Thursday, November 3, 2016

Just grab a friend and take a ride upon the open road!

Since I moved to DC, I have yet to spend a Christmas in my own home. I always felt it was worth it to travel to family, whether it be in Utah or London/Paris. When I married Blake, I added Arizona to the rotation and we spent Christmas there in 2012 and 2014 and in Utah in 2013. In the autumn of 2015, we were still in a holding pattern whilst we waited on the Navy. We didn't know how soon they'd call or how quickly he'd need to get somewhere when they did. So, we decided to hold off on buying plane tickets for Christmas, just in case we'd have to cancel our trip at the last minute.

Instead, because we ultimately had two weeks off together between semesters for him and work for me and we finally knew he didn't have to be anywhere for the Navy just yet, we decided to make a road trip of it. By this point, we'd already put more than 2,000 miles on the car in the first half of the month, why not add another 6,000?

On the 19th of December, we loaded Malcolm up in back seat and set off on our way. Our goal on the way out was just get there as fast as we could. We'd stop for pit stops and sleep, but otherwise we powered through. We spent our first night in Nashville with my uncle and his wife. They'd had dogs before, so Malcolm was welcome too. It was a quick visit, but we're grateful for their hospitality. Our second night we spent somewhere in Colorado at a hotel we picked once we got tired.

This was the moment I got my first "Mom, are we there yet?" Sorry dude, it was only day one.

Our third and final road day got us to my parents' house in Orem, Utah, about 30 minutes before the traditional Christmas Family Home Evening my mom has worked out with her Utah-dwelling siblings and my cousins. I'd suggested this night so that we could see as much of our family as possible in one go, and I didn't make it to this event regularly anyway. Since we came from the farthest away, anyone who was late didn't have any excuses we were willing to listen to. ;)

The highlight for Malcolm on the first leg of the trip was a fantastic, huge, well-equipped dog park we found in Kansas City, Missouri. He had so much fun running and playing in the middle of a long day and we're glad he stayed out of the muddy spots.

The highlight upon reaching Orem was the fresh foot of snow in my parents' backyard. Malcolm LOVED running around in it, even more so when my brother's dog came over and they ran around together.

The lowlight was toward the end of the FHE, when the last stragglers were leaving and Malcolm (who is usually very well behaved at doors) decided to leave too. Blake bolted after him with naught but socks on his feet, and I bolted after the both of them with Blake's shoes on my feet. Losing my black dog in the dark was not high on my agenda for this trip, and it was made worse when I reached the top of the hill my parents live on and saw the expanse of the valley below. Fortunately, someone in my parents' neighborhood has backyard chickens and I managed to corner him behind their pen. We knew Malcolm wasn't running away from us, just exploring and being the dog he is, and even though we were mad, we were mostly relieved to have him back.

Christmas in Orem was wonderful. It was lovely to be there for my nephew's first Christmas and enjoy some good family time. We also enjoyed our first trip together to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see all the lights.
Snuggle time at my parents'

I'm glad I took the time to go visit them and got this photo, because my grandpa passed away in February.

We made a game of Temple Square Bingo, pointing out super obvious stereotypical happenings.

We could have all just given him tissue paper for Christmas, and he would have been happy.

Nephew or Dinosaur?

On the 26th, we made our way to Arizona. It was my father-in-law's 60th birthday that week, so we were able to attend the party in his honor and spend some good time with Blake's family, both nuclear and extended, as well. Blake's three siblings, two of the siblings-in-law, and two nieces were also in Arizon for the occasion and staying with his parents, which made things cozy, but we worked it out.
To say my FIL LOVES Pepsi is probably an understatement

We also did a DIY Color Run. They sent us the kits, so a bunch of us went down to the middle school track and either walked or ran the entire 5K (or played around in the field, because they were 2, 4, or their parents) and then threw colored chalk at each other. Even Malcolm got a little on him. It was a blast.

After a few days in the warm Arizona winter, we decided to take a more southern route home, mostly following the I-10. On our way, we met up with friends in Austin, Texas, for lunch and stopped for New Year's Eve in my old hometown of Beaumont, Texas, where I lived for eight years. I navigated Blake around a tour of my old neighborhoods, ate Church's chicken for dinner, and we called it a night on DC time to watch the ball drop and get a little extra sleep.
Lunched here in New Mexico. Yummy onion rings!

The original border of the US and Mexico

Texas State Capitol

McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont, built in 1906 - I was a Junior Interpreter here for 2 years

Jefferson Theater in Beaumont - where I made my theatrical debut!

The next day, after showing Blake a couple more Beaumont sites, we met up with another uncle of mine and his partner and a friend of theirs for lunch in Mississippi. Even though they said it wasn't the most authentic, the Cajun food we had was good enough for us.

Also on our way home, we visited some sites from Blake's mission, the Florida Tallahassee mission. He'd actually spent most of it in Alabama, but we got to see some places he loved, including an apartment that missionaries still use and a chapel where we ran into the missionaries that use that apartment still (and they caught Blake up with mission news while I availed myself of the facilities). Once we hit Jacksonville, we took a sharp turn north on I-95 and headed home.
Malcolm can't read

It was an incredible two weeks. Malcolm was a rock star about being in the car that much. Whether it was the disruption of his routine, all the extra food our families kept sneaking him, or both, we don't know, but he did get a little sick on the way back. Once we were home and things got back to normal though, so did he.

Blake drove the entire way.

I may have driven a little in Utah for something, but that would have been it. Overall, we drove though 23 states! The cost was probably comparable to two plane tickets home, but way more of an adventure. I was once told that road trips will make or break a relationship, and I think Blake and I are going to be happy together for a very long time.


Myrna said...

Nice narrative!

Heidi said...

That picture of Malcolm ignoring the sign made me laugh out loud!

AmandaStretch said...

Myrna - Thank you!

Heidi - It still makes us laugh too. Our dog is hilarious.

Giggles said...

You stopped to see friends in Tucson too!! Iddo loved having a dog playing in our backyard. Hooray for fun adventures!