Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pre-mission post: Little trips before the big trip!

Before actually heading to the MTC in Provo, I got to take a few little trips.

The First Adventure:

I got to drive down to Gering, Nebraska with my dad. I always love going down there to visit. It's where I grew up and driving through that town brings back a flood of memories...good memories. While I didn't get to visit everybody, I did get to catch up with a few friends, who I haven't talked to in a while. Most importantly, I got to visit my grandma. Ninety-one years old and still kicking, she's one of the most headstrong and independent ladies I know. I really admire her for that. Every time we go and visit her, we have a great time. We play games, talk about memories and sometimes just stare into space, but just spending time with each other means the world to both of us. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures while I was down there, but I have the memories in my head and I can replay those as many times as I want. I love you, Grandma Whitaker and can't wait until I get to see you again!

The Second Adventure:

Sometimes do you ever feel like you need to get away and go somewhere? A spontaneous trip, you could call it. Well, personally, I have those feelings more often than not, and I have the pleasure of living in one of the most beautiful areas in the country. The Black Hills. Now, I'm very familiar with the different routes that are woven throughout the hills. I love looking at the multitudinous pine trees that seem to never end, the continually flowing rivers, and you can't forget the unreserved wildlife! The scenery is spectacular and if you know where to go and the time of day, you can see views that are absolutely breath-taking  I have seen plenty of views like this throughout my time, but this time I decided to go a different route. A route that I had never been, but a place that seems to stun everybody who seems to set foot there. The Badlands. Yep, I hopped into my truck, which is not used to going seventy mph for extended periods of time (but I had no problem, and headed east! One thing about me: I love driving alone. Especially when I have things to think about. There is something about driving that helps me do some in-depth thinking. That was exactly what I needed too. Anyways, I got there and  wow, was I blown away by the scenery there! If you have not been to this part of South Dakota, I recommend that you drop everything right now and go there (not really!). Seriously, I had some expectations for the Badlands and to say that they exceeded them would be an understatement and would not even give them the credit that they deserve. They're beautiful!
I'll post some pictures, but let me tell you that they don't do justice for what the eye can really see.
Wow, my very first picture post! I did it, guys!
Anyways, this is a panorama that I took with my phone. I'm kind of new to this panorama photography so I'm sorry if I totally butchered it, and totally disgraced the purpose of a panorama!
This is the road that leads you into the park (don't worry, I was parked in a designated area when I took this). Now that I look at it, the panorama totally made the road distorted! Sorry, I'll get a hang of this eventually...and then by the time I do, I'll be off on my mission!

Out in the Badlands there are multiple trails that you can hike. Some are short and some are long, but I would not suggest going out to the Badlands to hike by yourself (not that I did that...). Anyways, I thought that the little craters in the rocks were really cool looking, so I tried to be a photographer for a minute and take a picture to show these. My mom especially liked this picture. Remember kids, don't hike alone...and take water (GO H2O)!

These two are my favorite pictures that I took that day. I think they show the variation you can see in the Badlands.

All in all, the trip was very rewarding. I got to see the beautiful scenery, while being alone. I kid and sometimes call myself an introvert, but anybody who really knows me would just laugh if I told them that (It's happened already). In all seriousness though, the peace and quiet that I experienced while being at this beautiful park was calming and overall it helped me ponder on things in my life. Sometimes that's just needed when things seem to be hectic, you know?
I highly would recommend this national park to anybody!

The Third Adventure:

The coldest place on earth. Not really, but it felt like it! Bismarck, North Dakota is where the cold is at. Actually, I think it's safe to say it's just all-around cold in North Dakota. My mom and dad and I drove up to Bismarck, it made for a long day, but it was so worth it. I got to go to the Bismarck temple. It was one of the most special and significant days in my life, thus far. Before I went in, we took a few pictures and then after we came out, we took a few more. Now that I think of it, my parents and I were never in the same picture. Actually, all the pictures were of me! Oh the joys of being the future missionary (trust me, there's a lot). We did manage getting a decent picture, that I ultimately decided to use as my missionary picture for my plaque.
I was pretty content with this picture, which says a lot because I'm like every other girl in this world. I have to take a million pictures until I'm partially satisfied with one of them.
After the temple we went to one of my favorite restaurants: Cracker Barrel. Here's a silly selfie with my mom.
It was an awesome trip! It was definitely worth the will ALWAYS be worth the ten hour drive. Until we get a temple in Rapid City, which we will soon get!

The Fourth Adventure:

I FOUND THE SUN! It's in Phoenix, Arizona! After living in an Ice Age, back home. It was so nice to feel the warmth of the Arizona air as I stepped off the ten o'clock at night! But hey, let's back up for just a few minutes.
First off, let me say that flying on airplanes is SO COOL. I haven't been on an airplane in forever. The last time I was on an airplane, I pooped in my diaper. TMI? Sorry. You get the picture though, it's been a long time! Not to mention that this was the first time that I had flown by myself. I felt like a little kid again, when my mom and dad finally let me cross the street alone, except for this time they were letting me cross a couple streets! My loving dad dropped me off, curb-side, and said bye-bye (with maybe a hug and a kiss in between there). I stood in the line, waiting to get my hard-copy boarding pass checked.
The first thing I noticed was that there was a group of vociferous passengers standing in line behind me and in front of me. They were all friends. Little did they know that Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen had a baby, who eventually all the passengers would know about, because they were talking to each other throughout the line that winded back and forth. Of course they all arrived at different times so they were sporadically spaced in-between all the apathetic passengers (ME!). I was thoroughly annoyed and it hadn't even been twenty minutes into my trip.
I finally got out of that high school reunion (what it seemed to be) and went upstairs. I had no clue what to do after that, so yes, I called my mommy and had to ask what to do. Oddly enough she told me to go through security. What? Airlines have harsh security and want to make sure their passengers are safe? What is this craziness? Long story short: My butt pockets on my jeans set off the security alarm so I had to be uncomfortably frisked and all that nonsense went on. Oh, and my poor laptop got manhandled. I can't wait to go through that again on the way back.
After I got done with security, I sat down at my designated gate, put my laptop back in it's safe haven (my messenger bag, which I haven't used at all during this trip...oops). Shortly after, I met the cutest little girl. Her mother and her were on the way to Phoenix to visit family. I love little kids (did those words just come out of my mouth?) They're so curious and innocent. Anyways, I talked to her and then heeded the words of my mother. "Go to the bathroom before you board." Apparently she still thought there was a chance that I would poop in my diaper again (sorry, I just had to say that). As I got up to go to the restroom, the little girl said, "Are you coming back, because the plane is leaving soon." Those words made my heart melt, here is this little girl who doesn't know me at all, that wanted to make sure I didn't miss the flight. After I went to the restroom I went over to the cafe and grabbed an apple and a bottle of water. As I was checking out this white-haired old guy bumped me, I turned around to say excuse me, but then realized who it was. It was a regular from Menards! Yes, I worked at Menards for ten months, so I got to know a lot of people. We would always give each other a hard time and that extended past the exit doors of Menards. It was really great to see a familiar face! "Now boarding zone 6, passengers with seats in row 30-25," rang over the intercom. "Oh! That is me! Let me just get my boarding pass...uh, where is my boarding pass." Yep, I'm a responsible adult  who can't even keep track of her boarding pass! I was flipping out to say the least! I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to backtrack to everywhere I had been in the past hour. As I was frantically running around, a big hefty man stopped me. I recognized him...oh yeah! He was one of the loud rowdy ones who couldn't stop talking in the check-in line, and now he stopped me to chat? What he said next shocked me: "Where were you at our workout today?" Then it hit me, I actually knew him before he was the "rowdy one..." he works out at the gym I go to! I said a quick hello to him and then started to panic again. Let's just consolidate sentences into one: Praise smart phones. Yes, I got on the flight with my phone. Yay!
What better seat to be in, than the middle right...not if you're claustrophobic (which I'm not). I had the privilege to have that most-desired middle seat. Who did I sit by? Another one of the "rowdy ones." Yes, he knew the guy that goes to the gym I do, and they were the primary source of ringing that happened in my head while standing in line. Although as I got to talking to this guy, I became a very big fan of his overall personality. He ended up being the owner of the Yamaha business in Rapid City. The guy was hilarious! A few minutes into the flight and we were poking and prodding (literally) each other like we had been friends prior to the flight. On my other side was another old guy, but he ended up being very friendly, and he knew the Yamaha dealer's mom, so I got to hear a lot of back-story on that. Overall, the flight was awesome and people (the gym guy and the Yamaha guy) made sure that I was taken care of after getting off the plane. Thanks, guys!

Now, I'm pretty much just going to blog through pictures, because 1. I took a lot, and 2. I'm tired of typing.
 God's Country!

The view from my aunt and uncle's driveway. The sky is so clear and there is no wind! It's a miracle. 
Let me just say, that I have gotten my running in since I've been here. It's just too nice not to! Plus, their town is on a grid system, so its virtually impossible to get lost (actually it's very possible). 

New Dress!
How do you like my mirror selfie....with my Nike crew socks. Hot, right? Anyways, I got another outfit at JCPenny's while shopping at the Superstition Mall. Cute? Yay? Nay? I'm open to opinions.

The Iowa Cafe!

While I was down here, I met some family (I think?). The middle one is my grandma and beside her is her nephew and his girlfriend. They came down to visit some of her family, and also stopped by to see his aunt (my grandma). They were from Iowa and wanted some old fashioned Iowa grub, so we went to the only logically place in Phoenix: The Iowa Cafe. It was really good, even though I got judged for ordering an egg-white omelet, instead of the grease-saturated bacon or cardiac burger. What can I say, I like to take care of my body by feeding it healthy food (my on and off logic).


The Duttons!

After we had dinner, my family took me to a concert. The Duttons. This is an LDS singing group, originally from Bronson Missouri, but they come to the Mesa area in the winter to entertain the people of Arizona. They are much more than just a singing group. They can do it all. There was comedy, singing, dancing, and a vast display of musical talent, like you've never seen before. They were simply amazing, and their skill blew me out of the water (if I were in water to begin with). If you ever hear of the Duttons being in your town, GO! GO GO GO! You won't regret it!

Rabbit Rescue!

My aunt, that happens to be a lover of rabbits, is part of an organization called Rabbit Rescue. Basically, it's a foster care for rabbits of all kind! It's really a great program. Every weekend they bring a couple bunnies from the "bunny barn," to the Rabbit Rescue building for potential adopters to view and play with the bunnies. I went with her this past weekend and met this cutie. He's a lionhead bunny. Did you know that breed even exists? I didn't. I seriously fell in love with him. I would post the picture of me holding him, but it's not so good of either of us. Just thought you needed some cuteness in your day (: Oh and if you're looking to adopt a bunny, I know where to go, but hey, it's easier said than done. They look for responsible bunny owners, who won't neglect the adoptee. There is a questionnaire involved, but if you truly love your pet and take care of it, there shouldn't be anything to worry about. 

The Renaissance Festival!
 Jousting Match

London Broil. My personal Favorite- Louey
The pirate and the half-shirtless girl
The Tortuga Twins...although there were three of them so doesn't that make them the Tortuga Triplets? They didn't even look anything alike!

The Renaissance fair was like nothing I've ever been to. It was like what I would imagine a Dungeons and Dragons club meeting would look like. Everybody was in costumes, some were appropriate, some not so much. There was mid-evil food (not the healthiest, but oh well). The whole festival was really cool. Go, if you ever get a chance.

Jerome, the city on the side of the hill!
 This was a picture I took at a rest stop we stopped at on our way to Jerome. Again, I attempted to take a good panorama. Is this one better?

My Aunt, Me, My Grandma
We made it to Jerome! The view was spectacular and this my favorite picture taken during my whole vacation.

Remember how I said I like to feed my body healthy food and how it was my "on and off logic," yeah well that logic was definitely off when this piece of cake was placed in front of me. The restaurant we went to was called The Haunted Hamburger. Supposedly it was haunted...I wasn't sold. I don't believe in ghosts unless I see them for myself...which I never want to do...EVER.

Along with the Haunted Hamburger is this old Hotel, The Jerome Grand Hotel which is supposedly haunted as well. My aunt is modeling while her critical photographer (my uncle) is snapping a couple shots of her.  You can actually go on a tour at night where they take EMF meters and track paranormal activity. So that's cool, if you believe in that stuff.

In a failed attempt to walk off some of the chocolate cake calories we made our way to the Jerome Grand Hotel's gift shop. I found this cool wolf shirt and knew I had to have it! No questions! I bought this along with a postcard. Little did I know it glowed in the dark, until I went to turn out my light that night and there was something glowing on my stomach! Cool beans!

Hiking in Tempe!

My awesome uncle took my cousin and I on a couple of hikes to see the whole Phoenix Valley. On this particular hike, you could see a whole 360 of the whole valley. It was really neat

More cool pictures on the same hike.

Hole in the Rock Hike

Somehow we're supposed to make it up to that hole...

We made it, and the view was pretty spectacular! I love the palm trees! Oh, and we were very close the the Phoenix Zoo!

Well that's about it! I go to the airport early tomorrow morning to catch my flight back to Rapid City! If you actually read all of this, you're a saint. After this blog post, I might post one more pre-mission one before I leave, unless I don't get my LAST MINUTE packing done. Oh...and I'm speaking in church on Sunday so I should probably work on my talk. I need to go to bed though so I can catch my early flight home!
A huge thank you to my family, who were generous and accommodating hosts. I love you and can't wait to see you when I get back!
Peace,'s been real.  See you soon Rapid City

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