About a month before Thanksgiving, we decided that we better figure out a way to get to Ohio for Thanksgiving since we had last been there in December/January of 2014/2015. Too long! We put off plans for our original 2017 trip back in August because we didn't think Ellie would be able to make the trip in the heat with her heart and kidney failure... but as she is still inexplicably kicking, after much hand-wringing on my part we decided to take our chances and head east for a whirlwind four days of driving and four days of visiting time. Here is an incomplete list of observations:
I spent a lot of time driving through Iowa growing up since my grandparents lived there, and I do not remember it smelling as bad as it smelled on this trip. It rivaled that one spot in Texas that turns us all into immature and obnoxious whiners, though that lasted longer so it still wins. BUT GOODNESS GRACIOUS. It was like a terrible combination of manure, dead things, garbage, rendering by-product... blech. However, I still love Iowa for its memories of my grandparents, rolling hills and beautiful barns, and West Des Moines was a pretty fancy place to stay the night. We also spotted a Younkers (pronounced YONkers) which is the department store chain where my grandma worked for years. It used to be more of a department store/dry goods place, but now is mostly like an upscale Kohl's or similar. It definitely helped make up for the stench.
An hour is better than nothing.
During the course of the trip, I was able to meet up with two of my oldest friends; it is hard to live so far apart and only get an hour or two every couple years, but it's the best to be able to pick up exactly where we left off. I missed Kattie by a few hours, as she was in town from North Carolina but our schedules couldn't make it work. SIGH. But, Nancy! Jesse! Friends since 1973 and 1974, respectively.
Bonus: Maddie and Molly came along on Wednesday night, too—despite never living in the same city, they are third generation friends that can pick up right where they left off, too. Yay!
Matt and I both need to staple our wallets to our foreheads on these trips.
We both had a panic about the whereabouts of our wallets (at different times, both wildly inconvenient had they been lost where we momentarily thought they'd been lost). But thankfully, both were not in those places. A welcome relief after that one time we learned that, in fact, you can FedEx an inadvertently left behind wallet from Ohio to Alabama in mere hours if you're willing to pay the price. AHEM.
Cousin bands are the best!
Uncle BJ, aka the cousin whisperer, organized a fantastic rendition of Doorbell by The White Stripes (a longtime Gracie favorite) when Marie, Katherine, and I went to lunch on Wednesday. AWESOME. It is a lot of work to upload videos here so instead, an adorable picture of the Dillow/Taylor/Pershey first cousins. But trust me when I say it was good.
Dillow girls are shorties.
Lily is 10 months younger than Gracie.
Maddie is the younger one here, but may very well end up being the second shortest of the Dillow side first cousins when all is said and done.
Attending a Cavs game with 17 other family members is a great way to celebrate a birthday.
Count 'em, 18! This is an important piece of information.
It was so much fun to see a game in the Q! And, they pulled it off 100-99. I personally willed them to win, because how horrible would it have been for us to see them lose twice in one year and ON MY BIRTHDAY no less? It was awfully exciting, and went off (almost) without a hitch.
Panic counting is the absolute least effective strategy of counting.
Hitch: the moment when all 18 of us were finding our seats (two rows, 10 in front and 8 behind) when the people in charge (read: Matt) suddenly thought we didn't have enough seats and maybe we accidentally counted wrong and there were 19 of us (when you travel with a pack that large through the crowds, they mostly eye you loosely so it totally would have been possible to have a 19th person with us). Have you ever tried to count that many people (and match them to a correct seat number) under duress? You end up with all sorts of numbers, like 17, 19, 18, 29, 141... hee hee. It turned out we just had to shift a seat down and all was well. And I recovered from my fit of giggles at the absurdity of it all very nicely.
Packing changes over time.
We brought a lot of stuff back with us that we didn't take with us, and we STILL had less packed than the first time we made this trip when Maddie was 7 weeks old (for Katherine's and Ben's wedding). Hee hee. And none of it exploded onto the gas station parking lot on the way out of town this time around.
Ellie Dog is one tough dog.
We worried so much about her because she has a.) outlived all predictions of her lifespan by a good 18 months and b.) she tried to die in Rock Springs, WY last March. But, turns out she just really hates Rock Springs, WY. She made this trip perfectly fine, thankyouverymuch. We love her so.
*Don't calcuate the mileage of a trip until you have to circle back 23 miles to a rest stop in Pine Bluffs, WY on the way home to find your brand new glasses which somehow fell off your head in a bizarre glasses-falling-off-top-of-head freak incident on the very last stretch toward home. It was really more like a 2,660 mile trip. But thank you, kind stranger, for propping said glasses up on the planter where I could find them in the dark!