Monthly Archives: September 2012
After our long day driving through corn fields and spending the night in North Platte, we were SO READY for some mountains! It took about four hours to drive to Denver from North Platte, and the whole way we were looking out for our first glimpse of the Rockies. However, we forgot how totally HAZY the skies around Denver are, so you can barely see the mountains even from the city that is surrounded by them!
Despite the lack of visibility, we had a great time in Denver, catching up with some of my old friends from Peace Corps who I hadn’t seen in over two years! On our first night in town we headed out to Beauty Bar, where we danced to Motown music and got photobombed.
Denver seems to be a city that has something for everyone. It’s a great place to be young and out on the town, but I could also see how it would be easy to raise a family there. Our favorite thing about Denver is, obviously, the beer. So on our second day in town we walked around enjoying some happy hour microbrews and the beautiful weather.
We also got to catch up with Zach’s cousin Michelle, who lives in the awesome Five Points neighborhood.
Michelle was headed off to a pirate-themed bike party. If only we had had the proper attire and bikes with us we would have joined!
We also talked to one of Michelle’s friends who moved to Denver from Atlanta. I thought her story was really cool. “I was totally an urban shopaholic city girl. I wanted to move to New York. I only came out here on a visit with my sister because she paid for my flight. Then we went to Red Rocks and I just started bawling. Surrounded by all those mountains I all of a sudden got how tiny I was and how I really don’t matter. It was amazing. I decided I had to live here.”
Everyone we know who lives in Denver loves it, and we can see why. It’s a big city with lots of life but also super accessible to all the outdoor activities the Rockies offer. We could definitely see ourselves living there someday. But for now, the ocean is still calling!
The word was that we needed to be on the road before 7 if we wanted to miss the morning Chicago traffic. We managed to get out of the big city with only one minor slowdown and before we knew it we were at the beginning of the world’s largest field i.e. the states that fill the space between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains. Google approximated the drive from Chicago to Denver to be 16 hours so we decided to knock out 12 hours on the first day and spend the night Couchsurfing in North Platte, Nebraska. We planned to entertain ourselves with music, reading, playing silly games, sleeping, talking, arguing, thinking… you get the point.
Driving through this section of the country is extremely dull. By dull I mean the most boring drive. But I love it because this is the section of the country that people miss when they fly. Enduring seemingly-endless miles of those golden fields is what make you fill with joy at your first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.
We ran into some rain and road construction, but made a pretty good pace. There are a few restaurants that we always stop at, one being Hamburg Inn in Iowa City.
Our stomachs were full of nothing but coffee and dry cereal so we stopped around 11 am for some breakfast. The Hamburg Inn is a Hawkeye staple and has served many students along with a couple U.S. presidents.
They are famous for their pie shakes – large milk shakes with delicious pieces of pie broken into them. Best. thing. ever.
We stuffed our faces, then were soon back on I-80. Carrie took the wheel and we both got really sleepy from eating so much. Lucky there was a rest stop with ice cold Mountain Dew to boost our energy levels.
Just before sunset we made it to North Platte, a small railroad town in the middle of nowhere. We have had a lot of Couchsurfing success in the Midwest, and as usual had a great host who showed us around and took us out to a good diner, The Depot, near the rail yard.
There wasn’t too much excitement in North Platte on a Monday night, but that was fine with us, as we were eager to get to bed after such a long day of driving through the cornfields!
We changed plans. Between planning a wedding and really wanting surfboards, we decided to cancel the big looping road trip and settled on a more direct route through the center of the country. There isn’t much new for us to see this direction, but we really just wanted to get to sunny California as soon as possible.
After turning in our apartment keys in Toledo, we started west on the Ohio Turnpike (80/90), stopping to say a quick goodbye to my family.
Just about one uneventful hour later, we made our way into Indiana. Not much different than Ohio. Near the end of Indiana the landscape became more and more industrial and soon we were entering Chicago, our destination for the night.
We stopped in Lincoln Park to meet up with a good friend and spent the afternoon walking the city streets. It had been a long time since we had been to a big, American city. Hunger set in so we found the closest pizza place and the three of us dug into a 12 inch deep dish.
It was good to see our friend and his family. They always take us in during our travels and they’re always a good time. The first day of traveling never feels quite right, with our minds all jumbled up with work and the stresses of life. Chicago was a good start, but still only a start. “TO THE WEST!!!” we yelled.