The United States is 80% Corn

22 Sep

At  that is my impression at this point. We are in Denver, CO now, so I don’t think we will see so much corn from here on out. This is turning out to be a great road trip vehicle. We filled up with gas before we left Michigan and have only filled up one time since, somewhere in the middle of Nebraska.


Of course, “somewhere in the middle of Nebraska” describes most of our day today.



We saw, “The Arch” although it was not entirely clear why there was a big arch over the interstate and a gift shop.


The landscape became distinctly more arid as we approached Colorado, but Colorado is also where we have seen our only brief rain shower of the trip.

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Day 2 of our Truck Buying Adventure

22 Sep

Ok, so I’m a bit confused. I distinctly remember people over the years saying Iowa is flat. I’ve seen at least two hills. Here is one of them below.


See what I mean? Totally not flat. Lesson learned.

We ended up doing 480 miles in 6 hours , which I think is pretty good since we pretty much stuck to 70mph the whole way. We pushed further than we expected, really because we felt good enough to drive until 10:30p Central, hit a wall at that point.

We were going to stay at a truck stop that has bathrooms and showers, especially when we passed the largest truck stop in the U.S., but we didn’t need it since our wonderful hosts in Temperance, MI blessed us with a shower before we left. Thanks again Warrens!

After much debate of where to stay (closest truck stops called Kum & Go were not appealing to us), we settled at a rest stop in the middle of Iowa, corn fields for miles were the closest ANYTHING. But we did find a point of historic significance in the site.


It was kind of fun camping in the X (short for Excursions), as it has 7.5 feet of room in the back with seats laid down and wide enough for two adults to lay comfortably. It was good enough for our needs.

After a good night sleep of 6 hours, we jumped on the road and got about 30minutes before we both wanted some coffee. After pursuing the food isle, we stuck to coffee and left. But when we turned on the onramp, the entire freeway was stopped dead. Amy was driving and in her infinite wisdom pulled to the side. We checked google maps and saw there was a complete stop for a mile ahead due to a massive accident. I saw a frontage road on the map and point Amy at it. Funny thing, our GPS mapping app didn’t know about the accident and now it was freaking out about us going down this road I had just sent Amy. It kept telling us to turn around, a particularly ominous warning that became more apparent when we were doing 55mph across this 2 lane road and it turned into dirt without warning (we might have gotten some air too, at least that’s what I was thinking. In reality it wasn’t that bad, but a bit unnerving. We kept going about 3 miles on the road and ended back on I-80 missing the traffic completely. News reports continued until 7:30am about the road complete closure, which means if we had been stuck in it, we would be at least 1.5 hours behind, maybe more. Here is a picture of the pileup from our dirt road, hard to see, I know.



And here we are doing 40mph across the dirt road bypass. We joked the truck rides way better on dirt.


If we had not stopped for coffee we definitely would have been stuck in that mess. We had just been praying about a continued smooth ride to get home to the kids and felt very grateful for God’s provision in avoiding that significant delay.

Another point of interest, we passed John Wayne’s birthplace in De Soto, Iowa… they have a water tower. :)




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Michigan! and Ohio, and Indiana, and Illinois, and hopefully Iowa

21 Sep

We have been on the road for four hours and have already made it into our fourth state! We hope to make it to a fifth state, Iowa, within another two hours.That is very rewarding. Each time we cross a state line we get all pumped up, giving each other high fives and turning up the music. After all, from our house you could not get to a new state in four hours. Tomorrow will lik have much less cause for celebration as we expect to spend about 16 hours to cross three states.

Taking I-80 does not give much of a view of anything except corn fields and forests. I did not realize how forested Indiana is. Although we saw little more civilization than Travel Plazas and the occasional Cracker Barrel sign, I know that we passed several institutions of higher learning including Notre Dame and Purdue. Also, corn fields and more corn fields.

Besides state lines, the most excited we got was when we passed the Tire Rack distribution center, as we are loyal customers of theirs. We were also intrigued by the three trailer FedEx trucks. That is something I have not seen in California.

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Car Buying in Temperance, MI

21 Sep

After a delayed flight, our arrival in Detroit went smoothly. If what we experienced today is representative of Midwestern hospitality, then I am impressed. Even the TSA was friendly, and the couple we bought the truck from went above and beyond, picking us up from the airport, inviting us into their home, fixing us a care package of snacks for the road, and more! They even took us out to see Lake Erie.


While the men checked out the mechanical worthiness of the vehicle, I got to do some work with a view across the fields, have a cup of tea on the front porch, and take a walk down a country road. All in all we ended up with a new truck and new friends, so it was a successful day.





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Travel Logging

20 Sep

We are embarking on a classic American adventure. Matt and I are at LAX right now, waiting for a flight to Detroit, MI. We are traveling to purchase a car and drive it home, so what better location to find a car than Detroit, and what better thing to do with a new (to us) car than drive it across the country?

With so many miles ahead of us in the next few days we are already practicing living in the moment. Just being where we are, currently a cozy corner of terminal 3, and not dwelling on the uncertainty of the risk we are taking or the discomfort of the many hours of travel ahead of us.

We can do this because both sets of grandparents are generously taking care of Ali and Silas this week. I am so thankful that my kiddos are in such good hands so Matt and I can enjoy this journey together!





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Celebrating Ali’s Seven Years

01 Feb

I just couldn’t be happier to have celebrated Ali’s seventh birthday with our family earlier this month. She is an awesome kid and has gained a lot of confidence this year. It makes me really proud to see her coming into her own and spending time together is a joy. I am also happy to have celebrated in the way she chose. We spent a fun-filled weekend in Big Bear!

Of course we ate,



Went to the playground,


There were presents,

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And cake!


We went bowling,


Found the small patches of snow for throwing,


And kicking.


And found the big patches of snow for tubing,

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and tubing,

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and tubing!

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Even though it was a busy weekend, Ali still found time to cuddle with her cousin,


And hang out with her brother!

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Happy Birthday Ali Joy, thanks for another great year!




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Those Friends

30 Sep

In case you are wondering, we are really good people to be friends with. We always consider our friends needs first. For example, when our good friends move away, we consider their feelings. We could get a group together to tell them how much we all love them and will miss them, but we know that will just make it harder for them to leave. Instead, we found some like-minded good friends to get together and make them glad they are leaving. You know, be just mean enough to make them look forward to making new (hopefully better) friends.

That’s right Vanolis, you can count on us!

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“Just Leave Already” cake courtesy of Aaron and Holly Peck.

Here are the kids on the Vanoli’s moving-out day.

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We have so many wonderful memories and traditions with these kids. Ali and Hannah are absolutely best friends, and that is really saying something because they each have a very sweet group of girls in their lives. They can hardly help it though. Their first play date was when Ali was only two days old and Hannah was two months.P1010611

It has been a joy to watch them grow up together and treasure their friendship.

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March 2013 when they were both five.

I could post about 100 more pictures of them over the years, but for that I can just scroll back through previous posts here on this site and see pictures of all the years in between.

I am so thankful for all of the fun memories with these two and look forward to seeing where God takes them both on their separate paths and the plans He has for each of them!




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Central Coast Kids

02 Sep



What is not to love about the Central Coast? Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, unusual wildlife , art everywhere. It is a great place to visit and we enjoyed a Fowler/Smith/Hawkins trip to Morro Bay last month to soak it all in.


We took a day trip up to Ragged Point, where they had awesome toys like sticks and trees.

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We also stopped along the way to view the elephant seals in all of their glory.


It was the first time the kids had seen them and it was fun to share this sight with them.

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Besides these critters, Gigi was our whale lookout, pointing out spouts, at every beach stop!