unmarried brother) will result in a walk that closely resembles swimming in the ocean with your clothes on.

- Harry Potter might have liked sleeping in his closet under the stairs. It was certainly the desired place to sleep this week at the beach!

- Just because a chair is there doesn't mean someone is going to sit in it. (Actually people did sit in the chairs some of the time, and surprise of all surprises, I sat down in one for about 10 minutes. Russ was pretty startled.)

- Our house was the only one that looked like poor white trash were living in it.

- The hot tub is everyone's happy place. Particularly when it's raining or it's dark and we see shooting stars!

- Just because someone hasn't played Clue Master Detective before doesn't mean they won't totally win. Way to go Ann!

- Beach Kayaks = lots of fun + tired arms. Thank goodness there was a tidepool for the little kids to paddle around in.

Russ braves the waves.
Josh gives it a try.
Jared's turn.
Rachel's turn.
- Playing at the beach makes people really tired!

- A bad day at the beach is better than almost anything else. A good day is unbeatable!