On January 2nd at approximately 10:00pm my family landed at O'hare after our week long vacation, and the clock started. I had 36 hours home before I was back on the road. I walked into my room that was full of cluttered piles, a color coded packing list, and empty suitcases and my race against the clock ensued. I woke up at 7:00am on the 3rd and I was go, go, go until 1:00am the 4th. My to-do list included 23 things I had to complete before my departure the next day. From store runs, to my family Christmas (January 3rd is the new December 25th people!!!!) there was much to be done.
When January 4th rolled around it was off to Omaha, NE. We packed the car, I said my goodbyes, and off we went (without a tear shed! so proud of my sister!) The drive actually went by pretty quick, we arrived just as the sun was setting and got to experience all that Omaha has to offer (and by that I mean their local Chipotle, and the Airbnb my dad so graciously got us). Though, as we were winding down for bed, and discussing our plan for the next few days of driving, we found out that quite to our surprise - there was a severe winter storm warning on our exact path.
Driving cross country in January? Snow storm? Who would've thought? (not us). We fell asleep with our plan being to take a slightly longer route to arrive in Denver Wednesday while avoiding the storm and to "figure out getting from Denver to Provo tomorrow".
Naturally, my anxious self had a horror dream of us getting into a terrible crash while going through the snow storm, so I woke up and researched if there was any alternative routes we could take to get there. I found that if we went south from Omaha, passing through Kansas, the LOVELY panhandle of Oklahoma, a 10 minute drive through Texas, and then New Mexico and Arizona, we could end up at our destination with only five more hours in the car than we had originally planned. As Jules awoke I greeted her by saying "We're going to Texas!
So there we went. The 5th we spent a crisp 10 hours in the car, and ended up at a hotel in Clayton, NM. Ever heard of it? Yeah, me neither. The 10 hours were spent memorizing facts such as all the US Presidents in order, the US states and their capitals, the mammal of every state, and the nickname of every state. (someone quiz me so I can flex please) And, we got so good at crosswords we could finish them in one minute. (sure, they were the mini NYT version with only a 5x5 square but WHO IS COUNTING).
Our diet included Trader Joe's road trip snacks and McDonald's chicken sandwiches, so when we passed through Albuquerque during lunch time on the 6th, we were more than thrilled to find out there was actual restaurants, let alone find one that was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and the head chef won Chopped. The southwest take on the Italian Beef with slow roasted meat felt like it could cure every problem I've ever had. We concluded our last long day of driving in Flagstaff, AZ where we stayed with one of my sister's friends and discussed my Instagram polls over Pad Thai and $1 Kamikaze shots.
The drive from Flagstaff to St. George was filled with Red Rocks, Canyons, Evergreen-eque trees, and mountains which made the 4.5 hours feel like 20 minutes (that could've been because we were used to 10 hour drives the two previous days, but nonetheless the scenery was incredible). When we arrived in St. George we made stopped at Walmart and Target to pick up last-minute necessities before we got picked up, and stopped at a smoothie place to taste fruit for the last time in who knows how long.
We were greeted at our pickup by our two managers blasting Driver's License by Olivia Rodrigo (you may think this was just because they assumed this was the music we liked, but no, this was the music of their choice). We crammed all our stuff into their car and drove the final 1.5 hours to Zion Ponderosa. We stopped at a side of the road coffee hut and then drove through the park before pulling up to the snow filled village that would be our new home, and met the goats that are going to be our new pets.
The first few days have been unexpected to say the least; filled with tears, stains, and many laughs. We are the only two employees at the restaurant aside from the managers, we have yet to meet anyone within 10 years of our age, and the water pressure of our shower is less than zero, but within the unexpected is where we are most able to find ourselves and learn through new experiences.
Who knows what tomorrow will hold, let alone the next week or month, but I feel like there is only more excitement to come, people to meet, and adventures to be had.