Day 7: Sacramento, California to Palo Alto, California

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This post is five days late because I didn’t have access to wifi after reaching Palo Alto. We are staying on Stanford University’s Campus and didn’t get a modem and router until today. I guess I could’ve gone to a coffee shop or public library to write this post, but we were all busy unpacking and shopping for food and household supplies.

We immediately began noticing some differences between our old home in rural Illinois and our new home in urban California.

Everything in Palo Alto was clean and space efficient.



Some space-saving bike rack

Going to Walmart was comforting because the aisles resembled the ones back in Illinois, but the store was ten times as crowded in Palo Alto.


There were tons merchandise left on the floor and misplaced on the shelves by customers. I would’ve been shocked, but we were warned by others that this was a result of the busy lifestyle that most Californians live.


First meal at home, eaten on a picnic blanket on the floor of the empty living room.


It was like a cheap furniture factory for the first few days.


One of the busiest streets in Palo Alto, El Camino Real.

Day 6: Winnemucca, Nevada to Sacramento, California

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We were actually a day’s drive away from our final destination, Palo Alto, but we wanted to take a detour to Lake Tahoe, California, so we had to stop at the end of the day in Sacramento.

We stopped in Reno, Nevada, for lunch at a Taiwanese restaurant called 101 Taiwanese Cuisine. A large section of downtown Reno was blocked off for an antique car show/competition, called “Show-n-Shine”,  as part of Reno’s Hot August Nights, a six day festival in downtown Reno. There must have been over one hundred classic cars on the road, shined for the occasion with their doors and hoods popped open.


Owners often sat in lawn chairs on the sidewalk next to their cars.



Everything in Reno was also really big. In Nevada, casinos are legal, and it seemed like every building downtown was a casino.





The streets were often tiled by some sort of fake stone formation. The streets seemed sticky and smelled of urine and other bad things. The people were friendly in giving directions.

We stopped at Lake Tahoe, California, for only 45 minutes at most, because we were eager to get to our hotel. IMG_5165

We still have a few more hours of driving to Palo Alto tomorrow, then the Journey West section of my blog will finish, and the California section will begin.


Day 5: Salt Lake City, Utah to Winnemucca, Nevada

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Today was another day of great views while driving. The drive in the remainder of Utah after Salt Lake City and the first portion of Nevada, with the exception of ten minutes of mountains, was much flatter than yesterday’s drive. My family realized that we all like flatter landscapes as opposed to hilly landscapes, even though we all assumed that we were tired of the flatness of Illinois.


The flat roads played tricks on our eyes like I’d only seen happen in the movies. In the very West portion of Utah the land was really flat and we thought we’d seen a lake in the distance, only to find out that it was a mirage when we drove closer.


A few minutes later we stopped at a rest area near the Utah-Nevada border that was definitely the most interesting one we’ve stopped at so far.

Before this rest area, we’d seen small salt fields, probably 100 square meters at most. Behind this rest area was a salt field that extended into the horizon. It looked exactly like a snow-covered iced-over lake. The late morning sun reflecting off the nearly perfect whiteness led to some really cool photos.



I still haven’t gotten new sunglasses…


The last stop we made before lodging at Winnemucca was the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, Nevada. It was crammed with senior citizens that came in a group which arrived in a large black charter bus. The center had many interactive displays and videos about the gold rush and the hardships that people faced between 1841 and 1869 traveling in covered wagons to reach California.

We learned that America had been populated with tons of buffalo before the settlers came in and wastefully killed most of them. We got a little bit of an idea of how difficult the journey was; settlers were traveling around 15 miles a day by wagon or by foot, and the sick and dying  were often left on the side of the road. The trail was littered with dead animal carcasses, broken wagons, and all sorts of luggage that was discarded to lighten the load for tiring pack animals.

It is hard to imagine how difficult it had to have been for these settlers to travel the distance we’d covered on our Journey West. We were exhausted at the end of each day from sitting in a car, while these settlers covered the distance the hard way. We have so many measures of security with technology nowadays but the settlers were risking their lives for an unknown future.


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.