A roller coaster week

To say this week has been crazy would be such an understatement.

On Friday, I joined the Clounies (my other family), Adam, Sasha and Dima for one last lake day before my best friend Bruce left for his three-month stay in Montana. As always, we had a wonderful time—boating, tubing and laughing.

When Bruce first mapped out his route to Montana, the guys (Bruce, Michael and Adam) talked about turning it into a road trip, but when Michael and Adam bailed, I suggested that I tag along for a while. I could keep him company (and drive some), and he could take me by my parents’ place in Wisconsin, since it was more or less on his way.

I talked to my dad about our plan and it wasn’t hard to get him on board. We agreed to surprise my mom. You see, my mom is the one who is always doing thoughtful things for everyone else; so, it was high time that we did something special for her.

So, lots of planning and a few lies later, Bruce and I set off on a 1,000-mile road trip, while my mom thought I was still at the lake, soaking up the sun.

We left at 5:30 a.m. (ET) on Saturday and drove through North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, to arrive in Appleton around 12:30 a.m. (CT) Sunday. Let me just say, I will be perfectly happy if I NEVER see a cornfield again.

Daddy took Mamma to the latest (and longest) movie showing at the theater to buy us time. When we arrived at their apartment complex, we parked a few units down; then, we opened the garage door with the opener my dad had left in his unlocked car. When they got home and my mom walked inside, I was standing in the hallway in front of the door.

Mamma screamed… like, a blood curdling of scream.

It. Was. Priceless.

Almost as soon as my parents got home, Bruce and I both crashed (he on the couch, me in my bedroom). The next morning, we had breakfast, and then Bruce set off on the rest of his journey to Montana and we headed off to church.

On Wednesday, my mom and I went on a day trip to Chicago. I had never been, so we planned hit the highlights: the Magnificent Mile (particularly the Ghirardelli store), Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), Navy Pier, Giordano’s and, of course, Chick-fil-A (the closest one to my parents’ house is 133 miles away and my mom hasn’t had it in months!).

We were able to get to them all except Navy Pier. Our plan was to do everything we could, then drive over close to Navy Pier (our parking garage closed at 10 p.m.), park and see the fireworks at the pier. However, when we got over to Navy Pier, the only parking we could find was more than $20. We decided that was absolutely ridiculous, so we watched them from our car in a yacht club’s parking lot. That being said, we didn’t make it to Navy Pier, which was disappointing, but I got to do everything else on my to-do list.

I love big cities and Chicago was no exception. There’s just something about being surrounded by tall buildings and bustling sidewalks full of people that I find so invigorating.

We traveled around the city via car, bus and the El.

Traffic was horrible. Whoever said D.C. has the worst traffic, obviously hasn’t driven in downtown Chicago.

We bought all-day fun passes for Chicago’s public transportation, which meant we had unlimited rides on their busses and the El.

I was pretty impressed with their bus system. Each bus stop had a map, was clearly labeled and said which way each bus was heading. I had no problems using Google Maps. Our bus driver was pretty cranky though, but at least it was easy to find the right bus to ride.

Now, the El (Chicago’s subway system) was a completely different story. One of the stations that we went to was up several flights of stairs. While that’s not an issue for my 22-year-old body, it was for my mom, who has arthritis and is recovering from knee surgery. Also, the signage was incredibly unclear about which track went in which direction.

If I could take Chicago’s bus system and combine it with D.C.’s metro system, I’d be a happy camper (errr… rider)!

While we were at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, a guy about my age asked me if I could take a picture of him and his girlfriend. I agreed and he gave me a quick tutorial on how to use his phone’s camera. After I took the first photo, he asked me to take a couple more. As I began to take the second photo, he turned his back to me, got down on one knee and asked his girlfriend to marry him. Seconds seemed like minutes, I (the bystander/photographer) was so surprised and excited that I was shaking! She said yes, they kissed, they hugged, and he put the ring on her finger. It was so cool to be a little part of their special moment!

Tomorrow we’re taking a day trip to Door County. It’s a beautiful Wisconsin peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Door County is particularly well known for its cherries. As it so happens, tomorrow is the annual Summer Harvest Cherry Fest, so we’re going to picnic, go to the festival and pick some cherries.

With everything that has been going on, this week has been quite an emotional roller coaster. Saying goodbye to Bruce on Sunday was really hard.

Friends like Bruce, the loyal, consistent ones that encourage and challenge you are hard to come by… losing that, even if it is only for a short period of time, is particularly difficult. He’s only going to be gone for three months, which isn’t so bad (except for the lack of cell phone service, and probably Internet as well… and knowing Bruce, I’m not holding my breath for snail mail).

I think the thing that I’m struggling with the most is that it seems like all my friends are on their own big adventures. They have jobs. Their families are close by. They’re busy. And I’m still floundering around without a job… or even a social life.

On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of fun this week. I’ve been really happy. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my family and going on fun adventures. So, as I said… it’s a roller coaster.

Whew! That was a lot… I think that’s enough for one post.

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