In one day we went from Atlanta, Georgia to West Plains, Missouri via Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and then Arkansas. It was a long day of driving but we made sure to stop and take pictures when entering every new state, which was fun, although sometimes a bit nerve-wracking.
Aaaaaand Arkansas was THAT state that wouldn't let us take a picture next to the welcome sign.
Finally in Missouri!!!
We stayed at Chris' parent's place for nearly 2 weeks and did a TON of fun stuff.
Chris and his little sister, Anna, got to hang out a lot :)
Anna and I got to hang out too. We both hadn't seen her in nearly a year.
We timed our travels so we could celebrate Chris' 35th birthday at home! That's the first time that's happened in years.
Anna also got to celebrate her 7 belated birthdays. She didn't get any birthdays when she was in Russia, so we were making up for lost time with some awesome birthday cakes.
Part of the Little Grand Canyon.
Anna and her friend's reaction after I told them we had to stop hiking and turn around.
I love the swings at Silver Dollar City!!
I really cannot handle any kind of weather, so wherever we went I used Anna's blanket that she was nice enough to let me borrow, haha.
Also, Anna's biggest passion right now is horses. So of course, Chris and I stopped by where she takes lessons and saw her ride
Waiting for Anna on some big 'ol bleachers.
|Proud of her!|
.....and during that time we also took a "little" side trip up to South Dakota to search for and secure a new apartment for us.
|Boring state but had excellent margaritas :)|
We spent the night in Sioux City, Iowa and then the next morning drove to South Dakota to find our apartment!!
After that, we went back to West Plains and relaxed for a few days before starting the next journey of our trip, which was to St. Louis.
We went to St. Louis for a brief overnight trip, where Chris worked on an application for a job and I relaxed in the hotel room. We were just in St. Louis last year, so it wasn't all that exciting for us, but it was a nice little break.
|That's my Barney car! The color was changed this summer from silver to purple.|
In the morning we stopped by an amazing restaurant for a Sunday Vegan Brunch. It was so freaking delicious. I hope that we can go back!
And with full bellies, we were off through Illinois, Indiana and then up to Michigan to stay with my Aunt Paula in her awesome log cabin in Ada, Michigan for a couple of days.
|Slept in my cousin's old room and it was so comfortable.|
We stayed there for 2 nights catching up with family, seeing my grandfather who was in the hospital, and eating dinner with some of my cousins and second cousins (!!!) before heading to the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Traverse City, Michigan.
We decided to camp for 2 days. Unfortunately for us, it poured the first night and got everything wet...ugh. We hung our things out to dry and then went exploring around the dunes.
|Despite all his travels, Chris had never seen or touched a Great Lake before.|
I had visited Sleeping Bear Dunes nearly a decade ago (or maybe even longer??) and I fell in love with it. I love sand dunes and I love climbing them. I've been waiting and wanting to come back for awhile, and I've also been wanting to do this epic sand dune climb. It's nearly a 45 degree angle straight down, and then you have to hike your way up. It takes over an hour, but tons of people race down and up and try to beat their times. (There's no way I'm risking that, but kudos to them!)
We made it to the bottom!! After we got to the bottom, we walked along the beach...we weren't in too much of a hurry to hike back up.
We slowly worked our way back up the dune and then we went back to our tent to find everything had dried and was good to go for the night! (And it didn't rain again either!)
|Someone slept like a baby :)|
While we were in Traverse City, we had to stock up on some cherries! This region is popular for the quality of their cherries. They are just unbelievable. So we ate lunch at Cherry Republic, and got cherry pie and Cherry Coke with nearly everything.
And before we left the Sleeping Bear Dunes to head back to my Aunt Paula's place, we hiked up one more sand dune.
And then we hopped in the car and went back to see my Aunt again. Chris and I explored the Ada, Michigan region a bit with both my Aunt Paula and my Grandma. We went to this phenomenal botanical garden called Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park that had awesome statues and art-pieces and then we had delicious tapas after that.
|Mmmm, cotton candy dessert to finish up the tapas!|
Then we were off again! Chris has friends in Tennessee so we drove there to meet them.
Along the way we stopped for a Bourbon Tour (it was another part of Chris' birthday present) and we learned a lot about bourbon, the process of making it, and then we got to taste some fine 10 year old bourbon. I wish after all that education that I could say that I have a fine love for bourbon, but nope, I still don't.
|Got a private tour!|
|Shortly after this, Chris got pulled over for a ticket, but we only got a warning, thankfully!|
Chris' friends, Andrea and Adam, had a cookout the night that we arrived (so much delicious food and fun people!) and then the next day we played the Game of Thrones board game, and then the next day we went hiking and swimming right next to a beautiful waterfall.
|Homer for breakfast.|
|Andrea, Adam, a middle schooler, and Chris.|
After all that adventure, we headed back to Atlanta where we packed and prepared for moving to South Dakota!
We just moved into our new place on the 30th and we love it. I'm very close to campus and the work out center and I've already seen my department and my future office! We've been exploring the area and finding the farmer's market and the fun little places to stop in again on later. School starts in about 2 weeks for me (I have orientation [woo!]) and I'm eager to begin but also nervous.
If you want to see a video tour of our new apartment (It's so much better than what we had in Mongolia) then click the link! My dad took a video to share :) He forgot to include a picture of our bathroom, but here's a photo to help you see the big picture. Visitors are always welcome in our little apartment!