Monday, May 20

Road Trip to Wisconsin

Day 1 – May 30, 2020


We are on the tail end of a global pandemic, there are riots all over the United States because of the deaths of three unarmed black people in the last few weeks, and we are entering into hurricane season on the East Coast…..but my father, older nephew, and I are about to embark on a road trip for a week to visit my sister and my two younger nephews.

Yes…it is a long drive for only a few days. But since my father and I had to cancel our trip to London last month and after being on quarantine for two months, we are eager to get out and do something!

Today I drove to my parent’s house in Riverside, California. Went and got the rental car and have been here with my family. It was nice to finally see my mother. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic [and her health issues] I had been practicing social distance. But I was glad to finally see her!

Today was a chill day. Actually finished up a bit of work for a project I am doing called My Eyes. It is a visual poem about oppression and hate. And as the evening wanes and I start to head to bed, I am finishing up the last bit of promotional items for my new podcast episode. Once these things are done, I can relax on this road trip with my family!

Day 2 – May 31, 2020

California – Nevada – Arizona – Utah – Colorado

Me, my father, and my nephew started out fairly early. Without stopping the whole trip is roughly 30 hours. Broken up though into 2-15 hour days. It does, however, take some time to get through the rocky mountains – as gorgeous as they are. And you know we are definitely going to be stopping to take pictures. Plus you lose two hours from the West Coast to the Mid-west due to the time change.

Our goal was to get as close to Denver as we could on our first day!

We did good though. We stopped for our first night at the Comfort Inn in Rifle, Colorado.

Our first day, we left from Riverside, California. Drove through Nevada [including Las Vegas and Mesquite], the northern tip of Arizona into Utah, [which is so beautiful] and a piece of Colorado.

The drive through Utah and Colorado is one of my favorite parts of the drive.

Day 3 – June 1, 2020

Colorado – Nebraska – Idaho

So it was nice to start bright and early with the drive through the rocky mountains. My nephew Matthew had not seen this part of the country before and I know he loved it as much as I did!

I will not lie, there is NOT a lot in the way of sightseeing in Nebraska. I don’t mean that there isn’t museums or history or anything like that. Just afer coming out of the picturesque Rocky Mountains, Nebraska is very flat.

Iowa is flat as well….but it is the state with the third largest amount of windmills. So that is fascinating. We drove through there at night so they were hard to see in the distance. All you could mostly see at night was a field of blinking red lights!

We found a room in Des Moines, Iowa staying at the Quality Inn.. Not the greatest room for the money, but it was comfortable and inviting after 15 hours of driving.

While we were on the road, so many protests were happening. So since I was unable to be there, I recorded a video

Day 4 – June 2, 2020

Idaho – Minnesota – Wisconsin

[Wisconsin – Day 1]

We started the last leg of the driving not as early – as were only a few hours from my sister’s house. We had a nice breakfast and got on the road. Iowa is still flat – but I was still able to find things to take pictures of. They are the third largest state for windmills!

When my father and I took this trip a few months prior with my other nephew, we had driven past the spot in Clear Lake, Iowa where Buddy Holly’s plane crashed back in the 50s. My father was a huge fan – as was I – as I was introduced to his music by my father as a child. So we decided to stop by and visit the crash site this time around.

But then by early afternoon, we drove through Minnesota for a few minutes and then BAM we were in Wisconsin! We arrived to my sister’s job – KFC! So you know we got free lunch, too! But the best part was, we surprised my youngest nephew. He had no idea he was going to see me or his grandpa. But he had seen us about 8 months prior when we took our first trip out there. This trip he got to see his big brother Matthew he had not seen in 2 years!

we surprised my little nephew

Matthew and Yazan

So when I went to Wisconsin earlier to visit my sister there was a big storm that had come in. So I lay there listening to the thunder and watching the lightning strike up and light the sky. So I told my sister I hoped they had another storm again while where there.

Well…I got my wish. My sister told me a massive storm was expected later that evening. So naturally I went to take pictures of the Mississippi River while the light was amazing!

After taking these pictures I ran back to my sister’s house so we could go to dinner together as a family! In Wisconsin, they sadly were not as strict with virus as California. I still had my mask and hand sanitizer…but we were able to sit at a table together – even though the waiters and waitresses had masks! So we went to the Milwaukee Burger Company. [Not going to lie, our waiter was CUTE!]

So my sister, nephew, and I ordered a drink. I got a Spotted Cow – large – since it is a local better to Wisconsin. So as we were arriving to the restaurant, the storm was beginning. But no joke, not even 20 minutes at the restaurant, the storm hit – and damn was it massive! The power went out in the restaurant [and most of the town] before we could order our food.

Storm abrewin’

So the restaurant gave us our beers for free – since the power was out. I thank them for that and plan on giving them a great review on Trip Advisor. Instead we found a restaurant that had power on the other side of the freeway – Pizza Ranch Buffet. Even though it was a buffet – the waitresses stood behind the counter and served us – it was very safe….and the food was good and it was all such a fun adventure.

After that we went home and enjoyed the thunder and lightning. By this time, most of the wind and rain and subsided.

Day 5 – June 3, 2020

Wisconsin – Day 2

The next day. Our second day in Wisconsin but really officially our first full day there with the family. It was such a quick trip there but we tried to make the most of our time together!

We drove around the city this time. Last time we only stayed a day and a half and had to head out. Part of the trip this time was to drive through the Rockies and enjoy the scenery. Being in quarantine for 2 months had everyone eager to get out and enjoy the world outside!

Speaking of outside, there is a place in La Crosse, Wisconsin called the Grandad Bluff – and from there you are able to see the WHOLE valley. So, of course, I took my camera and we drove up there. And oh yeah, it was stunning. And since it had rained the day before the whole valley was clear!

After the bluffs we went to Riverside Park as well as a park that had a big train. You know, just to see some of the city while we were there!

That evening we went and bought fireworks. Since it was my nephew Majd’s birthday a week before our trip I thought it would be fun to celebrate. He had to work that night, so we set off the majority of them the following night…BUT the youngest one wanted to set off a few that we did! [I think I get points here for being the best uncle!]

Also – my dad bought his grandson a bicycle! [and yes, he has a helmet!]

Day 6 – June 4, 2020

Wisconsin – Day 3

Our last full day in Wisconsin. Time is going by so fast! But we do have a two and a half day drive back home – and Matthew, my nephew, has to get back to work.

The next time I go to visit my sister I am flying, so that I can stay longer. But, with the virus, I am waiting a bit longer to fly. Because, if you know anything about me – I love traveling and I LOVE flying!

So both my sister and my nephew Majd were off of work today SO my father and I wanted to go to our favorite restaurant in La Crosse. We stumbled upon this gem last time we were there. It is a small bar and grill that sits on the Mississippi river. This place is called River Rats Bar & Grill – and we always try to sit outside so we can see the boats!

We had this awesome waitress, Chelsea. She was fantastic and she took a liking to my young nephew Yazan, because she has a son his age. She even took him down to the docks and gave him a hat from the restaurant. He was so excited. Thank you Chelsea for taking care of my little man. She even invited my sister and him to go on the boat with her and her kids!

And then after an amazing lunch we went home and relaxed. I probably took a nap – since I love naps! I have ADHD so I can go and go and go – but once I sit, I seem to nap to recharge my batteries.

That evening another storm was coming in. Nothing like our first night there but still a nice way to end our last evening there. So for dinner we grilled burgers and hot dogs at my sister’s house. A few of the neighbors came over and we finally set off the rest of the fireworks.

Day 7 – June 5, 2020

Wisconsin – Minnesota – Iowa – Nebraska

[Wisconsin – Day 4]

Sadly today was the day we had to head back home. Not going to lie, it was difficult to leave. And Yazan cried so hard. He was so glad to have his brother Matthew around. [They were so close when my sister lived in California.] So Matthew definitely needs to fly back out there again.

We finally found a hotel room in North Platte, Nebraska at the Comfort Inn.
We stay at these hotel chains a lot, mostly because they are affordable but also because I have many hotel points from traveling for work a lot – so when we are stumbling upon a hotel without a reservation – it is usually very affordable. Plus I get more points!

Day 8 – June 6, 2020

Nebraska – Colorado – Utah – Arizona – Nevada

Okay, so here we are on the second to last day of our trip. This drive was a little tough as we hit a big storm going through the mountains in Colorado. It was very rainy and windy!

But in Colorado we stopped into a small town I saw last trip: Georgetown, a small municipality you can see from the freeway!

But eventually the sun came out and it was beautiful. Eventually we found this amazing restaurant in a small town, De Beque, Colorado. This is the one thing I LOVE about road trips, finding small towns and restaurants that are off the beaten path. First off all, De Beque is a small quaint town – and this restaurant, Wild Horses Roadhouse was amazing.

So leaving Colorado we had better weather. But as the sun was beginning to set another storm was brewing. The wind was crazy again. So was the rain. It was very, very hard to see while driving. Talk about terrifying! But we needed to make some distance, since we kept stopping to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. I stopped to get gas, and while there grabbed some bomb Mexican food – and made my dad drive the rest of the way to the hotel.

We stayed the night at the Eureka Casino & Hotel in Mesquite, Nevada. I had been telling my father about this city for years….since he likes to gamble at casinos and always ends up at Fremont Street in Vegas. BUT I shot a film years ago in this city and knew my father would enjoy. So we stopped for the night and he was able to get some gambling done. BAM

Day 9 – June 7, 2020

Nevada – California

Well, it is the last day of our trip!

My dad had to gamble a bit again…and then we went and had a big breakfast at the Eureka Casino. So, I cannot eat red meat because I of my hemochromatosis – but the woman at the restaurant looked at me strangely when I asked for turkey bacon or turkey sausage – so I had a Denver omelette with ham. It is okay though, I have my treatment a few days after I return…so I went ahead and enjoyed myself.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The rest of the drive was smooth. There was definitely traffic driving through Vegas – since Vegas opened back home while were traveling.

We did stop at the Seven Magic Mountains, a beautiful rock sculpture out in the desert, designed by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.

We saw it on our way to Wisconsin but I wanted to take a 5 minute detour to check it out on our way back home.

It was good to get a way….sitting at home during the pandemic was taking it’s toll on me. I was stressed out more than I was beginning to realize. The day before we left I was having stress pains – afraid I was having a heart attack, I went to the emergency room.

Luckily it was an anxiety attack – different than I had ever had before – since only the left side of my chest was hurting. And it had radiated under my arm and into my back. It seems it was just a side effect of my hemochromatosis brought on by stress.

Truth is, during the pandemic I have been very busy and focused on writing. I was slammed – and very busy just writing and creating – but would also fall asleep each night watching the news, concerned about the future of our country and the world as we faced a global pandemic. I guess I forgot to take time to focus on my health. So this trip was a good way to destress – so I could come back recharged and ready to take on the world again!

Thank you everyone who took the time to check in on me. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you!

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