Day 4: Grand Junction, Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah

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Today was by far the best drive so far in the trip. Also, for the first time I got photos of us driving across state borders:

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The rumble strips on the side of the road got longer than I’d ever seen. They seemed to be 2-3 times longer than usual, with the same amount of spacing in between each strip. After a few hours we stopped at a rest area that was on top of a ridge. The road had run straight up a small mountain. There were more trees at this rest area, a result of the elevation I think.


NEVER lose your sunglasses on a road trip in the middle of nowhere!


When you drive long distances in the midwest…


…the weather seems to be always changing.

Another highlight of the trip: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Inside the gates of the compound that included the Temple, we met with several very friendly sisters who were enthusiastic in telling us about Mormonism. Apart from the stereotypes, I had no idea what Mormonism was.


My dad was really happy to get a copy of The Book of Mormon.


Part of the tour that the sisters gave included sitting in the tabernacle. The acoustics were so great (the ceiling was made using bridge-building technology in the 1860s) that you didn’t need a microphone to address the entire audience from the front. The sisters said there are no secrets in the tabernacle.

Something that I found really interesting about Mormonism was that a lot of emphasis was put on the family as a unit. The sisters told us that nowadays most of us think that the individual is the basic living unit. However, the family is made of people whom you can fully trust.

The weather cleared up towards the end so we could walk around downtown Salt Lake City.


Day 3: Goodland, Kansas to Grand Junction, Colorado

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Today was set to be the longest drive of the trip, and the weather wasn’t looking good. It was cloudy and weather channels said it would probably rain.


The storm clouds rolling in.




After crossing into Colorado, the landscape was still flat. Colorado was drier than Kansas, which was really humid, with the heat index sometimes going above 100 degrees.



About halfway through Colorado was Denver, the capital of and the largest city in Colorado. We walked around Confluence Park, which was a park surrounding the joining of Cherry Creek and South Platte River. I was very impressed by the cleanliness of the park. A large mural underneath a bridge was clean and graffiti free.




There were TONS of cyclists and runners going back and forth along the rivers. People were sunbathing on a small slab of beach and many people waded into the strong currents of the converging rivers.




After walking around in the hot sun, we drove downtown to find a restaurant for lunch. The thing that impressed me the most about Denver was its architecture. None of the buildings were big and grey and they all looked organic and natural.



Unfortunately we had to rush to Grand Junction by night and that was on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. The weather was worsening as well.


I took this picture just as it began to rain.




The weather ruined my photos of the mountains.

Today’s drive took around 8 hours because of the bad weather conditions and winding roads in the Rockies. We were exhausted and bought some fresh fruits and vegetables for a hotel room dinner.


Cherries and a vegetable platter.


Day 2: Lawrence, KS to Goodland, KS

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 6.26.09 PM Last night I’d gotten only about 7 hours of sleep, which is 2-3 hours less than usual for me. The relentlessness of the driving hit me today. We are aiming for six hours of driving each day (today we drove a little less than the projected average). We split the driving as evenly as possible between Me, my dad, and my mom.

There were several contributing factors to this realization that we were continuously moving away from home. The first was that my mom had pointed out that even after a full day of driving we would not be able to leave Kansas. The 75mph speed limit would not take us out of Kansas’ grip (we stopped at Goodland, KS which is 15 min from the Kansas-Colorado border)

. IMG_4948 IMG_4951 The changing scenery also humbled me. Eastern Kansas was hilly and green (pictures above), but as we neared the western border, the grass turned yellow, the landscape flattened, and there were hardly any trees. Additionally, the distance between small settlements and radio stations increased dramatically, making everything seem larger and further away.


The gutters were changing too. This one was at a rest area. It was wide open and much larger than gutters in Illinois.


A marker at the same rest area.

We found our hotel in Goodland, Kansas, without a problem. Goodland is a small town of about 5,000 people. On the edge of the parking lot of our hotel, Holiday Inn, there were Tesla (electric) car pump things. It was the first time I’d ever seen one in person. They were really futuristic but looked strange in a small town like Goodland. IMG_4957 IMG_4956 We were so exhausted that we didn’t bother exploring Goodland. We made ramen in the hotel room with the small microwave and added canned sardines, tofu, and hard-boiled egg whites that we’d brought from home. IMG_4958

Day 1: Champaign, Illinois to Kansas City, Missouri.

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Our first day on the road…

We left the house around 7:40, 40 minutes later than we’d planned, because packing the car, making breakfast for the road, and saying goodbye to our cat, Tiger, was difficult.


Tiger peeking out the door one last time at us



Almond butter and strawberry jam (both homemade) and wheat germ sandwiches.


The trunk was completely full. We utilized our leg room as well.

For lunch we stopped at Columbia, Missouri, for lunch. It is a college town, just a little bigger than Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The most notable university there is Mizzou (University of Missouri). We stopped for the highly ranked Korean BBQ restaurant Kui BBQ.


Streets of downtown Columbia.




Downtown Columbia was great because most of the shops on the street were local, non-chain stores. Almost every store had its own chalkboard sign propped on the sidewalk.




Many shoes and clothes were out on sale.


Called Seafood Dynamite Soup, it was really spicy!


A small Sweet Potato Chocolate Cake


After lunch we rushed to our old friend’s house in Lee’s Summit, a small town outside of Kansas City. The friend, Franklin, moved away from Champaign at least five years ago so we were excited to meet him again.


Franklin is the first spot tennis player in his high school.











After having dinner at Franklin’s house, we went with him and his parents to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The museum was closed when we got there at 7:00 pm, but we could still walk through the sculpture garden.


Claes Oldenburg , American , b. 1929 , b. Sweden Coosje van Bruggen , American , 1942-2009 , b. The Netherlands Fabricator: Merrifield-Roberts, Inc. , American Shuttlecocks, 1994


Auguste Rodin , French , 1840-1917 Fabricator: Alexis Rudier The Thinker, 1880; probably cast ca. 1949



My Dad fitting in pretty well…

We had a miscommunication with our hotel. It turns out we booked the hotel for June 26, not July 26. Luckily my Mom was quick in reserving a spot at Econo Lodge in Lawrence, Kansas. It was the first motel that I’ve remembered staying in.




Intro / Last Weeks in Champaign, IL

My family is leaving my hometown on July 26, 2014,  and driving West. Our final destination is Palo Alto, California (My Dad’s taking a semester-long sabbatical at Stanford University), but we will be stopping along the way for sightseeing. I will stay in Palo Alto for about three weeks and leave for Taiwan around August 23, although my travel agent hasn’t sent me the itinerary yet.

My blog is structured into three main sections, each one corresponding to one part of my upcoming year. The first is Journey West, where we will drive to Palo Alto. The second is California, where I spend three weeks in Palo Alto, California. The third is Taiwan, where I will live in Taipei for a year sponsored by Rotary Youth Exchange. To see all of my posts in order from most recent to oldest, click on the title of my blog at the top of the page, “A Gap Year In Taiwan”.


Here are some of the things I did in Champaign before I left.

Birdwatching that was organized by a very knowledgable classmate in Meadowbrook Park


In the forest

Champaign County Fair

I’d gone last year and really enjoyed the change in atmosphere. I went two nights in a row, and ate a donut burger, deep fried oreos, nachos, and drank a ton of lemon shake-ups.


4H Club


Fairground rides











In Indianapolis, we stumbled upon a Family Day celebration in a park

There was a concert, a World Cup soccer game displayed on a huge screen, lots of food stands and TONS of people. Last summer, around the same time of year, we’d seen a similar festival going on in the same park as we drove towards downtown Indianapolis. Now we were in the middle of it.


Spicy Mango Drink


Ice Cream Cart