our washington state vacation.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went on vacation to the beautiful state of Washington. I have this goal to visit every national park in the United States, so we knocked out three on this trip! We had an amazing time, put lots of miles on our rental car, and enjoyed the great outdoors for a week.

We flew into Seattle, picked up our rental car, and drove to North Cascades National Park. We were there two days and then drove to Mt. Rainier National Park for two more days. The next two days were spent at Olympic National Park and our last day we explored the city of Seattle before flying back home.

We saw some incredible scenery, some of it seemed like it was straight out of a story book. Mt. Rainier is over 14,000 ft tall so it was quite humbly to stand in front of it. I always love trips out west; it is so beautiful there.

Here are a few pictures from our trip:

Mt. Shuksan in North Cascades National Park.

Mt. Shuksan in North Cascades National Park.

Mt. Rainier!

Mt. Rainier!

tree huggers

tree huggers

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Marymere Falls

The view from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

The view from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park.

Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park.

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Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park.

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Stacking rocks at the beach

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Ruby Beach

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The Seattle skyline

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putting my gum on the ‘gum wall’ in seattle…gross, but cool.

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A weekend with the Irish.

Remember the post from back in August when I surprised my husband with tickets to a Notre Dame football game (something he’s wanted to do since he was a kid!) for his birthday? Well, this past weekend was the game! And boy, was it worth all of the money and miles.

On Friday afternoon, we headed north on our journey. We made a pit stop in Indianapolis to eat dinner and meet up with a good friend of mine from high school. I love getting to catch up with friends I don’t get to see very often. We had fun at dinner and then enjoyed walking around the downtown area, exploring for a bit before getting back on the road.

soldiers and sailors monument in downtown Indianapolis.

We arrived safely at our hotel in Kokomo, IN and called it a night since we knew it’d be a long day ahead. Seven AM on Saturday morning came too quick, but we were so excited that we didn’t care if we were tired. We got ready and made our way 90 miles up the road to the University of Notre Dame. Game day on ND’s campus is something everyone should experience. It’s incredible how much school spirit and tradition is on that campus.

the basilica, where Mass is held on campus.

the golden dome!!

We spent the morning walking around and taking in the beauty of the campus. For those of you who don’t know my husband, he is not only a ND fan, but a Rudy fan as well. If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it sometime. It’s a classic. With that being said, we just had to get a picture of the bench where Rudy read his acceptance letter to ND. Now we can sleep peacefully at night knowing we’ve been to that exact location. Thank the Lord.

some things have changed since the movie was made, but that is the exact location he sat.

Once we were done sight-seeing, we lined up along the sidewalk leading to the stadium to watch the band proceed into the game. I didn’t realize this before, but Notre Dame had the first University marching band. I guess that’s why it is such a large band and very well-respected on campus. We made it to our seats and could immediately feel the excitement in the stadium.

at the game.

The first three quarters didn’t go so well. We thought Pitt was going to hand us our first loss of the season and that was not going over well with the fans. All of the excitement from before the game was replaced with frustration and anger. But just when we thought it was over for Notre Dame’s perfect season, things started to turn around. We were down by 14 points in the 4th quarter, but out of nowhere the defense stepped it up and the offensive was actually able to do something with the ball. We came back to tie up the game 20-20 with no time left in the game, thus sending us into overtime. Oh, but not just one OT; not just two, but THREE overtimes later we WON! It was such an emotional rollercoaster of a game. There were multiple times where we thought for sure Pitt was going to win or vise-versa. Finally our quarterback ran it in for the final touchdown of the game, putting us ahead 29-26. ND is now 9-0, ranked #4 in the nation.

As we walked out of the stadium, the entire crowd was chanting “undefeated!” over and over again. It was such a fun atmosphere and I can’t imagine a better game and outcome to attend. We most definitely got our money’s worth for those tickets. Good memories!

After the game we stopped at a pizza place before heading to our hotel half-way between South Bend and Chicago, IL.

Sunday morning brought cold temperatures and breezy weather. Windy city is an understatement for Chicago. It was fun exploring the town with my husband, because he had never been there. We knew we had a six-hour drive ahead of us, so we only stayed in the city for about four hours before finally making the journey home.

skyline from the navy pier.

world’s largest bean

We were blessed with safe travels, great weather, and some amazing memories. So thankful. Praise be to God!

NY Adventure (Pt 3 – The Journey Home)

I’m sure one day I will be telling my kids this story and be laughing my head off, but right now it still gets me fired up just thinking about it.

We flew Southwest Airlines, like we always do, but this time they had us routed an insanely dumb way to get from NYC to Buffalo. The genius’ at SW decided that it makes sense to send people way south to take them even futher north than they were in the first place, maybe that’s why their flights are so cheap. Either way, it was rediculous. So we fly from NYC to Baltimore and get in around 6:30PM. We ate dinner and hung around our gate looking at pictures from our trip. Our flight was suppose to leave for Buffalo at 9PM and get into BUFF a little after 10.

Around 8PM, we got an announcement that our flight was delayed due to weather. It was now suppose  to depart at 10PM. There were huge storms coming through Maryland (it’s the ones reasponsible for all the power outages right now). Needless to say, we didn’t leave at 10PM. As the storms began to hit Baltimore, I was actually glad we didn’t leave, because that storm was farocious. Winds at 90 MPH and lightning strikes 3200 an hour. That’s insane.

Around 12:30 AM, we finally started to board our plane. We sat there for awhile and took flight a little after 1 AM. We got in to Buffalo at 2:15 AM and by the time we got our bags, used the restroom, and got our car from long-term parking, it was quarter til 3. Our hotel was 45 minutes south of Buffalo, because we wanted to get a little bit out of the city for the next morning (little did we know we’d be getting in the next morning, wishing we’d had just got a room in buffalo). So we drove to our hotel and arrived at 3:30 AM. I ran in to check in and get our room key. I walked up to the desk and said, “Sorry we’re so late, storms delayed our flight. We’re hear to check in.” And I gave her our name. Here was her response:

“Unfortunately I just did our nightly update and as of 3 AM you were considered a ‘no show’. Now I will have to charge you full price for the (same) room, which is $154.” Get the freak out of town, lady. I’m not paying $100 more for a room I had reserved in my name just 30 minutes ago. I was livid, exhausted, shocked, and nervous. I had no idea where we would go. I just knew there was no way we were paying $150 for a room for 6 or 7 hours of sleep.

We told them we weren’t happy with their service, considering I had called earlier in the evening to make sure if we checked in late we’d still have our room reserved and the lady never gave me a time of when that ended. Also, the fact the front desk lady said she couldn’t do anything to help us out. Having worked in retail, I know that was a lie, but we let it go and said we’d find somewhere else to stay.

There were only two other hotels at that exit, both of which charge close  to $100 for rooms. I had so much adrinaline in my body from how angry and annoyed I was that I said, “We’re driving home”.

So, I drove the first leg of the drive since I was wide awake and then my husband took over after about 2 1/2 – 3 hours. He drove for awhile and then we realized we were both so tired that it was dangerous if we didn’t pull over a sleep for a bit. We found the first exit with a rest area and knocked out, setting our alarms for an hour. We woke up feeling a bit refreshed and grabbed some coffee and breakfast, before getting back on the road. He drove for awhile and then I took over for the final leg of the journey.

We weren’t actually heading home, but to his hometown to see all of his family that was in town for the 4th. So we made it there at about 2 PM. We were exhausted, but knew we needed to stay awake so that we’d be able to sleep that night. We spent the day out on the boat on the lake and by bedtime (9PM, haha) we were very much ready for a good nights rest. And boy, was it the best night of sleep ever. We were out.

Like I said, maybe one day I’ll think this story is funny, but for now I just want to whine about it, because it was awful. However, I think what made the ending of the trip somewhat bearable, was just knowing how much fun we had in New York. At least we were blessed with safety during our traveling and that is truly what’s important in the end.

NY Adventure (Pt 2 – NYC)

NYC was a completely different scene from Niagara Falls. In Niagara, we were very laid back and went with the flow. In NYC it’s not possible to be laid back. It is a constant going, moving, doing kind of city. We were able to spend 4 days and 3 nights in New York, so we got to see everything we were hoping to see.

official nyc-ers.

We spent the rest of the day just exploring the downtown area. We saw times square, empire state building, the Rockefeller center, central park, grand central station, and bought m&m’s at m&m world.

middle of times square

chocolate lover’s paradise.

We were tired after our early morning traveling so we turned in pretty early on our first night there. We woke up Wednesday morning and went to the Museum of Natural History to see  the exhibits and we had heard the guy who does all the stunts for Spiderman was going to be repelling down the building to promote the new movie and the new spider exhibit at the museum. Then low and behold, out walks Andrew Garfield who plays Spiderman in the newest movie. It was fun to see all of this in person and with being obsessed with Spiderman growing up, I was in love!

go, spidey, go!

andrew garfield

We had to leave shortly after Andrew came out, because we needed to pick up our passes for the Late Show with David Letterman. I had received a call the week before saying we were selected for the tickets and we could pick them up the day of the show. When we went to pick them up, we must have impressed someone, because they wrote on our passes front row! During the show we were literally ten feet from David Letterman and the guest on the show, Channing Tatum! Pretty awesome. The musical guest was Gaslight Anthem. We hadn’t heard of them, but they were really good. They’re a rock band from New Jersey. It was a really fun show and we are so blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of it. The show aired last Wednesday and if you look closely you can see us for about .5 seconds after a commercial break. I guess that’s one tenth of my 15 minutes of fame. Apparently you can watch it on CBS.com. We weren’t allowed to take pictures at all, not even in the lobby. But we snuck one with our passes, because we were going to have to turn them in.

outside the theatre.

trouble makers.

That night, my friend that we were staying with went with us to put our names in the lottery for “Wicked” tickets. Wicked is one of the best musicals on broadway right now. I’ve never heard a bad comment about the show, so we really wanted to get tickets. Out of a hundred or so people, my name got drawn! I was so shocked, but extremely excited. When you win tickets through the lottery, you only have to pay $25 per ticket, so we were able to go for $50 and we were front row! It seriously was one of the coolest things I’ve been to. The actors were amazing, the costumes, the set, the story itself was just absolutely incredible. We loved every minute of it. We even got to meet the girl who played elphaba, because we happened to be walking right by the door she came out. What an unexpected surprise!

wicked awesome is what it should be called.

girl who played the lead role, elphaba.

Needless to say, it was quite an exciting day and we had a blast. After the show, we walked around times square again just to see it at night.

Our last full day in NYC was spent seeing the 9/11 Memorial (ground zero), the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. The 9/11 memorial was unbelievable. The emotion you feel when you walk in and see the thousands of names on the waterfalls is overwhelming. The museum is still under construction so we didn’t get to see  that which was a bit disappointing, but it was still neat to see the memorial. The waterfalls actually stand at the exact spot the buildings once stood. Pretty cool.

 Following that, we took the ferries to Liberty Island and Ellis Island which was neat, because we could see the ny skyline and it was just an all-together beautiful day. The Statue of Liberty seems so small in pictures and on TV, but in person…wow. It’s enormous. Unfortunately it was under construction so we couldn’t go in the base of it, but at least we got to be that close to her. Ellis Island had a cool museum and it was interesting just to see how things operated there and almost put yourself in their shoes. To think about our ancestors going through all of that is, in my opinion, admirable. They left their lives in other countries for a life of freedom and opportunity with nothing but a suitcase or two. And here I am because of them. It just really makes you appreciate your heritage…and America, of course.

new york skyline

lady liberty.

After visiting the islands, we decided to walk to the Brooklyn Bride (actually to be more accurate, we were going to take the subway there, but got turned around and ended up right in front of the base of the bridge after miles of walking – haha, smooth). But the bridge was really neat and of course my civil engineer husband loved it. Now that we’ve seen the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges he sleeps a little better at night. Haha kidding. On our way back down the bridge we saw a cute Asian man waiting to cartoonize someone. We thought, “you’re only in nyc once, why not?” So we let him draw us. Tell me if you see a resemblance.

it’s quite the active bridge

I have a lobster claw for a foot.

 We had half a day on Friday, because we needed to be at the airport between 2:30 and 3, so that meant being on the bus around 1:30 (it takes about an hour with all the stops). So we spent the morning walking through Central Park and went back to the Museum of Natural History for a while, because we hadn’t gotten to see much earlier in the week. Then we ate at the Shake Shack before we headed out. It was delicious and their shakes are fantastic (go figure). Central Park is one of the coolest parks I’ve ever been in. It’s about 2 1/2 miles long and about 1 1/2 miles wide I’d say. There’s so much to do there and see. We didn’t have time to go in the zoo, but we at least stopped by to see it.

just out for a friday stroll

the bridge from a scene in “enchanted”.

It was a bittersweet departure from nyc. We had a great time, but we were ready to be home. We missed our small town (compared to nyc). We are so thankful for such great weather (minus the heat) and very grateful for safety while traveling so much during the week. God is good and always takes care of us!

Since I’ve occupied your time long enough, I won’t bore you any longer (if you’ve even read this far – I know it’s a long post). But be sure to check out NY Adventure (Pt 3 – The Journey Home) coming later this week. It’s sure to be entertaining to anyone, but the two of us, considering what we went through to get home.

NY Adventure (Pt 1 – Niagara Falls)

I seriously need a vacation from my vacation. What an amazing, exhausting, fun, hot, exciting week!

gorgeous.

The first part of the week we spent in Niagara Falls, New York and Canada. We drove up there and it ended up only being between an 8 and 9 hour drive (not including all the stops for gas and food and other random fun stops). We got to Niagara pretty late Saturday night because we took our time getting there and stopped at a National Park on our way up. We spent all day Sunday and Monday in Niagara. We did the Maid of the Mist tour (remember where Jim and Pam got married on the Office?) which was incredible. We were literally about 20 feet from the base of the falls. We were soaked by the end of the ride, totally canceling out drying and straightening my hair, but it was very much worth it.

i’m on a boat

the Canadian falls from the boat. (they do everything better…)

ponchos, what a great souvenir…

Needless to say, we loved the falls! I’m a huge waterfall lover so this was paradise for me. We crossed the international border on our bikes, which was fun. The man at the border patrol told us to ride straight through the traffic and not wait in the line of cars. We made our way in between hundreds of cars to get to the front – a little scary, but fun. The Canadian side was a lot nicer than the American side (sorry ‘merica, time to step up your game a little). Not only were you able to get a better view of both the American and Canadian Falls, but there was more to do there and it was cleaner and nicer looking in the town/area around the falls. The Canadian side reminded me a lot of Gatlinburg with all of the tourist-y stuff, restaurants, and attractions.

Hello, canadian…army man? Who is that?

At one point we gave into the arcade games at Dave and Busters and bought some tokens. I dominated at ski ball as usual and we came out of there two candy bracelets richer. Score.

We celebrated my 24th birthday while there. We ate at the Rainforest Cafe, which was delicious as always. The gorilla next to us was entertaining.

On our last day in Niagara, we went to a Vineyard/Winery about 30 minutes north of the city along Lake Ontario. It was beautiful up there. The lake really looks more like an ocean, but if they say it’s a lake, I guess it’s a lake.

Shultze Vineyard

Ocean Ontario…I mean Lake.

 We went back over to Canada on our last evening in town and decided to check out the casino that we had heard was really neat. Being that we aren’t big gamblers, we weren’t going in there expecting to win the big bucks, but we had a couple Canadian pennies so we played the penny slot machines. We didn’t win. Big surprise. However, it was indeed a really neat casino and I’m glad we went in.

Canadian pride. But I still love America.

Stay tuned for NY Adventure (Pt. 2 – NYC) along with the ending of all endings to a vacation. You WON’T want to miss it.