Friday, January 25, 2008

Road Trippin'!!

It turns out, road tripping across the country is a blast! Even in winter and with a dog. Since Sammie had so much time off for Christmas this year, we decided to drive out to Utah to visit our families, rather than fly. (We had a wonderful time in Utah with family and friends. More on that later…) We looked at the weather forecast for Interstate 80, found the perfect window of time to get out of town, and drove! Except for one night in Wyoming, we had perfect weather the whole way. I never realized how cold Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota are, though. Every time I got out of the car, I thought, “Geez! Who lives here?!?” (And Cath, I was very aware of you NORTH of me. Stay warm!)
I compiled a list of top 10s for the trip. Here goes…

10. Infrastructure… Infrawhat? Let me explain. When Ben and Julie, Sammie’s parents, returned from their mission in Ghana, they repeatedly talked about infrastructure and how blessed we are to live in a country that has things like regular running water, electricity, roads, street lights, etc. I was so glad they pointed this out, because we really are lucky to have all this! For example, Interstate 80 runs about 5 miles from my house in PA all the way across America to about 5 miles from my parents house in Utah. And there were flushing toilets, nice hotels, places to eat, etc. all along the way. We were having trouble with weather in Wyoming (as I mentioned before). The wind was blowing snow across the freeway, which was pushing the car around a little, but then we would hit a patch of ice and it would push the car around a lot. 20 minutes after it became unbearable, though, we were in a warm, comfortable hotel ordering Chinese takeout.

9. Belgian Waffles… We stayed at some great hotels! Each morning, we got on the internet, figured out about how far we wanted to travel, then logged on to to find pet-friendly hotels near our destination. We always had continental breakfast at the hotel and especially loved the make-your-own Belgian Waffles. Yeah carbs!!

8. Starbucks… Sammie and I are Starbucks addicts. “2 venti hot chocolate with hazelnut.” It just rolls off the tongue. Especially when you say it three times a day… (btw – some of you protest that Starbucks offers nothing for the non-coffee drinker during the summer. We’d like to point you to the frappuccinos. Strawberries ‘n’ crème or chocolate chocolate chip. yum!)

7. The Prius… We love our car! We were amazed at how well it handled (except for the wind in Wyoming) and how much room we had. We put down the seats, so Phoebe hung out in the back with the suitcases while Sammie and I sat in front. My wonderful husband loves to drive. He thinks maybe he should have been a trucker. He drove most of the way while I crocheted, read, or played word puzzles. I finished an afghan for my sister Martha and started another one for the Thon auction. We bought some Bill Cosby cds and listened to those, or to other music, or to the local radio stations.

6. GPS… Sammie’s Christmas present this year was a GPS navigation system. We first bought a TomTom, but it died in Utah, so we exchanged it for a Garmin. We recommend the Garmin. Not just because it’s still alive after a month, but because it’s cool! We were able to keep track of exactly where we were and how far we had to go, plus we could find any cool restaurant we wanted to. More on that later!

5. Church… On Saturday night, we made it to Worthington, Minnesota. We found a local ward and attended church there Sunday morning. We loved the Spirit in the meeting. The saints bore humble testimonies of the workings of the Lord in their lives. We could tell that there was a lot of love and fellowship in the branch. A high councilor spoke about surviving a heart attack and his renewed appreciation for life. It was a wonderful service! We only stayed for Sacrament Meeting because of Phoebe (3 hours in a cold car...) but felt grateful we could be there.

4. Maggiano’s … Sammie’s favorite restaurant and for one reason only. Eggplant Parmigiana. He OBSESSES about this stuff. It’s really kind of cute. Anyway, we don’t have a Maggiano’s in State College, so obviously we needed to find one on our road trip. We found two.
We stayed our first night in South Bend, Indiana, and drove through Chicago the next morning. Our GPS was telling us that we were within a few miles of 3-4 Maggiano’s restaurants but we weren’t hungry yet. What oh what to do? We figured we would be ready for lunch in Madison, Wisconsin. (You I-80 enthusiasts will note that we are deviating from our route. See below.) But, there was no Maggiano’s in Madison. However, there was one in Milwaukee. And it was only a slight deviation from our route. Like traveling along the two sides of a triangle rather than across the hypotenuse. The servers at the restaurant were impressed when we told them we had driven about 50 miles out of our way to go to Maggiano’s.
The second Maggiano’s encounter happened on the way home. It was our last night and we knew if we could stay in Chicago that night, we could make it home the next day. We had directions to a pet-friendly hotel along I-80, but further research revealed that the nearest Maggiano’s would be 20 miles away. So we changed our night’s plans to stay closer to the Maggiano’s. (I didn’t really realize what big of freaks we are until typing this out.) As we neared our Italian oasis, however, we began to run out of time. A snippy-ish guy on the phone told me that Maggiano’s would close at 8:45 and we wouldn’t be able to get food after that. I’m usually the faster driver, but that news added some lead to Sammie’s right foot. We made it in the nick of time! (And then found out that the guy was wrong and we could have gotten food much later. Oh well.) We cuddled up in a warm hotel that night with Maggiano’s take out, knowing we would be home and in our own bed the next night!

3. Mount Rushmore… In a word: Wow! Sammie had wanted to see it since he was a wee lad. I had never seen it, either, and we both loved it! Our trip to Rushmore says a lot about our personalities. As soon as we got there, I had to rush to the bathroom. Sammie wandered all over the monument, taking pictures from every possible cool angle he could find. I rented a headset and did the audio tour, taking every opportunity to “press pound for more information.” When we got to the giftshop, I immediately went to the book section while Sammie checked out the DVD documentaries on Rushmore. We’re such nerds…

2. Phoebe… We love our dog! She was wonderful on the drive across the country. For the first hour or so through PA, she stared out the window and panicked each time a truck would pass. But then she calmed down and slept or stared at the driver. We worked out a system at rest stops—whoever had to go to the bathroom the most would do so while the other walked Phoebe, then we would switch. Most states had nice rest stops with designated pet areas. She was great in the hotels, too. At home, we don’t let her on our bed, but since it was vacation, we let her on to the hotel beds. It was fun to cuddle with her or play hide-and-seek in the sheets. She earned some more nicknames while on the trip… Feeble, from my Mom, and Phobia, from Anna and Spencer.

1. Being together… Cheesy, I know. But it’s true. Sammie’s a great travel companion. I had hardly seen him all semester, so it was fun to just be with him all day. He’s a good man and I definitely have a crush on him!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Phoebe Delilah

It's been a while since we've posted. Christmas break was long and relaxing. School has now started back up and it is just as time consuming as ever. Internship interviews are a plenty and offers are starting to come in. More on that later when there's something solid to write about. For now, you have to deal with one of 'those' dog owners who treats their dog like a child. We have a new joy in life and that is watching Phoebe play in the snow. She looks more like a rabbit because she leaps through it. Her tracks are mostly just big holes about 4 feet apart. If she's chasing something the holes are 6-7 apart (no kidding). It is quite humorous to watch because she just frolics through the snow leaping up and down and up and down and up and down. When she gets into really deep snow (like 2 feet or more) the leaps are a bit smaller and all you can see is her head popping up every couple of seconds. My nephew Matt really loves Phoebe and I hope he can someday see this - he will love it. Here is a picture of Phoebe leaping at me. We'll give a much longer post sometime later with an update.