Day 7: The poetry of earth is never dead.. -John Keats

Today was breathtaking. We spent the majority of our day at two of the most beautiful and untouched places in Ireland; the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. If you ever find yourself in Ireland, which I hope you will, put these two places at the top of your list.

It’s difficult to compare each day we’ve had on our trip. Every day is better than the last but at the same time, nothing can compare to the day prior. With that being said, both the Ring of Kerry (yesterday) and today’s trip were worth every single step and ounce of tired in our bodies. The views were spectacular. The ocean’s wild waves smashing into the side of the rocks and hitting us was refreshing. The wind, both literally and figuratively, took my breath away. Even with all of the people and the noise (of the people), I was still able to just be there and soak it all in for as long as I possibly could.

And with that, I can’t say anything more but to show you what I saw. Bucket list item, check.

Day 6: The Ring of Kerry

Boarding the kelly green Paddywagon Bus with a giant leprechaun head on it at approximately 8:20 this morning, we set even further west then we were when we awoke and headed towards the Iveragh Peninsula. The Ring of Kerry was our destination. I’m sure my friend Wikipedia will give you a better description, but the Ring of Kerry is a twisty, curvy, super duper narrowly thin stretch of road that loops around all of the most amazing views you could ever dream of when visiting Irelands west coast. It’s said that this same loop was taken by the Vikings back in the day when they were being buttheads and invading Ireland.

We started our day in Killarney or as Mike, the 2nd singing tour guide we’ve now had, calls it, ‘Larney.. Killarney, and so many other towns and villages we’ve visited, is bright and full of color even on the most rainy of days like today. I wonder if this is intentional? I guess Ireland gets rain 225 days a year, on average. I think I’d need a bright colored door and even brighter painted home as well if I lived here. Or rather, when I live here.

We had a handful of stops today. Some, we had enough time to take in our surroundings. And unfortunately some, we did not. Our driver stopped in the village of Sneem, the town that sells a lot of ice cream. No joke. While most of the bus lined up for some Irish Cream (I swear, I didn’t mean that to sound as bad as it does), I wandered around in the village park looking for a 4-leaf clover. I picked a few 3-leafers; I’m not sure I’ll be lucky enough to score a four but I have a week left!

My first view of the Atlantic Ocean, actually any ocean, was at a stop somewhere along Dingle Bay overlooking the peninsula and Inch Beach. We pulled along side the road where a local man was sitting with his goat, weaving Bridges crosses. To some, water is just water. The ocean looks the same as Lake Superior and Lake Superior looks the same as Lake of the Woods which looks the same as the Mississippi. To those people, I’ll proclaim fake news all day.

The views I had today of the Atlantic Ocean looking over Dingle Bay and then again in Waterville and Ballinskelligs Bay were next to none over and over in such a short time. One panoramic view isn’t like the other and no shot (or video) I could ever take would do it justice without being there yourself. The small islands that are scattered around the big island we’re viewing from have so much history; most of which is untold to tourists like me. It was all just so incredible.

The last stop of the day was Killarney National Park, home of the Torc Waterfall. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love exploring the state and national parks in the States and today was no different in Ireland. The only park stop on the tour was the waterfall specifically so I didn’t get a chance to explore much but we did have a short hike of about 200 meters up to the falls from where we parked. By the time we arrived, the rain was coming down again (I’d been off and on all day), so the dirt incline was a little on the slippery side. But the hike up there in the rain was so worth every second of “ope!” I whispered to myself as I almost took a misstep. Have I mentioned that waterfalls are probably my favorite thing in this world? I hope you enjoy my photos from today. 🙂

Day 5: No, Nay, Never!

We’re running a little low on energy today. I think it’s a mixture of getting used to the time change, the various activities we’ve been partaking in, and the ever-changing weather.

Today was a semi-travel day. We made our way early this morning to bus stop 325 otherwise known as 704X by the locals. Good thing we listened to the GPS and not the front desk dude at checkout!

The walk to the bus stop was about 15 minutes and we crossed over Lake Liffey for the first time by foot. It’s even more beautiful while walking at our own pace vs the pace of the tour bus yesterday.

The ride to Cork was about three hours. I’ve always been cool with long rides as long as I’m not the one in the drivers seat. I planned to read and/or write a little bit; look through the photos I’ve taken, etc. My body had different plans. I’ve never been one to be carsick but I was getting queazy from the drive today and I fear it’ll be a recurring theme for the rest of the trip. Closing my eyes helped but it wasn’t until we arrived in Cork that I began to feel better. Anyone have tips to prevent this from happening?

We walked a few blocks to drop our luggage off at Jury’s Inn on Anderson’s Quay and then ventured out to explore the quaint streets of the city in what is known as the Rebel County for a bit before ending the day early and taking some time to relax at the hotel. Perfect timing too because it’s been a rainy and blustery day today. It sounds like we were on the tail end of Storm Ali in and around the entire southern portion of Ireland.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Irish songs that we’ve heard on our trip so far. It’s been stuck in my head all day and I hope it’ll bring you as much joy as it brings me!

What I Learned

We’re three days post-trip and I thought it’d be a great time to reflect on our vaca.. The last two days of our vacation really made me feel crappy about how the last part of our vacation went and on our way home I reflected rather poorly on the trip as a whole when I shouldn’t have.

I purposefully hadn’t planned a lot for the last couple of days because we were going to wing it a little. Turns out, I’m not the best at winging it. I feel like our moods had slowly but surely went downhill throughout the duration of our trip and it bummed me out. A lot. Mostly because I couldn’t fix it.

My mom’s always taught me that it’s a choice to be happy. You choose to wake up on the right side of the bed. I’ve agreed with that most of my life. But some days, optimism apparently is a fight for the fittest. Don’t get me wrong, the trip was good. I was surprised that Omaha was my favorite city and I want to return there to see more attractions that we didn’t get a chance to explore. I liked Kansas City too but I don’t think there is anything there calling my name.

Honestly, I probably had a rather negative outlook on the trip as a whole prior to even venturing that way. When I think of the mid-west (middle of the country), I don’t think of anything. I don’t think of water or mountains or beaches or buildings or beauty. I think of nothing, like actually nothing. Not in an “I hate America” type of way, just as a “No one has ever bragged about doing anything so how would I know what there is to do?” type of way. And the internet wasn’t much help.

There were loads of things to do all along our trip but most of them consisted of museums or events happening on days before or after we were there. You can only see so many museums before you get museumed out. Ya’ know?

Parasailing was very fun. I was so SO worried that I’d fall to my death not because I was scared of the adventure but because of my weight. And guess what? I didn’t. The harness held me and for that I’m elated. I did have a bit of an emotional breakdown after though. Although it was fun and I cannot wait to go parasailing again, I hated on myself so hard about the entire experience. I got winded going down and up the 65 steps there and back. The life-jacket was so small and tight on me that I felt as if I looked like a balloon being squeezed in the middle. I also wish I could have rode tandem. The typical way to go parasailing is two people at a time, side by side. Due to my weight, that wasn’t an option. I had so many emotions going through me by the time I got back to the car that I couldn’t even talk. I wanted to cry and scream and yell and shake myself thin. I’m so beyond grateful that I had the option to go parasailing when my weight often limits the things I can do. I only hope that the way I beat myself up that day helps me to find the motivation needed to make some serious changes.

Reflecting on the rest of the trip was rather bland. St. Louis was physically draining because of all the walking and the heat. It wasn’t much warmer in Missouri as it is in Minnesota but we spent a lot more time outside than we would on a typical 90 degree day up north and that took it’s toll on us.

For the most part, I’d like to think that we had fully intended on our trip being in high spirits the entire way and there were a lot of great moments, beautiful views, interesting things.. But it seemed to be overshadowed by the heat and tiredness and frustration.

What I learned throughout this trip though, is that my mom is still my bestie. We had moments that we just needed a minute but it was okay and we made it. I learned that I have energy to keep going even when I didn’t think it was possible. I learned that my thoughts about middle America are pretty much true.

I also learned that the only thing holding me back from being the adventurous self I know I am is my weight. There are so many things I’ve never ever done because I exceed the limit or am afraid I’ll break whatever it is. This is something I’ve been learning all my life and I really truly need to find the power within myself to overcome this.

And lastly, I learned that the words I type don’t 100% reflect how I felt about every single moment on our trip. Showing Channing all the photos I took and the souvenirs I got made me feel good. I was so excited to tell him all the things we did and where we went along with the ups and downs alike. It was a good trip even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Most of all, I’m so very grateful to have my mom with me and in my life. I don’t know how I could possibly live my life as well as I do without her there with me every step of the way. So, if you’re reading this mom, thank you and I love you. ❤

Days 6 & 7: The Journey Home

Day 6 was supposed to be our “spa” day but it didn’t happen quite as planned. Initially we were going to book massages and pedi’s but we decided a few days ago we’d be okay with passing on the massages this time around. No real reason, just weren’t into it.

So we figured we’d go swimming. I found a pond/swimming hole in Rochester online and it looked pretty nice so that’s where we were headed. We got a little sidetracked early on wanting to get blow up floaty things so we could just veg out on the water. Turns out the swimming hole was literally a gravel pit of a hole. It was a dud and it was dirty. Not like Detroit Lake dirty but like goose poop and seaweed clumps dirty. We were in and out in 10 minutes or less\. It took us longer to change into our swimwear than we were actually there. We didn’t even stick around to lounge on the beach.

We got to the hotel about an hour or so later and did go swimming in the pool at the hotel. It was okay.

On our last and final day we headed home. We stopped in Alexandria for lunch and it was delicious and then got pedicures at a nail spa in Fargo. Much needed.

Day 5: A Sailboat, A Ship, A Hound, and A Blimp.

Today marked the 2nd leg of our trip. Starting the day out, we were just a little over the halfway point miles wise. The rest of our trip including today was very loosely planned. I had some trouble being excited about planning a trip in the middle of the country so the next few days may be a boring read haha.

Our first stop was Springfield, IL, home of the one and only Honest Abe. Well, adult home. He was born in a log cabin somewhere else, they say. We went on a free tour and ERRMEGERD was the tour ranger a dull dog on cough syrup. B-O-R-I-N-G. He talked as if he memorized his tour speech word for word 65 years ago. His mouth droopy and his eyes mostly closed. Every room we went through in ol’ Abe’s house we were told that “..one boy died young. The family had planned to come back to their Springfield home after President Lincoln’s term in the office but he was assassinated and one of the sons died in the White House so they never did come back..” Word. For. Word. Over. And. Over. We couldn’t get out faster if we had tried.

We made another pit stop in Le Claire, IA where the American Pickers got their start. We visited the business hound while checking out the Antique Archeology shop(s). I was surprised at the small scale of stuff they had for how huge they’ve become. I’m wondering if their Nashville location is larger or maybe they sell as quick as they pick? It was neat anyway.

We also received word from the locals that Columbus’ Nina and Pinta replica ships were in town just down the road in Davenport. Turns out, they were! And in the very same place the Sailing Club was doing it’s thing! What! Wait, there’s more.. A Metlife sponsored blimp was flying around in the sky. So many things all in one place. It was visually refreshing.

We ended out our kind of odd day dining at the World’s Largest Truckstop on I-80 in Iowa and checking into our motel in Cedar Rapids awhile later. I came across the perfect quote to sum up today’s adventures:

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

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Day 4: I didn’t see Nelly in St. Louie

Hello Heat Stroke! We woke up in quaint Pontoon Beach, IL right by the local fair or carnival.. Whatever you want to call it. Our agenda included the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, City Museum and the St. Louis Arch (obvs). I should preface the rest of this post before we get to it.. I’m writing today having had a few days pass. The night in question ended with me not wanting to move because I felt dog sick all over. #dehydrated

Our first stop for day 4 was the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. I’m not a beer connoisseur or even alcohol in general for that matter but the ABB was on TripAdvisor’s top places to see while in St. Louis so I figured we should give it a go. After today’s events, this was probably the best part of today. For me anyway.

We went on a complimentary Brewery Tour that included a trip through the Brewery grounds, a peek at the Clydesdale’s, and a walk-through their mashing and milling buildings. I’m just guessing those are the names of the buildings. One word while walking through this architectural beauty of a village.. Wow! Everything was dressed to the nines. The Clydesdale’s live more lavishly than I could ever dream of. We went into what I would call the “Beer Making Plant” and THAT was decked out too. Ivory and gold colored finishings and chandeliers.. The stair railings and the walls, the floor and the elevator.. Everything was created with design and elegance in mind. Remember, we’re in a brewery so this was odd to me. I had imagined us walking into a box of a production plant with slate colored concrete above, below, and beside us. Boy was I wrong.

If you’re a beer drinker you’d love that we received a free 8 oz beer at the beginning of our tour and another free 16 oz at the end of the tour. I was parched and don’t like the B so I got Mountain Dew at the Brewery. #Merica? The only thing that could have made this tour better is if we’d gotten to pet the Clydesdale’s.

We also hit up the City Museum. What. The. Fuck. There is no real way to explain this place. You just have to go but at the same time, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone. Ugh. The best way I can describe it is like this: The City Museum is every fantasy a child could possibly have come true while at the very same time every nightmare a parent could imagine. There were kids coming out of the walls and floors and ceilings. There are 5 or 6 floors I think. Trees, caves, slides, ropes, stairs. A school bus, ferris wheel, and airplane ON TOP of the roof that were all accessible. It’s a designing wonder of the modern world but holy for scary if you’re a parent to a child. There are little nooks and cranny’s that parents definitely cannot fit through and everything just..keeps..going.

Last but definitely not least was the Gateway to the West, the St. Louis Arch. We paid $20 (gross) to park and then had to walk what seemed like eternity finally getting to the Riverboat Cruise. It wasn’t worth it. Maybe if we weren’t dying from the humidity? I dunno. The Arch itself was cool. The little egg shaped pod you go up in  was bigger than I imagined. Going to the top and seeing the city laid out was beautiful. I think the best time would have been in the evening after the sun had set but it was still pretty cool

I don’t know what it was about day 4. We were both so hot. My mom more so than I but it took a real toll on us. Over the last few days, we had walked more than we had anticipated. This was a lot of work and a big achievement for us super fit chicks. I really think the heat killed our moods even though we did try to be optimistic about the day. I don’t feel like it was any warmer than “home” a few weeks ago when it reached the mid-90’s but it just felt way more deadly. I suppose we were outside all day in comparison to working in an A/C building 8-5.

Overall, St. Louis was okay but I really don’t think I’d purposefully come back. I’d probably go to the Brewery again if Channing was along and the Arch because it’s the Arch but everything was under construction in and around the Arch. It wasn’t pretty and it was the same price as if it were all open. It wasn’t easily accessible and we had to climb a lot more than we felt was necessary. Being hot and tired takes a lot away from the fun and adventure. I suppose realists would tell us to get in shape then. Yeah, whatever.

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