The final leg and road trip reflections

November 03, 2017

(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)

Hello, friends! When we last spoke (a one-sided conversation in which I wrote and you read), I had woken up in a very chilly Yellowstone National Park to my boyfriend saying, “Now may be a good time to tell you that there are elk surrounding our tent.” Picking up there…

Yes, it was a good time to tell me, as I was about to come out of the tent face to antlers with a really large Mr. Elk. I panicked and Stephen told me, “It was worse earlier - they were, like, two feet away from my face and I could hear them breathing. I was terrified.” That didn’t really make it better. We made a quick escape to the car and drove around for a little bit, hoping they would go away in our absence. 20 minutes later or so, we came back to see that the large elk family was far enough away for us to collect our tent and GTFO (get the friendlyharmlesshumans out).

The rest of our time in Yellowstone was not nearly so stressful. It was pretty snowy and a lot of the roads were closed, but we were able to see a bunch of hot springs and Old Faithful. The latter was as anticlimactic as I remembered it being, but I think the most impressive part is how predictable its timing is. The parks service gives you an “estimate” of when it’ll do its thing and warn that they could be off by 10 minutes, but they were spot on. That is one reliable geyser. One might even call it…faithful.

Old Faithful selfie #millenialfaithful
Old Faithful selfie #millenialfaithful

From Yellowstone, we were planning on driving on to Idaho to spend the night at a random campground we found online. It took a lot less time to get there than we expected, though, and the campground gave me some serial-killer-hunting-ground vibes, and combining those factors with the particular roughness of the previous night of camping, we decided to drive further and treat ourselves to a hotel in Salt Lake City. The warm shower and king size bed were the stuff of dreams and I crashed early.

The next day, we got the unexpected treat of hanging out with my brother-in-law’s sister (can’t figure out if there’s a term for that kind of relation), who lives in SLC. She took us to a tasty bakery for breakfast and we went hiking with her two adorable dogs. Salt Lake City has such cool views! There were mountains all around and red rocks and desert - just a really interesting, beautiful place. Then Stephen and I explored a bit on our own and found the public library, which was especially awesome. We did some computer things for a few hours there before meeting back up with our resident family member for dinner. She was super kind to let us stay that night at her house and gave us recommendations for what to do the following day.

The best recommendation we’ve gotten throughout our whole trip was the Fifth Water Hot Springs in southeastern Utah. They were a little over an hour from Salt Lake City. We left early in the morning so we’d beat potential crowds and started the 2.5 mile hike to the hot springs not long after sunrise. They. Were. AWESOME. There were a bunch of little natural pools and only one other group was there when we were, so we ~tested the waters~ in several before sitting for a while in one. It was seriously a natural hot tub with a little more sulfur. We got past the smell quickly and probably could have soaked there all day. The water was a pretty, clear green and the perfect temperature. It was so fun!! We were so thankful Caitlin told us about it and I wasn’t even mad about waking up early.

~steamy~
~steamy~

From there, we went on to Moab, where we stayed in a campground for two nights. Moab reminded me a lot of Radiator Springs from the movie Cars, so obviously I loved it. It was kind of kitschy but cute, and surrounded by amazing scenery. We spent the following day in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, which were both incredible. Arches has…a bunch of arches. Go figure. But also so many other amazing red rock structures, petroglyphs, and #viewz all around. Canyonlands was a park that I honestly didn’t realize existed until this trip, and it was breathtaking! Seriously, the canyons were on par (for me, from my rough 10-year-old memory) with the Grand Canyon in beauty. It is so crazy to me that things like that exist in nature at all, let alone in my own country. It was beautiful enough for me to overlook the lack of any talking animated cars in the area and still consider Utah a really cool place.

I was really worried about sneezing up here and losing my balance and what an embarrassing way to go
I was really worried about sneezing up here and losing my balance and what an embarrassing way to go
One of many incredible arches in Arches
One of many incredible arches in Arches

In Moab we had our last night of camping for the journey (bittersweet, but like those chocolate chips that you know when you taste them are actually really sweet) and then headed on to Denver, Colorado. There, we spent a few days in the home of one of Stephen’s friends from Peru and saw various other friends from school and home. It was really fun and the most socializing I’ve done in months, which are usually two mutually exclusive things. Denver is a very neat city and we definitely didn’t scratch the surface of things to do there, so we plan on returning sometime. We started our last Colorado morning by going to the Red Rocks Amphitheater to watch the sunrise and it seemed like we may not even need to drive through Kansas because the wind was capable of blowing me all the way across the Mississippi, but Stephen anchored me down with his hugs. Aw. And I was only mad about being awake before the crack of dawn for an hour or so.

Maybe the ugliest selfie we’ve ever taken, featuring weird sunrise lighting and windswept hair
Maybe the ugliest selfie we’ve ever taken, featuring weird sunrise lighting and windswept hair

From there, we left for Kansas City, Missouri, where we met up once more with my friend, Laura (remember her from Crater Lake? Probably not, because who is that invested in my blog?). Laura’s family hosted us at their house and we had such a good time! Like many people who are like, “Is there even anything to do in Kentucky?” I was a wiener who previously thought, “Is there even anything to do in Kansas City?” It’s a fun area that actually reminds me a lot of Memphis, where my sister used to live. We ate barbecue, which means that I ate baked beans and cornbread, walked around downtown, carved pumpkins, and passed out candy on Halloween. It was great to spend more time with Laura and her family and see their city for the first time. On that note - we are SO THANKFUL to all the people who have hosted us in different cities. We feel a bit like total bums and are undeserving of your kindness. If any of you are ever in Kentucky (or wherever else we end up), you’d better stay with us!

We’re now in Chicago in my sister and brother-in-law’s brand new home (“Oh you’re closing on October 31st? Great, we’ll be there November 1st!”) and spending time with my dad, stepmom, and two of my brothers who are also visiting. And the love of my life, the chihuahua, Lilly Hill. So basically, we’re more or less home. It’s been such a fun journey and we’re so, so thankful we could do this. As an added bonus, we still enjoy each other’s company after spending 24/7 together for the last month and a half! That does exclude bathroom breaks, though; Stephen takes full advantage of long trips to the bathroom because, “it’s the only place I can be by myself.” Love is great.

I will now offer various final observations from my month and a half of traveling across the United States and Canada:

  • There is clearly a right and wrong way to build a public restroom door. The right way is to have the pull on the outside, push on the inside. Who on earth wants to pull the germy door handle after they've washed their hands? Even better, make both sides push in so it's just a swinging door that you can nudge either way with your elbow or foot, germ-free. Not to be dramatic, but this is a public health crisis.
  • Podcasts are an interesting invention. It's like radio, but you only have to listen to the DJs/personalities you want to hear, and you can sound a lot more pretentious talking about it. "Oh yeah, I'm a Friend of the Pod." Stephen and I have no room to sound pretentious, however, given that the only podcasts we have listened to on this trip have been centered around ABC's Bachelor franchise. Judge us. Then ask us what it's really like to be on a reality dating show, because we now know all about it.
  • I am oddly accident prone at this point in life. I honestly don’t know how many times on this trip I’ve slammed my head on various hard objects. You can’t tell but it’s like a zoomed in version of a basketball under my hair. Knots on knots on knots.
  • RV park/campgrounds are good starter campgrounds. There will always be showers and flush toilets, and there will always be lodgers who are more high maintenance than you are. This is good for the self-esteem. I can feel outdoorsy without feeling like all the people around me are out-outdoorsy-ing me (cough cough national park camping). Our last campground in Moab even had WiFi which is a little ~extra~ if you ask me, but I'd done my time roughing it by that point so it didn't feel so wrong.
  • My boyfriend is outstanding. Did you know this already? Probably did, if you've ever met him. He is so weird and funny and we make each other laugh and also get each other through frequent existential crises that happen when you're both unemployed and unsure of anything that lies ahead for you. I wonder all the time how I got so lucky with him.
  • Subway is the go-to road meal for feeling good about yourself; McDonald's is the "oh, come on, we deserve it" treat that you actually have the other 9 times out of 10.
  • Anxiety never sleeps! I knew this already, but it remains true that no matter how much fun I’m having or how happy I am, the intrusive thoughts creep in and I can go full shaky chihuahua mode in an instant. My life is not all fun and games, even on a cross country road trip, because my jerk brain won’t stop being like, "hey Kaitlyn, what are you even doing with yourself? Why don’t you have a career? Remember that embarrassing thing you did two years ago? What’s the meaning of life?" Reading books helps take my mind off of worries. Fictional characters’ problems are so much more interesting.
  • The Prius is a powerhouse. No one is allowed to make fun of my tiny hybrid car now that it has traversed all climates, rough roads, and thousands and thousands of miles. Yoda can do ANYTHING. "Though she be but little, she is fierce" or something like that - Shakespeare.
  • Traveling is tiring. I'll sit in the car all day and feel exhausted at the end. But also I'm always exhausted. I think I have an iron deficiency. Where was I going with this? Oh, so I'm ready to be home. It's going to be so nice to be in a familiar bed with family and friends close by and much easier access to my puppy soulmate.

So that’s it for Steph and Kait’s Big Adventure 2017. Thank you for following along and giving me love as always! It is so appreciated. I’m sure I’ll have more things to talk about soon, as I’m learning that this stage of my life is anything but boring (to me, anyway. But hey, I’m not making you read about it.)

    Love ya, miss ya, see ya all soon!

    Kaitlyn