October 14, 2012

Friends in High Places

I'm writing to you now from our little room in Kovalam, Kerala, India. We're jetlagged and wide awake at an hour when we should not be wide awake. But we've decided not to let it bother us. One of the great things about long-term travel is that there's no rush - we can adjust to the time change slowly.

So, this gives me the opportunity to recap the post-camping part of our road trip, which was really amazing. (See our recaps about Yosemite, Zion/Bryce, Grand Canyon, Arches/Canyonlands/MonumentValley, and the roadtrip wildlife). Get ready for a picture-heavy, long post. You can also heck out all of our pics from the friends and family portion of our cross country road trip here.

Simon (3) and Tom

After we finished camping, we drove to Loveland, CO, to see Tom's oldest sister, Melanie, her husband, Brian, and our nephews Simon (3) and Zachary (9 months). We had a lot of fun helping to potty train Simon, which is a hilarious and patience-trying endeavor we were happy to help with. (Just so you know, he's doing an excellent job!) We were pretty exhausted from camping, so we relaxed, had great meals and played with the boys during the day, including a day in Boulder and an eventful day at the bounce house place. It's amazing how quickly Simon changes and we love seeing his sweet personality grow.

Zachary is a very smiley baby and does great things for the ego, as it doesn't take much effort to get him giggling. One of the evenings, we drove to Denver to see my dear friend, Tiffany Colvin, and her scrumptious little boy, Callum (6 months). And before we left Boulder, we drove to the hospital in Boulder, where our friend Allan and his wife, Megan, had just given birth to their first child, Lily. Colorado was really a tour of babies for us.

Allan & Lily
Callum (6 mos) & Colvin

#4 on your roster, #1 in our hearts!
Koooooole Starlin!!!!
(Apparently, football players don't smile.)
After that, we high-tailed it across Kansas to Kansas City for a very eventful week. We stayed a few nights with BFF Lauren and her boyfriend John, who had just moved in together a few days before but let us stay with them anyway. We spent 3 nights with BFF Ashley, and one night with the Willoughby's (my dad's side of my family) on the Kansas side of KC. Highlights included: watching Ashley's son, Kole (7), play football in our hometown (really, any time with Kole is a highlight), Royals game with some of my favorite people, BBQ in Ashley's backyard, convincing Tom and John that they're BFFs and that we can spend family vacations together for the rest of our lives, lunch with the Engs, dinner with my most cherished teacher (Mrs. Joanne Finley) and her husband (Chuck), the lounge singer in a rotating uniform of sparkly jackets at a random downtown bar, hanging out and laughing with the Willoughbys, and spending QT with my BFFs.
Banks, Crazy Amy, me (Bowler), Funk, Ash
Next, it was on to southern Missouri to see my mom and grandparents (MaMa and PaPa) in Shell Knob, MO. We got really wrapped up in relaxing (and recovering from KC), and I really never pulled out the camera. We had some great southern meals and enjoyed hanging out near the beautiful Table Rock Lake. And we were lucky enough to be in town for Shell Knob's annual festival, Shakin' in the Shell, which is just an incredible display of small town entertainment. We had a great time (really) watching local bands, eating Frito pies directly from the bag, and drinking lukewarm beer from the Shriners beer tent. And it was great to see my mom and MaMa and PaPa. Soon after we left, my MaMa turned 88!!! And she's still quite the looker. Tom really enjoyed talking with my PaPa about the traveling he did while in the service - Africa, India, Europe....he was always ready with a vivid story about the places he went and people he knew. As we left the Ozarks, we couldn't resist stopping at the "World's Largest Gift Store," which is really just a way to say "World's Largest Warehouse Full of Tacky Crap."

St. Louis was next, where our good friends, Berisford (Kristy) and Dave, hosted us and had a little get together with Berisford's sisters (who I adore) and one of the world's best people, Nickie and her boyfriend, Derek. The next day, we explored Cahokia Mounds (highly recommended if you're in STL) with Berisford and Dave before driving off to Chicago.
I'm on a mound! (STL in the background)
Tom on Middle Path, Kenyon College
Chicago was a really great two nights - as we got to see everyone in that city who we love. We stayed with Roman, one of our closest friends (and the officiant at our wedding). And our awesome friends, Haley and Chris Dorsey hosted a pizza night at their place and invited Roman, as well as our other Chi-town friends, Matt & Sam, Tim and Jimmy. We also stopped by to visit 2 of Tom's childhood friends, Jack and Alex, who started Vibes Media after college and are still doing awesome. And, for a bit of culture, we spent a few hours exploring the Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. By this point, we were growing a little road-weary, so we appreciated a nice chill two days. Chicago to Columbus, OH, was the next leg, and we spent the night with our friends Tony & Cara and their daughters Kenzie and Cami (who I LOVE and spent an embarrassing amount of time with, discussing all things Harry Potter). The next day, we drove through the rain (stopping for an emergency set of back tires when we noticed ours were bald and causing us to slide all over the highway) to Kenyon College, home of the Lords and of Tom's glory days. It's really a beautiful campus and I loved FINALLY getting to explore the school and Gambier. One of my favorite parts of the day was hearing the clipclop of hooves and turning around to see an Amish horse cart going through campus. Amazing. The rest of the day was spent embarrassing Tom - taking pictures of him in front of every building he had classes in, in the dining hall, in front of some rock that his fraternity painted. He was constantly scowling and rolling his eyes at me...and I loved every minute of it. I would love to send our (hypothetical) kids to Kenyon or a school like Kenyon some day.
Tom, on familiar turf
Getting warmed up for the Big Walk
From Kenyon, we drove to Chagrin Falls, OH, (outside Cleveland) to visit one of Tom's best friends, Terry, and his wife Emily. They had just moved into a new AWESOME house three weeks earlier and we were amazed by how much they'd accomplished so quickly. This was where we completed the Walk for PKD. (Thanks for your donations!!!) Before the crowds arrived, we spent a great day, exploring the area and hiking to the Chagrin River. It was a really special weekend because we got to hang out with so many of Tom's college friends and their wives and kids. The walk was a huge success (because Emily was the planner and is amazing), and it was a really great time, celebrating Terry & Emily's one year wedding anniversary, a year of healthy kidneys since Emily's dad's kidney transplant, and their new home. Terry and Emily hosted about 50 people over the course of the weekend, many of us staying in their home, and it all culminated with an amazing dinner in their yard, catered by their friend's food truck.

Before the Big Walk
Dorsey, The Stork (Tom), Hook, Togs, Munsterteiger, Worm

After our time in O-H-I-O, we made the long drive to Connecticut and stayed with Tom's childhood friend, Chris, his wife Danielle, and their baby, Charlie. They made a great dinner for us and our friends Brian and Carrie. (Brian is one of Tom's childhood friends also. He was a groomsman in our wedding and met our good friend, Carrie, a bridesmaid in our wedding, and the two them now live together in NYC.)

Brian and Me in Central Park
The next day, we left our car in CT and took Metro North into the city and stayed with Brian and Carrie. While in NYC, we spent a lot of time with Tom's dad, John, and his partner, Betty. I love New York - there's something about that city that just makes me feel capable. Highlights of NYC included: a long, rainy walk through Central Park with Brian, hot dogs from Gray's Papaya, rooftop chats with Carrie, and dinner and the opera at the Met (box seats!) with Tom's dad, where we saw Puccini's Turandot. We both agree that Turandot was probably the best piece of live theatre either of us had ever seen. It was overwhelmingly amazing - one of those experiences in life when you wish you could hit the pause button to soak it all in.

All dressed up with places to go! On our way to the opera. We shine up nice.

After New York, we took the Metro North back to Connecticut to pick up our car and then drove to Washington, D.C., to stay with Tom's friend from college, Mat, and his wife Lenka. We had a great night and dinner with them and hanging out with their dogs before driving to Raleigh, NC, to see our friends, Mark and Kat, and their little boy Ollie. They also have a daughter on the way who will be born later this month! Ollie was in love with Tom and followed him around the house like his buddy. Aren't they cute?

Before we knew it, it was time to head to the last stop on our roadtrip, Tom's mom's (Maria's) house in Wilmington, NC. The first day we got there was warm, so we took advantage of the sunshine and headed to Wrightsville Beach for some boogie boarding, followed by a nice, light meal (and a few glasses of wine) at home. The next few days were full of errands; turning off our cell phones, picking up a pair of shoes for me, laundry, repacking our bags, cleaning the car, etc... And one evening, Maria had some of her friends over for drinks. It was great to meet the people in her life in Wilmington - really some great and interesting people. On our last full day in Wilmington, we went kayaking in the inland waterways and I sang the theme song to Dawson's Creek in my head nonstop. That night, we had a great dinner in downtown Wilmington...wrapping up our time in the United States!

Maria, boogie boarding
Catching a wave
I don't wanna wait...for our liiiives to be ove-er...

On Wednesday, October 10, after over a year of planning, Maria drove us to the airport in Raleigh, and we boarded the first of 3 flights towards India! It was really a fantastic roadtrip - Visiting all of our friends and family was really amazing. And now, we're in India and our new adventure is just beginning!

Check out all of our pics from the friends and family portion of our cross country road trip here.

Here's to being Loose of Limits!

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