Sunday, March 29, 2009

Travel Post The First - Snowstorms Suck

Note... To avoid HUGE POSTS, unless it's a particularly telling photo I'll just post links during these travelogs to pertinent photos. You can also just view the whole album (which is in a kind of half-assed chronological order and includes notes) here, since I won't be posting links to *all* the photos.


I'm currently in lovely Round Lake Park, Illinois. I was supposed to leave Friday morning, and in fact I was going to make a lovely post all about travel and the excitement of a road trip on Thursday, but I decided to get the hell out of dodge (well, I waffled, but finally made the decision after some prodding by Colorado Alternadad).

Good thing I did.

Holy shit!

Schools closed, people stayed off the roads, and in fact it followed me here... had I waited until Friday morning, I would never have made it!

Instead, I dealt with a little bit of upheaval (well, "dealt" is glossing it over... "freaked out, panicked, cryed, shook with nervous energy and generally spazzed out a lot" is probably more accurate), ran home after work on Wednesday, packed our stuff and ran for it.

Which leads me to my first Travel Post of this Chicago trip! I'll probably post daily rather than a big glut like this one from here on in (yay for friends with computers), but for now it's a catch-up.

Freaked the hell out. I made a couple of last-minute Priceline reservations in North Platte, Nebraska and Davenport, Iowa, figuring that the 4 hours to North Platte would get me enough ahead of the storm to get a jump (I was right, hooray)... plus 4 hours was about all the driving I was going to be able to do after a full day of work and panic.

The hotel was actually a little run-down motel, one of those pull-up-and-get-your-key jobs, and let me just say that rarely have I stayed in such a nice place. Not nice as in "Wow, is that Egyptian cotton toilet paper?", but nice as in "I feel completely sure that I will not be killed or get lice". The owner checked us in, his cat helped (should have gotten a photo but I was exhausted and didn't think of it), then handed us AN ACTUAL REAL LIVE KEY (non-copyable, but still a real-live metal key on a numbered plastic keychain) and sent us on our way.

The room was so clean, even the headboard had been wiped down. I slept like a rock and managed no to be shot by my fellow patrons for continually setting off my car alarm (sorry guys!).

I was able to review this on Trip Advisor (an awesoem site) and let me tell you that if you ever find yourself in North Platte, NE and need a hotel room, this is totally the place to go.

Got up early, had our breakfast (we brought food with, including cereal and milk), and headed out in the dark. I got text message updates during the day from my friend Melissa detailing the increasing number of inches of snow that were falling all over the place... we ended up with something like a foot, the schools got closed for 2 days solid, and everything was pretty much shut down. There was even a state of emergency declared! GOOD MOVE GETTING OUT DON'T YOU THINK?

We, in the meantime, were having smooth sailing. I still wasn't quite rested enough for the 8 hours of driving, but we made it okay... While driving along through Nebraska (the kid was asleep in the back) there's not a whole lot to do but look at farmland, but those early morning hours can really be amazing for wildlife viewing. Grand Island is apparently a hub for bird migration, and were they ever migrating! We saw a flock (!) of cranes flying, another one sitting in a field... it was amazing!

I also got a chance to see the Great Platte River Archway again, which I remembered from when we were moving in 2004. It's just as cool as I remember it being, and I think we'll stop and really explore it (rather than settling for dangerously taking pictures while driving) on the way home.

I also listened to my new Indulgers CD (get it, seriously), and the themes of travel and pioneering, along with my long-standing and deep-seated fascination with Laura Ingalls Wilder, gave me lots of places to which my mind could wander. Lovely.

Finally arriving in Davenport, IA, we found the hotel, which was grody but had excellent management. They really tried, and had done some recent renovating, but some things can't be helped... at least they had a computer!

We also, on a recommendation from one of the staff members, went to Jim's Rib Haven for dinner. It was so awesome we brought the leftovers in the cooler all the way up here to Illinois... I'm thinking lunch today.

Finally, a day to relax! Seeing as how we were actually ahead of schedule (and secure in the fact that we had entirely missed the snowstorm), we decided to go visit my friend Nova's parents in Streator, IL... a mere 2 hours from Davenport. (And had I known that, I wouldn't have stayed in the Travelodge, but oh well, now we know!) They are a fabulous couple, still loving toward each other after umpteen years of marriage. They have a fun and art-filled home, and we always love staying's truly a haven. Huge thanks to them for letting us stay and feeding us and stuff, it was the first time I had slept decently in a week (since I had been watching the weather reports so closely and was deeply worried).

They took us out for dinner at their local favorite, Mojito, and we had risotto (which was too rich and should be shared) and spaghetti (good enough that we turned around to get the leftovers!), and then went to see Monsters Vs. Aliens at their local theatre, an older movie house that's been renovated and is now totally awesome. The movie was cute, we enjoyed it a lot. I also gave her parents one of THE BOWLS. You know the ones.

Got up, ate monkey bread and had incredibly strong coffee, dressed and got on our way since OH GREAT HERE COMES THAT STORM I MISSED. (Sorry, Chicago.)

We did stop at Portillo's on the way, I must confess... a hot dog just couldn't be missed any longer. I resisted the urge to stop at Browns Chicken, which I think is commendable.

Headed up to my friend Carolyn's, at whose house we're staying for the week, got our stuff inside and headed over to my aunt's house, where she and her husband were hosting the majority of our family for dinner and company. It was awesome.

There's just nothing like being with your very own family; I'm so often around someone else's, which is totally great and nobody's ever not welcoming, but remember how I was all nostalgic? Being with people who know me utterly really scratched that itch, and gave my daughter some much-needed experience with them all.

It, of course, SNOWED again, and now here I sit, snowed in (we were supposed to head to Milwaukee to see my sister, but that ain't happenin') and looking forward to having lunch with my family again today... and that's my silver lining. I hate snow, but because of it my formerly hectic schedule for today has been put on hold, and I now get to spend some previously unscheduled time with some people with whom I have to offer no pretense.

And so, now it's off to shower and dress and help shovel if I can, and wake the kid up. She's still sleeping, but that's okay because it's her vacation too!


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