road trip recap part one

on the road again (all photos via courtney khail)

Now that we've been back a little while, I figured it was about time to tell you all about our trip. Although I consider myself pretty well traveled (travel means a lot to both of us so we do our best to take at least one trip a year) I'd never actually seen the United States as a whole. Instead, I'd normally just fly out to a city, spend a few days and fly back. The back roads, the landscapes surrounding that specific city, the random places that make up the country that aren't really destination cities- well I had missed out on those parts and I wanted determined to change that.

I think I mentioned this earlier, but J. and one of his best friends took a 3 month road trip back in college and J. has wanted to do a similar one ever since. Luckily, after two years of planning, we were able to mesh together 6 weeks of vacation time as well as all of the equipment (since we would be camping too) and decided it was now or never. Of course we went with now. As for the recap, I'm going to break it down into different parts and I'll do my best not to ramble, but as we should all know by now- I'm not very good at that.

We left pretty much at the crack of dawn- hoping to cover as much ground as possible before the morning rush hour as well as make it to our hotel in Kansas before it was too dark. I can't say I remember too much of the first few hours (I was sleeping thanks to getting zero sleep the night before) but woke up roughly around Kentucky. I'd never been to Kentucky before and really wasn't expected too much, but holy cow it was beautiful. You know the paintings of lush green meadows and perfectly painted red barns? That my friends, is Kentucky.  It also happened to be in Kentucky where we saw the Oscar Mayer WienermobileI may have felt like a five year old, but I simply could not stop my excitement over this one. I believe we actually called a few people...

A few (record breaking) hours later, we were in St. Louis. Once again, never really thought much of St. Louis. To be honest, I just know it as where the Cardinals play and as an Atlanta Braves fan that didn't really get my too pumped up. The architecture though? It was beautiful. And the arch? Kind of breath taking. As in, we almost turned around just to stare at it. Only seeing it in photos, I figured there was just some fancy camera angles going on and that it wasn't really going to be all that huge. I was wrong. Apologies to St. Louis; you all have a really cool arch. J. and I kept trying to figure out how the elevator works- since there was no way it could just go at an angle all Willy Wonka/ Glass Elevator style- but as we were informed later, that is indeed exactly what it does.

We made it into Kansas some 12-14 hours after we initially left and from the moment we walked into the lobby of the hotel we knew it was a little different. Have any of you seen Cedar Rapids? Well the hotel was almost EXACTLY like that. (Well, minus the prostitute outside.) I could almost hear Ed Helms running around talking about it being "so lush." No lie, we had a water slide in the middle of the lobby surrounded by potted palm trees. It was hilarious. (Even more so after our 99 cent margaritas and cheap Mexican food from next door. Apparently it was "the place to go.") Note about Kansas- by far some of the nicest drivers in the country. It seems once you cross over the Mississippi River no one (and I mean no one) likes to go the speed limit let alone above it, but everyone in Kansas followed the "stay in the right lane and let people pass on the left" rule. It was marvelous.

The second day we made it to Fort Collins, Colorado and completely fell in love with the city. After spending some time looking at real estate, eating (wonderful) Italian food, and just walking around the downtown we felt pretty much at home (which is good, given that's the area we are planning to live in just a few months.) Everything is so beautiful out there and relaxed.

after taking the easy way up

After Fort Collins, we drove north to Jackson Hole. I know most people won't make this drive since you can fly directly into the city, but I would do it again in a heart beat. J. and I were in a constant state of awe thanks to all of the beauty surrounding us. And between the evergreens, the steep, green mountains, and the crystal clear rivers, it reminded us a lot of Switzerland and Germany. There were even little Swiss styled chalets that popped up every few miles! Once we arrived in the city, we decided to take the aerial tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain and then the gondola lift to a mountain side bar. I'm not sure we'd do either again (we actually would summit a mountain so it's not exactly necessary) but if you are not like us and want to see the views without having to climb, I'd definitely suggest it. The views are mind blowing and in case you'd like to do a little hiking, there are two or three trailheads that start at the top. Just remember to bring a jacket because even in the summit it's barely 52 degrees and incredibly windy. As for the gondola ride to the bar- the views are beautiful, but it's really touristy. I'd suggest going to dinner at  Couloir instead if it's open (it wasn't when we were there.) Random fact, the town square has 4 entrances all framed with elk antler archways. They were so perfect I figured they were fake, but thanks to reading the handy plaques everywhere we found out they are actually collected each year.

don't they look a little too perfect?

The next morning we left for our first national park visit of the trip, but seeing that this post is already longer than planned- that will have to wait until next week!