Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Great Adventure - Day 14

A few things happen when you get photographers on the other side of the lens.  Cooperation is not one of them.

Nick was patient enough to let us boss him around while he grabbed a few quick snaps of me and Margaret before we left her place this morning.

See Margaret, I only posted the nice ones and put the most embarrassing one of me up first ;)

Before heading out of State, we took a quick meander through the town of Wheaton, Illinois.  It was exactly what we Canadians had pictured in our minds when we thought of a small American town.  Beautiful homes, brick buildings, and American flags dotting yards.  In some ways, it felt like we were on the set of Gilmore Girls.  Although, the little alley-way candy shop was an added bonus to the experience!

See, our day started off so smoothly.  Hanging out with Margaret.  Meandering through town.  Buying interesting candies.  Then it slowly went downhill from there.

Hey Nick, we should get an oil change.  Sure, ask the GPS where the nearest place is.  Oh good, there's one off the next exit!

Hmm... the streets are really chewed up and pitted...

Wow, this must be a really run down area of Chicago.  Look at all the overgrown yards.

Oh good!  There's the oil change place.

Hmmm... why are we the only white people in this neighbourhood.  Oh well, the prices are good, and everyone seems really friendly.

Feeling a little nervous being in such a strange environment, when Scooter (who is talking to Nick above) suggested we go get some shrimp while he changed the oil in our car, we took it more like a command and felt we better so as not to offend anyone.

Hey, Laura, why do you think the corner-store cashier is locked behind glass?

Why is there a security guard positioned at an oil change / corner store?

This shrimp is really tasty, though....

There we were.  Two white people eating shrimp nervously while we waited for our car.  Our obviously new car.  With about $3,000 worth of camera and lens hanging around my neck.

Hey Nick, we really need that air freshener.  Oh, there they are locked behind the counter with the staff.  Can you please pass us the cherry one through the teeny, tiny little cubby under the glass that a fist couldn't even fit through.  Thanks.  Oh.  It's $1.49?  Um... can you break $100?  (Just kill us now and bury our bodies).

We finally drove away from the neighbourhood with its very friendly mechanics and passed not a single white person.  We passed boarded-up homes.  We passed motels with rooms for rent and tenants hanging out blankets over the railings.  We passed under their stares.  We left just as awkwardly as we arrived, but with a very affordable oil change and bellies full of shrimp!

Soon we were back out on the open, wet, road full of farms.  And really, really, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY annoying toll booths.  We paid at four and ran through another eight.  Who carries that much change?  Seriously.  And who has time to pay and count it out every 10 miles?!  Apparently we have 7 days to figure out how to pay online all the ones we ran through pretending to have a pass...  So say the "Forgot to Pay Your Toll?" signs anyway.

At least subsequent States had a little card telling you how much you would pay in total for their State depending on how many exits you drove by.  But instead of toll booths every 10 miles, we had to "punch in" and "punch out" with our card, paying the balance every time we so much as skipped off the highway for a quick fill up.  Also, if we're going to pay that much to drive on a road, it would be nice if it wasn't under construction everywhere...  (more on that in a moment).

As we reached about the half-way point of crossing through Ohio, the sun momentarily came out for a quick visit and it was SO NICE to see after all these days of rain!

Nick!  That cop car is pulling into our lane.  

Laura, it's okay, he's just pulling onto the highway.   

Are you sure he's not pulling on because of us?



Dum, de-dum, de-dum.  

Cue flashing red and blue lights in our mirror.  


Sir, did you know you were speeding in a work zone?  (This was a rhetorical question.  In fact, it may have been more of an emphatic statement).  Note:  Apparently it was a work zone.  A phantom, invisible work zone.  Yes, there were orange cones, but neither of us saw a sign.  (I'm sure there was one - we just didn't see it).  And after enduring a lecture about the non-existent workers we almost hit, he asked for Nick's license and told us to wait in the car for 15 minutes.  (I know for a fact there were NO workers, but anyways....).  

He told us he was taking Nick's license away and it would be mailed back to us.  We tried to figure out what it would look like for me to drive the next 7,000 km of our trip solo.  It wasn't until he came back that he explained Nick would be given a paper copy in it's place to keep driving and they only took the original away to ensure that we would pay our fines.  Our DOUBLE fines since it was a work zone.  We have no idea what we owe.  We need to call a State court on Friday or Monday to see if it's been processed yet and what we owe.  Oh, and in the USA, they have "court fees" that can be up to $100 to process the ticket.  Are you for real?  In Canada, the cop hands you a bill and you know exactly what you have to pay.  Here, they have no idea and can't even ball park it for you.

We quickly googled and were relieved to find out that Ohio's speeding tickets (according to popular belief on the internet) are in the low hundreds of dollars and not $2,200 - $2,500 like some States!   Can you image that doubled?  We're bracing for anywhere between $400 - $800 for this though.  PERFECT timing with our accountant telling us the sick amount we owe in taxes within the next seven days and having to still pay off the rest of our car this Summer.  Oh adulthood....  

We told our New York friends what happened and that we were going 85 mph in a 50 mph zone.  (Work zone speeds, apparently).  If we had been two States over, Nick would have lost his license.  It's only because each State is different that he got a paper one handed back to him.  That's something at least.  Oh, and we beat the last speeder.  Apparently the fastest one all week was 84 mph and we beat it with a solid 85.  Go us...

HOWEVER, the sunset was gorgeous and I had 15 solid minutes of sitting on the side of the road to shoot it :).  Most expensive sun-set shot ever....

At this point, we were only about 15 minutes away from our hotel for the night.  Since the weather can't seem to stop raining for any lengthly period of time, and we're on this neat discount program with Best Westerns right now, we decided to splurge and pay the extra $50 and get a hotel vs. camping.  Back on the road we went at a very respectable speed.

We pulled into our little safe haven for the evening and I played with the camera outside while Nick went and paid for our reservations.  The lights changed to about 6 different colours and provided me with much amusement until my camera card told me it was full and the others were back in the car that Nick was now parking for the evening.

Hopefully tomorrow is... less expensive?  But on the bright side, I get to meet my Allentown, Pennsylvania friend in real life and I'm so stoked!  Good night and good riddance, world!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Great Adventure - Day 13

 This morning we woke up at the Jensen's farm and said goodbye to them around 8:30am their time, which was like 6:30am our time!  As tempting as it was to head back to bed for a bit after they left for town, we got on the road instead - just in time for the snow to start flying!  The wind was whipping the flurries around like it didn't understand that it was only 48 hours short of being May!   This photo was taken quickly with a mad dash back to the warm car.

Good-bye cute little farm!

As annoying as the flurries were, we had bigger problems.  Neither of us had listened very carefully when they explained where the nearest gas station was the night before.  We were running on empty, and sure enough the gas light came on before we reached the end of the lane.  Since it's a new car (to us), we weren't sure just how much time that meant we had.  We also had no cell service out at the farm and everyone had left for town for the day.  It's also not like there were neighbours we could even easily walk to!

We suddenly remembered we had our friend, Tara's, GPS!

We whipped it out, plugged it into the charger, and were told there was a gas station only 3.3 kms away.  This would have been great if it wasn't a lie.  We started to follow the route and suddenly were told to "proceed south for 26km".  At that point, we pulled into the nearest little restaurant and asked directions.  Turns out gas was back the way we came only 7 miles.  We made it!

I didn't last for very long before I was fast asleep in the passenger seat.  The 6:30am PST start was killing me.  I woke up a couple hours later to a winter wonderland.  Okay, interior Provinces in Canada and States in the US - WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!  Facebook confirmed the center of Canada had a similar weather pattern this morning.  It's a very good thing I packed both for sunny California, but also for cold.  I did NOT bring boots, though!

As we headed eastward out of Minnesota and into Illinois, the snow dissipated.  We also left the intense flat lands for at least a few more trees here and there.

Well... mostly a few more trees.  Still lots of flat, though.

We pulled into the outskirts of Chicago (aka Wheaton, IL) shortly after 5:00pm and I let my friends know I was almost there.  That is... until we passed a Hobby Lobby!  Now, I have never been to a Hobby Lobby before, but I have heard wondrous tails about this place from my friend, Tara.  Oh man... it's like Michael's on steroids!  We only stayed long enough to look through half the store before quickly heading over to our friends for dinner, but there was so much neat stuff!

Yes, that last picture you just saw is an iPhone pic (obviously since Nick's holding my.. I mean "our" camera).  And yes, Nick is filming a map on the ground.  He has a cool idea he wants to try with it apparently.

After we left Hobby Lobby, we were only a short 15-minute drive from our friends.  They took us to a local pizza place so we could experience true Chicago deep-dish pizza.  They make it upside-down!  The cheese is on the bottom and the sauce is on the top!  Nick could only manage two pieces, and I couldn't even do that at 1.5 pieces.  We have lots of left-overs for driving now.  

Funny fact - we have never meet these friends in "real life".  I know my dad was concerned about me staying with "internet friends", and I've been texting him every few States so he knows we're alive and well.  However, what we never thought of was US being a safety concern for our internet friends!  Good news.  We didn't kill them and they didn't kill us.  And we let both our respective check-in peoples know.  Haha!  Here's a picture of us taken by my internet friend (and now real life friend), Margaret.  My watermark is on it as she took it with my camera and I edited this particular version of it, but photo creds go to Margaret Henry Photography.  

It came up during dinner that today is Nick's birthday, so when we got back to the house she was such a sweetheart and whipped up a little brownie cake for him and they all sung him happy birthday!

We realized too late in the evening that they were also board-gamers, but I thought I would throw that out there so y'all know how cool they are.  Also, I should confess that I use "y'all" to sound more American, and I don't talk like that in real life.  That led to much chuckling tonight when I fessed up to doing that on the photography site I met Margaret on.

Okay and now, before I hit the hay, I have to show you what a sweet room they put us up in tonight!  We're in this huge loft room above their garage on the comfiest mattress, and it's just so cozy.

And now we have reached the half-way point of our trip!

Tonight - Bed.  Tomorrow - Ohio!

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Great Adventure - Day 12

Today we had another non-driving day.  We spent the day hanging out with the super cool Jensens.  I have to state a caveat at the beginning of this post, though.  Caroline let me play with her lens babies all day.  I have wanted a lens baby for so long.  I thought it would be this magical piece of glass that I would pop on the end of my camera and instantly be five times better at photography.  I would hear stories of people saying how steep the learning curve is and how challenging it is, and I would think "yeah, but not me".  I need to confess something.  It's really hard!  The majority of these photos are my sad attempts at trying to get things in focus on the Edge 80 or Sweet 35.  I deleted the awful ones and left you with the best of my many aggravating attempts.  If a photo down here looks like it's in sharp focus, it's probably one of the few I took on my regular lenses ;)

Okay, so today.  

Today, there was a bit of video gaming:

A bit of regular gaming:

And a bit of computer gaming:

We made a few furry friends, too:

We reviewed some of the drawings we made the previous night.  I feel like I should explain.  First there was a pirate ship.  Then some silly girl (me) leaned over and added cacti, seaweed, and fish.  This prompted a shark to be drawn to eat the fish and other "girly additions".  This launched into an all-out crayon battle of cages, additional sharks, sparkly love unicorns on rafts with rainbows, falling atomic bombs, and Jesus dying and rising again.  There was no clear winner....  But lots of laughter.

There was lots of couch crashing:

I decided to "exercise" by dashing outside for all of 30 seconds into the freezing cold rain and wind storm that has been raging since we arrived to grab a photo of a genuine farmland barn.  We are on a country acreage in a great heritage home after all!  Anni, Caroline's nine-year-old daughter made the mad dash with me so we could suffer together:

A bit more gaming in the evening:

Then the Jensens took us out for dinner to a local restaurant.  They are seriously so amazing and sweet!  This little guy was at the restaurant.  I have named him Steve.

When we got back to the house, their oldest boy lit a fire in the hearth and we all settled down to relax.

Nick is deemed super cool and quickly gathered a little posse around him that he introduced to some favourite video games.  Also, family reading this, you should know that the boy in the center is a mini Jessie!  It's JUST like hanging out with Jessie - FOR REAL!! (Nick's younger brother for those of you reading that aren't family).

We also may have spent at least an hour making faces in my computer's Photobooth.  I know you want to see those.  That's too bad for you ;).  I'll give you a tiny, tame peek ;)

And thus concludes Day 12.  We're almost half done the trip, but not until noon tomorrow!