A Travellerspoint blog

Long Distance Works Sometimes

(when you're both straight girls and speak different languages)

The amazing thing about how I chose to do my road trip, aka mostly by the seat of my pants, is that I can change my mind about where I go, when I go, and how long I stay.

I have a friend named Laura. Laura was my french exchange student when I was 16. She came to stay with me in Quincy for 2 weeks in October of 2008.
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In December of 2008 (into January of 2009) me and three of my friends decided we missed our French friends too much to wait to go in April, so we booked plane tickets to leave for Bourges on Christmas. This was the first time I ever left the US, or really traveled at all.
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We went back to Bourges in April, too.
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Then a few years later Laura was studying abroad in Georgia. She took a December 2011 Christmas trip to NYC and I met her there. (I was in school in NY, but was back home in Boston for winter break. So of course I drove the 3.5 hours back within a week of getting home to see her.)
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The next year I was studying abroad in Dublin and started off my December 2012 winter break by visiting her in Tours (where she was doing her masters) and Bourges.
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Later that year, while she was interning in Manchester, England, she came to Dublin for a weekend and we saw each other briefly.
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And finally, she noticed one of my blog posts on Facebook and commented on it reminding me that she was teacher assistant-ing in Minnesota for the year and I should come see her. So I did. (October 2014)
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Quite the saga, no?

Moorhead, MN

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Needless to say, when she mentioned where she was I immediately began re-routing my trip to include MN. Not only was I so excited to see her again, I was extremely grateful for the timing. First, she told me at the perfect time for me to actually be able to get to her. Secondly, I came down with strep and really needed a familiar, comfortable person to be around whilst being a giant baby. (I don't do "sick" well. And no, whiskey does not cure a sore throat.) Having known Laura for 6 years, I knew I could count on her to just hang out and relax with me while I drowned my tonsils in tea and honey.

I stayed with her for 4 days. We cooked a lot, laughed a lot, and I even mustered up enough strength to meet and hang out with her friends, roommates, students, and boy-thing.

Her friends and roommates (who also count as friends) were really great (as was Clyde, the boy-thing). April and Sara were the roommates. And while I met a few of her other friends briefly, Crysta is the only one I spent a substantial amount of time with. April and I late-night swapped complicated histories of the (respective) guy we like, Sara gave me some tips on where to go in Colorado and was just generally very sweet, and Crysta put a dread in my hair! (Which I later dyed orange, with Koolaid.) Though she and I met briefly, we really clicked.
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My second day there poor Laura had to work all day, so I went with her. She had asked me to speak to her classes a little while I was there, about traveling, France, and studying abroad. At first I felt kind of awkward about it, thinking I wouldn't really have anything of value to say to them. And I'm not too much older than them anyway; what good would my "sagely" advice do? However, talking to them proved to be mutually beneficial. I hadn't fully realized how much I've done and learned until speaking to people who haven't experienced what I have. Not everyone was super receptive, but most of them were really interested and had a lot of questions (that I actually had answers to!) It made me think yeah, I guess I've done some pretty cool things and have a pretty cool outlook on life and experiences. Especially from a third-person perspective. Especially if that third person is from Minnesota...

Laura shrunk my clothes.
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But it's okay, because she was being sweet and doing my laundry with hers...
And now I'm just sexily professional and stylish...Right?

I was meant to leave early Thursday morning to get to Mount Rushmore before sunset. And despite having a beer can covered in offensive post-it notes thrown at me within 20 minutes of my arrival, I was having a really good time.
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When I woke up, I was feeling some stress and anxiety over getting up and out the door so early, in order to meet a deadline. Then I re-realized my trip is my trip and I can do what I want, when I want, and shouldn't let myself stress over it. So I went back to sleep. Of course, because I slept in, Laura slept in and skipped her office hour. Then proceeded to cancel all her classes for the day to hang out with me. Without discussing it, she assumed I'd be staying awhile passed the planned time as soon as I didn't get right up. She was right.

Fargo, ND

Moorehead, MN is barely a 10 minute walk from Fargo, ND, so we spent some time there too.
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I was just so excited to see the Statue of Liberty! (I think now I've seen them all!)

We got coffee at what Laura calls the "secret spot." It was a great coffee shop (I do love me some coffee shops) and had comfy chairs and a removable brick where you could leave letters.

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We got lunch at a burrito place, and I think I found my superhero name.
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Get it? Cause I'm a vegetarian...So I'm a Veggie Avenger...Haha. Haha. Ha...

Then we walked around a bit. Fargo has this train that passes by and completely cuts off the town until it passes. The railroad crossing is the only way out, and the train takes forever to pass. I think it's a cute quirk. Residents would think otherwise.
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There were lots of boobies on Broadway for breast cancer awareness.
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I also got to see how North Dakotans/Minnesotans live. Clyde, Laura's beau, took us to meet some of his friends and blow shit up with fireworks in a field. According to his friends, that's about all there really is to do. A blowtorch, plastic pumpkin, cantaloupe, squash, and bunch of bananas later we played with sparklers and set off a flame lantern (which is on my bucket list!)
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That, and Walmart.
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Laura and I share plenty of jokes that cross the language barrier back and forth. Below being a prime example. For a long time neither of us could say the other one's name properly. (I still cannot for the life of me say hers.) This time around, for the first time, she said my name the American way. It broke my heart a little. I like how the French say my name. Of course this threw us into fits of laughter, as we texted each other from one room over.

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I feel incredibly lucky to have maintained such an amazing connection with such an amazing person. It hasn't always been easy, with language and cultural awkwardnesses to overcome, but it has always been worth it. Each year I can see (and hear) us becoming more comfortable and close with each other; from exchange students, to acquaintances, to actual friends. Being with Laura this past time had me thinking (as I perused the isles of Walmart, shouting to Laura about something-or-other) about how much I've changed, really how far I've come, since 16. Much of the reason our friendship has shaken its awkwardness is because I have. My little insecure 16 year old self couldn't form this easy of a connection without being comfortable just being me. While unfortunately I can't say I've fully shaken my insecurities, I can say that I am pretty comfortably me, at least most of the time. (Let's ignore when I'm trying to flirt with someone I actually care about flirting with. That doesn't count.)

I WILL LEARN FRENCH AGAIN!

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Posted by katie_rose 21:50 Tagged road_trip travel adventure usa minnesota fargo north_dakota kflaherty katieroseusa moorhead Comments (0)

A Sore Throat and a Strip Club

So far I've lost a toothbrush, a pair of flip flops, and a little of my dignity.

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Since I rerouted from Chicago (where I left 1 of 3 toothbrushes I brought) to visit someone in Minnesota, it gave me a long stretch of north-bound travel without any mini-destinations between. My cousin's best friend Brandon recently moved to Nebraska, so I figured I'd give it a shot and see if he lived near where I'd be driving through. Turns out he did!
Now Brandon and I have...a checkered past? We fight like cats and dogs and, until I went to NE, weren't even Facebook friends. This has been going on for about 3 years. We get put in the same room and we're just assholes to each other. I blame it on my pretentiousness and his general douchiosity (so douchey it requires a new word. So douchey he was on the Real World. But actually.) We started out on the wrong foot all those years ago, and never quite got on the right one. But I have always known that he is actually a pretty good guy, and I figured it would be nice to pay him a visit. So I vowed to try and not be mean at all, which entails curbing my typical sarcastic snide comments that he for some reason can't take for a joke. (I'm funny! I swear!)

I arrive in Elkhorn, the stubborn town that refuses to be counted as Omaha despite being slowly engulfed, and immediately get lost. The streets are really strangely laid out, and streets that don't touch each other at all have the same names. Even my GPS was confused. But I get there eventually, and despite all that I said above, we have always been kind to each other when it matters so it's really not uncomfortable. We hang at his friends' place for a few hours. I am so okay with the couch, beer, and videogame deal. I'm not feeling great, kind of fevery and I've had a bit of a sore throat, so sitting and relaxing is nice. Brandon makes a really big deal about me seeing a Nebraskan sunset, but this is the only glimpse I see. (I guess we were too relaxed!)
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It's still beautiful.

We head on back to his house so I can shower and we can go meet his friend downtown for drinks.

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The bar was cool. His friend, Alex, bought the first round, and the third, and the fourth....(I bought the second.)

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(This is Brandon.)

I actually lost track of how many drinks I had over the course of the night, since many of them were accompanied by a shot. Whiskey cures a sore throat, right? Alex was a really cool guy, with a crazy back story. Originally German, from Berlin, he moved to Seattle at 16 for school. At 17 he was married to a 24 year old, and sometime later divorced. When his student visa was almost up and he realized he didn't want to leave, he joined the army. His slight build put him at a disadvantage, but he managed to prove himself and get put into special ops. He shared a bit more with me, but I don't feel quite right sharing it with all of you. So just take it from me that he gets more interesting. He has lived in Omaha for the past 7 or so years, managing a jewelry store and promoting. A lot of the bar was military, actually. This trip seems to be really pushing the military presence in my life, which is new for me.

I feel like I'm actually meeting quite a few insanely interesting people. I've always considered every person I meet to be interesting, because I just think people as people are fascinating, but these people are truly remarkable. And it's hard not to divulge every detail about them, since they're just so interesting that I want everyone to know they exist. But I feel rude doing that, so this is the most you'll get. Another girl I met, Raquel, was really cool too. We only talked briefly, and mostly about our tattoos, but I hope someday we meet again. (We made drunk, excited plans to. We'll see what actually happens.)

While I was talking to a guy they lovingly call Rufio, the gents were chatting amongst themselves. I start hearing a "Katie. Katie. Katie?" and look up.
Alex.
"Want to go to a strip club?"
Uh. Yeah.
I doubt they knew I've wanted to go to a gentlemen's club for awhile now, but Nebraska is as good a place as any!

Alex kept buying me drinks, and trying to convince me that one more day is a good idea. The club itself wasn't bad. I was the only female nonworker there, so the patrons kept staring, but it was a decent looking place. The first stripper looked bored. But could dance. The second dancer, oh my god, could move it. I want to be able to move like that!! Nuts. No pun intended. (Pub always intended.)

I left the flipflops and dignity in Brandon's car. Flipflops just accidentally. Dignity because I had had way too much to drink and near to nothing to eat all day. (I vomited behind my hand, onto my lap. Still unclear if it was noticed. I cleaned it all up that night sneakily. I am a mature adult..)

Viva la roadtrip

Posted by katie_rose 00:06 Comments (1)

Missouri Loves Company

and Kansas too.

I spent a weird amount of time in Missouri.

October 25

My first real stop was St. Louis, which was surprisingly disappointing. It was over 80 degrees and beautiful on a Saturday, and NO ONE was there! It seemed as if the only thing the city had to offer was the Cardinals and water fountains. That damn red mascot was on literally everything. Good thing I like birds.

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I showed up to the city in a sweater and thick leggings, having come from chilly Champaign-Urbana. I quickly regretted it, and headed back to my car. It was super comfortable changing in my back seat; I parked on the street, in front of a mid-to-late 40s man driving an electric blue sports car with a blown out back window covered in a trash bag. Also the streets oscillated between smelling like piss and horse shit.

The arch was pretty.

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If I wasn't already sick of cities (which, for the record, I was), I sure was now. It just felt like I was seeing the same glass and grey cement building everywhere, just at different heights. So I set off to stop in some random town that had a coffee shop with a good yelp review. I ended up in Columbia, MO; a college town. Like most college towns, it was cute and had a strip of nice shops and food places. I stepped out of my car and was almost immediately asked for directions by a guy in his car. I think I'm just one of those people that strangers like to approach to ask questions.
"No, sorry, I'm not from here."
I keep walking, turn a corner.
"Excuse me, Miss."
It's the guy.
"Sorry, but you're really pretty, would you like to get coffee or something with me?"
It was very polite, and I was flattered, but I really did not want a coffee date with this average looking mid-to-late 30 year old. Luckily I had the excuse of only being in town for less than an hour.

I ended up skipping the coffee shop and getting frozen yogurt. It felt like summer out!

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By the time I reached Kansas City, MO it was evening. It's a weirdly romantic city. There were lots of fountains with blue dyed water (Missouri seems to be the land of fountains), horse drawn carriages, pretty lights, beautiful architecture, and gondola rides. The bars were all packed since the Royals are in the World Series and the game was on.

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Lawrence, Kansas was just a quick drive over. I chose Lawrence over Topeka at the behest of a friend of mine in Quincy who went to Law school there. Another college town, it had a similar feel to it as Columbia. When I got there I wasn't feeling super social, and by the time I had gotten off the phone with a friend of mine in NY it was pretty late. With the place swamped by rowdy undergraduate baseball fans, I took a pass on actually staying.

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The next day, on my way to Nebraska, I decided to stop in random townie diner or café for breakfast/lunch. My GPS had picked up on a place called Tammy's Country Café. It ended up being in Maysville, MO; population 1114. (Though I passed a place with a 780 population on my way there!) The place ended up actually being Ted + Juli's Cafe on the Square. It was a very cute cafe, full of locals who clearly knew each other, and very cheap food. It was so small town that there was a smoking section. The waitress was nice, but didn't seem interested in talking to me really.

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Missouri finally gave me some accents! The only other person who had had one was the sports car guy.

Posted by katie_rose 13:56 Tagged road_trip columbia st_louis missouri kansas lawrence kansas_city maysville Comments (0)

Chicago

The windy city isn't named because it's breezy out, but it's still pretty damn breezy.

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I'm a big fan of Chicago, which is good since I'm considering grad school here. It could be the cute coffee shops, or the hipster bars, maybe the brief 3-day fling I had with a very interesting military-man-turned-college-frat-boy who keeps both a pistol and a lava lamp on his bedside dresser, but it definitely has to do with the general atmosphere in the city. I've been staying with an acquaintance who went to SLC with me, but transferred out after sophomore year, in Lincoln Park. She's been an absolute angel letting me stay, given we didn't know each other in any significant capacity, and I'm so grateful for it. This trip has made me realize the real plausibility of what I mentioned to the 2014 graduating class at SLC in my commencement speech, that they should reach out to their classmates in the future and be able to count on them to reach back. The response from my fellow graduates, current students, and even those who only attended SLC for a short amount of time, has been really heart-warming. Of course, the response generally from my friends, family, and acquaintances has been great. Love you guys.

And I adore Lincoln Park. The streets are cute, I love the architecture, and all the shops (even though I hate shopping) actually look pretty welcoming. The loop is also great, but has more of a city feel than this area. It's nice to have it so close, but not be exactly in it. It kind of reminds me of what Brooklyn is to NYC. Not too shabby. I had a feeling I would like it here far before ever even coming here, based off of second-hand reviews. And then again when I was driving in at night and saw how beautiful the city looked all lit up. It's a special kind of place that can make you feel like you're coming home the first time you've been there.

LINCOLN PARK

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(I've never held a real gun before. It was terrifying.)

The first night, Lola, my SLC acquaintance, brought me along for her roommate's birthday dinner. The sushi place we went to was cute, but I expected it to be a little dingy with the $3 anything happy hour. I was pleasantly surprised when the rolls were not only above basic, but were pretty damn good. Later we went to Headquarters Beercade, a bar with a bunch of old arcade games. I was super excited about the games before I got there, and even more excited as my alcohol intake increased. Of course, making out against a pinball machine is every wannabe 90s girl's dream.

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The next day I spent a good amount of time chilling in a coffee shop, writing in my journal, then walking around the area. When Lola got out of class, we went into the loop to do an interview at the Chicago Tribune, inside the offices, while the newsroom was in full swing. I hear that's a pretty difficult thing to get to do, and it was really cool. The sports editor, Lee Gordon, had some really interesting stories from his past and recommendations for people just breaking out into the work world. Michigan Avenue is pretty pretty. Then pizza. OMG, pizza. Now, I love pizza. The flat, greasy (though I'm a blotter and I'm not sorry), cheesy kind. Deep dish pizza is on a whole 'nother level. Pizza is pizza. Deep dish pizza is pizza pie. It was delicious, but definitely a once-in-a-while type deal. Regular pizza could easily happen everyday.

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TRIBUNE and sELfies on the EL

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I saw the Bean, and the skyline, and took some touristy photos of the downtown area. Had lunch at a really great vegetarian place, made egg and tofu fried rice for dinner while Lola worked on her new weave, and then went to a frat party. I've been to two frat parties, ever. One in high school, and one now that I've graduated college. Being out of school now, it wasn't really my scene and we didn't stay very long, but it was definitely worth making the appearance.

CHICAGO

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FOOD

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Now I'm off to Champaign, IL to check out another grad school before moving on to St Louis.

See ya there!

Posted by katie_rose 13:36 Comments (1)

A Soft Start

SLC, Philly, Pittsburg, Cleveland, and Lake Bluff

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So I definitely cushioned my beginning, which isn't necessarily a bad thing considering I was starting from a very settled point.

My first stop was my (ex-)school, Sarah Lawrence. I'd been back for a weekend last month and it felt weird, so this time I only stayed one night and avoided being actually on the campus to just see the few people I was there to see. It worked for the most part, but sunglasses really aren't that good of a disguise, no matter what all the movies say. A friend offered to wrap my head in a scarf, but I thought that might attract more attention given that it was over 70 degrees and sunny.

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(We went laser tagging and got tops because I'm sassy.)

I left the next day, taking my friend Dévi from SLC with me to her house just outside Philly.
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Philadelphia is like a midget NYC. Everything was about half, maybe 3/4, the size and much slower. It was cute once you got past the somewhat run down outskirts. And the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song was stuck in my head the second we drove through (in) West Philadelphia (born and raised, on the playground was where I spent most of my days).

We got drinks at a dive bar (called Dive Bar...how clever) in the city with Guido, someone I graduated with from SLC.
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Now, I don't really know Guido that well (or I should say I didn't know him that well) but somehow we were having very open conversations that the 38 year old mutton-chopped bartender (after a few hours) decided to chime in on. In fairness, he was being very flattering to me, but the spontaneity of his comments made the whole thing hilarious (and embarrassing).

Some key words: yoink, UTI, bar top, monogamy, red wing, promiscuity, whiskey dick, and tampon.
Despite what you may be thinking, these words were only thinly related.

The first big drive (and maybe the biggest that I'll have) was about 13 hours from Philly to Lake Bluff, IL. I made a quick pit-stop in Pittsburg (get it? get it??) and another one in Cleveland. Pittsburg didn't really seem like much, just another city. But Cleveland was really cute.

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I say this was a soft start because I haven't really had to be on my own yet, apart from driving to Illinois. But I've just gotten to Chicago, where I'll stay with a distant acquaintance I haven't seen in years and explore the city more on my own.

So stay tuned, it'll probably get more interesting.

Posted by katie_rose 20:07 Tagged road_trip adventure philadelphia cleveland pittsburg kflaherty katieroseusa sarahlawrence lake_bluff Comments (0)

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