… to New York!

After a couple of rough and emotional weeks and during a much-needed phone call with my amazing friend Steven one late September night, I ended up booking tickets to go visit him in New York for early November. We had been socializing about his upcoming visit to Houston but decided it would do us both some good for me to take a trip there, too! When Steven first moved to NY after college, I went every other year to see him. It had been 4 years since my last visit though because, ya know, life gets in the way… so, a trip was long overdue (and emotionally necessary).

My first two trips to visit him had been in late November or early December and were always beyond freezing. Winter had already set in NY both times, trees were already bare, everything already frozen. Steven suggested we target a slightly earlier visit so we could go “leaf peeping” and enjoy the actual Fall season. It was the best idea he had and it was a relaxing weekend! And before you all come at me with comments: yes, Steven and I are the cutest couple of all time but we have one major thing in common… we both like men. So, enjoy our adorableness as we are! 🙂

Friday, November 2

My flight was for around noon so I woke up, finished packing (Elliott’s disapproving eyes watching the entire time), and headed over to my Dad’s house to drop Elliott off for the weekend. The poor little pup HATES seeing my suitcase. After two 4+ week trips, can I really blame him?

We arrived at my Dad’s and were greeted by him and a puppy he had found. Oy. It was clearly a house dog but there was no tag with a phone number. That little dog was playful and energetic but sure knew the word “No” when I had to stand up for Elliott since Elliott does not know how to stand up for himself. Dad and I searched for the owners for a little bit then loaded up my car so he could drive me to the airport. We brought the new dog with us so he could stop at a Vet office on his way home and check for a microchip (flash forward, we found the owner on their NextDoor app and Dad dropped the lost puppy off at his rightful home that afternoon). There was some serious traffic that forced us to drive the opposite way down an access ramp of the highway but we made it to the airport with plenty of time. I thanked my Dad approximately 100 times for watching Elliott AGAIN (and for driving me… again) and headed inside.

The flight to NY always seems to go by quickly and I arrived in what seemed like no time at all. I caught an Uber to Steven’s new apartment. He and his roommate, Uyen (who also went to High School with us but graduated a year after us), had moved to a different area of Brooklyn and I was excited to see their new place. It was around 5:30pm so traffic was a little… trafficky… but the Uber ride was short. The Uber driver was a young student and was so friendly. I am so horrible at starting conversations with strangers after the friendly initial greetings but he was really good at keeping it going. I enjoyed talking to him!

I got to Steven’s apartment shortly after he got home from work – perfect timing. He, Uyen, and Topher (his cute mini Australian Shepherd) greeted me and gave me a tour of the new place. As expected, it was perfectly decorated and totally fitting to their style. The place seemed smaller than their old one but their kitchen and bathroom were HUGE upgrades compared to the old apartment. It was lovely!

Steven and I changed and freshened up and headed to the city to meet Meghan, Steven’s co-worker, for dinner and drinks. I had purchased the most awesome trench coat and was excited to wear it! We headed to the subway and I did not even realize we had crossed into the city until Steven mentioned it days later (I assumed we were in Brooklyn still) – goes to show how much I get turned around when I am there. I can navigate the world but get to NY and always feel upside down! Our first stop was The Immigrant, a wine bar. It was a low-key place and we had a round of drinks and got to know each other. I was a little anxious about there being another person there (and someone I did not know!) but it was great. Steven is always so good at making sure everyone is included in the conversation and comfortable. I appreciate that quality about him!

After drinks, we went to dinner at John’s at 12th Street, an Italian restaurant that Steven and Uyen had raved about. Expectations were high and were 100% met. Italian is not typically my favorite type of food but I got the Chicken Parmesan and it was everything. The restaurant had been on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network so you know it was good. The portion was HUGE so I gladly shared some with Steven. The vibe there was really cool and they had these candles that had burned forever which reminded me of an old cash-only bar in downtown Houston I had visited once. This restaurant happened to be cash-only too. Must be a thing!

Dinner was amazing and once we were stuffed, we headed to one more bar for a final round of drinks at Pierre Loti. It was another wine bar and it was completely packed so our time there was short.

Steven and I headed home and obviously had a photo shoot in the subway. Obviously.

We had a few more drinks at his fabulous kitchen table and I briefly video chatted with my friend Andrew who was in Mexico for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. I know what it is like to be there so I always make sure to answer when he called – it takes some serious support from friends and family to survive that training and he was totally there for me when I was away so I wanted to reciprocate.

It was late so we called it an evening. It was quite possibly the first time I felt distracted and remotely happy in weeks and for a few moments, I felt like I could breathe again. I was grateful to be there and peacefully fell asleep with ease; my anxieties of life completely erased, even if temporary.

Saturday, November 3

Steven had a long day planned for us! Past visits had taken us into the city and being a part of the hustle and bustle but this time, he planned a trip upstate to an outdoor sculpture park and some wineries.

Uyen was joining us so we all got up and got ready for the day. I struggled getting out of bed in favor of snuggling with Topher just a little longer but eventually managed to get myself up. Steven and I walked to pick up the rental car from Enterprise; he had made the great decision to drive ourselves versus taking trains and cabs everywhere to get up there. It was going to be a nearly 2 hour drive so we wanted to be comfortable. The walk to Enterprise was a little longer than I anticipated and even though it was cold and incredibly windy out, I had started to warm up! Plus, I was feeling all sorts of dehydrated from the night before and was nursing a decently sized migraine. I stopped to buy water for the day to try and get ahead of any issues.

We drove back to the apartment, picked up Uyen, and started our drive. The park was in NY but we had to drive through New Jersey first and we passed some of the most amazing color trees I had ever seen. It truly was Fall.

Realizing none of us had eaten, we stopped for breakfast at Matthew’s Diner. Steven wanted a “real diner” experience and this was the best we could find along our route. It was in the town of Waldwich which we had all immediately decided was haunted. Something about it just gave a haunting feel! Brunch was decent. I think we all spent more time trying to get a good video of Steven pouring syrup onto his pumpkin pancakes than we did eating. His poor pancakes were drenched by the time we got something decent! So extra.

On our way to the diner, we had passed an amazingly vibrant red tree. As silly as it sounds, I had never seen a tree that color in my life. We circled back to find it so we could take a photo of it. I had a fabulous red leather jacket on and I wanted to get a photo with it! When we arrived back at the tree, the owner of the house was outside and giving us looks for even stopping to take a photo of it so we decided not to have a personal photo shoot. He clearly had no idea what a special tree he had!

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We arrived at Storm King Art Center shortly after 1pm. Storm King was SO cool. Uyen referred to it as a “an Instagram millennial thirst-trap” because of how gorgeous the property was and how large and beautiful the sculptures were. It was true though, there were a lot of opportunities for photo ops. If I was still on Instagram (I deleted it a few months ago), I would have been all over it.

Y’all, THE. WIND. It was so, so windy. We braved a little bit of rain on and off when we first arrived but it was mostly sunny. It was just so. unbelievably. miserably. windy. My Houston, Texas, hot-yoga-loving, self was not cut out for that. Steven had on a sweater and Uyen’s jacket did not look THAT much warmer than mine so why was I teeth-chattering cold? The property was large and we did a lot of walking so that helped warm me up as time went on, though. Whew. Had it not been so windy, I probably would not have felt like I was in a walk-in freezer so I tried to escape the wind when I could.

We walked around for a few hours, soaked up the art and fresh air, and had mini photo shoots where appropriate. It was nice to be out of the city and somewhere so peaceful. There were muddy areas that we had to battle but overall it was just a beautiful, carefree afternoon full of laughs and jokes. I would find myself getting “in my head” about little things here and there but did my best to snap back to the present moment and enjoy where I was.

Our last statue was one that everyone loved to pose under. I made a comment about doing a headstand underneath it and was encouraged to try… and try I did. I struggled to get into and fell a few times. People were watching and I was feeling nervous with their unintended pressure! Plus, it was cold. I never fully got myself into position but Steven managed to grab a snap where it LOOKED like I did, even if my pale stomach was on display and I looked a mess. People had encouraged me to keep trying but after a few attempts, I had to throw in the towel and move on.

We left Storm King after a couple of hours and headed toward Brotherhood Winery, America’s oldest winery. On our way, we passed a bridge with a gorgeous view. None of our phones could capture how breathtaking it really was. The picture on the right is CLEARLY edited to try to show its true beauty but even then, it was more magical in person.

The winery was nearby so it was a short drive to it. Uyen and I rinsed the mud off our boots in the bathroom and then we all went in to do a wine tasting. It was after 4pm so tours of the winery were no longer available but we really only wanted to be drinking wine so the doing just the wine tasting was plenty. The whole property was like a small town and very quaint. They were setting up for a wedding and I completely understood why someone would want to get married there. It was lovely (even though I have almost zero pictures of the place and only one of this one barn).

We went inside and unfortunately got stuck behind a large group of girls. I say girls because even though they were of age to be doing a wine tasting, they acted and seemed like children. They all looked and dressed the same, it was kind of funny. We hoped to avoid being in their group but did not get lucky and ended up at the same counter as them. We positioned ourselves as far from them as we could get, ha.

The guy running the wine tasting was great. He was knowledgeable and funny and we enjoyed his company. He clearly did not like the group of girls either – they talked while he talked and constantly asked him to repeat himself. Whether true or not, he told us he was pouring us and the rest of the group more than he was them. I appreciated the little token of gratitude. We asked questions and learned a lot about wines and the history of the winery. I remember nothing… ha. That is what happens when I do not take notes for my blog!

We had 15 wines to taste so each flight, we would each try to get one of the 3 options and then try each other’s. I have never been a fan of white wine and I do not think that has changed. I also tried Honey Meade for the first time – also not a fan. I did try a chocolate liquor though and that was absolutely amazing; significantly more delicious than I expected. I liked a lot of the reds they had to offer but I like a red, so that was expected! It was a fun time! The only ever wine tasting I had done was in Italy and I was not a wine drinker at that time so this experience was definitely different in that I was more open to trying everything.

We decided to go to another nearby winery, Palaia Winery. The vibe there was VERY different. We could hear a party going on as soon as we parked and opened the car doors. It was much more of a dive-bar-type and “cool” environment. We did their wine tasting and I am sorry to say that I really did not enjoy any of their wines. I loved the place, but the wines were all… not for me. Not my taste. I cannot speak for Steven or Uyen but I downed my glasses just to get rid of them, not because I enjoyed them. If we did not have such a long drive back to the city, we probably would have stayed there longer and joined the piano bar crowd on the patio but we decided to be responsible and start heading back to the city.

It was a looooooooooooong drive back to their apartment. We were all exhausted and traffic was a mess. We entertained ourselves though and made it back safely!

The plan was to go to dinner so Uyen made a reservation at a restaurant for around 9pm. Uyen and Steven left to go get a bottle of wine and during their short trip, I managed to fall asleep… oops. My head had been hurting all day so it was only a matter of time, really. When they got back, they suggested we order-in instead and I was 100% on board with that idea! We ordered some delicious Chinese food. They shared wine and I stuck to water – Steven and I were taking a Bikram Yoga class the next day and I knew I needed to start hydrating.

We ate and hung out for awhile. It had been a long day and we were all completely spent. We started to watch “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” on Netflix; Steven made it about 15 minutes in before he left to go to bed but Uyen and I finished the movie because if you have not seen the movie, it is fantastic and worth watching no matter how tired you are! Once it was over, we both headed to sleep. I was out instantly.

Sunday, December 4

It was a wonderfully slow morning. Steven had to get up to walk Topher and return the rental car but I slept in. My body was sore so in preparation for yoga that afternoon, I started stretching in bed… but I kept falling back asleep. Eventually, we all got going and decided to go to brunch. It was impossible to get to the place they originally picked because so many streets were blocked by the New York City Marathon! We changed plans but took a quick break outside (the weather was perfect!) to watch the runners at the mile 12 marker. So many flashbacks of my half marathon came rushing back… I watched them in awe, cheering them on at their almost halfway mark. It was unbelievable how many runners there were; they kept coming and coming and coming!

After awhile, it was time to eat. We went to Cherry Point for brunch since that was the place we were originally going to have dinner at the night before. I passed on the morning drinks, still preparing for yoga, but the food was amazing! My avocado toast… so bougie.

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We parted ways with Uyen and went to get Topher to take him to the dog park to enjoy the weather. Topher has SO much energy and definitely knew where we were going because he was very excited the entire walk. Once we arrived, he ran around like a mad-dog. Elliott is not a real dog because when I take him to dog parks, he sits next to me. Topher, however, was born for dog parks. The park was small and grass-less but it was full – there were plenty of dogs for Topher to play with and boy, did he try to play with them all. He would bring us gross tennis balls and just beg for us to throw them. I did not want to touch it so I kicked it like a soccer ball and he would take off, searching for it in the leaves. If it ever got mixed up with other tennis balls, he would look for the perfect one and bring it back. It was adorable. Topher is a real dog! I loved watching him play. We walked across the street to meet up with Steven’s friend who also had a dog so that they could meet and play. His dog was more like Elliott – reserved and unsure about the whole ‘dog park’ thing. Dog personalities are so fascinating.

After about an hour or so, Steven and I needed to go home to get ready for yoga. We dropped Topher off and packed our things and started the trek. My Bikram Bestie from teacher training, Lidia, teaches at a studio in Brooklyn but it was an hour from Steven’s apartment! The hour actually went by really quickly which was odd considering how excited and eager I was to see Lidia. I had not seen her since January when she visited me so I was ready to give her a hug and especially ready and excited to take her class for the first time!

Once we arrived in Bay Ridge, it felt like we were in a totally different area (besides the fact that we were, indeed, in a totally different area). It was still Brooklyn but felt like a different city! The vibe was just different in a way I cannot really explain. We walked a few blocks to Lidia’s studio and she greeted us excitedly at the door! We hugged and hugged and hugged some more. I introduced her to Steven (who, by the way, was taking his FIRST Bikram Yoga class!) and she showed us around the studio. He and I went to the basement to change and get ready for class then went back upstairs to set up our mats. She had told us where the ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ spots in the room were and Steven chose a cooler spot – I allowed it since it was his first class! Hehe. Lidia’s class was amazing. It was not what I expected at all from her but I loved it and she kicked our butts, just like Bikram taught us. She is such a good teacher and I could tell the students love her, how could they not? She was so compassionate, encouraging, and cute! I loved it. I loved getting to finally take her class and seeing her again!

Steven did great and survived, even enjoyed the class himself and that made me happy. I never know how someone will feel when I bring them to class and I always secretly hope they love it as much as I do so I was glad he had a good experience. We waited for the room to clear out after class and then of course, took a million photos.

Once everyone else left, Lidia joined in with us!

We cleaned up and then headed to dinner nearby.

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Lidia picked the place, Cebu Brooklyn, and it was delicious! The restaurant was massive and the vibe inside was really cool. Lidia said the place looks totally different during the day but at night with the lights dimmed, it was nice. We had a few rounds of drinks and did family-style dinner; ordered several things and split. It was great catching up with Lidia and talking yoga but unlike Steven, I am not very good at keeping everyone “in the loop” during conversations. I tried, though! I am sure he felt left out during our yoga moments but Steven is also good at actively participating so maybe it was not as bad for him as my head made it out to be. When yogis get together, it is tough to NOT discuss yoga!

Steven and I had a long commute so we said our goodbyes and started the journey back home. We were both exhausted but also sad that the weekend was coming to an end.

Monday, December 5

Monday was a travel day! Steven had to leave for work as I was getting up. I was out the door an hour later and headed back to the airport to go home. I was sad on my way to the airport because I missed Steven already! The weekend was packed full of fun but did not seem long enough; it never does, right?

I had time to waste at the airport so I got something to eat, chatted with my dad, and watched Netflix. Steven and I still texted all morning about how sad we both were and I sent him this photo: airport vibes.

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The flight home was uneventful. It is always bittersweet coming home. The Uber ride to my Dad’s house was long but I was happy to see Elliott and snuggle him!

I am so happy Steven suggested I take a visit up there. Not only was it long overdue, it was just good timing. Steven and I have been such good friends for years and as all friendships go, there are times of closeness and times of distance. We have never been distant but I have felt especially close with him in the weeks leading up to (and after, since I am writing this a month late). His support, friendship, understanding, and compassion during a difficult and trying time in my life has been more than I could ever want from a friend and I am truly grateful for him. I have plenty of friends and family that have shown similar support and love to me right now (and I am forever grateful) but Steven has a deep understanding in a way I do not think many others could completely relate, and I have relied heavily on him. I love that we have maintained such a beautiful friendship over the last 10 years and that we can travel and vacation together so well. I look forward to many, many more trips in our future!

The trip was needed and while I enjoyed it, there were random moments that were tough for me; little reminders here and there (the Wasco sign I saw walking to Enterprise on Saturday nearly took the wind out of me) that triggered the feelings of sadness, pain, and loneliness that I was trying to escape but I pushed on and tried to put those feelings behind me. I did not want Steven, Uyen, or Lidia to notice my little struggles. As I thought about writing this blog post back during the trip, it sounded so depressing even though I was having a good vacation. As I actually put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) now, I remember those feelings but feel less hindered and paralyzed by them and with the clouds lifted, recall the trip in a much happier, positive way and for that, I am thankful. I only want to remember the good.

Until next time,

Jillian

 

… to Michigan

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Michigan with Bobby and his family for their annual week-long vacation at their family lake house off of Lake Superior. When they lived in Illinois, it was a short drive over but they all live in Texas now so a few years ago, they rented an RV to travel there together in-style. We decided to do that again this year but at the last minute, the guy we were renting from had to cancel. With no time to find a new one, Bobby’s friend (who works at Enterprise) hooked us up with a large Expedition for the trip.

I had heard so many amazing things about Michigan and we had planned it for so long that I was really looking forward to going! It ended up being a wonderful week with many firsts (my “firsts” are highlighted in pink along the way).

PS – you can click on images to enlarge them.

 

Friday July 27, 2018 – Day 1

On Thursday night, Bobby and I made the 3-hour drive from Houston to his parents’ house. We knew we would have an early morning start on Friday and a long day in the car so I was glad we decided to get a jump-start the day before. On Friday morning, Bobby and his dad, Kevin, picked up our rental car while his mom, Cathy, and I got the house ready. When they got back, we packed up our extra large Ford Expedition with our bags, tents, dog supplies, and coolers/snacks. My suitcase was ridiculously large and incredibly embarrassing but being that I had never been to Michigan and had no idea what I was getting into (activities we were doing, hot and cold weather, etc.), I needed to be prepared for anything. I have gone on longer trips with smaller suitcases so I hated that I over-packed and hoped no one would judge me! Now that I have been, I will know better next time and be able to pack more appropriately (but as a side note, I wore most of the things I brought). Bobby had a cool Starbucks to-go cup that we thought we had lost weeks ago at his or my apartment but magically found Friday morning at his parents’ house… and then re-lost while loading the car. After we re-found the cup, we we started our cross-country drive. Start time: 9:37am.

The first leg of the drive was short: a quick 5 minute drive to the local Veterinarian’s office. We needed to pick up Brian and Spike’s, Bobby’s parents’ little papillon dogs who were making the drive with us, medicine in-case we needed to lightly sedate them. After all, it was going to be a 24+ hour drive. It was not ideal for the dogs or for us to drug them, but after only a few minutes we realized we had no choice. There was no way they were going to be able to handle a drive like that without a little “assistance.” It was already a tight enough space with us and our luggage, we did not need their excited and cute selves roaming around the car for 2 days.

We stopped for breakfast at Whataburger about an hour later and kept on with the drive. Bobby had never had a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit before! Game changer. The next 5 hours went by very fast. It was still technically a workday for Bobby so he worked to keep himself busy. I napped a little bit but we all mostly entertained ourselves and socialized the whole time. I somehow won/earned 6 hours of unlimited lives on Candy Crush so that helped. We made it to Bryant, Arkansas before we stopped for gas. Everyone got a bathroom break, including the dogs, and we made ourselves sandwiches for lunch. Brian and Spike had settled down quite a bit but still managed to shed so we made another stop at a nearby Target to get a handheld, cordless, pet vacuum to help clean up the fur. It made me thankful Elliott does not shed! We also looked for a handheld buzzer so we could play the Family Feud board game later in the week but we came up empty handed (we never actually played the game while we were there). Cathy treated us to some dark chocolate peanut butter cups and we were on the road again.

Kevin pointed out things along the drive that all helped the time go by. He pointed out various businesses and landmarks like a steel company, ammo company, Highlands Milk, the Arkansas River and gave us fun facts like how that particular stretch of road has the most trucks on it because it is the only way to get to Memphis and how Arkansas is a huge rice producer. It reminded me of something my mom would do! A little education along the way never hurt anyone.

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Arkansas River

We drove through Tennessee and stopped in Missouri at the Missouri Division of Tourism Hayti Welcome Center (e.g. a rest stop). The sun was starting to set a little so it was pretty nice outside. The dogs got another break but we were all starting to worry about little Spike. He is an older dog and we were worried the medicine might have been too much for him (spoiler alert: he was fine!). Cathy busted out the wine and she, Bobby, and I enjoyed a much-needed glass!

Bobby was finished working so we decided to watch a movie on his iPad: “Game Over, Man.” It was difficult to share headphones and be comfortable in the backseat the way we had it set up so that did not last very long. It did help pass a little bit of time though and it made us laugh… even if it was kind of a dumb movie.

We crossed the mighty Mississippi River shortly after and made it to Mt. Vernon, Illinois around 9:15pm for dinner. The weather had significantly cooled off so I was glad I did not pack my jacket up in the trunk with everything else and instead had it readily available. Little win. We went to the Steak and Shake in the area but when we walked in, the waitress told us that she had just sat 3 large parties and it would be awhile before we would get food, so we left. Part of me appreciated her giving us a warning but part of me was annoyed that she did that. She turned away business! That is not good company practice, IMO. It was late and there were not many options in the area and we did not want to wait until we hit the next town, so we settled for Hardee’s across the street. Womp womp. The service in there was odd and questionable and the food was mediocre at best. I had never had Hardee’s before and to be honest, I would not care if I never had it again. It was fine for the night’s goal but I think I can cross Hardee’s off my list of places to revisit.

Earlier in the drive, Bobby booked us hotel rooms in Effingham, Illinois via Hotwire. Effingham was an hour away from Mt. Vernon so we ate quickly and got on our way. I think we were all exhausted by that point. Kevin had driven the entire time so it was probably good for him to rest, too. We got to the Baymont motel only to be told that they booked us with 2 smoking, non-pet-friendly rooms (i.e. the exact opposite thing we needed). We left but wanted a refund so while Kevin re-fueled the car, Bobby got on the phone with Hotwire for a refund. That was a total nightmare. We were on hold for basically ever and when we finally got an agent… oh boy. That guy was something else but Bobby handled him and the situation so well, way better than I would have which is one of the many things I love about him. Long story short: he called the hotel and the receptionist there told him that there WERE rooms for us and because of that, Hotwire could not issue us a refund. We did not want to lose the money so we turned around and tried to check-in again. The whole ordeal from the time we arrived there the first time to the time we actually received hotel keys was just about an hour. That was the last thing we all needed after already being in the car for 13 hours! But, we got rooms and that was all we could ask for. While we were unloading the car, the receptionist ran back over to us and told there was someone in one of the rooms she gave us and swapped keys with us. Yikes! That could have been bad… walking into someone’s room in small-town Effingham? That is how Dateline stories start. I was glad to avoid that situation. I skipped the shower, regardless of how gross my skin and hair looked like by that point, and opted to go directly to sleep in the smallest double bed of all time. We were asleep probably just after midnight. Not the best hotel we have stayed in… but not the worst. Again, it got the job done.

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Total travel time: 14.5 hours

 

Saturday July 28, 2018 – Day 2

I felt like the second my eyes closed, my 5:45am alarm was already going off. We decided to leave at 6:30am so it was another early start for us. I took a much-needed shower (What is it about traveling that makes a person get so gross? How does sitting in the car, or on an airplane, or at a hospital doing nothing do that to a person?!) and re-packed. Bobby re-vacuumed up the pet hair and we all re-packed the car. We had to reorganize just a little bit because Bobby was our new driver which meant I got to be in the front seat. The front seat was not nearly as comfortable as the back seat but I think it ended up being easier with the dogs because both dogs wanted to be with Cathy and Kevin and with them sitting in the back, there was a lot less dog-roaming. It worked out! We stopped at Starbucks for breakfast and coffee and officially kicked off day 2.

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Bobby had everyone choose an album to listen to at some point and we all had to listen to it regardless of how anyone else felt about it. It was a risky game but I liked it. Cathy picked a pretty good one (I forget which one) and when it was my turn, I picked Jo Dee Messina’s “I’m Alright” album. I told them how that album was my first real-taste of country music (with the exception of my 5th grade teacher’s obsession with Clay Walker), how my aunt had bought it for me, and how when I was younger and had a CD player it was basically the only CD I would listen to when we went on family vacations. To this day, something about travelling makes me want to listen to this album! I was nervous about my pick but it was received well! Whew. Bobby picked his album and then we listened to Jim Gaffigan and a few other comedians. I had started to fall in and out of sleep at that point but it was tough to sleep in the front seat. Also, I had the big responsibility of holding up Illinois’ version of an EZ Tag in the window as we went through tolls.

We saw the Chicago skyline in the distance around 10am. When Bobby and I visited Chicago, he pointed me in the direction of the town he grew up in but I did not realize at the time just how close it was. We were now in Wadsworth, his hometown. Kevin made a comment about visiting their old house but quickly dismissed the idea. I was glad when Cathy suggested we go anyway because I wanted to see Bobby’s hometown. I had given him the grand tour of where I was raised (old house, my schools, places I went, etc.) and I had hoped one day to see his so I was happy when we exited the highway for the short detour. They told me all about the area, the wetlands, and The Shanty (a restaurant owned by a family they know that was on Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network). They pointed out different places they would go and I really enjoyed hearing about it all. Kevin kept saying, “we are just giving you stuff for your blog.” While that may be true, it made me feel included and welcomed, maybe even a little bit special, for them to give me a tour and take me there.

Cathy called their old neighbors to tell them we were in the area and see if they were home so we could visit. They were there so we made a pit-stop. The weather had warmed up so I changed from leggings into shorts and we all visited outside for a little bit. Their neighbors were very kind. It was very obvious to me that everyone was happy to see each other and how close their friendships were. Bobby’s old childhood home was literally next-door so they told me all about the house and things they added and whatnot. The neighborhood was so different from the neighborhood I grew up in: no fences and more spaced out. It was beautiful. Bobby told me about just being able to walk through the trees in the backyard and be at his best friend’s house and pointed out where he and his friends would adventure to. Cathy shared stories and memories about the two families growing up together. I loved it all. It seemed like a really nice place to grow up and I was grateful they shared it with me. I also kept thinking to myself how much my brother-in-law would love the area and raise a family there (but he is not allowed to move my sister and nieces that far away from me so… irrelevant).

In an effort to get to our final destination while it was still light out (so we could set up tents easily), we said our goodbyes and got on the road again. About 2 seconds later, we were in Wisconsin. I had no idea we were so close to the border! Kevin noted the Bristol Renaissance Faire which sounded pretty comparable to the Texas Renaissance Festival I had been to before. A quick Google comparison shows Wisconsin’s at 4.8 stars and Texas’ at 4.6 stars (with a difference of only 20 reviews between the 2) so Wisconsin might us beat in that market!

We stopped at Woodman’s, a local/popular/apparently cheap liquor store to stock up for the week. Our car was already at max capacity but when you find 2 cases of water for $5.75 (70 bottles total), you buy it and find room! We bought more than enough alcohol and kept on our way. Waze proved to be the real MVP of the trip because as we approached traffic, it re-routed us to side roads and we probably saved ourselves from sitting in 30-60 minutes of nearly stopped, bumper to bumper, traffic.

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At about that time, my sister had posted a picture of everyone setting up for my niece’s 5th birthday party. I had debated a LOT before leaving for Michigan about missing her party but made the tough decision to skip it this year, the first one I had missed. I was confident in my decision but seeing those pictures made me sad; could not help it. I decided to video chat them before the party started. Bailey asked me if I was coming and if I was going to see her on her real birthday instead and it literally ripped my heart right out of me! The connection was bad so it was a short conversation but she seemed SO excited and happy and that made me happy too, even if I cried behind my sunglasses after we hung up. Shh. Luckily, Cathy was on the phone with Bobby’s aunt, Nancy, discussing the traffic we had just bypassed and how to get around it (Nancy and her family were driving up in an RV and scheduled to arrive shortly after us). I was thankful everyone was distracted so I could gather my emotions and kept on with the day.

It was a little after 1pm as we approached Milwaukee so we voted to stop at the Portillo’s in Greenfield (just South of the city) for lunch. Bobby took me to the Portillo’s in Chicago during our trip and at the time, I got their popular Italian Beef sandwich. It was my first Italian Beef and it was delicious! He had told me they also had amazing hot dogs but suggested I wait until our baseball game that night to try one so I missed out on the Portillo’s version. Who knew I would get a chance to try one this time around? We all got Chicago-style hot dogs and it did not disappoint at all. My hot dogs always either had ketchup/mustard or chili/cheese so one with “the works” was very different but very tasty. Their french fries were delicious and Cathy even ordered a piece of their famous chocolate cake for us to all share. Yum! (PS – we always did drive-thru on our stops or someone waited in the car, we never left the dogs alone in the car!)

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We continued on. It was a lot of driving but still seemed to be going by fairly quickly. We made it to Sheboygan, WI and passed the “World’s Tallest Symbol of Freedom” (a 400ft flagpole). Site note: I just read that article and it is only the 6th tallest flagpole in the world but is the tallest in America. We made it to Green Bay around 3:30pm and saw Lambeau Field from a distance. Bobby and his family are all Packers fans but I still like them anyway! I started to sleep on and off again but do not think I managed to get any productive rest out of it. Somewhere along the way, Bobby suggested we play the ABC game (of which we did not know the official rules so we made our own: find a word that begins with that letter of the alphabet). Cathy was making me laugh because she said we had an unfair disadvantage by being in the front seat! Not wrong, but she did beat us on a few letters. It was a scenic drive through some cute small times (shout out to Crystal Falls for being adorable). We made it all the way to the letter X before we gave up. We never found an X. However, it did kill a LOT of time and before I knew it, we were in L’Anse, Michigan at 6pm. We made a quick stop (and our last one before arriving at the lake house) at the grocery store. Joan, Bobby’s grandma/Cathy’s mom, wanted us to grab what she had been told was “the best frozen pizza”: Lozza Mozza. We picked up a few and kept on.

We were in the home stretch now and everyone was pointing out everything to me! They took me the scenic route and we saw the sun start to go down off of Keweenaw Bay off of Lake Superior. We passed the local bar they go to and that I had heard a lot about: The Finns. I was a little overwhelmed because they were all so familiar with everything and while I absolutely wanted to hear it all and see it all, it was difficult to keep up! They all have SO many fond memories and experiences in the area and it is clearly a place they understandably hold dearly in their hearts! (I loved the place too, I get it.) Finally, at 8pm local time (our time zone changed to be an hour ahead) we arrived in Skanee, Michigan in the UP (upper peninsula)! Bobby put the car in neutral and coasted down the road and into the driveway of the celebrated lake house on Huron Bay. My phone had officially lost signal somewhere between the grocery store and the lake house so I put it in airplane mode for 7 days and only used my phone as a camera; I was committed to true off-grid vacation!

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Joan and Hal (Bobby’s grandparents), were there anxiously ready to greet us. We said our hellos and let the dogs start to explore as we unloaded the car. They gave me a tour of the house and property and it was all so beautiful. The weather, the view of the water, everything. The amazing sunset definitely did not hurt my opinion! Kevin asked me if it was what I expected but honestly, I had no expectations. I had only heard so much about the memories there instead of descriptions of the property so I was going in blind. Bobby had told me about the stairs to the dock once before so that was the only part I was slightly familiar with but either way, I did not know what to expect. Bobby took me down to the dock and we soaked up the view for a little bit but we needed to get our tent setup before dark so we headed back up.

I forgot to grab the extra tarp (to put under the tent) out of his car when we initially loaded up the Expedition on Friday… and by “forgot” I mean, I did not know it was there to take… so we searched for a spare tarp on the pontoon and started on the tent. We (he) bought the tent on Amazon the week before: an “instant” one. It did not disappoint! We had that thing popped up in 10 seconds. It barely fit our queen-size air mattress but that was all the room we needed. We were not going to be spending hours in the tent so it only needed enough room for sleeping, which it had. Bobby picked a great spot for it: in between an area of trees, facing the lake.

Cathy had bought us all matching “happy camper” shirts from her last Colorado trip to wear when we initially were supposed to be in the RV so we changed into those and got a few pictures. Joan snapped a group photo for us. They were very comfy shirts and I love a good matching outfit! It was sweet of Cathy to think of us all and get those.

We poured a drink from the bar on the screened-in patio and then Bobby suggested to head to the park for the last bit of the sunset. He checked the bike tires in the garage to see if we could ride them but they were flat so we drove over instead. The park was really close so it was a short drive, I do not think either of us wanted to be in a car for a long time anymore! We sat on a bench right on the water watching the sun and enjoying a drink. It was so calm and peaceful. The water was still and looked like glass. That was definitely worth the 24+ hour drive.

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There was a raspberry bush we picked teenie tiny raspberries off of and ate. They were small but delicious. He also wanted me to see how cold the water was so I pumped the well and it. was. cold. Deceivingly cold!

When we got back, we all sat on the patio and drank more and ate dinner. Joan made Italian Beef and it was so good. I had been craving it since we talked about it at Portillo’s so I was happy. We snacked unnecessarily (a theme of the week), shared stories, and played games. Cathy was really good about keeping me caught up and included: she would explain something or tell me who someone was off to the side so I could follow along. Becky (Bobby’s friend) did the same thing for me when we visited Chicago. It must be a woman thing to recognize another woman is lost and want to help include them! Either way, I appreciated it. We tried playing Triominos, a game I had played a few times as a kid but never really understood. It was horrible and we hated it. Next. We switched to poker and that was when I learned all about “pokes.” Each person had a poke: a jar with money in it only to be used to play poker. They have all had their jars forever and have their names on them and silly things like “keep out” and “don’t touch” graffitied on them. Some people have a lot of money (mostly coins, some bills) and some have very little. We needed to get me a poke so I could play and funnily enough, there was a jar for one of Bobby’s ex-girlfriends. Mine now! I stole her money and wrote my name on the lid over her’s and after a few jokes about how the next girl will have a hard time covering my name yada yada yada, we played some Texas Hold ‘Em. I won a few rounds and managed to take quite a bit of money from Bobby, too! It was a fun first evening.

Bobby’s aunt, uncle, and cousins were scheduled to arrive that night but it was after 1am and we could not wait up any longer: we were exhausted. We got ready for bed and climbed into our cozy tent. It had cooled off a lot outside so the tent was actually very comfortable! I fell asleep quickly. The only downside of sleeping in a tent: when you have to take a late-night bathroom break, you have to layer up/put shoes on and run inside (unlike guys who can just step outside the tent and go for it – boys, ammiright?).

Day 2 Travel Time: 13 hours

Total Travel Time: 1 day, 10 hours, 30 minutes

 

Sunday July 29, 2018 – Day 3

Waking up in the tent was magical. Bobby got up around 9am but I hung back and slept another hour; I was so comfortable, I did not want to move yet. The air mattress had deflated a little bit which was not noticeable when we were both on it but once he got up and I sank to the ground, we knew we had a problem.

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When I finally got moving, I joined the crew inside. The rest of the group had made it to the lake house around 3am so they were all still sleeping. The lake house had 2 bathrooms but only 1 shower so in an effort to keep the bathrooms open, I showered “across the street” (i.e. 10 feet away) at the “neighbor’s house” (i.e. Bobby’s grandpa’s aunt’s house on the same piece of property). My conditioner had exploded somehow so I cleaned up that mess before finally washing off the long drive from the day before. I felt so much better! When I returned to the main house and opened the patio door, EVERYONE was sitting there and turned to look at me. I mean, everyone. It was so awkward and so intimidating. It was my first time meeting Bobby’s cousin Jake and his girlfriend Kellye so I said hello to everyone and awkwardly introduced myself to them and then made my way into the main part of the house to finish getting ready, something I now wished I had done at the neighboring house. Oy. I joined them when I was finished and we all hung out for a few hours while people took turns getting ready. The best line from the morning was from Cathy when she found out Bobby and I had a double sleeping bag: “y’all are gross” (said in a loving way, of course).

Sunday was also my niece’s actual 5th birthday so I called her to wish her a happy birthday. The lake house has a land line but you have to use a phone card which was kind of retro for it being 2018. My sister did not answer the first time, probably because it was a strange number, but I called again and got a hold of them. Bailey told me about her party and what her birthday plans were. I did not want to use too many minutes on the phone card so it was a short call but I am glad I got to make it. #auntlyfe

After everyone was ready, Nancy led their first ever family meeting. She wanted to go over general stuff: how you cannot have more than one kitchen appliance on at the same time or the power will go out, shower schedules, activities people want to do and how to accomplish them all, meals, etc. She wanted to get everyone on the same page so we could all make the most of our week. Hal took out hearing aids and eventually left, making us all laugh. Everyone was making jokes and having a good time with it (I jokingly suggested a talking stick and we ended up throwing around an old, circular, dust-filled pillow across the room to be able to speak, making us laugh more) but despite our jokes, I think everyone was glad she organized it because it was actually very helpful, especially for a new person to the group like myself. We also decided on our first group activity of the week: Slate River Falls.

Bobby, Cathy, Scott (Bobby’s uncle), Jake, Kellye, Emily (Bobby’s younger cousin), and I all left for Slate River Falls at 2pm (everyone else went to run errands and get groceries, which was greatly appreciated!). It was a short drive to the area and a small hike over to the falls: a slow incline, a hike along the ridge, and a very steep decline to the river/falls. It was a fairly easy hike/climb overall and we all made it in one piece. This was Bobby’s favorite place and somewhere he had frequently talked about before the trip. Also, one of my favorite pictures of him was taken at Slate River Falls so I was excited to see it. It did not disappoint! The whole area was so beautiful and peaceful. There were a few other people swimming in the area in front of the falls so we waited by the river in the rocks to take photos of the falls. Emily swam in the water which was brave because not only was it cold, but Cathy had mentioned leeches once! Yikes! Bobby taught me how to skip rocks and while I was not very good (I mean, I was horrible), I did have a few good skips. The other group eventually left and we all hung out there taking photos, relaxing in the area, and skipping rocks. It was a great time and I could see why Bobby loved it so much. We left around 4pm. That steep decline to get down to the falls was much more difficult to climb up than down but again, we all made it. Jake dropped some trash so he slid back down to get it, cutting his arm along the way, but he made it too.

Our next stop was The Finns (the local bar). We were going to meet the other half of the crew for the bar’s 50% off pizza night but they had all eaten somewhere else earlier in the day. We were starved, however, so we ordered a few appetizers to share and a couple rounds of drinks to satisfy us for a little longer. I had a vodka grapefruit that I enjoyed a lot but my 2nd drink was not my favorite, at all. I ordered the same thing but it was a different waitress and she used a different grapefruit juice and I did not care for it. Everyone else thought it was fine but I had to really woman-up to drink it. The original waiter (not sure but he may have been one of the owners or managers?) came to ask us how things were and everyone suggested I return the drink for a new one but I did not want to be rude or cause problems so I said it was fine. I guess he felt bad so he brought me a small token for a free drink. As he called it, “it can either be a free drink or a cool souvenir.” I so badly wanted to keep it as a souvenir… but a free drink would be nice too. I saved it for another time and after pre-ordering a few pizzas for 2 hours later, we headed home.

At the lake house, we played cards, drank more, and took a few rounds of schnapps. Jake is a bartender in NYC so he was making drinks for everyone as we enjoyed our game night, passing time until it was time to go back to the bar for our pizza. At 7:30pm, we crowded into the Expedition (I sat on the middle console in the front seat…) and went to The Finns only to be immediately told that their pizza oven had broken for the night. Sigh, back home we went. Luckily, we had those Lozza Mozza pizzas and leftover Italian Beef so there was enough food for everyone. The Lozza Mozza did not live up to the hype but the Italian Beef was just as delicious as the night before. We had established a rule during the family meeting that whoever cooks does not have to clean so Kellye and I took clean-up duty after dinner. We bonded over being the outsiders and took guesses at where dishes went in the cabinet.

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It was a casual night but I felt like I needed a little breather outside so I headed to the dock for a small mental break. Bobby joined me a little later which was sweet of him. It was already 9:30pm but still looked like 7pm outside. The mysteries of the UP! We moved to the fire pit to enjoy the beautiful sunset and had a few more drinks before the mosquitoes got to be too much and we headed back to the patio for another poker night. I had taken Bobby’s money the night before and had to lend him money to get started but not to worry, he won it all back and then some. Kellye, who had learned how to play earlier in the day, won the most. You have to watch out for those quite ones! Sneaky. It was really fun and we all had a lot of laughs before calling it a night around midnight. We tried to look at the stars but the moon was too bright apparently so no such luck. Bobby and I put more air in our mattress (instead of replacing it entirely with an extra one Kevin brought and offered to us) and went to sleep.

 

Monday July 30, 2018 – Day 4

I woke up a few times feeling a little sick, possibly from eating and/or drinking too much the night before. Oy. The tent was warmer than the first night but still incredibly comfortable. You cannot beat that Michigan air! The mattress had deflated a little again but we sort of just made it a habit to re-inflate it every night. I should probably toss that thing out. Anyway, Bobby and I got up around 8:30am because during the family meeting we had volunteered to make breakfast for everyone. I decided to take a quick shower while everyone was sleeping to get ahead of the rush later while Bobby started breakfast prep. Together, we made an amazing breakfast in the cramped kitchen using just one appliance at a time. We did somehow manage to short circuit something anyway and the oven went out but Kevin quickly fixed it and we were back in business. We made: hashbrowns, bacon, sausage, eggs with peppers/onions/sausage/cheese, and eggs with just cheese. I toasted up a few tortillas and we put out all the works like salsa, sour cream, and cheese. When Bobby and I first started dating and would work from home together, we got in the habit of making elaborate breakfasts. We eventually toned it down a few notches (i.e. eliminated the potatoes mostly) but I still think we are the King and Queen of breakfast. Also, I love breakfast food and will eat it at any point in the day. As we were wrapping up, people started waking up and helping themselves. Everyone loved it and thanked us and that made me feel good.

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It was another beautiful day and after everyone was fed, had their coffee, and cleaned up, we started organizing for the day’s adventure: a pontoon ride to Lake Superior and to the Mouth of the Huron. It was decided the night before that we would leave at 10am but that might have been a tad ambitious; the alcohol might have skewed our ability to come up with a realistic time. By the time lunch was packed in coolers, drinks were organized, and everyone was in their beach gear, it was 12:30pm. We loaded up the pontoon and headed out. The group consisted of: Bobby, Cathy, Kevin, Nancy, Scott, Jake, Kellye, Emily (and her deaf dog Kip), and me.

We made a quick pit-stop at Witz Marina to get more gas for the boat. Apparently it was going to be a long ride over to the beach (an hour or so) and we needed to be sure we had enough to get there AND back with some to spare. The last thing we needed was to get stuck in the giant Lake Superior and disappear into the abyss… but Scott and Hal were of course not going to let that happen. Us “kids” went into the marina store and looked around. Bobby and I planned to come back to get a few souvenirs later.

The weather was perfect for the occasion and we had a very gorgeous boat ride. We passed Lightfoot Bay, Point Abbaye (where the bay essentially turns into the lake), and saw some of the islands on the lake in the distance. We passed all types of other lake houses and campsites and the group shared stories about past trips. Scott shared fun facts along the way about the water and the lake, discussing how deep it can go and just how large it really is. I was also asking him a lot of questions… hopefully my curiosity did not annoy him. Cathy, who had gone to Michigan every year since she could remember, could not recellthe last time they took the pontoon over to the beach instead of driving. They really pulled out all the stops for us (Kellye and me, the newbies) and I appreciated it.

We arrived to “the mouth” just before 2pm. Jake and Bobby anchored the pontoon and Kip jumped off as fast as he could to play in the sand and water. We unloaded our belongings and got settled. On our way over, it was pointed out that no one brought a lighter or matches to start our fire to be able to make our hot dogs for lunch so, the first thing Nancy did was go greet a stranger and borrow a lighter! Bobby showed me around the beach and I got in the freezing cold water despite not wanting to be in the freezing cold water. I do not like being cold but I was not going to miss out on the opportunity to swim in Lake Superior for the first time and he was so excited to be there and swim that I did not want to let him down. Thankfully, the water there was crystal clear and you could see the bottom which helped me feel a little more comfortable. I was still freezing though so I only went about waist deep. Bobby, Jake, and Kellye all went under the water and hey, good for them! After a quick dip, Bobby and I collected sticks to help start the fire pit and people started eating lunch. I was not hungry so I soaked up the sun (even got a sunburn later despite putting on sunscreen) and enjoyed the scenic view of the beach and lake. It really was breathtaking. After lunch, Bobby and I walked back over to “the mouth” again (where the lake meets the river) with Cathy, Jake, and Kellye. Bobby swam to the other side of the river and as much as I did not want to swim over there because of the cold water, I finally stopped over-thinking and just went for it. I was freezing but Bobby was proud of me. The things we do for others! We all frolicked over on the other side of the beach for a little bit and then swam back over to our side where I did my first shotgun. Yep, you read that correctly. I had never shotgunned a beer before, mostly because I do not like beer, but I figured why not? If I could get in water I did not want to be in, I could do that too. I lost and only drank about 85% of it but hey, I tried. Better luck next time. (There is video of it but I need to track it down!) Around 4:30pm, we packed up the pontoon and headed back toward home. I truly loved going to the beach and seeing where they had all spent so many summers. I do not have their memories so it was different for me than it was for them to be there but I still enjoyed it all the same and was glad to be able to visit a place I had heard so much about.

Once on the boat, Scott decided to take a detour home and go “swing by” the nearby islands for a minute. Bobby once made a comment about how the lake was so deep that if you ever sank, they would never find you…. so the idea of “crossing the lake” to see the islands seemed a little risky but by that point I had a nice buzz going so I was up for it. Plus, I really did want to see the islands. What we thought were just 2 islands in the distance ended up being 3 with a few little ones. We never got off the boat but we got pretty close to one of the islands and learned it was the Huron National Wildlife Refuge. It was beautiful (how many times have I used that word now?).

The coast was so off in the distance now that I could easily understand now how someone could get turned around out there and get lost. I trusted Scott and the regulars to get us all back safely. I could see Point Abbaye so it was a nice landmark for where we were headed. Scott brought us up close to see it, too. It was a long boat ride back with the detours and towards the end, I genuinely thought my bladder might explode. The guys took turns peeing off the back of the boat but us girls suffered. When we docked back at the house after 2 hours on the boat, I RAN upstairs. I went back down to help everyone unload our things then we all relaxed for a bit. We took more shots and watched Scott and cousin Rus (who had come to visit everyone) chop wood for the fire. Little Duke, their grown-man neighbor, had brought over some cherry liquor and mixed it with redbull for us to take shots of. I volunteered to pass them out, hoping there would not be enough for me, but when I ran out, Bobby poured me one. Almost got out of it! It was actually good, though.

Eventually a few of us made our way inside to play Mexican Train, a game my family enjoys and plays frequently that I introduced to his family at his parents’ house back in Texas. We taught Jake to play and made it through a few rounds before dinner was ready around 9pm. Kevin had fired up some steaks and Joan had made twice baked potatoes. There was also salad and of course bread. Everything was delicious and because I had skipped the lunch at the beach, I was starved. The twice baked potatoes were so amazing that it is worth mentioning them again.

Depending on the weather, the patio would sometimes be a little stuffy and it had started to get a little gross so we sat outside by the fire for fresh air and to watch the sunset. Once the mosquitoes came out and it cooled off outside, we returned to the patio to finish our game of Mexican Train from earlier. Cathy had us laughing HARD with an attempted Ronald Reagan impression. It was amazing. It was a fun, low-key night filled with a lot of laughs and good times. Bobby got weirded out when I called him Bob but when everyone else in the family was calling him that, it was difficult for me to not call him that, too! We played a few rounds of Phase 10, another favorite game of everyone’s, and called it a night a little after midnight. Even when you are not on vacation, getting ready for bed is the worst part of every night but when you ARE on vacation, it sucks 10x more. But, you do it nonetheless!

 

Tuesday July 31, 2018 – Day 5

I slept SO hard and good again but for the second night in a row, had a really bad dream. All of my dreams in Michigan had been incredibly detailed and vivid which was interesting on its own but it was unfortunate they had been bad ones. I woke up around 3:30am thinking it was real and that was not a good feeling! But, it was not real and everything was fine. After my bathroom break, I fell back asleep and went straight back into the dream where it had left off. That Michigan air, y’all. I shook the bad dream off again when I finally got up around 9am. We had biscuits and gravy for breakfast and lounged around as everyone slowly got ready for the day’s adventure: Big Eric’s Bridge. But first, Jake and Kellye took the kayak out and needed to go launch it into the water at the park so we took a ride over to the park in Hal’s truck then Bobby and I walked back to the house from there. It was warm out but not in a painfully hot way like Houston. It was a nice walk and way to start the day.

We still had some time before we were leaving for Big Eric’s so I went down to the dock and did a little yoga. My body needed it and it was peaceful down there. I made it to Triangle pose (I was doing Bikram Yoga, obviously) before Bobby came down to hang out and then the two of us sat in the water on the pontoon under the canopy for a little bit. It was so nice with the water rocking us. I was so comfortable with his arm around me in the shade that I kind of dozed off for a little bit! It was one of my favorite moments of the trip so far.

It sounded like people were getting ready to go so we headed back up. Cathy was setting up a game so I helped her and then we all began packing our lunch and drinks for Big Eric’s. I made sandwiches for everyone, wrapped them, and put their name on them despite them all consisting of the same ingredients. We grabbed other snacks and got on our way around 2pm. The group consisted of Bobby, Cathy, Jake, Kellye, Scott, Emily (and Kip), and me.

I LOVED Big Eric’s bridge. Loved. The area is a campground with a river running through it but where they usually go is right where the bridge is. The whole area is covered in rocks with the water nearby and it was amazing. I loved climbing on the rocks and walking through the shallow water. It was peaceful back there, too. We walked around and then took a break to enjoy our sandwiches. I tried to hop from one rock to another, mis-judged the distance, and one foot fell into the water. The fall hurt my hand a little bit and I was bummed to have one of my new Sperry’s soaked but I guess on the bright side, it was finally broken it. The first scuff on a new shoe is the worst but once made, you do not have to be so careful anymore. Plus, the point of Sperry’s is to be able to get wet so it was fine. Cathy suggested I dip the other shoe in water so the color dried evenly which was a good idea but then I would have two wet shoes… so I did not. Looking back, I should have because yep, my two shoes are slightly different colors now.

We hung out at Big Eric’s until around 3:30pm and then went to find our next adventure. Bobby had found a waterfall, Quartzite Falls, on Instagram that he wanted to go find in real life but some of the group wanted to head home so we dropped everyone off and the two of us went off to find it on our own. Bobby had a general knowledge of where-ish we were going and we found the road we thought would lead us there. The car path was blocked so we parked, hopped the chain, and went into the woods by foot. To be fair, the chain did not have any indication of private property or warnings to not enter so it seemed legal. Bobby found us walking sticks and we hiked through tall grass, weeds, thick forest, and somehow found our way to the river (Slate River). It was really fun but I was slightly worried about poison ivy, bears, and ticks. However, we were so deep into the woods that we would not be able to do anything if something happened anyway so I might as well not worry about it and enjoy the hike.

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The path down to the river was tall and steep so we hiked along it until we found something with a slightly lower gradient. We made our way down to the water and then hiked up and down the river as far as we safely could in both directions looking for the falls. The water and views were gorgeous despite it being a little humid down there. We never found Quartzite Falls but we found what we later learned was Kukuck’s Falls and it was just as great. We thought about hiking further down the river to Slate River Falls and then down to The Finns bar but then our car would be so much farther away so we decided against it. We had to travel through water, slippery rocks, and all sorts of interesting paths in my now very-worn-in Sperry’s but Bobby led the way and helped me along and it was a really fun time for just us. I loved making our own paths, climbing trees, and just having a good ol’ adventure. The mosquitoes were out in full force but miraculously, neither of us got bit. It was a beautiful river with plenty of scenic views and we took a lot pictures. Later, we did a bit more research on the river and the various waterfalls on it so that we could be more prepared next year.

We made our way back up the river bank, through the thick woods, and down the over-grown road back to the car. We never saw any wildlife (except for what looked like an animal footprint at one point) and with the exception of a few scrapes on our legs, made it out tick-free in one piece. It was a great hike and a fun afternoon exploring together. I love that we can be adventurous together and how he could encourage me despite my apprehensiveness. Teamwork.

Our next stop was back to Witz Marina to get souvenirs. Bobby got a long-sleeve shirt for the cooler weather coming in, I got a hat, and he bought his niece and nephew a little something each. I loved that he thought of them and wanted to get them something! So sweet.

Before the trip, Cathy had suggested that everyone pick a night to make dinner so that no one person or set of people were always responsible for it. That never officially panned out but I took it to heart and Bobby and I came prepared to make chicken enchiladas for everyone (like, I brought enchilada sauce from home with us on the drive). It was our night to cook so we headed home, rinsed off, got a drink, and started on dinner. Joan made 2 trays of wet burritos and we made 2 trays of chicken enchiladas and a gigantic bowl of guacamole. Nancy made a delicious Mexican salad and corn on the cob. We had PLENTY to eat! Everyone complimented the enchiladas which made me feel good. It was a little nerve-wracking to cook for my boyfriend’s whole family but it turned out well. Nancy had done the hard part though: she cooked and shredded the chicken for us while we were out for the afternoon which was VERY kind of her! It made our part pretty simple. Kellye was vegetarian so I made her separate tofu enchiladas (I had never cooked with tofu before) and she said I did a good job. There were more than enough leftovers at the end of the night.

We all relaxed for a bit and then decided to take a booze cruise to visit the Sunken Docks around 8:45pm. Basically, there used to be a massive dock in the bay that sank many years ago and you can still see the thousands of pieces of wood pillars/slats/cribs under the water. Bobby had described it as “super creepy” so I did not know what to expect. I guess I was imagining a smaller dock but when we reached the area after a short boat ride, it was clear that I was so wrong. Those pieces of lumber were massive. The water was so clear and you could see deep into and the wood just kept going. They looked like sunken Lincoln Logs. It was farther off of the coast than I imagined, too. We had a lot of discussion about what the docks used to be for and how they sank but no one really had an answer. I did my best to Google search some history on it and thought it might be called Ore Docks. Bobby piggy-backed off my research and now we think it was more-likely called Bush-Been Sawmill but we could not find more than just a picture. Neither article, however, explains how the entire dock just sunk to the bottom of the bay which is the one thing I am most curious about. Either way, it was very cool to see and yes, it was super creepy. We were gifted with the most beautiful sunset for our cruise, too!

We sat by the fire when we got back. One of the house rules was to separate “burnable” trash from other trash so at night, we burned what we could in the pit. I got to be a little bit of a pyro for a little bit and kept an eye on it while others set up for our outdoor movie night. Scott and Nancy’s RV had an outdoor TV and Cathy had downloaded movies prior to the trip so just about everyone gathered chairs and huddled around the TV to watch The Greatest Showman. Ozzie, Scott and Nancy’s dog, and I had just about zero interaction all week but at one point, she jumped in my lap and snuggled with me. The mosquitoes got to be beyond awful so we took a break and sprayed bug spray over all of us and our blankets (and in a circle around us) which helped. Nancy made banana pudding for everyone so we also had a brief intermission to enjoy that! The movie was good but felt rushed and unfinished. It had elaborate productions and outstanding music but it seemed as if it was made to win creative-arts Oscars and nothing more. It was enjoyable though.

The sky was much clearer so after the movie, Bobby and I went to lay on the dock and see if we could find a shooting star. I had never seen one before so I did not know what I was looking for. I was scanning everywhere and soon enough, I saw a shooting star fly by. It was awesome and I was so excited. I know it is dumb but when you have never seen one before, it is pretty cool. We eventually saw 3 others fly over, all equally as cool and exciting, before calling it a night around 1am.

 

Wednesday August 1, 2018 – Day 6

I slept amazing, probably because of the cooler weather that crept in overnight, and finally had a positive dream. We got up around 9:30am and literally did nothing all day. It was supposed to rain and already overcast. Ozzie got stung by hornets while she was roaming near the stairs to the dock and that was a scary moment for everyone. I was just coming out of the tent for the morning when I saw Scott chasing Ozzie across the yard and hollering for Jake to grab her. I saw probably 10ish hornets swarming her still. Jake and Scott were trying to swat them off of her but dogs do not understand what is going on so she, of course, was trying to run from them. She is an older dog so once they got her and picked the hornets off, they all went into full life-saving mode. Someone found Benadryl and gave her some while Nancy and Jake got in touch with a local vet. They all rushed her over as soon as they could. Long story short: Ozzie was fine after a 3-hour observation and some medication. Whew.

While their family was helping Ozzie, Bobby, Cathy, and I hung out at the house playing games while the rain started. Cathy taught us how to play Rummikub. There were a lot of moving parts and it was very confusing at first but once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed it. My mom would like that game. We played a few rounds of Sequence which was fun but I do not think it was anyone’s favorite. We also played poker, of course. The day was mostly spent eating and drinking way too much and staying warm and dry on the patio.

We had talked about going bowling all week so we figured a rainy day would be as good as any to go do it. Kellye and Bobby called the placed a few times throughout the day to see if they were open but never had any luck. Bobby persisted though and he eventually got a hold of the owner who said he was normally closed but that he had a bowling league there doing a make-up game for the next 3 hours so if we wanted to come, we could. Lucky us! The other half of the family was still coming down from the morning’s commotion with Ozzie and the hornets (which sounds like an awesome band name, IMO) so Kevin, Cathy, Bobby, and I left around 6pm on our own to go bowl.

The bowling alley, Whirl-I-Gig, was awesome. It was fairly close by and was so much more than just a bowling alley. It had a huge dance hall on the main floor and in the basement, 6 lanes of bowling, pool tables, skeeball, arcade games, ping pong, shuffle board, you-name-it. It had a full bar and food, too. The bar was huge and shared the same space as the games; very dark-lit and old school. The bowling area was a place straight out of the 70s; carpet on the walls, very retro. The owner later told us he restored the place to have that vibe saying, “the locals do not care but visitors really like it.” We had trouble getting the computer going with our names and the local league players helped us out a bit. It still would not work properly and after the owner’s attempts to fix it, we decided to take score by hand. None of us were upset about it and luckily, Cathy and Kevin used to be in a bowling league and knew how to do it. It made the night just a bit more retro and different!

Bobby won the first game and Kevin won the second. They were both pretty decent bowlers and I was impressed. I placed last both games, not shocking. I did, however, manage to get 1 strike and that was exciting enough to help me forget about my horrible losses.

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The owner told us that if we call next year and leave a voicemail for him, and if we had a group of around 10 or so, he would open the whole place up for the group. He told us that business was much slower in the summer so a group that size would be worth it to open up for. With how much the place has to do and offer, I could easily see everyone spending a whole afternoon there eating, drinking, and playing games. It would be a fun time. He was a nice guy and we were grateful he let us come play for a bit; it was nice to get out of the house for a few hours. The best part was that for 6 beers, 2 vodka drinks, 2 rounds of bowling, and 4 shoe rentals, it only cost $42!

The 4 of us went to The Finns afterward. I still had my free drink token and while I really, really wanted to keep it as a souvenir, I went ahead and used it to get a drink. We also ate delicious pizza (their pizza oven was working again) and talked about all sorts of things before heading home. I love spending time with Bobby (of course) and his whole family (of course) but it was nice to get to spend time with just him and his parents and get to know them more. We spend time with them in at their house in Texas but it was somehow different in Michigan/on this trip and I liked it. They are fun people and I am glad we all get along so well. Hopefully they feel the same way!

We got back home around 10pm and played a few rounds of Gin before calling it a night. Bobby and I curled up in an armchair together (cue the awws) to watch The Great Outdoors. We took turns getting ready for bed during commercial breaks but eventually fell asleep in the chair. I liked the movie though and need to go finish watching it one day. Around midnight, we moved to our tent but it took me awhile to fall asleep. That cool, Michigan air was starting to dry my skin out and my legs were itchy and keeping me awake. We had dried off our damp bedding earlier in the day so at least we had warm blankets for the night!

 

Thursday August 2, 2018 – Day 7

I must have needed sleep because I slept until 11:30am and I enjoyed every second of it. I remember Bobby getting up and I had told him I would be there in a few minutes but I must have fallen back asleep because it was over an hour before I joined him and everyone else in the house. I was showered and fed by 12:30pm and everyone hung out playing more games for the first part of the afternoon. It was another chilly, overcast day but at least there was no rain.

Around 3pm, we loaded up the pontoon with food and drinks and headed to Lightfoot’s Bay. It was much colder being on the boat! We docked and got settled. Bobby and Jake tossed around a large styrofoam glider plane and a football. Emily dug a hole in the sand for the fire pit and Scott got it started while I gathered more sticks and twigs. We did not forget the lighter this time! We made hot dogs and drinks and kept warm by the fire while we ate. There was no swimming in the water this time around. Nancy had a little photoshoot of Jake and Kellye then came for Bobby and me to do one of us. I will never say no to more photos of the two of us! She posed us and snapped away. It started getting cooler so we left and were home around 5:30pm.

Bobby had found a really cool fire stick at the bay so he started to whittle it smooth. He let me do it for a little bit and despite Hal thinking I would cut myself (valid comment), I came out unscathed. We went inside for a few rounds of shots before going back outside to continue whittling. It was cold out and I was feeling kind of down and the weather sure was not helping so I went inside and ended up falling asleep in the living room.

I randomly woke up around 7pm, just in time for us to all head over to The Finns for wing night. We ordered all sorts of wings and the fries were free so they kept them coming. The table next to us was celebrating someone’s 21st birthday so they shared their chocolate cake and carrot cake with us which was nice! We ate, drank, and socialized there until around 9pm before heading home. Cathy, Bobby, and I finished our game of Mexican Train from earlier in the day while everyone else kind of did their own thing for the night. Bobby’s aunt/uncle and their side were leaving the next day so they started to pack up and get organized. Bobby and I downloaded another movie using the WiFi next door while we watched the rest of our movie from the drive up. It was a crazy movie but funny. We eventually started “How it Ends” on Netflix and that was a tragically awful movie. If you want to watch it, just do not. Would not recommend to a friend. We fell asleep watching it (and later forced ourselves to finish it on the drive home). I had seen a mosquito in the tent and thought I had killed it but never found where it went so I was suspicious of that all night, too. I found it the next morning… after it was too late and I had been bitten too many times.

 

Friday August 3, 2018 – Day 8

I got up around 10am, an hour after Bobby. The tent was freezing so I did not want to get out of the sleeping bag and take the short walk to get inside the house. It was warm in the sun but our tent was in the shade so it did not have an opportunity to get warm. Since it was already nearly lunch time, Cathy and I had lunch for breakfast: turkey sandwiches. The RV crew was nearly packed up and our crew started dismantling tents and preparing for our trip home the next day. Scott snapped a group picture of all of us and they headed out. An RV trip takes longer than a car trip so they needed to get a head start on us.

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After they left, Kevin, Cathy, Bobby, and I decided to go hike to the peak of Bald Mountain. We stopped at Witz Marina on our way so we could all get shirts like Bobby’s and then made the short drive over to the base of the mountain. We drove pretty far in to start the hike. When we parked, there was a perfect walking stick nearby so I grabbed it and we found more along the way for everyone else. I was glad to have it but even more glad to have worn leggings and a long-sleeve shirt for that hike to help protect my arms and legs from the overgrown forest. We had to go through forest and across a river before we could start scaling the mountain rocks and it was there where I fell in the water. I doubt we were even 10 minutes into the hike when Bobby crossed a log over a small river. I somehow misjudged it or slipped or something because the next thing I knew I was nearly knee-deep in mud and wilted vegetation. When I tried to get out, my other foot slipped and now both legs were covered. Cathy thought I was in quick sand! The whole thing happened so fast and I got myself out quickly but was understandably upset by the situation. Cathy and Kevin made it across fine and everyone made sure I was okay. Physically, I was. What started out as a few tears behind my sunglasses turned into an hysterical sob in only a few minutes. My pride was definitely injured… and my feet were cold and wet. I was worried about ticks and leeches, too. They suggested we turn back but while I was uncomfortable and mortified, I was not going to let it ruin the adventure. Onward.

We passed animal poop (signs that there was wildlife out there that I wanted to avoid) and dead animals but made it to the top of the mountain. It was gorgeous. In one direction, you could see more forest and mountains. In the other, you could see the lake. I took the opportunity to towel off my leggings and let my socks and shoes dry out a little bit. No leeches or ticks, thankfully. We soaked in the views and perfect weather for about half an hour before making our way back down. I was a little worried about Kevin’s bad knees on the hike to the bottom but he insisted he was good to go so I took his word for it! There was a little debate about which way was the correct way but Bobby navigated us well and got us out on the same path we came in. Bonus: I managed not to fall in the river on the way back. The mountain peak was around 1,000ft. and the whole hike took about an hour and a half (minus our break at the top). Once again, I was happy to have made it out without seeing any wildlife!

When we were at Witz earlier in the day, I grabbed a brochure about Michigan’s highest point. Bobby and I had seen a sign for it earlier in the week and had talked about going so I grabbed the brochure on our way out. After Bald Mountain, we decided to drive over to Mount Arvon and do another hike to see the highest point in Michigan. It was a long drive up the mountain and the brochure was kind of confusing. We thought we would be hiking again but the instructions took us straight to the top. We had seen a hiking entrance but once again, the confusing brochure did not make it clear where to go. Next time, we will hike it. Anyway, we drove to the top and parked. The “highest point” (1,979ft) was about a 2 minute walk into the woods and marked by a sign and a mailbox. A short walk away was what they called the viewing area and it was basically a small area between trees where you could kind of see the lake. The whole experience was a slight let down but we can now say we have all been to the highest point in Michigan! It was all of their first time being there too which was cool. They all have been to Michigan so many times and have their own list of things they normally do so it was nice to be able to experience “a first” all together. We ran into a couple out there who took our picture and while Kevin socialized with them, Bobby carved our initials on a tree that already looked to have a heart-shaped piece of bark missing. Granted, I suggested he do it but I loved it nonetheless.

We drove back down and headed straight to The Finns again for burgers and drinks. We were home by 6:30pm and after an active afternoon, we were all spent. There was no time to rest though: we needed to pack up our tents and as much as we could so we could start our drive home early the next morning. We also had to take the kayak back to the park so we could get it out of the water and put it back in the garage. Only Jake and Kellye had used it so far and I had been wanting to go so I was happy to take the quick kayak trip over. Kevin met us at the park with the truck, helped us load it up, and drove us all back to the house.

I wanted to rinse off from the hike and get ready to go to the nearby casino with Bobby. Y’all. I went into the bathroom, took my shirt off, and saw a TICK ON MY BODY. It was on my stomach and I may or may not have panicked. I cracked the door open and hollered for Bobby who was thankfully still in the house. He came running and I pointed to the tick and kept repeating, “get it off of me, get it off, get it off!” The look on his face is something I will never forget! He grabbed a piece of toilet paper and pulled it off of me and flushed it. Thankfully, it had not buried itself in my skin yet. Who knows how long it had been there! Was it from Bald Mountain? Mount Arvon? Outside just packing up tents? Bleh!! It gave me the heebie jeebies and I felt squirmy all night because of it. I did a quick check everywhere else, especially in my long hair, and determined I was good to go but I still felt like there was one on me. Bobby had one on him earlier in the week on his leg that he was so casual about and I wished I could be that calm!

After the tick debacle, Bobby and I headed to the Ojibwa Casino. I had never gambled before so when he suggested we go, I of course said yes. When we first started dating, we played cards a lot and he had a deck of cards from the casino. Every time we played, he would tell me about the casino so it was once again, cool to be somewhere he had told me about. We got there a little after 8pm and set some ground rules: we would each take out $100 and that was it. After an hour, whatever we had left would be whatever we had. We played blackjack the whole time. I used to deal blackjack in college for a party rental company but I never really learnt the strategy behind it all. Bobby (and the dealers) helped me along the way and I started to get the hang of it. I was down, up, and back down a million times but ended up breaking even for the night (minus ATM fees). Bobby had given me chips along the way whenever he won big so that helped too. He finished with an $85 profit! The first dealer really took his job seriously but the second one was kind of quiet and not as fun. I did not like crowds of people standing around the table but we were more in the corner so it was not too bad. A guy next to us split on 10s and ended up getting 2 blackjacks out of it which was exciting for everyone! We also decided that we might need to visit Vegas for my 30th birthday next year seeing as how the only time I had been there before was when I was 19 and could not do anything. TBD! On our way out of the smokey casino, we asked about how to get a deck of cards to take. They told us the cards were free and asked how many cases we wanted… what? I thought we were just going to get a single deck. It turns out, you can literally have as many decks as you want! We took a “box” of cards meaning a dozen decks. I think we are all set on cards for awhile. It was a fun first gambling experience.

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We gassed up the Expedition on the way home, almost hit a deer, and were back just after 10pm. We finished the night with Rummikub and a round of last-night shots. Since we had packed the tents up, we all slept in the house the last night. Bobby and I shared the double bed in the back room (we wanted to use our sleeping bags as to not dirty sheets and create laundry for his grandparents) and let me tell you, that bed was awful. It sank in in the middle and with the slippery sleeping bag, it was tough to get comfy. I also felt like there were bugs on me (probably because of the tick earlier) so I might have been a little paranoid. Eventually, I managed to doze off.

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Saturday August 4, 2018 – Day 9

It was easily the worst night of sleep of the entire trip. I remember waking up and just praying for the alarm to go off so I had an excuse to be awake. At 5am, I was the first one up so I showered and packed. Everyone was up shortly after and got ready and loaded up the car. Bobby found a tick on him (ahhh!) which did not help my paranoia. Brian, one of the dogs, sat by the car, unwilling to move as if we were going to forget him or something. It was pretty cute.

Joan and Hal got up to say goodbye to us and by 6:30am we were on our way home. We could not find Bobby’s sunglasses so we circled back to look on the patio but ended up finding them in the car. It was only a 10 minute delay to the morning but worth it to be able to have sunglasses for the drive, especially since he was taking the first driving shift. The sunrise was beautiful and I was tired. I turned my phone off of airplane mode and slowly started receiving emails/texts/notifications. I liked having it off all week and was overwhelmed with responsibility so I ignored most of the things. It could wait. Bobby suggested to the group that we drive straight through to Texas without a late-night hotel stop and we all agreed: the goal was to get home.

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We made it to Iron Mountain, Michigan around 7:30am (we were back in CST and had moved the clocks back 1 hour) and then stopped to get breakfast at the first McDonald’s we saw and in Stephenson, Michigan by 8:45am. Stephenson was a cute down which is why I remember it! We listened to different podcasts to past the time and I did my best to stay awake in the front seat. After about 5 hours on the road, Kevin and Cathy took over the front seat and Bobby and I headed to the back.

Someone mentioned there being a Giordano’s in Guernee, Illinois and since we were scheduled to be there around lunch time, we decided it was a good place to stop. Bobby had taken me to get their amazing deep-dish pizza on our Chicago trip and was absolutely down to eat there again. Their pizzas take a long time to cook so to help us keep our stop short, we called ahead to order. We arrived at exactly 12:30pm and our pizza was ready just a few minutes later; perfect timing. Cathy, Bobby, and I scarfed down the pizza and ordered an Italian beef sandwich to-go for Kevin.

We were back on the road by 1pm and made it to a rest stop in Salem, Illinois around 5pm for a stretch break. Cathy found a cell phone and did the nice thing of tracking down the owner and we were on the way again, focused on getting home.

We crossed the Mississippi River around 7pm and stopped at Boomland, a huge gas station and fireworks store, shortly after. Think of it as a less-cool Buc-ee’s; it had all sorts of home decor, snacks, etc. with a million fireworks. We stopped again somewhere in Missouri around 8:45pm for McDonald’s. The mosquitoes were out in full-force and attacked me (specifically, my ankles). It was torture. Spike took a nap in my lap which was cute and I secretly loved it. We tried not to drug the dogs on the return trip but ended up having to do it. They each got less than half of their original dosage but it proved to be all they needed. Anyway, after some attempts to sleep, we gave up and played Cards. I beat Bobby one-too-many-times at Gin before we decided to finish our crummy Netflix movie from earlier in the week. It really was a horrible movie.

Around 11:30pm in Little Rock, Arkansas, Bobby and I switched back to the front to drive the last 5-hour shift. Kevin cleaned the windshields and the mosquitoes were just as bad as in Missouri. Luckily, Cathy’s Calamine lotion was within reach and she let me borrow it. It helped SO much. The front seat was tough to sleep in but that was good because I needed to stay awake with Bobby. We listened to more podcasts while his parents napped in the back. I dozed in and out every now and then but was awake for most of it, despite what he says. There was a long 200-mile stretch that he says I was asleep for the majority of but I wholeheartedly disagree!

We crossed the Texas border at 1:48am. Home stretch! Around 2:30am, we ran over a skunk and had to smell that horrible smell for longer than we would have liked. That woke everyone up. I could tell Bobby was exhausted and doing his best to stay awake and we were all just ready to get home. I cannot speak for his parents but both of us had barely slept the night before and did not get a lot of sleep in the car so I do not know how he was still functioning. It probably was not safe but we did make it back safely. The closer we got, the longer it seemed to take. We finally arrived at the house at 4:50am! It was an exciting moment. We unloaded the essentials from the car and all immediately went to sleep. While we were laying in bed, Bobby said, “Am I really in bed right now or am I dreaming that I am in bed but actually am still driving and we are about to crash?” Ah! Yes, it was real. Whenever my eyes were closed, I felt like we were still moving in the car. It was a weird feeling but I fell asleep quickly, happy to be stretched out and resting.

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The best sign

Total drive time: 23 hours

 

Sunday August 5, 2018 – Day 10

We woke up without an alarm around 11:30am. It was not a ton of sleep but it was what we needed. Cathy and Kevin had already been up and cleaned out the rental car and put stuff away. That was very kind of them to do for everyone! It made our day a little smoother because all we had left to do was clean out Bobby’s car, load our stuff, and get on the road back to Houston. We said our goodbyes around 2pm. Bobby drove the rental car back and I drove his car to meet him. I had to circle back to the house to pick up a few things I instantly noticed we forgot (I hate when that happens but at least we were still close) and then I met him at Enterprise. Bobby drove the 3 hours back to Houston, we picked up Elliott, and finally headed back to my apartment.

Bobby collapsed onto the couch. He had driven so much that he had more than deserved it. I cannot stand having a packed suitcase at home so I started laundry (I was also worried about ticks being in our laundry!) and unpacked before joining him on the couch. We finished the evening by watching National Lampoon’s Vacation, a movie I had never seen before. It was a great ending to a great vacation.

I had such a great time in Michigan. It was everything they had hyped it up to be and so much more. I loved getting to spend time with Bobby and his family and feel special and grateful to have been invited and included. I appreciated them putting up my insanely large suitcase and being so kind when I cried about falling into the water. While an RV would have been fun, our suburban worked out perfectly, just like everything else about the trip.

A special thanks to:

  • Bobby’s parents and whole family for including me in the trip and being so welcoming (and for being open to learning/using Google Photos so they could share photos with me for this blog).
  • Dad and Suzette for watching and taking such good care of Elliott (again and again and again).  I do not know what I would do without their constant help!
  • My brother for watching my car and apartment for me.
  • Bobby for being the best ever. 2018-06-08 16_22_18-🤟 I Love You Hand Sign Emoji

 

Until next time,

Jillian

… to Chicago

Bobby and I decided to take our first real vacation together to visit Chicago! He grew up in Illinois and lived in Chicago for several years after college and all of his closest childhood and college friends still live there (or in the area) so it was a great chance to meet the important people in his life and learn more about his life. Since it was his city and his friends, I took a step back from my normal “Type A” planning and let him arrange everything. That is pretty huge for me, y’all.

June 1, 2018 – Day 1

Our flight out was at 6:19am so we got up very, very early. I had dropped Elliott off at my dad’s house the night before so that was one less thing we had to worry about in the morning but man, we were cutting it close. Bobby had a work social the night before and was out late so it was a late night of packing and getting ready. I had looked up the weather the week before and it said the temperature all weekend would be mid-90s but when we checked Thursday night, it was saying 60s! I was NOT prepared… I packed mostly tank tops and sun dresses and it was too late to go back to my apartment to adjust. Such is life, right?

We managed to get up and out the door a little later than I was comfortable with but I had no doubt everything would work out and we would make our flight. At least, I kept telling myself that. They say you should get to the airport an hour before your boarding time but I knew with a flight that early and the fact that we were not checking bags would mean we had some flexibility. We parked the car and took a very slow, frustrating shuttle over, breezed through security, and made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare. Unfortunately, we did not have time for breakfast!

Bobby was nice enough to let me take the window seat while he braved the middle. He had to work and the guy next to him would not let him put the armrest down, so I know it was not very comfortable for him. I appreciated the window seat so much though because it allowed me to get a little nap in during the flight. As usual, I was freezing so I did my best to stay warm with what I had.

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It was a smooth flight. We navigated the airport easily and purchased our train tickets for the weekend. Bobby told me a story about how he once accidentally bought 10 tickets so he stood at the ticket stands and sold them all off to make his money back. Sure enough, while we were in line, that happened to someone else. Apparently that is a common thing! Those machines were kind of wonky though so it did not surprise me too much.

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We hopped on the Blue Line, headed towards the city. Our first stop: FOOD. We transferred to the Red Line and surfaced in the city. It. Was. Freezing. I got my jacket out but it was not enough. The cold and wind are not for this southern, hot-yoga-loving, gal. Luckily, Portillo’s was only a few blocks away. Bobby had told me all about them for weeks so I was excited to finally be able to try it (not to mention, we were both starving at this point). I was told they have great hot dogs but since we were going to a White Sox game in the evening, I should hold off on the Chicago hot dog. He said the best thing to get was the Italian Beef so I ordered it exactly how he loves it and it did NOT disappoint. I had never had one before and with the added mozzarella cheese and jalepenos, it was delicious. We shared some fries in an attempt to be ‘healthy’ and somehow managed to walk out of there without ordering a slice of their “famous chocolate cake.” 10/10, would recommend to a friend.

Our Airbnb host was meeting us at 11:30am so in an effort to save time, we took an Uber out to Roscoe Village. We had booked our flights weeks in advance and when we went to book our lodging, we learned that there was a huge conference of some sort going on and all of the hotels were booked and/or had an insanely high nightly rate. Luckily, Bobby managed to find an affordable Airbnb just outside of the city which worked out perfectly for us. The host gave us a quick tour of the place before heading out. Bobby needed to work and I was so exhausted so I took a 3 hour nap while he was much more productive.

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I woke up (albeit, a little groggy) to get ready for our White Sox game. Bobby had coordinated with about 12 or so of his closest friends to all meet up before the game to tailgate and then go to the game as a group. I had been very, very nervous to meet everyone but also just because sometimes large group settings make me semi anxious in general. Bobby is a social, friendly guy so I knew his friends would be too… but they are important to him and he is important to me so I wanted to make a good impression and be liked. No pressure. We cleaned up and headed out the door in our Sox gear.

Unfortunately for me, the weather had not warmed up at all so our Uber took us over to a nearby North Face and I bought a little fleece. It turned out I would end up needing something a little warmer by the end of the night but for the time being, it was perfect. Bobby had packed a light jacket and was clearly so much better at braving the cold than I was.

There was a bar nextdoor, Northside Bar & Grill, so we stopped in for a quick shot of Bobby’s favorite: Jameson. Maybe a little buzz would warm me up some?!

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We hopped on the train and headed towards Guaranteed Rate Field (where the White Sox play). What an interesting name, right? The area itself was a little sketchy but we were not there to tour the area, we were there to tailgate and go to the game! Some of his friends had staked out some spots in the parking lot and already had food and drinks flowing. I was still a little nervous walking up to everyone but they were so incredibly welcoming and made me feel right at home. I met his 3 best friends and a few other very close ones. Over the next couple of hours, more and more showed up and everyone was social and nice. Everyone made an effort to talk to me and ask me questions about myself (and tell me how great a guy Bob is). They were totally selling him to me but little do they know, I was already sold on him a long time ago. *awe*

The tailgate was great. In the sun I was warm and in the shade I was cold so I kept taking the jacket on and off, on and off, on and off. We snacked on chips, chicken wings, sausage, and burgers. I only had some chips and a chicken wing because I was holding out for the ‘best hot dog’ inside the stadium. I also managed to get… a little drunk in that time. We had already had a shot of Jameson before getting there but once we got there, Big James made me a vodka/soda. When that was empty, he made me another. I caught a glimpse of his bar-tending skills and he sure did have a heavy pour! No wonder I was feeling so good. The group took a round of shots, too, and I obviously could not sit out for that. When Becky and Brad showed up, she offered me a little to-go wine and I had that too. I was good to go. Becky was also nice enough to share her dual-layer jacket with me. Everyone was dressed like it was 80 degrees outside and I was shivering! I tried to not look cold but I guess they could all see it on my face and everyone was trying to keep me warm and block the wind. It was sweet.

We made our way inside the stadium and as promised, our first stop was to order the hot dogs. James (not Big James, there are 2!), Bobby, and I found a booth and I ordered one the same way they did as to fully experience the greatness. Two natives would know more than I would! I skipped ordering a drink and chose water instead; I know my limits. Everyone had kind of gone their own way so we made our way to our seats. The hot dog was amazing and I spilled mustard on my jeans (not surprising). Everyone spent the next maybe 30 minutes coming and going, eating and drinks, and “watching” the game. (Note: I do not think anyone actually watched the game.). A few guys had gone to the bar below the stadium so after it got too cold, the rest of us joined them. It was much warmer out of the wind so I was glad to be down there. They drank and we all socialized until the game was over. This group was a hoot. I really enjoyed talking to everyone and getting to know them and hear stories about Bobby.

Just before the game ended, half the group (who lived outside of the city and who had driven to the game), took off. The rest of us decided to head out to Old Town to go to a bar. As we left the game, fireworks started (the White Sox surprisingly won 7-3)! It does not matter how old you are, fireworks are always nice. We waited at the train with everyone else and managed to grab some seats once on board. They were all reminiscing on old memories and sharing stories so it was difficult for me to keep up and know what was going on but Becky, the only other girl there the whole night, was very good at pausing and catching me up to help keep me in the loop. Girl power.

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By the time we made it to Old Town, I had sobered up a bit and was back to feeling like a popsicle. My teeth were chattering, loudly. I do not know how everyone was managing with just a lightweight jacket. Becky shared one of her layers with me again which helped but by that point, I could not stop the chattering. It was so embarrassing.

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Andy chose the bar for us, a place called Benchmark. I prefer a more dive-y place but it was a fun time. It was packed and it was loud but Andy knew everyone it seemed and had drinks ordered for everyone in matter of seconds. Impressive. I got a glass of wine and we went to the upstairs section and grabbed some tables. Over the next who-knows-how-long, we all went from drunk to dRuNk. Everyone probably had at least 2 drinks and Bobby bought a round of shots so things were getting dicey. I got to witness Bobby’s amazing dance moves and the whole group was making me laugh. Me being me, I started getting hungry and asking if we were getting food. Brad started a food countdown but when he got to the 3 minute mark, Bobby randomly decided it was time for us to head out. Looking back, that was probably a good call. It was definitely time to go.

He and I made our way through the crowds to the streets. I did not know enough about the trains to navigate our way home so I thought it would be best to just take an Uber home. That turned out to be way more difficult than I thought because I had no idea what the address of the Airbnb was! It was a struggle getting but I eventually found the place in my own email’s Trash folder and we were in a car shortly after. Whew. Bobby instantly fell asleep. After only 3 hours of sleep the night before, no nap on the plane, no nap before the game, and then a night out… I was surprised he had made it as long as he had. It was impressive. The Uber driver was chatty and I barely remember what we talked about and before we knew it, we were home. Bobby and I both had a set of keys, thankfully, and after a brief struggle between the door and me, we made it inside. We both fell asleep the moment our heads hit the pillows. Out.

June 2, 2018 – Day 2

As you probably could imagine, we slept in late. We needed it. When we finally got going for the day, we made our way back to Old Town to have brunch at Happy Camper. Thankfully it was much warmer outside. This place was pretty cool, very trendy, very hipster. It is a pizza place but since we were going to go to a real Chicago pizza place later, we shared a pulled-pork brunch dish and mozzarella sticks (which, to our surprise, were not fried cheese… but instead bread with cheese on a top and a side of marinara). We ate, had a morning drink, and watched Tiger Woods play golf. I had been hungry but after we started eating and drinking, my stomach was kind of achy. I have never been good at being hungover!

By this point, it was mid-afternoon. We decided to start our walking tour and made our way over to Navy Pier. We walked past the Trump Tower, walked along the river, and explored parts of the city even he had not been to yet. I loved strolling through the city, aimlessly wandering, hand in hand together. We people watched and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Eventually, we made it to Navy Pier and walked along it. It was warming up and the sun was starting to come out so it was nice. Lake Michigan was amazing; it really did look like an ocean, just going on and on forever into the distance. The Pier had several fun activities, restaurants, and all sorts of things to do on it. We opted out of those things in favor of just walking and soaking in the sights and people watching. There was an indoor section that we decided to go in and inside was the most beautiful 6-foot tall atrium. It was Bobby’s decision to go inside initially so I credit him for that great find! On our way out, Bobby came THISCLOSE to being pooped on by a bird. It literally landed mere centimeters in front of him. Thankfully, he dodged that bullet!

We had made our way back the front so we decided it was time to head out. We cut through Jane Addams Memorial Park and walked down Lake Shore Drive along the water. Our plan was to grab a drink at the Hancock Tower then maybe meet up with some of his friends again but we were both feeling a little exhausted from the night before that we decided to just keep it the two of us for the time being and check-in with his friends the next day. I struggled with helping make that decision because while I loved the idea of it just being us for the day, I did not want to be the type of girlfriend who held him back from seeing his friends the one time he was in town. It all ended up working out though.

Our walk continued through Lake Shore Park, past the Museum of Contemporary Art (we did not stop inside), and then over to the Signature Room at the 95th in the Hancock Tower where we enjoyed very expensive but very delicious drinks. The elevator took us up and we exited in the restaurant. From there, we wanted to see the view so we went to the windows instead of going upstairs to the bar and we were politely told to go directly upstairs (e.g. we got scolded in a nice way). We sat at the bar and socialized for a bit. The views were tough because it was a bit cloudy but they were still amazing. I ordered a Rose Sangria which quite possibly could have been the tastiest drink I had ever had in my life and Bobby got his favorite: an Old Fashioned. My stomach actually started to feel better after that drink so maybe it was a bit magical, too.

Our next stop was the Water Tower Place (a large, indoor vertical mall). We stopped inside the mall and went to a few different floors just to look around. I ended up buying a pair of shorts at Express before we left. It was a completely different style of mall than I had ever seen so it was cool to see, but at the end of the day it was just a mall so how much time could we actually spend there? Both of us were children though and put our hands in the water fountain as we went down the escalator. The water looked so perfect… we just had to touch it!

We passed the Historic Water Tower, one of the few buildings to survive The Chicago Fire. As we would pass things or through our conversations, we constantly kept saying to each other, “let’s look that up later” and learning about The Chicago Fire was one of them. Bobby was mostly sure he knew the whole story but he wanted a knowledge check.

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By this point, it was getting late and close to dinner time. We headed toward Giordano’s, his favorite pizza place, but made a quick pit-stop at Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap for a shot or Malort first. Bobby and all of his friends had talked about Malort and how awful it was but because taking a shot of it apparently made you a “real Chicagoan” so I did not have a choice. Bobby ordered a shot for both of us (that was nice that he was willing to torture himself with me) and immediately the bartender laughed. GREAT. Great first sign. He brought the drinks over and asked what the occasion was. Another bartender heard Bobby say it was my first time having it and asked if she could watch me take it! Bobby even wanted to record a video of my “Malort face” as I took it. Just HOW BAD was this stuff? The bartender brought me a small class of Coke to help “wash it down” too and a glass of water. I was genuinely scared of what I was just about to drink but I was no wuss and took it like a champ. Bobby ended up not getting video (whew) but apparently I did not make a “Malort face” so it would not have been an exciting video anyhow. Anyway, the shot was complete garbage. It was not a burning shot or initially bad, it went down easily. The “gotcha” was the most foul, horrendous, lingering after-taste. Oh my gosh, it was awful. I do not drink soda and I drank that Coke just to help wash the taste out of my mouth. What in the hell was that stuff? Instead of adding it to the list of things to look up later, I immediately googled it to learn about the poison I just digested. Was I going to die? Was this a trap?! It turned out it was not poison and I was not going to die but you can read about it here. I was a real Chicagoan now! Bobby downed his shot and told me he was proud of me. The things we do for love.

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Now, it was definitely time for dinner. Not only were we hungry but we needed to get that bitter taste out of our mouths immediately. Giordano’s was across the street so thankfully we did not have a long ways to go. The place was really cool with a fun environment. Bobby is so picky about his pizza in Houston (which makes sense if you come from a place known for pizza) so I was very much looking forward to finally trying his beloved Giordano’s. Last time I was in the city, I tried Gino’s East which apparently is not as good but hey, how could I have known that? We ordered right away because it takes 45-60 minutes to make the pizza. We also ordered a cocktail to cap off the evening.

While we waited, we discussed the components of pizza, the big pizza debate of Chicago (which is better: Lou’s or Giordano’s), and the bizarre couple next to us. When the pizza arrived, it looked so amazing. The couple next to us laughed at us for taking a picture of it and taking a boomerang of the “cheese pull.” Rude. We could have been MUCH more touristy if you ask me but that is fine, at least we entertained them. Finally, we dove in and it did not disappoint. Wow. That was some truly amazing pizza. I understood why it was his favorite and could agree that nothing in Houston compared. The closest thing would be Star Pizza, which we often frequented back home. But even then… Star Pizza had nothing on Giordano’s. It was well worth the wait! We each had 2 slices and took the last 2 home with us, knowing we would enjoy the leftovers later.

Our bellies full, we started to head home. Bobby surprised me and suggested we go back to Portillo’s to try the famous chocolate cake. YES! We got on the train then realized we had actually already been near Portillo’s so after a quick turnaround on the train, we arrived. We ordered a piece but waited until we were home to eat it. On our way home, we finally looked up everything on our “let’s look that up later” list. I love that we both share the need to look up and learn more about things we do not know.

We made it home and devoured that cake in a matter of seconds. Yep, it was just as delicious as they advertised and as it looked. Even Bobby, someone who does not prefer chocolate, admitted it was great. I loved it.

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It had a been a long day with a lot of walking so we called it a night and tried to watch a movie. The Airbnb did not have cable and the local channels had nothing on. Netflix was not working. Everything was broken! Just then, it started to rain. We fell asleep to the sound of the thunderstorm, a perfect way to end the day.

June 3, 2018 – Day 3

We got a little bit of an earlier start as to fit in as much stuff as we could for our last day. We split a breakfast at Wishbone, a cute restaurant nearby that the Airbnb host had recommended to us on the first day. It was a great breakfast but we did not want to get too full so we could enjoy a nice lunch in town.

After breakfast, we walked over to where Bobby’s old stomping grounds. He pointed out all of his old hangouts and important places along the way. That was probably my favorite part of the trip as I really enjoyed seeing him in his element and hearing more stories about when he lived there. We arrived at his old house: The Bro-lagio. You could tell he was happy to be back in the area. He took a few pictures out front and we continued on. I loved looking at all the different houses and brownstones. We were constantly looking up the prices of ones for sale and talked about which ones we liked and did not like. It would be a different way to live but I can appreciate the appeal of it. My favorite thing were all of the trees arching over the streets; it made for a beautiful walk.

We made our way down Clark Street through Wrigleyville and past Wrigley Field. I was not allowed to take a picture in front of it because “we are White Sox fans” but that was fine, I did not care either way. It was a great little area though! He told me all about how much it had changed since he lived there and we explored the area a bit. Although, is it exploring when he knows where everything is? The weather was perfect, in the mid-70s, so it was nice to walk around.

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Our next stop was the Willis Tower to be tourists and visit the Skydeck. They said it would be about 2 hours and they were not wrong; our total time there from start to finish was just barely over 2 hours. The line to the top was short but the line to take photos instead the Skydeck was insane. In line, it was revealed that I had already been up there before and if I had, then why would I do it again? *oops* I did feel bad for dragging him up there but you cannot argue with a great view of the city from every direction and a cute Skydeck picture together, right? Again, the things we do for love! It was a long, miserable wait but we survived and I appreciated him for being a trooper and doing that with me. It was great people watching, if anything. Of course I had to buy the professional photos, too.

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It was early afternoon and because of our light breakfast, we were starved. We made our way back to Old Town to meet up with his friends Brad and Becky again. Everyone met at The Rabbit Hole where Bobby and I grabbed a quick bite to eat. We all enjoyed some drinks, of course. Bobby ordered a “mystery beer and shot” which was kind of fun. The place was cute; the windows were open to the outside so it was nice to have the sun on us and there were table-top games (that we did not end up playing).

Afterward, we started our afternoon bar hop. Our first stop was Declan’s Irish Pub where everyone got Jameson and I got a lemon drop martini because I do not like whiskey. We hung out there for a bit, again a half indoor/half outdoor place. I liked how all the restaurants and bars were able to “open up” to the outside when it was a nice day. I know they cannot do that when it is freezing outside but on a nice day like it was, what a great option to have!

Next up was The Fireplace Inn where we all had “Huge Ass” vodka lemonades; their popular item. Those were very delicious but large and strong! Uh oh. It was nice to sit outside and hear all about their time working together in Chicago and more stories. Unfortunately, we were sitting in the shade so we made our way to a sunnier location.

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I did not catch the name of our 4th place but there, I had my first Irish Car Bomb! We made a huge mess on the table when we dropped our shots but we were outside so it was fine. We also ordered cheese curds because I had said they sounded gross but they all called me on it and said I only made that accusation because of the word “curd.” Busted. We ordered them and they were fantastic. Y’all got me.

Our last stop was Woodie’s Flat where Becky and I finally contributed and bought a round fireball shots. The waitress asked me if we wanted a sparkler with it and I obviously said yes. No one knew though so it was a surprise to everyone when they came out with sparklers!

The sun was going to be going down soon and I wanted to be a tourist one more time an visit The Bean so we all said our goodbyes and parted ways. I had heard so much about them and loved getting to know them more. They were very kind to me and I appreciated how welcoming and inclusive they were. It was a great afternoon but the one thing I learned from it was that I cannot drink as much as a Chicagoan! I cannot speak for Bobby but I was preeeetty buzzed by that point.

We went to Cloud Gate (the Bean) and took some touristy photos. I had been there once before but it really is a great piece with the reflection of the surrounding buildings and whatnot. It was a beautiful night and a gorgeous sunset. I somehow managed to grab some kind of awesome snapshots of the skyline.

We had strangers take some photos for us and hung around the area for a little bit. We enjoyed one last drink at Park Grill and watched Game 2 of the NBA finals. I had a frozen something (no idea what) and from what I remember, it was good. It was the drink that pushed me over my limit and getting home was kind of rough. The bumpiness of the train was making me feel nauseated!

We made it home and instantly heated up the leftover Giordano’s. Not shockingly, the microwave did not work so our drunk patience was tested with having to wait on the oven. There were only 2 slices and it was definitely not enough; I think we both could have eaten at least one more slice. It was probably best that we did not have more though after how much we had ate and drank all weekend.

June 4, 2018 – Day 4

Our last day in Chicago was much more relaxed. Our flight was not until the evening so I slept in while Bobby got up and worked a little bit. We cleaned up, got ready to go home, and packed before the Airbnb host came by around 11:30am to pick up the keys. We made our way to the Brown Line one last time (the Paulina stop had been our nightmare all trip because the train always took forever). Our train pass was expired so we bought a one-way to the airport and made our way. It was quite the ride out there! I did not remember it being that long on the way but to be fair, we did stop for lunch on the way in and then used an Uber. We eventually made it to the airport.

Before our trip, we both registered for TSA-Pre Check. Our approval and travel ID did not come in time for our trip to Chicago but we had both received our official emails the day before so we were able to utilize our new fancy Pre-Check for the first time! Talk about a time saver. It was great to breeze through security.

We split chips/queso and a buffalo chicken sandwich at Chili’s before getting in line to board our flight. Our timing for that flight was perfect and made me much more comfortable than our one the other day. It was great to not rush or feel anxious. Bobby went to get us water and then we boarded swiftly, this time I took the middle seat. Teamwork.

WiFi on the plane was not working so Bobby could not work and instead, we worked on the in-flight magazine crossword puzzle. I had actually never done one for-real so he was teaching me and we were helping each other. I knew how they worked but it there are definitely tricks to filling it out. Afterward, I lent him my Sudoku book and taught him how to play it. What a bunch of nerds: doing crosswords and playing Sudoku the whole flight. I loved every second of it. When we landed, we stopped to buy me an easy crossword puzzle book and him an easy Sudoku book (flashforward: we both use our books just about every night now). Bobby also surprised me with a cookie he bought for us when he went to get the water. My hero.

We picked up the car and headed to my dad’s house to pick up Elliott. I always appreciate my dad and Suzette taking care of Elliott while I am away. He loves it there and I can trust he is loved in return.

Bobby and I decided to start the Keto diet after our trip so to finish off a weekend of poor eating and have one last carb-loaded meal, we stopped for Pei Wei on the way home. Worth it.

I had been told it is important to be able to travel well with your partner so I was so thankful that we had a fun, successful trip. There were moments I wish we had (or I had known of) more of a plan instead of winging it but I trusted him and it always worked out. We never ran out of things to talk about and I loved getting to see where is was from, meet his friends, and share the city with him. For some reason, I had always been a fan of Chicago and it did not let me down. My first time (and only ever time before) to the city was just for part of one day so to be able to experience it in its entirety with someone who knows it so well was perfect. I was worried about the weather but after the freezing Friday night, it warmed up and it was just as I hoped it would be. Everything was!

Thank you, Bobby, for taking me and inviting me to share in that part of your life! It was a wonderful trip and hopefully our first of many. 2018-06-08 16_22_18-🤟 I Love You Hand Sign Emoji

Until next time,

Jillian

 

… to Turks & Caicos

Alright, busted. This post is coming nearly 3 months after-the-fact but better late than never, right?

At the end of March, Steven (one of my very dear friends from high school and college who now lives in NYC) and I took our first trip together to the island of Turks and Caicos. It was right after my birthday and just before his so it was somewhat of a “let’s go somewhere tropical” and “let’s celebrate our birthdays” trip! We deserved it.

March 22, 2018 – Day 1

The trip started off with an insanely early wake-up call. Steven was lucky enough to catch a direct flight from NYC to T&C but I had to go through Miami first. We timed it so we would both land in T&C within about an hour of each other which just meant I had to get an earlier start with a 6am flight out of Houston. My dad did not want to drive me to the airport at that ungodly hour (can you blame him?) so I caught an Uber. However, my dad’s neighborhood is gated and the Uber could not get in so my dad still had to wake up and drive me to the firehouse across the street to meet the Uber. Oops. Thanks, dad!

The Uber driver was an interesting, chatty lady who almost made me feel bad for needing an Uber at 4:30am. The hell? I made the mistake of thinking my flight was ‘international’ so we went to the wrong terminal at first but we had plenty of time to correct ourselves. Of course the flight to Miami would not be international; I blame lack of sleep for that error.

I was not checking a bag and security lines were short at that hour so it was a smooth check-in. I stopped at Starbucks for a Bacon Gouda sandwich (a tasty breakfast my boyfriend, Bobby, introduced me too a few weeks prior that had become a little addiction). No coffee for this gal… I slept the entire plane ride.

The Miami airport was something else. I had to walk/ride to what felt like the other side of Florida to get to my next terminal. It was a ridiculous amount of long halls, several escalators, and 2 trams. Luckily, I had enough time but it was cutting it close! I slept about half the plane ride this time and enjoyed the extra leg room I paid for. Worth it. I could have done without all of the babies crying but such is life.