Sunday, December 27, 2015

Road Trip Across the South

Derek has been gone an obnoxious amount of time (5 and half months), which as I look back, went fairly quickly. A lot has happened this year. We thought that as long as Derek will be away for half the year it would also be a great time to have another baby and for me to go back to school. Why not, right?! Yeah, we knew the craziness of this plan, but we also knew things always seem worse in anticipation of them.  Trials, as hard as they are, never seem as difficult as we imagine them to be (at least in my experience). No way it would have been possible without the generosity and kindness of friends and family.

When Derek's long journey was finished the day before Halloween, I flew out with Alexis to meet him in Georgia. The plan was to drive back home to Idaho together.  Here is our story:

This was Lexi's first time on an airplane and unsurprisingly (to me anyway) she actually did amazingly well.  She did this a lot:


And she charmed every person we came in contact with.  Fellow passengers and flight attendants anxiously offered to hold her while I stowed luggage or used the restroom on the flight. And on our last leg of the trip (we had 3), she got everyone within a 5 row radius laughing at her cuteness.


Seeing Derek again was AWESOME. Picture a sappy, emotional airport reunion from a movie, now tone it down just a bit - add a baby and  me tripping all over my baby carrier - that was basically how it went down. We were able to stay with friends we knew from Colorado, which made it extra fun.
 
The next morning we were on our way to.... FLORIDA!
Specifically, Pensacola Beach at the Margaritaville Resort.
Ahi Tuna Nachos - sounds gross (at least it did to me. I was appalled when Derek ordered it as our appetizer), but it was in fact the opposite of gross. I still dream about its yumminess.....
Watching the sunrise from our balcony

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I actually TOUCHED a crab. And He didn't like it. Look how pretty he is (if you can, he stinkin' fast). He's white if you can't tell. 

Next stops... ALABAMA and MISSISSIPPI
 It was at this point that we started having to do this:
Alexis was mostly happy as long as she could see one of us. Cuties :)


 We also experienced the wonderful greenness this part of the country has to offer, and my pictures simply don't do it justice.  It did feel a lot like driving through a tunnel, and it was a little weird not knowing where we were.  In fact, we were driving close enough to the ocean on portions of our trip that we probably would have been able to see it as we drove, but the trees demanded our attention instead. 


 And... here comes the rain... some seriously epic rain...
Again, pics don't do it justice. I had to drive around 30 mph with flashers, and some drivers just pulled over

 We made it to LOUISIANA (Or "Louis and Anna" as we started calling it :D ).
 The first stop here was actually the Baton Rouge Costco so Derek could get his tires rotated and to buy an umbrella, because.. did I mention the rain??
BUT our second stop was for some of this:


Thanks to our friend Clay (originally from Baton Rouge) for sending us to this establishment for some authentic Jambalaya!

 Annnnd.... Welcome to TEXAS
 Texas is big, guys, in case you didn't get the memo. It took two days to reach the other side. Here's some stuff that happened in The Lone Star State:
The Houston LDS temple. The grounds were closed, so we just got to stare at it across the street. It's a fave of mine.





We were able to visit some Hayden cousins in Dallas. We were lucky enough to be visiting on the same day as another cousin and uncle. It was fun to see some familiar faces on our trip.

I was born in Texas, but I sadly don't know a lot about it. We were pleasantly surprised to see just how green and hilly it was. 
And then we entered the less-surprising desert part of the state..

These bizarre plants grow all over.  They grow out of the middle of those pointy bushes, and they for some reason fascinated me. Ha.
 



 


 There's a good story to go with the 2 pictures above. Our experience with a Texas hotel's continental breakfast was actually a fun little steakhouse next door, where each person (including our baby) could chose from 1 of 3 options: biscuits and gravy, pancake platter, or bacon, eggs and grits. Yep, no bagels and muffins for us. Our lovely waitress took a liking to Alexis (who can blame her), and told us some stories:

"I was potty training her (the niece) and I stripped her down to her diaper, lay down some newspapers, set her down, and give her a plate o' spaghetti. Then when I was done I'd pop that diaper off and hold her under the shower. Boy, she thought that was neat. Another time, when she had teethies comin' I washed all the salt and pepper off some beef jerky and let her gnaw on it. It would get soggy and then I'd lay it on the window sill and let it dry out and give it back to her. It was the best thing!"

Haha what a cool lady she was. 
More Familiar faces! We got to visit my sister-in-law and her family in El Paso! (pictured with my niece)
That is Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, a stone's throw from El Paso, Texas


Also, as a sidenote, we decided that we will one day live in Fredricksburg, Texas. That is all.
(just a cool little town. you can google it. we drove through it as the sun was going down, so we don' t have pictures).

Hello, NEW MEXICO
A little spelunking? Don't mind if I do
 

 


 New Mexico was seriously beautiful. I had no idea. ..

The hilariously not-so-grand Rio Grande
Hatch, New Mexico - known for their chilis - notice all the chilis drying on the roof

Above, the Albuquerque New Mexico LDS Temple and Lexi discovering the camera. Bahahaha!!




Shiprock - random mountain-thing in the middle of flatland. We could see it for miles and miles. It kind of reminds me of Pride Rock in the second picture :)

Four Corners Monument - we are in 4 states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona) at the same time!


We made it to... UTAH
 


We drove through Moab, Monticello, and parts of the state I hadn't been to before. It snowed on and off that day.
Manti Utah Temple
Where it all began (Derek and I met and dated here)


 We actually stayed our last night in Ephraim (where this picture was taken) and had a good time reminiscing. It was too cold to wonder around outside too much. We did drive around campus and ate at a local place that has some great memories attached.




   

We made it home to.... IDAHO

That familiar mountain in the distance.. almost there!

And the Grand Finale (keep in mind these kiddos hadn't seen their Daddy in MONTHS):

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Oh man, what an adventure.  It was super awesome road trippin' with my love. We seriously had a blast. In the end, it was so nice being back home together as a family. #familiesareforever