Checking in

You might have noticed (from the lack of posts) that we’ve had a BUSY summer. I don’t think we’ve ever traveled so much in so little time! The only thing that comes close is when Jarom did two back-to-back summer internships – a month in Korea (by himself), and then a month in North Carolina (Evan and I came; I was pregnant with June).

Since school got out, we have gone to…

  • Cupertino for a niece’s baptism – mid-June
  • Monterey for a week-long family reunion – late July
  • Orlando (sans kids!) for a work trip/mini vacation – early August

We drove out to California both times – although Jarom couldn’t get time off in June, so I did the Cupertino trip with just the kids. The family reunion was awesome. We stayed right by the beach, went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, hit the Mystery Spot and the beach boardwalk, and enjoyed lots of time with family. I started crocheting a baby blanket on the drive out, and managed to get everything except the final edging done while we were there.

This past weekend, Jarom was asked to go on a business trip to Orlando – and his boss offered to have me come, too, if I would help out with a few things. Sold! My in-laws agreed to take Evan, June, and the dog from Friday morning until Tuesday night so that we could have a fun mini-vacation after the work trip was done (THANK YOU!!).

After we got to the hotel Friday evening, we went to Downtown Disney with the rest of our group – Jarom’s boss, the boss’s wife, and another employee. The contrast between the arid heat of Utah and the humid heat of Florida… I think I prefer the drier option. Orlando was so muggy! Yuck. But we did get to eat at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant (most amazing carrot cake, and I’m really picky!) and see some incredible Lego displays. My favorite was Prince Philip on his horse fighting Maleficent in her dragon form.

Saturday was the business portion of our trip. Most of the day was spent in or near the conference room. After our responsibilities there were done, we (as a group) went to a very disappointing dinner. And then I was worn out! Time for tv in the hotel room, one of the things I love most about traveling.

On Sunday the rest of Jarom’s group was leaving, so we went to lunch on the way to the airport. It was an incredible lunch, and if you’re ever near the Orlando airport you should seriously stop at Tony Roma’s. I know the name is generic, but the food was contemporary Southern-inspired and it was so good that Jarom and I went back on Tuesday before our flight out.

Once we got the group dropped off at the airport, we decided to go to the outlet mall. Apparently it was a tax-free weekend? So it was crazy busy. And while we thought that the cars parked on every single grassy curb, divider, or strip was a bizarre response to the weekend traffic, a cashier told us that it’s completely normal behavior there. When Jarom asked hr what was up with everyone parking on the grass, she seemed surprised that things aren’t like that everywhere. “Why wouldn’t you park there?” she responded. I tried saying that it isn’t a real parking space…but I doubt it matters.

Guess what we got to do on Monday?? The Harry Potter parks at Universal! In spite of the crowds (which make me anxious) and the Zoloft I forgot to take that morning, I had a blast. The shops are so fun, and the Escape from Hogwarts ride was amazing. I’m really afraid of heights and I generally hate roller coasters or rides of that nature, but for me, the scariest part of the Hogwarts ride was the sudden appearance of Dementors.

It was, overall, a great day at the parks, but I was so tired by the time we were done. Thankfully we grabbed a few pick-me-up churros on our way back to the car.

And yesterday, we ate lunch, caught a plane, and came home! Now it’s time to start getting ready for Evan to start school in two weeks…

Scratch that

The entire time we were in Greensboro, there was a horrendous heat wave. Heat + humidity = I want to stay inside all day. I was fortunate to have found an apartment that included utilities, so I did my part in ruining the earth by keeping the air conditioning on most of the time. But outside it was usually at least 95°F and often into the 100s.

…Until yesterday. On our last day in Greensboro, the heat wave broke (can you say that? Like a fever breaking?) and it was a comfortable, even pleasant, 80°F. It was also a LOT less humid.

When I woke up yesterday morning, my throat was killing me and my nose was stuffed up. By early afternoon I had a massive headache and (don’t take advantage of this opportunity to tell a joke at my expense) my face hurt. So much. After we left for Raleigh that evening, my ears were starting to ache and I was wishing I could just take a plane back to Utah instead of spending a week on the road.

Tylenol helped some, and we had some children’s Benadryl that I took to help me sleep. It worked until about 3am when I woke up with (possibly) the worst headache of my life. More Tylenol, a few more hours of sleep, and my favorite little boy was woken up by a door slamming down the hall at 6:30. Sigh.

When I brought the Bwun into bed with me, hoping he’d go back to sleep, the Romgi woke up and said now he was feeling miserable too. We talked about what to do, since neither of us wanted to try spending hours in the car and then being tourist-y in Washington DC when we felt like this. The Romgi suggested waiting until after breakfast and then seeing if we could stay another night in Raleigh (and cancel our reservation in DC). And, you guessed it, we weren’t any better when we finished eating, so the Romgi booked us for another night here while I canceled the hotel in DC. Then we all went back to sleep.

Instead of taking 7-8 days to travel up through Washington DC to where the Romgi’s dad grew up in New York, and then to Palmyra, Nauvoo, and finally back to Provo…it looks like we’ll spend today resting and then go back the way we came, through Colorado and all those boring states in the middle of the US. It will be shorter and we’ll probably drive longer every day.

Update: another day in Raleigh. I eventually got a good night’s sleep, and felt ok when I woke up just before noon (the Bwun was still asleep too, so it was fine to sleep in so much), but the Romgi felt worse. He seems to be a day behind me with this cold, so with any luck we’ll all be doing better tomorrow and ready to head home. Maybe we’ll do 3 12-hour days. Not fun, but at least we’d get home quickly!

Life in North Carolina

A few updates on what we’ve been up to lately, including our beach trip…

There's a little cupboard in the kitchen and it is perfectly Bwun-sized. He spends a lot of time in there - we sometimes refer to it as his office, since he likes to put cell phones, keys, watches, iPods, etc. in there.

The Romgi brought back this little backpack for the Bwun from Korea. Usually the Bwun tries to put one strap over his arm like a purse and then gets mad that it doesn't work. This time, he let us put it on before we tried going to a restaurant for my birthday. He looked so big! P.S. Please ignore the Bwun's mess. I didn't feel like spending all day cleaning up after him on my birthday.

One day when the Romgi came home for lunch, he brought this swallowtail butterfly with him. It turns out I am a little bit afraid of large bugs flying at me, even if they're pretty. Luckily the Romgi took it back outside when he left.

Also, the Bwun wanted to wear the Romgi's socks. So I let him.

Last night we stayed in a hotel in Jacksonville, NC so we could head to the beach this morning (Greensboro is about 4 hours from the coast). Thanks to the Bwun and his anti-sleep habits, we didn’t get to leave as early today as we wanted, but we did get to a little place called Swansboro just before lunchtime. It has a historic district with lots of little shops and restaurants.

First glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean! Actually, second - the first picture that the Romgi took was right after we got out of the car, and the camera lens fogged up from the humidity.

The beach we went to was in Emerald Isle. No, I don't know why I'm in this picture.

It was definitely crowded. But colorful. Someday we'll have a beach umbrella, too...

The Bwun and I took a swimming class in Utah while the Romgi was in Korea, so the Bwun knew what it meant that I put on his swim diaper and trunks. But he was a little hesitant when he saw the ocean.

We showed the Bwun that he could play in the sand, and that's what he did for about two hours. Yes, we drove 2000 miles so the Bwun could have more dirt to play in.

To be fair, it was two hours where we didn't really have to DO much except enjoy the salty ocean breeze. The Bwun took care of himself.

Eventually I got the Bwun to come in the water with me. The water was perfectly warm, and shallow enough that I could sit while the Bwun stood. We did get knocked down once, but I think he at least had some fun!

After we played in the water, I started to get hungry (thank you, jr). We packed up and found a nearby restaurant called Flipperz. In general I am morally opposed to any business that uses a Z in place of an S in their name; however, this turned out to be a good choice. The Romgi has been wanting to try soft-shelled crab, and they had a special soft-shelled crab sandwich today that he says was perfect (as was his seafood bisque). I had a blackened mahi sandwich that may be the first meal I’ve really enjoyed since we left Utah (I’m really picky lately). I liked it so much that we bought a jar of the dry rub seasoning they used on the fish, so we can bring a little taste of the coast back with us.

Only one week left in North Carolina! We drive to Washington DC next Saturday.

Raleigh? Really?

We’ve had some great plans since we’ve been here in North Carolina. Last weekend, we found out one of the Romgi’s law school classmates was in Raleigh for a few days, so we though we’d try to meet up for lunch. Sadly, on Friday night we learned that it wouldn’t work out, but we decided to head to Raleigh the next day anyway.

Then the Bwun woke up in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and I stayed up with him for about an hour. I was exhausted – it takes me forever to fall asleep these days, and I have to get up frequently (and I have four more months of this?!) – so I was really grouchy and may have sobbed while the Bwun ran around his room. Once I made the judgment call that he could go back to sleep (translation: I’m so tired I don’t care if he screams and cries for the next five hours, as long as he’s in his crib and I’m in bed), I zonked out. The Romgi is a wise man, and in his wisdom he knew better than to wake me up later that morning so we could actually get ready and go to Raleigh. So we stayed home. I think we went out for Korean food for dinner, so it was a good day anyway!

Now we have about two weeks left in North Carolina before we head out on our long journey home. There were two things we wanted to see: Raleigh and the beach. The weather all week has been bad – well, rainy and thunderstormy, which means DEATHLY HUMID – so the beach didn’t seem like the best idea. I knew I’d need plenty of sleep in order to be in a good mood for our day trip, so I made sure the Bwun got to bed early, and I went to sleep not long after he did. It was a great plan.

But I seem to be full of great plans that don’t really work out. My ear has been hurting for a few days (it’s not as bad now, so maybe it was just an ear ache after all), and it woke me up after a couple hours of sleep. The ear pain plus the discomfort of pregnancy meant I couldn’t fall asleep for about…five hours after that.

The Bwun slept great all through the night, and was perky and happy when he woke up this morning. Ok, that’s not quite true; he had a meltdown when I tried to give him some cereal. It turned out he wanted to feed me cereal. Of course. I don’t know how long I managed to stay awake – probably not more than 45 minutes – before the Romgi, in his wisdom, took the Bwun into the other room and let me sleep the rest of the morning.

Sorry, Raleigh.

Now the plan is to still go to the beach next weekend (we really, really want to go!), and then on our final day here – when we’re leaving North Carolina and driving to Washington DC – we’ll go through Raleigh and spend an hour or two there in the morning. (And of course, after that we have a whole week of driving, but it means that in 3 weeks from today we’ll be home! Hooray!)

Wish me luck in getting enough sleep to be pleasant company for our trip to the beach!

Day 6 and beyond: Greensboro

The Romgi made the clever observation that we had trouble finding a good price for a hotel room in Charleston, WV because it was a holiday weekend. Sure enough, on Saturday morning, the continental breakfast room was swarming with people (and, sadly, not much in the way of good food). We had only a half-day’s drive to Greensboro, so we planned to take our time getting ready in the morning and enjoy the last leg of our trip.

In the Romgi's words, West Virginia is "lousy with trees."

Sad news: as the passenger, it was my job on Saturday to take pictures of the state signs. Believe it or not, I did alright getting the Virginia one.

Virginia the bird welcomes you, apparently.

Virginia actually started to look like parts of Northern California. But maybe still with more trees.

Along the way into Greensboro, along I-77, there’s a town called Fancy Gap, VA. Here’s a story for you. I used to be a genealogy major. I think BYU might be the only place you can do that (you can become a certified genealogist, but that’s something separate from a degree). One of the classes I took required us to select a family group and focus all of our research on them. The family I chose was my 3rd-great grandmother and her children. There had been some confusion over who her husband and parents were – names were mixed up in the information I had been given. After hours and hours of research I determined that she was never married, but had five children. They lived in rural Virginia, in Carroll County, which includes Fancy Gap. When I saw the town name on our map, it reminded me of the research I’d done, and I vaguely remembered that there was a family cemetery in the area. My mom helpfully left me a message, but wouldn’t you know that cell phone reception along I-77 is almost nonexistent? So we had some fun with the GPS and some backroads. Eventually our GPS ran out of road, even though we were still on one, so we pulled up behind a truck that pulled over at a tiny little shack – which turned out to be Hugo’s Trading Post.


I went in to ask directions, and while I was in the Romgi snapped this picture.

Thank you for shopping here!

The man inside was very nice, and when I told him I was looking for the Bolt cemetery, he asked which Bolts specifically. I mentioned James Bolt (my 4th-great grandfather), to which he replied, “Who’s his kin?” I’ll be honest, the man had a heavy accent (drawl?) and I had to ask him to repeat the question. Luckily I have some slight hearing loss from my ear infections and I can use that as a handy excuse for making people speak more clearly and slowly. He did know who we were talking about, and gave us pretty good directions to the “main road” and from there to the Spence cemetery, where James Bolt is buried.

Before long we got to the main road, the bustling city center of Laurel Fork, VA.

We actually turned around so we could get a picture of this. It's just SO QUAINT.

Do you know what's even more quaint? (Quainter?) Laurel Fork Mercantile Co.!

Anyway, the man seemed to have overestimated how far it was from the main road to the cemetery, and since I knew there were quite a few family cemeteries in the area, I think we passed by. I saw one on the left but it was much sooner than expected, so we just kept going. But since Laurel Fork is only about two hours from Greensboro, we’ll take a trip back one of the weekends we’re here.

Oh yeah, we had to make a pit stop at a gas station a few miles later. I want you to take a look at this.

I don't know about where you live, but our gas pumps back home look a little more modern than that.

So, remember what I said about me being in charge of the state sign pictures?

There. All the way on the left. "Arolina Line."

There! Welcome to North Carolina!

We were able to make it into Greensboro and get settled into our apartment. It’s a fairly decent size, and while it may not be in a fabulous part of town, we’re paying about the same as our rent back home. Would you like a tour?

There's no overhead light in the living room, so we had to get a cheap Walmart floor lamp. It's amazing what a difference that makes over just turning on the hall light (which was burned out when we got here). The Bwun is carrying a walking stick that the Romgi got in Korea. The Romgi is chilling on the air mattress.

View from the living room. You wouldn't think it possible, but the kitchen is even smaller here than ours is at home.

Alright, I took a break from cleaning to take pictures, but I did get the dishes clean after this. I just want to point out that the sink, though full, is stainless steel. I really hate the ceramic one in our regular apartment. I can't ever get it clean clean clean, no matter how much I bleach or scrub it. But the best part of the kitchen?

AN OVEN! I especially liked having multiple burners, except it turns out I infinitely prefer a gas range. And I don't cook as well with electric. Sorry, universe.

All the light switches are like this. I don't know if it's a North Carolina/East Coast thing or just the apartment complex, but it's a lot easier for the Bwun to switch on and off. I guess that's the important thing, right?

We let the Bwun have the bedroom, mostly so we could shut him away when it was bedtime. We also let him run around and get all his toys out. This was the resulting mess, which seems fair after being in the car for a whole week.

The bedroom has a washer and dryer tucked away in a little closet, and can I say how glad I am that we don't have to go to a shady laundromat to do our laundry?

Both the bedroom and the living room have these air conditioners. The settings range from LOW HEAT to HIGH COOL, and although it does a great job of keeping the apartment cool (for free! to us, that is), there's very little difference between low and high. This matters because I'm tired of having constant loud noise. But, no sense in complaining. Better noise than heat.

And now – what have we been up to besides hanging out in our apartment?

The Romgi has been at work.

I’ve been looking after the Bwun.

And the Bwun…

...He's been working on his image.

I think the hat works!

I’ve read two books since we got here (Dracula by Bram Stoker and Masterpiece by Elise Broach), so I’ll post reviews soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed my quirky storytelling and terrible picture-taking!

Day 5: Charleston, WV

This morning we had a leisurely start and didn’t even leave the hotel until check-out time. We had 4 hours of driving from Louisville to Charleston, so most of our trip was lengthwise through Kentucky.

We saw some quaintly dilapidated old barns...

...but mostly it was full of very green trees.

Welcome to West Virginia! You may have guessed that the Romgi was the passenger in charge of picture-taking this time.

West Virigina looked kind of like this.

With places like this (Tudor's Biscuit World).

We got to see the capitol building. (Yes, I double checked; the capital is the city, the capitol is the building.) Shiny!

The Bwun was kind enough to sleep for over 3 hours of our drive.

When he finally woke up, we were less than 15 minutes away from our hotel. And he was in a good mood. Thank you, the Bwun!

It was still afternoon when we checked in, but I was ready for food (thank you, the Oeuf). Although we’ve been trying to eat at local restaurants, what sounded good was Cracker Barrel. And oh, it was exactly what I wanted. French toast, biscuits and gravy, and the best hash browns I’ve eaten outside my grandpa’s cabin. Thank you, West Virginia!

Day 4: Louisville

Thursday morning turned out to be a lot of fun, but it didn’t start very well. I’d slept on the couch and was grouchy, and when we got into the car we discovered the GPS had no battery charge. Something was wrong with the power cable that plugs into the cigarette lighter. The Romgi saved the day again with his ingenuity; he got out our camera cable and USB car charger and hooked everything up, since the GPS uses a micro USB cable for power. This turned out to be extra extra good because I am possibly the world’s worst navigator (which is why we bought the GPS in the first place), and our destination was tricky to get to.

Where did we spend our morning? At Grant’s Farm, once owned by Ulysses S. Grant. Not only is it a wildlife preserve featuring animals from six continents, it also has the log cabin that Grant hand-built. How cool is that? Want to see pictures? (Oh, and before I forget the other reason I was grouchy: you have to wait in line when you first get to the park, because a tram takes you around to see the animals roaming around and then drops you at the food court/gift shop. The Bwun wasn’t thrilled about waiting, but I’m guessing I was even grouchier than he was. The Romgi will probably back me up on that.)

Actual cabin built by actual U.S. president.

A horse?

Some zebu. Sorry for the shaky picture; the tram was shaky.

Some type of African cattle...I was wrangling the Bwun, so I didn't catch the name.

Wild turkeys!

Once the tram dropped us off, it turned out there was a whole section of the park there with less-wild animals. Like, ones that were just in cages you could see sort of close-up instead of many many yards away. The Bwun had a lot of fun and you’ll see why!

First up was a capybara. I'm always sorely tempted to call these chupacabras, but those are something else entirely...

Next, some rather large tortoises. Is there a different plural for the word tortoise?

A parrot (on the other side of the fence). He sang "La la la" and waved goodbye, about the same as the Bwun does. Kind of cute!

Another tortoise, but this guy was speedy. He kept walking along the length of his fence and would use a rock at the end as a pivot point to turn around again.

Guinea pigs, which scamper quite quickly.

Monkeys. Too bad the Bwun just couldn't see them from where we were; I think he would have enjoyed seeing them monkey around.

A bald eagle who came to the park after an injury left him unable to fly. He does look kind of regal, huh?

...But he looked kind of ridiculous when he started walking.

Camels. I like their tufty beards and shoulder hair.

What collection of animals would be complete without a llama?

The absolute best part of the park was the pygmy goat pen. There were about 40 pygmy goats (some grown, some kids) and for $1 you could buy a bottle of milk to go feed them. Hilarity ensued.

As soon as we walked into the pen, we were swarmed.

The goats were willing to do just about anything to make sure that bottle didn't go to any other goat.

Even once the milk was gone, goats would stand up to try getting the bottle.

The Bwun really liked the goats (they were about his size, as you can see) and is here saying, "Eye!" My apologies to the Romgi for getting in the picture. I was just trying to stop our son from poking an animal in the eyeball.

Despite the Bwun's behavior, the goats really liked him too. They wanted to gobble his hands up. They almost succeeded.

See how well we've taught the Bwun to be nice to animals? (Ignoring the poke-in-eye picture up there, of course.)

Wouldn’t you know, when we finished at Grant’s Farm and got back on the road, the GPS died again. The USB cable wasn’t working to charge the battery anymore. We found a McDonald’s for some free internet access and the Romgi wrote down directions to our next destination (Louisville, KY) while we tried to think of what to do. But another wouldn’t you know, prayers worked and the USB cable started giving a charge to the GPS again. We haven’t had any problems with it since.

As we headed out of St Louis, the Romgi asked me to get a picture of the arch. It turns out I am possibly worse at taking pictures than I am at navigating. The main reason seems to be that I wait just a fraction of a second too long to snap a photo – or maybe that I just don’t pay enough attention to the scenery. Either way, we end up with pictures like this:

Yes, that arrow is pointing to the St Louis arch. We had a lot of great views of it before then.

About eight shots later, I managed to get this, although admittedly it isn't a very scenic view.

Another thing I’m not so great at: geography. I honestly didn’t know (because I have obviously never looked at a map in my life) that St Louis is right on the border between Missouri and Illinois. That’s my excuse for not even looking for a Welcome to Illinois sign. We decided it wasn’t a big deal, because we go through Illinois again on our trip home.

Welcome to Indiana!

I was asleep for most of Indiana (the drive through wasn't more than a couple hours), but the Romgi took over documenting the trip, I guess. Zoom in and you'll see a crop duster plane. I'm a little bit concerned that he took this picture while driving.

Indiana is primarily made of corn.

Because of previous state welcome sign mishaps, I had the camera out and ready when we crossed the bridge into Kentucky. But the Romgi has this habit of pointing things out to me without saying something useful like "There's the state sign TAKE A PICTURE!" Instead it comes out as just pointing and maybe a "LOOK!" So I missed the "Kentucky state line" sign. Just barely. I thought he was pointing on the water that had just splashed onto our windshield.

Not to worry! We were welcomed to Kentucky on the other side of the bridge.

Behold: Louisville.

I got us a room at this fabulously nice inn for the same price as our spidery Motel 6 room in Denver. There were marble floors with inlaid designs, dark wood furniture, donuts at the continental breakfast...this place really had it all. Including a horse and rider on the roof.

We had a nice quiet night in Louisville (aside from the Bwun, who didn’t want to sleep except in the bed. Again). With only 8 hours of driving left until we reached Greensboro, we decided to do a half day of travel on Friday and Saturday, which meant we got to sleep in. Thank you, Louisville!