Sightseeing

North Platte, NE -> Gillette, WY

We did a lot of sight seeing across the midwest and Black Hills today! Fortunately the weather forecast of “abundantly sunny” at the hotel in Nebraska was dead on. We started off in North Platte at the world’s largest train yard.

Entrance

You could go up in the “Golden Spike” and get a 360 degree view of the entire area.

View from the top

Something like 139 trains and over 14,000 cars pass through here daily. We were impressed by the shear scale of the thing – one train was continuously going through while we were there and we never saw the end of it.

From there we headed north (if the little directional display in the Jeep says either N, W or NW on it – we’re doing things right) through the hills of northern Nebraska. This is what several hours looked like:

Mostly these were grazing lands and they looked like the small mounds on the edge of some golf courses. Our course took us on what can still be considered highways, but not interstates. If you’ve got the time to make it across the country I suggest taking these “back roads” – in which you still get to speed down around 75 miles per hour, but you get to see more than you would taking I-90. You will be out in the middle of nowhere though so anytime you see a gas station you should fill up (even if you’re at half a tank or so) since you never know when you’ll see the next one. I’m not sure even AAA can save you out here.

We crossed into South Dakota:

And spent the better part of several hours traveling through the Ogala Sioux Indian Reservation. I’m not a hundred percent sure that’s where we were, but there were a lot of signs for “Sioux Indian Fund Housing” and “Sioux Food Distribution Site” – again, things you’re not going to witness barreling down an interstate. Several small clusters of buildings advertised “Authentic Native American Artifacts and Souvenirs!” Well I’m pretty sure most of those “authentic” pieces were made in China…

Finally we hit the Badlands, a place I’ve always wanted to visit since seeing my grandparents’ pictures of their trip twenty years ago. On one wall in their living room they had a spectacular picture of these weird formations eroded out of the prairie and we found that exact spot!

From the same spot where my grandmother took her picture!

Such a weird, cool area! As were were driving out of the park towards Mount Rushmore we saw a lot of people at this roadside stand. We had passed it up originally thinking it was a place for more “authentic souvenirs” but then saw what they all were looking at. Prairie Dogs!! They are ridiculously cute.  You could buy peanuts to feed them but we settled on trying to entice them with their native meal of dandelions. Jeff got some great video I’ll figure out how to post later.  I know they’re just glorified rats, but in his words, “The rule is if you have a furry tail: cute. If you don’t have a furry tail: you get hit with a shovel. Sometimes there just has to be a dividing line. That’s life”.

Adorable!!

After the cutest detour ever we headed to Mount Rushmore.

The place kind of rips you off in that it is $11 to park and you don’t get to use your America the Beautiful pass (which gets you into all the National Parks for a one time $80 fee for a year). If all goes according to plan in my life I hope I never have to drive across the country in an unairconditioned car again, so $11, while steep for parking, is a small price to pay so I never have to say “Well yeah, we drove across the country and saw all these cool things. Except Mount Rushmore, we just thought the parking was just too expensive”.  Plus, the whole point of building it was to get people to come see it, right?

I’ve started to notice the air here is much drier. When we were hiking around the Badlands I wasn’t sweating as much as I should’ve been for 87 degrees and at Mount Rushmore it was cool and pleasant to be outside. Yay for no humidity!

Our planned itinerary was to stay in Keystone, SD near Mount Rushmore. One look at that tourist trap hell hole that made Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN seem quaint and wholesome and Jeff and I decided we’d rather sleep in the car. We drove to the next town of Custer. Same thing, but campier (there was a life sized Flintstones themed hotel/amusement park where a bright neon orange color palate was liberally used). The next town was an hour away in Wyoming, so we kept driving.

Rain clouds coming in.

To call Newcastle a dot on the map is generous and the one hotel looked like it harbored one too many bedbugs for Jeff and I so we decided to try once more in Gillette, another hour away.

Driving through Wyoming after the rainstorm

We lucked into an actual town and settled down for the night. Sightseeing has worn us out, but at least we’re two hours closer to Yellowstone tomorrow!

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Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore (though Nebraska pretty much looks the same)

Kansas City, MO -> North Platte, NE

If you’ve ever wondered what Kansas looks like, go find a wheat field and stand in it and that’s pretty much it.

This is one of the largest wheat producing places on the planet. Pretty incredible when you think of it, but also pretty boring to drive through. Signs along the highway reminded us that 1 Kansas farmer “feeds 128 people PLUS YOU!” – which I think means there’s a 1:129 ratio of one poor person who has to live in the middle of nowhere to a bunch of real people that get to eat conveniently and live in civilization. Seriously folks, hug a farmer. That is hard, unforgiving work on top of living in some pretty desolate areas.

I keep thinking I need to re-read Laura Ingells Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series while we’re out here.

There’s not much to see in Kansas, granted we didn’t make it to the metropolises of Topeka or Wichita (um, is it sad I had to check the google map of the state to see where the big dots were to use as examples? that is just how little I think of Kansas..). We did however make it to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City:

When we got out of the car there was only one other family there taking some pictures. It was cold (in the 50s – c’mon Kansas, it’s June!) and clearly their kids were not impressed by this sisal monstrosity, so we asked them to take our picture before they hurried out of there. The wife seemed as excited as the kids were and insisted that they were only here because “my husband was just soooo excited about this and wanted to see it soooo badly”. Mine too! It was pretty cool – I wasn’t expecting it to be outside, but if you’re ever in north central Kansas you should stop by. You can even go to the gift shop across the street and purchase twine to add to the ball (answer: no we didn’t. it was cold and we had some driving to do).

If you’re curious about the rest of Cawker City, Kansas, this is what it looks like:

“City” may be a misnomer..

From there we continued on to Nebraska via back country roads and many, many wheat fields. Jeff and I mostly bide the time in the car by listening to This American Life and Radiolab podcasts. They come out with a new one every week or so and we’ve been saving them up for a few months to listen to on the road (otherwise I listen to them a lot while running and Jeff listens to them while, well, not running). Unfortunately I think we’re running low now on our supply of new ones to get through so if anyone has any suggestions of some good audio books or new podcasts to listen to please let us know!

Our detour to see a lot of string took us off the main interstate and to get back to I-80 in Nebraska we zoomed through the countryside. When we come to a state line crossing usually there is a frantic swoosh to the right hand lane and an attempt to slow down, but still not get rear ended in interstate traffic, all while juggling the iPhone camera app and yelling at it to hurry up and load and oh-my-god-we’re-going-to-miss-it-take-the-picture!!! Well, in the backroads of Kansas we were even able to pull off the road to take the picture. Yay for the middle of nowhere!

Jeff capturing the moment

Our best, least blurry sign yet!

We’ve decided to call it quits in North Platte, NE for the night (home of the world’s largest rail yard – get excited for those pictures tomorrow!). We could’ve made it further tonight, but we were afraid of finding ourselves in the middle of a wheat field when we wanted to stop, miles from anywhere. And we’re not trying to break out the tent until we reach Yellowstone.

I’d never heard of North Platte before I started planning this trip. I found out by walking by this 20th Century Veterans’ Memorial outside our hotel tonight that this is a really great place. During WWII when thousands of soldiers were moving between the coasts the residents of North Platte and the surrounding areas met them with coffee, sandwiches and other bits of hospitality during their 10-15 minute stopovers. Mostly staffed by women, these kind people helped distribute mail, relay messages back home and provided playing cards and reading material to the soldiers. If someone was too weak or busy to get off the train they were met by girls walking the cars handing out cigarettes and candy bars. By the end of the war they had served over 6 million service men and women.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from staring out the window while covering miles of America’s heartland it is that every place has a history. We passed by today alone: parts of the Oregon  and Mormon Trails, the place where the golden spike joined the first transcontinental railroad, an original outpost of the Pony Express, and the Brown v. Board of Education monument. There are many others that we zoomed past or I’ve forgotten already. I keep thinking with each new sign what an incredibly large country with such a pioneering history we have. All of these places speak to the ambitious and gumptious spirit of my country. I pray that we continue moving forward like our past pioneers and striving to make  things just a little more comfortable for our fellow man like the kind people of North Platte.

Also, I’m so thankful we had the time to take this trip.

I leave you with:

Moonrise over North Platte, NE

This is the furthest West we’ve ever driven

Since we’ve last had access to the interwebs, we’ve come a long way!

After a great time in Knoxville we headed to Nashville.

We were so fortunate to see so much family at dinner at Aunt Teresa and Uncle Larry’s! Thanks so much to Jon and Donna, Kristen M., Meghan and Neil, Kristen F., Steph and Jon and Allie and Sam, Matt and Corinne and Olivia and Ava for all coming out! It was so great to visit with you all!

Loving on Sam and Allie 😀

Thank you so much Teresa and Larry for hosting us and the crazy crew!

From there we headed to Memphis to see my grandparents.

They’ve lived in this great retirement community since last December and are doing very well there. The place has everything you’d ever need: a library, little shop, exercise facilities, physical therapy, on site physicians, plenty of card playing rooms, a great dining hall and place to get your hair done. Granddad even has a spot to garden in out back and you can tell his tomato plants from everyone else’s (hint, they’re HUGE and of more than the run of the mill varieties).

Granddad showing off his plants

Tomato from the garden

Grandmom showed us all her scrapbooks from out west – I come by my propensity to doing it honestly! She even has pictures of all the state signs as they crossed over the borders, so I’m looking forward to comparing how they’ve changed over the last 20 years.

We got in a brief visit with my cousin Katie, her sweet baby Sutton and Aunt Kathy before starting the card playing. In our family anytime you get together you can bet on several tables of hand-and-foot being played. Its a shorter version of Canasta, with more decks and Jeff has become quite the expert in it.

In the morning she made Jeff and I delicious biscuits and gravy to help send us on our way:

In the morning it was time to say goodbye

I just wish that Memphis and Seattle were a tad closer. So ended the “farewell tour” and Jeff and I are now really on our way out west. Our first stop was Kansas City, MO via St. Louis to see the arch.

It looks like you’d save time by going straight from Memphis to Kansas City, but you only cut off 30 minutes and it was nice to see the Gateway to the West

The arch was cool – not worth a special trip out to see it, but definitely if you’re in the area I would recommend checking it out. Unbeknownst to us – grandmother said you could go up in it! Tickets to the top cost $5 a piece in 1992 and cost $10 now twenty years later.

Outside the arch

Up inside the top of the arch

We’ve collected three new states along the way. I completely missed the sign for Arkansas early in our trip and Jeff was sweet enough to turn around so we can try once more for it. Off through most of Kansas and Nebraska today!

So long and thanks for all the fish!

Chapel Hill, NC -> Knoxville, TN

344 miles

After 9 years in North Carolina it was time to finally pack up and say goodbye. Maybe I should be more sad about leaving, but I can’t complain – the place has given me great memories, two degrees, my dear husband and more wonderful friends than any one person should be blessed with. I am nothing but happy and thankful for my time there. The Triangle area has been my first adult home and I’ve loved being an adopted North Carolinian – from camping in the Outer Banks to eating my way through my rotation in Asheville, I can authoritatively say that this entire state is awesome. Thank you to all the natives and other transplants who took us in and made me feel that this was as much our home as it was yours.

We cleaned out the apartment and headed west on that long stretch of I-40 that I feel like I’ve been driving every few months or so for my entire life. The first stretch from Durham to Winston-Salem seemed especially to fly by. I know that length better than any other section of highway from driving it every other weekend during the three years Jeff was in law school at Wake. The Jeep knows the way so well that I’m a bit surprised it didn’t try to veer down the exit for I-40 business/Hwy 421 as we approached.

We had a delicious lunch at Chai Pani in a very packed Asheville (totally forgot that it was a three-day weekend and the tourists were out in force!) and walked through the cool streets to stretch out. I took Jeff to my favorite ice cream place, but unfortunately they were out of the best thing in the world: maple syrup bacon ice cream. Yes, it sounds horrible, but one taste and you’ll understand that this delicious concoction of creamy ice cream mixed with crunchy, salty bacon kissed with crystallized droplets of maple syrup is the perhaps the most wonderful food in the world. We settled on Moonpie and Salted Caramel instead, both delicious in their own right but still not the salty, sweet, creamy deliciousness I was hoping for.

Mmm… Ultimate ice cream lives up to its name

Tennessee state line!

This leg of the trip we listened to Justin Halpern’s I Suck at Girls on audiotape – definitely would recommend that book and his other, more popular Sh*t My Dad Says. So hilarious. We’ve only listened to the audio versions, but they’re a great laugh and make the time fly by.

In Knoxville we had a wonderful cookout with my mom, sister and cousin Christina and their 4 rambunctious puppies. Nothing says welcome to summer like fresh corn on the cob, chicken on the grill and blackberry cobbler (made just the way I love it – dropped, not with the crust). We had a delightful evening hanging out on the screened in back porch and soaking in the sunshine. Going to sleep on a real mattress after a great home cooked meal – is there a better feeling? I submit that there is not.

Rachel and one of her babies hanging out on the porch

The next morning we did some much needed laundry (you’re never to old to bring your dirty clothes home to wash, right mom?) and I had to go navigate the Knoxville police department for some fingerprinting. And then began the long string of goodbyes on what we’re dubbing our “farewell tour”. We had lunch with my dad and sister at this fabulous hibachi/sushi buffet place that I’m very thankful I didn’t know about earlier because I would be about 60lbs heavier. On our way west we stopped by my mom’s office and said our goodbyes there too

This trip across TN is making me very full…
With my dad and Rachel after lunch

Love you mom!

And then it was goodbye to the only other place I’ve lived for a significant amount of time. Rarely do I turn the car west towards Nashville after a visit “home” but for us that is the only direction that matters for the next two weeks.

I leave you with some great lyrics from Zac Brown Band’s Chicken Fried:

I thank God for my life

For the Stars and Stripes

May Freedom forever fly

Let it ring

Salute the ones who’ve died

The ones that give their lives

So we don’t have to sacrifice

All the things we love

Thank you to all the men and women serving our country and paying the price for my freedom. Especially you little brother. God keep you and your friends safe over there. Love you Wubby. Happy Memorial Day.

Last weekend in North Carolina

After our long crazy drive on Thursday we spent Friday and Saturday tying up loose ends in North Carolina.

We shipped most of our boxes on Friday – we think the total was around 25. Since at that exact moment we didn’t know if we had gotten our apartment in Seattle yet or not we shipped them to post restate or “General Delivery”. This is a handy feature of the Post Office if you need to ship something somewhere where you don’t have a particular address. They will hold the pieces for you up to 30 days and all you need is a picture ID to pick them up. Somewhere in Seattle around next Friday is a post office that is going to hate us…

We took all those boxes, plus a few more – and it only took us two trips in the Jeep!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is something very freeing about knowing that all your worldly possessions can fit in three carloads (two trips to the post office + what we packed to bring with us on the road). We sold or gave away all our furniture (thank you craigslist!) and only brought with us or shipped clothes that we still wore regularly and fit well. Other items were kept either because of sentimental value (all our scrapbooks, Christmas ornaments, my hand sewn baby blanket) or it was something we needed to keep and shipping it was cheaper than buying a new one (Jeff’s golf clubs, my electric drill). Needless to say, when we get to Seattle there will be some much needed shopping sprees to nest our new home! Its actually really great to have this opportunity to start our new life together with new things – most of the larger items we had really weren’t worth keeping and this is the perfect excuse to replace them.

Since this was our last time in NC for a while it was a good excuse to put off some of the goodbyes til now instead of squeezing them in at graduation. I had a wonderful visit over Sugarland cupcakes with Jaime – mm, so good! I’ll miss our stadium runs and spin classes (okay, maybe not miss those, but definitely miss doing them with you!). Molly and I had a great morning walk around Duke’s East Campus one last time. The weather was perfect and we even got to visit our old haunt – Bassett!

 Josiah and I tried to go to Sakura Express on Franklin street for one last meal of hibachi – but it was closed! This place was our staple for late nights studying in the HSL and for mental health breaks between memorizing hundreds of drugs for pharm. In a pinch we went to a similar place in Meadowmont, but although it wasn’t quite the same, the sentiment was there. Josiah and I got each other through dental school and because of him I was able to travel to Kenya last summer on rotation. It will be so different studying without him, but I’m glad that the end of dental school doesn’t mean the end of our friendship, but rather starts our lifetime as colleagues.

After the long weekend of goodbyes it was great to take time to celebrate Jillian and Andrew’s wedding at Duke Chapel! Jeff and I kept joking that going to this wedding was so much easier this time since all we had to do was show up!

Reception at the Nasher Museum of Art

So happy for the new Fitzpatricks!


Love iPhone photos 🙂

Congrats Jillian and Andrew!!!

New Jersey to North Carolina

Initial odometer reading: 166060

So long New Jersey!

These past two weeks I’ve been in New Jersey helping Jeff to clear out his apartment, pare down his clothes and sell what we could of his furniture (because let’s be honest – no one really wants that $15 couch we bought at the thrift store 5 years ago). After work on Thursday I picked him up and we headed south.

Our first stop was Ocean City so we could take a picture on the Shore so that this journey really could be “from sea to shining sea”.

Starting our journey at the Atlantic!

We passed through New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C. and Virginia before finally crossing the North Carolina state line somewhere around midnight. Horrible traffic and lane closures in the D.C. and Richmond areas delayed us over two hours. Nothing is more frustrating than sitting in traffic at 11pm for no discernible reason. I’m going to try and take pictures of all the state line signs as we cross them – obviously this will be easier in some places than in others and much better when we’re making the crossings during the day. Here’s our collection so far:

We’ll keep you updated as our journey progresses!

The ladies who took our picture on the beach said we needed a kissing picture, so we leave you with this:

Welcome!

Welcome to our blog!

Jeff and I are so excited to head out west this summer and start our new lives in Seattle as newly weds! We’ve started this website so that our friends and family can keep up with our journey, see our pictures and keep up with us despite the time difference.

To recap the crazy past few months:

I matched for the three year MSD/MPH program in Pediatric Dentistry at UW in Seattle in January…

…we got married in March at the Duke Chapel…

… and had a fabulous honeymoon in The Bahamas…

…and in May I passed my boards and graduated from Dental School at UNC!

We are so fortunate for all these wonderful events and we’re excited to see where this next big step takes us!

P.S. I don’t always stand on the right and Jeff doesn’t always stand on the left despite what the picture above indicate…