Thursday, August 29, 2013

We like to eat.

7,000 miles and still going strong…

Wow, is it really the 29th? That means we’ve been on the road 29 days.  Where did the last month go?! We have experienced SO much, seen so many wonderful friends along the way, ooed and ahhed at so many beautiful places in this country, taken about a bagillion pictures (that’s a pretty accurate guess), filled up an insane amount of tanks of gas, and eaten just one too many sandwiches for my liking.  We will be arriving in Hampton, VA on Sunday, so just three days away!

Let me catch you up on the past few days since my last post.

Clearly, we were having way too much fun hanging out with friends in Omaha for me to find the time to update the blog.  We stayed with our friends, Tim and Susan Snyder (shout out! Woot woot!) in Papillion for the weekend.  The weekend was full of eating (we had burgers three nights in a row), more eating (I went to my favorite cupcake place and indulged in croissant donuts, twice), and more eating (sushi and ice cream!).  Oh yeah, and in between the eating, we thought about where we would eatJ

We got to catch up with Jen and Jerry Teeter and their three girls, Cathy who I used to work with at Our Lady of Lourdes School, and the Whitneys!  So fun to see everyone, and feel like we never even left.  Seeing the Whitneys was surreal… didn’t we just hug you guys goodbye in Canada?  Were those two years together in Alaska a dream? The kids snuggled with us in the restaurant for the entire hour we were together, and we had a great time filling each other in on our adventures.  What a sweet time.

Jordan and I enjoyed walking around the Rosenblatt Stadium memorial park.  We saw the last College World Series game in that park two years ago, before they tore the park down.  It was neat to see what they did to preserve the memories. We also took a stroll through Old Market, a place we used to love to go out to, yup, you guessed it… eat.

Hanging out with the Snyders all weekend was awesome.  Their daughter Ally is about two feet taller than she was when we left, so it took me a good day to get used to the new “her.” J But it felt like we just belonged there, and again, I’m left feeling so thankful for amazing friends.  They’re talking about coming out to visit next summer, and since I’m posting that publicly on the internet, that officially holds them to it!

Our last night together was spent having dinner with some old Life Group friends (I mean, friends from the past Life Group we were in, not old in age!).  The Tyners and Conleys came over to indulge in more food with us, and it was great to catch up!  Again, it felt like two years hadn’t passed at all.

We left Omaha on Tuesday and headed down to Joplin, MO to see the missing Snyder girl who has gone and grown all up and started college.  We enjoyed eating dinner and ice cream with Abby, seeing her beautiful face, and being so encouraged that Jesus is the center of her life!  Miss you already girl…

Now we are hangin’ in Memphis, TN, in a hotel room because we were not too keen on camping in the 90+ degree weather anymore.  Layla is thankful, too.  For those that aren’t aware, Jordan spent a semester studying at the University of Memphis in 2005.  He made some great friends while here, who we still keep in touch with and so that’s what we’re doing here!  Jordan always promised them he’d come back to visit… it just took him 8 years.

We spent last night with them at their condo eating and catching up, reminiscing of the good ol’ ’05 days and laughing at ancient Facebook pictures.  We’ll spend the day with them today as well.  Oh yeah, their names are Amy and Andrew and their daughter’s name is Layla.  Weird, I know.

Here are a few pics of the last few days!

Yay!  A picture with Susan finally! At the Stormchasers game

Hanging out at the Building 429 Concert! 

We didn't get any good pictures of us together, but here's evidence of our time with Life Group friends!

S'mores cupcake from Jones Bros. Cupcakes... SO GOOD.

Layla and Tessa (the Snyder's new dog) were best buddies!

Ally and Layla

I've never seen my puppy so worn out I could lift her up and she still wouldn't wake.

Abby Snyder in Joplin!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Husker Nation

Livin’ the Nebraska life this weekend… where the corn grows for miles, the concrete roads keep your ride less than smooth, and good friends are like family!

We spent a quick night in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver after leaving Utah.  It was really strange having to put on sweatpants and jackets after we had just nearly sweltered to death in the desert.  The campground I picked was on a beautiful lake up Mt. Evans, which just happens to provide the highest road in altitude in North America.  We waited out a thunderstorm (a what?! Haven’t experienced one of those in a couple years!), made dinner, and enjoyed some home-made pie at the lodge.  But instead of sleeping with wet towels on us to keep us cool, we actually had to turn the furnace on to keep us warm.  ‘Merica’s got it all people, and all in a day’s drive.

We left super early to get on the road to Omaha yesterday.  While on the road, we realized we were going to make it to the area a lot earlier than expected, so I started texting our good friend Susan Snyder.  We ended up driving straight to their house in Papillion instead of to our campground about 30 minutes east of them, going out to dinner, and scratching the whole “camping in the muggy heat” plan altogether when they insisted we stay with them for the weekend!  It didn’t take much convincing, and we are very appreciative of the AC, Internet, and queen-size bed.  Ah, the luxuries of life.

Layla also gets luxury treatment again this weekend in another kennel.  She’ll play with other puppies and get her own room to stay in.  I tell myself these things are what she really wants instead of being with us so the cry-ball in my throat will go away.  Yup, I totally teared up again leaving her there. I need therapy.

Jordan drove through Offutt AFB on our way back this morning and our old neighborhood.  We were shocked to see our old neighbors across the street were still there, and my rose bush is still thriving in the front yard. But my overall reaction to our drive through this morning was how small everything seemed after living in Alaska.  Big mountains, a huge base, and living right next to downtown Anchorage made life seem bigger somehow. 

We are going to enjoy spending so much time with the Snyders this weekend and other friends.  What a blessing it is to come back to a familiar place and feel like you never left!

Check out this oversized bike we saw on the road!

Remains of an old car in the woods near our campground in Colorado.

Echo Lake... beautiful!

You might think, "Why would Amy turn around in the car and take this picture?" And I would say, "This is what I saw and made me nearly pee my pants when I looked up from the book I was reading and thought Jordan was going the wrong way!" 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More National Parks!

We have spent the last three days basking in the beauty that surrounds the western United States.  The Grand Canyon was spectacular and unexpected.  I’ve seen pictures of it, and you will see a few from our time there down below, but the pictures just don’t do this beautiful area justice.

For starters, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive in the Grand Canyon on Saturday to a nice, cool 75 degrees.  After nearly suffocating in the heat in Las Vegas, and a very hot, quick visit to the Hoover Dam in 108 degree weather, we were grateful for a breath of fresh air.  Seriously, why would anyone choose to live in these areas?  My question doesn’t include those who are native to the area, but those who are silly enough to bring this type of punishment upon themselves. 

Since the Hoover Dam was on our way to the Grand Canyon, we stopped for a few minutes to check it out.  Upon entering the guard station, we were asked to step out of our vehicle and open up our storage boxes and camper for searching.  After the three men (was three really necessary?) it took to convince each other we were not terrorists disguised as weary travelers from Alaska, they let us through.  We stepped out of the car with Layla, but after only a short walk, Layla and I had had enough.  We headed back to the car, panting, dry-mouthed, and heat exhausted, while Jordan went ahead to take pictures from the top of the dam.  I hope you enjoy these pictures.  They nearly cost him his life (kidding of course, but kinda not really kidding at all).

We stayed at a campground inside the Grand Canyon NP, which was nice as we were so close to everything.  We did five loads of laundry the first night, and enjoyed the luxury of having electricity to use our shop vac and clean out the camper/FJ.  Yes, you read that right. We packed our own shop vac for this trip to minimize dog-hair-induced insanity.

Since we have such a loveable little pup with us on this trip, we have been limited to what we can do inside these parks.  Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails, and the heat makes it too dangerous to leave her in the car, so often we tag-team who gets to go inside visitor centers and down trails while one stays behind.  But in the GC, we were able to take her on a walk with us along the South Rim.  I think both our jaws dropped the first time we saw the canyon.  It’s just simply stunning. 

Yesterday, we packed up again and traveled northeast to Moab, Utah.  Utah is actually a really pretty state, if you like high plateaus and red rock.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised.  But my eyes couldn’t stop wandering to our temperature gauge in the car, praying that 92 would lower the closer we got to Moab.  It happened in the Grand Canyon, so I was hopeful.  Sadly though, the ugly truth of Moab is that it is just. plain. hot. Last night, we had both fans in the camper running, and still slept with wet towels on top of us to cool us off.

We drove around Arches National Park this morning.  It’s a place neither of us had heard of and only chose because when I googled Grand Canyon to Denver, this was the halfway point.  Jordan had to climb nearly everything he saw, or at least attempt to climb.  He was disappointed to discover that most of the rocks were slick and did not welcome tourists wearing Reebok sneakers.  But he did leave Layla and I in the cool AC’d FJ for a few minutes while he traversed a rock tower.  He showed up 20 minutes later, full of red sand, and a video from his iPod on his way down in which he exclaims, “It’s a good thing Amy’s not here to see this!”  Yeah, good thing.

We are almost three weeks into this trip, and by Labor Day weekend, we will be arriving in Hampton, VA. It’s funny, but I haven’t thought much about what life will be like after this trip.  Will I go through withdrawals from not sleeping in my camper?  Will I wish I had to cram all my clothes into a tiny drawer under cushions?  Will I miss the oh-so-pungent smell of my camper fridge?  Or accidently wear my shower shoes in our new shower?  So many questions that will go unanswered. At least for the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow we head into Colorado and stay just west of Denver in the Rockies.  I look forward to a cooler night’s sleep, and heading to Nebraska on Thursday!

Hoover Dam
Jordan is about one sneeze away from Heaven in this pic.

Grand Canyon

Jordan climbed up in between these two peaks from the backside... yeah, it's a good thing I was completely oblivious as I waited in the AC'd car with Layla.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Viva Las Vegas!

We just had a wonderful time in Las Vegas for the past two nights!  Eating out at fancy places, sleeping in a king size bed, and not having to wear shower shoes in the shower were all a plus to me! 

We arrived two days ago (Thursday), and dropped Layla off at her own “hotel.”  The people there were really nice and let you walk back to wear her room is.  But my darn puppy immediately put on her “sad puppy eyes” when we put her in the room and closed the door behind us.  Even the employee there looked like she was about to cry. “I’ve never seen such sad eyes before when an owner has dropped off their pet! How does she even do that?!”  I don’t know lady, but it’s how she gets what she wants most of the time. She’s mastered it.

So after that drama and Jordan reassuring me about a hundred times that “she’ll be fine” (whatever), we drove through downtown Las Vegas with our less-than-shiny FJ and camper.  A class act for sure. We were able to park our camper in an over-sized lot (I think it’s more like a “your rig is too ugly to be seen with all these other fancier cars” lot), and park our FJ in the garage. 

We stayed at Treasure Island right on the Boulevard, and enjoyed some rest time in the room before we went out to eat.  Jordan outdid himself again and surprised me with the King Suite in our hotel, complete with two bathrooms, a Jacuzzi, and as mentioned before, a king. size. bed.  My friends, you just can’t understand how appreciative I was of this bed after three weeks of cramping together in our little full size camper bed. Hallelujah. We attempted to enjoy the pool, but after five minutes of degrading rap music, cigarette smokes, and speedos ((shudder)), we quickly came back upstairs to the comforts of our own room.

Our first night we walked down to Bally’s Casino and found some Mexican food to eat.  Then we just enjoyed the sights (and looked away from some others), and shopped around a little.

Yesterday we spent more time exploring Las Vegas.  We went to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop from the History Channel’s famed Pawn Stars show.  We got right in to look around, but none of the cast was there.  Apparently they were on vacation or something.  Didn’t they know we were coming?

Last night was one of the best date nights we’ve ever had.  We got all dressed up, ate a fancy schmancy dinner at the Venetian hotel (not too far of a walk as I was in heels), and enjoyed a fabulous Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage.  It was the most amazing show I’ve ever seen.  Period.

Alas, now we embark again on this journey towards the Grand Canyon for two nights.  I am a little nervous about the heat, as we do not have AC in our camper, so please pray for miraculous breezes to blow while we’re there!

In front of the Mirage with the Beatles "Love" picture behind us, where we saw the show last night.