2010-06-24: Roadtrip, Chicago to SoCal

I met Chelsea during my sophomore year of high school on our girl’s varsity soccer team.  After graduating, we both went on our separate ways to college and after that on to our careers, meeting up a few times in between.  In the Spring of 2010, she invited me to join her on a roadtrip from Chicago to Southern California to relocate for her new job.  I took a week of vacation from work and borrowed Shaun’s heirloom Pentax K1000 camera (my first real attempt to learn to use film).  I rode a propellor plane from Modesto to SF, then flew straight to Chicago on Friday June 25th, 2010.

Day 1:  We spent Saturday in the city, checking out all the popular landmarks as well as the Taste of Chicago on a hot and muggy summer day.  Cloud Gate was my favorite stop, also called “The Bean”.  We ended the day with a gigantic deep dish pizza at Gioradano’s and a few beers near Wrigley Field.

Day 2: We started the roadtrip on Sunday, June 27th, 2010.  We drove 574 miles from Evanston, Illinois through the states of Iowa (where we stopped in Dyersville to check out the Field of Dreams Movie Site), Minnesota, and to our destination for the night at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  We walked around the falls of Sioux Falls and grabbed a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich at Chedd’s.

Day 3:  Monday was spent in the great state of South Dakota.  We saw the Corn Palace in Mitchell, drove through the geological desolation of Badlands National Park, stopped at the road-sign-famous Wall Drug shopping center, and finally made it 376 miles to Mount Rushmore before dark to see the Presidents faces.  The night viewing was also quite impressive.

Day 4:  Leaving Keystone, SD in the morning, we felt compelled to stop at Rushmore’s Native American counterpart: the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Without paying the entrance fee, we only glimpsed the in-progress mountain sculpture.  We continued on 368 miles through the Black Hills of South Dakota, through Wyoming and into Denver, Colorado, to crash at a friend’s house – thanks Sarah, Zach and Lily!  We went to Vine Street Pub for dinner and brewskis, followed by a concert at the Bluebird Theater to see Matt Embree, Steel Train, and Young the Giant.

Day 5:  Wednesday we woke early and headed across the Rocky Mountains, passing through the Eisenhower Tunnel at an elevation of 11,158 ft (highest point along the Interstate Highway System).  We reached Arches National Park and viewed some of the most amazing sandstone formations: The Courthouse Towers, The Windows, Balanced Rock, and a 3-mile hike to the awe-inspiring Delicate Arch.

Day 6: On Thursday, July 1, we set forth to Zion National Park.  We spent nearly all day hiking through The Narrows.  Start by walking a mile on a paved path from the Temple of Sinawava, and you’ll reach the Virgin River.  Grab the best hiking stick you can find, because you’re headed upstream.  We waded up the river for hours, looking forward to each turn where the gigantic canyon walls seemed to continuously close in.  Eventually we turned around and headed back, down stream.  We crashed in St. George, UT for the night (thanks to Chelsea’s friend Jason!) completing about 758 miles in two days.

Day 7:  We slept in on Friday morning and started the shortest driving day of the trip.  Out of Utah and just barely into Arizona, we hit the open road in Nevada.  After 125 miles, we reached the Mirage in Las Vegas.  My first time in Vegas, and I had less than 24 hours.  We walked the Vegas Strip, got some drinks, ate some buffet, and chilled at the pool.  As fate would have it, Shaun was attending a bachelor party in Vegas that very weekend, so he and his friend Taylor met up with us to enjoy the nightlife.

Day 8:  Morning came too early on Saturday, but Chelsea had a deadline to meet her new landlord at her new place in Southern California.  After 269 more miles, we reached our final destination of Murrieta, CA.

Day 9:  Sunday July 4th, 2010: BBQ and fireworks in LA with Chelsea’s friends.

Day 10: Monday, July 5th, 2010.  After the short flight from Long Beach to Stockton, I was glad to be back home after 10 days, 2400 miles, and 10 states.

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