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Recap of the grand road trip from Texas to Wisconsin

 

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After three days and approximately 1,500 miles, I am officially back on Wisconsin soil. I cannot express in words how lovely it is to be back, even if I do miss the people I left in Texas quite a lot already. Hopefully there will be many, many visits between us in the near future.

Road Trip Day #1 (driving time on day one = about 10 hours)

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Somehow I managed to fit all you see in this photo (and some boxes hidden) into my little car. My dad and Laura were in-real-life Tetris champions and figured out every possible angle and way to fit everything into every nook and cranny of that car. I should have taken a photo of the finished product. It was impressive.

Driving away from Brownsville was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in my life. It still feels very surreal that I don’t live there anymore. It also hasn’t fully sunk in that I live here now, right now it seems more like a vacation until I start work next week.

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What you see above is a Buc-ee’s. I had never been to one before but had heard the tales of all its grandeur with constantly clean bathrooms and 50 million gas pumps. And let me tell you: all the rumors are true. Pulling up to one feels like you’re pulling up to a mall. If you’re ever road tripping through Texas, do yourself a big ol’ favor and stop at one. It’ll change your life and simultaneously turn you into a gas station snob for the rest of your life (“Those bathrooms don’t even compare to Buc-ee’s.” “Too bad all the gas pumps are being used. That’s never a problem at Buc-ee’s.” “No touch screen food ordering?! Are you kidding me?!”) 

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After five hours of driving, my dad and I made a lunchtime pit stop in Austin to check out the highly acclaimed Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. A poll on my Facebook profile indicated it was a good choice to satisfy the BBQ craving I had, and it was just as magnificent as we had hoped it would be. I will never have BBQ that glorious again, I am sure of it. (And no, I didn’t realize there was a piece of pepper on my tooth, OK?)

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We then hopped in the car for another, oh, four to five hours and finally met up with my friend Erik for dinner at Cafe Brazil, where I had the best pancakes (butterscotch chips and bananas). I want some more right now. It was great to catch up with Erik, who helped me cope with my newly set-in sadness about leaving my Brownsville friends behind. Thanks, Erik!

We then caught up with my uncle and aunt at their home in McKinney. It was a short stay, but it was nice to see them again.

Road trip #2 (driving time on day two = about 10 hours again)

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Day two brought limited doses of excitement as it was a very long drive day with no fun pit stops or restaurants to look forward to. It was overcast and raining pretty much the whole way through the northern part of Texas, all of Oklahoma and most of Missouri. 

The most unwelcomed excitement came right after I had paid the toll to leave Oklahoma and suddenly… BAM. Check engine light came on. The one thing I had prayed wouldn’t happen, especially since every single other thing in my car had passed with flying colors when I had a mechanic give it a lookover. Needless to say, I did not take this unexpected surprise well and basically had to pull off at the nearest exit to have my meltdown on stable ground. My dad was wonderful and first let me have my moment (let’s just say there may or may not have been an ugly cry involved) and then soothed me by looking everything over and telling me we were going to be OK. 

However, the check engine light seemed determined to make my day as miserable as possible, so it refused to go away. We ended up stopping at an O’Reilly’s to get it tested and they said it was something that I don’t even remember now. Basically, it wasn’t serious, my car was fine, and I just needed to get it checked out once I got home, they said. (The light was off when we turned it off the next morning and hasn’t made an appearance since. Praise God!) 

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We spent the night with friends of my parents outside of St. Louis. They were lovely hosts and their home was like a B&B almost. I loved this cross-stitch in the room I stayed in. 

Road Trip Day #3 (driving time on day three = about 6.5 hours)

Finally, we had made it to the last day! I was so giddy when I woke up that morning and realized I’d be home by the end of the day. Such a great feeling.

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We passed over the Mississippi early on, which meant that we were in Illinois AND only a state away! Traveling through Illinois is a bizarre journey because no one cares about speed limits there and everyone goes at least 10 over on the highways (and I promise I’m not exaggerating). My dad purposefully wore a Packers shirt that day because he wanted to see what reactions he’d get going through the state. No one booed us, so that’s good.

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We stopped for gas station coffee (cappuccino for me). I love Starbucks but honestly I am so easily appeased with a $1.57 cup of white chocolate caramel cappuccino sometimes. My dad got a 12 ounce cup of bold roast, which proved to bring out a hyper side of him that I’ve never really seen before. He ended up listing his top 20 or so list of favorite vocalists ever shortly after the caffeine hit his system. As for me, apparently my body was not prepared for the sugar or caffeine because I got a migraine shortly after and passed out. My poor dad. Thankfully, my prescription migraine pill kicked in after a while and I was back to my chipper self.

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I was so excited to see that first Wisconsin sign. It sounds crazy, but it was almost like I was in a dream. It was the first time I had been in the state with my car since I drove away two years ago, sobbing behind the wheel. It was nice to have a different experience this time.

My dad appeased me and we pulled over at the visitors center so I could document the moment. That’s the photo you see at the top of this entry.

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They had a rough summer as far as rain goes in Wisconsin, so the leaves aren’t quite changing yet (but almost) and it may have a weird autumn in general. But it’s just GORGEOUS here still. I enjoyed Brownsville, but I’ll take these trees over palm trees any day.

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And then, after two weeks of throwing my life together and saying too many good-byes and three days of traveling, I was back where I belong. With my family. My heart misses the people of Brownsville, but I am so overjoyed to be here once again. I can’t wait for what this next chapter has in store.

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Dedication

Remembering 9/11

I wrote the following blog post a year ago just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Remembering 9/11
I have too many emotions concerning the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to not blog about. A lot of people have already taken to their blogs to do so, because writing (as I have fully believed since I was 14) is the only way to get real emotions out sometimes.

Since this year is my first year working full-time in the journalism industry, I have been more inundated with articles, videos, posts and memories than normally. But I feel like, in a weird way, it’s a good thing for me. To take a step back daily to read through stories and remember that day, because it makes me appreciative to be alive and appreciative to be an American.

I remember where I was in 9/11. Most of you do, too. I’m currently in the process of collecting “Where I found out about Sept. 11” stories from our paper’s readers. Reading through them, I realized that these stories bring us together, bind us. Because regardless of your gender, age, ethnicity, economic status, etc., you found out about Sept. 11 and you were stunned, horrified, scared, angry, sad… Just like the rest of us. It’s something that we, as a nation, have in common. Something that brings us together once a year now, regardless of everything else going on in our lives.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was 13. I had woken up, had breakfast, and wanted to watch some TV with my 11-year-old sister before starting my schoolwork. (No, we weren’t playing hookey—we were home schooled.) We went to our basement, turned on the TV and saw a large building on fire. I read, “Plane crashes into World Trade Center.” I honestly don’t remember whether or not the second tower had been hit yet, but I’m pretty sure it had been.

As a 13-year-old, I wasn’t completely aware of what the World Trade Center was or what the significance of this was, but I knew it was probably something very bad. And that scared me, so my sister and I opted to change the channel in hopes that something non-disaster would be on one of the other channels. Not true. It was on every channel. Big, screaming headlines about New York City, World Trade Center and planes flying into things they weren’t supposed to.

I was scared, so I went to go tell my mom. I started off on some rambling about bad news, TV wasn’t showing normal stuff right now, blah blah blah, and then I finally spit it out: “Some planes flew into the World Trade Center.” She gasped and immediately ran downstairs to the TV. Soon after, our phone started ringing. People wanting to make sure my mom was watching the TV. How my mom must’ve felt, being home with three kids, who were all confused and scared on varying levels, I don’t know. But I am so grateful that she stayed as calm as she did, because I don’t remember seeing her cry or shriek or anything, which would have sent me into a whirlwind of a panic.

All four of us started off watching the coverage together. My brother, being only 9 at the time, was not as affected and just knew that something interesting was happening on TV. I bailed out with my sister after watching the first tower fall, I believe. I couldn’t handle it. Never in my life had I wanted to do homework so badly, just for a sense of normalcy. So my sister and I sat upstairs, working on homework. My brother would bring updates every so often, each one more horrifying than the last.

Eventually, I headed back down to watch again, only to find out the Pentagon had been hit. I was sure that the world was ending. I just wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I heard the Sears Tower in Chicago, about an hour and a half from where we lived, was being evacuated. I knew then: This was really, really bad, and it could keep happening. I didn’t know if we were all going to survive through the day.

By the end of the day, I could only sparingly watch the TV before the amount of fear and worry became too much. I’m not a very emotional person on the outside, so I usually internalize things. I was a wreck on the inside. I knew my world had forever changed, I just wasn’t sure how exactly. Four planes had been hijacked that day, possibly the first time I had ever heard the word “hijack” used. Would we ever fly planes again? We did, a few days later. My sister said one flew over where her soccer practice was being held, and some of the girls freaked out and started running for cover. Our innocent childhoods all had forever been taken away, because now we had been ushered into the age of fear.

Because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I almost didn’t end up in the industry I’m in now. For several years after the attacks, I didn’t want to watch the news on TV anymore and I didn’t like when my mom listened to talk radio in the car, because every time I heard the words “Breaking news” I got scared all over again, thinking “What if it’s happening again?” I avoided news at all costs. Somehow, by the time I entered college, my emotional scars had healed enough where I actually realized it’s better for me to be informed, because the more I know about a situation, the more I’m able to work through it. Thankfully, this realization allowed me to delve into a journalism degree, which is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the world I grew up in was much different than it should have been. Anthrax scares, increased security at airports, bombings, war… All those became buzz words during my teenage years because of the new era we had entered. Those are all things I shouldn’t have had to even think or worry about until I was much, much older.

Because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I am extremely thankful to be an American. I grew up in an era, while filled with fear, that brought out so much patriotism in everyone. Regardless of the events and reasons that preceded the attacks, we were all together now. Independence Day parades weren’t just about cute kids and clowns anymore. Flags being flown wasn’t just for Memorial Day anymore. Singing the National Anthem wasn’t just about traditions before ball games anymore. Even if the sting and fear has lessened over the years, we pause on this anniversary now to remember those who needlessly lost their lives that day and to remind ourselves we were united.

That’s my 9/11 story. What’s yours?

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Horseback riding on the beach, last meals, and more packing

Just a quick update on all the craziness that the last few days have brought. I am still terribly far behind on packing. I know it will get done…somehow. I just don’t know when because I want to spend more time with people!

Yesterday I crossed off one of my biggest bucket list items: horseback riding on the beach. It was glorious. It was between that and parasailing, but I’m pretty sure there are still parasailing opportunities in Wisconsin with Michigan Lake being there, so horseback riding won out.

And it was fantastic.There’s something about riding along on a horse while on the sand with the waves crashing along your side that says serenity and perfection. I went with my former coworker/current friend Jackie, who heads off on her own new adventure professionally this week. It was an hour and a half ride and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Despite the fact that my car died for the first time ever before the ride, it was still one of the best mornings in my entire life.

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Seriously, the best.
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After that, the parade of good-byes and “lasts” officially began. I hung out with coworkers at the local country bar/dance hall and said my first string of good-byes to people, which absolutely stinks. I will be a hot mess come Thursday. But let’s not talk about it.

Today was the last Sunday lunch with my church friends. Sunday lunches are a tradition for us, and one that I really enjoy as it really does further cement the family feel the group has since Day One to me. I’ve been on a weird Texas Roadhouse kick as of late, so that’s where we went. And in their most stealth move to date, several people told the waitress it was my birthday, which I quickly ruined when they showed up with the saddle by repeating several times “It’s not my birthday!” So instead our waitress shouted “It’s Molly’s farewell…good-bye!” That’s an actual quote, I promise.

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So here we are. Five days out. This photo is proof Joel has corrupted the some of the guys by providing a visual reminder of that.

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For those who may care, I will be snapping a lot of photos while road tripping come Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and if you so desire, I will Instagram/tweet as many as possible with the hashtag #MollsandDadroadtrip. I hope you’ll “tune in” for the adventure.

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Road tripping, packing, and winding down

It’s been a little over a week since things got cray cray for me. At that time, two weeks to pack up and say good-bye to everyone who has had a part in the past two years of my life seemed easy and doable. Now I’m down to one week and surprise! It’s not easy. I feel like packing will never end and saying good-bye stinks.

But I have been so touched and overwhelmed by how supportive and excited for me everyone has been. It’s wonderful knowing I’m being welcomed back home with open arms, but it’s just as wonderful knowing I’m being sent off from here with nothing but blessings. My last week here is already jam packed with fun adventures, including horseback riding on the beach, a send-off fiesta and one last stop at the local country bar/dance hall.

Between the packing, hanging out with friends and jotting down things on an unending to-do list, I’ve been trying to map out the road trip back.

We’ll be taking route 1.
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So I need your help and suggestions! For starters, my dad and I will be stopping in Austin for lunch and a possible quick stop one other place. I haven’t checked the most infamous city on Texas yet, so suggest away! Also, anyyyyyyyy stops between Dallas and Milwaukee are welcomed. When I moved here, I drove straight through and only made restroom and sleep stops, so I’d like to have a little more fun this time. Help me out, guys!

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