Almost Heaven

Without intentionally planning it that way, I was out of town every weekend in June. The first weekend was another spontaneous day trip, this time up to Flagstaff. The second weekend was a mamma-daughter cabin trip (unexpected, but much needed). Then, I’ve spent the past two weekends on an incredible vacation with my boyfriend and his family to parts of the country I’ve never seen before… but I’ll get to that in a minute. The point of this paragraph is: I’ve been gone a lot lately, and the trend appears be continuing into July. I head out this weekend for a best friend reunion trip in Denver, and then it’s back to the cabin.

So much for not being a travel blogger, right?

(Just kidding.)

Anyways. I can’t complain: not only do I have the incredible luxury and blessing of being able to travel as much as I have lately, it is also an incredible time to be anywhere but Phoenix. Have you seen these temperatures?! 124! There were melting trash cans! (I’m serious: click here.)

And, of course, I got to spend the last week exploring new parts of the United States with my favorite person and his wonderful family. I know that everyone’s first question is not about the traveling itself, but about the traveling with the boyfriend’s parents part of the equation, and I’ll just say this: I am so lucky. Spending a week with his parents (and aunts, and uncles, and cousins, and third cousins once removed) was not only incredibly easy, but it was incredibly fun. He has a wonderful family – which probably explains a lot about him, huh? 😉

Okay, okay. Enough with the mushy stuff. I can feel Jen’s eye roll all the way from Denver (#ShiningTwinShoutout).

We started our trip in Pittsburgh, and if you know me, you know that I’m a city-oholic. I love skyscrapers and skylines – especially when they’re by water, and since Pittsburgh is smack dab between two rivers that merge into one, there was certainly plenty of water to ogle at. And can I just take a second to rave about how green it was!? Being a desert rat with roots in less-brown places, I live for any opportunity to see a different color scheme. Don’t get me wrong: Arizona is beautiful and God graces this state with a lot of incredible masterpieces, especially in the sunset variety. But sometimes, in the dead of summer, brown gets boring,.

We also caught a Pirates game while in the city of bridges (and steel). I’m a bit biased when it comes to the best baseball stadiums, and I still maintain that it’s hard to beat AT&T even when the Giants are sucking as badly as they do right now. However, PNC Park certainly wowed me. The atmosphere is awesome. Throw in the fact that it was both Father’s Day and Cubs game, too, and you can say that it was a picture perfect day at the ballpark.

We only spent one night in Pittsburgh before heading out to Oglebay. Now, if you haven’t heard of it (and I’ll bet you haven’t), I must agree with the boy’s dad and tell you that it is the best kept secret. It was donated by Mr. Oglebay to the city of Wheeling, West Virginia, for recreational use, and the city has certainly kept that vow. There are acres upon acres of lush rolling hills, championship golf courses (which, yes, I did attempt… in sandals), nature observatories, and ducks!

We stayed at the lodge on the property, which was certainly interesting in terms of hotel decor. The whole place was rooted in relaxation and history, though, so I’m not complaining one bit.

JT’s dad took us all around the Ohio River valley, which is where he grew up. We got to see the house he lived in as a kid, the college he went to, and eat his favorite local pizza (if you ever find yourself in Wheeling, West Virginia, I do highly recommend stopping by DiCarlos.) It was a lot of driving around and looking at things, but that was the best part of the whole trip. I’m from California and Arizona: I don’t have a clue how the Industrial Revolution shaped the most crucial parts of America beyond my history books. Or at least, I didn’t. I definitely do now, and it was fascinating to see all of these tiny towns, filled with the nicest people you will ever, ever meet! We snuck into race tracks, college dorms, and football fields, and no one cared! In fact, some people even showed us easier ways in. That’s not a thing that happens on the West Coast.

It was also just really interesting to learn more about their family, and the many different people that shaped it. Maybe it’s the history nerd in me, or maybe it’s just because I’ve always had a soft spot for small town life, but I loved learning about previous generations and the eras of history that shaped their lives.

I was in for even more of that as we headed down to Athens, Georgia, for a wedding on the other side of the boy’s family. Now, I’ve never been to the South before this. I mean, I’d been to Orlando, but does that really count? And I’d been to Nashville, but I think that city is a culture entirely its own. After all, it is basically Hollywood with a touch of twang.

But Athens, Georgia was definitely the South, in all its biscuit-baking, SEC-college-town, drinks-in-mason-jars glory.

And it. was. awesome.

I’ve always harbored a romantic idea that I would do really well in the South, and after spending two days there, I can at least say this: I would have done really well in the South in college. Athens is a cute little town with a sprawling campus at the center. We toured the campus, learned about the Confederate roots of much of the place, and checked out the gigantic Greek row, mainly so I could take a picture for my mom.

If we had more time there, I would have loved to explore other places, because now I have a sweet taste of the South and a craving for even more.

Overall, it was a great trip. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to see new parts of the world and country, and even more grateful that I got to go with the people I got to go with. They say it’s really your companions that make or break a trip, and I can certainly agree with that. But my travel partners definitely made this trip, and they made it incredible.

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