We left Denver on a Friday morning with our sights set on reaching Minneapolis that night but the 14+ hour drive proved to be too much. Because we had to drive the entire length of South Dakota, we decided to at least drive through Badlands National Park and add another park visit to our list.
We drove up through the back way through Imlay and Scenic, SD, which was an interesting view of rural WY and SD but I might recommend sticking to the main route from Denver to Rapid City and entering Badlands from Wall, SD. Lesson learned for next time we’re driving all the way across South Dakota.
We stopped for the night in Sioux Falls, SD, just about 4 hours from Minneapolis, and slept in the only room available in tiny city of Sioux Falls (a smoking room, nonetheless). When the sun rose early on Saturday, we quickly packed up and hit the road, bound to see our friend Elizabeth!
Elizabeth and I are friends from the end of college but she and Alex were actually friends from much younger, tiny tot years. While Elizabeth and I knew of each other in college, it wasn’t until we had a class and were assigned a group project together that we became fast friends and I’m very grateful that, despite distance, we’ve remained so close and make it a priority to see each other at least once a year. So when we planned our road trip, heading north to drive through Minneapolis was a no brainer!
Elizabeth took us out on the lakes near her apartment and we rented a canoe to spend our afternoon lazily paddling about. Somehow, we convinced Philly to join in the fun and she embarked on her maiden canoe voyage.
Canoe riding and swimming aren’t her most favorite activities but she was a good sport throughout the afternoon.
The rest of the evening was spent catching up over dinner and drinks in Uptown, Minneapolis and, per usual, our time together ended much too soon. Team Petre filed out early Sunday morning for our next city, Milwaukee.
In Milwaukee, we spent much overdue time with Alex’s brother and wife and their 3 young daughters. The youngest niece was just a few weeks old and was as precious as they come.
In between baby snuggles, we spent 48 hours playing with the big girls: running around the back yard, coloring at the table, dipping our toes in Lake Michigan.
While kids aren’t on our immediate horizon, it was so much fun to be around mini-people and step into their world for a few days.
As in Minneapolis, our departure came far too quickly and we gave our tiny nieces and their parents big hugs goodbye and pointed our wheels south toward Cincinnati, where both of our parents and families live.
Alex and I haven’t been home to Cincinnati with much regularity since he moved to Colorado thanks to steep airfare prices so we made sure to pencil in 3-4 days in Ohio with our families. Outside of spending as much time with our families as possible, I had to main objectives: ride rollercoasters at King’s Island Amusement Park (and eat Smurf Ice Cream, obviously) and chow down on as much Skyline Chili as I could handle.
Done and done. Alex and I took my youngest sister to King’s Island with us and the three of us did not stop laughing the entire day. I even heard my grown husband squeal with delight as we rode The Beast; it was one of the best days. Because of the heat and humidity (ugh, welcome to Cincinnati), there was no one at the park so we walked onto every ride.
And Skyline? Oh man. I have missed Skyline Chili so much! We bought cans of the Cincinnati chili at our local King Soopers in Denver but it’s not the same as eating it fresh. I mean, that cheese!! I ate so much Skyline Chili in Ohio. #noregrets
We also had dinners with our parents, drank beer with older siblings, marveled at how grown up the younger siblings are, swam with grandparents and caught up with old friends. Usually when we venture to Cincinnati, it’s for a holiday and with both our families in the same city, our short time home is usually hectic and jam-packed. This trip, though, recharged my soul and felt so relaxing. Spending good time with good people will do that to ya.
To end our time in Cincinnati and cap off our trip, we made reservations for dinner at The Palace Restaurant, a 4-star restaurant in downtown Cincinnati where our friend, Nathan Sheatzley is the executive chef.
We opted for the 9-course tasting menu as we couldn’t not try the full scope of Nathan’s work. He did NOT disappoint. Holy cow is his food fantastic! Alex and I have enjoyed Nathan’s cooking on our annual ski trips and other less formal occasions so it was such a treat to enjoy the food Cincinnati has been raving about. If you find yourself in Cincinnati and looking for a high quality meal that will delight you, look no further than The Palace.
Hilariously, Alex and I dined (much less extravagantly) at the Palace for our 1 year dating anniversary; this meal, 8 years later, we toasted 3 years of marriage (a month early but we celebrated nonetheless. Ya know, #gradschoolbudget and all).
The next morning, we ate homemade egg sandwiches at my mom’s house before saying our ‘See ya later!’s and hitting the road. From Cincinnati, it’s a short 5 hour drive to Pittsburgh; straight up to Columbus and then east to a few hours to PGH.
Saturday night, we arrived at our new home and have slowly been figuring out this new life, new schedule and new city.
And if you’ve made it this far in the post, WOOP! We’re almost there.
To any others facing a grad school situation, I highly encourage you to take some time to do something just for you before beginning school. Whether it’s travel or vegging out with Netflix, you’re embarking on a huge life change, regardless if you’re the student or the partner.
I was nervous to take 2.5 weeks off work for this move but am so glad I did. In our culture of HURRY HURRY! DO MORE! NO DOWNTIME! (and especially so at a start up), it’s intimidating to say, ‘guys, I love ya but I gotta do this important thing for myself and my marriage and take an extended road trip to move.’
But half assing something like this brings the potential of starting off the next chapter on rushed, unsteady footing. And from what I can tell about grad school, there’s no slowing down from here on out. From an intense course load to a (likely) intense job, post-MBA, our road trip gave us time to pause and be with our favorite people, doing our favorite things before the chaos.
So with that, our summer road trip ends here, in Pittsburgh, PA where we’ll be back to regularly scheduled blog posts shortly – with less mountains and more midwestern flavors.