Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 8: Norway/Nauvoo

Early in the morning we said our goodbyes to Grandma Rose and headed down to Nauvoo, Illinois to visit the Church sites there. We had planned to stay at the campgrounds right next to the sites, but along our travels we found out that Matthew's dad hasa cousin that lives in Nauvoo who had plenty of room and was willing to take us in for a night or two.

On our way to Nauvoo, Mandy (GPS) freaked out again in the middle of nowhere and Matthew and I passed by an exit to Denmark (I didn't know we could drive there from the US!). This was one of the longest drives we did so far while on our road trip and based on some of the pictures we took while on the road it wasn't hard to see we were doing all we could to entertain ourselves. At one point while munching on some animal crackers I decided to take pictures of a funny looking elephant, a one-legged donkey and a variety of the different animals marching in a parade. We also took some pictures of the pretty sky and some of the sites to see in our short drive thru of Iowa (we had to take a bridge over the Mississippi River into Iowa, just to take another bridge over the Mississippi back into Illinois).

Once we arrived in Nauvoo, it took us a bit to find the King residence, but when we did we got a warm welcome. We spoke briefly and they insisted that we try and make it to the Nauvoo pageant that evening. We knew the pageant had been going on and that it was the last night of the performance, but we assumed we had missed it. When the King's informed us we still had a couple of hours before it started, Matthew and I decided to jump at the opportunity.

One of the first things we noticed when we first got to the pageant were the protestors. There weren't as many as we have seen in Salt Lake during conference time, but I was still a bit taken back by them. They were handing out flyers and one of the volunteers insisted that we take one. Matthew took one to get him off our back and it amazed me the things they claimed we did or did not believe. Many of the things written were false. It just goes to show that Satan will do anything to lead people astray. We walked around for a while looking for two seats that weren't terribly far from the stage. At one point we actually ran into someone Matthew knew. Shortly before the pageant started a sister missionary told us we could sit in some seats that were marked reserved. Matthew and I both enjoyed the pageant. It was really cool to have the Nauvoo Temple as a backdrop to the whole thing, especially at the end when they lit it up. Matthew and I both agreed it was a little corny, but we were still glad we had the opportunity.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 7: Norway, MI

We woke up early this morning, said goodbye to Uncle Jeff and continued our trip north to Norway, Michigan to visit Grandma Rose. Matthew and I were both excited because I haven't seen my grandma since my 16th birthday and Matthew had never met her. On the trip up we had a few fun experiences. First, Mandy (the GPS) kept freaking out and redirecting our route when we were in the middle of nowhere on a two lane highway. We laughed pretty hard about it because Uncle Jeff was telling us about how they had just redone the roads, so we figured the relocation of the roads made Mandy think we were riding through fields. The other fun thing we found was on the side of the rode. As we were driving we saw a couple of signs that indicated there was a historical landmark ahead. We had plenty of time and decided it would be fun to pull off and see what the landmark was all about. It just so happened to be a landmark indicating that we were exactly halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. It was kind of cool.

When we finally got to Norway I wanted to stop at a gas station and get grandma some Squirt soda and gummy Life Savers, but we couldn't find either at the gas station. We had a great visit with grandma. We talked about where we had been on our trip and what our plans were for the rest of it. We also talked about how school was going and what our plans for the future were. When Matthew was bringing in our bags, all Grandma Rose could do was sing his praises. She thought he was wonderful and told me not to mess it up!

Around dinner time my Aunt Gina and cousin Toni stopped by and asked if we would like to join them for dinner at a local restaurant. Grandma wasn't interested, but told us to go. We enjoyed our meal and catching up. The only thing more I could have wanted from visiting my family was to have seen my other cousins, all of whom were infants or toddlers when I last saw them.

After dinner, Matthew and I went back to spend the night with Grandma. We stayed up pretty late watching her favorite TV shows and visiting. When we finally went to sleep Matthew and I snuggled on a single sized mattress, needless to say it wasn't the best nights sleep we have ever had, but it was nice to be with Grandma.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 6: Chicago/Milwaukee

We finally remembered to take some pictures of our campsite and I have to say, I am very glad we bought the air mattress. I am all for saving money by staying at KOA's during this trip, but if I had to sleep on the ground for two weeks I would be very happy.

We made it to Chicago by lunchtime and were told that the place to eat is Pizzeria Uno. We decided that it was a must to order a deep dish pizza from the place that it originated. We were pretty hungry so we ordered an appetizer to munch on while we waited and couldn't pass up on a delicious dessert following. I have to say that the pizza was good, but I liked the slice I had in New York better, maybe I'm not a deep dish kind of girl. I think that the cost of parking also made the meal seem less worth it, but it is fun to say that I dropped by Chicago.

After lunch in Chicago we continued north towards Milwaukee to visit and say with my Uncle Jeff for the night. After settling in and visiting for a little while, Jeff insisted that he and his friend and her son Jordan take us out to dinner. Matthew and I were still somewhat full from our lunch, but agreed to come along so we could keep visiting. When they decided to go to Chili's Matthew and I ended up sharing my favorite appetizer from there, Southwestern Egg rolls. Jordan was a cute kid, he really liked Matthew and the two of them stayed up playing video games for a few hours while we did laundry and I made a batch of Betty Crocker's Carmelita Bars that I got from Costco before leaving Pittsburgh. It was a great visit and was really nice to see Uncle Jeff again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 5: Cedar Point

As I was searching for destinations along our trip home, I received several suggestions to look into going to Cedar Point, which is an amazing amusement park in Ohio and when I realized that it was already along our route home I was sold on the idea! Matthew and I both love roller coasters and I thought that this would be a great way to mix up our adventure a little.

When we arrived we were very excited. There were several amazing roller coasters and the weather was perfect. We went on several roller coasters before I came to the realization that although I love roller coasters, they are beginning to have unkind side effects on my body. We took a break from the coasters to get a small snack, which included one of the best soft pretzels I have ever had. We walked around for a little while, while deciding which coaster to do next. We were about halfway through the day and halfway through the park, so we were making good timing. We decided to take a small hiatus from the big time roller coasters and go on a water ride, since in was mid-day and hot. It was a great ride and we were very pleased to be soaked.

After the water ride we saw an opportunity to dry off a little on one of the other rides...a really big swing! This thing was amazing and terrifying all at the same time. I have been on big swings before, but what made this one stand out was the lack of over the shoulder straps to hold you in and by the climax of the ride the swing was completely parallel to the ground, which was 125ft away. Sadly for me, this was my last ride of the day. The overwhelming urge to
loose all of the contents of my stomach and a headache caused by all the twisting and turning had finally caught up with me. I was bummed out that I wasn't going to be able to experience the rest of the rides, but happy with what I did experience. Matthew was a good sport about it too.

We decided that we would just leave the park a little earlier than we had planned and get an early start to our next destination. We stopped and bought a magnet for the memory and a stuffed desert pretzel for our stomachs and as we were headed toward the exit, Matthew saw one last ride that he had to go on. It was called the Top Thrill Dragster, which is one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the world. It was designed like a Nascar Track and even had bleachers for spectators to sit in and watch. As I sat
waiting for Matthew he called telling me that the wait was approximately an hour and a half, and we were debating whether we really wanted to wait that long. As we were discussing it, some storm clouds started to roll in, with thunder and lightning accompanying them. Matthew said that a lot of people were getting out of line, but that he wanted to wait. I told him that the ride had stopped and wasn't sure if they would reopen it, but I could tell he was really excited about it, so we agreed to wait and see if the storm would pass. Within about 20 minutes, the skies cleared up and the ride started up again. Matthew was extremely glad he stayed in line because his wait time went down to about 30 min and it was worth it, even if the ride only lasted like 10 seconds. The video speaks for itself.

After the ride, we made our way back to the car. I was extremely tired so I was planning to fall asleep, but before I did so I noticed that we had just over 1/4 of a tank of gas. I reminded Matthew that the service stations were few and far between on the Ohio Turnpike and said that he should stop at the closest gas station just to be safe. I feel asleep and upon waking we were at a toll booth and just after we got past the toll booth Matthew exited. I questioned thisbecause our GPS told us to continue, whereupon Matthew(in a panicked voice) stated that he had missed the last service

station and that we needed to get some gas. Noting the panic in his voice I looked at the gas meter and noticed the gas light was on. I then asked him how long the light had been on and he said, "Oh about the last 30 miles." Now I understood the panic and had to resist questioning him or giving him a hard time because I could tell that he was already angry at himself and if I said anything it would just make it worse.

When we got off the exit there were no visible gas stations in sight...further panic ensued. Matthew started back to the freeway, but I insisted that we ask someone where the closest station was, so he went into a Subway and found out there was one just 4 miles away (he was also told that if he had gotten back on the freeway the closest station was at least 15 minutes away) so we headed to the station 4 miles away, hoping and praying to make it, but about a mile into the drive our car started to sputter. We made it up a hill and started to coast down, hoping that it was all downhill, but then the road leveled out and the car began to slow down. Luckily we just happened to stop right in front of a farmhouse...out in the middle of no where. Coincidence, I think not! We were definitely being watched over. Well, the kind man of the house took Matthew to get some gas to bring back to the car, meanwhile I called Matthew's mom to vent (I knew that if I called her I would be laughing about it by the end). When Matthew returned we were both able to laugh about it.

I think mostly because the feeling of not knowing what would happen was lifted and the realization and added confirmation that no matter the situation in our lives, Heavenly Father is watching out for us. We can always count on Him. I know we were safe in our journeys because of those people who were praying for us. Their prayers were answered. My prayers have been answered over and over and over again. I love my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. They have been with me through many things and I know I can rely on them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 4: Erie/Kirtland

Tuesday morning we woke up and had breakfast and scripture study with Emily's family. Matthew and I really enjoyed how the family went about studying the scriptures together. They each had a copy of the scriptures and if any of the copies had something marked in the chapter they were looking at, then they would all read the verse marked and discuss why they thought the scripture might have been marked and what the verse could teach us.

After breakfast, Matthew and I got changed and headed towards Kirtland. Once in Kirtland we decided to go to the Kirtland Temple first. This temple is presently owned by the Community of Christ Church and in order to keep up in the care of the building they ask for a donation to take a tour. The tour involved walking through a small museum, watching a movie about the temple and then a walk through the temple with a tour guide. The guide also informed us that the story of the women breaking up their china to help the outside walls to sparkle is not true. At first I was a little hesitant to believe it, but Matthew and I have heard this from other sources. It was a nice story and even if the sisters didn't make that particular sacrifice, I am sure they made plenty of others.

Top Left: Picture of the original spire on the Kirtland Temple...2 minutes after I took this one of the workers told me I couldn't take pictures. Bottom Right: A picture of the Kirtland Temple.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures except of the outside of the temple, but it was a great experience. We learned that the Kirtland Temple wasn't utilized in the same way that temples are today. The Kirtland Temple was really a place of learning, both temporal and spiritual. It was a meeting place for many different things, not just temple services. Today the Community of Christ seems to use it in similar ways and on occasion even allows different groups within the community to use the building for their various functions.

After visiting the temple Matthew and I went over to the visitor’s center and got a tour of some of the buildings in Kirtland, including: The Whitney store and home, the sawmill, and the ashery. We were able to go into rooms where the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelations and where the School of the Prophets was held.

Top Left: Matthew and I in Front of the Whitney Store. Top Right: Inside the front entrance of the store. This store actually had many rooms and sold things from food and clothing to supplies and books. Bottom Left: Room where the School of the Prophets was held. Bottom Right: One of the rooms above the store, where Joseph Smith received revelation.

Above: The Whitney home in Kirtland. We were told that as far as paint colors go, yellow was a more expensive color.

Above: These pictures show the sawmill. This is where many of the items of the Kirtland Temple were cut and put together. The bottom right photo shows replicas of some of the stands made in the temple.

Above: These pictures are of the Ashery. We were told that they would make things such as soap and that the ashery is still fully functional.

After our tour at the visitor’s center we went over to the Morley Farm and schoolhouse where the Missionary couple taught us a little about the history of the area and the school. The schoolhouse is no longer around, but we went on a 5 min walk to an area next to the visitor's building where the schoolhouse is believed to have been and enjoyed the surrounding nature.

After our visit to the Morley Farm we traveled over to Hiram, Ohio to the Johnson home. This home was very large in comparison to all the other homes we have visited thus far and the colors used to paint the inside were much more lively. The Sister missionary that gave us a tour explained that the different colors of paint were different prices, and that many couldn't afford more than white, but the Johnson's were blessed and could afford the luxury and so Sister Johnson took advantage. The bright colors in her home were not the only eccentric part of her decorating. You will see from the pictures below that she also had a brightly colored floor and many different designs on her doors. This place was a significant location for many of the revelations Joseph Smith received. Our guide told us that there were numerous times when many people were staying at the home helping and/or visiting the prophet.

After leaving the Johnson Farm Matthew and we headed towards the next KOA, right outside of Sandusky, Ohio, excited for our next adventure!