Carpenter Girls Head West

3,000 miles. 11 states. 5 days. 3 girls. 1 trip.

You can say that we were a bit tuckered after the trip, but it was so worth it.

On Friday, August 31st, my sister, my cousin and I headed west. The ultimate goal was to see Mount Rushmore, but the west has so much to offer that we planned for extras.

The first day, we drove through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin (then back to Iowa for the night). We saw some gorgeous landscapes and had amazing God talks after visiting a super creepy shrine.

We fueled up on coffee at this adorable train-station-turned-coffee-house in Urbana, OH. If you’re ever there, check it out! They have so many incredibly delicious coffee concoctions!!
A gorgeous sunrise greeted us as we set out. This snapshot was taken at the Coffee Depot, while the sun yawned just out of sight.
That creepy shrine…
Wisconsin is a masterpiece.
This hilarious plaque can be found in Decorah, Iowa. These people are my kind of people.

Since we spent the majority of Friday just driving, we made sure to check out museums and stretch our legs a little on Saturday. Before we even hit the road again, we stopped by the Norwegian museum in Decorah. Since I found out a year or so ago that my ancestors were vikings, it was really fascinating to learn about Scandinavian history. Those peeps were heroes, friends. Well.. after they stopped killing everyone. *cough*

Even with another museum and several side-of-road photo shoots, we managed to dash into Minnesota, then cross the great and gorgeous expanse of South Dakota.

This is the smallest sailboat to cross the Atlantic. It was manned by two Norwegian brothers who migrated to America. Unfortunately, after their successful trek, one of the brothers returned to sea and was never heard from again.
We stopped off in Austin, Minnesota when this place popped up on my GPS (much to our disbelief and great delight)! The place was fairly smelly, but it was a lot of fun to race each other in canning fake spam.
My boss told us to detour from 90W for gorgeous sights when driving through South Dakota. We took him at his word and were rewarded with stunning views that a camera simply cannot capture. This was just one of several pull-offs for photo shoots. Also, the roads there are pink. PINK.

We awoke dark and early on Sunday and the girls chilaxed at the hotel while I went to the nearest Urgent Care (which was 30 minutes away). Unfortunately, I was suffering from a mild-turned-excruciating toothache that just got to be a bit much, so they set me up with some antibiotics and painkillers.

Once that dullness was out of the way, I returned to the hotel to get the gals and we headed out for the main event. Mount Rushmore. And of course, we were feelin’ fairly celebratory. Especially since it happened to be Bre’s (the cousin) birthday. It was her 18th to be exact! What a way to celebrate, eh?

Just. Wow.
We got some weird looks when we asked someone to take this picture. But it’s pretty cool (even though I was having a braid-hair day), eh? Left to right: Sarah, Bre, me.
Sometimes I dance. Okay. Always I dance. Especially on mountaintops.

Side note: Rushmore was about 20 minutes from our hotel and the round trip officially tipped us over the 3,000 mile marker.

After seeing jaw-dropping creation – both the original masterpiece of God’s handiwork (I mean the surrounding landscape when you’re up there will leave you in tears) and the ambitious sight of man’s sculptiwork (I realize this is not a word), I dropped the gals off for lunch in a nearby tourist town. The town boasted a very Wild West vibed boardwalk that made you feel like you’d stepped back in time. While the gals feasted (well, ate some rushed food because the place was a zoo), I napped in the car (the drugs were easing the pain enough that I was finally able to catch some shut-eye). Tummies filled and eyes sandy, we headed back to the hotel to relax, and gear up for the two-day trek back.

The next morning, we hit the road and didn’t make it far before we found a new experience to try. Less than twenty minutes from the hotel, we passed a helicopter tour business. As we continued down the road, we fell into discussion about how much we’d like to try that in the future and the need to plan such an occasion. Ever the ENFP and game for spontaneity, I asked the gals: “Why don’t we just do it now?”

They both agreed immediately and called the moms to make sure it was okay while I made a u-turn and rushed back. With parental consent granted, we walked up to the doors of the.. CLOSED business. We were ready to wait though, as our hearts were now set on a bird eye view of the Black Hills. To our great delight, we didn’t have to wait. One of the employees came to the door, ushered us in (30 minutes before open, mind you) and had his coworker describe the tours to us. We selected a 20 minute tour that would take us around the nearby area and over to the Crazy Horse monument. The initial employee coached us on safety, checked with the pilot and took us straight out to board. We were getting premium treatment and we were ecstatic.

Sarah and I insisted Bre get the front seat since it was the day after her 18th birthday, and I snapped a shot of Bre and Sarah in the copter just before boarding. You can sense the excitement we all felt.
The views up there were.. well there aren’t words. If you ever get the chance to experience a helicopter ride, please take it. It feels entirely safe and surreal the entire time.

 

The Crazy Horse monument will be the largest sculpture in the world once it’s complete. They’re currently working on his pointed hand (see left), and will then tackle the horse head beneath him. No one was working while we were there (it was Labor Day after all), but there were several abandoned vehicles that help convey the sheer size of this sculpture.
Of course I took a copter selfie. It’s what you do, okay? Shut up already.

With the adrenaline rush of the helicopter tour fueling us, we hit the road hard and made our way through Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado and most of Kansas.

Fort Laramie’s historic site still hosts the skeletons of structures from the first settlement in Wyoming. With an insanely gorgeous landscape surrounding these ruins, we felt as though we were time travelers come home. Well, until it got itchy and hot and we wanted out.
But still. I mean just look at it.
Up next was Nebraska. There we stopped to see Courthouse and Jail rocks, famous landmarks that pioneers used in the age of the Oregon Trail.
My personal favorite was Chimney Rock. Not featured are the signs warning us not to leave the sidewalks as rattlers have been spotted. Bre and I had a lot of fun terrifying Sarah with this knowledge.
This is the last picture I snapped of our Wild, Wild West adventure. And it is also breathtaking. Yeah, we were basically starved for air by the end of the trip.

We crashed hard on Monday night. Er.. we fell asleep. There were no crashes on the trip.

Anyway, we hit the road for the final leg of our journey on Tuesday and made a beeline through the remainder of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. We were crunched for time (Bre had school the next morning) and a little bum-sore after that many miles in Ronnie (the car), so we didn’t make any stops outside of gas stations and restaurants.

All of a sudden, we were home.

And we were already craving our next adventure.

The route we took; the most fun we’ve ever had.

Post-Script: Yes. I drove all but two hours. Sarah filled in for me some so that I could nap a little on Monday as laying down felt a lot better on my tooth than sitting up.

Carpenter Girls Head West

I Go to Seek

I’m addicted to seeking adventure.

Note how I said that. It’s not the adventure itself (though they’re generally pretty legit), but the journey to that adventure that I’m addicted to.

I love to look, plan, search. I’m built for it.

That seems to be a theme among story tellers and world adventurers, from recent phenomenons like John Green to age-old favorites like A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh 😉 ). The idea of planning and working towards an event being greater than the event itself is reflected throughout their art.

I tweeted a while ago that I’ve always been the kind of person who views life like a check list and that I want to complete as much as possible before I die. Though I also mentioned I’ve accepted this about myself (and I have), within this addiction to wanderlust lies a hidden battle for me.

You see, with every setting of the sun, I have less time to scratch out the items on that list. So when things slow down, when change doesn’t happen quickly enough, when the list grows at a rate faster than it can be crossed off.. well I shudder.

The lack of pursuing adventure is, perhaps, the greatest factor that urges me deeper into the dark valley of depression.

Let me pause to say that I’m not trying to be dramatic here. I’m just writing as fast as I can to keep up with whatever is pouring out of my heart in this moment.

Depression.

It’s another topic I don’t mention much for two very frustrating reasons. Reason One: the “just get over it” stigma that everyone associates with it. Reason Two: the “why don’t you just pray that demon away” stigma that Christians associate with it. Yes, some depression is a whimsical call for attention, and some of it is a spiritual attack. BUT. Some of it is unrest, a chemical alteration in your brain’s ability to perceive the world.

And unfortunately, it’s a nasty side effect of life-limiting chronic illnesses like Fibromyalgia.

I don’t take the term “depression” lightly. I was diagnosed by several doctors, so please know that I’m not just calling the ebb and flow of life “depression.” I’m talking about the dark creature that haunts your waking and sleeping hours with whispers of anger, defeat, self-loathing. The heavy, suffocating sadness that sits on your chest and laughs at you while you try, struggle, to breathe. The lying, snaking tongue which convinces you that you don’t know how and aren’t worth trying to learn.

It maliciously wanders into the pathways of my mind on a frequent basis, and it takes special enjoyment in torturing me when life gets too quiet. When change stops coming my way and I’m forced to sit on the same couch, staring out the same windows for days.. weeks.. months.

Thank you, Fibromyalgia.

J-Freaking-K.

After all of my reading, studying and researching, it is with unwavering faith that I can say my favorite quote is “I go to seek a great perhaps.” These words were first spoken on the deathbed of the French monk Francois Rabelais in 1553, and they have since traveled the world and ages in the works of many known and unknown artists. It resonates with us.

I have a poster of this simple phrase-turned-mantra situated above my kitchen sink, surrounded by pictures I’ve taken on some of my journeys. It reminds me that there is always a perhaps. There is always something to seek. There is always a reason for passion.

Or, to paraphrase Jane Austen, there is always the happiness that comes from the expectation of happiness.

All I have to do is plan, then go.

I was sitting at my work desk a couple of weeks back, staring at my too-bright computer screens, reading the flood of requests coming in from coworkers who needed my assistance. The same requests, day in and day out. Paralyzingly dull, mundane tasks.

When did I get stuck in such a rut?

Rise with the sun, go to work, eat dinner, fall asleep before the sun can even set.

Sure, I’ve been battling a nasty, lingering flare up. But is that my only excuse?

And if it is, can I find the will power to overcome it?

Not without plans. Something to reach for. To anticipate. To seek.

So I set aside my work for a short time and started planning. I wanted to cram as much adventure as this weary body could possibly take into my 2017. With each hand scrawled note of places to see, hours to drive, items to pack, the weight of that depression began to lift.

Four trips planned and I’m not through this bout yet, but I’m muddling my way to the other side.

When I wake up in the morning, the sun’s glow slowly filtering into my room, I remind myself of what’s to come before I have the chance to ponder what is. It inspires me, fills my lungs with breath, makes the unbearable in-and-out of the day bearable.

On Saturday, my sister and I road tripped to Lake Erie. The change of scenery gave my legs the strength to stand back up; that muddled crawl turned into a walk.

I live for change.

I believe that’s why God called me to what He has, He knew I could never be content with sitting still. I need Him and the adventure He beckons me to. I need to plan. To seek. To go.

I’ve got an estimated hours 417,421 hours left. I don’t intend to waste them.

I Go to Seek

My Life as a Change Junky

Stagnant

adjective  stag·nant \ˈstag-nənt\ : not advancing or developing

Static

adjective  stat·ic \ˈsta-tik\ : showing little change ; characterized by a lack of movement, animation, or progression

Listless

adjective  list·less \ˈlist-ləs\ : characterized by lack of interest, energy, or spirit

These fearsome, ugly words that evoke such dread in me.. These words are those which I find myself using to describe myself lately.

To quote a wise man:

“EW.”

-Jimmy Fallon

The latter half of 2015 and the former half of 2016 were chock-full of adventures. Within the span of fifteen months, I went on ten incredible adventures.

It looked a little something like this:

June 2015: Family vacation at Long’s Retreat Family Resort (Latham, OH)

September 2015: Hosted the second Undignified Event concert in Columbus, OH

October 2015: 21st birthday trip to Philadelphia, PA

November 2015: Went to a close friend’s wedding in Albuquerque, NM (which I just realized I never blogged about, so I definitely see a TBT headed your way in the near future)

February 2016: New York City to see another close friend perform in Carnegie Hall (another TBT to come, gosh I suck at blogging about adventures)

May 2016: traveled with my dad and siblings to North Carolina (*cough* again, no post on this)

June 2016: family vacation with my mom in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee (are you seeing a trend?) and started my new job

July 2016: church camped with a close friend and my sister at Buckeye Lake in Ohio (le sigh! I give up.)

September 2016: moved into my own apartment

For fifteen months of my life, I consistently had trips to look forward to, goals to save for and adventures to inspire my dreams.

And now, nothing.

Stagnant. Static. Listless.

With my new 9-5 “real adult” job, I’m realizing a lot of things:

  • Life goes by way too fast when you spend the majority of your days at work and the majority of your evenings recovering from the majority of your days at work.
  • Vacation, shmaycation. Week in, week out. One adventure per year, that’s all you get (at least until you start moving up the ranks on seniority).
  • You have to cram the crap out of life into Saturdays and Sunday afternoons (I’m at church from 9am-1:30pm, so Sunday mornings are out). This includes all the chores you were too tired for during the week (laundry, groceries, mopping, blah blah blah) and all the adventures you’ve been craving for days (which don’t happen because you get too exhausted from all the laundry, groceries, mopping, blah blah blah).

Again to quote the wise man:

“EW.”

-Jimmy Fallon

Okay, I know a lot of you are thinking, “Hey Rachel, you promised to not be so negative! What’s up with this loserdom?”

You’re right. It is loserdom to complain all the time. So I need to do something about that, I need to start putting effort into positivity again.

First and foremost, I need to start dreaming again. I need something to keep me from passing out on the couch as soon as I get home from work, then waking up four hours later to move to the bed.

I need adventure. I need plans! I need to think about goals and work toward them.

And the key for me is fun.

+ wanderlust, ’cause gosh darn the world is full of places I crave seeing.

Toward the beginning of 2016, I started a second blog to record my goals and dreams and ambitions. It all came about because of this “The Woman” theory that I one evening stumbled across just before slumber. To quote myself:

The other night, I built a fantasy life for myself five years into my future. This may seem odd but it’s something I do regularly to help myself fall asleep. The act of focusing on painting a world in my mind calms the “you have to do this, this, this, this, this, this (repeat a million times) and this tomorrow” side of my brain.

I’m not the only one who does this (I found that out when I watched a Good Mythical Morning episode) so stop looking at me like I’m an idiot.

Anyway, in this fantasy I was acne free, had glorious long and healthy locks of hair, rocked a sweater dress and kimono and had kick butt high heels. I ran into my ex at a coffee shop and after a brief chat said “Listen, I must be off to my meeting with so and so, but this was nice.” before gracefully walking out the door and hailing a taxi – because I obviously lived in the city (Philly of course).

I was literally The Woman we all hate because we want to be her but don’t have the know-how or drive to become her. I’ve decided that I want to make that fantasy a reality.

Okay, I don’t really want to run into my ex and bid him adieu with a carefree “Ta-ta, love!”

But I do want to be The Woman who has her life together and wears high heels to work.

I got to work on this immediately. At first, it was little things like cutting out pop and sugar and getting outside more (this effort has since waned). Then I started actively job searching. I wasn’t looking for an amazing job, just something that would increase my paycheck.

This all worked out great for me. I ended up landing (by the grace of God) an amazing full-time gig with 100% healthcare benefits (premiums paid by employer and everything!!) and I even get to wear heels to work. I moved out on my own because I’m an adventurer, and my hair is back to healthy and long.

But lately, nothing new has been happening. The plan I came up with a year ago is no longer enough to fuel me.

I’m a “change” junky. I know most people hate change, but I thrive on it.. and when things stop changing, when routine settles in..

I get bored.

This is ultra dangerous for my GO-GET-‘EM personality because when I get bored, I get depressed and I stop trying to do life well. I mill about without purpose and drive and passion and become the essence of the word “blah.”

I don’t want to be that way anymore. I’m a mere four months in and I’M SO TIRED of it.

So I’m coming up with an action plan – a chart of goals, a list of ideas, a fantastic dream – something to work toward. I’ve been mulling this over for about a month; some things started to settle in my mind, some aspirations started to form… I’ve had several planning sessions with myself and goal chats with friends and family. I’m getting closer. And when I’m there, you can be sure I’ll be posting about it.

My Life as a Change Junky