Centerville, UT to Hartford, CT… HOLY FRIGGIN’ CRAP even for adventurous folks like us, this was one heck of a drive! I am so glad we made this drive in the summer though, I can’t even imagine driving across 12 states in the winter!
I begged Rob to stop at every state sign we passed as we made our way East. We started in Utah and drove through 11 states on our 5 day journey: Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, finally ending up at our final destination in Connecticut.
I was really excited about the stops we had planned along the way! These little pit stops gave us motivation to continue the drive, otherwise I think both of us would have lost our minds. We had to be in Hartford by the 18th for Rob to be to work, so that only gave us 5 days to cross the country, but we made the most of every stop!
Martin’s Cove – Wyoming
Our first stop was at Martin’s Cove in Rawlins, WY. We didn’t have enough time to do the hike out to the cove, but they had a short hike right next to the Visitor’s Center that we thought would be good to stretch our legs. We didn’t learn quickly enough why the heck this hike was named “Devil’s Gate” or we might not have been so adventurous to brave the hike. It was blasting hot outside and the trail ran right along the river – a recipe for disaster we had not put together. The mosquitos were out, but it wasn’t until we were halfway to the gate that they really started to attack. They were biting so badly, I gave up walking and started running, foolishly thinking I could outrun them – hah! Rob and I both ran all the way to the gate. We hardly even spent any time there, because as soon as we stopped running we were sitting ducks for the mosquitos and they were ALL OVER US like! I stomped my feet and flailed my arms, nothing helped. They were relentless! After only a minute or two, if that, I started running, and I did not stop until we got back to the car! I was hoping to have a peaceful moment reflecting on the pioneers at the gate, but instead of a peaceful moment by the river/gate, I had an experience probably much truer to the pioneers’ reality. I can’t imagine all of the physical challenges they faced blazing a trail West across the country to get to Utah. The only way I believe they could have done it is through their faith in God and His easing their burdens along the way. Their conversion to the Savior and the gospel of Jesus Christ must have been so deep, their spirits moved their feet and they continued onward, inspite of every hardship. I don’t know how else they could have done what they did. I look forward to meeting these pioneers one day and hearing their stories.
Independence Rock – Wyoming
Our next stop, a short ways down the road from Martin’s Cove was Independence Rock. Many emigrants carved their names on this large granite rock as they passed through. We climbed up the backside of the rock to get a closer look at the carvings on the top. It was cool to see the names and dates carved into the rock. For me, it really made these people come alive. They aren’t just names carved into a rock, they are real people with real stories. There are so many questions I have for these brave souls who traveled far and wide in search of freedoms of all kinds. I admire them and their dedication to finding a better life, even if it was an incredibly difficult journey in all aspects of their lives, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Devil’s Tower – Northeastern, Wyoming
Looks like we were on a devils kick the first part of our trip… first Devil’s Gate, then Devil’s Tower. Rob has commented several times about how many things are named with devil in the name – maybe it speaks to their nature. 😉 This was our first time seeing this monster tower in person and it really lived up to all the hype. It is such a cool and unique wonder. The tower looked like a giant had first formed a mud castle while the soil was wet and then taken its hands and run his enormous fingers down the sides, creating deep rough ridges that hardened as the masterpiece dried. I loved it. I have never seen anything like it. You aren’t allowed to climb the tower without a permit, but Rob and I hiked all the way around the base and got to see the towers many faces. I am so glad we stopped here, even if the entrance fee was $20!
Mount Rushmore National Memorial – Black Hills Region, South Dakota
Oh this was one of my favorite stops! I wish we had had so much more time, but I am so happy we made enough time to see this beautiful piece of history. Rob had been here before, but it was my first time. Many people had told me not to set my expectations very high and that the carvings were much smaller than I would expect. I don’t know if my expectations were low or what, but I was super impressed with the carvings and the whole memorial. The amount of detail they put into every head/face of each of the Presidents was incredible. Mount Rushmore and the four American Presidents carved into its rock face were created to symbolize the principles of liberty and freedom on which this nation was founded. I think it was beautifully and skillfully done. I love who and what it represents. I also love the granite posts lining the walkway leading up to the mountain. Each one has a state and what number and year that state joined the union written on each of the four sides, with its flag at the top of the post.
We asked a woman to take a picture of us with the memorial and when I got in the car to look at the pics she had taken, she had completely cut out the Memorial – haha!! Luckily we had taken a few too. Another reason why we usually just take selfies wherever we go – shaking my head. :}
The museum below ground was really well done and reminded me why I love history so much. These are two of my favorite quotes from the museum:
“We act not for ourselves but for the whole human race. The event of our experiment is to show whether man can be trusted with self-government.” (Thomas Jefferson, 1802)
“We, here in America, hold in our hands the hopes of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men.” (Theodore Roosevelt, 1912)
There is no doubt in my mind, God played a huge role in preserving this land and forming the foundation of this great nation.
Wahoo for deep dish Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnati’s – LIFE CHANGING! This pizza was so deep, it was basically the thickness of a lasagna. I don’t normally like a lot of red sauce on my pizza, but THIS pizza, changed my whole view of red sauce – oh me oh my! A deep, thick, perfectly baked crust filled with cheese swimming in chunky marinara, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! If you’ve never been to Lou Malnati’s in Chicago, you must drop whatever you are doing and GO NOW! Your life will be changed forever!
Chicago LDS Temple
Rob and I love to go visit every temple we can, especially when we are visiting somewhere from out of town. Although the temple was closed, the gate was open with free access to the temple grounds. We spent some time walking around and enjoying the beauty of the landscaping and the fountain near the entrance doors. The architecture of the Chicago temple reminds me a lot of the Boise, Idaho temple. Every temple is so beautiful and designed to reflect things characteristic of the area in which it is built. I love everything about the temple and look forward to a lifetime of learning more about it and the sacred covenants made therein. I am so grateful we were able to see this beautiful temple up close and experience it’s greatness for ourselves. We hope to visit every temple all over the world!
We drove into downtown Chicago and thought parking was going to be a total nightmare, especially pricing and with the big Pokemon Go event going on, but we found a parking garage with open parking only a few blocks from Millennium Park, and the cost was reasonable! As we got closer to the park, the streets were filled with people, most with their phones out and Pokemon on the screen. We like to play a little P-man ourselves, so we stopped for a quick raid before we got to Millennium Park and I got a shiny Lugia (for all of you who play Pokemon, you’ll understand)!
This was my first time in Chicago and there was so much to see! We didn’t have much time, but with all of the commotion, the crowds of people, the surrounding buildings, the fountains, the restaurants, the creative window displays, everything being totally new to me, I kept lagging behind. Rob had to keep hustling me along. I was a bit starry-eyed with the whole experience – can you blame me? Small town girl meets big well-loved and talked about city she has imagined coming to for years and she’s finally made it! One of the things that surprised me the most was that the giant silver sculpture that looks like a bean, which I always thought was called the bean, is not even called the bean! Who knew?? The actual name is Cloud Gate… uh what? Doesn’t seem as fitting to me, but there you have it. I will still forever call it the bean, because that makes me happy. The bean was awesome. I loved that it reflected everything happening around it on it’s reflective surface. That was fun!
We also walked the Magnificent Mile and got a nice view of river as we walked across the DuSable Bridge. The whole mile was really beautiful, lined with ornately designed and modern buildings, little shops, restaurants, and of course, a Garrett’s Popcorn! Our few short hours in Chicago only made me want to see more. I can’t wait to go back and keep exploring this awesome city.
Quick pit stop in Cleveland for a delicious poke lunch – yum! In our short time there we got a glimpse of the outskirts of the city. The European influence is felt all throughout the architecture and design of many of the buildings, bridges, and homes. I can’t say much about this city because we didn’t see much, but hopefully some day we will be back to spend some quality time discovering the why behind those that love Cleveland.
Chocolate chocolate chocolate! There was no way we were driving across the whole state of Pennsylvania without touring the Hershey Chocolate Factory! We pulled into Hershey and rolled up to the chocolate factory around 10:30pm, and it was buzzin’ with people – where there is chocolate, the people will flock! Outside there were adorable old forest green trolley cars for transport between the parking lots and the amusement park. The factory was all lit up with bright purple lights, highlighting the cleverly designed and adorable animated chocolate characters on top of the entry; talking Reeses cups, a chocolate kiss wearing pink lipstick and high heels, and of course, a talking Hershey bar. The tour was a short ride through the factory, with the animated characters showing/explaining the chocolate making process and at the end of the tour we were given a free mini Hershey chocolate bar! The ride let us out back at “Hershey Chocolate World” where there was all kinds of merchandise, candy, and all kinds of treats and baked goods for purchase. I am like a magnet to ice cream, I can smell it from a mile away. I can easily walk away from candy and other snacks, but ice cream, that is my thing! My chocolate peanut butter hot fudge sundae lathered with whipped cream was a solid choice to end our Hershey chocolate world experience – an experience that should be had by all, chocolate lover or not. This place was full of color, life, and fun, even nearing midnight. Fun-loving chocolate lovers never sleep and are always smiling.
From the time we were dating, and Rob drove out to Denver for a work pick-up, he had talked up Waffle House, a home cooking, old-fashion, greasy food diner chain that I had never been to. When he realized there were Waffle Houses in Pennsylvania, he said we had to go. I was game! We arrived shortly after midnight, but hadn’t had dinner, unless you count the hot fudge pb sundae we had at the chocolate factory. 😉 I was all ears for Rob’s recommendations for what to order as from our conversations, he sounded like a Waffle House veteran. The way they describe the topping options for the hash browns on the menu was probably my favorite part of the experience – smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped, and country. I got mine smothered and covered, which is grilled onions and melted cheese. The hash browns were perfectly crispy and with just the right amount of cheese and salt. We left there with full bellies and happy hearts. The way Rob talked about Waffle House, I could tell this was a place that has so many sweet memories for him with his family. I was grateful to create a special midnight memory with him at this nostalgic diner, and the food was pretty good. I would especially come for the company and the hash browns again.
After we left Waffle House, we made the long stretch all the way to Philadelphia to see my sister and her beautiful little family. Here she was 8 months pregnant and waited up for us to make sure we arrived safely. It was our first time visiting their home and our first time in Philadelphia! We couldn’t stay long, but we spent a few hours together the next morning, and then grabbed a philly cheesesteak sandwich on our way out of town. After the first juicy bite, I knew why people come to Philly – holy yum city! They know how to make a cheesesteak!!! Oohwie! Jon’s Roast Pork is where it is at!
Just as we left Philly, heavy thick clouds filled the sky and the rains began to come down. Growing up in Oregon, I am use to rain, but I had never seen rain like this. This was no afternoon rain, this was a torrential downpour. The rain was coming down so hard and fast, our windshield wipers couldn’t keep up and we could barely see the road in front of us. Traffic was moving at slug speed, and there was no telling when or if these clouds were ever going to let up. After driving in this horrendous rainstorm for over an hour, it began to ease up enough that we could see the road and traffic began moving a bit quicker. We continued driving, through the outskirts of New York, and finally we were welcomed to Connecticut.
The rains didn’t stop the whole way to Hartford. Truthfully, I was trying to be positive and optimistic, even with all of the less than enthusiastic feelings Rob had expressed to me about Hartford in his many visits over the previous 4 months, but when we pulled into town, our new home, the clouds were thick, the sky was dark gray, the rains were coming down, and things looked pretty gloomy. Rob pulled into downtown and drove me to the welcome to Hartford sign and we got out to take a little video. Getting out of the car was nice, after our almost 6 hour drive from Philly. Feeling the fresh air and even the rain on my face brought encouraging thoughts about our new home to my mind. This was an opportunity for us to create a new home, develop new relationships, and explore a part of the country that is basically completely foreign to us. I jumped for joy as we celebrated our safe arrival to Hartford, Connecticut, our new home for a time. I believe that things are what you make them, and we are going to make this time in Hartford a grand adventure together!