Gratitude

We are coming off a huge high after spending time in the midwest. When we first got serious about taking this trip, we excitedly spoke about seeing family and friends we hadn't seen in awhile, about making it a goal to reconnect with family and friends who were once part of our everyday lives. And, boy, were we ever surprised by the amount of you that offered up a driveway or home to sleep in. Leaving our home, friends, and neighborhood in Durango was difficult. But having welcoming hugs and familiar faces greet us along the way has been so refreshing and made the transition to life on the road much easier. We are humbled and grateful for the generosity that you all have shown us.

To everyone: We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for keeping us in your lives. Thank you for the company, conversations, cold beer, hot showers, laundry machines, comfy beds, and food around a dinner table (you know, real food and not something from the "french fry store" aka McDonald's). Thank you for watching our boys while we snuck out for a run or a quick date night. Thank you for water balloon fights and pools on a hot midwest day. Thank you for the free entertainment that an entire street filled with dump trucks, dirt, and diggers provided. Thank you for cousins who are helpful and fun and make my boys giggle. Thank you for allowing us to raid your kid toys - especially those of you who had the electric four wheelers and tractors. Reid and Bennett are ruined for life (and the joke is on us)! Thank you for taking us to your city's highlights. Thank you for the popsicles, ice cream, the M&Ms, and the pool-filled days spent with aunts, uncles, grandpa and grandmas. Thank you for the BBQs (and re-introducing us to the walking taco which happens to be a really easy Spud meal). Thank you for the additional giant dump truck that we now need to tetris into our Spud - you know who you are! But most of all, thank you for love. We felt the love from you all, and we don't know how we can ever top the warm hospitality you gave us. Just know you will always have a place to stay in Durango, Colorado (unless you happen to be there in the next year. In which case you would have to stay with our tenants). To those of you we did not get to see, I apologize. I always wish we could squeeze in every single person but alas, the time was too short. Seems it always happens that way. Also, to the friends and family we will be seeing in the next chapter of our journey: we can't wait!!!! 

So without further ado, below is a photo collage of some of the amazing family and friends we saw during the Midwest portion of our trip (and we'll include eastern Wyoming too. It's flat and in the middle of the west. Close enough, right?).

Trip Stats:

States traversed: 6
# of family and friends we saw: 67
# of days spent in the midwest: 33
Name of Reid's first boogeyman: "Snow-my". As in "Don't turn off the lights because the Snow-my is in here".
Total number of days on the road: 42
Next stop: Grand Teton National Park!
 

Columbus, Ohio - The Bravard Family

Last encounter: Dec 2016
Relationship: Chip's sister and bro-in-law

Enjoying Comfest in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

Playing cars with B-Bop (aka uncle Chris).

Playing cars with B-Bop (aka uncle Chris).

Pool time with cousin, Penelope.

Sandusky, Ohio

Movie night at the pier was rained out, so we caught a beautiful sunset with Goppee (aka grandma) instead. Grandpa was passed out in the Suburban. Typical.

Cousin time at Ashley and Paul's home - Logan, Kelsey, Bennett, Austin, Reid. Thanks for the photo, Ashley!

A quick visit with Chip's high school friend/couple we spent some time with in Holland in 2012 - Lindsay, Chip, D-Nort (David), and Meghan.

A day at Cedar Point is always priceless. 

Mirror Lake, Michigan - The Keller Family

Happy Fourth of July!

Bennett enjoying our 4th of July sparklers in undies. Classic.

P snacking with Aunt Lydia.

Aunt Kate saving Reid from the crazed Grandpa Shark.

Probably negotiating with grandpa on when they'll bike next (or play the M&M game).

It's serious business during after-nap snacktime - Bennett, Penelope, and Reid. 

A pool, a lake, and a house filled with family for six sunny days!

Saginaw, Michigan - The Long Family

Last encounter: June 2014
Relationship: Toby was Chip's colleague in residency in Grand Junction, Colorado
 

Reid and Rezzie hangin'.

Don't worry, the Longs do not have eight kids. But they do have six :-)

Tractor rides with Toby - Thomas, Rezzie, and Bennett

Reid might have been obsessed with this tractor. He guarded it with his life while here. 

Reid might have been obsessed with this tractor. He guarded it with his life while here. 

By the end of the weekend, I was seeing a bond form between these two. Future lovers? <3 

Pictured Rocks / Marquette, MI - The Armour Family

Last encounter: 10 years ago?!
Relationship: Chip's med school roommate / Grew up in Sandusky together

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on a dreary day. Caught a glimpse of the beautiful shore during a quick hiatus of rain. 

This amazing family (The Armours), who we haven't seen in 10 years, invited us to their home and showed us around the U.P. of Michigan. Wow, it's beautiful, even on a rainy, 55-degree day. Thank you Jamie for making us look like total wusses with the shorts while we're in down jackets.

Our tour continued to Miner's Falls near Pictured Rocks. 

We did not want to leave the U.P. without eating a meat-filled pasty. Yes, I said pasty. It was SO good. 

Eau Claire, Wisconsin - The Kuehn Family

Last encounter: Besides Liz visiting Colorado in February, 3+ years
Relationship: Lindsay's college roommate

Sunshine, water toys, new friends, and popsicles = happy boys! Reid, Bennett, Cooper, and Griffin. 

We love you, Kuehns!

So fresh and so clean, clean.

A little hike, and then a big bonfire. If only Bennett would have collected enough wood...hehe.

Minnesota - The Himlie / Dunagan Families

Last encounter: 1 year
Relationship: Lindsay's family

House warming/graduation celebration at Dallas and Ahron's.

Swimming at the lake at the house boat - Olivia and Reid.

Visiting granny at the Rushford Nursing Home - Mimi, Reid, Granny, and Bennett.

Playing in the dirt with the Himlie cousins - Alexa and Ryan.

Date night with our pals we met in Belize (but live in Red Wing...and went to school with at Stout!) - Amy and Adam. 

Date night with our pals we met in Belize (but live in Red Wing...and went to school with at Stout!) - Amy and Adam. 

Mimi's street was taken over by a "struction site". Best free entertainment EVER. 

Visiting Dallas' boat house in Alma, Wisconsin. A view of the Mississippi from one of the bluffs - Bennett, Ahron, Reid, and Olivia. 

Uncle Adam and Aunt Tricia came bearing gifts - pop rocks, fidget spinners, and of course, silly string!

A new youtube channel: Wine time with Bennett and Bekah. 

Belle Fourche, South Dakota - The Storm Family

Last encounter: 29 years????
Relationship: Lindsay's aunt and cousins

Visiting aunt Jayne, uncle Mike, and cousins - Here is Kaelie, Lanie, Reid, and Bennett.

Lanie taking the boys back and forth to the trampoline. She wins the award for youngest person we'd trust to take the boys somewhere alone.

Glendo State Park, WYOMING - The Fontenot Family

Last encounter: March 2017 (or as a whole family, 1 year)
Relationship: Chip and I met these two in New Zealand (Dorito aisle at the groc store)

Camping at Glendo State Park with the Fontenots, who we met in New Zealand but live in Fort Collins, CO. Notice someone cheating "the pose" by using Spud to prop up a leg. Not allowed.

Sprinting to the lake. Naked three-year-old butts are the best! Can you guess which one is Kepler? ;)

This is where we spent some time cliff jumping. Before the storm rolled in and we parted ways, Taylor and I had to get in a jump shot! Got it on the first try - we are getting good!

glendostatepark.jpg

When it comes down to it, the best thing about "vanlife" or roadtripping
isn't the van or the road, at all.  Thank you again, everyone,
for helping transform our trip into something far better than mere "sightseeing". 
- Lindsay, Chip, Reid, and Bennett