Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wrap up that DC thought...

So we are officially "way behind" with this blogging business. Let's just say that the last 2 weeks have been packed with fun and the wheels of the Taurus have spun with fury! Hoo boy.

It's crazy how much we packed into the two days of being in DC, we just recently recovered from factual overload. Here are the remaining highlights of that tour:

- Bethany and Devin doing their patriotic duty... upholding our country's honor!

- The Lincoln Memorial is amazing at night! Nothing like watching the sun set upon national monuments.

- Arlington Cemetery - a sobering sight. We arrived in time to see
the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was extremely rich with both honor and sorrow.

- The Declaration of Independence! Definitely a surreal moment to behold the actual document. "Although its words have faded, our independence has not" - that was a Bethany quote as she falls asleep next to me.

Bethany delivering Ronald Reagan's inaugural address. Of course she gave a rousing speech and won the hearts of all who passed - Vote for Bets 2012! (heehee)

- Who knew that hair collections were such a big deal? Well, I for one sure didn't. This fine collection boasts the locks of 12 of our country's Presidents - beginning with none other than George Washington himself. I kind of freaked out over this display... and personally think we should revive this tradition. Maybe I'll start my own collection on this trip. (:

Well - that's that! All in all, DC was a fantastic experience.

(stay tuned... our fingers are stretching to prepare for a blogging marathon!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random thoughts..

Things we've learned on this road trip:

-Not all air mattresses are created equal. Not at all.
-Vermont doesn't have street lights
-New England doesn't have billboards
-South Dakota has more bugs than any other state I've seen
-New Hampshire and Oregon don't have sales tax
-Les Schwab is not a national chain (only in the Northwest)
-Anywhere East of Illinois has toll roads (grrrrr)
-Maine is "the way life should be" (according to their welcome sign)
-Vermont was green before green was cool
-Almond milk outlasts cow's milk

Mr Smith goes to Washington... and so we followed suit

Talk about overwhelming.
Washington DC in two days. Need I say more? This was definitely the culmination point of our trek through American history. I almost exploded with the wealth of information, artifacts, memorials, and inspiring quotes. The roots upon which our nation has grown from are both deep and rich to say the least.

Personally, I (Amy) never really planned on visiting our country's capitol. It's not that I didn't want to, it just wasn't ever something I saw myself doing. But I had no idea what I would be missing. For those of you who have never been - go. It's the ultimate field trip. One that I would never have appreciated as a kid to the extent I did now. But be prepared - the nerdy historical side of you will be called out to a degree you probably have never known. Maybe it's just us, but the sight of Lincoln's actual beaver hat almost made us swoon.

Our time began with settling into the lively home
of the Odean family - apparently there is always a party at this house, this week it included 10 Ukrainians! The lovely Devin, chef extrodinaire, singing song bird, and funny bunny, made us feel quite at home with lots of tea and vegetarian meals. She also offered to take us to DC where we experienced what it really means to be an American. She also speaks strongly against human trafficking and educated both Bethany and I on the issues at hand in America. Greatly informative and convicting to become more aware.

Bethany was really on the ball prior to our landing in DC and called ahead to her state rep's office to apprehend tickets to tour the Capitol Building. Boy was it an experience! First off, it was really empowering to me to be able to walk through the door of my congressman's office and shake the hands of people who are making decisions at a national level. For the first time I understood what it meant to be a country "of the people, by the people, and for the people".

Hmmm... this is one of the first things that greeted us at the beginning of our tour. But don't worry - Bethany and I have come up with the solution to this gag-inducing debt. More on that later.

The tour included an informative film on the history of the building (twas built, burned to the ground, rebuilt, extended, and restored), a stroll through the Emancipation hall that is filled with statues that represent each state, walked up the stairs that the President climbs during his inauguration, and watched a bill being discussed by the senate. The Rotunda was definitely a highlight - echoes, murals, statues, and secret facts galore. It really is an incredible building, and even cooler since it's not another preserved building covered with historical markers, but it's alive and active!

(We also really enjoyed meeting Paul and his seersucker bow tie.)

After a lovely picnic on the grass in front of the capitol where we watched people of all race, religion, and political viewpoints pas by, we walked over to the Library of Congress. This was, hand down, my most favorite building/tour of our time in DC.

Facts about the Library:
  • It is actually the oldest "federal cultural institution" in our nation - founded in 1800. (I don't know what that means exactly, but it sounds cool.
  • The Library used to be in the Capitol building, and burned with it in 1814, thus destroying the core collection of books (30,000 volumes)
  • Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library to replace what had been lost in the fire.
  • It is the largest library in the world, with nearly 142 million items on approximately 650 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 32 million books and other print materials, 3 million recordings, 12.5 million photographs, 5.3 million maps, 5.6 million pieces of sheet music and 62 million manuscripts.
  • It was also a key location for the movie National Treasure II. (:
  • And check out that architecture! I had no idea we had this sort of beauty in the States - it felt like we were in Rome or something!
  • Oh - and it contains the Gutenberg Bible. Which we saw. With our own eyes.

One of the greatest factors of DC is that everything is FREEEEEEEEEEE! Finally - our tax dollars at work in a way that we deeply approved of. We are big big fans of free.

I keep feeling as if everything I can say about our capitol is an understatement - but regardless, here's another: The Smithsonian is incredible.

We spread our touring of all these museums out over two days... that time we visited the Botanical Gardens, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American
History, the Sculpture Park, and the Art Museum. We also lucked out and stumbled upon the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon competition which was being held on the mall's lawn. The Decathlon is a competition between 20 selected colleges - their challenge was to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy efficient solar-powered house. We toured several of the houses - full of beds that were suspended from the ceiling, lamps made of drinking straws, and toilets that folded into the wall. Our personal vote went to Team Cornell with their house made out of a rusted silo. It's worth googling. (:

A personal fav: while touring the Museum of American History, we planned our exhibit hopping to begin with the First Lady's gowns and personal items (hats, weapons, bibles, etc) and to end with the exhibit of Abraham Lincoln (you know - saving the best for last). However, by the time we made it to Abe, we heard the security guards announcing that the museum was closing! AAAAA! Our plan had failed in epic proportions. So we turned our backs on the opportunity to see Lincoln's overcoat, and sadly headed for the door. But as we passed the guard who was waiting on us, I looked at him with sad sad eyes and said "we were so excited to see Lincoln... he's my favorite." Oh that did the trick! And suddenly Bethany and I found ourselves being given permission to run through the exhibit and absorb all of Lincoln artifacts. The guard ended up being big fan of Honest Abe, so he understood our enthusiasm. In fact, while I'm on the subject - the guards in this fine city are top notch. Seriously, everyone was so helpful and so upbeat! We've never had this much fun with security guards! We ended up getting a couple behind the scenes tips and perks.

ok... I need to end here... more for later... because we need to run out the door.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pennsylvania: Part Deux

Pennsylvania was such an action packed 3 days that we had to devote two entire blog posts to it! After the Philadelphia phenomenon, we were both craving some chocolate. So we visited two chocolate factories: Wilbur, and Hershey. Wilbur is in Lititz, and I (Bethany) have many positive memories of going there as a wee lass. I would have to say it’s the best chocolate I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in the area, you must go, and you must get a bag of Wilbur buds. I like the bags with the dark & milk chocolate combo.

Then we went to Hershey (of course…this is an Americana trip!) and rolled down the car windows for a big whiff of chocolate. Mmmmm! Hershey is quite the tourist attraction-they have an amusement park and CHOCOLATE

WORLD-which had a free tour/ride. While there we learned a lot about Milton Hershey (founder) who was extremely benevolent towards his community-which is still benefiting today from the things he set into motion.

Then we decided to hit up Gettysburg. Definitely worth the stop. We walked around the battlefields, saw where Pickett’s Charge was, and realized, once again, how incredibly rusty we are on our knowledge of history. And we realized, once again, that Abraham Lincoln was the man.

It was interesting to go from seeing the Liberty Bell and all of the country-founding stuff, to seeing this battlefield where our country was at war with itself....over the very things we were founded on (freedom, equality, etc.). The battle at Gettysburg is significant because it produced more casualties than any other battle in the war. By the end, 57,000 troops (Union & Confederate) were wounded, dead, captured or missing.

Here are some interesting Civil War facts I found...

"More Americans died in the Civil War than in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War combined. Two percent of the United States' population -- the equivalent of six million today --

perished during a conflict many originally thought would be resolved in a matter of weeks. About half of those who died did so as "unknown soldiers." But these numbers are only approximate. Neither the North nor the South kept accurate records of casualties, nor did they reliably inform families of loved ones' fates. Precise recordkeeping was no one's job. And in a conflict where a single day of battle could leave thousands dead and wounded, transport and burial were huge problems. There was no system for identifying or counting the dead, nor was there an established mechanism for conveying bodies to their families. Mass, unmarked graves were commonplace. Many were left to die -- and to rot -- on the battlefields where they fell."

We went to the cemetery there and it was crazy to see all of these "unknown" graves. They're everywhere. It was very sobering in 2 senses for me. One is that it's sobering to think of these men giving up their lives for something they believed in so strongly. And two, it's sobering to think that our lives are seriously only a shadow-and that no one even knows/remembers their names. That thought always puts things into perspective for me...that in 200 years (and probably less than that actually) probably no one will remember my name or know who I was on this earth. But what I can do is leave a legacy through my children and through how I live my life.

While we were there, we read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address where he originally gave it over 100 years ago, when dedicating the cemetery. It's so good I thought I'd post it:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather f

or us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The City of Brotherly Love, and then some

After getting out of the death grip (just kidding) of the midwest, we cut through

Ohio and the point of WV in record time, and made our way to Eastern Pennsylvania. I (Bethany) have some fantastic friends from YWAM days living in Lancaster (Bekah & AJ, pic at left) who were gracious enough to let us stay in their sweet little apartment.

As you may or may not know, Lancaster County is famous for being a sort of “Amish Headquarters,” so we spent an entire afternoon getting the tour of LC. This included the town of Intercourse, followed by the town of Paradise (not even kidding you), where there are Amish in abundance. Some facts we learned about the Amish:

  • You can get paid to “haul Amish” in your car to take them to their vacation destinations. (Amy and I vaguely considered this as a source of extra income for our trip...)
  • If you’re an Amish boy you stay completely clean-shaven until you get married, and then you grow a beard. (This really eliminates confusion. You don’t have to strain your neck to see if there’s a ring on his finger or not…)
  • Amish-made products are renowned for their extraordinary quality and people will pay big bucks for something that has the Amish label.
  • There are some killer smorgasbords in LC, featuring items such as Shoe-fly pie (molasses. Yummy.), baked corn, Amish filling, pigs stomach, succotash, etc.
  • And of course, they drive buggies!

After our LC tour, we hung out with Bekah and AJ (our lovely hosts) and reminisced by watching old DTS footage. It was pretty hilarious!

The next day was our Philadelphia tour. Which is so chalk-full of history, it’s almost overwhelming. We started our journey at the Liberty Bell:

(Notice Independence Hall, you can see it at the top in the window)

Which has this awesome verse from Leviticus on it: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Lev 25:10)

Next we walked around Independence Hall, paid homage at Ben Franklin’s grave, toured the mint, and Amy tried her first Philly Cheese Steak (minus the cheese…). She even got it from a legit street vendor that smelled like onions and had a seedy little mustache. Oh, and we walked to Betsy Ross’s house but apparently it’s closed on Mondays. FYI.

And after the Philly cheese steaks had been eaten, Love Park had been seen, and half a dozen Dunkin' Donuts later....we went to the art museum. Because it wouldn't be trip to Philly until we, along with track teams, tourists and toddlers, ran up and down the stairs, just like Rocky. This was quite an epic moment...I sang "Gonna Fly Now" loud and clear and by jove, it was actually a pretty good workout. I was sweating after going up and down. Rocky knew his stuff..

When we were in Philly I started to think about our country and what it’s founded on. It’s been really awesome to be able to travel all around the country and see different places and people. One of my personal goals/desires for this trip was to really get a feel for the heartbeat of my country. For so long I’ve been satisfied with just settling with my “idea of America” as the stereotypes: fast food, crazy sports obsessions, ungracious attitudes, etc. But I have been so dissatisfied with that…knowing that there’s more to us than that.

It was amazing to see all of things that our country was founded on: justice, liberty, equality, etc., are the very things that are really “popular” right now (with the justice movement, the attention on human trafficking, etc.). Which goes to show that we know that “all men are created equal” yet it is easier said than done. For the last 200+ years since the US has been in existence, we have struggled to maintain what we were founded on. The Civil War is a prime example of that. And yet it's encouraging to know that we have continued to be a nation that confronts injustice and raises our voices against inequality. We haven't always had immediate change or immediate victories. The bell that rang for liberty has cracked, irreparably in fact. But as a people, we have not. I pray we will not forget this cry for freedom nor this position on equality in which our nation was founded. This country was built on values that we're blessed to say we believe in and pray for.

"Ring loud that hallowed Bell!
Ring it long, ring it long;
Through the wide world let it tell
That Freedom's strong:

That the whole world shall be free —
The mighty crowd, the mighty crowd —
That the proud shall bend the knee,
The haughty proud.

Ring, ring the mighty Bell,
In the storm, in the storm!
Brothers! It shall herald well
Fair Freedom's form.

Ring it, till its startling tones
Thrill young and old, young and old;
Till despots tremble on their thrones,
And their blood run cold.

Ring it, till the slave be free,
Wherever chained, wherever chained;
Till Universal Liberty
For aye be gained.

Ring it, till the young arise
To Freedom's fight, to Freedom's fight;
Spring gladly toward the kindling skies,
All clothed in light.

Ring it, till the bonds of sect
Be torn away, be torn away;
Till every man, as God's elect,
Kneel down to pray.

Ring it, till the world have heard,
And felt, at length, and felt, at length;
Till every living soul be stirred,
And clothed with strength."

– Text of sonnet "The Liberty Bell" by R.R.R. Moore, published by the Friends of Freedom, 1844

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just when you thought Indiana totally sucked...

So by the time we were leaving St. Louis Amy and I had both decided that we were getting a bit Midwest-ed out…and that it was high time we head to the Coast of the East! However, there was still one very important person to see before we exited the Midwest: Uncle Neil. Amy and I both have this theory that everyone has an “eccentric uncle.” An uncle that is perhaps zany, perhaps outrageous, perhaps unique, but most of all-awesome. Uncle Neil certainly wins that title amongst my collection of uncles.

Some background on Uncle Neil (UN): he is my Dad’s younger brother, who has an incredible knack for finding bargains (garage sales, auctions, thrift stores, etc.) and free stuff (a very admirable quality). He has an exhaustive collection of Hawaiian shirts and 99% of the time he’s wearing one. And one of the most important things you must know about Uncle Neil is his unprecedented joke-telling skills.

Let me give you a sample: “Hey Bets, did you hear about corduroy pillows?” “No Uncle Neil, I’ve never heard of them” “Wow that surprising to me, cause they’re a pretty big deal right now, I hear they’re making headlines”

However, before I get ahead of myself….on the way to Marion (where UN lives) we stopped in Muncie, IN to see my dear cousin Grace (UN’s youngest daughter) (picture at right), who happens to be one of my most favorite cousins. She let us stay with her in her dorm room (Amy and I successfully shared a twin sized bed!) and then the next day took us to her Women’s Studies class. Very interesting.

So then we drove to Marion and it was quite the family reunion, because my parents also happened to be there. It was fantastic to seem them all!

UN wanted to show us all the sights of Marion, IN. Which may sound mundane, but I tell ya what…it was quite the place to see! Because, as you may or may not know, James Dean grew up in the neighboring town, and also happens to be buried there. So of course-to maintain our graveyard theme- we had to stop in and see it. There was quite the shrine there, kisses on his gravestone, paper cranes, bouquets of flowers, etc.

Then we all found out that Amy had never experienced White Castle, so of course, we had to stop for that. “It’s cool to eat square,” she said after eating her mini-hamburger. Or as my mother fondly refers to them as: “gutbusters.”

So after the sights had been seen, we went to the Friday night auction. There were some real gems there…a lamp with pictures of Dale Earnhardt on every side (very appropriate for Indiana…), Confederate money, dish sets, furniture, etc. I highly recommend auctions for anyone who loves CHEAP stuff and can see potential in “old junk.” Cause you could seriously score with some of those items!

Here’s a picture of the auctioneer. I wish I could add audio to it, because that’s really where it’s at. It’s crazy how fast they talk!

Then we went back to UN’s house and hung out with more family, tried on UN’s Hawaiian shirts:

Tried on Aunt Linda’s dresses...

(Left to right: Amy, Ruby (my cousin's daughter), Anna, Rachel (cousins), me, and Allison (cousin's girlfriend))

They were all super awesome and down to play dress up. It was incredible!

Friday, October 9, 2009

St. Louis: The unexpected AMAZING!

So this story starts and ends with the amazing CANDICE! Who is cooler than the coolest cool. (See picture) She taught us the art of "sculpturing", which requires full-body contact and no fear of heights.
We didn't actually know Candice until we got to St. Louis. She was a friend of a friend of a friend. And a good one she was!

So anyway, we got to SL and went to the sculpture park (which had some crazy french name that I can't even remember) and had all sorts of fun imitating sculptures:

This sculpture reminded me a lot of a poodle for some reason.

This is Amy atop one of the large woven-looking sculptures. She is such a great ambassador of Colorado in every way. She climbs like a mountain goat!

After we finished climbing we noticed this sign:


We didn't stick around long enough to find out what the "fullest extent" was exactly.

So after sculpturing, we took St. Louis into our hands and made it our own. This involved 19 U-turns. The streets here weren't exactly what Amy was used to. Let's just say she learned
the full potential of the turning radius of Taurus. By the time we found the church that we were looking for - where Candice's friend Matt was preaching - we had missed the whole service, but decided that church is about community, and community is about communion, and communion is about breaking bread... and that sounded like waffles. So we went to Waffle House.

Amy had never been to this famed house of Waffle. Now she has. Nothing like buttered grits,
pecan pie, chocolate waffles, and a juke box - a true taste of the mid/east/south. We had some trouble deciding if St. Louis was more of a southern city with a midwest feel, and yet a geographical location of being mideast... hmmm. Thoughts?

Ok - so I could go on and on with Candace stories... but this one must be told. After our tasty midnight meal, Candace informed us that she had "special pajamas" for our evening with her. We didn't really know what to make of this, but decided to go with the flow and see what she had in mind. And what did she have but adult-sized feetsy pajamas!!! Oh they were epic! And so so so so so comfortable. So much so that we have now invested in pairs of our own. For those of you who we have yet to see on this trip - brace yourselves. Because feetsy pajamas are our new official road-trip nightwear.

Well, that pretty much sums up St. Louis.

Haha! Just kidding! Of COURSE we made a point
to go see the Arch. I mean, we were in St. Louis after all. And it really was quite phenomenal.

Oh - but I said I'd end with Candace... she is truly worth the trip to Missouri. We would go out of our way to see her again. She adds the spice to this melting pot of a country.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Got to Kansas City on a Friday... (well, not really but for the sake of the song...)

So who knew that Kansas City is directly below Duluth MN?

Don't feel bad. We didn't either.

It really is quite a straight line though, and since it was already on our list of places that needed a visit, we figured that there was no better time than the present! So, instead of heading to the East Coast, we re-routed and pointed ourselves south. Oh the joys of being footloose! We are excited about the spontaneity of this decision and hope to continue to hold this trip with an open hand. Honestly there have been times on this trip where we felt slightly boxed in by our plans, especially when we want to stay longer in one location but it's just not "in the plan"... this is a road trip after all.

Kansas City - home of one true gem: JOY!
Bethany and Joy grew up together in Cali... it was quite fun hanging out and hearing of their former youthful escapades! Joy has a big heart and a big laugh - such a wonderful combo - as well as cooks a mean waffle and can make friends with anyone. Literally. We like her a lot. Oh - and take a good look at her, because you will be seeing more of Joy in the near future as she will be joining us for a portion of our time on the East Coast!

Being a former intern with IHOP (International House of Prayer - not pancakes), she gave us
the grand tour of their facilities and we joined in on worship and prayer for a couple hours. It was a great experience. It's a beautiful thing to see people pursuing God with all that they have!

But the tour didn't stop there... no no. Joy took a day off to show us her favorite ins and outs of Kansas City.
This included gelato (my first experience with dairy-free gelato!), the market where spices are $1 a scoop (I gasped and bought curry and thyme... because everyone could use
a little more thyme), a trip to the down town library where I got to fulfill my dreams of being the story-book-lady to Bethany and Joy who sat through book after colorful book on squishy bean bags, then consumed way too much hummus at the Jerusalem Cafe, window shopped, and enjoyed the warm fall air.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Land of Lincoln

Part four in the midwest: Bloomington, IL. To see the lovely, loveable Corie Cram! We also got to meet Josiah (Corie's boyfriend (picture at left)) and hang out, make curry, and go see Corie's school. A good time had by all. We also got to meet her awesome roommate Ashley, who put us in contact with our St. Louis contact (stay posted !)

While we were in the Land of Lincoln, who better to go visit, than Abe himself? So we headed to Springfield and tracked down his grave. But the term "grave" is really an understatement. "Tomb" would be more appropriate.

When we got there we read the Gettysburg Address aloud, and both felt the emotion of the whole event. I mean, Abe was the bomb. Truly a wonderful president.

So when we got to the actual tomb thing (picture at right) we got a brief history lesson from a sweet little tour guide there. So for all of those interested: Abe is buried 30 inches behind this rock, and below 10 feet of cement. His coffin is lined with lead, so it weighs 500 lbs. And it is in some sort of metal cage. Basically: don't even think about stealing his body. Not even worth all of the effort. Amy and I were both wondering...who would want to steal a 200 year old corpse anyway..?! Although I'm sure you could make a killing on Ebay selling any remains you find in there ...

I would highly recommend this stop in Springfield. Totally worth it. And there are a few others buried in the mausoleum: Mary Todd (Abe's wife), William Wallace (son), and his two other youngest sons (don't remember their names) are also buried there.

TRIVIA QUESTION (and you're not allowed to look up the answer on google): where was Lincoln born and raised?

The rest of the drive through Illinois was (shockingly) uneventful. Although Amy decided we should stop and get out and play in the cornfields. Which I more than willingly agreed to!