Wedtrip 2016: How Chuck, Bucky & Ron Kept Me Moving

‘Out battered suitcases were piled high on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.’ -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Topping off at 6300 miles round-trip, this year’s ‘Wedding Roadtrip’ was by far mine and the General’s most extensive excursion yet.

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Inside the General–probably the most common setting for my snapchats

I was so thankful when I heard the three weddings I wanted to go to this summer all happened to be in an eight-day span–I did not have to consider choosing.

 

midwest15Seeing college buddies again after a year of separation brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Thank you to all the happy couples for gathering everyone together again! I also stayed with friends en route–Matt and Maddy in Portland, The Sean Berry outside Denver, Mitch during one of my four treks across the state of Nebraska. In St. Louis I had three days ‘off’ from driving, and stayed with Emily & Tommy, experiencing St. Louis and relaxing by the pool. I also explored St. Charles with college friend Brittany and Arizona-childhood friend Kristen, the latter of whom moved to St. Louis and strangely enough met Brittany at their mutual church.

midwest12I could not even begin to list all the beautiful people with whom I reconnected at the weddings and during Seward NE’s famous Fourth of July celebration. I love making friends wherever I go, but relaxing in the presence of dozens of people you love and who love you back brings a peace beyond words. We reminisced old memories, made new ones, listened to a lot of country music, shared a few drinks, talked about tractors, and danced the night away. Country people and their gracious communities will always captivate me.

midwest7The mechanical issues on this trip were a bit disheartening, but each situation was better manageable. I left Seattle almost directly from the shop after replacing a severely frayed throttle cable. After 2000 miles, only 100 miles short of my first destination, the bearings in my A/C compressor locked up and snapped the fan belt while I was on the highway at 9 p.m. on a Friday. (Nothing ever breaks during normal business hours, does it?) I tearfully called Dad in Montana and he immediately had a tow truck take me to a mechanic who was open late, and I drove away two hours later. In addition, I knew plenty of people in Omaha NE, and the Doerrs opened their home to me, complete with air mattress, until I could finish the final stretch the following morning. On the return trip I ran out of oil in Kimberly ID at 10 p.m., but a helpful country boy and his sister added oil to the thirsty General, directed me to my campground, and gave me the name and address of a mechanic who opened early the next morning for a proper oil change.

midwest5In regards to timing, I broke down in all the ‘right’ places and without major readjustments to my schedule. The bigger damage was, of course, to my wallet. I had budgeted generously for the trip and even portioned out a few bucks for a tune-up at Chuck’s Auto Repair before the trip, but did not think I would have two more trips to–you guessed it–Bucky’s Express and Ron’s American Car Care Center before returning to Seattle.

midwest3Financially there was one major thing that kept me from complete disaster: an app called Roadie. Roadie, the self-termed ‘On-the-Way Delivery Network,’ allowed me to compare my route with people who needed stuff hauled across the country. Kevin C. wanted his motorcycle hauled from Portland OR to Millcreek UT, and I happened to be going that way. By using the app to contact Kevin, I met his brother outside Portland, who loaded Kevin’s bike into the bed of my pickup, securing it themselves with their own equipment.

I was off! I drove 13 hours with what felt like half the gold of Fort Knox in the bed of my pickup. ‘You’re paying for this trip,’ I whispered continually to the red machine in my rearview mirror. ‘Please don’t get stolen. Please don’t bounce out. Please don’t break.’ I even slowed down around mountainous corners and did not drive more than four miles per hour over the speed limit (vast improvement, for those of you who are unaware of my safe yet cop-infested driving record).

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Castle Rock NE–I also spent time in Castle Rock CO on this trip

Since I was pulling into Millcreek late, Kevin and his wife Katie offered to swap me a night on their couch for two six-packs of Oregonian beer. Another trade in the books, and I not only saved on money for lodging, but got paid enough cash to cover my gas money from Seattle to Omaha! Thanks to Roadie, and Kevin, I was able to finish my roadtrip only $25 over my original budget, which includes expenses paid to Chuck, Bucky and Ron. My diet for the past couple weeks has consisted mostly of rice and Top Ramen-esque meals, and the General’s A/C is permanently condemned–but this trip was worth every penny for the sake of mental clarity and emotional fulfillment.

 

Joining a national gym (24-Hour Fitness) last December turned out to be one of my better ideas in regards to travel plans, because I was able to lift in Denver and Portland to supplement my running and burn off some extra drive energy. I ran around three lakes, in Storm Lake IA, one outside St. Louis, and one outside Lincoln NE. Regarding diet, this was also my healthiest trip yet: I only ate out twice, and bought everything else at grocery stores to pre-make meals in St. Louis, the halfway point.

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St. Louis: penguins, pool time, and a museum exhibit that possibly inspired a future roadtrip…

This year I only spent one night in a campground (sorry Mom) (she hates when I do that) (but it’s cheap and I love falling asleep under the stars while surrounded by the comforting sides of the General’s truck bed) (sorry Mom), as opposed to the four nights last year on a shorter roadtrip. I was also travelling through areas where I knew more people, and to my benefit (?) my friends have spread out more, allowing me to see more people on a given route rather than only at a destination.

 

There was a moment, while crossing the desert north of Moab UT at 84 mph, that I thought, ‘Even if my truck is disintegrating around me, perhaps I can make it just a little closer to home before the inevitable happens,’ and I laughed a maniacal laugh. My windows were rolled down and half my current driving outfit was lying on the passenger seat while I tried in vain to beat the heat, and my left arm became more sunburned with each passing minute, and my hair was tangled and my face was grimy. I was high on hugs and love from all the people I had seen in the previous two weeks, and I laughed. I was rocketing through hundreds of miles of burning sand on a tiny strip of pavement inside an inanimate machine which was the closet thing to a best friend an inanimate machine has ever been to me, and currently my only friend for as far as the eye could see, and I laughed. For a time I did not know if I would have enough money for fuel to get home to Seattle, but I just kept laughing, because my mind was at peace and there was still road ahead of me, so why not laugh?

‘But no matter, the road is life.’

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All Work and All Play

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks disappearing?–it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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It doesn’t rain that much, it’s just overcast. All the time. But it rains sometimes.

Now that I have answered all your questions: Ahem.

seattle2Seattle has been slowly materializing for me over the past year and a half. I had never been here (unless you count flying through the airport countless times–one of my favorite airports, I might add!) until November 4, when I packed up my truck with my living essentials and my Empress and headed west.

How can I speak of three months in one post? Maybe it is not possible. It is mostly work and sometimes not, and occasionally sleep, and 100% life.

It is connecting with friends-of-friends over coffee, smiling uncontrollably while running through the light rain with arms outstretched, packing and unpacking, almost missing the bus, daily sack lunch to save money, dance lessons, budgeting, sitting in a corner next to a cardboard box/desk for an hour trying to unwind after a 16-hour workday, almost missing the bus, morning yoga, packing, drinks at midnight and pancakes at 2 a.m., a new church every Sunday, payday excitement, unpacking and packing, a penguin sweater, pulling off my heels and chasing the bus, free furniture, signing leases and other commitments, going grey, trying to understand football, almost missing the bus, paying rent, unpacking, jumping around and singing at the top of my lungs from the host stand at Hard Rock Café.

seattle10I have had three zip codes in three months, I have worked 50-65 hours per week since my arrival (thank the Lord for getting two jobs so quickly, I had some financial catching up to do!), and I have explored this city much less than other cities because of it. Nonetheless, I have still been up to the Space Needle, had a drink at Starbucks (it actually took me a couple weeks, so it was a milestone), hit up a couple museums, and watched people throw fish at the Pike Place Market.

I love both jobs and am excited where they will lead in the next couple years. Journalism is still on my mind but if I have learned anything in my travels the past couple years, it is that if you set your mind to something, work hard, stay focused, etc. then it will unfold naturally.

seattle7Like Seattle did. One of the main reasons I am in Seattle is because of a conversation I had with a journalist while roadtripping through the South last May. When I had only lived in Seattle a few weeks, he looked me up and said he was coming to the city to cover the Seahawks game and asked if I was in town. It was a God-moment in May, and it was a God-moment in November as well; both times were confirmation that I was on the right path. The journalist had no idea that his words in Jackson MS had such an impact on my life, and having the ability to share that news with him was such a blessing. In addition my words to him in Jackson had also, unknowingly, convinced him to take up running, and now I am proud to say he is a positive, enthusiastic, healthy half-marathon addict.

We have more impact on people than we think. Even if you only meet once you change lives and your life is changed. I was thankful to have the opportunity to see one of those moments come full-circle; the majority of the time we do not have that opportunity, but it still happens.

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She punched me while we were trying to selfie.

After years of travelling off and on, I am taking a step back and keeping the same address for at least six months… which allows friends to track me down, unlike the previous year when ‘What state are you in now?’ was a common good-morning text from a number of people. Currently I have a roof and four walls, and starting tomorrow I will have a couch for visitors, which means–it’s your turn, folks! I have driven all over the country to see you all, so if your heart desires a visit to the pacific Northwest, hit me up for a good time (and free lodging).

 

As for myself, I have yet to visit Oregon or Canada, ever! So those are next on the bucket list.

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Haiti Mission 2015 — #avoidingCarla

Every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. -Parker Palmer

Riding to a clinic in the back of a pickup

The school bus was our main form of transportation

It started out as #avoidingcholera and somehow ended up #avoidingCarla as such things do, so we named it the unofficial motto of our trip. Thankfully, we never found Carla…and she never found us.

Haiti was an experience like none other thus far, a whirlwind of culture and language and clinics and beautiful views and mentally avoiding the heat by dreaming of our next swim.

We held medical clinics five of the days, and we were able to see hundreds of people. It was such a beautiful thing to be able to care for people in this way. Since I’m not pre-med like many of the students on the team, I took my usual scribal position, recording vitals and symptoms. We worked for three days at the school, one day at the church, and one day in a small town outside Thomassique.

More of the team riding in the pickup

In scrubs at the home base, gearing up for a clinic

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Some of our 22 checked bags, leaving from the Omaha airport

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A gathering storm

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Watching a volleyball tournament

We improved the clinic each day, learning more about one another on the team and how we could work more efficiently together. We had two doctors, one from Nebraska, and another from Thomassique. One of our nurses was also from Haiti. We had a team meeting afterwards to discuss what we could improve in the future: more of some medications and less of others, hopefully more doctors, and better planning of our days so that we can fit the entire clinic into a single week. This is the first time this team has added the medical side to the mission, so much of it was trial-and-error, but we learned a lot from our experiences.

Volleyball afternoon tournament

We also helped out with a high school-age volleyball camp, mostly in the mornings when the kids were practicing and working on drills. Personally, my volleyball skills were a little rusty, but I got better with practice, just as the kids did. The coach, Fritz, proudly showed us all of the awards his kids have won in the past five years since his volleyball camp started—including a number of national titles! We had two afternoon tournaments, Americans vs. Haitians, by Fritz’s request, which were quite competitive.

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Campfire one night where we made s’mores for our Haitian hosts

The volleyball camp was an important part of the relational building and cultural learning that Josias, our team leader on the Haitian side, stressed as a part of our trip. He was aware of the dangers of being a one-time fix-it crew, coming in and leaving without building trust in the community, so he involved us in the community as much as possible, such as inviting dozens of his family members over for supper and games one evening. Another night, they taught us Haitian dances, and of course we ate Haitian food every day, which was often an experience in itself. Except for goat tongue and intestine, I think I tried everything I was offered.

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Riding the bus with new friends

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Home base

One of the downsides of the trip was that our team burned itself out the first week. By the second week, many of us were sick or injured in one way or another. The heat increased from the first week to the second, which zapped our energy even further. One of our goals for next time is not to push ourselves so hard at the beginning of the trip.

haiti14However, our Haitian hosts gave us a couple days to rest and recuperate at a waterfall and at a spring where we could swim. Everything we did brought us closer together: with each other as Concordians but also with our hosts with whom we spent each day.

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Elisha is excited to begin the trip!

haiti2This trip was a lesson for our team of living out Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” We were living on what we called “Haitian time,” when things happen when they happen, often is not how we foresaw it. But God works through everything, often making “better” from what we might have considered a “missed opportunity”—even from our first few moments in Haiti, when we discovered that all 23 checked bags, carrying medical supplies, volleyball supplies, and our team’s personal items, had been left in Miami and would not arrive until over 24 hours later. This situation “forced” us to get a good night’s rest in Port-au-Prince instead of taking the four-hour bus ride through the mountains, preventing an even earlier burnout, among other blessings.

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My home for two weeks–but we moved under the shelter when the heavy rains hit

Taking a trip to Haiti is expensive, which I learned during fundraising in the months prior to the trip but did not realize the purpose until I arrived in-country. Our team lived on a plot of land about three miles outside Thomassique. This was a huge blessing: we were able to sleep in tents, which helped keep us cool, and we had about 15 acres or so inside a cement wall where we could exercise and go for walks, or just separate ourselves from the group to have some time alone in the Word. However this required the use of the school bus to take us everywhere, which used fuel. It also required extra team members for upkeep of the land, as well as living expenses not only for our team, but also for our cook and her family, our bodyguard and his boss, our translators, and more bottled water than I ever thought could be consumed in the span of two weeks.

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Selfies with kids holding on to our bus on the way home from school

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My Haitian pen pal, Anide, who lived about five hours from Thomassique

At the end of the trip Josias shared with us the plans for the future of the Lutheran church and school in Thomassique. This project has been going on far longer than the time I have been involved, and with the help of a developing bridge between Seward NE and Thomassique, the plans for the future are bigger than ever. These plans include expanding the school, purchasing a second school bus so the 350+ kids have a safe way to commute sometimes several miles to the school, and more medical clinics for future trips, of which I hope I am a part, Lord willing.

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Medical clinic day

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Caves near the waterfall

For me personally, this trip was an incredible exercise in trusting God hour by hour. I can see now how He has been preparing me throughout this year so far in my other travels. He was also teaching us about the necessity of prayer and the importance of being joyful. I plan to go back someday, but I will have to wait and see where the Lord guides my steps.haiti1

‘Always’ Is a Strong Word

For indeed now it feels not like going, but like going back.                                                   -C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

The last few weeks I feel as though I have been always on the road, always travelling, always moving. In a week and a half at the beginning of July, the General and I spent 32 hours flying over the familiar highways of Wyoming and Montana, like a time machine taking us back through flashing memories to the Home Place and old friends.

drive1My big farewell from living in Seward NE for four years was finally spending Independence Day in Nebraska’s Fourth of July City. After two big roadtrips it was fun to see so many familiar faces on the streets of Seward. Many of these streets were closed off to house a massive car show, carnival rides, dance performances, and hundreds of vendors and craftsmen spread out across the lawn of the city courthouse.

I walked around most of the day with newlyweds Matt and Maddy, watching our friend Brandon in a pole vaulting competition and viewing the extensive parade from a professor’s lawn with scores of other Concordians. In the evening many local friends threw house parties and barbecues, so I bounced around from one to another until it was time for fireworks.

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Cousins visit the Bitterroot

The fireworks show was incredible–perhaps the best I have ever seen. Lasting over 20 minutes, the lights flooded the sky in large flashing booms above thousands of people lying on blankets in Plum Creek Park. They also shot off an impressive ground show, sending out a simultaneous wave of radiating light from below.

After the professional show, Maddy, Matt, and I lit off a few of our own fireworks before I party-hopped again until the wee hours of the morning, bidding everyone farewell. It was everything I had imagined for a Seward Fourth, the perfect sendoff.

Bucket List: Participate in a Seward Fourth, check!

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Rodeo in Sheridan WY

My inspirational nomadic friend Bridget surprised me by asking if she could crash on my couch on the night of the 6th on her way back home to Montana–interestingly enough, I was planning on leaving the following morning myself for our Home Place in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Welcome to Part 2 of the Jarvite Gypsy’s caravanning experience! This trip went smoothly, mainly because we agreed on a GPS route to use at the beginning of the excursion. Florida lesson learned–the beauty of piling excursions atop one another is the rapid rate of acquiring knowledge about such essential details.

We were also excited about the 80mph speed limits all the way across the state of Wyoming!

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Rodeo with Bridget

We happened to be staying in Sheridan WY the night before the opening day of the largest rodeo in the Mountain Circuit! So before driving out on the 9th, Bridget and I took an short detour to watch some calf roping.

Bucket List: Watch a rodeo in Wyoming, check!

All of this placed me in the Bitterroot in time for the Missoula Half Marathon, which I have run for the past four years. I think I’m going to make this a tradition!

drive15After a brief stay at the Home Place with the cousins who flew in the day after I arrived (I was able to squeeze in a hike between my arrival and theirs; it’s impossible for me to be in Montana for more than a few hours without hitting the trails), our family packed up the speedboat and headed to Bigfork MT.

We spent some time with my grandparents the first day, and then took the boat out on Flathead Lake the next day, though it started out cold and cloudy. It took us a little while to find a spot that wasn’t too choppy for wakeboarding, in Woods Bay on the northeastern side of the lake. Nearby were the Raven and the Sitting Duck restaurants on the lake, complete with boat docks for parking on the lakeside.

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View of Flathead Lake from the Sitting Duck

The weather warmed up when the sun came out later in the afternoon, and my wakeboarding was perhaps some of my best ever, even though I haven’t been out in two years. Of course we broke out the tube for a while before the day was over. We had an awesome stay at the Marina Cay Resort, on the mouth of the Swan River where it flows into Flathead Lake, and includes a pool, outdoor restaurant, tiki bar, and often live music, as well as a giant chess set!

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Happy birthday, bud

On the 15th I drove from Bigfork to Bozeman, which I have recently termed the Promise Land. My friend Elias was turning 21 that day, and I made it in time to go to Bridger Brewery with him for lunch.

drive12The rest of the weekend included a barbecue and Bozeman’s Music on Main on Thursday and a concert on Friday, as well as going downtown three nights in a row.

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Palisade Falls

No trip is complete without some time in the great outdoors and catching up with a few friends: Will took me on a hike up to Palisade Falls near the Hyalite Reservoir. Naomi showed me her new gypsy van which she will be taking down to New Mexico in a few weeks.

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Hyalite Reservoir

I also went for a few morning runs on some of my favorite paths: Pete’s Hill, which offers a gorgeous view of the city, especially at sunrise or sunset; the Sourdough Trail, which cuts through a few neighborhoods and Graf’s Park south of town near the Museum of the Rockies, and feels like a tiny patch of untouched wilderness; and the Gallagator Trail, which cuts across the city from Kagy in the south by the museum to the public library on Main Street, and is dog- and cyclist-friendly.

drive7All of these places, Sheridan, Hamilton, Bigfork, Bozeman: all are familiar, either because they were past homes or favorite stops on past roadtrips. I have been going to so many new places recently that I almost forgot what it was like to see a place for a second time. New memories are made, not to replace the old ones, but to layer atop them and make them richer. Old places do not get used up: there are always more experiences to be had.

‘Always’ is a strong word: but when you get itchy feet as often as I do, that strength is enticing, drawing forward in the crisp novelty of the moment or back in timeless memories to the place where it all began.

On Motion: January Roadtrips

“To me–a blank fortune is…an open sky on the horizon. Fill in the blank. A fortune no one’s ever written up ahead of time, because no one could imagine a life as strange and as beautiful as the horse you’re about to jump on.”  -Sarah Ruhl, Late: A Cowboy Song

There is something beautiful and exhilarating about constant motion, something powerful. Motion accomplishes something that stillness cannot. Perspective changes: physically, and then psychologically.wisco1

Such were my thoughts as I pushed through the West, then the Midwest, changing landscapes falling behind me and looming before me, one after one after one, the blue hood of my Dodge pickup pressing on in front of me like the prow of a ship.

January was full of time in the car, most of it alone. I didn’t mind: in fact, I had been looking forward to the trip for weeks.

I get excited when I drive. Sometimes a good song comes on the radio, or a prayer rises in my heart, and I laugh. It bubbles up, and I roll down my window and lean out up to my waist, feeling the wind and the tears running out of the sides of my eyes, and I yell at the world in happiness.

This was my first drive from my home in Western Montana to Nebraska in the winter or alone. I have made this same trip eight times before, but always with someone else, and always sometime between April and August (although we still hit white-out blizzards even in that time frame). I needed to get my truck and my college belongings back to Nebraska for the upcoming semester.

I looked around for a driving buddy for a while but I wasn’t too disheartened when none surfaced. Every brain needs a rest from constant interaction.

I began my journey January 2, and that first day on the road was glorious. I missed being behind the wheel while I was in Italy. I spent 14 hours flying across beautiful Montana and south through Wyoming, leaving my beloved mountains in my rearview mirror for seven months. I had heard there was a storm on my tail, but I had a good chance of outrunning it for the first day.

I always make a few calls while I drive, catching up with old friends. Some people tell me it’s dangerous, but if you have ever driven alone across eastern Montana and all of Wyoming in one day, you know it’s much safer to be on the phone: otherwise you risk falling asleep out of sheer boredom (although as long as you keep the steering wheel straight you may still stay on the road at least until you run out of gas, probably 30 miles from the nearest gas station).

wisco2I found a tiny motel in Cheyenne for only $55. I could hear the man snoring next door, and there was a wind (not draft) coming in through both the rotting wood around the window in the bathroom and the 3/4-inch gap around the front door; but all I really needed was sleep, and I can sleep through anything. I just used an extra blanket or three.

The second day was a white-out blizzard. I spent six hours gripping the wheel as the wind whipped white sheets across the road, erasing any remains of asphalt to my view. I arrived at my apartment in Nebraska exhausted.

But the next morning, I was up early and out on the road for another 10-hour adventure: I wanted to visit a friend from Italy before the semester got started.

I spent four delightful days roaming around Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was in the single digits all week, and the wind chill put us deep in the negs. However my friend Anthony, who had also studied in Florence last semester, still managed to give me a grand tour of downtown Oshkosh during my stay.

wisco3We hit up Peabody’s where they offer live jazz every Sunday night, and we attended The Traveling Suitcase’s debut concert for their new album. Anthony knew the lead singer/drummer Nicole Rae (he knows everyone in that city).

I also stopped for a night to see my brother Kevin at his school in Mequon, and he treated us to Panera. We don’t have those in the West. I also hung out with his college buddies, some of whom I remembered from my visit last March.

Over the week, as I socialized with Wisconsinites, one thought pervaded my mind:

Wisconsin is the South of the North.

I am always struck by Wisconsinites’ superb hospitality. I know the Midwest is known for this trait in general, but Wisconsinites’ love for their Home and their Guests is a thing to behold.

The drive to Nebraska was blessed by good weather, although I counted over three dozen cars and six semi trucks off the road in mangled fashions, a result of the storm the previous day. I heard about a 190-car pile-up in Illinois just east of where I passed through.

I was home for only one weekend before I piled into a car with six other people and drove through the night to Louisville, Kentucky, for a travel conference (ironic, I know).

wisco4There is not much to say about this weekend except that I experienced my first two all-night drives, and that I got to spend a Saturday evening in downtown Louisville. We all grabbed a few drinks at Sully’s downtown. There were so many lights in the walking district that it reminded me of what I imagine New York City to look like (a future bucket list location).

In true college-student fashion, we managed to fit 14 people into two hotel rooms, 10 in one and four in the other. Thankfully I had a sleeping bag with me: the gypsy life, my friends, and the beauty of constant motion.