Friday, September 25, 2009

Check out the view

It's mom's last day with me, so we're off to hit the tourist hot spots.

But I thought I'd brag real quick on the view from my bedroom window..

Note the sunshine streaming in. That's right, it's still sunny in Seattle!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blame it on the Tetons

You didn't really think I was just going to post once today, did you?

Jigga, please. I haven't had internet access for three days. My bones were starting to shake.

So let's backtrack for a second here. I'll do my best to keep the pictures of roads and mountains to a minimum. (False.)

Two posts ago, Mom and I were about 20 minutes outside of Boulder, Colorado. We spent a day hiking around the famous flatirons and bickering about stupid things like whether or not we should sit inside or outside at dinner.

On Sunday, the arguments shifted to snippy commentary on each other's driving skills (and me bitching about the fact that mom drinks too much coffee and therefore has to stop and pee EVERY 20 minutes) as we struck out on a 9 hour drive to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

But all cat-fighting subsided as soon as we started taking in the scenery.

There were "scattered thunderstorms" along the way, but the sky in these parts is so big, that you could see the rainclouds on one side of the road and beautiful rays of sun streaming in on the other.

Neither pictures nor words can capture the beauty of this part of America (only John Ford even comes close). You just have to go there. Make this drive. Your soul will thank you.

Around 5pm we hit the Tetons, by way of Grand Teton National Park. We arrived in those perfect hours of late afternoon, when the sunlight is soft and warm, and everything you see seems to beam in its glow. Again, pictures just don't do the trick, but that didn't stop us from snapping one at every overlook we came to.

We stayed the night in Jackson Hole, a lovely though tourist-ridden town just south of the park. Several westerns have been filmed here including my personal favorite--Shane, lauded for its sweeping cinematographic views of the Grand Teton Mountains and their surrounding valleys.We ate elk and salmon and huckleberry cobbler at the historic Wort Hotel, and I resisted the urge to snap pictures of my food in such a fancy restaurant (see, I can be classy when I try to be). I did, however, give in to my tourist urges and make Mom take a picture of me with a stuffed bison.

The next morning, we got up bright and early and drove back into Grand Teton NP, where we ate a huge breakfast at The Jackson Lake Lodge and enjoyed this view right outside our window.

Unfortunately, this was the point at which I tried to adjust the exposure on my crappy camera to account for the fact that we were taking a picture in front of a window and then promptly forgot to change it back to normal. Therefore, just about every picture I took in Yellowstone (where we headed next)turned out over-exposed. Awesome.

I'll post about Yellowstone soon, but for now, here's a long overdue song of the day: Modest Mouse, "Blame it on the Tetons."

We made it!!

My oh my, where to even begin..

Well, after thirteen hours on the road yesterday, we finally made it to Gig Harbor, Washington, a nice little suburb about an hour south of Seattle.

And would you believe it, there isn't a cloud in the sky today!

Since we got in after dark last night, I hadn't yet caught a glimpse of the Puget Sound. So when I woke up this morning in the sunroom of our family friends' bayside house, I was thrilled to open my eyes to this view.

I've already been told that the door here is always open, and I'm looking forward to making a return visit when I need some respite from the big city.

We'll explore around here a little today and stay one more night before I move into my apartment tomorrow!

Though the physical journey is just about over, the spiritual voyage seems to have just begun. After 13 days on the road, I am pooped! But unlike every long trip I've taken before, the end doesn't mean coming home. It means unpacking my life in a city I've still never laid eyes on before. This is a concept I'm still getting used to. I can't wait to make new friends and start my internship, but I'm also still wrapping my head around the fact that all the family and friends I've ever had are now a 5 hour flight away.

Still, as I've said so many times before, I take confidence in the fact that I am right in the center of God's plan for me. Already, so many things have fallen into place, and I have no doubts that I will continue to be surprised by the way things work out. Thank you all for your prayers and words along the way, I'll continue to keep you posted as the journey continues.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rocky Mountain Highway

When we first arrived in Colorado on Thursday night, the sun was shining in our eyes and a significant amount of haze had dropped over the highest peaks of the Rockies, so our views weren't the greatest. But on Friday morning, we awoke to the clearest, most perfect mountain day.

Our hostess in Colorado Springs was Sandy, who had been my youth pastor in high school. With her husband and three daughters (Marguerite is the one pictured below), she moved to CO five years ago and it seems to be suiting her quite well.

Sandy, Jim and the girls are all about the outdoors these days: mountain biking, hiking, camping. They do it all. Just a few weeks ago, Sandy and her Daughter celebrated her 5oth birthday by climbing pike's peak.

But since mom and I aren't quite as advanced at trailblazing, Sandy drove us up the pike's peak highway instead.

We stopped near the base to get this beautiful shot of our destination (Pike's is the peak on the far right).

and then continued on up.

and up.

and up.

Until we were in the clouds.

At the peak, we stopped to take in the view. Wowzers!

We also posed for lots of touristy pictures.

And, at Sandy's enthusiastic recommendation, bought some doughnuts.

Apparently, these donuts are world famous-- made with a special recipe to accommodate for baking conditions at 14,110 feet.

I photographed mine (Surprise!) and then stuffed my face! (Calories count less at higher altitudes, right)

After the peak, we stopped by Bristol Brewing Company a local brewery that Sandy's husband Jim raved about. I got a 5 beer sampler, and even Leslie, beer hater extraordinaire, found a brew that she could stomach. My favorite was the Laughing Lab, a Scottish ale that reminded me of my college favorite The Smokin' Scottish, yet another thing i'll always miss about the 'burg.

However, it should be noted that beer in the afternoon when your body is still adjusting to altitude changes may not be the brightest idea, and I ended up feeling a little woozy for the rest of the afternoon. My apologies for the fact that I was only able to get two decent photos after that. Photography and booze don't mix so well.

The last stop on our whirlwind tour of Colorado Springs was Garden of the Gods, so named by the Indians who worshiped at the site's magnificent rock formations.

Pictures don't do this place justice. It was stunning.

We finally left Sandy and co. at dinnertime, and headed through Denver to the home of some more family friends outside of Boulder, where I finally got a good night's sleep (no more 5am cry fests! Yay!). We'll head to Boulder for more adventures this afternoon. Stay tuned.

The Plains

On Wednesday, mom and I spent the night in Harrisonville, Missouri with family friends Mark and Vicky.

Knowing that I wanted to try some Kansas City Barbecue, they took us for a FEAST the night before at their favorite local place, Oden's.

Note: if you are ever in the Kansas City area and need to feed a football team, a yeti, or a slew of hungry truckers, order the family platter at Oden's. But if you're a party of four, your eyes may just be bigger than your head. Holy cow (literally--except for the ribs, it's all beef), I'm getting the meat sweats just thinking about that much food again!

A quick anecdote from the barbecue experience: Our waitress at Oden's has worked there for 22 years. Naturally, we took all of her recommendations when it came time to select our meats and sides, and naturally, we were not dissapointed. When she finished taking our order, she smiled and said "trust me," and then pointed at her rotund rear end, "I didn't get this way just snacking."

At 8 am the next morning, mom and I dragged our own barbecue bloated butts out of bed (hey there, alliteration) and hit the road: nine and a half hours through Kansas and West Colorado to Colorado Springs. Mostly, save for a few windmills here and there, the scenery looked like this:

Finally, at about 5pm, we started to hit some hills. And a few miles later, through our bug-stained windshield, we caught our first glimpse of The Rockies.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today starts the second half of my drive, from Kansas City, Missouri to Seattle-- the half I'll share with my mother. At this point, I've hugged the last of my Virginia-bred friends, and yesterday I crossed the Mississippi. As my road buddy Jack puts it, I'm "halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future."

Though the journey thus far has certainly been emotional (why do you think I'm writing at 5:30 AM? Too many jitters to sleep well this morning), I've only cried three times in the past week, fewer tears than I expected with all of these goodbyes. I cried once on Friday, when my youngest brother took the field for his first varsity football game. The crowd rose to its feet and it hit me like a ton of bricks that this could be the only game I'll ever watch him play. I got more than a few funny looks as I stood in those bleachers, trying to cheer while drying the corners of my eyes. The next morning, I wept as I pulled away from my parents' house, watching my dad grow smaller and smaller as he waved from the driveway, the same sadness welling in his own eyes.

The tears came again that afternoon as I crossed the Virginia state line, remembering a similar September drive four years ago. My depression had reached its lowest point and I'd taken off towards West Virginia in a heap of sobs and snot, just hoping to find some room to breathe again. Saturday, as I passed the overlook where I'd stopped that day, I found myself overwhelmed with joy, remembering how God had met with me in the still small voice of the mountain breeze. And how in the years to come, he would take each one of my doubts and fears and inadequacies and transform them into a deeper, stronger, and truer faith. A faith that now compels me westward, though so many parts of my heart remain in the East.

And now you can rack that Kleenex counter up to four. The waterworks are starting again.

Still, despite these tears, my spirit grows more hopeful with every new mile.

For me, to travel is to test the vastness of God. I've seen his hand in everything the past few days. In the sway of cornfields and the curve of country roads. In the gleam of tin silos reflecting the mid-morning sun. In the coolness of the wind on my face as I hit seventy on a stretch of Missouri highway. In the hospitality of friends. In the smiles of strangers. In the unending horizon.

These are the moments that assure me that my path is secure. Moments when every worship song I've ever heard overlaps in my fluttering heart, bursting forth in a symphony of praise.

And I haven't even crossed the Rocky Mountains yet...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Too. Much. Barbecue.

I had every intention of writing an excellent post tonight all about my trip across the Mississippi and my pit stop in Mark Twain's hometown: Hannibal, MO. I even took a picture of the catfish I ate for lunch (what is this obsession I have with photographing my lunches??).

But, alas, my USB cord is nowhere to be found and I just ate enough burnt ends, texas toast, and cherry cobbler to sink the Titanic (I also took a picture of that meal. Weird, right?), so today's tales from the road will just have to wait.

Before I drift off into a food coma, here's a Song of the Day from the soundtrack to my drive through southwest Illinois this morning: Sufjan Stevens, "Come on! Feel the Illinoise"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An addendum...

I have just been informed about Kanye's "incident" this week at the VMAs.

Let it be known that I think Kanye is an idiot. BUT. Homecoming is a great song. So the SOTD choice stands. No mea culpa here.

Do you know what the midwest is...

Young and Restless.

OK, not really. But, since Illinois is Kanye's home state, I put on The College Dropout when I crossed the state line. And now I'm feeling like a pimp (yes, I rocked Jay-Z's Grey Album, too. Gotta get the ghetto out of my system before I pick up my mom tomorrow).

But I digress...

In actuality, save for a few college towns, southern Illinois is one big cornfield. As, I've been warned, are Missouri and Kansas. So it should be a riveting couple of days...

Still, the September weather is perfect, I'm staying with a great friend tonight, and this time tomorrow I'll be stuffing my face with barbecue in Kansas City. Not much to complain about here.

Right now I'm in Urbana-Champaign: Home of The University of Illinois, aka the Fighting Illini. Don't know what an Illini is? That's ok, neither does Laura, my friend who is working on her masters in urban planning here (and therefore currently making some sort of computerized map at the computer next to me). Apparently, their mascot used to be an Indian Chief but that wasn't PC, so they had to come up with something new. But let's get real, they're a Big 10 team, so no one really cares anyway, right? (low blow, I know, but I'm moving to Seattle, ok?? I have to get the college football trash-talk out of my system before no one cares. SEC owns it, Y'all!)

I'd originally planned to make it to Chicago this week, as I visited for the first time this spring and loved it. But it just didn't work out this time. So to honor the Chi, which is so close but yet so far away, here's your song of the day: Kanye West feat. Coldplay's Chris Martin, "Homecoming."

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today I left one best friend...

Only to meet up with another.

Chelsea was the first real friend I made in college and we have grown as close as sisters (but without the catfights-- praise Jesus I only have biological brothers). In November, she is having a baby boy! Obviously, "Auntie Rock," as I have been dubbed, is already spoiling baby Oliver rotten!

Right now, Chelsea's getting ready for the birth at her Grandparents' estate (yes, estate) in Bloomington, IN, where she moved in May.

"Shepherd's Rest" is what I would describe as a homestead. It has a fancy name, lace curtains, antique furniture and appliances, and a long, gated driveway.

If Betty and Don Draper moved to the midwest, I think they would live here. (of course, advertising isn't exactly a major industry in Bloomington, Indiana-- but I suppose Don could teach it at IU??)

I'm no shepherd, but I sure am enjoying my rest here, kissing pregnant bellies, relaxing on porch swings, and drinking lemonade with one of my favorite people in the whole world.

Who, by the way, may just be the most beautiful pregnant woman ever..

Song of the Day: Over the Rhine, "Ohio"

Stopped at a Wendy's outside of Dayton, Ohio for a salad and a stretch. And since I'm addicted to writing and Wendy's has free wireless (who knew!) I thought i'd post a song for today

I do believe I'm falling in love with America on this trip. I'm sure the farmland will start to get old in a few more days, but right now, the midwest's "amber waves of grain" have stolen a little piece of my east coast heart.

Hello Ohio
The back roads
I know Ohio
Like the back of my hand
Alone Ohio
Where the river bends
And it's strange to see your story end


Leaving Ohio in just a few minutes.

It has been a wonderful visit. I can't even tell you how much I adore my friend Ellee.

She and her husband are both photographers, so I asked her to take a few headshots for me. So I can at least audition again someday.

Of course, we stayed up way past out bedtime last night editing photos.

I'm trying to keep my narcissism at bay here. But dang, y'all. Girlfriend made me look pur-tee!

Photo editing is amazing. As are great photographers.

Of course, you can bring a horse to water....

but you can't always make it sexy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Goodbye, Virginia

Landed a few hours ago in Athens, OH at the house of my dear friend, Ellee. She's finishing up a paper for one of her classes, so I thought I'd take the moment to post a few photos from the day.

Though it would have been about an hour and a half faster to just drive straight to Ohio on i64, I decided to take a little detour and say one last goodbye to the place I called home for 4 years, Harrisonburg, VA.

Best decision ever.

First stop, the JMU campus.

To pick up one of these..

(If I'm gonna drive across the country, my car should be wearing a little purple, yeah?)

And to say goodbye to this guy...

Oh Jimmy, how I'll miss you this football season.

Of course, no trip to H-burg would be complete without a stop at Klines..

But I couldn't eat dessert without eating lunch first!

(Yes, I photographed my sandwich. No, the thought did not occur to me until I'd had three (large) bites and about half my fried pickle. And yes, I took a picture anyway. )

One barbecue sandwich and a chocolate peanut butter milkshake later, I hit the scenic route.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry when I crossed the Virginia state line, just 30 miles west of Harrisonburg on Route 33. These hills have felt more like home than any place I've ever lived. I'll miss watching their leaves light up this fall, will miss drives like this to pumpkin patches and farmer's markets, to campsites and swimming holes. I'll miss the way these hills turn blue under the cover of clouds and the way my heart jumps when amber rays of sunlight pour down on them in those last perfect moments of the afternoon. Hell, I'll even miss the smell of cow manure that wafts over these hills after a hard rain.

I had a friend at JMU who was a songwriter. We all used to joke that he was that guy at parties who would pull out his guitar to pick up chicks (though he adamantly denied this). After college, our friendship fizzled (I think it was because I was one of those chicks who fell for him and his guitar-- though it kills me to admit that) and we lost touch, but there is one song of his that will forever fill me with nostalgia for my college years and the beauty of this valley. Rather than bother you with a second song today, I'll just leave you with a few lyrics.

You have my favorite memories.
Locked within your hills.
And I miss you so.
Calling me home.