The end (really)

Oh! I forgot to write about the very end of our trip. After a couple days of recovery, we drove back to Amana and hung out, had lunch, and bought toys at a toystore. Then we drove to Des Moines to see the art museum, which was really cool and, amazingly, free.

So that was our last day. The next weekend her parents threw an engagement party for us. Then the next weekend Shannon, her parents, and I all drove to Columbus to drop me off. They stayed for the weekend and we went to the Columbus Zoo where they had a cute baby elephant.

Shannon has already been teaching for a week. I go back to school in less than two weeks.


The end (almost)

While Shannon was at camp I went to the capitol building in Denver and took a tour. Then I went to the Museum of Science and Nature, whose highlights (for me) were their large gemstone collection and native american exhibit. I also saw an IMAX movie there ("Bugs").

The mile-high marker on the steps of the capitol building.

I spent some more time with Shannon and her fellow YFCers when they went to a Denver area and church and distributed free loaves of bread in the neighborhood. Afterwards we went to this great restaurant called Casa Bonita, which I overheard someone say is "the Mexican Chuck E. Cheese". The place is gigantic and they have entertainment like cliff divers, magicians, and a mariachi band. The magician performing in the room where we were eating was amusingly amateurish and made a little girl cry by pretending that he was going to pour a cup of water on her head. After dinner we went back to the campers' hotel in Denver for a worship service, and then I went back to Heather and Fred's for that night while Shannon stayed.

The next morning all the campers were going back, so I picked up Shannon from the hotel and we gathered our stuff from Heather and Fred's and we took off eastward. We drove through the rest of Colorado and a big portion of Nebraska and spent the night in the middle somewhere. The next day we kept on going and made it to just outside of Des Moines and stayed in De Soto, which is right next to the covered bridges of Madison County and John Wayne's birthplace.

The next day we intended to go to the art museum in Des Moines, but we realized it was a Monday so it was closed. So then we continued eastward to the Amana Colonies, a commune near Iowa City settled by Germans in the early 1800s. On the way there, though, Shannon started feeling sick and by the time we got there it became apparent that we couldn't stay for long. So we decided to head home to Arlington.

The end of the road... or is it?

That was two days ago. Shannon was finally feeling well again today, so we took some time to unpack and sort things. Something rather dramatic/traumatic: I bumped into Shannon with my bag outside the car and knocked out one the two opals in her engagement ring! So we spent a lot of time looking for it. Eventually I started making small squares to carefully comb, and on my second square I found it. Phew.

Tomorrow we're going to go back to the Amanas. I guess our trip continues, in one way or another. So check back!



For 5 days or so I have been at camp in Colorado with my Youth For Christ kids and YFC students from all over Iowa and a handful from the UP.
The week was great despite the everyday occurrence of rain. The theme was "Confidence" and it was applied to God's word, your identity in Christ, and in who God is. The sessions, directed at the students were even powerful for me and I felt myself grow stronger in my relationship with God. The best part of the trip had to be my small group. Even though I had a great time shopping in Estes Park (buying many toys and carmel apples) and I loved white water rafting (even though I didn't get to save any of the many swimmers) my small group was the best. Each student was so open and willing to let us be a small part of their lives. We had a lot of powerful prayer. Todd, my co-leader was a great person to work with. I also made a lot of friends with other Christian leaders which helped with my confidence in my ability to lead.


Bryce Canyon to now! (Rocky Mountain NP and Denver)

We spent the next day in Bryce Canyon, seeing its wonders. I was fascinated, since the last time I was there I was seven.

We continued on to Zion National Park, which is not far away.

We kept driving south and camped just outside Grand Canyon NP. The next day we saw that canyon at the north rim and I reminisced about my family's hike down it three years ago.

The rest of the day was a lot of driving as we went towards the four corners (of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico). It was cool to drive through the Navajo Nation (I think it's called). We went to Navajo National Park where you could see cliff dwellings on the other side of a canyon. We stopped at the four corners right before it closed, then camped by a Navajo casino in the bottom corner of Colorado. We spent $2 in nickels at the casino and slept in a teepee.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast at the casino and drove to Mesa Verde National Park, which had cliff dwellings that we were able to take a tour of.

I think it was my family's same trip when I was seven that I was there last (same with the four corners). It's still amazing. It was also incredibly hot. We drove from there to Durango, CO, where we stayed the night, having ordered tickets for a train ride the next day.

The train left at 9:45am. It goes from Durango to Silverton in about four hours, winding along a lovely scenic route through the mountains along the Animas River. We had less than two hours to spend in Silverton, a relatively remote former gold-mining town, so we had lunch at a quaint restaurant that used to be a brothel. The ride back was just as long but much more sleep inducing, even though there were somewhat better views of the river and mountainsides. We got back at 7something, so we stayed another night in Durango.

We continued onto Colorado Springs. We meant to see the white sands somewhere in between, but we missed a turn and didn't realize it until we were well past, so we just kept going. Upon arrival we went to dinner at nice inn near the Garden of the Gods and had a engagement celebration dinner. Shannon had elk, and I had duck, pheasant, and ostrich. Delicious. We also saw a movie and then stayed the night in town.

We went to the Garden of the Gods and ran into a couple of Shannon's students at Balanced Rock. I was distracted from rescuing some children who were stranded on top of it.

We also drove to the bottom of Pike's Peak, but they told us it was too foggy to drive up to so we turned around and headed north to Denver.

Shannon with one of the several Deborah Butterfield horses at the DAM.

We went to the Denver Art Musem downtown. I was most impressed by the pre-Columbian Native American collection, although there was a lot of incredible stuff. Then it was on to Heather and Fred's house, where we spent the night. Heather is one of the daughters of our next-door neighbors in Columbus. (Her youngest brother is my age.)

This brings us very close to the present. Shannon is a counselor in a weeklong Youth for Christ camp in Rocky Mountain National Park, so the day after we arrived in Denver we drove up to Estes Park (which is just outside the NP). We had Mexican food at the Grumpy Gringo and spent a few hours looking at shops. Then I dropped Shannon off at the campground and came back to Denver. When I got back I was greeted by Heather's friend Audrey and her husband Josh. The four of them had made dinner expecting I'd be there, but I missed it by a lot. Still, they made me some leftovers which were absolutely amazing. It was a feast. We had fruit & yogurt and s'mores for dessert, and some kind of chocolate and coffee martini or something that they made up.

The next day (Sunday), Heather, Audrey, Audrey's "sister" (from a Big Brothers/Big Sisters-like program), and I went to the pool, which was nice and relaxing. Then we had really good pizza from a place just down the street from Heather and Fred's house.

The day after I came up to Shannon's camp and spent the night so the next day I could go whitewater rafting with them. It was a blast. I was sort of scared at first because I'd only been canoeing, but it got fun fast - even after ten people or so fell out of their rafts. The girl sitting in front of me even rescued someone who fell out. Cool.

Right now I am in the library in Estes Park, the first place I've had internet access on my laptop since San Diego. Hence the long wait between posts.


San Diego to Bryce Canyon

So we got to San Diego and went to the zoo, which was really amazing. I lost track of how many hours we were there. We kept coming across animals as they did something amazing - most memorably, the orangutans did some crazy antics which Shannon caught on video.

We went to Shannon's college friend Elyssa's house, where we met her and her fiance David. We got to choose from two guest rooms, of which they each designed one. David is a big Simpsons fan, so another room has some really cool decor from that show.

The day after we arrived we went to Coronado and went to the beach by the Del to build a sand castle. We also did a little shopping nearby. Then we went to Old Town in San Diego, which is mostly shops in repurposed old buildings.

When we got back that evening we hung with Elyssa and her cousin and Elyssa's baby.

We left the next morning. On our way out of town, we stopped at the Mission San Diego, the first Spanish mission in California.

We headed for Las Vegas on "the" 15. The temperature steadily increased as there were fewer signs of life to which I am accustomed. At 110 degrees we made it to Sin City and found a hotel/casino downtown.

The next day (Friday) we drove to the strip and walked around to see the sights. We played a dollar on the slots in every casino we entered. Shannon got an early lead by winning $20 on her first quarter played in New York New York. So it was a pleasant afternoon strolling in the heat, ducking into air conditioned glitzopolis. That evening we took in a Cirque du Soleil show (Zumanity) back at NYNY, then saw the bright lights of the strip on the drive home.

The next morning we continued east towards Arizona and Utah. I somehow missed Zion National Park while driving so we continued on to Bryce Canyon, my namesake.

We hiked down the Navajo Trail, and along the trail, at a stop for a breather... I produced a ring I'd hidden in my pocket and asked Shannon to marry me. To my joy she said yes. We excitedly made our way out of the canyon and into our future together.


Oregon through LA

From Seattle we drove south and made our way towards the Oregon Coast (after a quick stop at Mt. St. Helens).

It was a beautiful passage down to a campground on the coast near Cannon Beach, where one has to hike down a trail with a wheelbarrow to get to the campsites.

Cannon Beach

The next day we went to the beach for a bit and then drove to Portland. We saw the rose gardens and a exhibit about chocolate in a forestry museum nearby.

Shannon smells a "Leann Rimes" (a variety of rose).

Shannon gets advice on how to prevent forest fires.

We spent the night at Fei and Pierce's. Fei just graduated from Cranbrook. They are incredibly nice and they have a very cool house. We watched David Byrne's True Stories with them.

It was then on to Corvallis, OR, where our friend (and one of my Florence flatmates) Alyssa lives with her boyfriend Matt. They showed us around town and took us out to dinner, and we watched In America with them. One of our original destinations was Alyssa and Matt's wedding in early August, but we couldn't work out having our last stop be on the west coast. But we got to hang out with them without a bunch of other people around, so it worked out very well.

We made our way southeast to Crater Lake, then drove for quite a while until we got to southern Oregon, nearly to the border. We camped that night right outside Oregon Cave.

The next morning we took a tour of the cave, then drove into California bound for San Francisco.

We stopped to see the redwoods, which were awesome. We got to SF that night, arriving at Ted (my brother) and Lorri's not long after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. The day after we arrived they took us on a driving tour all over SF (probably all the things you can think of off the top of your head), and dropped us off in the Haight so we could do some shopping and see the shell of hippie central. I was impressed by Amoeba Records, whose selection is as large as a Virgin megastore but so much cooler. I bought Mark Eitzel's Songs of Love because he is sort of from both Columbus and San Francisco, and he's the only person I'd heard about Amoeba from. There were other cool stores (including one devoted to vinyl toys of cartoon characters and some real people like Andy Warhol). Ted and Lorri took us to dinner at a lovely seafood restaurant (McCormick & Koleto's) and then for ice cream at Ghirardelli.

Our hosts were headed for Italy the next morning for a wedding (I drove them to the airport), but they graciously let us stay in their place. Shannon and I drove towards Fishermans Wharf, but parking was sort of a problem so we ended up going back to the apartment. We tried out the bus system and made our way downtown, had gnocchi at an Italian restaurant, and went to the bookstore City Lights.

The next day we went to the Gay Pride Parade downtown, then went up to walk along Fishermans Wharf (on a trolley part of the way). We took a bus to Golden Gate Bride and walked across it and back. Then we called it a day and headed "home". I think that day I watched Big Fish on video.

We went downtown again to the SFMOMA, which had a nice collection. They had a room devoted to one of William Kentridge's recent animations (which was amazing). He makes the animations by making a drawing, then erasing and redrawing on the same drawing to make the next frame - so the result is that the echo of the erased drawing is still visible as the scene changes.

We also looked for the cartoon art museum, but it was closed that day (Monday). So we got tickets for Farenheit 9/11 instead, and waited in a line that stretched 100 yards or more since it wound up a staircase past where I could see. It was good, and cool to be in a place where the audience is really into it.

The next day we made it to the cartoon art museum, which was pretty good. It had a big section on Raggedy Ann, whose creator was a San Franciscan. Then we went back to Fishermans Wharf, had some In-n-Out burgers, and took a tour of Alcatraz.

Wednesday we took off on Highway 1 along the coast. Absolutely beautiful the whole way down. We stopped in Monteray to see the aquarium, which was amazing. That night we camped at a state campground on the highway near San Simeon.

The next day we took a tour of the Hearst castle, which was impressive.

Hearst's indoor pool

We kept driving onto LA and got stuck in rush hour traffic for a couple hours, then made it to the neighborhood of Shannon's friend from St. Kate's, Kim and her boyfriend David. First we had dinner, then got to their house a little before they did, so we let ourselves in. They were, like everyone we've stayed with on this trip, incredibly generous. Especially with all kinds of food, yum. Their 10-month old daughter Madeleine provided endless entertainment, and she knew it.

Our first day in LA we went to the Museum of Neon Art, which was small but pretty cool.

Then to the Japanese American Museum, which focused mainly on the American concentration camps during WWII but also had stuff about Japanese American life since the 1800s. There was also a new exhibit about 9/11, which had artifacts from that day, and multimedia presentations. It's strange to see bits of metal and plastic displayed in a museum like art objects, but I guess there's no other way to present them.

Saturday we visited the La Brea Tar Pits and accompanying museum, which housed some amazing complete skeletons of prehistoric creatures like saber-tooth cats, giant sloths, and wooly mammoths. Then we went to Hollywood, walked on the stars and saw the Chinese Theatre. We went to a small museum that had lots of movie and tv artifacts and an audience-participation Foley studio demonstration.

Then we went to dinner and waited around for a while before going to the Silent Movie Theater. It was a two-part evening: first, Janet Kline and her Parlour Boys, who perform songs from the 10s, 20s, and 30s; second, three of Buster Keaton's short films. They served overpriced hot chocolate and cookies during intermission, but it was a really fun night overall.

On the 4th we lazed around at Kim and David's till the afternoon, when we went with them to David's parents' house a few miles away. (They let me drive their Mini Cooper over there.) It was a really amazing house. Kim, Shannon, and I were the only non-Chinese people there (Kim is Vietnamese), which made me feel refreshingly out of place. The food was delicious. Shannon and I had a long conversation about politics with one of David's uncles who went to school in Minneapolis. We watched all the LA suburbs' fireworks from our view on the hill. It was really a fantastic and unique Independence Day.

Monday was our last full day in LA, but we didn't do much. We went to the UCLA campus and walked around a bit, but mostly things were closed for the holiday. Then we went over to Rodeo Dr. and drove up it. Then we found the Hollywood sign.

On Tuesday we left for San Diego, which I'll write about later since this is such a long post.



From Monday to Saturday we stayed with Maddy Eiche (Bryce's former flat mate during school in Italy) and her roommate, Scott, in Seattle. In addition, visiting friends from Montana, Peter and Naomi, were there.
We spent a lot of fun time hanging out with this soiree (so much time that I don't have time to write about all of it).

Day 1- Bryce and I got our car fixed. It needed a new battery. During the repair work we visited the Pike Place Market and saw the fabulously fun flying fish sellers. We also went to the space needle.

Here I am imitating the great work (you may remember me from the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Leaning Tower of Pisa). The view from the top was great. In fact everyday was great. Blue skies smiling at me.

This photo taken from the top of the needle shows a picturesque view of the city and Mount Rainier sitting on the clouds.

Day 2- We visited the Experience Music Project. I'll let Bryce tell you about this.

Day 3- We visited Maddy at her workplace, Monster Design. Then we walked the streets of Capitol Hill with Gentian, strolling old book and record stores.

Day 4- We visited the library because bryce "loves a good library" and then we went mini golfing. Although I was known for me putt in high school golf, i lost :( reminding me that golf, just like riding a bike does not come naturally to me.

Day 5- We stayed in Maddy's face until she got sick of us. We went to Archie McPhee's (for those of you in Minnesota the store is what happens with Patina's and Axe-Man mate). Then we backed pies, went to a graduation party for a friend of hers and then watched movies at a house she was housesitting at until late.

Maddy in one of her beloved aprons.

We said our goodbyes from there and left the next morning.