Day 8

Day 8:  Sheridan, Wyoming to Denver, Colorado

Distance traveled:  430 miles

Time:  7.5 hours

Song of the Day:  “Don’t Stop Me Now” (Queen)

Tuesday morning, I packed up the car (with the pickles), and headed out.  It was an absolutely perfect day.  As I was leaving Kelly’s neighborhood, this is what I saw:

Bighorn Mountains

Bighorn Mountains

Breathtaking!  Wyoming is a gorgeous place, and I loved driving through it (why do only 500,000 people live there?).

I planned an afternoon stop in Fort Collins, Colorado.  My college friend, and post-college roommate, Jodi, lives there with her husband Evan, and 2 children: Jordan (3rd grade) and Jake (3 yrs old).  Jodi and I met our freshman year in college in the dorm.  She grew up in Newark, so we had a lot to talk about from the start.  After college, Jodi moved to Denver and I followed the next year.  We lived together in Denver for 2 years.  We have a lot of fun together, as we both love movies and music.  I get to see her most summers when she and her family come back to Ohio to visit.  This summer, we were able to visit in Columbus in the middle of July.  It was great to see her again Tuesday, and see where she lives and works.

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Jake, Barley and Jordan

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My goal was to get to Denver before there was lots of traffic.  I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to stop in Denver at all due to the recent flooding.  It wasn’t too long after I left Fort Collins (on 25S) that I hit serious traffic.  I could not figure out why it was so stop and go.  It is great to have an app like Waze (thanks, Laura!) that shows what is going on.  There wasn’t an accident, but as I approached one of the off ramps (maybe the Longmont exit?) was closed.   There was clear evidence of the flooding.  It was very strange to see water in a place that is usually so dry.  I finally got to Denver at about 6:30pm.  Tuesday night’s accommodations were provided by The Port Family.

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Jane, Lila, and Emily

I met Emily in September 1998 when I started working at the advertising agency I mentioned in Day 7 (“The Devil Wears Prada”).  Emily and I clicked from the beginning, but it was Emily and Dave’s dog, Bess, who won my heart.  When Emily and Dave went out-of-town, they would ask me to house/dog sit.  I loved my time with Bess at their house.  Primarily because Bess was such a darling dog.  However, I loved having a retreat where I could use a kitchen with all of the bells and whistles, and feel like I was a grown up.  Emily watched out for me, and when she went to another company, she talked the president into hiring me!  It was a great set-up.  Emily also wrote a letter of recommendation for me when I applied to law school.  We all know how that turned out!

We have kept in touch sporadically, but I had not seen Emily or Jane (now 10!) since the spring of 2004 (I think that’s right).  As I walked up to the front door, Emily opened the door and her daughters, Jane and Lila, stood behind their mother with looks of fear on their face.  They were tentative at first, but I think they picked up on my familiarity with their house, and it made them feel more relaxed.  After that they warmed up to me.  Jane was quick to say, “We went to France last year!” She grabbed the photo book that was created from that trip, and showed me all of the highlights.  Lila kept herself busy by making ancient coins (a tinfoil creation).  We had a lovely dinner and talked about school and the girls’ activities.  I was lucky enough to get to listen to Jane practice her guitar, and chat with her about music.

After the girls went to bed, Emily and I stayed up way too late trying to catch up on the past 9 years.  It was so nice to feel like we could pick up where we left off.  We haven’t talked much over the years, but it certainly didn’t feel like it.  Hopefully, the Port Family will come to Oregon (there are direct flights from Denver to Redmond!).  Thanks, Emily!  I was tired after a long day of driving, so I was ready for bed.  That concludes Day 8.

 

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Day 7

Day 7:  Rapid City, South Dakota to Sheridan, Wyoming

Distance traveled:  300 miles

Time:  6.5 hours (with sightseeing stops!)

Song of the Day:  “Higher Ground” (Stevie Wonder)

I woke up feeling refreshed and rested after a good night’s sleep in Rapid City.  I didn’t see any rapids or a city, but it was a nice place to stay for the night.  I took my time getting myself out of the door this morning.  First, I stopped at Wal-Mart to purchase a new atlas (I left mine in North Carolina!).  The man ahead of me in line was talking to the cashier about disruptive neighbors.  Then it turned into a diatribe against bikers.  More specifically The Hells Angels and Banditos (I think that is what he said).  He started to involve me in the conversation monologue looking for a reaction.  I am pretty sure he said he was going to have to become a vigilante.  The cashier was nice enough to let him keep talking, and ring me up at the same time.   I was thinking to myself, “I just want to get my atlas and get out of here!”  And I did just that.  He might still be there talking to her.

I entered Mount Rushmore onto my phone’s mapping system, and off I went.  Unfortunately, it took me to a dead end street…basically the end of someone’s driveway.  I went back to where I started and tried again.  I arrived at Mount Rushmore at about 11:30.  Things have changed since my cousin, Laura, and I visited in 2002.  I recall that it was free, and that we were able to park, and walk up to take photos (Laura is this correct?).  This time it was $11, and there was an elaborate parking structure, visitors center, and gift shop.  I got some photos, and it was on to the next stop.

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Rushmore

Profile Rushmore

It is only about 25 minutes to Crazy Horse from Mount Rushmore.  On the 2002 trip, Laura and I were interested in the least expensive (usually free), and quickest tourist options.  On that trip we drove up to the booth, and an attendant told us what it was going to cost.  Laura promptly said, “Oh? That much.  Ok, so how much is it to drive in, take a picture, turn around and leave?”  He told us that was free.  This trip I decided to shell out the $10.  It was worth it just to see the movie about Korczak Ziolkowski and his vision.  It is a very interesting story, although, I have doubts that it will be finished in my lifetime.  After I watched the video, I was on my way.

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It was about 1:45 when I left Crazy Horse. My stopping point for the night was Sheridan, Wyoming.  Home of my friend, Kelly Pascal-Gould and her husband Don, son, Jackson (6th grade), and daughter, Georgia (2nd grade).  Kelly and I met in 1998 when I started working at an advertising agency in Denver.  That is what I like to call my “Devil Wears Prada” experience.  Kelly and I became friends very quickly.  Kelly helped me to do more than just answer phones at the agency.  She encouraged me to make the most out of all that I was doing to help her side of things (Public Relations).  It was an exciting experience for me – the recent college grad living in the big city.  I got to help with the opening of Denver’s Hard Rock Café (that was a fun night!), BD’s Mongolian BBQ, and Chili’s.  I think we only worked together for about 6 months, but we kept in touch.  I am pretty sure that the last time I saw Kelly it was 2004.  It was great to see her and her family tonight after all of those years!

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Jackson (with Bass Oboe), Georgia, Kelly, Hunter (dog), and Don

Kelly drove me to dinner in the WildCat (a dune buggy like vehicle) – a true Wyoming experience.  We even had dinner at a saloon!  Sheridan is a beautiful place.  It was a great evening, and I am so glad I was able to see Kelly and her family.  Tomorrow…Colorado!

 

 

Day 6

Day 6: Minneapolis, Minnesota to Rapid City, South Dakota

Distance traveled: 610 miles

Time: 9.5 hours

Song of the Day: “Wide Open Spaces” (The Dixie Chicks)

This will likely be my longest day of driving. It was great to get to South Dakota. It is so terrific to get to the point where the Badlands can be seen in the distance. My cousin Laura and I stopped in Mitchell, SD in 2002 and saw the Corn Palace. This time, I decided to stop at in Wall, SD to see the famous Wall Drug. There are signs for Wall Drug on I-90 for what seemed to be about 500 miles. I finally got to Wall with about 50 miles left. I walked through Wall Drug to see what all of the fuss was about. I think the coolest thing that I saw was the animated singing display that has been there since the early 50s. It was bizarre! I arrived at my hotel at about 7pm. I was glad to have the time to re-pack my suitcase, do some laundry, and watch some TV. I am very tired, so I am looking forward to sleeping in. Tomorrow will be a shorter drive – only about 4 hours to Sheridan, Wyoming. Looking forward to stopping at Mount Rushmore, perhaps Crazy Horse, and more importantly…getting to see Kelly Pascal Gould!

Days 4 & 5

Location:  Minneapolis, Minnesota

Day 4

Song of the Day:  “Purple Rain” (Prince & The Revolution)

*Double meaning dedication: for Prince, who hails from Minneapolis and

for Reina, who allowed me to stay in her room with the purple walls (Purple Reina!) 

My Friday morning started at 6:45 with Elle and Reina coming into the room I was sleeping in, and climbing in bed with me.  I played possum for about 1/2 an hour before I finally woke up.  I needed to be up early in order to get my car to Rudy Luther Toyota in Golden Valley for the 40,000 mile service.  After I talked to the girls for a little while, I hopped in the shower.  A few minutes into my shower I heard Beth say, “MC? Are you in the shower?  There is water coming through the dining room ceiling!” I quickly turned the shower off so that Beth could investigate.  With a simple adjustment of the shower curtain, the problem was solved.  Not a great way to start off a visit – it’s a good thing Beth and Marc like me (or they used to!).

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Elle, Beth, Reina, Max and Marc

After my car was finished, Beth and I took a lovely walk around Lake of the Isles.  It was so great to be able to walk down the street and find not one, but two lakes! It was an absolutely beautiful fall day.  We picked Reina up at noon, and then had a girls lunch in Uptown.  I scheduled a haircut in the same area.  After that we hung out and waited for the big kids to get home.  I had a little time to talk to the kids before leaving to meet my friend Lori in Maple Grove.

Lori and I met in 1994 when I worked in San Mateo, California as a nanny.  Lori was also a nanny and we met through our mutual friend, Jennie.  The three of us became fast friends, had a lot of fun, and had some great California experiences. We went on a San Francisco Bay Halloween “Booze Cruise,” attended a Golden State Warriors basketball game, spent a weekend in Calistoga at a spa (that mud bath was weird!), and also went to San Diego.  The San Diego trip was memorable for many reasons, but I think it was the side trip to Tijuana that I will never forget.  We decided to go to a bull fight.  What a terribly depressing event.  I know that I am forgetting some events, but as I write, I am so grateful that Jennie and Lori helped to give me a wonderful year in California.

Lori and I also moved to Colorado the same year (1998).  That was so fun to be in the same area once again.  When Lori got married in August, 2003, Jennie and I were there to stand up with Lori.  What a beautiful weekend that was.  Lori and Tim were married in an apple orchard on the most perfect day.  How is it possible that I haven’t seen Lori since then?  We had a great time catching up on Friday evening.  Lori was so nice to take the time to meet me after she was done with work.  We spent 4 hours trying to catch up, and make sure that we didn’t forget anything.  I was so glad to see Lori, and it was great to hear her infectious laugh.  Lori has the kind of laugh that makes you want to keep making her laugh.  Love it!  It was such a fun evening.

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with Lori

Day 5

Song of the Day:  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (Bob Dylan)

*I learned that Bob Dylan is from Duluth, MN (thanks, Beth!)

Saturday morning, Reina came in at 5am, and climbed in bed with me, saying that she was cold.  I said, “Don’t you want to get in bed with Mommy and Daddy?” And away she went.  I know that Beth and Marc really appreciated that (ha!)!   We started our day by going to the Mill City Farmer’s Market in downtown Minneapolis, in order to prepare for the dinner party they were hosting that night.  What a great city!  I love that it feels like a small town.  We procured wonderful produce to create a very special dinner.

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MC and Beth

After the farmer’s market, we went to Surdyk’s for the purchase of the adult beverages, and wonderful cheese.  That is a great store!  We took our loot back to the house, and then Beth and I headed out for a few things that couldn’t be found at the aforementioned locations.  We started prepping for our feast.  Guests arrived at 7.  It was so fun to meet Beth and Marc’s friends.  They have established a great group of friends in Minneapolis.  We had a feast consisting of ratatouille, roasted beets, flank steak, and fingerling potatoes.  For dessert we served Graeter’s (a little tribute to Ohio)!  What a fun evening!

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Marc, Beth, and MC

It was such a great weekend.   Max, Elle and Reina are awesome kids.  I loved seeing what terrific little people they are becoming.  Beth and Marc have done an excellent job raising polite, respectful, fun, and charming children.  The fact that they are absolutely adorable, is a bonus!  I love that family.  It was hard to say goodbye, and I missed them immediately.

Day 3

Day 3:  Beloit, Wisconsin to Minneapolis, Minnesota

Distance traveled:  315 miles

Time:  5.25 hours

Song of the Day:  “Fearless” (Cyndi Lauper)

Thank you, Wisconsin, for providing a lovely drive today.  The sun was shining and the temperature was perfect – almost 30 degrees cooler than yesterday.  I even spotted some trees whose leaves were changing colors – the first sign of fall!   It really was a lovely drive.  I was curious to see what the Dells were all about.  I noticed signs for water parks, adult stores, and magicians, so I decided not to stop.  I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Ho-Chunk Casino that I kept seeing signs for.  However, when I got off of the exit, it was nowhere to be found.  Maybe I didn’t go far enough.

I knew I was getting close to Minnesota when I saw the sign for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway.  I recalled that Laura Ingalls Wilder actually lived in South Dakota at some point.  I learned that when driving from Seattle to Michigan with my cousin Laura in 2002.  The memories of the Little House on the Prairie series came rushing back.  I thought about taking a trip to Mankato in the wagon (usually to get lumber, right?).  Would I run into Nellie Olsen in Walnut Grove?  And what about that dreamy Almonzo?  I loved those books.  Oh, and the TV show.

It was about 3:00 when I arrived at Beth & Marc Mason’s house in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis.  Beth and I met freshman year in college in Dodds Hall.  We became fast friends.  We lived together in a house called “The Blue Moon” for 2 years, and then we shared an apartment during my last year at Miami.  Who am I kidding?  Marc basically lived with us, too.  I love these two!  We have had so much fun together over the years.  I have seen all of their homes: from Cincinnati to San Francisco, both Chicago condos, and now Minneapolis.  We have an open and honest friendship (what other kind would you want?).  I always have fun when I am with Beth and Marc. Like the time we went to a Halloween party as Jack, Chrissy, and Janet from “Three’s Company.”  Hahahaha!

I was so excited to see Beth & Marc’s three children.  I met their son Max when he was about 3 months old (he is now almost 10!).  I met Elle when she was about 6 weeks old (she is now 7!).  I have only met their youngest, Reina (3 yrs), one other time.  I have seen Max and Elle over the years, but I haven’t seen any of them in almost 3 years.  Beth and I had some time to visit before Max and Elle got back from school.  We met them at the school bus and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Little Baby Max is a big kid now!  What a sweet boy.  Max is such a good kid.  Elle is a little pixie-like character who, like me, loves to sing.  She was quick to play some songs for me.   And Reina…what a character!  She is such a cutie.  Reina has great language skills, and loves to hang with her big brother and sister.

I may be close to another marriage proposal.  Elle asked if she could share my bed with me tonight.  She told me that she is a really good snuggler – she even demonstrated with one of her “squeezy hugs.”  I told her that tonight was a school night, so we should wait until the weekend.  Beth warned me that Elle likes to get up early, and that she may end up in bed with me.  What a doll!

After a lovely dinner (butternut squash risotto – wow, Beth!), the girls helped me bring my stuff in.  I even brought in the home made pickles that are being transported with care from my Aunt Mary in Michigan, to my cousin Leslie in Salt Lake City.  Don’t worry, Aunt Mary!  There are 2 jars left (2 didn’t make it out of North Carolina), and I am keeping them on ice in the car, and in the fridge at each location.  Those damn pickles.  They are delicious!

The kids went to bed, and Marc, Beth and I had a great time reminiscing about our favorite 80s TV shows and their theme songs (a game that Ben, Katie and I started in Cincinnati).  Test yourself – you will love it.  YouTube is a great resource if you forget the theme songs.

Now, off to bed.  I am taking my car to get a 40,000 mile service tomorrow morning.  Then, I am getting a much needed haircut (what will I do without Dave Sanor?).  Tomorrow night, I am getting together with my friend Lori.  I can’t wait to see more of Minneapolis.  I think the only other time I have been here was when I got bumped off of a flight coming back from Omaha in the summer of 1994 (more on that tomorrow night).  Pictures will appear in tomorrow night’s blog.

Day 2

Day 2:  Cincinnati, Ohio to Beloit, Wisconsin

Distance traveled:  445 miles

Time:  7.25 hours

Song of the Day:  “American Girl” (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)

This post is not interesting, just informational.  Today’s goal was to get more than halfway to Minneapolis.  I left Cincinnati at 11:15, and I was advised to follow the route that avoids Chicago.  I stopped in Indianapolis at about 1:15.  Then, again, in Oglesby, Illinois.  Indiana and Illinois proved to be very boring drives.  I was so glad to arrive in Wisconsin.  I am sure you are wondering why I stopped in Beloit.  My brother suggested that I stop here because it is home of Beloit College where Mom and Dad’s good friends, Barb & Dick Lucier, went to college.  After I checked in at the Holiday Inn Express (in the middle of a free 2 drink happy hour – yes at the Holiday Inn Express), I decided to drive to campus and check out Barb & Dick’s old stomping grounds.  Located on the Rock River, the downtown was cute, but it was quiet this Wednesday night.

(Image courtesy of http://www.visitbeloit.com/the_riverfront)

I came back to the HIE, so I could start watching the finale of “So You Think You Can Dance” from last night.  I had to avoid all social media today fearing that someone would post who the winners were.  Then, I was on the phone a bit, trying to solidify my plans for this weekend in Minneapolis.  I am so excited to see Beth & Marc Mason and Lori Lindblad Snyder!  A more interesting post will appear tomorrow night.  I welcome phone calls!