Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thunder Mountain Girls

On Monday, I visited Magic Kingdom for the second time since I've been down here.  The first time Lexi--my roommate--and I went to see Summer Nightastic, their summer fireworks show.  This time, Jenna, Lindsey, and I conquered the whole park.

We got fast passes (which are free at Disney, by the way) at Splash Mountain then went straight to Thunder Mountain next door.  We got in line right in front of a father and his two daughters.  The girls were probably 6 and 4, if I had to guess, and they were both wearing green dresses with pink cupcakes on them and sneakers with Disney princesses on the side.

Lindsey started talking to them a little, but somehow I ended up talking to them more.  We were in line for probably 20 minutes and the younger one especially kept up the conversation.  They were both so cute and so sweet.  When we got to the point where you board the ride, they were put in the first car and we were put in the last.  They also go on the train before us, so I thought I wouldn't see them again.  (The younger one also tried to ride with us at first.  How cute.)  We rode Thunder Mountain and then decided to go do Haunted Mansion before going back for Splash Mountain.  Somehow, the girls came out of the ride after us.  So the younger one said goodbye and we continued to walk down the boardwalk a little quicker than them.  She kept waving and saying, "Bye Girl!  Bye Girl!"  So cute.  Her mom and grandpa were waiting for them along the boardwalk, so they stopped but she ran to the other side of the fence and kept yelling until we were out of sight.  It was so sweet.

I just love having an impact one someone like that.  And hey, if the kids are happy, the parents are happy.  I'm a little jealous of the girls too because they were just having so much fun there and there is nothing like experiencing Disney World as a kid.  Even if she doesn't remember me today, it still made her happy at the time.

Ahhh, I kind of love Disney World.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the Stand, In the Lake

Tuesday was my first day of guarding on my own!  Super exciting, but super nerve-wracking.  To start the day off, I had training at 7:00AM.  All life guards have to do in-service training twice a month, but since I just finished my class and just started, I only have it once for August.  We split into four groups and went around in groups to practice infant and child CPR, adult CPR, spinal backboard, and unconscious backboard.  After we rotated through the four stations, we went back to our original station; mine happened to be the marina.  When we got down there, the coordinator pulled out three people who work on the lake in addition to life guarding and then told the rest of us to open the dock. 

Well, one of the other guards saw a baby (it's a doll) floating in the water, so he grabbed a tube and jumped in.  After he pulled out the baby, other guards started working on it and he saw one of our coordinators floating in the water on the other side of the boat.  He jumped in again, but since he was unconscious, we had to use a backboard to get him out.  Well, since the lake is deeper than our pools, we had to float the backboard in order to get him on it and that takes two people to do.  Guess who had to jump in and help.  This guy!  (Here's a picture of the lake into which I jumped.)

After that, I had my regular shift at Pop Century.  It was interesting.  The weather wasn't that great for swimming, but I loved it being cooler than usual.  So the pools were pretty quiet and nothing too exciting happened.  But I've now officially guarded on my own!  YAY!  (Here are pictures of the three pools I guarded today--Hippy Dippy, Bowling, and Computer.)

Here's a picture of the pool at Old Port Royale at Caribbean Beach.  It's the one I'm guarding today for my second day on my own.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Greetings from Morocco!

Here's the story of my favorite moment so far here at Disney World.  I'm going to apologize in advance because sadly, I forgot my camera yesterday when we went to Epcot and Blizzard Beach, so there is no photographic documentation of this moment--or day.

It all started about 9 years ago.  My big sister had a golf tournament down here, so my mom decided to take advantage of that and plan a second Disney World trip.  Most of the time at the parks it was just me with my mom as Rachel was either golfing or sleeping.  So on the day we went to Epcot, my mom bought me a passport for the World Showcase.  If you don't know, the World Showcase is one half of the Epcot park.  It's made up of 11 countries--Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada.  In order to work at the World Showcase, you must be from the country you're representing.  All the architecture is from the country, the costumes represent the country, and they usually have very tasty food at one or two restaurants in each country.  You can also buy things that the country is famous for, and see shows and presentations about the culture.  Some of the countries--like Norway--even have a ride.

If you have an Epcot passport, you can go around to each country and get it stamped and written in from someone working there.  They have designated areas to get them stamped.  They people of course write in their own language and you put stickers on the page that have pictures of the country.  Well, 9 years ago I got 10 stamps.  The only country I was missing was Morocco.

Yesterday, when Dexter, Jenna, and I went to Epcot, I took my old passport.  I have no idea why I kept it so long.  It's basically just been in a basket of junk for the last 9 years and every time I would go through it, there was just something keeping me from throwing it away.  My mom mailed it to me last week, so I was dying to go to Epcot.

When we walked through the World Showcase, we stopped to eat at Mexico, did the ride at Norway, and then continued on to Morocco.  I stood in line with a bunch of 10 year old kids to get the stamp from a girl from the country.  She wasn't too enthusiastic about the kids.  She would ask their name, write something, stamp it, continue.  But as I got to the front of the line, I got more and more excited.  Literally more excited than the little kids.  When I handed her my passport, I asked her to read to me what was written in Arabic.  You see, I was very upset that Morocco closed before I got there, but one of the custodians for the restaurant wrote in my book anyway.  She actually took a moment to talk to me about it, ask why mine was so different from everyone else's, etc.  She flipped through it a little and told me mine is a lot cooler than the new ones they have.  Finally, she gave me the stamp.

I was so happy, I literally had a new spring in my step.  It's been 9 years since I got that book and I haven't spent more than a second thinking about it since then.  All of a sudden it seemed to be the most important thing in the world again and I had to complete my book.  The stamp is probably a little bit different than the old one, but after waiting a long time, I've finally completed my passport to Epcot.

I can't even think about it without getting a huge smile or even a little bit of a tear.  That's the Disney magic for you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Disney's Newest Life Guard

Great news!  I passed my life guard class yesterday!  We get a license here through Ellis & Associates and we have to attend a three day class and pass the tests in order to receive that license.  It was very rigorous.  Lots of information to learn in just three days, but we finished yesterday afternoon and I'm proud to say I'm officially a licensed life guard!  I start my on job training today at Caribbean Beach Resort and Pop Century Resort.  Should be interesting to actually shadow someone on the stand for a full day.

In order to pass the class, we had to do a group test.  The group test was a simulated rescue situation.  You and your team get to your area and start scanning the pool when an emergency happens.  Our situation happened to be a spinal injury after someone did a cannon ball in the 3 feet deep water.  Luckily for us, we practiced the spinal rescues over and over again during our hour of practice time.  We nailed it!  After lunch we had our individual CPR tests.  We had to pass adult, child, and infant.  I did child first and had to be retested on that one because I forgot the two test breaths after the initial assessment thanks to nerves.  I passed the retest without a problem, though.  Finally, we had a written test.  I got zero wrong!

I was so relieved to have passed the class, but now I'm nervous for being on the job.  Hopefully today goes well.  They said a good day for a life guard is when nothing happens.  And they said if you want to know what being a life guard feels like, fill up your bath tub, put a rubber ducky in it and stare at if for 8 hours.  If you want to know what being a life guard feels like during the winter, take the rubber ducky out and stare at the water for 8 hours.  EEK!

To celebrate, we went out to Buffalo Wild Wings.  Apparently that's the place to be on Wednesdays all across the country.  Except instead of trivia, it turns into a club.  Who knew?  

In other Disney news, I went to Epcot last weekend and did Journey into Imagination with Figment, the Capital EO show--I don't recommend it--and the Test Track.  We got right on at the test track.  Thank you single rider lines!  It was really hot though, so we didn't stay long.  But I got my Epcot Passport in the mail yesterday, so now I have to go back and get that last stamp at Morocco!  I'm hoping to go to one of the parks again or one of the water parks this weekend!

More pictures to come later.  With my inconsistent internet here, it's been taking for ever just to even get to my own blog, let alone anything else.  What fun.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oh, Oh It's Magic!

Get ready.  This may be a long one.

I made it at Disney!  I was incredibly impressed with the efficiency of the process.  I thought it would take forever, but it all went off quite quickly.  It was awesome!  Before going to my new apartment, I decided to stop at Chick-fil-a.  Never going back.  Ever.  Terrible food.  So I got over it and went to move in.  

One of my three roommates was there, so I met her--Lexi.  While I was taking my stuff from my car to my room, I met another one--Kandy.  They both seemed really nice!  Thank goodness.  We had to go to the bus stop within the next hour or so in order to go to the casting building for all of our check in and business stuff.  Once again, I was surprised by their organization and efficiency.  There were so many people there and with everything we had to do, its quite incredible that it was over in two hours.  After that, most kids were free for the rest of the evening.  However, as a life guard I had to go take my test.  I tried to go to Target in between, but I got lost on the Disney property and gave up, so I just went about an hour early to the testing sight.  

Slowly, other kids started to trickle in and there were probably about 20 or 25 total.  I started to get really nervous talking to the other kids who said they were life guards or on the swimming team, etc.  We had to do a vision test, the 200 yard swim test, the surface dive to retrieve the 10 pound brick, and the 2 minute tread.  I was a little skeptical about the vision test even, but I had to read "TEAM IMPROVEMENT" or something of the sort.  No big deal.  Then I got nervous for the swim test.  But I pushed through for the 4 laps (8 pool lengths), knowing I could do it and knowing a job at Disney was at the end.  I finished!  After that, they said we had to go feet first all the way down to the bottom of the pool, which is not how I was taught before, so I got nervous again.  But it turned out to be easier than I thought.  Finally, the tread.  My weakness.  It was really helpful that the guy giving the test talked to us and asked us a lot of questions (that only required raising your hand), because the time went by a lot quicker.  When he said, "Okay, let's count down from 1000." I started to get tired and thought there was no way I could finish.  Thinking, surely if I stop only 30 seconds before I'll still be able to life guard somewhere at least.  Well, he said, "999, 998...okay, you're done."  Thank God I stuck with it!  I'm super proud of myself.  There were probably at least five people that couldn't even complete one of the three things, so I'm super happy I finished.

We got our job assignment.  I'll be at Pop Century Resort and Caribbean Beach Resort.  I'm excited for that because I've never been to either.  One of the guys I tested with will also be starting there, so at least I kind of know someone.

After the test, two of the other girls--Jenna and Abbey--and I went out to dinner at Panera.  We got a little lost, but now I just know where some other stuff is.  Turns out the restaurant was actually only a five minute drive from where we live, but it took us about twenty minutes.  After that, I had to go to Target to get sheets!  I would have waited until the next day, but I needed to sleep on something!  So after I finished there, I got back super excited to have bedding and a router for our internet.  Well, of course I left the bag with the router--and shampoo and conditioner, pillow cases, razors, etc--in it at Target.  That's when I had my freak out session.  Luckily it was no problem getting it back and everything was fine.  It was definitely a long day.

I had to go to a housing presentation in the morning.  It was longer than I expected, but it was obviously a lot of useful information about our complexes, the rules, the perks, etc.  Of course right when we got out it started to pour so nobody wanted to walk back.  The presentation was at the international students' complex, so none of us lived there.  That was fun.  The girls I was with, fortunately, called their roommate to come pick us up.  So that was nice to not have to walk back or wait any longer.  I don't know if I can get used to this kind of rain...

I hit up Panera for lunch again.  I think I might be spending a lot of time there in the coming months.  It's delicious.  After lunch, I drove out to see my friend Kristen.  She and her sister bought me a birthday balloon and a birthday cake, which was so sweet--and delicious.  We hung out for a while before I decided to go back and do some grocery shopping.  That ended up taking longer than I expected and I couldn't believe how much it cost!  I actually bought some stuff for my room, including a wire shelf that I kind of, sort of put together by myself.  Nothing too heavy is on the shelves, so hopefully it'll stay up.  That was a real pain trying to put it together.  But after that, I organized my room and tried to unpack some of the stuff I brought.  Still left some stuff packed though.  Oy.  It's a bigger project than you would think.  Finally, I called it a night and turned in early.  (You can see my full closet organization here.)

This one was an early day!  I had to be at the bus stop at 6:45AM in order to go to Disney University for our Traditions class.  This was just a half day, professional dress seminar about Disney and some of the professional expectations.  The presentation was FANTASTIC!  It's so much easier to sit there and listen to people who are enthusiastic about their topic and really good at what they do.  The presentation was seemingly flawless, and even had a few surprises, that of course I can't share with you all.  Sorry!  It made getting all of that information so much easier.  And we finally got our official name tags!  Yippie!

After that, I ended up going to Animal Kingdom with the kid I'll be working with at Pop Century and two of his roommates.  It started to pour just as we were leaving our apartments, so we all got soaked on the way to the bus stop.  We decided to just go to Hollywood Studios, but we had just missed that bus and Animal Kingdom's bus was coming, so we stuck with our original plan.  Well, along the route, about 5 to 10 minutes from the park, the bus broke down.  Something with the tire, but not positive if it was a flat or something else.  It took about 45 minutes for another bus to come and those poor kids were all late for their shifts.  We rode Dinosaur in Dinoland, USA right away.  I'm iffy on this one.  I hate stuff like that, but I think I need to give it another chance.  Just one more.  We rode Expedition Everest next.  It was my first time on that one and I LOVED it.  If you like rollercoasters, you have to go to this one in Animal Kingdom and Rock 'n Rollercoaster in Hollywood Studios.

We didn't stay much longer.  Everyone was tired because we had to be up so early that morning, so we went back to the complex.  I fell asleep for a little bit before one of my roommates got back.  We decided to order pizza, and the other two trickled in.  I finally met the fourth roommate.  Well, I had met her the first night, but it was pitch black and I couldn't really see her.  So finally we were all acquainted!  YAY!

Another early day.  But not quite as early as the day before.  Also another dress up day.  Thank goodness for all those professional clothes I got for my last job.  Phew!

We had to catch an early bus to Disney University again.  It was another half day, but this time we only worked on the computers.  We had a bunch of computer modules to complete in order to learn the business a little better.  It went by pretty quickly, and once again they made the whole thing a little easier by being interactive and creative.  It definitely helps with learning boring material.  I also got a handy dandy lanyard for my IDs.  Had to get the 101 Dalmatians one since my mom had to steal my Lucky shirt in order to wash it in the middle of the night.

I headed back to my apartment after I completed the classes.  My roommate, Lexi, and I decided to go see The Other Guys at Downtown Disney.  It was a pretty funny movie, but really confusing and just kind of strange.  I laughed out loud quite a bit though.  I would say go see it cheap, or rent it.  We walked around Downtown Disney for a little bit before we headed back.

That night we had a pool party at another one of the complexes.  It was sort of a welcome party for everyone.  The theme was In the Jungle, so some characters from the Jungle Book were there.  One of my friends through life guarding, Jenna, and I met a number of new people--mostly from other countries like France and Turkey.  There are a lot of international kids here right now, but I guess they all go back to their countries this month to start school again.  This is only a summer job for them.  Darn!  The pool party was pretty fun though.  Unfortunately it was only two hours, so at 8:00 sharp they kicked everyone out so they could clean up.

It was my last early day and my last dress up day.  I finally got to go to the place I'll be working--Caribbean Beach Resort and Pop Century Resort.  We did a number of welcome things, more orientation type stuff, and tours of both resorts.  At the end of the day, we got our costumes.  This is going to be interesting.  I have to wear my shirt and shorts at all times, so hello farmer's tan!  Luckily, they said I can wear my Chacos, so that will be a cool tan line.  (And I'll beat you, Kristen!  ...We have a competition to see who can get the best Chaco tan.  We're both losing.)

Of course our training got over about 10 minutes after the bus came, so we all had to wait for about 45 minutes as it started pouring.  On the bus, I met some more international kids.  One from Spain and one from Mexico.  It was interesting listening to them speak in Spanish.  Once or twice they had to stop because one used a word the other didn't know.  It was kind of cool.  I want to be bilingual...

After an accidental nap, Lexi and I decided to go see the last night of Summer Nightastic.  It's a special fireworks show at Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom.  It's been going on all summer, but starting August 14 I guess they're going back to the regular show.  If I've seen the fireworks before, I don't remember.  (Sorry, Mom.)  It was fantastic.  I couldn't stop smiling and I probably even oohed and ahhed.  Who knows.  I loved it!  I feel so lucky that I get to be here for so long!

And...I had Saturday and Sunday off.  Amazing.  Finally, here are some pins that I got so I can start trading.  (Sadly we can't have them on when we work.)  From left to right: Pop Century Resort, Mickey Mouse from Fantasia, and Belle from Beauty & the Beast.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Julie & Hannah vs. the USA - Part III

And welcome to the finale.  Our last two stops: Charleston, South Carolina and Orlando, Florida.  Of course I'll be hanging out here for a while as I complete my internship with Walt Disney World, but we did get a little bit of a vacation here too.


We didn't have to get up too early to leave Chapel Hill.  Our drive to Charleston was relatively short.  When we got on the road, we saw a sign for Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens, so we decided to take a look.  It turned out to be one statue and one fountain--and they were working on the fountain so it wasn't even running!

We got back on the road and realized we forgot to get gas, so we stopped in Fuquay-Varina.  What kind of name is that?!  I kept seeing signs for Wilminginton, North Carolina, so I asked if we could make a detour there--it would only add an hour.  We decided to, but we ended up getting confused and following the Garmin's directions, so we just went back on the highway.  Not interstate, highway.  We saw the main street, but none of the places I wanted to see.  If you don't know, that's where they film One Tree Hill.  And where they're currently filming, actually.  We switched after that and I drove into South Carolina.  This time, we were able to stop and actually get a picture with the "WELCOME TO SOUTH CAROLINA!" sign.  We haven't been able to do that since Nebraska!

Because we took the detour to Wilmington, we ended up going through Mrytle Beach.  Traffic was awful and the rain was worse.  It was really eerie driving then because I could hardly see two feet in front of me and some idiots didn't even have their headlights on!!  We lost a lot of time on that detour--it ended up adding a full hour.  But finally we made it through the traffic and the storm and cruised the rest of the way to Charleston.

Day seven also happen to be MY BIRTHDAY!  What better place to celebrate than downtown Charleston, right?!  Well, we got ready and hit the town for some sushi.  We went to Tsunami--a fitting name as it started to pour while we walked from the car to the restaurant (and when we walked back).  I think pictures of me out in the pouring rain is just a staple for my birthday.

The food was great--some of the best sushi either of us had ever had--but the waitress was awful.  She never made eye contact, she asked us if we wanted more water every time our glasses were empty, even before our meal had even come.  She only stopped by our table like three times.  It was bad.  But on the other hand, there was a table about 10 decently looking boys in the front.  One by one, they all walked by our table, around the corner, to go to the bathroom.  Finally we stopped one and asked if they were sailors docked in Charleston, or why they were all out together.  He said they were from the Air Force Base in Charleston and they actually meant to invite us to eat with them.  (WHAT?!  Is that normal?!)  So he said the offer still stands.  Too bad our food came right at that moment.  So we ate and decided to send them over some dessert.

We ate dessert over at their table and sat with them for about 10 minutes, paid our bill, then said goodbye.  We walked around Market Street for a while.  Saw all the street vendors and the little shops.  We wandered into a chocolate shop and talked to some of the nicest people we've encountered on this trip!  We told them we would see if we could find something better, but come back if we didn't.

Well, we didn't, so we went back to get some ice cream (our dessert of fried cheesecake just wasn't good).  We talked to them for a while because we were the only people in the store, but then people started pouring in and again, we said goodbye.  When we were walking around, we heard someone yelling at Julie.  Who knows us in Charleston?!  Well, the Airmen from dinner.  So we sat with them for a while outside a hookah bar and talked for about an hour.  There were only three of them since most of them were 21 and had gone to Wet Willies down the street and around the corner.  But they had to be back to the base early and all of a sudden it started to get really windy and everyone started running for cover.  Literally.  We got up, deciding to leave, and as we walked back to the car it started to pour again!  By the time we made it back to the parking garage we were soaked!

When we got back to our hotel's parking garage--yes, we stayed in a hotel here!  Free!--we were in the habit of looking for license plates as we drove by.  And then we saw it.  ALASKA!!

We both screamed and squealed like little girls on Christmas morning, so we decided we had to get a picture and write them a note, thanking them for making the long trek from Alaska to South Carolina.  Incredible.  At that point, we only had three left--Hawaii, New Mexico, and Oregon.


I woke up just before the alarm went off, so I turned it off and let Julie get an extra thirty minutes of sleep before we went down for breakfast.  Breakfast was your run of the mill hotel breakfast, nothing special.  But we ate, packed up, and hit the road.

We drove around Charleston, South Carolina to see a little bit more of the city while it wasn't raining.  What an awesome city!  I gotta go back and spend some more time there someday.  Most definitely.

It took us forever to find a gas station and the one we found ended up being cash only.  Thanks a lot, Charleston.  But at last, we got on the highway with a full tank of gas and a lot of enthusiasm.  It didn't seem like it took long to reach Georgia.  And we got a picture of the sign!

All along the interstate we saw signs for Georgia peaches at exit 49 and decided we had to stop.  Of course half a mile before the exit, it started to pour.  We had to stop anyway.  It's Georgia.  And it's peaches.  Well, it was a little stand outside a Shell gas station and they were two guys our age selling them to raise money for college.  How cute is that?!

Just check out how cozy that Georgia boy and Julie got.  Too bad we can't creep on them via Facebook.  We kept on trucking straight on to Florida.  Julie was a trooper and drove most of the second half of the trip, so she pushed on through on this day too.

Our last state!  It was a little bittersweet.  But hey, thirteen states--seven new--and DC, not too shabby for nine days!  The rain got a little better, and finally we were in the clear and onto Orlando!

We met our final host family and realized that once again, we struck the jackpot.  They were so sweet and so helpful!  They even had gift baskets for us.  So nice, let me tell ya!  They took us out to dinner at Crossroads, across from the Disney property, then to Downtown Disney.  We walked around and explored a little bit.  I wanted to get a little acquainted with the area, so it was perfect.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous sunset as well.  After that, we went back to the house, watched some TV, and then went to bed.


It was our last day of vacation!  So sad.  But we went out with a bang going to Hollywood Studios at Disney World.  It took a while to pick a park.  We had the opportunity to do a park hopper, but we decided on just going to one and it was a toss up between Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  (Is it just me that wants to keep saying MGM?)

We got a lot accomplished at the park!  Of course it had to be drizzling all day--and it even poured a few times, but it was good for the lines.  We rode the Rock 'n Rollercoaster first.  It was AWESOME!  If you haven't done it and you love rollercoasters, do it ASAP!  Next was Tower of Terror because the wait was only 20 minutes.  We got a fast pass for Tower of Terror, then set out to explore.  (Did you know Disney does free fast passes?  Amazing.)

We went and saw some of the other things to see.  I got to see all of Walt Disney's Oscars.  You know me and my obsession with the Oscars.  Plus, Walt Disney has more than any other person.  Incredible!

We also saw the Beauty and the Beast show.  Julie and I both really enjoyed that one.  Definitely a must-see.  The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, not so much.  It had cool effects, but I would go back and see Beauty and Beast over and over again.

We walked around for a while and saw some other stuff.  Of course we had to stop and get some photos with Buzz and Woody from Toy Story.  How could we not?!  We went to the stunt show, but there was a rain delay, and we wanted to catch the last Indiana Jones show too.

We were able to ride both Tower of Terror and Rock 'n Rollercoaster again--a total of three and two times, respectively.  We ended on a fantastic note at Tower of Terror after a 20 minute wait, AGAIN!  It was a great way to end the trip.

After Hollywood Studios, we went out to dinner at Olive Garden and had a fantastic meal with the nicest--most awkward--waiter.

Of course we had to get our usual photo with our host family.  What an incredible way to end the trip.  Couldn't asked for a better (vacation) stay in Florida.  Thanks again, Kathy, Jeff, and Jordan!

We ended the trip with who knows how many miles, both under $400 for gas, food, and attractions, and 47 license plates!  We only missed Hawaii, New Mexico, and Oregon!

It was one of the most incredible trips I've ever had.  I'm so blessed to have had this opportunity...and now to embark on an internship with Disney!  Thank you to everyone who contributed: our parents, our hosts, our waiters, etc.  It's been a once in a life time experience.  And most of all, thank you Julie for accompanying me and experiencing it all with me!  Love you lots!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Julie & Hannah vs. the USA - Part II

Welcome to Part II!  Today, we'll cover the third and fourth legs of our trip: Washington, DC and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Originally, we were supposed to head to Charleston, West Virginia and Durham, North Carolina, if you remember.  However, things didn't quite come together for those two stops and we know people in both Washington, DC and Chapel Hill, so it worked out a little better.


We got up at 5:00 and made it to the car by 5:56.  Early start.  Julie elected to drive first, and lucky for me!  She was a trooper and drove through Chicago in the pouring rain (the first rain of the trip) and when it was practically dark.  As we were leaving Illinois, we missed the "WELCOME TO INDIANA" sign because of the rain and because it was above the highway on a bridge.  We drove for a while as it continued to pour, but decided to stop for gas in South Bend, Indiana.  If you're familiar with Indiana, you'll know that's where the University of Notre Dame is.  So we drove through campus, but because of the rain and because it was our long day, we didn't get out to walk around.  Gorgeous campus though.

We got some Starbucks and some gas, then headed back out on the road.  It continued to rain, but lightened up a bit.  Neither of us can remember if we switched driving before the state line with Ohio, but at some point, I took the wheel.  Driving through Ohio sucked.  There were state troopers almost every 20 miles it seemed like.  I think I saw more cops in Ohio than the rest of the trip combined.  Also, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio had way too many tolls for our liking.

We made it to Pennsylvania and that's when things really started to slow down.  There were construction zones for miles and their interstate speed limit is only 65.  It was totally cramping out style, but we got into Maryland without stopping once.  Julie made some sandwiches and we just ate while we drove.  Thanks to our pit stop in South Bend, we missed rush hour in Washington, DC and got to our friend Liz's apartment with basically no problem.  We went out that night in DC--to dinner and her friends house.  It was a lot of fun, but once again we got less than 7 hours of sleep.


Liz, Julie, and I walked around her campus--American University, then drove to the memorials/monuments in Washington, DC and parked near Jefferson.  We walked around for a while and saw most of the memorials and monuments.

My favorite picture of the day--American University campus

Thomas Jefferson 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Korean War

Abraham Lincoln

Our beautiful host, Liz!

Washington Monument

Vietnam War

World War II

The first time Garmin got us lost was trying to find the White House.  We drove around downtown DC for a bit trying to find it.  When we actually did find it, Julie just hopped out and snapped a few photos while Liz and I drove around the block.  Both of us have seen it before.

After that, we went back to get our stuff and it the road, a lot later than we thought.  We had to get out of DC to buy gas because it was a lot closer to $5.00 per gallon than you would hope it would be.  Going into Virginia though, it was a parking lot.  The traffic was so bad and it looked like it was for no apparent reason!  But it was a super short day, relative to the one before.  We got into North Carolina before we knew it.  Julie totally fell in love with the interstate there.  It was near empty, cop free, and gorgeous.  What's not to love?

When we got into Chapel Hill, we followed the Garmin's directions to our host's house.  This time, we were staying with my dad's cousin.  Keep in mind, I've never met her before.  So we turn on her street and drive to the house.  We park near the basketball hoop and go to the door.  The man answers the door and we introduce ourselves and go in.  Not quite sure if he invited us in or if we just went in.  We walked around into the kitchen and apologized for interrupting dinner before realizing that it was the wrong house.  I knew--thanks to Facebook--the woman at the table wasn't the right woman.  Julie finally said, "Oh, are we in the wrong house?"  And we figured out that we were two houses away.  The son pointed us in the right direction and the dad said he just thought we were there to hang out with the son.  WHOOPS!  Good thing we could just laugh about it.

We did finally make it to the right house and it was a blast!  We talked with Missy about our side of the family and just had a great time.  Before we knew it, it was time for bed.


We had this whole day to hang out in the Durham and Chapel Hill area in North Carolina.   Naturally, we started at Duke University, a must-see.  The Chapel was as beautiful as everyone said it was.  It kind of reminded me of the Chapel at Princeton.

We walked around campus a little bit and went over to the athletic area.  Of course I had to get a picture in Krzyzewskiville.

Couldn't live Duke without visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium though.  We found a door that was slightly propped open and started to explore.  First we stumbled upon the visitor locker room, then we went into the area and walked around the main hall to see the pictures, trophies, etc. and then went into the Hall of Fame.

Sadly, we didn't see Coach K, but we did unknowingly ask Ryan Kelly some questions about Duke.  He's #34 on the basketball team.

After Duke, we went back to Chapel Hill to see Franklin Street.  There were a few shops we went into to look around and we had lunch at the Carolina Brewery.  It wasn't that special...we tried three different salad dressings and all were overly tangy.  Instead of continuing to walk, we opted to drive around UNC's campus.  Compared to Duke, it wasn't that great.  The buildings weren't all uniform, and I'm not how I feel about that.  There was certainly some nice architecture and I loved the trees and green, green grass though.

We just went back to the house after that to watch Moulin Rouge! since Julie heard a song from the movie on one of the CDs for the road trip and fell in love.  Since it was Missy's birthday that day, we had some North Carolina barbecue for dinner and a little bit of a celebration.

Thanks again, first cousin once removed!  It was so great to meet you guys!  We had a blast!!!