State #1 Texas
Almost immediately after we crossed into Texas we hit rain. Lots of rain. All the fields were flooding and it was flooding over the highway. There were long stretches of the road where I couldn't see the pavement. I had never seen flooding like this. (The next morning I saw on the news how extensive it was...12 inches in OKC) I was on the phone with my dad asking for weather updates and what the storm was doing. He said that it was circling around for more and going the same direction as me. Well, that certainly changed our lodging plans for the night. I had planned on camping KOA-style in Abilene. Instead, I wisely chose to find a hotel. It poured that night. Like crazy. It was intense.
The next morning we continued on to Dallas where my friend Terah lives. She was my bestest friend in high school and I haven't seen her in years. So we stopped in for lunch. My younger girls fit right in with her girls and they had a blast playing while I got a chance to catch up with Terah.
State #2 Arkansas.
I learned right away that they've got pretty skimpy family trees thar in Arkansas. We stopped to eat at a truck stop...
Anyway, Arkansas is where my children saw there first lightning bugs. They loved watching for the little sparkles as we drove through the night.
We stayed in the KOA in Little Rock. This was our first experience with humidity. Holy jalapeno! The campground was really nice, I just wish we would've had time to get to go for a swim. We sure needed it!!
State #3 Tennessee
My girls first glimpse of the Mighty Mississip. I was so excited to be in Memphis. There was a fabulous visitor's center right across the river (at the end of this bridge) where we parked. We took the Trolley to Beale Street where I was looking for somewhere local and authentically Memphis. However, most of the restaurants along Beale Street are 21 and older only. Seeing as that I was a single woman with 3 underage children (2 of which were in strollers), we had to find alternative locations :) So we ended up at the Hard Rock Cafe but we didn't care...it was air conditioned!!
After that we went to Graceland. While I didn't have any deeply spiritual experiences there (I don't really even like Elvis), it was kinda cool. For Elvis fans. We were most definitely the youngest people there...by decades!! Actually the more I think back on it, the more I liked it. Graceland was definitely unique and pretty interesting to see a slice of Americana.
I am glad we stopped in Memphis, it was a lot of fun and I'd really like to return to that city.
State #4 Kentucky
We went through Kentucky pretty fast and there wasn't much we saw since it was dark. We did however spend the night in a motel in Paducah, KY.
State #5 Illinois
We were headed to Champaign, IL. Home of the University of Illinois and the Fighting Illini and also, my aunt and uncle. Technically they're my first cousins, once removed- but it's just less confusing to say aunt and uncle. We were in Champaign for several days. We got there just in time to help them move in to their new house and help them unpack. Their kids Jonathan, Darren, and Becky also came from near and far to see me. Well, maybe not just me, but I can pretend that was why. It was great to see them again.
Jill (my aunt) took us on several adventures. First she took us to Springfield, IL to the Lincoln Museum. Oh. My Goodness. It was so awesome. They had it set up in two different time periods in Lincoln's life- his childhood and early adulthood, then the White House years. They had a show called "Ghosts in the Library". It wasn't really a movie, it was like a performance...but with special effects. It was so cool. We also visited his tomb and rubbed his nose. Not his real nose, a bronze nose, LOL.
Jill also took us on an adventure to Chicago on the train. I was very excited to get to ride the train since it was my first time. We were on early enough that they were still serving breakfast in the dining car so the little girls and I went up and had breakfast. They loved it. Chicago was incredible. Never in my life had I seen so many tall buildings. We shopped along the Magnificent Mile and saw many things that I've only seen or heard about on TV. Such as the Omni Hotel, where Oprah's guests stay. I so, so, so want to return to Chicago and explore more of what it has to offer. Shedd Aquarium and Millenium Park and Navy Pier and the Sears Tower and, and... the list goes on and on!!!
State #6 Wisconsin
This was my favorite state because I thought it was the prettiest state of all. The farms and the buildings were so picturesque located snug in the valleys. And there were actually a few hills! First we had seen since New Mexico.
The Wisconsin Dells. How can I even begin to describe the place? It's like Vegas, but only with water parks. There are a ton of them, indoor and ourdoor, big and small. It looked like so much fun and I'm definitely putting that on my list of family destinations.
A side note about Wisconsin. At one of the rest areas I found a sign that was about Aldo Leopold. Now, if you are reading this and you are from the Silver City area then you know who I mean. If you aren't, sorry, I don't mean to leave you out. Anyway, I had no idea that Aldo Leopold lived in Wisconsin. I thought he was from around here since we have the Aldo Leopold Wilderness just down the road a bit.
State #7 Minnesota
Minnesota was great. I wish we could've spent a lot more time here. The rest of Jill's family lives in Zumbrota, MN. I have visited here numerous times as a child and teen. I have lots of fond memories of spending time on the farm and at my great grandmother's huge house. It was great to get to see all the Minnesota relatives again, I've missed them!! I am so glad that I was able to take my kids to see the farm and meet all the family there. Tracey and Kylee learned how to milk cows and Krysten got to bottle feed the babies. We got to visit some friendly deer and see their triplet fawns. They were too cute!
I can't wait until we get to visit the farm again! Tracey even wants to visit sometime again soon on her own and get to stay awhile! I would love that for her, I know I treasure those memories I had as a kid getting to do the very same thing.
State #8 Iowa
Lots and lots of cornfields. But that was really nothing new since all we had seen since leaving Dallas was cornfield after cornfield and a few soybean fields thrown in. Iowa did crack me up when we passed a casino that was in a big red barn!
State #9 Missouri
I think Missouri would be my second favorite scenic state on our trip. There were more hills and less fields. I like Missouri, I would love to take my kids to St. Louis. Definitely reason for another road trip!
Staet #10 Kansas
Ugh. Kansas. If I never return to Kansas that will be too soon.
In Kansas we left all the trees behind and were in flat prairie. It was the first time in 2 weeks that I didn't feel claustrophobic as I drove down the highway.
We camped at the KOA in Topeka and it was actually pretty fun. There was a playground for the girls (much needed) and the next morning the owners served us a home-cooked pancake breakfast. Also, during the night a bunch of baby ducklings had hatched so we got to see those. I never knew mama ducks could hiss and growl, but this one sure did!
It felt like it took an entire lifetime to get across Kansas, and I was ready to be home. I think that's probably why I'm not fond of Kansas.
Just before we left Kansas we stopped in Liberal where they have the Land of Oz. You can visit a replica of Dorothy's house and follow the yellow brick road.
State #11 Oklahoma
Oklahoma took about 45 minutes to get across.
We briefly cut across a corner of the panhandle. We passed by some of the biggest feedlots I have ever seen in my life. Wow. My dad said they have like 10-15,000 cows each! Crazy. Texas is where we finally left the grassland and entered more of the scrubby ranch country that I'm accustomed to.
State #12 New Mexico
Home sweet home. Almost. Too bad this sign was still about 8 hours from home.
We spent the night in Logan, NM at another friend's house. She and I were next door neighbors growing up. Well, as close as we could get being 7 miles apart. Amy and her family graciously welcomed us into their home and fed us a wonderful meal. Despite me only calling her that afternoon. Her girls and mine are near the same age and they had a fabulous time swimming and playing.
After Amy's...next stop Silver City!!!!
It was good to be home. I really, really enjoyed my trip. I'd been dreaming about doing it for several years. Many people asked me if I was scared and no, I wasn't. I really enjoy traveling and seeing and experiencing new places. So it was a great adventure for me. My GPS was a huge help in navigating cities and Tracey helped navigate along the highways. All of my girls got to see a huge part of America's heartland and will have an experience they will always remember...well some of them will anyway, maybe not Krysten- haha.
Total, we traveled 4000 miles.
And yes, I would do it again.