Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Days 8 and 9 - The Midwest Adventure comes to a close

Saturday was our last full day in Nauvoo. We had planned out everything we wanted to do and nothing happened how we planned it. We still got in everything that we wanted to and we still had a good time, but it was touch and go for a little while. Saturday morning, Jared and I headed over to the Land and Records office where we made a data disc including the records and stories of our ancestors that lived in Nauvoo. It was pretty cool and we ended up spending more time there than we had planned. We were scheduled to baptisms at the Temple, but were hoping to head over to the Joseph Smith sites first. The Joseph Smith sites are owned by the Community of Christ and you have to pay a small fee and go on their tour, so it took a little more planning than just heading off to see other sites in Nauvoo. After spotting a turtle in the road and saving it from death by crushing, we determined that we didn't have time to do the Joseph Smith sites before the Temple, so we just headed off to do baptisms. It was really neat to do baptisms. I haven't done them in a really long time and we were in the biggest font in the church, so it was pretty cool. We ran into some hefty delays, though, so we ended up finishing the session over an hour later than we had planned. We were in the Temple at lunchtime, so by the time we finished Amy was nearly dead for lack of food. We quickly got some lunch and then got ready to see the Joseph Smith sites. The tour was interesting, but we all decided that our church has done a far better job of restoring and sharing the historic sites in Nauvoo. I'll just say that it was a little strange to hear about the history of our church from another church.

Amy with our new found turtle friend

After the Joseph Smith sites, we headed to the Old Nauvoo Burial ground to see the memorial there. Jared has an ancestor buried there, so it was nice to go and see it. I really wanted to go to Quincy (about 40 minutes from Nauvoo) to see the memorial for one of my ancestors, but we didn't think we would have time. While at the Nauvoo Burial ground, we determined that we could go get some frozen custard (for Amy) and then head to Quincy to find the memorial. We got our custard and headed to Quincy, arriving at the cemetery with quite a bit of daylight left to see the memorial. The problem was, we didn't know where the memorial was inside the cemetery. My parents had gone to Quincy awhile before and tried to find it and were unsuccessful. We decided to go with the divide and conquer method. We all split up, heading to different parts of the cemetery and, with a prayer in our hearts, we started looking. After a little while, Jared found it and it was really neat for my mom and I to see it. We spent a little while looking at the memorial and looking out over the Mississippi River from the cemetery and then headed to see my ancestor's house. It apparently was still standing. We found the address and the house was there, but it didn't look like much. Still, it was neat to see it and to see where he used to live. After that, we drove around Quincy and looked at ginormous mansions and then went to the Mormon monument on the bank of the Mississippi River where the saints landed in Quincy after being forced from Missouri. After all of that we grabbed some dinner and headed home. It was a crazy day, but in the end it turned out great!

My mom and I at the memorial for Frederick Granger Williams

My parents and I and the Mississippi River

My dad and I at the Mormon Monument on the Mississippi River

After such an fabulous trip, I was so sad to leave. It was great to see my parents and we had such a good time in Nauvoo. It was only fitting that our return trip should be a living hell. We got up early Sunday morning to drive the 4 hours back to the Chicago to catch our flights. Amy's flight was schedule to leave about an hour after ours. Our flight was delayed and we ended up boarding only a few minutes before Amy did. Because our flight was delayed so much, our scheduled spot was gone and our plane had to wait until there was an open time to take off. As we sat on the plane, not moving, we watched Amy's flight taxi away from the gate and onto the runway and take off. We finally taxied away from the gate, only to sit for another half hour on the tarmac waiting to take off. The pilot finally came on and said they had switched the runways and we would have to taxi to the other side of the airport to take off. As we began making our way to the other side of the airport, the pilot again came on the intercom and said they had just gotten word from Denver (where we changed planes) that, due to thunderstorms, their airport was currently shut down. So, we taxied back to the gate and sat on the plane for over an hour waiting for Denver to reopen. We finally made it to Denver about 4 hours later than we were scheduled to arrive. Of course, we missed our connecting flight there and had to wait for the next flight which left a couple hours later than our original flight. We were starving (sitting on a plane for several hours with only a couple of snacks will do that to you), so we got some dinner and waited for our flight. Our new flight was also delayed about an hour (obviously. Why wouldn't it be at this point?), but we finally made it back home about 5 hours after we were originally supposed to. Thanks to Lenessa for being a trooper and picking us up at 11:30 pm! We really appreciate it and we're totally buying you guys dinner! In spite of the nasty traveling, the trip was awesome and we had such a great time! Thanks Mom & Dad!

Well, that's it for our trip. It took me long enough to blog about it, but now I can move on to more exciting things like my new job. . .

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 7 in the Midwest - Deathday and/or the 4th of July

Day 7 was Friday, the 4th of July and we had big plans for celebrating our nation's birthday. My parents were working in the temple, so we were on our own for most of the day. First on our schedule was a trip to Springfield, the Land of Lincoln. Springfield is a two hour drive from Nauvoo through fields and fields of corn. I think we actually saw more cornfields driving to Springfield than driving through Iowa. The drive was uneventful, as most drives through the land of corn are. But, we arrived in Springfield safe and sound and our first stop was Lincoln's tomb. Unfortunately, they're doing a lot of construction around the tomb (I'm guessing to prepare for the Bicentennial of his birth next year), so we couldn't go up on top and it was tough to get a good picture (notice the big orange cone in the picture we did get). However, it was really neat to go inside the tomb and walk through the burial chamber. I know it sounds a bit morbid, but it was actually pretty neat. I think they've done a great job creating an environment of respect and honor to one of our nation's greatest presidents and there was a definite feeling of reverence inside.

Lincoln's Tomb

After the tomb, we headed over to Lincoln's home. The house has been restored to look much like it did when Lincoln lived in it in 1860, the year he was elected president. The tour through the home was free and it was really interesting to see the differences in the way the Lincolns lived compared to how many of the saints in Nauvoo lived. We paused outside the home for a patriotic picture (none of us had red, white, and blue on individually, so we made our patriotism a combined effort).

Red, Blue, and White in front of Lincoln's Home. Happy 4th of July!

When we finished our tour of the Lincoln home, it was off to the Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library. The Museum was pretty cool and jam-packed with information on the life of President Lincoln. At first, I was reading everything they had in all of the displays, but soon it was getting to be too much information, so I started skim-reading and breezing through the displays a little faster. When we finished, we stopped in the museum gift shop where I found a sweet Christmas ornament. It's President Lincoln in the form of a Nutcracker!

Jared poses with President Lincoln outside the museum

Hello Mr. Lincoln!

With our heads filled with Abraham Lincoln lore and history, it was time to head back for 4th of July activities. My parents were going to finish at the temple early and meet us for fireworks. However, Nauvoo doesn't have any fireworks shows, so we decided to meet them in Carthage (about 20 minutes from Nauvoo) on our way back to watch them there. Our plan was to meet for dinner, then head over to Carthage Jail for the tour there, and then head over to Carthage High School for the fireworks show. Amy's one request was that we have Barbecue on the 4th of July. So, on our way back from Springfield, we tried our best to find someplace to get Barbecue for dinner. We googled bbq places in Carthage and in towns along the way. I think we found two possibilities. We called those fine dining establishments only to find they were closed for the 4th of July. Undaunted, we decided we could have my parents bring us some bbq pulled pork that is sold in the grocery store in Nauvoo (we had previously had it for lunch one day and decided it was pretty tasty). But, it had closed by the time they got there. Not to worry. My mom informed us that the Dairy Queen in Carthage had bbq pork sandwiches on its menu. Hurray! Amy could have her Barbecue! Imagine our surprise when she ended up ordering a hamburger! Oh well, our best efforts at having some tasty 4th of July bbq having failed, we enjoyed our Dairy Queen and then headed over to Carthage Jail.

Touring Carthage Jail ended up being, for me, a much more emotional activity than I thought it would. I had been to Carthage jail before and I had been on the tour. I was small, but had a decent memory of the experience. I thought that having seen it all before, it would have less of an impact on me. I was wrong. Maybe it was because I more fully understand the significance of what happened there now. Or maybe it was because we had just spent a week in Nauvoo, walking where the prophet Joseph walked and hearing stories of others' experiences with the prophet. Maybe it's because there was a sort of poetic contrast in visiting the sites honoring Abraham Lincoln who fought so hard for freedom in this country and in visiting the site where Joseph Smith was stripped of his freedom and killed. Whatever the reason, it was a very emotional experience to sit in Carthage jail and listen to the retelling of the events of the martyrdom of the prophet. I had a very different feeling from the one I had while visiting Lincoln's tomb and am grateful for the progress our country has made in offering freedom to all. It was a fitting end to our time in Nauvoo.

Jared and I with my parents at Carthage Jail

After our tour of Carthage jail, we headed over to the high school for a small midwest town's version of 4th of July fireworks. They set them off right over the cornfield next to the high school and they shot them off one at a time. They would set one off, wait until all of the sparks had fallen, and then set off the next one. Every time they shot one off, we would wait as it fell, thinking it was the last one and then they would shoot another one. The fireworks show lasted 40 minutes! It was sweet! After the fireworks were over, we headed back to Nauvoo, catching glimpses of fireworks shows up and down the Mississippi River as we drove. As we drove back and I thought about the day's events and activities, I concluded that this was a 4th of July that I will never forget.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Days 5 and 6 - The Midwest Adventure Continues

I have decided that I need to finish blogging about our trip so I can move on to other things. So, I'm combining days 5 and 6. I also don't have as many pictures from those days, so it makes sense to put them together. So, here goes.

Wednesday and Thursday we took a sidetrip to Iowa. I have a brother that lives just outside Des Moines, and we thought it would be silly to be so close to him and his family (relatively speaking) and not see them. So, Wednesday morning, we set out for Ankeny, Iowa. There's a little Dutch town called Pella that's right on the way and we decided to stop there to get some tasty Dutch treats and to see the Klockenspiel (a big fancy clock that has music and performing dummies). When we got to Pella, we had missed the clock performance by minutes, so we had to keep ourselves occupied for two hours until the next one. While we waited, we toured the huge working windmill that they have there, went on a little tour of the historic village which included Wyatt Earp's boyhood home, and posed in the little Dutch people picture thing (see photo below). Then we watched the clock performance, hit up a tasty bakery for some treats and bought lunch at a meat market (where they also gave us free Bologna pins!). All in all, it was good times in Pella.

Nothing says Dutch like some wooden shoes and a windmill!

Jared and I outside Wyatt Earp's boyhood home. They had a room full of guns, none of which were Wyatt Earp's.

Amy and I posing in the Dutch people picture thing as mentioned above.

The Klockenspiel - mid-performance

Jared and I and a ginormous windmill

After our stop in Pella, it was on to Ankeny. It was great to see Rich, Mindy, and the kids. I think Mindy wished there were exciting things for us to do in Iowa, but after our busy adventuring in Nauvoo, we were perfectly happy to just sit around and spend time with them. We stayed with them that night and had a great time. The next day we just hung out with them some more. We played some balloon volleyball and freeze tag with the kids. After lunch, it was time to head back to Nauvoo. We had to be back for a show that evening. It was a short trip, but we loved spending time with Rich & Mindy. Jared hasn't spent much time with them, so it was good for him to get to know them a little.

Spencer and Porter take on the girls in balloon volleyball

A rousing game of freeze tag. Although it's blurry, I think this is a sweet picture. Probably because it's blurry.

Back in Nauvoo, we had dinner with my parents and then went to see "Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo". This is a show put on by all of the senior performing missionaries and we loved it! Those senior missionaries are so cute! After the show, we headed over to the Nauvoo Groves. This is a small grove which represents all of the groves in Old Nauvoo. When they saints lived here, they often had their church meetings in the groves, so there are many wonderful stories associated with them. There's a path that goes around the grove and is lined with plaques that have quotes and stories about their experiences in the Nauvoo Groves. It was neat to walk around and imagine the Prophet Joseph teaching and preaching in that kind of setting. And of course, the Groves had a wonderful view of the temple.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 4 in the Midwest

My parents were working in the Temple in the morning, so we headed over to the Nauvoo Visitors' Center where we took a little carriage ride through the countryside. We also went to see another historic site and then went into town to pick up some birthday decorations so we could decorate my parents' house for my mom's birthday.

The carriage ride

More fun with the camera

After picking up the decorations we rushed back so we could get the place decorated before my parents got home. We did it and my mom was so surprised! Hooray! It was lots of fun to be there to celebrate with my mom. After they got home, we ate lunch and then headed back to the Visitors' Center for a show called High Hopes and Riverboats. After that, it was off to more historic sites.

The Nauvoo wildlife

We went out to dinner for my mom's birthday and had a tasty buffet at the Hotel Nauvoo. When we got home, we decided to walk down Parley Street which is the road the Saints took when leaving Nauvoo for the long exodus west. The street is lined with plaques containing quotes and stories of some of the Saints' experiences in leaving Nauvoo.

On Parley Street

Walking down Parley Street, we ran into our old friends, Gary and Gabe the oxen. I liked the oxen a lot, so I stopped to say hello. Unfortunately it was not documented on film (or digital film), but moments after Jared took this picture, Gary the ox licked my arm!

Me and Gary are great friends!

As we walked down Parley Street reading the plaques, we also enjoyed a beautiful sunset and tons and tons of fireflies which were totally awesome. Jared tried to get pictures of them, but they were very camera shy and we didn't get a single firefly picture. I wish we had fireflies in California!

Walking down Parley Street

Amy enjoys a Mississippi River sunset

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Good times in the Midwest - Day 3

Monday was Temple Day for us. We went to the temple in the morning and planned it so that we would finish about the same time that my parents finished their shift. As it turned out, they were able to come on the session with us which was really neat. After our session, they took us to all of the floors of the temple so we could see it all and it was really awesome. It is such a beautiful temple and everything has been done to make it as close to the original Nauvoo Temple as possible. If you haven't been to the Nauvoo Temple, I highly recommend that you go. It's one of the very few temples that I would suggest you travel to visit.

Jared and I outside the temple after our session

Practicing with the camera again. This little guy made an excellent model

After the Temple, we went home for lunch and then it was off to see more sights. We walked to the oxen rides and got to meet these two fabulous oxen named Gary and Gabe. They were very nice and took us on a little wagon ride. Did you know that an Ox is a bull that has been castrated (making it a steer) and trained to obey voice commands? I thought it was a completely different animal, but no. It is a cow. And they're very nice!

The Nauvoo vacationers with our new friends, Gary and Gabe

Walking back from the oxen rides, we saw this sweet old car driving down the street. I pointed it out to my dad and he said, "oh yeah. It looks like a '38". Then he told my mom to take a picture of it. The driver saw us taking a picture, so he stopped so we could get a good one. Then he chatted a bit with my dad and said the car was a '37 Dodge. Then he asked us if we wanted a ride. Sweet!!!! Of course, we wanted a ride! So we all piled in and this guy just drove us all over Nauvoo telling us stories and giving us tidbits about all of the sites. Then he dropped us off where he picked us up awhile later. It was an expected vacation activity, but it was awesome!

Hopping out of the car after our unexpected tour!

After the car ride, we saw a few more sites and then headed home for dinner. After dinner, we went to see a show called Sunset by the River. It's put on every night by the performing missionaries and is full of song and dance. We loved watching all of the older site missionaries perform and we had our favorites by the end of the week. Definitely a must-see since it's such a part of historic Nauvoo!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 2 of the Midwest Vacation

I have not been able to find any of this elusive free time that I talked about, but it's time for an update anyway. Having arrived at my parents so late on Saturday night, we were not excited about getting up to get ready for 8 am church. But, we did it anyway and enjoyed going to the Nauvoo missionary ward and watching their Sacrament passing system at work. There are over a thousand people in my parents' ward and watching their elaborate system for making sure everyone got the Sacrament was quite a treat. We enjoyed church and, after some morning showers, were pleased to see the weather clearing as we headed home. After our early church meetings, we all needed a good Sunday nap before heading out to see Nauvoo. We had seen the temple briefly driving into Nauvoo (since we missed the turn onto my parents' street and ended up near the temple) and again going to and from church since the chapel is nearby. But, we hadn't seen much else. So, after lunch and a good afternoon nap, we were ready to head out. My parents live within walking distance of most of the sites in historic Nauvoo, so we started walking!

My parents in front of their house on Parley Street

Practicing with our new camera. I told you it's awesome!

Ready to hit the town!

We visited the Post Office, Printing Press, and John Taylor home and then headed over to the Gunsmith and Tinsmith shops. We also went to the Bakery (free cookie and free recipe - Yummy!), the Cultural Hall, and the Family Living Center (where we learned about making bread [with free samples], making candles, spinning flax, and making rope). Good times!

Amy and I on a wagon

After visiting the Gunsmith, it's time for the Gunshow!

After all of our sightseeing and walking around Nauvoo, we headed home. When we got home, the sun was setting and, with the clouds in the sky, it was an absolutely gorgeous sunset. So, my dad decided we should head up to the temple to see it better (since the temple is up on a bluff). We grabbed our cameras, jumped in the car, and drove the 5 minutes to the temple. We took several pictures, with storm clouds gathering above us all the while. As the sun went down and we finished taking pictures, the clouds let loose with huge raindrops and we made a run for the car. Within moments, it was a downpour. But, not to worry. As we pulled up to the house five minutes later, the rain had all but stopped and we went on with our Sunday evening.

The temple with the gathering storm clouds ready to unleash their fury.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Item of the Week

This week's item of the week is a very precious commodity. Highly sought after and never found in abundance. Free time. Does anyone know where I can get some?!?! Since Jared and I got back from vacation, it's been go go go. We've had zero time to recover (when I do the post about our travel home from Nauvoo, you'll see why) and this weekend we're headed to Yosemite to climb Half Dome with my niece Alyssa and nephew Gary. If I'm lucky enough to score some of this free time when I get back, I will continue my posts about our trip.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Midwest Vacation - Day 1

Our vacation to the midwest was so spectacular and we took so many pictures and had so much fun that I will have to do installments. I can't cover everything in one blog posting. So, here we go. My parents are serving a six month mission in the Nauvoo Temple. Jared has never been to Nauvoo and I haven't been since I was little, so we thought that visiting my parents on their mission in Nauvoo would be a perfect opportunity to go and see all of the sights. Our friend Amy has also never been to Nauvoo and decided she would like to come along, too. Here is the story of our fantastic vacation.

We flew into Chicago and rented a car to drive down to Nauvoo. Amy was flying in from So Cal and we booked flights that would have as all arrive around the same time. Upon landing in Chicago, I checked voicemail to find out that Amy's first flight was late, causing her to miss her connecting flight. She was now on a later flight into Chicago and would arrive a couple hours later. Finding ourselves with some unexpected time on our hands, Jared and I decided to head into Chicago to see the sites there while waiting for Amy to arrive. We really only had time for a driving tour, but had a good time nonetheless. I think my favorite part was driving under the El (elevated train - Chicago's public transit)! It's not often you drive directly under train tracks.

Sears Tower

The Underside of the El

After our tour of Chicago, we headed over to the airport to pick up Amy and begin the 4.5 hour drive to Nauvoo. We had a great time and enjoyed our drive through rural Illinois. I practiced taking pictures with our new camera and even got an action shot of Jared right as he made the turn onto another highway.

Amy enjoying the ride

Illinois at sunset

Jared with his mad driving skills

Just when things were going so well, trouble hit. When we were about an hour from Nauvoo, we hit a detour. We were told that there would be a detour and that it was a bit lengthy, but it was better than trying to find our way through rural Illinois. After following the detour signs for an hour, we looked at a map and realized that the detour had taken us in the complete opposite direction that we needed to go and we were then a couple hours from Nauvoo. It was a frustrating setback and we had to listen to ABBA, Neil Diamond, and the Carpenters to cheer us up as we retraced our steps and figured out a different way into Nauvoo. We finally arrived at my parents' house at 12:30 am - about 4 hours later than we had originally intended to - but we were in Nauvoo and so excited to start our adventure. After a good night's rest of course. Oh wait. We had to get up and get ready to be to church at 8 am the next day. So much for the good night's rest. . .

Item of the Week

We just got back from an awesome vacation to the midwest (yes, I said awesome and midwest in the same sentence), so this post is a few days late. Before I begin chronicling our vacation, I have to introduce my item of the week, whose greatness will be demonstrated and displayed in future posts. This week's item of the week is the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi Digital SLR Camera.

I decided we needed a digital SLR since we both only have point and shoots. And, of course, what better time than before going on vacation? So, after doing a little research, we decided on this bad boy and Jared purchased it the day before we left. And after using it for a week, we are both in love with it. THIS CAMERA IS AWESOME!!!!

Once we get our vacation pictures onto the computer, I will start blogging about our trip and then you will all see how great this camera is. I, who don't really know anything important about photography, was taking great pictures within moments. Of course, part of that was because Jared was giving me lessons, but it was all in the manual mode, not automatic. I'm such a big girl now!