Road trip finale: A wedding, Little Sweeden in Kansas, and one adorable little princess

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Lessons learned on this trip: The long way is actually shorter, “Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo, Buffalo buffalo” is actually a grammatically and semantically correct sentence, Kansas is windy, Colorado is beautiful, four people can comfortably live 11 days in a Prius, and despite what they say, no matter how long you stay away, you really can go home again.

Beautiful Colorado

When my mom was a girl, one of her family’s favorite road trip destinations was Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. They would stay in cabins for weeks at a time and go on challenging day hikes and ranger-led nature programs. In one famous story, a ranger showing them Lake Haiyaha kidded the group that “If any of you aren’t hungry yet, you might want to take a little hike around the lake before lunch.” Mom and her family missed the sarcasm and set off for a hike that had them scrambling over boulders for the next twelve hours!

Despite such stories, the Bishops loved the mountains, and none more so than my mom’s mother, Opal. Grandma Opal, Mom says, used to say you could tell which states were the good ones just by listening to the names. “Kaaansas,” she would say with a nasal accent. “Nebraaaska.” Then she would sing out, “Col-a-rado! Col-a-rado!” And it’s true — the views out our window in Colorado were a universe away from the flat, monotonous scenery we drove through in most of the Midwest. Mom says there are beach people and there are mountain people and she is definitely a mountain person. There’s no question about it: I’m a mountain person, too.

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Aurora: The Forgotten Hometown

After leaving St. Louis, we continued west on the path of US 40/I-70 across Missouri and Kansas to Aurora, Colorado (near Denver), my first home and a place of which I have a total of zero memories. The place felt foreign to my parents as well, having grown dramatically in the 27 years since they had been there, but as they hunted down the places where they lived, the grocery stores where they shopped, the paths my Mom walked with me in a carrier as a baby, I was gradually able to attach images to the places in the oft-repeated stories and also glean background about their early life together that I had never known before. Click the photo thumbnails to come along for the tour.

Almost home

Tonight is our last night on the road (also my last night being 27). It’s been an incredible trip, everything I had hoped and more. I have great stories and photos to share about visiting the places my parents lived near Denver, our breathtaking campsite in the Rockies, a beautiful wedding and fun times with cousins. For now, I’m going to close my eyes and hope the grunting snorting rustling chewing sounds outside my hammock do not come any closer! Goodnight everyone, and so long 27!

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Above: During our 13 hours of driving today, we passed the time with games like Scriblus, a cross between telephone and pictionary. Can you guess the sentence I was illustrating? Hint: it was not “sliced cheese is greater than the US Capital building,” which is what it turned into after several iterations of drawing and captioning interpretations.

Five great things about camping

5. Go to the restrooms at night. Come out, wander around for minimum of 20 minutes looking for campsite.

4. Walk down eerie deserted road to outhouse at night. Flashlight illuminates glowing eyes in trees. Power walk back to camp and pee in woods instead.

3. Forgot to leave a midnight snack out for your raccoon guests? No worries, this new package of fire starter sticks looks quite tasty.

2. That tarp you left covering all your gear during a downpour? Fun fact! It’s actually not waterproof! Hope you like sleeping sitting up in a stuffy car!

1. Ah, everything’s dry tonight, time to climb into your hammock and crawl into your comfy sleeping bag. As you step in you pull the covers back and — cockroach!

I can’t explain why, but I love every bit of it. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Meet Me in St. Louie

Days 3 and 4 of our trip were spent exploring St. Louis, where my mom grew up and where we lived from just after my first birthday (1986) to the summer I turned 8 and Matt was 1 and a half (1993). This was the first time Mom, Dad or Matt had been back in 20 years. My last visit was in 1997 to see my friend London.

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Photos: Memory Lane (Dad’s B-52 and Mom’s college campus)

Our second day of driving included two stops that opened a window to my parents’ lives before I was born: In Dayton, we started our day at the National Museum of the US Airforce where we saw a B-52 that my dad flew in Vietnam, and in Indiana, we made a side trip to DePauw University, where my mom went for the first two years of college.

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Photos: National Road from Ohio to St. Louis

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Rainy day in St. Louis

On the up side, the rain stopped today in time for our Cardinals game to go forward and they played a great game and won 5-2. On the down side, we got back to the campsite to find all of our gear soaked, including my sleeping bag, the inside of Matt’s tent, and the backup hammock. So now the little Prius that could is sleeping quarters for three. Ah, camping.

Photos: Frederick to Ohio

20130617-025251.jpgWith the help of a bike rack, we fit everything we planned to bring.
20130617-025326.jpgThese “scenic byways” signs mark the Historical National Road route in Maryland.
20130617-025344.jpgLove the ice cream on the handicapped parking symbol!
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20130617-025426.jpgThe start (or end) of the C&O Canal and Towpath in Cumberland.20130617-025456.jpg
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20130617-025519.jpgFrostburg20130617-025535.jpgCasselman Bridge (closed to trafic) 20130617-025547.jpgWheeling Suspension bridge over Ohio River20130617-025624.jpg

20130617-025637.jpgZanesville Y bridge

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Camping near Dayton