Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Road Trip - Summary

There's something so neat about driving cross country and seeing the landscape gradually change. The thick green foliage of the east slowly melts into more sparse but still green hills and towns and cities whose landscape gradually flattens into browner meadows and plains, but then slowly rises again, giving birth to desert mountain foothills and eventually the majestic Rocky Mountains hosting both high and low desert landscape, sagebrush and pine trees, some lakes, and gorgeous red canyons. All of this between two beautiful coasts of ocean. It's amazing to experience.

Since we'd already driven cross-country on I-80 from west to east on our move from AZ to PA and since we drove to the reunion on I-70 (grrrrrr, Kansas), we decided to see more sites and add more states to our list by going back on I-90.

After that breakfast together, we all got going our separate ways. We had quite a journey ahead of us, so we got started. Luckily, we got to bring Mark's brother Michael back with us to spend the summer with us, so that sort of extended our fun reunion/vacation.

The drive from Vernal out of Utah and into Wyoming was actually quite scenic. It was winding and mountainous (not my favorite) but very pretty. It was the Flaming Gorge area and we saw some great vistas.

Mount Rushmore

One of the things we wanted to see by going this different route was Mount Rushmore. It was pretty exciting to see in person! I think it's one of those places most people would like to see but it's really kind of in the middle of nowhere, so I'm glad we got to see it.

Our kids were both not feeling well (it'd been a long trip, tummies get sensitive to emotional stuff like going separate ways from cousins (especially for Thing 2), winding roads, not the best sleep or eating, etc.) and so it was a bit of a quick stroll and a bit worry-filled since it seemed we might have to find a place to throw up pretty quickly. It was hot, we were a bit dehydrated, and it was fairly crowded (I had no idea it would be that crowded--I mean it's in South Dakota!).

We got there around sunset. It was really neat to see it in person.

Our family at Mt. Rushmore
We have visited A LOT of states just this year!
24 so far!
Us with Uncle Michael (who is also a big fan of road tripping)

After visiting Rushmore, we were pretty much done for the day since both kids weren't feeling great. We stopped to eat but ended up getting take out since Thing 2 threw up in the restaurant (we had a bag, thank goodness). I spent a good portion of the time we were waiting for food calling area hotels and motels trying to find A. vacancy and B. a decent rate.

We found a mom-and-pop motel in Rapid City, SD. The room was old and quaint (in an old way). They even folded the toilet paper into a fan, so not too shabby. But the outdated quaintness of the motel together with our road tripping ways just begged for all kinds of Tommy Boy quotes. So we obliged. I even did a "fat guy in a little suit" dance upon entering the motel. We were all a bit punch drunk by then anyway.

We got 2 double beds. With the kids not feeling great, I stayed close but at the bottom of the bed perpendicular to their feet. Since the kids were nauseous, I briefly joked about getting in bed with Mark and Michael, but Mark said that would be too West Virginia and Michael said he'd sleep in the van.

After a fitful sleep and a pretty icky "breakfast" from "Ma and Pa," we were on the road again. The kids were pretty mellow but seemed to be perking up more. They're such good travelers. I feel badly they didn't feel well. That's no fun on vacation, away from home. We drove through the rather large state of South Dakota and not-small Minnesota.

Pretty landscape

We saw about 162 billboards for Wall Drug and now wish we'd stopped to see what the hoopla was about, especially since several of our clients have since asked, "Did you see Wall Drug?" We figured it was just a drug store (which it apparently is), but it seems to be some kind of big deal. I think it's because it's the only store in the area for about, oh, 500 miles? We had a clue about its popularity and appeal when we got to Wisconsin and parked near a van with a car carrier and a bumper sticker that boasted "We visited Wall Drug!" Oh well.


We stayed in Wisconsin that night and the next morning we went to a mausoleum in Madison to pay our respects to Chris Farley. Finding his tomb was a bit like being a team on the Amazing Race, the team that is right by it, then walks away and spends 15 minutes looking all over the wrong places for it and then realizing it's right where they started.

After visiting Mr. Farley, we found a Wisconsin chalet where we sampled A LOT of cheeses. And really good ones, too. White cheddar with cranberries, VERY sharp cheddar, cheddar with jalapeno, pepper jack, green olive jack, tomato basil, even a chocolate cheese! We got to sample summer sausages and pretzels with yummy mustards. We even got some good root beer. Fun place!

Me, Thing 2, Thing 1, Uncle Michael
Sampling cheese in WI


From there, we drove to Chicago. We're all about food, so we wanted to eat some deep dish pizza in the Windy City. We saw all kinds of things. We drove along Lake Michigan.

We saw Wrigley Field (very cool).

We got some delicious deep dish pizza


Lou Malnati's

We saw the "L" (stands for elevated train)--see how we're driving underneath it?

We saw White Sox Park, too.

It was pretty neat to visit Chicago. We checked out the skyline, spotted the Sears Tower, got a sense of the city. We'd like to explore it with someone who know it well. For a quick visit, not bad! Heck, Mark even found a potential client. No lie.

After visiting Chicago, we drove as far as we could before nightfall/rain fall. We stayed in Ohio but not very far into it. We still had a long drive ahead of us the next day, but at least we got home the next day (hurrah!). I kept thinking I'd want to get some stuff done online every night at the hotel, but I'd be so tired, I'd just go to sleep. (Hence my catching up in many posts now). Plus we hadn't taken the camera uploading cable.


The next day we stopped in Pittsburgh (which is actually kind of a pretty city) on our way home. Our kids, Thing 2 especially, are really into birds. So we stopped at the National Aviary!

It was really neat to see bald eagles up close! Eagles are HUGE!

Visiting the penguins

Walking around with cool birds

Feeding nectar to the Lorries!

Hey! Thing 2 is as big as an Emperor Penguin!

A toucan! So cool. Thing 2 is pretty excited about this, too.

Huge owl as part of the "Birds of Flight" outdoor show

An exhausted couple of kids--apparently relaxed enough to sleep once we got back to PA

Tally of States visted:

Mark - 39
Stacy - 36
Thing 1 - 32
Thing 2- 31

We're glad to be home and have become fairly reclusive homebodies as we work on our yard (WOW, is it looking nice!). I have post-vacation let down, too, I think. It was a great trip. It was so nice to see everyone, to get away, to attend the reunion. Oprah did not come through. It's time to pay the piper, so we're back to the grind. Thankfully, we're having a beautiful summer and we have Michael with us and we're getting so much done. I'll post more about that later.

In Summary:

Miles Driven: 5186
Number of days we closed our clinic: 12
Gas/Tolls, Hotels, Food: $1675.16
Visiting with Family: Priceless


bythelbs said...

That's an impressive tally of states. I especially love that the kids have almost caught up with you guys. I think I'm up to a whopping 12? Disgraceful.

I also admire your bravery with the extreme road trips. But then, I have double your children. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

P.S. Mt. Rushmore looks so small!

Peter said...

I wish I could say my recent roadtrip was that much fun, but our tight schedule made for a lot of long days driving. However, I still got to see a lot of beautiful scenery (I totally agree about the amazing change from East to West), and marveled at the variety of both the scenery and people of the United States. What a great place to live.

On that same note, I still think you really missed out on the good parts of Kansas. I drove a different route each direction on rural highways through the state and really enjoyed it. Just like Nebraska, it confirms my hypothesis that almost all interstates are built in the ugliest parts of each state.

Sometimes it's good to get off the interstate and take in the local scenery and people (Cars, anyone?). Then again, at other times, especially with kids, it's good just to tab the cruise control at 80 and get the heck to your destination.

Dr. Mark said...

Peter, I think you're right about the "Interstate in the ugliest part of the state" hypothesis. Plus, we hear all the action is in Wichita, which was not along our route.

It's really fun to relive our journey like this. It was a great time together as a family, even if it was close quarters for much of it.

And Mt. Rushmore was a lot smaller than I had expected. We had to keep moving (sick kids, etc.), but apparently the lighting ceremony each night is something to behold. So, if you plan to swing by Rapid City sometime, make sure you plan for the evening show.

J Fo said...

Mark saying it was too "West Virginia" for you all to share a bed and Michael offering to sleep in the van...HILARIOUS! LOL! You guys were pretty brave to chance the cheese sampling the day after throwing up kids! I'm glad you had an enjoyable ride home, er...avoiding Kansas, I mean. hehe

Robynne said...

What an awesome trip Stacy! You'll have great memories of it for a long time, I'm sure!! :)

the emily said...

WOW! You guys did some seriously neat stuff. Bummer about the kids being sick, but it seems like they trooped through it. I went to a game at Wrigley field once, it was awesome.

Boquinha said...

I totally agree about more rural highways. I think THAT is the best way to truly see the areas you visit as you travel. We often do it locally and on smaller trips. If time and money were no issue, THAT is how I'd love to travel the world.