Growing up and living only in NJ allowed me to experience a lot of what this great state has to offer. I love the change of seasons; the colors of the autumn leaves in Essex County, the smell of the winter air, the renewal of local flowers, and the summer breeze off the shore. I have been spoiled by New York City, one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world. Naturally, this would be the city that I would judge all others by, but I know every city has so much to discover. Last year, I was luckily enough to see what parts of the beautiful state of Utah looks like in the winter. Still, I want to continue traveling and see more of this country, and hopefully more of this world. This summer, we decided to take a road trip... to Minnesota.
After leaving our state's western border, we found ourselves driving through rolling hills and endless farmland. And I mean endless... Our first stop was in Columbus, Ohio but that wasn't for more than one night. The next day we set out early to reach St. Louis, Missouri. Before we left, we did some research. We found out about a collection of shrines, just outside the city center, in Jefferson County called the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. It is a peaceful place with statues and examples of great dedication to various saints of the Christian faith. Each grotto is filled with such intricate detail, from shells to glass windows to personal momentos left behind by visitors.
We couldn't leave St. Louis without making our way over to the Gateway Arch. We only had two nights in Missouri before continuing nine hours up to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Our trip was planned around an annual Summer Meeting for a company we also work for, and this year, I was being nationally recognized. I won Best of Category for one of the four submissions I entered for the Chairman's Award in 2013. Any achievement at this level of competition is of the highest honor, and chosen among hundreds of images. It was truly an experience I will not soon forget.
Below is the image that won it for me, my "Olivia." Not only is she featured in this image but she is also one of my two amazing cats.
After a work week spent in Minneapolis, we continued on through the midwest to Chicago. We had been to the city once before, but never had a chance to see all the sights or much of anything. We made sure this time around, we would not make the same mistake. So yeah, this meant we would do all those things tourists would do. And it felt great! One night, we went out exploring to get a better look from one of the bridges above the Chicago River. Luckily, Matt ran into a guy working for the Wendella Tours and we were able to book a trip on the last boat to set out that night. We took the water taxi earlier in the day and knew that the tour would take us further than the taxi had offered. We travelled down the river and into the Chicago lock. The view was incredible.
After almost two weeks away from home, and our beloved pets, our sort of vacation came to an end. It was finally time to settle back into suburban Northeastern Jersey, away from the repetitive green pastures, countless cows and single lane highways. And of course, time to get back to work.