Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Just a Girl and Her Car

Today is my two-week mark before I leave for Asia, and this job in Japan has been a crazy opportunity for me even though I haven't even left America yet.  The past 5 months have been so crazy that I thought it deserved one more blog post before I start the next phase of my life. From September-January I've done 17 road trips (big and small) and just in road-trip-miles alone I've driven 7,457 miles (not including just driving around Utah while I lived there and worked on and off.)

 Here's a map of the first half of my travels spanning September - October of 2017.

Step 1: SLC, UT-->Colorado Springs (585mi)
 I began by road-tripping home to AR (not an enviable task since it's roughly 1300 miles one way.) While it was difficult being away from my roommates and friends in Utah--especially knowing I'm moving out for real at the end of the year--I had so much fun going home in the middle of the year. Since leaving home to go to college I've never been able to be home in September/October, and it was a blast. I was able to meet my future sister-in-law for the first time and spend the weekend with her and my brother in CO (a super convenient, not-quite-half-way point between UT and AR.) Turns out she's amazing and the weekend was a blast! (Not to mention delicious--she's a heck of a cook!)
(I'll make this picture extra large so you can see their adorable faces.)

 Step 2: Colorado Springs --> NWA (745 miles)
Then I went and spent some time with the nieces and nephews in North West Arkansas. Now in case you have trouble differentiating my baby face from the rest of the kids, I'm the one with longer legs. These kids are kind of stinkin' adorable, and if I could base my whole life on them (and still have a life) I totally would. I hate how big they get every time I leave.

 Step 3: NWA --> Little Rock (219 miles)
Anyway, another important reason to come home was because I thought it would be rather difficult to be the maid of honor for my friend's wedding in AR all the way in UT. So here's her beautiful self at her wedding where I had to give a toast for the first time in my life. :O We got to spend a week together before the wedding doing all the wedding to-do's that we could, and it was amazing because we hadn't spent that much time together since we both went off to college. The week went by too quickly for me, but at least we had plenty of time for chick flicks, sushi, and watching Japanese shows together in between wedding appointments and errands.

                                                      Step 4: Little Rock --> Mountain Home (153 mi)

This was my first time being home in October in years and years. It was a bit sad to miss out on the scary movies, haunted houses, and parties with my roommates and friends, but also look at what I've been missing out by not being home these past 8 years! (Excellent pumpkin carving and also chocolate chip pumpkin cheesecake that I pretty much devoured solo.) Also, I usually miss out on my nieces' and nephews' birthdays, so this Mario party was another treat.

(This didn't need to be extra large, I just think everyone looks really funny with our mustaches.)

Step 5: Mountain Home --> NWA (130 miles)
And then I got to spend a week babysitting my sister's kids while she was in Florida with her husband. Let me tell you, going from being a single adult to a single mom was no laughing matter. At first, it was quite a shock having kids want my attention all the time, but then I remembered that I taught fourth graders and it wasn't actually that different (except there was no dismissal bell at the end of the day.)
I decided that I actually could be a mom if this was what it was like. Sadly, I don't think that's exactly what it will be like since Emily had a schedule typed up for the week, already had the groceries bought, the meals planned, the kids' snacks labeled, and their clothes picked out and labeled for each day of the week. BUTTT if parenting was like that then I'd totally be all over it. This is a picture of me being all over it.  And bonus points to you if you noticed my niece, Bailey, mimicking my peace sign in the background (I sure didn't until later-sneaky little girl!)

Step 6: NWA --> Kansas City (238 miles)
After that, we did a trip to Kansas City to go to the temple together. It was just an overnight trip, but how fun to get away for a little while and stay in a house where all the kids were together. (By fun I mean fun, but also I mean crazy.)

Step 7: Kansas City --> Elkhart, KS (456 miles)
It was at this point in my life that I kind of appreciate the fact that I'd done all my driving alone because when the opportunity came to just randomly swing by Elkhart, Kansas I was able to take it without consulting anyone else about my schedule. (Not that people don't just "randomly swing by" Elkhart. My friend told me it's called the 'armpit of KS' and with a population of 2,205 (as of 2010) I can kind of understand why. But luckily at least 1 out of those 2,205 people were really cool, named Jessica Hall, and has just recently returned from her mission in Germany that's all the excuse you need to swing by.) And that's how I had an excellent week's visit of Hallmark movies, collaborative writing sessions, and late night girl talks.

Step 8: Elkhart --> Colorado Springs (574 miles)
As I wanted to make sure I got plenty of bonding time in with my future in-law before leaving the country (and I didn't want to drive 23 hours straight), I stopped by Michelle's again on my way back to Utah. I did mention how she's super good at cooking, right? Who else makes savory crepes from Le Menu?

Step 9: Colorado Springs --> SLC, UT (585 miles)
And, finally, without telling my room-mates, I made it home in time for Halloween! Literally made it home the day of, made my costume, and then ended up saying hello to everyone at the Halloween parties.

Here's just a couple of random photos to commemorate my last 6 weeks of living with my amazing roommates and spending time with my friends whom I'll miss terribly.

1) Roommate trip to Park City to work on our book, What to Expect When You're Not Expecting. Yes, it was necessary to take this mildly unflattering photo of all of us in bed.

2) Roommate Christmas, which we had to do about 3 weeks before Christmas since we weren't all going to be together after. Pretty much I feel like everyone nailed their presents, and I still can't believe we are splitting up.

3) Our CA trip that happened my 2nd to last weekend in Utah. These girls are amazing. I won't go into detail though since we already made a whole music video about this trip.

4) Normal roommate bonding at the temple. Sometimes it's pretty crazy with these girls, but it's always a good time. 

5) Dinner with my 4th Grade team from my first year of teaching. I'll always appreciate these girls and how they helped me survive my first 2 years of teaching. I don't know if I'll be able to teach anywhere else because I was so spoiled with my team these first two years. Until the next time I'm in Utah and we can get Thai food and talk for hours.

6) Our amazingly fun group date that went very quickly from like 8 people, up to 20 people, and then back down to a more reasonable amount of14 (2 are missing in this picture.) Who knew that gingerbread houses could be so fun?

7) Finally, me saying goodbye to all my UT friends. It's funny how I've been here for 7 years and have all these people I know, but it takes me moving across the world to proactively reach out to people and find time to hang out/say goodbye.

Katie and Abram are one of my favorite couple friends to hang out with so it's lucky that they're planning on coming to Japan to visit. (Right, guys?)
(Jen actually isn't a UT friend so I didn't say goodbye to her.)

And that, my friends, is the end of the first half of my travels. There you have a condensed version of the life of Laura Drake from September until December. Don't worry though, I'm clearly not done.

Here's the map of the 2nd half of my travels and trips, which all happened in the very short time span of about 6 weeks.

Step 10: SLC, UT --> Colorado Springs (585 miles)
Once more I loaded up my car (with the remainder of my belongings), said my final goodbye to Utah, and drove away.                         Just kidding!              I tried to leave, really I did. But my battery was more dead than my social life in Arkansas. I took it as a sign that it wasn't time to go, but then an overly helpful friend helped me jump my car, and I didn't have any more excuses to stay (plus, all my stuff was loaded up so...) I stopped by Colorado Springs again, but, sadly, I missed Michelle this visit. I guess I'll just have to wait to see her again at her wedding! (Pretty crazy, right? People getting married and whatnot.)

Step 11: CO --> Mountain Home, AR (853 mi)
My brother and I caravaned the rest of the trip home, which isn't quite as exciting as having someone actually in the car to speak with, but it's also not quite as lonely as doing it all by myself. Without any further hiccoughs, we made it home safely in time for Christmas. And we can't have Christmas without family pictures.

Plus there were our super wild new year celebrations where we took more family pictures. Here's mine. (You wouldn't believe how many takes it took for me to get all the kids to smile.)

Step 12: Home --> Farmington, AR (130 miles)
   After an excellent Christmas break, I headed up to NWA to spend time with Sarah and her family because (SURPRISE) she's pregnant! Plus who doesn't love having an extra adult to adult around the house when there are kids running around during the day and an extra third wheel to hang out around the house when the kids are in bed? (None of my siblings anyway.)
If you're confused on how this picture relates to this experience then you're not alone. Sometimes Sarah likes to write nice notes on her sign like "Aunt Laura is our homegirl." And sometimes Johnny likes to rearrange the sign when she isn't looking. So there ya go. But at the same time, there's this blonde cutie who likes to randomly snuggle with me and spontaneously say things like "I love you, little sweetheart."

Step 13: NWA --> St. Louis, MO (363 miles)
   Yes, I've only been in AR for a month and my roommates came to visit. Yes, we may have dependency issues. No, I'm not worried about it at all, and a 15 hour time difference in Japan is why apps like Marco Polo have been invented.
Yes, this is the fantastically European-like basilica that prompted us to pretend like we'd gone to Switzerland together instead of just plain ole MO. No, we didn't spontaneously get on an airplane, but I'm flattered so many people thought us cool enough for that.

Step 14: St. Louis, MO --> Mtn. Home, AR (248 miles)
I may have said this before, but some people go away to college, fall in love, get married, and then drag the poor suckers back to retiree-central Mtn Home, AR to meet the family.  I, on the other hand, travel a lot and drag my roommates home to meet my parents. A fair enough trade-off I suppose. I mean, it was one heck of a weekend trip, and they did hit it off swimmingly with my parents.

Step 15: Mtn. Home --> Urbana, IL (433 miles)
Sadly, the weekend ended too soon, and then I had to drop my roommates off at the St. Louis airport again. And since I was already 4.5 hours away from home in MO, it seemed like a good time to continue on to IL and visit Jen. It was only another 3 hours or so once I said goodbye to my roommates, and then I got to spend an exciting week with her. Ever taken a picture with a large Christmas tree in mid-January? Neither had I. Ever eaten three loaves of bread in one week by yourself? Neither had I. Ever given a talk in church in a ward that you were just passing through for the week? Neither had I. But I was able to experience all of this and more during my week with Jen. It was one for the books (or the blogs.)

Step 16: Urbana --> Knoxville, TN (488 miles)
Let's be honest, it would almost take me just as long to drive home from IL as it would take to go to TN and visit some more people. So I did what any sensible person would do and drove the 500 miles to visit Chad and Bri. This couple is another that I enjoy spending time with. It was disappointing when they moved out of Utah years ago, but I did get to see them when they moved to VA because they also stopped by AR and came to see me for a weekend. Clearly, it was my turn to visit, and I have no regrets. With movies, games, cookie dough, Cam (the adorable, grape-loving, 3-year-old), and college reminiscing the week turned out to be a blast and was over in a flash. I was a bit sad to say goodbye (maybe more than a bit), but it was time for me to head home.

Step 17: Knoxville --> home sweet home (758 miles)
With a little detour in Nashville to do some paperwork for my visa, I made the long trip back home. As I am now here at my parent's house writing this blog you can assume that I had a safe and uneventful voyage. And you'd be right. Well mostly right. It was pretty traumatic when I couldn't locate any Chick-Fil-A for the next 180 miles and I went into a minor hanger rage. That aside though, it was totally uneventful.

Step 18: Mtn Home --> NWA (130 miles)
And here I'll stay for the next few days until I head up to NWA one last time. My flight to Korea leaves from there so I have just 14 more days to spend with my family.  While I can't say that there hasn't been difficult moments these past 6 months between me not having a steady job (meaning very little income), a real place or room to call my own, or a routine and consistency in my life, I also can't say that I'm not immensely grateful. At what other time in my life will I be able to have the flexibility, freedom, and drive (haha sorry, Dad's dad puns rubbing off on me) to spend time with all these different people? (Probably no other time.) I'm so grateful that I was able to spend my time seeing all these people who are so important to me.
Aside from the slight concern I feel every time someone asks me "are you nervous about Japan?" to which I respond, "no" and then wonder if maybe I should be since so many people have asked about it, I'm so ready for whatever's coming. I'm looking forward to having my own place in Japan. I'm looking forward to having a job and a schedule again. I'm looking forward to not living out of a suitcase and moving every week or two (or six). And I'm really looking forward to beginning a new life and putting down roots somewhere I've always wanted to live.
And while my brother may still tease me about looking anywhere from 8-14 years old, I did just drive almost 7,500 miles across America by myself before moving to Japan to start a new life. So, I've got that going for me. And people say that in like 20 years I'll also have the baby face going for me. Between Japan and that I may just burst with excitement.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Accio Harry Potter World

    This weekend deserves to have a book written about it because it was so fun, but, sadly, I'll have to settle with a blog post because no one has that kind of time.   Three friends and I flew to LAX on Friday morning ($85 tickets-way to go Allegiant!) and began the adventure.  Compared to our slighly disastrous attempts from our last visit in February, this trip went much more smoothly.  First of all, we rented a car this time so say goodbye to public transportation and worrying about if our Uber driver will pick us up in time for our return flight.   Our first stop was lunch at the Shake Shack, and we all had a blast not being at work on a Friday afternoon.

     We checked into our hotel and enjoyed the luxury of not having to sleep on someone's couch in their living room. Our room boasted two nice queen sized beds and a mini fridge to house all of our groceries for the weekend. (Yes, we went grocery shopping so we could pack lunches and avoid extravagant amusement park priced meals.) After that it was off to Santa Monica Pier because if there's one thing we all don't get enough of in Utah it's the ocean!
(And just so everyone knows names here, starting with the picture on the left: that's me, Lori, Kristen (who will be referred to as "Leini" for the duration of this post, and Jodi. As you can see, it's one heck of a group of people to go on an adventure with.)

     Despite the fact that the pier was also way overpriced, we had a blast there and even rode a roller coaster by the sea. (Granted it was a  little baby roller coaster, but they let us ride it twice in a row so it slightly made up for it.) We walked along the water, but it was too dark to do much (and we didn't have swimsuits on.) Still, it was pretty fun since everything was all lit up.  Walking along the pier just wouldn't have been the same without this guy and his violin. He created the perfect Pier-walking ambiance.  After that we ended up exploring some streets that were decorated for Christmas (how easy it was to forget it's December when it was 75 degrees out.) We also found Santa Claus, but who has $40 to take a picture with him?! Not us, obviously. So here's a creeper shot Lori and I took. 

 When we went back to the hotel we decided to watch a movie together, so, naturally, pretty much everyone fell asleep. 

Saturday was our day at universal, and our hotel was less than 15 minutes from the park!

Even though we are all fully grown adults, is it bad that we get so excited about Harry Potter World? (Just kidding, you don't need to answer that. The answer's obviously 'no.') 
Please ignore the fact that I can't make a decent 'serious face' to save my life...

But what about the fact that we bought these white masks at Party City and randomly wore them all weekend? We got some strange looks, for sure, but it was a blast. And you'll see why we needed them in the video at the end. (Because what would a trip be if we didn't make a music video out of it?)

Pretty much this was the best day ever because we went all over HP World and Universal and took full advantage of the Single Rider's Line. (Why doesn't everyone without kids use those lines? I mean, I'm grateful because then the lines are shorter for me, but still baffled.)      

Here's Hogwarts in all of it's 'there's a finger in the corner of this picture' glory. 

We also made a new friend here, even though I would recommend having omnivore friends rather than carnivorous ones like this. Clearly, the 5 of us really bonded. 

After a full day of goofing off and playing around in Universal we watched the special Christmas lights show in Hogsmeade before heading home.  It's so wonderful! 
(For those of you who haven't read Harry Potter yet, take a break from this blog, go read it, and then come back to finish. It's worth it. I promise.)

On Sunday, our last day, we enjoyed a lazy morning. (I'll never understand those people who have to pack their vacations with activities to the bursting point. Let's review some synonyms of vacation here: break, time off, recess, leave, etc. How can you possibly enjoy that when you're going, going, going?) Needless to say, I was obviously extremely grateful for these girls and their willingness to just enjoy a lazy Sunday morning with me in our hotel room where we didn't have any responsibilities or engagements and we could just chill and talk.  We went to church at 11:30 a.m. and the ward was tiny! It sure gave us a whole new appreciation for our lives and having people our own age around to be friends with. (Another benefit of traveling: it really broadens your perspective and helps you be grateful.) We ended up going back to the pier on Sunday afternoon, but this time during the daylight. We got to play in the water, work on our video, see a spectacular sunset while riding the ferris wheel, and do all the things that we missed on Friday night. We even found another violin guy (they must just live there or something.)

After changing out of our sandy clothes, we went to downtown Disney for the rest of the night. It was fun to walk around and see everything (although a little weird since we didn't actually go to Disneyland.)
All in all, the weekend was just fun enough but not quite long enough. I'm grateful to have friends that will just pause their lives and go on adventures with me. If there's anything I've learned from being single it's that good friends make all the difference in life. That and I'm super grateful that I can sleep through the night every night.

Finally, here's the music video you've all been waiting for. (And if you haven't, then you should have been.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Luck of the Irish

     I don't always go on crazy trips during spring break, but when I do I leave as early as possible and get back at the last minute before work.

      My roommate Lori and I had randomly joined our stake 'dance group' to perform in the basketball half time show because we wanted to try something new.  That's how we found ourselves, two months later, performing a routine in the half-time show that we had only just completed the day before. (If you haven't seen the dance yet, and you want to, then click on the link above.) A routine that finished at 9 pm, leaving me plenty of time to get to the airport with my other roommate, (whom, for the sake of the blog we shall call Leiny) for our 10:50 pm flight.

     While red-eye flights are quite the experience, they are not recommended by 8 out of 10 mattress stores for a good nights sleep.  Which is why we found ourselves really jealous of these random homeless-looking people. Luckily Leiny and I are women of action! So we found cots of our own and slept for the next 3 hours or so until we were ready to face Boston.
     The first thing on the agenda was Harvard because what else should one do when one finds oneself with a 10 hour layover in Boston? We went and educated ourselves, and then moved on fairly quickly because it was actually a little anticlimactic. (Except for these cool gates.  I can't deny that they are very cool.)

I also can't deny that the best part about Harvard could easily have been the little cafe nearby that we found.  It had some really delicious hot chocolate plus this sandwich that is manna from above.

     After eating we went to a museum with an indoor garden and quite an impressive collection of random pieces of art that I wasn't fully able to appreciate due to my lack of sleep and lack of knowledge.  However,  Leiny and I were fully able to appreciate the couches we found in the museum lounge area. We definitely passed out for an hour there but in a completely dignified way. Don't worry.

     To cut a long story short (which I'm not well-known for in my blogs) we had a bit of trouble getting to the airport, with the metro being stalled for quite a while with us on it, our uber driver not being able to find us, to me finally hailing my first taxi and Leiny totally missionary-ing him in the car, but we made it to the airport with at least 30 minutes to spare for our flight to Ireland.  

     Like an idiot, I stayed up the whole flight (very unlike me. Sleeping on airplanes is something I'm so skilled at I've considered including it on my resume. I'm not sure what I was thinking watching movies.) 

     Cue me skipping some more of our troubles in the Heath-row airport during our connection and more troubles at the Dublin airport because that's not the fun part of the adventure to (duh duh duh duh!) Lenny driving on the right side of the car on the left side of the road! That first hour of driving to our first hotel (*ahem* castle) was intense-we are still unclear if it was more intense for the passenger or the driver.  But we made it! And look how cute our room key was. Oh, and our room too. (Despite our room key clearly saying '106' I wonder if numbers in Ireland are slightly different than America.  The fact that at least 5 different couples mistook our room for theirs and tried to walk in on us in the 12 hours we were there is the only reason I wonder.) 
Just to give you an idea. Here's a picture from our window.  

We were exhausted, but determined to fix our internal clocks to Ireland time so we cleaned up in our room, and then went for a walk around the grounds.  This is us taking the first of many selfies for the week in Ireland.  Here's what we could see of the castle from our walk. Pretty sweet, huh? 
Can you believe we got to sleep here? Ya, we couldn't either. This is Cabra Castle in Cavan, Ireland. 

      We had every intention of waking up early and driving 2 hours to the closest ward when we made our itinerary for this trip, but what we didn't account for was Leiny and I having the mutual super power of SLEEP.  I definitely fell asleep on my bed at 7:30 pm the night before and didn't wake up until almost 11 am the next morning-successfully cutting into our plans. 

(While reading this part please listen to this song. )
 In an effort to improvise, we went to a park nearby that the hotel staff recommended called Dun a Ri. Naturally Leiny climbed the first crumbling wall we could find. Maybe she thought she was a monkey? Then she had a mid-life identity crisis and thought she was a frog. (It was a rough trip for her.)
     Now imagine us exploring this cool forest while Leiny had the Tangled song playing on repeat and you can imagine perfectly what it was like for us. I should have taken more pictures of the park, but to give you an idea of what the park was like here's one from online. (Yes, it really did look like this.)

    We didn't want to spend too long exploring this park because we had big plans for today, and when I say big I mean big. Like Giant. Particularly Giant's Causeway.  If you don't know what that is, that's okay. I didn't either until I planned this trip. But to give you an idea, here's a picture.

 Ok just kidding. These are just some run of the mill epic cliffs in Ireland that were at Giant's Causeway, and yet, somehow, this is not the cool part here. Take a gander at this: 

If you're also wondering why I'm sitting on a bunch of nature made stone hexagons then allow me to explain by copying straight from the internet. 

"Columnar basalt is unlike normal basaltic lava as it cools. When cooling rates are fairly uniform, with the heat from the lava escaping at regular intervals, it contracts and fractures fairly evenly, leading to tall, well-developed, generally hexagonal basalt columns."

    After explor-ing Giant's Cause-way a bit we headed off to our next desti-nation: the Lough Eske Castle in Donegal, Ireland! This is what we drove up to and I immediately questioned why I don't live somewhere with castles.  We were fairly excited about the next two nights. 
     The next morning was pretty fun. I don't think Donegal is exactly a tourist destination so we really felt like we could see Ireland at it's most Irishy. We started out by exploring Donegal Castle. This was one to visit, not sleep in. Leiny looks pretty comfortable in this chair. I think she'd have fit right into castle life.

     After the castle we explored the town a bit. It's fun to be able to make our own schedule and do what we want. We visited a bunch of different shops because I was desperate to find some sort of Ireland sweatshirt to wear for the week. That tiny little blue hoodie I brought was not sufficient. We also grabbed other souvenirs and some super delicious coconut shrimp with mango sauce for lunch.
     In the afternoon we drove to Enniskillen, an island town.
This was the castle there, which looks really cool from the outside but that's about all we saw since it was closed when we arrived. We parked and walked around this pretty park area for a bit before continuing our exploration of the new city.
  I'll just do a quick onslaught of pictures of the city so you can see what we did.


While we were crossing a bridge during our exploration a group of runners ran by so we joined them and just started running too.  Apparently people are much too shy, too polite, or too obsessed with running because no one even said a word to the strangers intruding on their running club.  What a shame. 

We had one more night at Lough Eske so here's another picture so you can appreciate how great it was again.  Good news: we paid $1,000 to fly to Ireland to read in a castle library. 

Here's a casual picture of me on a dragon because why not?

It was sad to say goodbye to Lough Eske, but we had more big plans for today. We drove 3 hours just to go see the Cliffs of Moher because you simply canNOT go to Ireland and not visit these cliffs. Or so we heard anyway. So even though the roads were terrible and terrifying at least the scenery is great.  Plus, we listened to audio books which can make almost any amount of driving bearable!

     Even though people do nothing but sing praises for these cliffs, our GPS was telling us that we were 5 minutes away and we couldn't even see them yet.  I'm pretty sure Leiny may have even asked "Oh cliffs, where are you?" which sounds ridiculous but was an extremely valid question the closer we got.  It wasn't until we parked our car at the visitor parking lot, paid our 5 euros, and walked for a minute that was saw them. But what a sight!
Just look at the beautiful green and how majestic it is.  Oh, and behind me you will see the cliffs.

When taking photos try to be as candid as possible. I think I nailed it.  Then the standard roommate selfie. (You tired of those yet? Hopefully not, the week is not even close to being over!)

We stayed as long as the cliffs were 'open' before heading to Bunratty. This was a cool looking village  that I had to take a picture from online to show you because it was closed by the time we got there.  We really wanted to make it earlier to explore this little village, but with all the driving our day was kind of sucked away.  
                   We did get to meet up with some of our Utah friends for this banquet though. Here's Bunratty Castle where we ate the banquet. 
     Nothing forges friendships like medieval banquets where you get to eat with your hands and a 'dagger.' It was so fun. We had a four course meal while those people in costumes (in the picture) serenaded us with a sweet medley of medieval music. Not only that, we befriended the ladies next to us who were celebrating a 40th birthday. Turns out one of them was a teacher too, so, as you can imagine, we had plenty to talk about.  Interestingly enough in Ireland there is no such thing as Lucky Charms and if you really want to fall into the Irish norm then be a teacher who marries an Irish farmer. 
     The banquet didn't end until 11 pm, and Leiny and I were not looking forward to a 2 hour drive home on those crazy Irish roads. So, instead, we crashed at Jodi and Christyn's airbnb. I was awfully sad to miss our first night at Kilronan Castle, but we were more awake during the drive in the morning anyway.
    We went to our room to clean up and then got lunch at Lough Key Forest Park. (Thank you internet for providing photos when I forget to take them. You might ask how could I forget, but I had a pretty intense day. Let me explain.)

     Our lady friends at the banquet laughed at us because we were spending the whole day in Roscommon, Ireland. Apparently, that's like the equivalent of going to the US and then being excited to go to Arkansas.  No one in the country thinks it's cool (except for people from AR obviously because we can fully appreciate it.)    They laughed long and hard at us when we told them our plans for the day, but it was one of the most fun day so far.  
   First we did this really nerdy thing called the Boda Borg. When I say nerdy I mean that they use the word 'questing' in the explanation. "Boda Borg is Questing. Guests are transported into a real-world gaming environment; an experience we call Questing. Teams of 3-5 guests literally move through our Quests tackling a variety of mental and physical challenges. Success in the first challenge means entry into the next challenge and so on."  In layman terms it was like a series of escape rooms broken into mini challenges that you had to complete to move on. It was so fun that no one was ready to move on when our time was up.
    Luckily we also planned to zip line today since it was in the same park and sounded just as fun.  When I imagined zip lining I'm sure it was similar to what most of you thought when you read that. Something like this, right?
Instead, what we got was an obstacle course in the trees.  No complains though, it was right up my alley even if it was unconventional and unexpected.  Yup, I hooked myself to that bike and road it through the trees on that bridge thing.
 And then I also rode a snowboard.  I can now truthfully say I have snowboarded in the trees just as many times as I have snowboarded in the snow.  Let's not forget the rope we Tarzan swung onto and then had to climb while simultaneously disengaging our clips from the rope. Somehow I didn't get pictures of the rock
climbing wall that they threw in at the end when you're already exhausted, but yes we rock climbed  wall that was also up
on a tree.  Does it sound crazy? That's probably why I loved it.  We took pictures with the workers who were nice enough to stay
with us the whole time (since everyone else left because it was getting late and dang cold.)

     We drove back to Kilronan Castle for dinner before saying goodbye to the girls. Here's us taking more normal photos. Kilronan looks cool on the outside, but the inside was equally cool. By far this had the most castle-like interior so far and I could almost have easily spent my whole day lounging around the castle instead of exploring the country.

 Even this gate thing that we had to drive under to get to the castle was really cool!  Our last night in Kilronan before driving to Dublin in the morning we decided to watch Leap Year.  When else would I be able to pause the movie and google map how far from the scenes? We got to bed late and woke up equally late (the beauty of spring break.)                                                 Luckily Dublin, unlike the rest of Ireland, did not shut down at five, so we were able to explore from 4-9 pm. The following photos are a result. I had to make this one big because it legitimately looks like we've discovered Hogwarts here. 

 We tried to sneak into this cool church. After failing twice we figured we should call it good with a picture. Then we found a crepe place for dinner. Super Irish, I know. 

 I really enjoyed the shops, the pubs, the food, and the people, but then it was time to say goodbye to Dublin. :(
Dublin at night.

     All I'm going to say about the trip home is that I finally did it right. After staying up the whole night before our flight, I slept the short flight to Heathrow and then I slept the entire flight (minus dinner) to Boston. 
     Boston itself can be summed up fairly quickly. We got in, found our airbnb, and (thanks to the recommend-ation of a homeless man at the metro) decided to go to the Red Sox game that night.  It was a lot of fun to go even though the team got creamed. 
     The next day was packed. We ate breakfast at a place called the Black Thorn, an Irish restaurant ironically. Then we went on a duck tour of the city where we got to hear about the history of Boston while riding a bus that turned into a boat partway through.                                                                                                             
    The tour ended at the aquarium so we went through there too. It was pretty intense and adorable. I mean look at these tiny sea horses.  I got to touch sharks and sting rays too so I can't complain. 

     We ended the night with a little shopping at Primark. Now before you go and get surprised that I'm going shopping, just keep in mind that I found a tank top for 98 cents.  Then we went to the Boston Commons (the park to be at in Boston) and chilled for a bit until our play. We had tickets for The King and I at the Boston Opera House. It was a fun play and the building is amazing!   
     We were a bit lazier Sunday, but had some well deserved rest. Especially since our flight didn't land until midnight and we had work the next morning.
     I will end here since I'm sure I'm already over my page limit or something. Well, if there were page limits for blogs I'm sure I'd frequently exceed them. I hope you all enjoyed reading about Ireland at least half as much as I enjoyed going.  (Maybe a third?)  If you haven't already seen our Ireland music video then I suggest you watch it because it's great. We've effectively summed up 7 days of Irish travel in a 4 minute music video   Do you feel silly for reading all of this now that I've given you this shortcut?  Hopefully not. :)

Until next time!