Roadtrip: Complete

6 weeks
13 states
7,774 miles
8,732 photos

During my final week on the road, I traveled from Colorado through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and finally made it to Wisconsin on October 16th. While traveling toward Denver, I stopped at the Garden of the Gods and explored a bit before checking into my hotel in Denver. That night, I met up with Brian, the tow truck driver from my Thanksgiving Ditch Trip, and his daughter and girlfriend for dinner. It was fun catching up and hearing about how he came to be living there, just outside Denver. His story isn’t too far off from mine and he subscribes to the same philosophy: life is short and it’s better to take a chance and do what you love while you can. The next day I explored Denver by walking around downtown, visiting Union Station, the State Capital building, and even got to see a Columbus Day protest. Afterward, I grabbed a delicious crepe sandwich from a street vendor and then hit the road, headed to Kansas.

The next morning, I woke up super early for some reason so I decided to make the most of it and hit the road early while it was still dark outside. I stopped at the post office to drop a batch of postcards in the mail and while on the way there saw the coolest full moon hovering low in the sky just over the road. It was quite a sight to see! I grabbed a quick breakfast sandwich and ate that as I watched a firey sunrise above the horizon. Soon thereafter, I drove to a giant replica Van Gogh Painting in town before making my way toward Monument Rocks Chalk Pyramid. That was definitely a spot I could have photographed all day. There are just so many angles and perspectives in the approach to photographing the giant rocks. After a couple of hours there, I headed to Mushroom Rock State Park where, you guessed it, there are a bunch of mushroom-shaped rocks (as well as lots of hornets).

Cole and I spent one more night in Kansas at the best Motel 6 of the entire trip in Junction City before heading toward Illinois by way of Missouri, stopping only at Graham Cave State Park to do a short hike and stretch our legs. Shortly after that, I arrived in Edwardsville, Illinois to stay with a friend. While there, we went out to dinner a couple of nights and spent one afternoon exploring St. Louis. We went to the St. Louis Arch, the Botanical Garden where we did not see the Butterfly House we intended but we did thoroughly explore the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis which was filled with gorgeous murals and spectacular architecture. Afterward, we grabbed a drink at the space-themed Moonrise Hotel rooftop lounge before meeting up with my friend’s husband for dinner a bit closer to their home.

After saying farewell to my friend the next morning, Cole and I hit the road and hightailed it through Illinois straight to Wisconsin where we picked up a different friend in Madison and headed to Devils Lake State Park for two nights of camping. The fall colors were near peak and air was crisp, it definitely felt like the Midwest fall I know and love. After our final day of camping, I dropped my friend off in Madison and made my way to Middleton to spend a night with my cousin and her daughter. The next day, I accompanied them to their horse riding lesson before heading to Delafield to spend a week with my parents. My sister and her boyfriend came over for one night and just like that, it was like we were a real family again. The next week I loaded up my belongings and made my way to Pardeeville to move in with my sister and close the book on this road trip adventure.

I’ve been living with my sister and her boyfriend for three weeks now and am settling in nicely. My space is slowly coming together with furniture, art, and other decors. I’ve been doing a lot of work on my photography website and Etsy store as well as putting together my annual calendar, creating my first ever e-newsletter, and preparing to do a full day photoshoot on Saturday. I’ve also completed some initial steps to getting my interior styling/minimalism consulting business up and running including setting up a major chunk of my website, designing business cards, setting up my business email, and putting the initial framework together to teach my first workshop in January.

Overall, I’m enjoying being back in Wisconsin, mostly because I get to spend so much time with my family and reconnect with my old Madison-area friends. On the downside, winter appears to have arrived early and we’re experiencing single-digit cold and snowy weather. This is definitely one of my least favorite parts about living in the Midwest. I guess it’s the price I have to pay for being close to everyone again. On the upside, I have a month-long trip back to the Oregon coast for a petsitting gig to look forward to in March so that is definitely a bright spot at the end of the winter tunnel.

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