On my last full day in Berkeley I went for my last (for now) run with A.Jay. We even wore our BFF running shirts that we got at Sports Basement!
Brendan came out and took a few action shots for us. Aje and I are pretty certain we don’t have any pictures together, even though we lived together for a whole year, and we have been friends for four!
It was kinda awkward because
I wanted to look like I was winning I was trying to look like a good runner. I think this is the only running pic I have where my feet aren’t on the ground.
When Brendan and I started driving away from Berkeley I was looking at my pictures, and I literally started fully bawling when I realized I was leaving Aje behind. I love all my friends, of course, but I think I have changed a lot since I went to college, and A.Jay is really my bff from college!! I just love her so much, and she knows all my secrets. I really think Aje and I will stay friends… I hope.
Yay for best friends that double as running partners!
Day 10 (August 24, 2011): Grand Rapids, MI to Niagara, NY
Today was a big day because we became international road trippers! Canada is so trippy because you feel like you are still in a pretty similar place, but then there are super weird things that stick out.
For example, the chip flavors are CRAZY: dill pickle, roasted chicken, gravy, or ketchup potato chips?
I tried the ketchup ones since I love ketchup… but then I almost barfed, so I went and bought some sun chips. Plus, at Subway, they have ketchup as one of the topping choices, but they didn’t have dijon mustard!!!!!! grrrrr… LOL my stupid fake smile as I tried not to barf!
After lunch we headed to Niagara Falls. This was another first for both of us!
Honestly, I am kind of a bad person because I usually get pretty drowsy when I’m just looking at cool/interesting/pretty/historic things, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go for me. But it was absolutely amazing. I could have walked around the park for a long time. There was also a lot to do and see in the area, in general, but I was really just mesmerized by the falls.
The US-Canada border is in the middle of the river. You cross this bridge to go back and forth between countries. We parked our car in the US and then later walked over the bridge to Canada.
We decided to go on a boat ride, the “Maid of the Mist,” which takes you under all of the mist at the bottom of the falls. It was crazy…. and REALLY windy.
From the boat… the American side, which accounts for only 10% of the total water flow!
It got kind of crazy and unsafe for the camera to be exposed on the Canada side because the falls there are shaped like a horseshoe and we went in the middle. At one point I felt like I was underwater…
I only took a couple pictures because I really wanted to just be present on the boat ride. There were so many people on the boat that were so concerned with their cameras and the pictures they were taking; I don’t think they even saw the waterfall.
After exploring the falls for a while, we went to dinner at a Brazilian Churrascaria, which is one of the places where the guys walk around, each with a skewer of a different kind of meat. My favorite parts were the cinnamon and brown sugar glazed pineapple, the parmesan-crusted pork loin, and the salad bar that has “over 70 choices” including roasted red potatoes, fresh mozzarella, grilled asparagus and zucchini, and all the usual fresh veggies. OMG.
It was really great food. But then… the night wasn’t over because when we walked outside, the falls had been lit up for the night!
And then we had a little play time in some of the souvenir stores…
I really loved Niagara Falls! and we seriously had such a great day together.
Goodbye, Canada! Next stop: home… our new home!
Day 9 (August 23, 2011): Madison, WI to Chicago, IL to Grand Rapids, MI
My plan was to go for a run in this huge Arboretum at University of Wisconsin, but I woke up one minute before my alarm went off to a HUGE thunderstorm with pouring rain. It definitely got me up since I remembered at that point that we had left our car windows cracked open… in the POURING rain. Of course I ran outside the hotel in my PJs, leaving my leather flip flops in the lobby to keep them dry. Luckily, only the front windows were cracked open, so all of our stuff wasn’t soaked, but the whole front of the car was wet. I dried it with our towels and ran the air for a few minutes, and then I vetoed the run and went back to bed.
A few hours later we were on our way to Chicago!
We got really excited as we were approaching the Windy City…
I was really surprised by how much I liked Chicago. It had a lot of the fresh fast food trendiness that I LOVE! There were so many cool places to pick from for lunch in the financial district. We chose Pret a Manger…
mostly because it was close to the parking garage where I was paying $12/hour…definitely a big city!
We drove to a less busy area and found some street parking… still expensive, but less… and then we went for a walk through the city!
… and then we had ANOTHER thunderstorm, so we hid out in the park under cover for a while…
Gorgeous river through the city…
And then it was time for PIZZA!!! I read an article from Chicago Magazine with the 10 best pizzas in the city, and I just searched for the location of the first deep-dish on the list. Lou Malnati’s.
We went to their location in this SUPER cute restaurant area downtown… and started with bruschetta
Nice lighting, right!? and then salad!!!!!!!
I am getting a little obsessed with vegetables. I think I was having withdrawals.
It was definitely good, but it was pretty greasy, so it wasn’t really our thing. It was SO FUN to be having Chicago deep-dish pizza in Chicago at this great pizza place in an awesome part of the city.
This street was set up to look like a cute neighborhood in Italy with big patio areas in front of every restaurant and gelato places in kiosks in the middle of the plaza. It was so charming!! We got some gelato before getting back into the car and starting the late drive through more thunderstorms for Michigan.
Ok this post is getting long, but check this out: we paid THREE tolls within ten minutes as we drove from Chicago to Grand Rapids! WHAT!? AND… one of them was only 60 cents… WHY are you making me stop for this stupid thing!? Oh well… Chicago was pretty awesome.
Day 8 (August 22, 2011): Minneapolis, MN to Madison, WI
Today we took a sort of break from our constant tourism; we just decided to have a normal-ish day. We were planning to go to Noah’s Ark, which is the biggest waterpark in the US, but then our plans got a little messed up when we discovered how comfortable our hotel bed was in Minneapolis.
So we got a little lazy… It was weird because I even thought to myself that I should come up with something more interesting to do because I need something for the blog, but that is not how I want to feel about this blog. I do not want to shape my life into what I want to blog about. I want to blog about my life…
Before we went to sleep in Minneapolis, we went to the gym in our hotel because it was like a full-size really nice gym and we get kinda giddy about things like that! Then we went for a walk in an urban park that was right by our hotel. I had wanted to go to a sculpture garden that was in the park, maintained by the nearby art museum, but when we got there it was too creepy. It looked like there were people down every path just standing still and waiting for us. I knew it was time to go when Brendan was startled when I said something loud. If Brendan’s uncomfortable, you know I’m running!
As I said, we decided to skip the water park in favor of more sleep, and then we went looking for “Uptown Minneapolis” so that we could find a trendy place to have lunch. Well, EUREKA! We found one… We went to this place called Tao for Organic deliciousness!
Thank goodness we have come far enough across the US to find veggies again! I had organic greens, onions, cucumbers, sprouts, black beans, avocado, hummus with balsamic, and goddess dressing!!!!
I was really starting to feel like I was dying of nutrient deficiency from being in the Midwest! Then we hit the road again for Madison, Wisconsin.
FARMLAND! We ended up going to Olive Garden for dinner because Brendan thought he remembered it being amazing… hmm… It was good.
Honestly, that’s about it for this portion of the Midwest…
Day 7 (August 21, 2011): Sioux Falls, SD to Minneapolis, MN
Let’s see… what else can I say about Sioux Falls, South Dakota?
1) They have really bad food in the middle of this country. All of the billboards say we are in Beef country, but they seriously ruin all pieces of meat by cooking them way too much. I got a little excited when we went to a restaurant for a buffalo burger, but I was let down again. Plus, the salad bar turned out to have a bowl of iceberg lettuce, a bowl of canned veggies (what?), and all of the other bowls were some variation of macaroni or potato salad. OMG! I feel so gross.
2) We weren’t really sure what to do once we were done with Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. There were a lot of farms?
3) I’ll give it a little break because I was super sick, sneezing all day, so I’m not sure I would have enjoyed myself anywhere.
What did we end up doing? We got to our hotel late-ish at night, went to bed, got up, did some laundry, and drove the heck away. We almost decided to just turn around and go home at that point, but it is shorter to just keep on going East…
This leg of our trip took us to Minneapolis. I have honestly wanted to go here since I was a kid because Mary-Kate and Ashley did a lot of events at Mall of America, and the American Girl Store is here!!
Better late than never!?
I’ll admit I felt a little out of place and out of touch. They have definitely added a few more dolls since the last time I was collecting. It was still pretty exciting because it really is the ultimate place for a girl to go doll shopping. They have a hair salon where you can get your dolls hair done, and they have a full café/restaurant where your doll gets a doll-size high chair!!
Plus, they have all the awesome books for girls, which I really am a fan of. Their books are really great for young girls because they are really honest about a lot of things that girls don’t like to talk about, but need to hear about: health, body image, puberty, safety, boys, how to wash between your toes, etc.
The store really reminded me how passionate I am about education for girls and programs like girls on the run.
The mall had a ton of our favorite stores, but it also had the kid version of all of the stores like Crew Cuts by J. Crew (so cute!!) and 77 Kids by American Eagle.
I wouldn’t really recommend going out of your way to visit the Mall of America, but it would be a GREAT PLACE to take kids shopping. Plus, they have a whole theme park by Nickelodeon in there!
So… a road trip post just turned into a post about everything I loved about being a little girl. Awesome!
Day 6 (August 20, 2011): Rapid City, SD to Sioux Falls, SD
OR “This is part of the United States?!”
After searching through the car several times for my camera’s battery charger, we decided to start our day off at Best Buy. Luckily, we were in a big enough city. Unfortunately, the charger was $40! Ugh.
Then we went to Starbucks! Brendan sat with the battery charger for a bit at Starbucks while I went to Walgreens for some Wal-Phed. I am literally a disaster. I have sneezed about a million times today and I have sweat through more than one fever. Plus, my throat hurts so bad that all I want to do is drink carbonated beverages. That is bad news on a road trip in general, but seriously bad news for me on a road trip. Enough of this sadness though because we saw some pretty cool stuff today.
It was both mine and Brendan’s first time at Mount Rushmore, and it did not disappoint. The statues were really cool because they are so detailed, but it was especially impressive after reading about all the thought that went into the project.
For example, Thomas Jefferson was supposed to be on the other side of George Washington, but the granite on that side turned out to be unsuitable for carving, so they just blew his face off on that side and started on the other side. Each of the figures were chosen to represent the elements of democracy that the artist was most proud of… He took special care to make Washington stand tall to communicate his upstanding character, and Lincoln’s eyes are especially detailed to make him look thoughtful. It was really inspiring to see that the memorial was a representation of a lot of peoples’ pride in our democracy. You just don’t hear about that as much these days, and it was nice to get some perspective.
Plus, we were brainstorming ideas for who they might add in the future…
If I were president…
Next, we went to Crazy Horse. We need to talk about this thing. WTF. Some crazy Polish guy started this Native American carving in 1948, and they have made SO LITTLE PROGRESS. Mount Rushmore took about 20 years and less than a million dollars. Now, I know that times have changed, but really? It cost us $11 to go see Mount Rushmore and its museum. It cost us $20 to look at this head in a mountain that is VERY far away, and really not impressive.
We weren’t really impressed, but mostly I am really annoyed that I paid $20 to get this close!! The whole project is just kind of crazy, in general. It was been projected that the sculpture will take over 100 years and millions of dollars.
SO ANNOYING. Don’t go unless you are really into Native Americans, or wait until it is done because it will probably be pretty cool when it is done. It just seems like a ridiculous amount of resources going into something that really didn’t need to be quite so large.
After that experience, we were ready to head further East in South Dakota. We started to see a ton of billboards on Interstate 90 for a place called Wall Drug, so I Googled it. This place started as a small pharmacy in a middle-of-nowhere town called Wall. The couple who owned it started advertising free ice water, 5 cent coffee, and free donuts for Veterans in order to get more business from road travelers. Now, Wall Drug has transformed into a Midwest destination! It is like an amusement park for road trippers.
They still have free ice water…
and 5 cent coffee…
but they also have homemade ice cream, tons of things to pose with for pictures, tons of stores, candy shops, a chapel, and playgrounds for kids…
Then we took a drive through Badlands National Park…
It was SOOOO cool. I read about the history and geology of the park on my phone before and after our tour, and it was really interesting. It is really just unlike anything I have ever seen, and we were literally there!
Now we are pretty much at the halfway point of our trip, so I have a few general thoughts to share…
First, I never really realized just how different the various regions of the US are from each other. I literally feel like I am in a different country. We talk really different, the things we do on a daily basis are extremely varied, we have really different priorities, values, and beliefs. It is no longer surprising to me that the people we have chosen to lead our respective regions can’t agree on anything. We are asking these people to represent out own interests, but we are coming from completely different worlds. Tonight at dinner I was completely shocked by how out of place I felt in the restaurant.
The other thing I would like to note is how our trip is going in relation to our plan. Our itinerary is a super brief outline with a few key things we would like to remember to see in each place and a hotel reservation for each city we plan to sleep in. Every once in a while I am irritated that we aren’t getting to our daily destination at the time we wanted to get there. However, today I realized how much I appreciate our loose schedule and our spontaneity. I am so glad we both felt like it was perfectly acceptable to spend 30 minutes or so at Wall Drug even though we didn’t even know about it before. I am also so glad that there has been very little hesitance about pulling over or stopping at things that look interesting. We have seen some AMAZING things just because we decided it looked like it might be worth stopping for. I realize not everyone has the time or resources to travel across the country for 10 days, but this has already been SO great!
LOL MY HAIR!!! Hours in the car + dry desert air + wind + I washed my hair… !!!
Day 5 (August 19, 2011): Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to Rapid City, SD
Last night we stayed in the Canyon Campground of Yellowstone, which has showers, so we are wearing new outfits in the pictures… just for you!
We started the day with a 3 mile run around the campgrounds. I forgot we were at such a high altitude, so I was a little concerned when I was immediately out of breath. Even after we had remembered that, it still felt demoralizing to be struggling so much to run 3 miles. We ran up a “service road” where park visitors aren’t allowed to drive, and we saw 2 male deer chilling on the side of the road. They were HUGE, so I wasn’t even sure if they were deer. It was so cool to be so close to them and feel like I wasn’t really disturbing them like I would be in a car.
I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, so this was super cool for me. Brendan, who has visited the Grand Canyon, said the thing that made this canyon so stunning was the vegetation and variety of terrain all around the canyon walls, rather than desert. There was a huge forest all around the canyon!
The viewing area for the waterfalls was REALLY cool because we were right at the brink of the waterfall…
Obviously, the fact that I took this picture just feet from the raging water is really cool, but the most fascinating thing to see was the crazy speed that the water was traveling at as it went over the edge and the constant flow of such an enormous amount of water.
We loved the waterfalls. I started coming down with a cold at the canyon, so I felt a little more fatigued during each trek, but it was still really cool.
While we were still in the park driving along the Yellowstone River, we came to a point where a few cars had stopped in both directions. That means something exciting in the road, obviously. Well, it turned out the oncoming traffic was stuck behind a single enormous buffalo that had decided to go for a walk down the center of the lane. At least he was in the right lane… Brendan took this picture from the driver side as the “oncoming traffic” went by…
Only a few minutes later we approached another big traffic jam. There was a ranger on each side of a bridge blocking traffic because there was a herd of at least ten buffalo in the middle of the bridge. I jumped out of the car and ran ahead to get a good picture… that is when my camera died. F! Brendan parked and ran over with his phone to take a picture, but by that time one of the rangers was herding the buffalo off of the bridge by making shooting sounds in his intercom. The buffalo didn’t really want to move, but eventually they were all coming towards our side of the bridge, so the ranger told everyone to get back in their cars because they couldn’t predict what the buffalo would do when they got off.
Our drive out of the park was also REALLY beautiful, but as I mentioned, my camera died. I know, amateur blogger alert…
The rest of the day was spent driving through Wyoming. We had a late Mexican food lunch in some town, and then we hade Oreo McFlurries for dinner. Don’t worry, I also had a half pound of jelly beans for my afternoon snack! Getting your fruits and veggies in while in the Midwest can be difficult, but I think I got it covered with the lemon-lime and tangerine Jelly Bellies!
Stay tuned for Day 6 as we hit as many attractions as possible in South Dakota…