Puebloan Adventures

During our stay in Oklahoma, my mom, Jun, and I decided to take a short road trip to Colorado. After thinking about where we would like to go, we settled on visiting Durango and the surrounding area.

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Day 1

The drive to Durango from Guthrie took us between 11 to 12 hours. Fortunately, Mom and I were able to take turns driving; it wasn’t too bad getting to Durango as a result.

When we arrived, we were glad to be able to settle in our room. By that time of night, none of us wanted to venture out and find a place to eat. We asked the front desk if they could recommend a place for delivery and we ended up having this amazing pesto-based pizza from Home Slice Pizza. It was one of the best pizzas that any of us had ever tasted.

With our stomachs happy, we soon went to sleep.

Day 2

Our first full day in Durango had us driving again westwards towards Mesa Verde National Park. When I was an undergraduate, my area of concentration was in the archaeology of the North American Southwest. One of the cultures I had studied were the Ancestral Puebloans who had lived in the present-day Four Corners Region. One of the major representations of this culture exists in Mesa Verde.

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For many years since I was an undergraduate I had wanted to visit the national park, but the opportunity to do so had never occurred. While I had visited other examples of Puebloan culture, such as Taos Pueblo and Bandelier National Monument, Mesa Verde was at the top of the list. After many years, I finally had the opportunity to visit the place!

 

One of the highlights of Mesa Verde are the cliff dwellings. These were the places where the Ancestral Puebloans built their homes, fortifications, and storage complexes. Typically, they had built these structures in shallow caves or under rock overhangs along canyon walls.

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To get to the cliff dwellings required driving up a winding road to the top. My mom is adverse to heights and had me drive while we were in the park. She sat in the back of the car with her eyes closed. When we got to the top, it was much easier for her as we went around the park.

 

The rest of the morning and the early afternoon had us visiting the different areas of the park. The highlights were Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace. It was wonderful to visit each of these places.

 

After we had seen everything we wanted, Mom, Jun, and I went back to Durango and explored the town. As we were walking we found this amazing chocolatier—Animas Chocolate & Coffee Company—that had an amazing array of coffee related drinks and snacks. I enjoyed a hot chocolate infused with chili peppers. While it definitely left a tingle on my tongue, it left me extremely satisfied. It was in many ways a nice last note for the day.

 

Day 3

We continued our explorations of Ancestral Puebloan culture by driving down to Aztec, New Mexico. We went there to visit Aztec Ruins National Monument. Another Ancestral Puebloan site, the site resembles more of the great houses of Chaco Canyon than the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. Nevertheless, they share many similar cultural traits, such as the construction of ceremonial kivas.

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Built and occupied from the 11th to 13th centuries, it was later abandoned for unknown reasons. The site, however, is still revered and occasionally used for ceremonies by the modern-day descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans. As for its unusual name, 19th century Americans had thought the Aztecs of Mexico had built the site; it has remained its official name ever since.

 

All three of us enjoyed our visit to Aztec Ruins. We were fortunate that there were only a handful of other people at the site. We comfortably meandered through the different sections. We were impressed with how it was beautifully preserved and interpreted.

 

Afterwards, we went back to Durango to first walk around Fort Lewis College to get an amazing view of the Animus River Valley. From there we went down into the town to grab lunch at the wonderful Ken and Sue’s restaurant. After our late lunch, we took a walk along the Animus River Trail. By then we were ready to relax a bit and went back to the hotel.

 

Day 4

We left early for Oklahoma to try to avoid the storm that was approaching the region. Fortunately, we did miss the rain and the snow. What we did get was a wicked strong wind all the way back to Oklahoma. We made it back to Guthrie at 9:30 that evening. All three of us were exhausted and were ready for sleep. It had been a fun trip, but now it was time to rest.

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This Oklahoman Life

Home is family. Since I married Jun I consider myself as having two homes. One in China with Jun, and one in Oklahoma with my mom and brother. After three weeks of traveling around the Americas, Jun and I were finally going to visit them. And for us to go home.

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The flight into Oklahoma City arrived early on Saturday morning. My mom was amazing and met us at the airport and took us home to Guthrie where we were all soon fast asleep.

Our time in Oklahoma was mainly one of rest, with periodic activities interspersed, during the two weeks we stayed in Oklahoma.

Episode 1

The first weekend in Oklahoma was about family. My mom had planned to have a get together of family and friends for my brother and me. It would be a celebration of my brother’s engagement and upcoming wedding and in a way of my homecoming.

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The get-together was a nice affair. Jun and I finally met my brother’s fiancé and her family. I got to see many relatives and friends that I hadn’t seen in years.  Overall, it was a lovely evening and a nice way to start our stay in Oklahoma.

Episode 2

While my mom had to work in the morning, she was free most afternoons. That allowed us the opportunity to go to different places around the state.

The first place that we visited was the Chickasaw National Recreational Area in Sulphur. The area is located in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains. We mainly visited the Travertine district, which had at one time been Platt National Park. The area had a number of springs and creeks. These springs and creeks then go over the slopping landscape to create small waterfalls, such as Little Niagara.

Mom, Jun, and I enjoyed walking around the Travertine area. With spring starting, some of the trees were budding and the weather was cool and crisp. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

From there we went for a quick visit to the Chickasaw Cultural Center to give Jun an introduction to one of the many Native American tribes in Oklahoma. The highlight of the center was walking around the re-creation of a traditional tribal village. Jun found it interesting and a good way to understand a bit more about what made Oklahoma special.

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Episode 3

My brother made plans with us to have dinner later in our first week there. Prior to meeting up with him, my mom decided to take us to visit Martin Park Nature Center. The last time I had been there was when I was in the second grade with my cub scouts troop. Sufficed to say I don’t remember much of that time.

Our visit to the place was quite nice. It was much bigger than I had anticipated. It was a nice walk around the different trails. Again, we got to see the budding plants and some indigenous animals like turtles and ducks play around in the afternoon sun.

Soon, however, we had to go and we were on our way to have dinner with Michael at Ted’s Café Escondido.

Episode 4

Before we left China, my brother made the request that I make some time to take pictures of him and his fiancé. He requested that we come down to Norman to take the pictures at the University of Oklahoma. I was happy to do so, and it gave us a reason to visit my undergraduate alma mater.

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The Saturday that we had decided to visit Norman had started off with a wicked thunderstorm. As we were on our way to Norman, we first stopped in Oklahoma City to have phở at Pho Lien Hoa. It was the perfect dish for a rainy day.

By the time we had finished lunch, the rain was starting to let up. When we got to Norman the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to emerge. We first went to visit Michael and Gina at their house. After catching up with them, we were soon on our way to the university.

The rest of the afternoon was walking around the main campus and taking pictures of them in different, secluded areas. It was nice spending time with them and getting to know Gina a bit more. Equally, it was just nice to show Jun where I spent four years of my life. The campus had changed a lot since I had gone to school there, but there were still the major buildings and areas that hadn’t changed as well.

Before leaving the campus, Mom suggested that as we passed Campus Corner we stop and get ice cream at the Baked Bear. It was a nice, cool treat as the weather had gotten increasingly hot in the late afternoon.

Episode 5

Near the end of our stay in Oklahoma, Mom took us to the Plaza District for lunch at Gorō Ramen. The noodles there were quite good. After lunch we went around the area and did some window shopping. There were quite a lot of interesting stores there.

One of the interesting things about the Plaza District are the murals on the buildings there. The area curated by Plaza Walls had a number of different murals in different styles that was quite impressive.

The End

The time in Oklahoma was meant as a time to spend with family and to rest before returning to China. While we did get to go to a number of places, I was simply glad to spend time with the people I loved and didn’t get to see often.

On our last day there, Mom and Michael took us to have sushi at our friends place in Oklahoma City: Park Harvey Sushi Wine & Sports Lounge. Our family friend made some wonderful artisanal sushi for us. It was the perfect meal to end our time in Oklahoma.

After lunch we took a walk around the Myriad Gardens before going to the airport.

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Our flight back to Shenzhen went smoothly. All through the flight, however, I felt a deep sadness at having to leave my family there. It’ll be quite some time before I will be able to see them again. But I’m glad Jun and I were able to spend those two weeks with them.

A Jaunt in Las Vegas

When we had started to plan our trip, everything was working out well until we had to arrange how we would get to Oklahoma. Arriving from South America late in the afternoon made it impossible to get the only direct flight to Oklahoma City from LAX. One option we had toyed around with was to take an overnight flight to Houston, and then take an early morning flight to OKC. That would have worked, but it wouldn’t have been fun. And on top of that the tickets would have been expensive and didn’t include checked luggage.

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At that point I went to the Will Rogers World Airport Wikipedia page to see what airlines flew there. That’s when I noticed Southwest Airlines. After doing some research it became possible to add a trip to Las Vegas, have checked bags, book a hotel, and still be under the price that the other airlines were offering for just going from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City with a wait of few hours at an airport. Jun and I discussed it and thought that it seemed like a good idea to essentially spend a day in Las Vegas before going to Oklahoma. It also would give Jun a chance to see a bit of Las Vegas.

Day 1

Everything worked out well. Our flight into Los Angeles arrived on time, and getting through immigration went much more quickly than the first time we had arrived at LAX. We were then on our way to checking in with Southwest and getting on our way to Las Vegas.

When we got to Las Vegas, we decided to take a taxi to the hotel, which ended up being quick but much more expensive than we had anticipated. Check-in went quickly at the hotel and we were soon in our room ready for bed.

Day 2

On our day in Las Vegas we started by going around the downtown area of the city. Then we took the bus to the Strip.

When we got to the Strip we essentially just walked around and did some shopping. Jun was looking for a new wallet, and he found one at Paul Smith. I wanted to buy the destination special watch that Swatch had for Las Vegas to add it to my collection. As soon as we completed those tasks we went and had lunch at Nacho Daddy. Later as we continued our walk to the Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas sign we stopped at Shake Shack to get some shakes.

At the sign we were amazed at how long people needed to take a picture with it. One group of three women had wardrobe changes and took multiple poses with the sign. Jun and I thought it was silly. We quickly took a picture and then went on our way to find a bus back to downtown.

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When we got back to downtown we walked around Freemont Street and just killed the time before we had to take our Super Shuttle (much cheaper than a taxi) to the airport.

At the hotel we collected our bags and waited for the Super Shuttle to pick us up. After a bit of miscommunication about who the driver was to pick-up, we were soon on our way to the airport and then off to Oklahoma to see my family.

Southwestern Explorations

The second part of our vacation was a road trip to visit some of the amazing national parks in the Southwest. I was excited to visit these parks as I had wanted to explore them for a long time, and I finally had the opportunity to do so.

Day 1

The first park we visited was Joshua Tree National Park.

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We left early in the morning from San Pedro to get to the park. After leaving the traffic of Los Angeles, the roads became much more relaxing to drive. When we got to the park, Jun and I had fun exploring the Joshua trees and the rock formations there. We both enjoyed walking around them without having to deal with other people and just simply explore the unique landscape. It was really beautiful and serene. While we were a bit early, we also did get to see the start of the wildflowers blooming at the park.

After a few hours there we soon were on our way to northern Arizona to get to the Grand Canyon. It was strikingly different from Joshua Tree. When we got there in the evening it was significantly colder with snow on the ground. We were quite glad when we got to our room and turned on the heat!

Day 2

Jun and I woke up early so we could start our exploration of the Grand Canyon. When we got inside the park we soon found our way to Mather Point and were awed at the natural beauty before us. All the pictures and videos of the Grand Canyon only capture an iota of the magnificence of this place.

Jun and I soon started to walk around the southern rim and enjoyed the vistas we saw there. We also had a bit of fun with the snow.

For the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon we continued our explorations of the park before ending our visit at the Desert View Watchtower. The inside of the watchtower was beautiful with the Native American murals, and the views from the area were great. It was a nice way to end our visit before our next destination.

From the Grand Canyon we drove to Page, Arizona. The drive there was nice and we soon arrived at the town. We initially had wanted to visit Horseshoe Bend outside of the town, but when we arrived at the entrance we saw that there was construction going on and we weren’t sure if we were allowed to visit. We decided to first go to our hotel and then do a bit of research.

After getting into our room, we searched online and found that there was indeed construction going on at Horseshoe Bend that required parking some distance from the site and then taking a bus. That system, however, ceased operations at 5:00, but it was possible after 5:00 to try to find a parking spot in the construction area and hike to the site. I was skeptical that we would be able to make it in time before sunset, but Jun was optimistic that we should try.

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When we got there we had to wait to find a parking spot. We got lucky that someone was leaving just as we started to try to find a spot and we were soon walking to see Horseshoe Bend. The area is beautiful, and we got to experience a wonderful sunset. We also discovered that there were a lot of flying insects there during that time of day. Even with them annoying us it was a great way for us to end our day.

Day 3

We started the day by going to Antelope Slot Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie in Page for a tour of Antelope Canyon. A little after we checked-in, we were soon in our van headed towards the canyon. Our tour guide took us through the slot canyon. It was really neat to see the play of light on the canyon walls. While there was a lot of people visiting the canyon, it was still a remarkable place.

After returning to Page, we had a quick lunch and soon found ourselves back on the road on our way to California. On the way we drove through Zion National Park on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and spent a bit of time enjoying the beauty there. Since we were trying to get to Barstow at a reasonable hour, we didn’t spend too much time at Zion. As we drove through the park we did stop at a number of spots to wander a bit before continuing our drive.

We ended our day in Barstow to get ready for our next adventure the next day.

Day 4

Death Valley National Park was our destination for this day. As soon as we got to Stovepipe Wells Village, we sought a place to have lunch. We ended up at Badwater Saloon for a simple lunch since the power was out. The wraps we had ended up being quite tasty and was healthy as well. So a good way to prepare for the rest of the day at the park.

From Stovepipe we went to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. This place was really fun to walk around. It was a calming place. Trying to walk up and around the dunes required a slower pace to ensure we kept our footing.

From the sand dunes we drove out towards Harmony Borax Works. We walked around the area and learned a bit more about the industrial history of Death Valley National Park. Borax was one of the few natural resources that early Californians could develop for profit, but it still didn’t have a long history in Death Valley.

From there we took a drive through Artists Drive to see Artists Palette and the different colored rock formations of the area. It was a nice drive, and Jun was able to tell me of similar places in China.

The last thing we did that day was to take a hike through Golden Canyon. We hiked for at least a mile and half before we turned around. During that hike we enjoyed the play of the late afternoon sunlight on the canyon walls.

As we drove back to Barstow, we were treated to a beautiful sunset near Owens Lake. That was a nice way to end our day.

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Day 5

Our last day in the United States before flying to Colombia. Since we didn’t have to get to LAX before 5:00, we decided to have an easy day by spending it around the Miracle Mile. We first went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for lunch and to go around the outdoor sculptures. One of the sculptures we saw was Chris Burden’s Urban Light. We then went to the Farmers Market and the adjoining Grove to do some shopping and to enjoy some ice cream from Bennett’s Ice Cream.

Afterwards we walked back to our car and then went to the airport to begin the next part of our trip. So far our trip had been amazing, and we were excited for the next leg of our journey.

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A Southern California Spring

Two weeks into my two month break from work, Jun and I started our month-long trip in Los Angeles.

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Our flight into LA went smoothly and we even arrived early. Our plane, however, had to wait 20 minutes before we could park at our gate. When we did disembark we then had to wait for about an hour to pass through immigration. All this waiting occurred near midnight; Jun and I just wanted to go to sleep. Everyone was professional and kind to us throughout the whole process. It was just tedious to wait.

After we had gotten our bags, we went straight to pick-up our rental car—still another line to wait—and then off to our hotel in San Pedro. When we got there our check-in was quick and we were soon in our room asleep.

Day 1

After a nice long sleep, Jun and I started our trip to Los Angeles by going to the Getty Museum. We first had to traverse the LA road system to get there. This experience would be the first of many on the reality of driving in LA. When we got there we were amazed at how beautiful the grounds of the Getty Center were. The natural beauty combined with the architectural beauty of the various buildings created a tranquil place to spend a few hours. Jun and I wandered around the place and enjoyed our time there. I especially enjoyed experiencing Vincent van Gogh’s Irises.

From the Getty Museum we then drove down to Santa Monica to spend the afternoon near the ocean. We had a late lunch at Azulé Taqueria and then walked around the area. We went to the pier and walked along the beach until sunset. It was a nice way to start our trip.

We finished the day with a seafood dinner at a really nice restaurant—Cassia—before heading back to our hotel and calling it a day.

Day 2

Out second full day in LA we experienced more of the touristy things of LA and we ended up going to Hollywood Boulevard in the morning. We first parked our car near Hollywood Boulevard and then walked the area for a bit. We saw the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After experiencing Hollywood we took the metro into downtown LA. We first went to grab some lunch at Grand Central Market and then took a walk to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall. From there we crossed the street and visited the Broad. The Broad had a nice collection of contemporary art and it was a nice visit.

We then walked down to the Last Bookstore to wander around the stacks. I had to reign myself in from buying all the books that I wanted to buy. From there we walked past city hall into Little Tokyo. After perusing the area we went to Union Station to take the metro back to Hollywood to get back to our car.

From Hollywood we drove up to Griffith Observatory and hiked around the area to see the Hollywood sign and experience the super bloom there. We then went and visited the observatory until sunset and the wonderful views of Los Angeles from Griffith Park.

After sunset we went back to San Pedro and picked up a pizza and watched TV in our room before calling it a night.

Day 3

On our third day we went into Orange County to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano. The mission was beautiful and the gardens were blooming in the spring weather. Jun and I really liked how they have preserved the historic mission since Spanish colonial times to the present. Afterwards, we walked around the town and had lunch at Bueno Bueno Mexican Kitchen. The town itself was quite lovely.

The rest of the day was spent looking for a pair of shoes Jun saw at a J.Crew in Santa Monica. He decided in the day since we had been there that he would like to purchase them. As a result, we went to a J.Crew near San Juan Capistrano. We went there and they didn’t have the size Jun needed, so we then went to another one where we did find the right size. We then did a bit more shopping there.

After we had finished that bit of shopping, we went back to San Pedro and ended up watching sunset at Point Fermin Park. It was a really beautiful way to end the day.

And that essentially ended the first part of the trip. The next day we began a road trip around the Southwest to visit different national parks and other sites for the remainder of our time in the U.S. before we flew to South America.

An American Adventure

America! Because of my need to get my driver’s license renewed this year, Jun and I decided to visit my family in Oklahoma at the end of May during the Dragon Boat Festival.

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The first thing we needed to do after we got our tickets was for Jun to apply for his American visa. He did the online application and went for his interview in March. He was nervous throughout the process, but in the end he had nothing to worry about and he received his visa easily.

We left China for the U.S. right after I finished work. We headed straight for the China/Hong Kong border. We decided to stay in Hong Kong for the night so we wouldn’t have to rush to the airport the next day. The next morning we woke up early and journeyed to the airport. We got there at a good time as there was hardly anyone in line to check-in. We got our tickets and went through immigration without any issue. Then we waited to board the first of three flights back to Oklahoma.

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Our flights were actually nice. We flew United. After all the controversy this past spring with passenger relations, we were a bit curious to see how things were going to be. We were both pleasantly surprised at how comfortable our flight was. The food was descent for airplane food. We even got ice cream, which was a nice surprise. There was no issue throughout the flight, and the flight attendants were lovely to us on all the flights. It was a nice way to start our trip.

Day 1

After many hours on a plane we finally reached Oklahoma City. My mom was at the airport waiting for us. It was great seeing her for the first time since Australia in 2015. We hugged, and then she hugged Jun. This visit was her first time to meet him in person. She then drove us to have a quick dinner. After going over the options, we decided to have a light Chinese meal in Oklahoma City’s Asian district. So after leaving China we had Chinese food! A slow transition in culinary choices. After dinner we went back to my mom’s house and met up with my brother. We said hi and then everyone got ready for bed since it was so late.

Day 2

On our first full day in my hometown, we got up early with my family and started to make plans. The first thing we did was to go with my mom to her salon and get haircuts. Afterwards Jun and I walked around the historic downtown area while my mom worked. Jun enjoyed seeing the area where I had spent most of my childhood. For my part it was nice to walk around the area; it looked very much how I remembered.

We went back to my mom’s salon and then went to get my driver’s license renewed. The whole reason for this trip back and I was able to get it done in 10 minutes. It was the easiest of things to do. Afterwards we went back to my mom’s salon since she had to work. Jun and I continued to walk around the town. We went to see more historic buildings and then to one of the parks in town. We then walked to see where the first house I lived in was, but it started to rain and we slowly made our way to my mom’s place. Afterwards we waited a bit for her to finish for the morning before going back home for lunch. Mom then drove us to Edmond for a bit of shopping. She, however, had to work that afternoon and took us home while she went back to the salon.

That evening we went to Ted’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant, where we met up with two of my cousins. It was nice seeing them for the first time since 2013! Dinner was amazing and it was great to catch up with them. After dinner we went back home and started to get ready for bed.

Day 3

The next day Jun and I stayed at home in the morning while my mom worked. It was nice just to relax and enjoy not doing anything. Later that afternoon we went to do some shopping for different things. We had a nice lunch at Pepperoni Grill, a simple Italian restaurant, and then did some shopping.

Afterwards we then went to downtown Oklahoma City to see the Bricktown area, the Myriad Gardens, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial to the Alfred P. Murrah building bombing. It was nice to walk along the canal. We stopped at Sonic to get drinks, and then we went to Pinkerton to get some cupcakes. We enjoyed eating them at the Myriad Gardens. They were really good, especially the Oreo one.

After finishing the cupcakes we went for a walk around the gardens. Then we went up through the downtown area to the memorial. We walked around it and I explained the reason for the memorial to Jun. It was not the happiest of conversations, but it was an interesting one.

After seeing the memorial, we went back home where we had a light dinner of leftover food from Ted’s. Then we went to bed early since Jun and I were still adjusting to the time difference.

Day 4

We only stayed in Oklahoma for a short time. Since this trip was the first for Jun to the United States, we wanted to give him the opportunity to see more of it than just one state. So we decided to take a road trip to Colorado.

This morning Mom and I went to get a rental car at Hertz. It was an easy process and it was fun to drive a car after not being able to for years. When we got back home we packed the car and got on our way to hit the road for Denver.

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It took us about 10 hours to reach Denver with the frequent breaks. Our first stop on the trip was to stop at Braum’s to get some ice cream before we left Oklahoma. It was a nice treat in the morning. Our next stop was later in Salina, Kansas, where we had lunch at Hickory Hut, a nice barbecue restaurant with awesome sweet potato fries.

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After lunch we drove straight on to Denver, where we got to experience what we think was a minor hail storm. Jun also got to experience and see a thunderstorm on the plains. Nothing happened and by the time we got to Denver the weather was clear.

When we got to Denver we dropped the car off and got a new car for Colorado. One-way car renting can be expensive! It was cheaper to book two separate reservations. Once we got the car—a Chevy Tahoe no less—we went to our hotel. We checked in and cleaned up a bit. We were all tired from the driving so we ordered some Southeast Asian food for dinner to be delivered to our room. It was a nice way to end the day.

Day 5

We woke up early this morning and made a plan of what we wanted to do. We decided to start off by going to the Denver Botanic Gardens. We drove there and discovered we got there a bit early. Michael, however, remembered that there was a Voodoo Doughnuts nearby. We made the decision to walk over there and order some doughnuts. We were lucky that we got there when we did because the line was still short. By the time we left the line was out the door. As we walked back to the gardens we started to devour the different doughnuts. They were so good and amazing!

When we got back to the Botanic Gardens they were open. We put the doughnuts in the car and went to get our tickets. These gardens are gorgeous. There’s a nice mix of sculptures with different styles of gardens. It was a nice, relaxing morning just to walk around the different gardens and spend time with each other. The place has a nice mix of local and foreign gardens. The Japanese garden was particularly lovely, as was the Rock Alpine garden. Also, everyone wanted me to take pictures of them so they could get new profile pictures. Fortunately, we chose a nice place for photos.

After a few hours there we were getting hungry for lunch. Michael contacted one of his friends who recommended a Mexican restaurant in the Highlands area called Matador. The food there was amazing! The restaurant is located in a nice little neighborhood that we explored after lunch. There was a neat used bookstore that had shelves of books. It was a lot of fun to explore it. During our walk it started to rain so we stopped at an ice cream parlor to get some ice cream and to wait out the rain. By the time we finished eating them the rain had stopped and we went on to our next destination.

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For the rest of the afternoon we explored around downtown Denver. We first went to REI and then went around Commons Park to walk up to the 16th Street Mall. We went by Union Station, Larimer Square, and found Tattered Cover bookstore. Denver has a nice downtown area, but by the late afternoon we were ready to head back to the hotel. When we got back we decided just to go to the diner down the street for dinner.

We had had a long day and we all were ready for bed.

Day 6

Today was going to be a rainy day, so we planned accordingly. The morning was forecasted to be clear before the rains hit in the afternoon. Michael suggested we go to Boulder. We got in the car and drove up to see what Boulder had to offer.

We first went to see the University of Colorado Boulder. The campus was really nice and it was peaceful to just walk around with little people there as it was the end of the semester. Jun really liked to see how an American university was structured differently to a Chinese one.

Later we went to the downtown area and explored the different stores on the Pearl Street Mall. It started to rain by then and we decided to have lunch at Salt the Bistro. The food there was amazing and it was a nice way to end our morning. Since it was still raining we decided to do some shopping for the rest of the afternoon and went to different shopping areas in Denver. Jun was able to get a gift for his cousin and we were able to get other things we needed as well.

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Jun also had the opportunity to get an American steak that he wanted. Michael and mom had suggested he go to Texas Roadhouse to not only get his steak but to experience an American chain restaurant. It was a nice dinner and we were all happy to end the day with a good meal.

Day 7

Our last full day in Denver had us go to Rocky Mountain National Park. We first drove to Estes Park and then to the park. It was a beautiful day!

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We first parked our car and took the shuttle up to Bear Lake. What a surprise to see all the snow. We had an adventure walking around the lake. None of us had the appropriate shoes for snow walking so we had to be careful and we shuffled our way around the lake. But it was worth it to see how gorgeous the area was.

From there we then decided to walk around Glacier Gorge and to see that area. Equally beautiful in a different way. It was a nice walk, but we were getting tired by the end and decided to finish up our visit of the park.

We drove back to Denver to have a late afternoon meal and to do some last minute shopping before calling it a day. Later that evening we went and got some Popeye’s Chicken and packed our luggage for our trips home.

Day 8

Mom and Michael had booked a flight back to the Oklahoma at the same time as our flight back to China. We were able to check out of the hotel and return the Tahoe together. At the airport we checked-in and went through security easily. Denver has a really nice airport. We had breakfast together and soon said our goodbyes.

It was great seeing my family, and Jun was happy to meet them and to get to know them. We were both sad to leave, but knew that we would see them soon one day. Michael suggested maybe we could meet up in Japan next year. That would be fun!

Jun and I boarded our flight and then spent almost 20 hours in transit until we got back to our apartment in Shenzhen. By the time we got home we wanted something to eat, to shower, and then to go to bed.

In the end we had a wonderful trip to the U.S.; we were happy with our adventure there.

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