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)
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.
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?!”)
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?)
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)
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.