The magical flying beast and Matrimony teaser

After 2 magical weeks in the USA, we are back in New Zealand. The process always feels so magical to me. Chris commented this time that it messes with his sense of distance. When he drives somewhere you have to physically see each tree, stone or house that passes you by. Perhaps it effects me slightly less as a passenger in the car, but his comment really struck home with me. I can tell how far I went in a car, and I know I can retrace that journey. In the air plane I am dependent on others.

We spent most the first week with wedding prep, and the second with a sort of detox that only those who have done DIY weddings can understand. In the end the wedding was absolutely perfect. And by perfect I mean it had little hiccups that make it unique along with tears of love and sparkles. The main pictures won’t be out for a while, but I wanted to just post one action shot taken by my uncle.

Laura and Dawson Van Pelt

Its been about a month since my last post which can only mean one thing…I’ll tell you next time.

The Holidays

Its hard to write when you aren’t alone. So I guess it is no surprise that over the past two weeks I’ve written nothing at all. That doesn’t mean I was uninspired or out of ideas, but I need solitude to actually make something come out of this brain of mine.

It was our first Christmas just the two of us, and while I think Chris was sad and a little lonely for family, I’m still excited by new traditions forming and slow relaxed pace. I did miss the chaos and noise, but I guess next year we will more than make up for it all.

For New Years we went down to Dunedin–the city where Chris and I met. We spent the evening apart, as he had a stag thing to do, but the rest of the trip we wandered around reminiscing about where it (meaning our love–queue sappy music) all started.

In terms of tourism, I feel like Dunedin could probably occupy about 2 days of your time just wandering around the city (although I use that term loosely) and using it as a base to look at a few nature-esk things.

We had fish and chips (the fish is under there I swear)

up at the top of Signal Hill like we had previously.

Chris told me the first time I was polite, and the second time I told him I hated nature. It was a lovely day (actually Dunedin played a nasty trick on us by being warm and sunny for our entire trip) and I enjoyed the company and view.

If you make it down, the only pub I can recommend you go to is Inch bar. I love this place so much. It feels a bit like a hobbit hole, and they have a new owner since I was there. They have also expanded to have a stage. Yes–electric violin the night I was there. Pure bliss.

The reason for the trip was really our friend’s wedding. It was stunning. Nature was their main decorative theme, and we gathered around in this basen-like-hill place (I’m sure there is some technical geological term for it) in a place called Karitane (just 30min from Dunedin) and watched them hike towards us to a German singing over the rainbow on the ukulele.

It was stunning.

The food later was amazing.

Don’t mind my pissed off face, I didn’t know what Chris was doing with my phone…

Also, this is New Zealand, so it wouldn’t be complete without a visit from SHEEP. I love sheep so much.

I couldn’t think of any good New Year’s resolutions. I tend to not have any, but I’m still thinking…

Surprise and Home

We had 10 hours in front of us now, and so we turned up the audio book–David Eddings if you must know–and tried to stay sane for that amount of time. Once we hit Washington State it was annoying highways, but we were unwilling to sacrifice time for the visual pleasure of trees. The best part of all was in the morning before we set off, pressing that ‘home’ button on the navi.

Home has always been a very loaded term for me. People ask about home in terms of where you grew up, where your family is based, or even your ethnic makeup. I was going ‘home’ now, for the first time, to a home I’d never been to. It was exciting. Even now, when people ask me where home is (or for small talk, where are you from) I say Seattle, Renton. It seems most people think that ‘home’ is something stationary. Its not. It moves, can be two or three places at once and really has no limits. Or that could just be the traveler in me.

Anyway we arrive at something which looks like a picture I saw online. I catch sight of my family name, and I boldly approach the door and knock with authority.

I hear a small scurrying sound, and the door hesitantly slides open and I catch a glimpse of my sister’s face. She screams twice and slams the door in my face. I laugh and laugh and am so pleased by the level of surprise. Its been about 6 months since I’ve seen her.

Eventually she opens the door again still screaming, and I know that all is well. Later that night I pull a similar trick on my mom who we are picking up from the airport. I hide, and after the rest of the expected family greets her, I pounce! More screaming.

It was worth the rush.

Black hills and Devils Dash to Wyoming

After Wall Drug, we continued our tourist escapades by driving through the black hills and trying unsuccessfully to dodge the waves of bikers.

There were so many it was impossible to stop and look at Mount Rushmore.

But I leaned out of the car window and snapped one quickly. It was a lot smaller than I thought.

The scenery was great, but we were caught in a torrential down pour. We were thankful then that we were inside a car and not sitting in wet leather.

We then took about a 2 hour detour to look at the Devil’s Tower.

We were up against the clock, so we didn’t get as close as we wanted before turning around and continuing west. The all consuming ‘where shall we sleep tonight’ and ‘how far can we drive’ is such a buzz kill for tourism.

We arrived in a town on the outskirts of yellow stone, Buffalo, got an amazing hotel, and went to an all American stake house–which I’m almost positive I’d eaten at when I was last there. Winchester’s. I ❤ super natural and even though it had nothing to do with the show I sat there like a wierdo fan-girl regardless.

Defeating Dakota

We passed a largely uneventful day in the car getting from one side of South Dakota to the other. There was no point taking back roads and the high was was just as scenic. At times it felt a little claustrophobic under the open sky which was full of heavy clouds pressing down on us. The horizon was also a tad nauseating and I wished for some skyscrapers to block it out.

We arrived just outside of the badlands to stop for the night. We pinched hotel internet to see if we could find a room but we had the misfortune of traveling at the same time as Sturgis, which is a huge bike tour. All the prices went through the roof, and I’ve never seen so many motorcycles in one place before.

Despite being early to rise, it seems motorists are even earlier, and we were far from the first to leave the hotel in the morning. Thanks to a national park card, we slipped into the badlands for free in the early hours, and here is where we began to hit pockets of pretty bad weather.

The road was immaculately maintained.

The road was also very windy, to Chris’ delight, but we stopped several times to walk around, stretch our legs…

and just bask in the beauty of it all.

It would have been more than possible to spend a whole day just driving around and taking long hikes. It was at this point however, that we got news that we needed to get to Seattle a bit faster than we had planned.

So, as is tradition of anyone who has ever been to South Dakota, we popped into Wall Drug for water–and I kid you not 25 cent coffee–and were on our way again. (okay, we had donuts too…they were so worth it.)

Hotels and Driving

After we left our friends behind, we waited in boarder traffic for about 2 hours. Then we had the misfortune to drive on that toll road around Chicago. Bumpy, trafficy and expensive, we were not happy campers at all. We’d hoped to see more farms and barns or even actually see the city. Instead it was just a long line of cars.

We ended up driving longer than we meant too, and it got dark. We were hungry, tired and grouchy. Now, everyone knows that I am probably one of the world’s stingiest people. While I don’t enjoy sleeping in nature, the idea that it could be free or cheap, and especially the idea of walmart camping (which is totally a thing) appealed to my cheapness. Not so much to Chris. He wanted a motel, but a cheap one. You can see where this is headed.

We spent the night in one of the nastiest places I’ve ever seen. There was this STI ridden chair in the corner, the air con was pumping tobacco smell inside and there wasn’t a single bit of a carpet that wasn’t stained. I wish I had taken photos, but I was too angry. I made a few jokes about us getting raped in the middle of the night, but that didn’t go down well. We ate pitas that I made in a sort of grouchy silence. I was worried about bed bugs, lice and every other nasty thing I could contract, but I have yet to notice anything…but who knows? When we woke up the next day, we both reeked of cigarettes. (Not that I mind smoking THAT much, but its the nasty stale smell…you know the one I mean)

We got up very early and left. But not before the hotel manager hit on me while I was returning the key. Also…apparently I have a cute accent.

More and more driving, and we went off the highway this time telling the navi to take us on funky smaller roads even though it took a bit longer. Maybe because it was such a big contrast to the previous day, I fell in love with Wisconsin. It was so cool. Little old towns that looked full of vibrant communities, boutiques (sure there was only like 3 boutiques per tiny town, but I loved it).

And then, I couldn’t believe our luck. We were passing a little pilgrimage site!

 

We stopped and walked around, stretching our legs. It was beautiful there.

Also….CORN was becoming an ever present theme of the drive.

We stopped nearby, and got a super discount deal hotel with those vouchers from the high way rest stops (Yes, we would dip onto the high way every time we changed states so that we could grab a map and a voucher–I told you we are cheap).

Hands down the best hotel ever, and amazing local beer to keep Chris happy.

Flying the Columbus

We were down to our last week in the UK for who knows how long. We met up with many of Chris’ friends and had wonderful sunny barbecues. Time has already taken its toll on my memory as I don’t have specifics. But I do remember that last day when John snapped a photo of us with all our luggage–the only possessions which would be with us for the unforeseeable future–tears were shed, and we were dropped off at a hotel.

There was a sunset, and a final taking stock as what we had just done began to finally set in. We were leaving. I can still remember the slight despair and fear.

Chris had us up at 4 am to catch the first shuttle. I had a mouthful of yoghurt to try and settle my stomach against the barrage of coffee I knew was to follow.

I must take a moment to say–if you have never pre-cleared immigration, go to Ireland and fly to the US. You arrive and stand in line smelling fresh, fairly rested and only slightly nervous. I didn’t have my 7+hours on a plane to panic and think of what to tell immigration officers “Please sir, let me back into ‘my’ country, and my totally legit husband who will NOT be working here”. Nicest USA immigration officers EVER. The only small hitch was there was no picture of our luggage, so we were ushered into a small room to wait while they found our bags (which weren’t lost) and watched a strange cartoon. Also, we eavesdropped on an interesting conversation of a woman with a green card but lived in London–the officer was not pleased but his message wasn’t getting across to her. I often wonder whether she chose to live in the USA with her son and keep her green card, or forfeited it and lived in London some more…who knows?

Its not a terrible flight from Ireland to the East Coast. Short, and I feel like every flight I take now a days is shorter than those from my youth. Either I perceive time differently, or air planes have drastically improved…I hope its a combination of the two. I watch chick flicks and Chris watches action movies (so stereotypical, I apologize). Syncing up to watch a scifi together is pretty torturous as someone is always ahead of the other and either laughs or gasps giving away whatever climax to the other.

When we land, we stroll out with the domestics, hug my mom and dad and begin a long drive fueled by sweets and pho. Welcome to America. And Freedom.