Road Trip 2014

So many new things have happened this week. In case you missed it, last Friday I flew from New York to Illinois to road trip back to Vermont with Monica.

Saturday was her sister’s graduation party, so I got to meet half of her family. I have never met so many of a college friend’s family and friends before. I also had never had eggs and hot dogs for breakfast, either. I’m still unsure if that’s a mid-west thing, or just a Monica-family tradition, but I do know I’m gonna stick with the more common breakfast choice of eggs and cereal.

eggs and dogs

On Sunday we adventured to Wisconsin to check out the Mars’ Cheese Castle.

Mars afar

Mars castle

Yes, it’s an actual castle. I’ve loved cheese for as long as I can remember, so I was pretty excited to taste my first authentic cheese curd. However, when I did, I was less than impressed. It was rubbery and squishy in my mouth, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

However, we did get to sample lots of other great cheese — the lemon zest flavored block was pretty tasty — and I even tried on a cheese-head hat.

cheese heads

On the way back home, we spontaneously decided to stop at the Jelly Belly factory for a tour.

jelly belly

Our tour guide, Craig, was less than enthused to be driving us around the facility, but he did manage to tell us everything we needed to know. At the end, I sampled a “barf” flavored jelly bean, which was utterly disgusting.

factory hats

Prior to this trip, my only image of Wisconsin consisted of what is depicted in That 70’s Show, but now I know it’s a little bit more than that.

Sunday night Monica took me out for my first taste of custard. I liked it a lot, even though it is pretty much a thicker version of ice cream.

custard

Monday morning we woke up bright and early to begin our trek back to the east coast. I was pretty excited to get my feet into other states. I saw the Chicago skyline and we were fortunate enough to watch the sunrise.

chicago skyline

chicago sunrise

Soon enough we were cruising into Indiana. As we passed through South Bend, I couldn’t help but think of Notre Dame and feel sorry for all of the kids surrounded by fields and flat land. Here we also crossed from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone.

I have a collection of post cards from every place I’ve ever been, so we made sure to stop in every state so I could get one to add to the collection. Indiana wasn’t very exciting, so I was happy when we reached Ohio.

I was looking forward to our lunch stop in Cleveland, but that never quite happened. There was a lot of construction on highway 80-90, and we somehow ended up on 80 instead of 90 when the two split. When we pulled into a rest stop, we looked at a map and realized we were pretty far south in the state.

Luckily, we met a very nice man, William, who told us how to get back on track. (William is also very familiar with the “selfie” and happily agreed to take a photo with me.)

ohio friend willy

He was very friendly and told us that our excursion would allow us to pass through the “center of the world.” Now, I’m not sure how middle-of-nowhere, Ohio is the exact midpoint of the world, but there is a sign claiming it is.

After our escapade on the scenic route, we made it back on 90 and headed into Pennsylvania, which brought the end of new states for me. We were only in the keystone state for a short while (literally only one town) before I was reunited with my home state of New York.

Even though I have lived in the state my entire life, I have never explored the western part of the state. I was very excited for this opportunity, although I would have to wait a bit more to do so.

Monica and I had dinner at Koz’s, a cool place that has license plates all along the wall. We loved it because we were counting all of the different plates we’d seen along our journey.

koz's plates

After spending the night in Buffalo, we began afresh Tuesday morning in search of our real destination: Vermont. As much as I complain about New York (with it’s low minimum wage and high taxes), it does have a lot of great history, especially in terms of what women have done here; we passed Seneca Falls, where the fight for women’s rights began.

Because of this trip, I can now say I’ve driven on the entire New York State Thruway, which starts in New York City and goes north to Plattsburgh and west to Buffalo.

Once we got to Lake George, we had lunch with one of Monica’s rugby friends. Then I drove the all-too-familiar route back to campus. After two days in the car and 1,050 miles, we had finally arrived at our destination.

This was the first time I’ve been on campus as an alumna. It felt weird to be back. Even though I know a lot of people who are here for the summer, the place seems empty. And it’s strange being here without having a room to call my own. And that’s not to mention that we’re staying in the freshman dorms, which really brings back memories.

Tuesday I spent the night with Monica at her grandma’s house for the first time. Wednesday I helped her move in, since she can’t do too much with her broken toe. Later that night, I went with Cait to Cheese Traders for the first time.

On Thursday, Monica took me to her family’s summer camp in Charlotte, which is right on Lake Champlain. The sight was breathtakingly beautiful.

lake champlain

 

lake ripples

It’s kind of nice to have some downtime on campus, but since everyone else has work and class commitments, it feels even stranger to be here alone. I’ve still got two more days on campus before I head back to the homeland.

Back in April, I couldn’t believe I was committing to driving cross-country with Monica, but we did it. Although it was stressful at times, we had many stories to tell each other and we made sure to have good, long playlists of music.

By the end of the trip, we spotted a total of 34 different U.S. license plates and an additional two Canadian ones! I believe this was the first time I’ve seen a plate from Washington. We also had a “cop count” and tallied how many waves we could get from other drivers.

This summer I’ve been fortunate enough to get a taste of the west, but my travels are not over just yet. In two weeks I’ll be visiting a few other states for the first time, too.

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