We had the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off this year, so we made a trek back to my home state to visit family and friends. It was a long journey; we drove over 3500 mi. when all was said and done. Some of it was roundabout, as the Midwest was being hit by a huge storm system that was moving its way up to NY directly along the path we normally drive. So, it was an adventure containing new sights, possible future plans, and the realization that we’re getting too old to drive straight through from KCMO to Utica these days.
The Way There
See, like I said, roundabout. But all that pink stuff is snow, so you can see why we took it.
To circumvent the storm coming in from the Midwest, we decided to include visiting relatives in NJ in our plans, as well as trying to find somewhere warmer along the way. Originally, we’d wanted to take a day or two to spend in a new city, but couldn’t find anywhere interesting within a days drive of Utica and KC that wasn’t in the middle of the storm system.
A. Utica, NY (Home Frigid Home)
Saturday, Dec 26, 2009. 11am.
Ill prepared as always, we finally get on the road around 11am after a last minute Guinea Pig litter run, cage cleaning, laundry, packing and dropping off the Pigs at Carl’s parents’ house.
I demand brunch in the form of Dunkin’ Donuts. Always a good choice, imho, aside from their icky coffee.
B. Hillsdale, NJ (Extended-family Time)
Saturday, Dec 26, 2009. 3pm.
Roads aren’t bad, but they’re also not great. I’ve decided that drivers get exponentially stupider the closer you get to NYC on the Thruway. Add in bad weather and a wreck on the Tappanzee Bridge, and you end up going 20mph on 87 just a mile before our exit onto the Garden State Pkwy. 2.75 hours into the drive, we realize Carl’s license is sitting in his car, not his back pocket. At this point, we decide to make a decision on going back to Utica for when we get to NJ. We arrive safely in Hillsdale and visit with Carl’s Grandma, Aunt, and cousins. After being fed, overloaded with cookies and candy for the drive, we are on the road again around 5:30-ish…
C. Hancock, MD (Exhausted, it’s Hotel Time)
Saturday, Dec 26, 2009. 11pm.
We stop for the night in Hancock, Carl’s iPhone having been handy when we got off an exit too early for the hotels. I dislike Maryland’s sign placement. It’s late, dark, and winter, so we can’t get a good sense of our surroundings along the Potomac, and choose the cheaper of the town’s two hotels, which happens to sit up on a hill. Come morning, we find it’s actually quite a pretty area. There are a lot of bike trails about, especially along the river.
My phone camera doesn’t do this view justice, but it was very pretty. We were coming down off of a mountain in western MD.
In daylight, the hotel isn’t nearly as sketchy as it seemed the night before. The room could have benefited from a lot less wooden paneling though. It was rather cave-like. Well, if cave walls were made of wood.
We may plan a return trip sometime in the future to bike some of the trails.
D. Charleston, WV (Where We Decided to Maybe Move)
Sunday, Dec 27, 2009. 12pm.
Driving through West Virginia, we encounter 50°F weather, sunny skies, beautiful views, and seemingly perfect cycling terrain for Carl. I spend a fair bit of time learning what Wikipedia has to say about West Virginia. Things we learn:
- Middle of nowhere WV has better 3G access than Utica. Unfair.
- Although it was created by succeeding from Virginia to join the North in the Civil War, it’s considered a Southern state by the Census Bureau.
- Humid Subtropical Climates, of which the largest population centers of the state happen to be, are not nearly as warm and nice as the name of the climate type makes it sound. It’s still better than the Humid Continental Climate of Utica, however.
- It has one of lowest ranking economies in the US (based on median income and per capita income). However, as it also has the lowest percentage of population with a Bachelor’s degree, Carl and I, with our fancy Yankee college degrees might be a hot commodity.
- Utica is too small for my tastes. The largest city in WV, Charleston, the capital, is smaller than Utica. However, both its and the Huntington metropolitan areas are slightly more populated than Utica-Rome is.
We stop for lunch in what seems to border on the wrong side of the river, so to speak. However, we drive around and find downtown, the State Capitol building, and a few other landmarks. And man, do West Virginians seem to love their Shoneys restaurants.
Final thoughts: it may be nicer to live than Utica, if we could find jobs.
E. Huntington, WV (Which We Like Better Than Charleston)
Sunday, Dec 27, 2009. 4pm.
Although slightly smaller, Huntington seems quite a bit stronger economy-wise. There seems to be a lot of rejuvenation in the downtown area. It is my choice for relocation if we were to do so.
We don’t stay long, however, as we’re still very far from our destination.
F. Glasgow, KY (Not as Far West as We’d Hoped)
Sunday, Dec 27, 2009. 10:30pm.
Ceci n’est pas un lake. No, really, I’m serious. In addition to the freezing cold, there’s been so much precipitation that rivers in southern IN/IL have overflowed, leaving fields under frozen planes of water.
About an hour from Bowling Green, KY, where I’d hoped to stay for the night, we run into snow. It’s not horrible, but it is 10pm and we’re on a crazy hilly small highway in southern KY, so we decide to stop a little early. The iPhone helps again, as we see no sign of the hotels the highway signs claimed exist. We find one, check in, and collapse for the night.
G. St. Louis, MO (Luckily, No Snow)
Monday, Dec 28, 2009. 2pm.
Carl accused me of being a New Yorker on vacation when I took a picture of the Arch (insinuating that I’m no longer a Missourian). I just did it to share with y’all.
Despite the winter weather warnings, St. Louis is no longer getting pelted with snow, thankfully. In fact, we haven’t yet seen precipitation today. It lunch time for us and the car (MO has the cheapest gas of any state in our trip). We head to White Castle. I don’t know why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We also stop into a T-Mobile store. Carl’s broken iPhone home button is making him lean toward a new phone, and I figure I can get Mom a Christmas present in the form of a QWERTY keypad so maybe she’ll stop using all of our minutes. She does have unlimited texting, afterall. Alas, T-Mobile has instituted a $18 upgrade fee. I am not in a contract at present, so I’ll take my chances with customer retention via a phone call at some later date. I’m not giving them my hard earned $18 to upgrade after being a customer for 8 years. Carl doesn’t like their phones, so plans to stick with the broken iPhone.
I. Sunrise Beach, MO (It’s Family Time)
Monday, Dec 28, 2009. 4:20pm.
Arrival at Mom’s. Somehow driving through Bowling Green made me want to go bowling, so we go out as a family. Bowling is fun. A country music overload and extended period of time surrounded by true Missourah-ins is not so much.
I forgot how uncomfortable sharing a twin bed is until now. I would prefer never to repeat the experience.
H. Jefferson City, MO (Netbooks, Laptops, Shopping)
Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009. Afternoon.
The girls have a little money from our grandparents for laptops, so we head to Jeff City, which has the closest mall, Best Buy, etc. I learn a lot about Netbooks. We find one for Kaite, and Courtney gets her early HS graduation gift in the form of a bit extra to purchase a real laptop for college next year. We eat Chipotle! Yummy. I miss Chilpotle. Why can’t Utica have one?
I. Sunrise Beach, MO (Again)
Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009. Rest of Day.
We spend more time getting everything set up on the girls’ computers. I upgrade their Mac Mini with Snow Leopard. We spend time together as a family watching Better Off Ted.
J. Grandview, MO (Better known as “Spend as Much Time in KC as Possible” Time)
Wednesday, Dec 30, 2009.
We arrive at Garry and Debby’s. Hellos are said, we settle in, etc.
Dinner time approaches and we head to Westport to try out Korma Sutra, a new-ish Indian place. After arriving in the Plaza/Westport area, I remember how badly Kansas City manages to handle plowing the roads after a snowfall. It’s quite an adventure despite the snow having stopped a day or two prior. Korma Sutra is tasty. We make the intelligent decision to brave the alley next to the Dark Horse Tavern to get back to the car in World Market’s parking lot. No broken bones, thankfully. We also stop in World Market for some champagne and to look at the odds and ends. The night ends at Ben’s where we watch Zombie Land. Not a bad film. Maybe not the best of the year though.
Thursday, Dec 31, 2009.
A whirlwind of meeting for lunch with Heather, seeing my oldest sister, husband, kids, etc. Later, dinner with Rebekah, Maria, Margaret at Domo, a sushi place in Brookside. Finally, Ben’s annual New Year’s Eve party. There could be worse ways to ring in the new year.
Friday, Jan 1, 2010.
We start the day off with some laundry, eating left over Indian, and general catching up with the world online. Later, we stop by to visit my friend Jessica, whom I hadn’t seen in maybe 5 years. We were thick as thieves back in middle school. Then, we head to see my niece and nephew at their grandparents, as I haven’t gotten in touch with my sister. Sadly, I’m unable to see my youngest niece because she’s with Nikki. Afterwards, we head back to Garry and Debby’s, and decide we’re going to head out that night. Having all day Sunday to recoup sounds better than getting in exhausted Sun late afternoon. One last stop to see the last sister, husband and niece, then we get on our way.
The Way Home
This is the fastest route, and the one we normally take. We just wanted to get home.
Starting Friday, Jan 1, 2010, 10pm. Ending Saturday, Jan 2, 2010, 7:30pm.
It’s long. It’s freezing. I have a killer headache (not hungover!) and so Carl drives the bulk of the time. In Cleveland, we hit snow. And it snows, and snows, and snows the rest of the way back to Utica.
We finally arrive home, in once piece. Food. Shower. Sleep. And more sleep. Thus ends the journey.