Monday, July 30, 2012

Good ol' Missouri Summer

Well, we're back and trying to get into our normal routine. Though Missouri was an amazing trip full of family, friends, and delicious food, I get to a certain point in my travels where I'm ready to get back to normal. Our departure was bittersweet (we'll be back for Christmas), but it was nice to sleep in my own bed after a week and a half of different sleeping situations.

It all started two Mondays ago. We had a red-eye flight at 12:45am and so we spent the evening with Ryan's grandmother, aunt and uncle (Rachel and Emmett), and his aunt's family. We rarely see Emmett and his family since they live in the far-away land of Wisconsin, but we briefly saw them during the Missouri wedding reception a year ago. It was really nice to have those hours to get to know them even more and to enjoy the Utah evening, completely void of any kind of humidity (something we'd be experiencing shortly). They dropped us off at around 11:00pm and we got on our flight shortly thereafter. I had never experienced a red-eye prior to this and I thought it wouldn't be that bad. Oh boy, it was bad. I didn't have a plane pillow to help me sleep and so any sleep I got was short, painful, and unfulfilling. At the end of the flight, when the plane was pulled into the gate and we were about to get off, the woman across the aisle from me vomited. It didn't help that I was also in the aisle seat and was feeling fairly queasy myself. It. Was. Gross!

Anyways, moving on. After a layover in Detroit for an hour, we arrived in St.Louis at around 8am and stayed all day Tuesday and Wednesday with my sister, Emily, and her cute family. Tuesday was a day of recovering from our flight and relaxing. Wednesday, we felt a little more adventurous and took a trip to the St. Louis Science Center, a place that I frequented during my childhood and hadn't been to for years! We wanted to visit the zoo but felt it was too hot to do so (it was 103 degrees that day).
 Ryan standing on the bridge with a random kid looking down below.

 Looking at the crazy contraption powered by the sweat of kids with too much energy (they run in a wheel to power the balls around the track, much like a hamster wheel)

 Another view of the contraption.

 A typo I found on one of the museum's displays. Pretty sure it's supposed to be "Scorpion" but maybe I'm mistaken?

We treated ourselves to some astronaut food. We were both intrigued and also a bit peckish for a snack.

"Really, we're going to eat this?"

 That is a bit of the ice cream. Doesn't look like much, does it?

 Ice cream really should not come in any other form than cold and creamy. But it was good, definitely an experience!

 According to the floor of the Science Center, Pluto is still a planet! And I spy Ryan's foot.

The gorgeous sky and a bit of the old Science Center building peeking from behind my head. We had a great time!

Thursday, we departed with my sister, Sarah, for Johnson's Shut-Ins down in the southeast region of Missouri. The drive wasn't too bad (maybe 2ish hours) but it was dreadfully hot when we arrived at our campsite. So we all got changed and immediately went to the Black River to experience the shut-ins.

As a kid, my family and I would go down to the shut-ins annually and I remembered it as a very magical, amazing place. In 2005, the dam in the area broke and the campsite was wiped out. I was able to return in 2009 after my senior year with some friends, but this was the first time that my family has been back since that flood. So the campground was vastly different, not to mention the fact that Missouri was in the middle of a wretched drought when we camped, so the river was lower than normal. With all that in mind, my experience was a little disappointing, but it was still a great time! 

My parents, brother and sister (Steven and Elise) joined us Thursday evening. We enjoyed a dinner of hot dogs and brats and a dessert of banana boats. Sleeping was horrible since it was muggy still and there wasn't much of a breeze.

Friday morning, Ryan and I stayed at the campsite while the rest of my family went down to the river. I showered and took a nap since I didn't sleep well, and Ryan read. After my family returned to the campsite for lunch, we decided to swim since it was getting too hot to sit around. Emily, Joe, and Joe's dad (along with the kids) came down Friday evening and we slept much better that evening.

Saturday morning was swim time for those that wanted to go and then we packed up and left. We all got home by the evening to have a grand family dinner with everyone that went camping and those that didn't (Juli, Beckie, Melanie, and Tamara, Steven's wife, were the ones that didn't join us).

Here are some pictures of the camping trip.
 A picture of the first pool area.

 We're smiling now that we're cooled off.

 The shut-ins area which looks void of water because of how low it was.

 The end of the shut-ins and the beginning of the second pool.

 A beter angle of the second pool.

 More of the second pool and the area leading to the "deep end".

 The shut-ins from a different angle!

Steven and Sarah sitting in the first pool, chatting about random things.

 More of the beauty of Missouri/the Black river.

 Lucy enjoying an evening dip.

 Steven and Lucy having fun.

 Steven being funny for Lucy.

 Up stream from the first pool with the sun beginning to set.

It was a lot of fun, but it was nice to be back in civilization and in air conditioning!

Sunday, Ryan and I went to church with Sarah but had to leave early so that we didn't get locked out of Steven and Tamara's house (where we were staying). The rest of the day was spent watching "Sherlock Holmes" (Ryan hadn't seen it), spending time with family, and eating good food.

Monday, we went down to Rolla to visit my friend Sara and her boyfriend Connor. I had never been to Rolla and the drive down was gorgeous! The town itself isn't much, all it really has is a small technological college where Sara and Connor attend. We played video games (tried out Skyrim and Mass Effect), played "Bang!" the card game, and enjoyed a homemade stir fry dinner and dessert at a local pie shop called A Slice of Pie. This was definitely some of the best pie I've ever had and now I wish we had a pie shop like this in Provo (each pie is made from scratch each morning).

The restaurant front and the back of Connor's head. I would've gotten a picture of the pie we got but it was gone before I could get my camera out! We shared a slice of peanut butter lust, which is just a peanut butter pie for the most part.

We returned home that evening so that we could recover and be ready for more traveling the next day. We went to Kansas City in the morning along with my parents and sister Elise so that we could attend a temple session in the new Kansas City temple at noon and also go to Liberty Jail for a quick tour. Both things were really neat, and it was great to go into another temple! That makes 7 temples total, but I still have plenty in Utah I need to see/attend. After our temple session, we dropped Elise off at the airport so she could fly back home to New York. Then the rest of us ate at Culver's (a frozen custard place) and then headed home.

Tuesday night, Ryan and I watched the second "Sherlock Holmes" while everyone was out and about doing their own thing. It was good, but not as good as the first, in my own opinion.

Wednesday was a preparatory day for Thursday (when we'd be flying home). Ryan relaxed while I went to a dentist appointment at 9am and I also dropped by the Russel Stover's chocolate outlet and bought a lot of chocolate for my family and myself. That evening, we went to Jazz, a New Orleans-inspired restaurant, with Sarah.

 My food (Shrimp Czarina), which was very similar to a shrimp scampi, except fairly spicy.

 Ryan enjoyed his fried catfish.

 Sarah enjoyed her stuffed catfish. Or I think she did...

 Our alligator bites. So good!

 A close up of Sarah's stuffed catfish.

The side of jambalaya I ordered. Yum!

This is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Columbia. So good! We wrapped up the evening by going downtown for some Sparky's ice cream, a must-go destination if you are ever in Columbia.

Thursday was our last day. We did a quick load of laundry and then at 2pm we drove to St. Louis to make our 6pm flight. The flight was fine and we got home at around 9pm.

Our trip was so much fun, but it feels GREAT to be back! We don't have any more plans to travel (except for this coming weekend for our anniversary), and I'm okay with that. After Powell and Missouri, I'm all tripped out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lake Powell

Phew!

What a crazy couple of weeks!

Have you ever had that feeling that you really don't have any down time to do anything you really want to do? That was me until this past Friday. I would love to blog about everything that went on, talk about every small detail, but that would become an unnecessarily long blog post. For now, I'll focus on the trip we just took with Ryan's family and his uncle's family.

Almost every summer, Ryan's family have gone down to Lake Powell and spent time on their house boat, lounging around, swimming, and doing whatever you want. Last year I went over Labor Day weekend for a couple of days and loved it! This time, though, it was a longer trip and we were able to take the house boat off the buoy and to a more remote area in the canyons of the lake. We were there Friday-Tuesday, a perfect long weekend away from everything.

Instead of cluttering this post with words, allow me to show you with pictures! Beware: There are a LOT.

 This is the view from the buoy. Lots of house boats around us when we're here, so they like to anchor somewhere else.

 Ryan giving me a silly face. It's rare when I get a serious face from him.

A view from the speed boat when we went exploring the first night.

Another view from the speed boat.

We went to this giant sand hill that almost everyone hikes at least once. I decided to do give it a try.

Almost there! I was pretty wiped out by this point. Can you see Ryan at the top already?

I made it! And the view was amazing!

Sitting in the sand because I was exhausted! I felt like I ran a 5k after this hike!

A charming picture of Ryan's cousins (From left to right): Luke, Jackson, and Lauren.

Ryan giving me a face again. Isn't he a cutie?

Me and Ryan at the top of the sand hill, about to run down again.

What a stud.

A view from the place we anchored for the weekend.

Getting the anchors in.

 Andrew, Ryan's brother, swimming around our less-populated location.

 The rocks/canyons surrounding our amazing location.

Sunbathing on the top of the house boat.

 A view from Sunday's exploration time.

 Can you spot the elephant?

 Inside a cool alcove area. When we blasted the music from the boat, it would echo within the area. So cool!

 Isn't this place gorgeous?

 Ryan and Andrew exploring some areas of the alcove.

 There they are, sitting proud on their discovery.

Andrew on the rock, Ryan in the water.
 Andrew jumping off the rock.

 Ryan on the rock, though he didn't jump. He's not a jumper.

Really cool view and a neat cloud arch in the background.

 This is where we anchored the speed boat to swim for a bit on Sunday.

 Some more cool views of the slot canyons we boated through.

 The small patch of sand we used to anchor the boat in the slot canyons.

 Me and Ryan climbed that rock and knocked some rocks off of it. Good times!

Gotta love that face.

 Later that evening, we went and checked out the slot canyons near where we anchored.

 Ryan is enjoying a handful of Red Vines (there is a large bag always in the boat).

 These canyons were so neat, especially at this time of night!

 The water was like glass.

 Attempting a reflection picture.

 At this point, there were a lot of bats flying back and forth, wish I caught them on camera!

 Some more canyon pictures as well as a bit of sky/clouds. So pretty!

Another reflection picture.
 I think I went overboard with the pictures, but it was so neat!

 We were so excited, though I was a little afraid a bat would hit me in the head.

 The next day, I spent time on the beach, collecting things.

I kept these rocks, aren't they neat?

 Ryan just loved that pink inner tube. Jackson just loves the water.

 Sunset on the last night we were there, back in the buoy field.

There are tons of stories that go along with these pictures, but I think this is getting long enough. Overall, the trip was exactly what I needed: I finished two books and started a third and I didn't have to worry about anything except if I have enough sunscreen on (I only got slightly burned on my shoulders, by the way). I can't wait to go back, whether it be this summer or next, I will definitely be looking forward to it!

Hope you all enjoyed this photographic journey. Next stop: Missouri!