the land of lincoln

This year we attempted something we have never done before: a road trip as a family of five (clarification: Danny and I have not adopted three children recently.  I am talking about my parents + my brother + Danny and me).  Oh and also, doing the road trip in one day.  Growing up we drove from my hometown of Greeley, Colorado to St Charles, Illinois umpteen times but we always split it up into two days of driving/stops/shenanigans.  

This year, though, with five eligible drivers and pricey plane tickets, we got ambitious and decided to initiate Danny into the Jones family (even though we've been married for 3.5+ years...) with a road trip slam.  

We left at 6am on a Friday morning and drove and drove.  Our first stop was in North Platte, Nebraska at Fort Cody.  This was highly anticipated, you see, because I volunteered at a summer camp one year for a few weeks that was located just outside of North Platte and we really enjoyed visiting this (kitschy, bizarre) place at the time.  It's a bit of a family legend now, and we happily arranged our stop "schedule" around it so Danny could experience it's glory.

My dad got back from getting gas and declared the stop was over so it was time to wrap up the party and drive some more (and more).  We ate sandwiches in the car for lunch, drove, drove, and drove, and then made a poor choice for dinner around 8pm and drove a couple miles off the highway to find a Chick-fil-a which also happened to be in a mall food court...not our best moment.  A few hours later, we arrived at my grandparents', at precisely 10:57pm.  The excitement was so palpable, I still remember what time we pulled in.

My grandma waited up for us to give us the keys to our rooms and when my grandma asked how the journey had been we all said great, except for my dad, who said, "terrible."  I mean, if anyone should be giving a rave review of the road trip, it should be me.  For one reason or another, I never got behind the wheel the whole day, I just got to sit in the back and thumb through magazines, watch movies, eat food, and read.  Best day ever, right?

So, after our long (but by no means bad) day, when we should have been going straight to bed, Danny and I watched the end of the Olympics opening ceremony.  We don't always make the most adult-decisions, I guess.  I think our heads hit the pillow somewhere close to 1am, which is never a good way to start a trip when you've been up since 6am.  But, Olympics!!

In the morning we had breakfast at my grandma's, visited my grandpa, ran some errands (washed the car!  bought more breakfast food!  etc!) and made our way to my Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary Beth's house.  They kindly offered to host a Jones-Douglas reunion all afternoon (my dad is the only one of all the cousins and second cousins who has moved away so when we come to town, a reunion is generally put together.  Hurrah!) so we spent the afternoon eating, catching up with all the aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and whatever I'm supposed to call my dad's cousins and their spouses, watching the Olympics, and playing a game of Telestrations with all the "kids."

Oh and it was my Great-Aunt Marilyn's birthday, so she got a cake and a song and plenty of other platters of desserts to choose from too.   

As the crowds were thinning the remaining cousins found their way to the driveway for a game of knockout.  I'm usually one of the worst players so I decided not to compete this time since I was wearing a dress (which would make me unquestionably THE worst).   

Back at my grandparents' in the evening, we watched the Olympics and took it easy.  Pretty much how every evening since has played out, because, Olympics.  I've been thinking lately, why don't the Olympics happen every summer?  I know we have the winter Olympics in two years, but let's be honest.  Everyone (pretty much everyone at least) prefers the summer ones, right?  And having to wait four years in between each summer Olympics just feels a little bit extreme to me.  It's so long that by the time the next one rolls around, I've forgotten how much I love it - hasn't everyone?  So they quit their lives for three weeks and do nothing but watch the Olympics because it's feast or famine, you know.  Okay, let's get this back on track.  

Sunday morning we met up with my Uncle Bob, Aunt Mary Beth, and cousins Jason and Katie for church, and afterwards went on to my Uncle Jon and Aunt Susan's house for lunch and an afternoon of hanging out.  Two of my cousins didn't make it the little reunion the day before, but they were around on Sunday, so all of us "kids" (loose term since the youngest is 15 and the oldest is 27!) staked out the backyard and did what we do these days: talk about our jobs, school (for those still living that life), and play yard games.  Although these were not yard games for the faint of heart, I tell you.  We're talking KanJam and Spike Ball - so naturally I did not participate (are you sensing a theme here?).  What ever happened to the days of the sack race, the three legged race, the egg on the spoon race?  I can do those!!!

As we were leaving, we gathered all the cousins (sans Kelly, who wasn't in attendance) for a photo call on the porch because, like I whispered to my mom when I was convincing her to get everyone together, you just never know the next time you'll all be together again.  And then as everyone was going to the car I insisted on a brothers + mother shot.  I just won't back down.

When we were pulling into my grandparents' place, we saw my grandpa sitting outside, so we joined him and went for a brief walk around the parking lot.  Then we dropped him off at his room and my parents, Danny, and I went across the street for a walk of our own along the Fox River.  I almost skipped out due to women's gymnastics being on that evening (for the first time in four years, if you hadn't heard) but I was glad I didn't because it was just the qualifying rounds, and my grandparents live in a pretty beautiful part of the country.  When it's not hot and humid, that is.

And you know what we did the rest of the evening (Olympics).

Monday morning the six of us went to Home Depot for all manner of light bulbs.  I enlisted some helpful Home Depot workers because I didn't want to make another trip back later in the day...and also took photos...while Danny and Mysteridge tested the lawn mowers.  We got the goods and made our way to breakfast.  

Mysteridge and I have grown up spoiled by both sets of grandparents.  Spoiled to not only have both sets of grandparents living, but grandparents who spent time with us, took us out to eat at places of our choosing, bought us Lucky Charms when we came to visit, and so on.  But, we're not five years old anymore, so on this particular day, we let my grandma choose where we went to eat.  She chose Apple Villa, somewhere none of us had been before, but never fear, I'm here to tell you what's up.  The baked Apple Villa pancakes.  That's what.  Yes, they take 25-30 minutes to come out, and yes, they may really just be a plate of dessert disguised as breakfast but WORTH IT.  

Carbo-slam complete (confession: I only ate a wee bit of my pancake.  The rest got shoved into a to-go box and eaten the next morning for slam part dos), we went to my grandma's booth at the antique market to hang those light bulbs.  Okay, mostly the fellas did the hanging.  I looked at all the pretty things (and even came away with some things for myself!  Thanks, Grandma!  Currently sitting on the top shelf of my brother's old bedroom in my parents house, but destined for our future place when we find ourself living a less, how shall I say it, nomadic lifestyle) and my mom worried about the guys standing on the tip top of the ladder.  You know, where you're not supposed to stand?   

Monday night we went back over to Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary's for brats and hot dogs and leftovers from Saturday's reunion.  There was more knockout and even an epic 11-player game of Telestrations.  We've been playing that game almost every time we go to my parents' place for the past couple of years, and now it's caught on with the extended fam too, so I think it's safe to say it's the Jones family's favorite game (at least at the current moment).  We said our final good-byes and "see you in December" because thank goodness for weddings so we don't have to wait another two years to see each other again!  Good grief.

Monday morning we visited my grandpa one last time, and played mini golf down the road at Wheeler Park.  It was...warm.  Even though I'd showered that morning, by the time we'd finished with our single round of 18-holes, I was hoping for another rinse.  It may be green and lush and pretty in the midwest but IT IS ALSO HUMID AND HOT.  It's no Colorado.  

After golf, we had lunch at the bistro at my Grandparent's place and then my parents took off for an overnight with friends in the big city (Chicago).  We three left a short bit later for the airport because, well, duty called.  Mysteridge had work and such back in Colorado and Danny and I had visa appointments the next morning in Los Angeles so we rode to the airport together and then went our separate ways.  

And if you're still reading this mega trip recap I guess I might as well throw in a brief LA update too because we took no photos so it definitely won't get it's own post - we were in and outta there in under 18 hours.  Airport, Uber to Airbnb, teensy bit of Olympics, bed, sleep, get ready + pack up, walk to consulate and stop for breakfast along the way, Spanish consulate appointments, Uber to airport, fly to Denver - and that really and truly sums up our trip in one sentence.  No visas back yet, but really hoping soon, within the next week!

We had a great trip to Illinois (+ LA) and it was really good to see so many people and do so much catching up.  A lot can and does change in two years, so here's hoping it's not that long till we're all together again.  (I have a hunch we have a wedding or two that might bring us together sooner rather than later - hooray!)