The Wandering Three

Day 23 by Hannah Harley

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May 28th, 2015 I woke up early to eat breakfast with Uncle John. He made us all omelettes with Hamburger, veggies, and cheese. Like I’d sleep through that! It was very early, but there was coffee. Is it ever too early if you have a cup of coffee in your hand? He went to work, and I waited for Karen and Haley to get up. After all, it was only a 6 hour day of driving.

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Once they got up, we piled into the car one more time. We packed up Roxanne, filling her and stuffing her again. We drove to Columbus to eat lunch with my sister, and we spent an hour with her. We then finished our journey, completing our final leg to Pittsburgh.

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I dropped Karen and Haley off at Haley’s parents’ house. We said hastened goodbyes, all exhausted and ready to put our feet up on a comfortable couch.

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It was still a 30 minute drive into Pittsburgh after that, and it was such a surreal experience. How did we do 10,000 miles in just 23 days? How did we manage so many states? How did we do all of this -- without a single speeding ticket or traffic violation? But in all seriousness… How did we manage all of this?

We entered into this journey without a plan and without even much of an itinerary. We just took our bags, piled into a MINI Cooper, and brought our cameras along for the trip.

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I remember when I was preparing for the trip (and by preparing, I mean that I was telling people that I was going on it), and my friends and family said that I would learn more about Karen and Haley than I would ever want to learn. But in reality, I learned more about myself. I got to experience myself in new ways, and I got to test who I am. I was constantly being challenged, whether it be in how long I could drive or how much Taylor Swift I could handle or how much beauty I could withstand. I had to face a lot of harsh realities about myself during this trip, too. I am certainly not as patient as I wish to be, and I am a savage when it comes to food. I am easily socially exhausted, and I am not as good at keeping a diary as I thought. The amount that I learned was astronomical and quite exhausting. Of course, there is too much to share here… But how wonderful is it to explore the world and end up seeing yourself.

Perhaps I am getting too philosophical now as I am want to do. But I think that when you travel, you end up exploring yourself.

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We all got in the car because we’re more than just wandering around the country. We’re wanderers at heart, lost in ourselves, needing to explore. And for me, this was my attempt at finding out a little bit more about my internal existence.

Until the next trip, the next adventure, and the next wandering…

I’ll see you there. Thanks for riding along with us.

Day 22 by Hannah Harley

May 27th, 2015 I woke up in a daze from having only slept for four hours the night before. Karen enthusiastically said that she was “so ready” to drive. I was so grateful to hand over it all to her while I slept. Haley and I slept off the exhaustion from the night before.

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We arrived at my uncle’s in the late afternoon, and he treated us to one of the best dinners we had the entire trip. He prepared spice trout, roasted vegetables, wine, and he treated us to octopus salad and sushi. It was, in my opinion, the best meal we had.

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We relax and enjoyed the comfort of a real bed.

The next day would be the last day of our trip. I’m not sure how I feel about that now that it’s ending.

Day 21 by Hannah Harley

May 26th, 2015 Our journey to Kansas City began at 6:00 am. When the day started out, I didn’t intend to drive the entire way, but all of a sudden (by all of a sudden, I mean after about 6 hours of driving), I realized that I could do it. I could go for the entire 9 and a half hours. This was probably not the safest choice, but I was jiving. Between coffee and my audio book, I was ready to go.

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But by the time we reached Kansas City, I was beat. We arrived at our housing after much confusion, but it was all good. After all, the housing was free (thanks to Karen ad AY Musik!). Unfortunately, I am still trying to pass my summer courses, so I had to go to Panera, where there was wifi. Once I got some work done, I managed to meet up with my uncle Ahmed.

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We hadn’t sat down in what felt like years, but we clicked again like I was 13 years old again. We got drinks at a bar near his restaurant (Habashi House -- check it out if you’re ever in the area). He was one of the people who helped model me from a sassy, angry brat into a (still) sassy but at least less hostile human being. To say I’ve missed our weekly dinners is to grossly simplify the situation with just one emotion. But yes, I miss him, and it was so wonderful to be reunited. I can only hope it’ll happen again soon, but then again, he promised he’d come to Indiana some time soon. So I guess I won’t have to wait too long to be reunited. Yay!

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I met up with Karen, Haley, and our new friend AY. We walked around, exploring Kansas City with him. He was filled with great energy and passion about what he’s up to, and I encourage you to check out what he’s up to these days! (https://www.facebook.com/aymusik) We taught him a little bit about stick shift, but we were all a little too exhausted to be too much fun. We headed back to our housing, beat from another long day.

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Day 20 by Hannah Harley

May 25

Boulder, CO was easily one of my favorite stops thus far. We planned it perfectly so that we arrived during their Memorial Day festivities. (Okay, we didn't plan anything.. It was complete happen stance.)

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HannahHarley -20150525-9194edited

Haley spilt off from me and Karen pretty early. She was attempting to bongo her way back to Pittsburgh. Boulder was apparently much more inviting and happy to give money than Vegas. Probably because the Boulder-ians didn't just lose all of their money in an hour at the penny slots. Or maybe that they're just a more generous people. It's all up in the air.

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HannahHarley -20150525-9313EDITED

Karen and I walked around, buying old fashioned root beers, fancy hats, and jewelry from the various vendors that were there. The individuals who were there were filled with life and an energy of kindness. To quote my mom, it's a 'radiated' energy.

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We joked and laughed. We were all in great spirits until the rain came and urged the celebrations to disperse.

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HannahHarley -20150525-9390EDITED

But before we were forced inside, we had come to grow a love and a passion for Colorado and more importantly, its people. I don't doubt that I'll be back soon. Perhaps maybe I'll even be fortunate enough to live in Colorado.. :)

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Also, be sure to check out www.behippylifestyle.com as soon as you can! Bart and Leigh are passionate about the hippy lifestyle, specifically the enjoyment of nature and travel while spreading love and peace. They were the embodiment of the Boulder kindness and love, offering warm embraces to a couple of out-of-towners.

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HannahHarley -20150525-9364EDITED

Until next time, Boulder!

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HannahHarley -20150525-9400EDITED

Day 19 by Hannah Harley

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May 24 Another lazy morning left us on another afternoon start. We headed to Garden of the Gods, one of the most anticipated stops of the trip.

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HannahHarley -20150524-8456EDITED

We were in good spirits since we only had 4 hours we'd need to be in a car. What a delight to be able to relax!

We arrived at 7:00 pm and headed for the Visitor's Center, as is our habit. They gave us trail options for hiking, so we trekked around for a couple hours.

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HannahHarley -20150524-8886EDITED

We took the upper trail then walked among the rocks. We watched the sunset and saw our third rainbow in a row. It was stunning. Sunset, a rainbow, and some of the most beautiful rock formations I've seen... Does life get better than this?

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HannahHarley -20150524-8688EDITED

We climbed up the rocks and took pictures atop them before sheepishly, in exhaustion, headed to the Marriott.

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We planned to head to Denver and Boulder the next morning. Happily, we ate bowls of ice cream, delighting in our situation, comfy in warm beds.

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Day 18 by Hannah Harley

Our night of frivolity and fun left us so exhausted that we slept in past breakfast, which has been a reoccurring theme this last stretch of the trip. Since Haley had wiped out her food money, her and Karen went to the Strip to Bongo their way to food funds. I stayed at the hotel to work on my school work in an attempt to not completely ignore my online courses... As explained, keeping up with 24 credits while on the road is perhaps not the easiest endeavor. Ah, but we live and learn.

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HannahHarley -20150523-8186edited

We began the drive to the Canyonlands, UT at about 1:30 pm. It was set to be another long day of driving. After an exhaustive effort filled with some of the most beautiful scenes, we rolled into the Marriott. Another night thanks to Mr. Wisniewski's Gold Membership points. Nothing like sitting in a cramped car and then snuggling up in a comfy bed.

But the Marriott overbooked... I don't think I'm a very emotional person, but standing in that lobby at 12:30 pm after 11 hours of driving and being told that we'd have to travel an additional hour to a Comfort Inn & Suites in another town.. That was emotionally exhaustive. Nothing could be worse, am I right? NOTHING.

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HannahHarley -20150523-8327EDITED

As it turns out, it wasn't that bad at all. My reaction was purely a reaction to the situational issues. I was hyped from the anger that had infused itself during our attempted check in and was able to jam to Spotify on the way to our next location.

We had been given coffee, and our new hotel gave us free pastries upon arrival. This change sadly put us almost 2 and a half hours outside of Arches National Park, our original destination. We decided to skip Arches this time, but I'll be back soon to really explore the park. And when I do, I'll stay in a Comfort Inn & Suites.

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HannahHarley -20150523-8272EDITED

Day 17 by Hannah Harley

May 22 We picked up Karen from her cousin's white coat ceremony (woohoo, congratulations, Blinda!!) and headed on our way to Las Vegas. We braved LA traffic for six hours to get to America's playground.

Once we arrived to the hotel, we scurried to an Oyster Bar that was recommended by Karen. There was a roughly two hour wait, and Karen said it was worth it. So we took turns waiting in line (although Karen graciously took the majority of the line time).

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Haley played roulette, and I dabbled my feet in slots. We dined on delicious seafood, and then we lost money, more or less.

Karen made out the best, making a significant profit. Considering this trip has haunted her with the least lucky situations, it was certainly fitting that she got a break in Vegas.

I came out with a loss, but it wasn't too bad. I had my limits, and I stayed within them... More or less. (Don't worry, Grandma, I'm not a gambler now, but if you want to bet on tomorrow's Pirates game... You let me know ;) )

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Haley won the least. As in not at all. Check out her evaluation at her website --> http://www.haleywisniewski.com/

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We returned to the hotel after a rousing night of just the most fun. It was wonderful to escape from the outside world and the ever exhausting to do list and just hang out with my friends. We were all in fairly good spirits, enjoying Vegas.

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I really, really liked Vegas. But alas, I should never go back. Ever.

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HannahHarley -20150523-8118edited

Day 16 by Hannah Harley

May 21 In an effort to not fail out of my summer courses, I have to periodically work on my coursework, and admittedly, miss out on some cool experiences. I've already managed to get behind in some of my courses (not having relaible internet service in Yellowstone will do that to a person). So I spent today catching up while Karen and Haley hiked to the Hollywood sign.

When they picked me up from the cafe I had spent the first 5 hours of my day in, we all traveled to Henry Diltz' studio. Haley met Mr. Diltz at Cindystock, a mock Woodstock that raises money for charity. Mr. Diltz was invited to attend in part because he was the official Woodstock photographer.

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He photographed decades of great music and great musicians. From album covers to promotional materials, he documented the music scene on such an enormous scale that I wonder if any musician could really count him or herself as being "in" until he photographed them.

In my experience, important people who have spent their life around important people are typically a little less interested in the little guy. Not so in this case. At all. We were warming greeted and given so much of his precious time. He was so kind to us and seemed to enjoy our presence, even labeling us as "friends". (Woohoo!)

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He discussed his start in music photography and his passion for it; he told us fantastic stories of his mistakes and triumphs in photography. He began his career by starting another career, music. He was in a band, and he photographed his friends with slide film. He said that he didn't know it was slide film until he got it developed, and he cited this film as being his original love of photography. He chose to show the photographs to his friends in slide format. They would hang out on the weekends and watch the slide projections. Their encouragement and the beauty kept him pursuing it. He began to love capturing his friends and showing it to them; he said his greatest pleasure comes from one of his friends saying, "I didn't even know you took that!"

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He kept photographing (arguably the best way to become good at photography), and eventually, he was photographing promotional materials for countless bands.

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His studio is a ranch house that is 4 doors down from his house; he shares the space with his archivist. Mr. Diltz has shelves and shelves and boxes filled with negatives, slides, books, and other various documentation tools. I asked him about how he developed the film, wondering if he had printed his own photographs, etc. He laughed at my question, and almost as if it were a secret, joked about how he has never printed or developed a single one of his pictures.

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I was pleasantly shocked. So many photographers carry a pretentious air about processing your own photographs and I've often felt harsh glares for how I choose to edit my photographs. I keep it a secret, much like people who don't like cats OR dogs must keep their preferences silent. It's nice to hear from such a great photographer that success doesn't have to be THE way I've been told. Beautiful.

I left feeling rejuvenated and blissful. Mr. Diltz was so kind, so down to earth. I often worry that my ambition will get in the way of me being comfortable with simply existing. Visiting him was a reminder to do what I LOVE and to let my passions take me. I don't have to go the prescribed route. In fact, I shouldn't.

As one of my photography professors says, "Stay on the bus." When you love something, DO IT. Stay on the bus; don't get off before you've arrived. If you love projecting slide images to your friends, DO IT DO IT DO IT. But that's no way to make a living, right? Well, maybe ask Henry Diltz about that.

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HannahHarley -20150521-7921EDITED

Day 15 by Hannah Harley

May 20 We left Groveland fairly early in an attempt to maximize our time in LA. Besides, Karen's dogs awaited us in Anaheim.

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LA traffic is as bad as you'd expect. All of the song lyrics and jokes about it were very accurate in their portrayal of it. Our sixth hour of driving was met with the chaos of LA traffic. At 1:30 on a Wednesday.

We met Karen's dog, and left her to hang out with her family. And snuggle her dog, Angel.

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Haley and I traveled to her aunt and uncle's place, where we were greeted warmly with lunch meats and all the other sandwich making necessities. After Haley and I got settled and wrote our Yosemite blog posts, we went to the beach to watch the sunset. We went with her cousin, Amanda. We all got margaritas and In 'n Out before returning to crash while watching The Office with Haley's other cousin, Artie.

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HannahHarley -20150520-7745EDITED

My entire stay was welcomed by such kindness from the whole crew that I didn't want to leave LA. (I did, but not for lack of hospitality).

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HannahHarley -20150520-7683EDITES

I didn't really like LA. But I fully acknowledge that that is entirely my fault. I was so consumed with work that I didn't get an opportunity to experience the LA that makes LA so renown. I've heard so many great things about it, but I was so overwhelmed that I didn't get a chance to see it. What I did see was traffic and my computer screen.

So I'll be back to experience LA.

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HannahHarley -20150520-7576edited

Day 14 by Hannah Harley

May 19 Yosemite was one of my most anticipated days. I have been looking forward to visiting Ansel Adams' stomping grounds since I first heard of him, and I was so excited to see one of the most celebrated national parks.

It did not disappoint.

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Our entrance, as told through Day 13's post, was a disgustingly windy road. But the views made it worth it.

I drove us into Yosemite, a feat I did with a grin on my face. The road was a little windy, but mainly, it was just incredibly dangerous. It was dangerous in its distracting beauty; I had to make sure I wasn't just staring at the scenery and that I managed to even glance at the road once or twice. (Don't worry, dear sweet friends and family and mainly Grandma, I was very safe and cautious.. Almost as if you were right behind, making sure I did it all right ;))

We stopped at the information booth, which has become our first destination always and asked for a quick day trip summary of Yosemite. It breaks my heart to see this beautiful map and know that I only have so much time to give such a magical place... Until I get to return.

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We stopped once or twice at some beautiful vista points and beautiful spots, but the crew and I had started to get hangry. We grabbed food and then carried on our way.

But as we experienced, we are getting quite fatigued. I asked Karen and Haley why I felt so tired... I'm 21 years old, in the best years of my life, and I am getting out paced by packs of senior citizens who pile out of tour buses. Karen chuckled a little and explained that maybe it's because we're on day 14 with 10 days left to go. And it's true... The amount of things we've managed to fit into just two weeks has been justifiably exhausting.

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We walked around a little longer before calling it quits, but not before Haley and I hiked into a more dangerous section of terrain and felt the mist of a particularly lovely waterfall. It is one of my favorite experiences of this trip.

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We returned to the hostel, got a pizza, and went to bed, worn out from a measly 6 hour day!

When trying to tell you about Yosemite, I feel as if I have failed you, reader. I was so awe-struck that I didn't take nearly as many photographs as I should've. I remained in the moment, mezmorized by the amazing physical features of Yosemite, but I failed to get any images that really capture that beuaty. Even Ansel Adams, on of the most celebrated photographers of all time, failed to capture Yosemite. Oh, and he tried. He dedicated his creative existence almost entirely to this park, and his images are absolute masterpieces. But the park in person is far more moving, inspiring, and daunting than even his photographs.

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I hope I never forget the emotions that ran through Yosemmite and within me there. It was one of the most charged places i have ever been and its beauty drained me and rejuvenated me.

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The last time I felt this attached to an experience, I was in Versailles and I was falling in love with photography for the first time. Who knows where it goes from here, but I do know that this will not be my only time in Yosemite. I will be back and I will be back soon.

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HannahHarley -20150519-7228EDITED

Until then, I've left some love there (an intangible thing that in no way alters the landscape of the park). I can't wait to return to you, Yosemite.

Day 13 by Hannah Harley

May 18 By some miracle, I got to see Kasey Furutama today. I GOT TO SEE KASEY TODAY!!!

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(Also, concerned family... The nose ring is not real. Thanks for the panicked texts though.)

Kasey, for those of you who have been following this blog since my European adventures (and mishhaps), is one of my most cherished friends from Paris. She was part of an amazing group of friends that I made, and they acted as my second family. They celebrated my birthday with me and we ate Thanksgiving dinner together and we drank espressos in Florence. They saw the world with me, one cobblestone street at a time.

I haven't seen Kasey since December. Our last moments together were spent in between the set of double doors to my foyer. We were hugging, crying, and laughing. It was the oddest set of emotions. Saying goodbye is never easy and not knowing when you'll get to see that person brings out the emotional in a couple of frightened young girls. (The frightened emotion was stemming from leaving the home we had come to love those four months, not knowing how the States would feel to us or how to exist without our newfound and extremely important friends)

But how lucky am I that I got to see her just 6 months after our goodbye?? (Not only that but I will get to see her again before the summer is out!!!)

She met me in San Franscico cause she is the NICEST. And she toook me to her favorite sandwich shop, Ike's, which may or may not have created the most magical sandwich I have ever eaten (it might even rival my mom's mushroom sandwiches...) We got coffee; I picked up a free book on European Union policies (ask me why in 5 months... I'm still working on the reasoning there).

Getting coffee was such a familiar comfort with Kasey. Not that we did it that often in France, but we sure did it in Italy and Belgium.

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To explain our friendship a little further... Our friendship really was forged when we got lost in Bruges for hours. I got blisters on the bottoms of my feet, and Kasey cried on the patio furniture of a closed waffle shop. (To be honest... I was another 20 minutes behind her on it) Imagine being young women, lost in a foreign city, with no phones, no map, and worst off.... No address for the hostel you are sleeping in. By some amazing miracle, we got back to our hostel, both of us nearing our wits end. So naturally, we became dear friends.

We called Anastasia, our third wheel friend. We picked her up to help cover the cost of our hotel rooms in Italy. She's mediocre at best. (Well, I might be using an intense amount of sarcasm, since that is the native language of Anastasia and our main form of communication.) Kasey and I were able to talk to her for an hour; how we managed to pull off convincing her that we were paying attention for that long is mind boggling!

(To preface, Anastasia introduced herself to me via Facebook. We had a good chat before she said goodbye, telling me to never contact her again since I seem incredibly uncool. I appreciated her honesty, but it turns out it was sarcasm. Whew!)

So here I was, sitting on a bench with Kasey, my first real friend in Paris, and we were chatting with Anastasia, my first sarcastic and sassy friend in Paris. How lucky could a girl get??

EVEN LUCKIER. There is apparently a 99% chance of a reunion occurring in NYC this summer. It is not set in stone, but my excitement is through the roof. REUNION. A REUNION.

I love these humans, and a reunion needed to happen the day I stopped seeing their faces everyday. But oh, you bet that I'll take a reunion.

Day 12 by Hannah Harley

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May 17  I've never been so happy to sleep in; it was absolutely delightful. We enjoyed slowly getting ready, then called an Uber (which is a ride sharing service similar to a taxi). We were going to the Bay to Breakers marathon, which was recommended to us by a local.

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HannahHarley -20150517-5794EDITED

Trying to explain the Bay to Breakers marathon is a little like explaining what water feels like. Sure, I can try, but mostly, it'll come out as useless blabbering.

Instead... I'll just show you some pictures...

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Day 11 by Hannah Harley

May 16 We rolled into Crescent City, CA the night of May 15th, and I hurried out to photograph the last rays of sunlight going through the Redwoods.

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HannahHarley -20150515-4608edited

It was a beautiful orange, and I got to enjoy a beautiful scene. (I did have to hurry the process since I'm not sure I parked in a fully legal spot.)

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HannahHarley -20150515-4617edited

The next morning was a lovely start to our trip down the coast. We traveled through Redwood Highway, Route 101. We stopped at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove; we didn't get to see too much of it since we were dragging our feet through the forest and ended up deciding to hit the road before the 2 mile trail was finished. In our defense, we still had 6 hours of driving to do until we arrived in San Francisco.

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HannahHarley -20150516-4636edited

The view from our motel was wonderful. Apparently, motels are establishments in which you enter the room entirely from the exterior and hotels are where you enter from within a structure. Some people might say that that is interesting... Some might say that it is not. I bet you're bored of it too.

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HannahHarley -20150515-4565edited

We decided to take the Park Ranger's advice and traveled through the Avenue of the Giants, a short 25 miles that was filled with some of the tallest trees and largest trees I've ever seen. It was a beautiful, visual feast.

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HannahHarley -20150517-6629EDITED
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HannahHarley -20150515-4538edited

I was shocked to see how fire had ravaged the area has been by forest fire. I had no idea that it could wipe out such large portions of a national park. You can see in the tree below.. The tree still managed to live, despite the burning flames and the inner charring. You go, redwood tree!

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HannahHarley -20150516-4736edited

Seriously... how beautiful of a view was the coastal highway?

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The Redwoods were a stunning expression of nature's incredible and daunting prowess. And I loved every minute of it.

Day 8 by Hannah Harley

May 13, 2015   We began the day by traveling through Grand Tetons National Park, headed to Yellowstone. Despite my research, we didn't really have a plan for our travels. As it turns out, that wasn't too bad.

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Grand Tetons is a beautiful park, and we had (a little unknowningly) traveled through it the night before. We photographed the mountains, and I admittedly overphotographed them. Do you ever see something so beautiful that you can't help yourself and you take so many photos.. You realize later that it is an obnoxious amount and curse yourself a little for your foolishness? I did in front of the Eiffel Tower the first time I visited, and the Grand Tetons inspired the same type of overphotographing. All of the images look the same, more or less, but I was taken with how stunning the mountains were that I lost track of myself.

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HannahHarley -20150513-2466EDITED We traveled from Grand Tetons to Yellowstone, soaking in the overwhelming beauty.

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We were going to go to Old Faithful, but we were quite surprised to find that some of the roads were closed (including the one that saved us 79 miles of driving with a short 17 mile trip to the same place....). Did you know that Yellowstone opens the southern roads on May 10th? Well, some of the southern roads. We got there the 13th, thank goodness. We would have spent the entire day trying to get into the park if we had arrived just a few days earlier. So much for preplanning.

HannahHarley -20150513-2446EDITED So we decided to wander. We wandered into Bison herds, onto thermal grounds, onto scenic overlooks of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and into a restaurant, among other things. It was a care free day filled with such beauty and winding, stunning roads and even some snow.

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I've explained earlier in this journey that I've struggled with the conflicting love of nature and love of city. Standing in Yellowstone, emerged in nature... How could any city compete? But then I remembered Paris and Pittsburgh and became yet again completely conflicted.

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But you have to admit.. Nature feels right. I know some people that don't like dirt and can't handle being outdoors for longer than a barbeque. But to me, it feels like a reconnect to a need that I've been ignoring by being in a city. I grew up surrounded by trees and immersed in creeks, more so than television. While that has lead to some awkward conversations in which I explain that I did not have a favorite Disney channel show, which has become a personality test for my generation, I wouldn't change anything for it. Besides, I had favorite chickens and some of my hopes and dreams

consisted of raising certain exotic chickens. Silkies still allude me, but hopefully, one day....

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While I love living in a concrete jungle, there are so often consequective days in which I don't see grass. Being surrounded by the natural beauty of Grand Tetons and Yellowstone seems to fulfill a primal need.

I love each moment in these parks. It was a breath of beautiful fresh air, even when the air was filled with sulfur from the outpouring of the mud geyers. It reminded of the darkroom at Point Park, which was such a sweet and welcome smell.

HannahHarley -20150513-3684EDITED The bisons inspired very mixed reactions from our party. Karen and Haley were extremely excited to be so near bison, and they got way closer than I would've ever dared get near a wild animal. I stood back, trying not to be a mother with the feeble cries of "KAREN! HALEY! GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW" despite my intense desire to scream just that. Turns out, they were fine, and I should've been worrying about the car.

 

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I had gone up a particularly lovely hill to see these mud geyers, and Haley and Karen remained near the bison and the parking lot. When the bisons decided to cross the street, one got a little hung up on the MINI. He was apparently walking across the parking lot and saw her beside him... He then stood in front of her, staring her down. Karen and Haley said that they were begging him (quite softly) to not head butt the car since it looked like that was exactly what he wanted to do.. We were lucky, I guess, since he decided not to head butt our car, but if you told me that I would be thrilled that a bison didn't head butt my parked car, I would've definitely done the quizzical eyebrow.

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We later had other animal and car troubles when Haley saw a moose. She was driving and got so excited to photograph him that when she was pulling the car onto the shoulder, she drove the car over the paved edge of the road. Noises, including my panicked shrieks, scared off the moose, but we got Roxanne back onto the road. We saw no more moose though, but we were able to keep the car on the road (mostly... there were some unpaved 'roads').

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We returned to our hostel, got dinner, met a couple people, and went to bed. I was absolutely exhausted and completely consumed with the photographs of the day.

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Day 9 & 10 by Hannah Harley

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May 14 & 15 We left Grand Tetons a little later than expected, but we were still recovering from the excitement of the day before. We knew that the next day wouldn't be extremely interesting, seeing as we would be driving into Boise.

We got there 8 hours later, and quickly went to get Karen a new phone. She had shattered hers after she took a selfie with a bison, and unfortunately, the photo has been deleted. It would've been awesome, too. We ran one more errand; Karen has THE WORST luck.

We went to Big Jud's, a burger joint recommended to us by the man who sold Karen her new phone. It was delicious, but wow. There was so much food. We were so exhausted that we ate in silence, which has come to be our practice. It's not that we don't like each other.. We just have to re-energize before socializing.

We eagerly went to our hotel, which was so generously provided to us by Haley's father (we are so so so grateful). There were TWO bedrooms and a kitchen and a living room. And by some amazing miracle, there was Law & Order: SVU. I was happy.

I got some summer coursework done before I crashed for the night.

We began our departure at 7:30 am when I woke up Haley and Karen, who by some miracle, didn't hit me for waking them up. We grabbed some breakfast and hit the road. I drove the first 6 hours, a feat that I wouldn't have been able to do just a month ago, but I have been trained at this point.

We would be rolling into California, so I knew Karen was way excited to get there. True enough, as soon as we crossed the border into California, the car erupted in overjoyed hoorays.

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HannahHarley -20150515-4603unedited

I'll be honest with you, my dear reader. I am getting quite exhausted. I had an intense 21 credit semester this spring, not to mention that softball consumed so much of my time. I am proud of how well I was able to maintain both my mental stability and my grades, but the nature of this trip hasn't really given me the break I probably needed. I explained that if I don't do it now, when will I do it? ("If not now, then when?" is a favorite quote.) But I am still trying to recover from a crazy semester and on the road might not be the best place to do that.

The past two days have given me a wonderful respite from photography. I love photography; I love it. But I feel like I've been pursuing it without inspiration. It feels like a habit more than a passion. I think this just stems from exhaustion and fatigue more so than an actual decrease of my love of this medium.

Photography is one of my greatest passions, that's without a doubt. But like everything, it is best in moderation. I feel like I have to photograph each moment of this trip, and while this moment is fleeting and I've probably missed 20 spectacular photos in the course of writing this post, it is as important to remain balanced instead of allowing yourself to lose your passion.

I see Haley and Karen photograph and film with such endlless energy, and I find that I sometimes need more time and even need to not take photographs. There were many times in Yellowstone when I elected to not photograph. It's not that it wasn't beautiful, but sometimes, the camera gets in the way of the moment. Sometimes, that shutter ruins the scene.

It reminds me of when we were in the Badllands, catching the last rays of sunlight. We were all desparate to get it the shots, to get the only images of the Badlands that we would have. When a couple came to that spot, they heard our shutters snapping every two seconds. I watched them a little, and I noticed them look at each other, exchange a painful smile and leave. We were so busy capturing the moment that we forgot to live in it.

So maybe, going forward, I'll photograph less. But maybe, I'll get better pictures if I pause, breathe in the moment, and above all, rest up. As my dad said, "It's a big country."

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HannahHarley -20150515-4583edited

Two weeks remain in our journey.. Here we go!!

Day 7 by Hannah Harley

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May 12, 2015

The three tired travelers woke up a little later than the past days; we had a full day the day before. We went to the park's restaurant and got breakfast. Karen and I spilt a "Sunrise Fry Bread". It included a traditional Indian cuisine, fry bread. I had never heard of it, which by my parents' standards means I HAVE to get it. So, of course, I got it!

It was a huge dish filled with this fry bread, which was covered in refried beans, sour cream, cheese, egg, and complete deliciousness. It was so good. We were thinking of hanging around until the Indian tacos became available at 11, but Yellowstone was beckoning us.

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HannahHarley -20150512-2090-2EDITED

But to exit, we had to pass through a shop... Forty minutes later, Haley had a four foot decorated arrow, Karen had a backpack, and I had a pair of earrings. Fools. We are money spending fools.

After some confusion due to differences in the GPS directions and the phones' directions, we got on the road. Pretty early on, Roxanne turned 40,000 miles. Tough to see them grow up, huh? :)

It was a heafty trip, another 10 hours of driving. While we're getting to be old hats at it, it doesn't mean it's easy for us. But the sights certainly got prettier the last three hours, and we enjoyed each beautiful view. Until it got way too dark and warning signs for falling rock, Bison, unpaved roads, and weather conditions got us a little worried. (Except Haley, who really wanted to see a bear or a bison at 10:00 pm...)

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HannahHarley -20150512-2295EDITED

We dared the Grand Tetons National Park, which we didn't know until we found ourselves exiting the park.. It included a long, winding, unpaved road. It was beautiful at first, but once night hit, it became a little treacherous. It was filled with signs reading, "WOAH! BISON AND ELK ALL OVER ROAD AHEAD! SLOW DOWN!" (actually... That was the actual sign) and "Wildlife on Road". Considering the nighttime speed limit was slower than the daylight speeds and the fact that we were traveling through a National Elk Reserve... We heeded the warning. 

We finally made our way to Jackson Hole and Teton Village, neatly nestled in the flat land under the mountains, and we snuggled in for the night, eager for a new day of less driving and more nature.

Day 5 by Hannah Harley

May 10th, 2015

We departed at 8:00 am to finally pick up our third member, Haley. We picked her up at the hotel that she was staying at with her family. They were celebrating her brother's recent graduation and his pharmacy doctorate degree! Congrats to him!

We hopped into the MINI (after careful packing that even included bongos) and started our three person journey! The GPS gave us an 11 hour and 40 minute trip... Yikes.

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HannahHarley -20150510-0727edited

I took the first 7 hours, but we stopped for coffee, pens, and food occasionally. Haley and Karen slept most of the way, but as I type this, I'm reminded of how much sleep they got that I missed out on. They're having a sing along party in the car, and I'm struggling to keep my eyes open.... Guess 6 hours of sleep really effect your enjoyment of Taylor Swift. Luckily, I'm not driving, so I can rest.

Almost 12 hours in a car gives you time to really take in life. I kept trying to figure out why exactly I'm on this trip.

Sure, I want pictures. Sure, I want to see America. But it's much more than that, of course. I'm excited to see how three individuals react to 100 hours and 24 days inside a little car. I'm excited to see how many hard surfaces my body can be okay with sleeping on. I'm excited for the challenges. I'm excited to see what I'm capable of and what I'm not. There are so many unfathomable challenges that I have yet to think about or experience. But this trip... I hope it can give me a better understanding of the world and the person I want to be.

Maybe I am not the type of person that enjoys Taylor Swift (at all), but I want to be the type of person that can listen to her on blast on the 10th hour of the day's drive while two energetic young women yell/sing along.

Workin' on being breezy after so many years of not <3

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HannahHarley -20150510-0800edited

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, who lovingly let me go on this trip even though I didn't get to spend Mother's Day with her this year. Thanks for all you've done over the years. You didn't just do the usual stuff; you did it so well. Thanks for the hard lessons, the time out chair, the hugs, and for making sure I didn't grow up to be a villian (yet). Love you, Mom.

Day 6 by Hannah Harley

May 11, 2015 Our day started fairly early with an 8:30 start. We got breakfast at the hotel, and we stuffed sandwich supplies into to-go containers. We hit the road about 9:30 a.m., headed toward the Badlands.

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HannahHarley -20150511-0853EDITED

Looking up into a tipi at a rest stop in South Dakota

I drove the first half hour in an attempt to get us through Des Moines' traffic. Much to our surprise, Des Moines has little to no traffic. I let Haley take over outside of the city, and she got her first serious driving experience in a standard underway.

The states began to blur together for me. Once we arrived in South Dakota, I drove for Haley. I began listening to Julia & Julia, a book popularized by the movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

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HannahHarley -20150511-0871EDITED

We went to the Corn Palace, a destination recommended by my midwester-raised mother and aunt. It was under some serious construction, so it wasn't that pretty. So we went to the shop across from it in part to hide from the cold, but also for postcards and in my case, a jacket. (Karen had convinced me in the 90 degree day two days before that I should leave my jacket with Haley's parents. I was overwhelmingly hot, and completely agreed. Who needs jackets? I do. Now I most certainly do.)

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HannahHarley -20150511-0923EDITED

We met a man who is called Popcorn. I'm not sure if this nickname comes from his love of popcorn or if he makes the best popcorn or that he sells it or that he shells corn. I can't be sure, seeing as I didn't ask him, but he was fascinating. He was quite kind to us, eager to show us his hand crank that he uses to shell the corn that used to be on the Corn Palace. He then sends it to Albuquerque for it to be made into jewelry by the Native Americans.

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HannahHarley -20150511-0903EDITED

He talked with us about his passion for stage performance and clowning around - literally! He dresses up as a clown, bringing smiles to peoples faces all around South Dakota. We left after our pleasant conversation, carrying on to the Badlands.

I must confess... I've been quite excited to drive this trip. This stems from my compatriots just learning stick shift and my newfound love of audiobooks. They put Haley and Karen to sleep, which is calming for me. Not that I don't like them awake, but I tend to worry about the temperature or the conversation when they're awake. When they're asleep, I assume that they're comfortable and they wouldn't mind this audio book. I had been driving for a few hours and I stopped a couple times, thinking that if they woke up, I'd let them take over for me. I guess the audiobook had done wonders-- they were passed out. The winds made driving a little more challenging than I thought they would. I had been warned of their power, but it was another thing to hear them slamming against your car.

We arrived in the Badlands at 7:30 pm. I chuckled as we neared the park. There was so much snow, and Karen, our Californian, hates snow. She was in for a rude awakening, literally.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1455EDITED

But when she did, we were so close to the Badlands that the scenery was stunning. We drove to our hotel and excitedly headed back into the park. We wanted to grab some pictures of Roxanne, the MINI Cooper, with the Badlands behind her. In a way, she has become our own little mascot.

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HannahHarley -20150511-0943EDITED

While we were photographing her, we met a couple and their two dogs. They were from Ohio, and they were enjoying retirement at the National Parks. Bob offered us help in identifying an animal we met along the way, a Bighorn Sheep that we misidentified as a Mountain Goat. To be honest, I haven't really looked into the identification of midwest species, and it was helpful. Now, hopefully, we won't look so foolish in Yellowstone.

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HannahHarley -20150511-0969EDITED

We ventured back into the Badlands National Park, eager to experience the park. It was close to dusk, so we were catching the sunset at a beautiful time. The rocks were jutting out of the ground and getting lit up by the golden rays. It was electric to experience.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1348EDITED

I sometimes forget how rejuvenating nature is for me. I love living in the concrete jungles. I thrived in Paris' beautiful grey streets and have loved Pittsburgh's skyscrapers. But the rejuvenation I've felt in large nature areas is unlike any feeling that cities can give. The German language has a word for this, in a sense.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1265EDITED

Val-dien-sum-kite, spelled phonetically since I don't actually know how it's spelled seeing as it has only ever been spoken to me, explains an experience of one-ness with nature, a rejuvenation of the soul, a peace that is only found in nature. It is similar to a religious experience, but it is based in nature.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1319EDITED

I have been surrounded by both trees and by skyscrapers, and I still don't know which environment I prefer more. I love both, and that is a troublesome situation to be in. Since this trip involves a heavy dosage of cities AND nature, maybe I'll figure out a little more which way I am leaning toward... Between Yosemite, LA, Yellowstone, San Francisco (which I've been told many times is the perfect city for me), the Badlands, Denver, etc, I should figure it out a little more. Right?

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HannahHarley -20150511-1326EDITED

After our exploration of the park, we traveled to the local food place. Interior, SD has about 70 residents, so the food options are a little limited. But boy, are we glad that we found this place.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1748EDITED

We pulled into a parking lot for a place with a large 'BAR' sign above it. We saw a little dog in one of the three cars in front of the bar, and after a couple photographs, a woman greeted us, handed us the dog, and asked us to bring him in when we were done with him. She went back inside, and there we were, snapping pictures of a little Zeus. We went inside, in which the bartender recited a menu of burgers and pizza. We excitedly ordered burgers and upon encouragement, we got some alcohol.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1778EDITED
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HannahHarley -20150511-1790EDITED

I was reminded of my professor, April Friges, who gave us some unconventional advice. She was presenting her graduate school thesis to us and discussing her method to interviewing individuals'. She spent years photographing this small town, but her initial attempts at being accepting was difficult. She said that it helped to go to the bar and just meet them. She recommended it for our documentary projects. Naturally, we are not supposed to get overserved and become intoxicated, but it is one of the most comfortable meeting places.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1811EDITED

And she was right. We were able to talk with the three individuals for a few hours with great ease.

Greg, the proprietor of the bar, cooked some hamburgers for us. When we were able to talk to him, he was eager to share his brother's success as a photographer, and his own witty banter with us. He joked that he bought a bar; his brother bought a camera. And he doesn't know who gets to have more fun, but it's quite the contest. (His brother's work can be seen by searching Pixel River on Facebook!) When Greg gave us the burgers, he counted them off in "his language" and then gestured to one of the guests, Mitch. Greg cited the language as Indian and Mitch smiled kindly. Any language sounds like mumbled nonsense when you first hear it. Just a simple 1, 2, 3, and I was fascinated.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1955EDITED

Mitch told us that he's a guide, who shows around the hunters when they come up to the region. He showed us some of the more impressive kills, including a buck with a massive rack which had been shot by a 67 year old Californian woman. Mitch, or Dimitri as is his given name, told us a little about his work as a bull fighter. He used to do it nearly every weekend, but age and injury got him out. Judging by his scars, that was probably a really, really great idea.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1994EDITED

Clover was the dog's owner, and she offered some great insight into Interior's culture. I thought I came from a small town, but Interior has about 68 people, by Clover's understanding. Woah. She joked that she's flashed about half of them at one point or another, and seemed to take particular pleasure at the ever-increasing uncomfortability of the FedEx guy whenever he had to deliver her packages. "It only takes once," she joked. She told us that she left when she was younger. She had hated so much about the town, but when she was gone, she realized that those had become her favorite things about the town. She cited an old Indian saying, "You always return to the place where your umbilical cord is buried."

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HannahHarley -20150511-2005EDITED

If only we weren't so exhausted, I'm sure we would've stayed even longer, but as it was.. We left at 12:30 am, saying goodbye to our new friends and begrudgingly giving back the dog.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1901EDITED

I was continuously surprised at how kind the South Dakotaians were to us. I was told to expect southern hospitality in Nashville, and while we met some amazing people (especially our hosts), we got sassed in lines, scoff at in gas stations, and cut off by very bad drivers. It was an odd city.

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HannahHarley -20150512-2033EDITED
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HannahHarley -20150511-1896EDITED

But South Dakota was filled (well... loosely scattered) with some of the most kind humans we've met thus far. Everyone from our new found friends at the bar to our hotel operator to the national park staff have been so warm and welcoming.

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HannahHarley -20150511-1341EDITED

Keep on following the Wandering Three (pictured here with our shadows)! Soon, we take on Yellowstone National Park!

Day 4 by Hannah Harley

May 9th, 2015 

For some terrible, terrible reason, today began at 6:00 am. Actually, the reason is pretty great, but the hour was not. My cousin was graduating from college, and we had to be there early enough to get good seats. (Plus there was free coffee.. :) )

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Day 3 by Hannah Harley

May 8th, 2015

Not every part of adventuring is exciting... Although it can be quite fun.

Karen and I spent the better part of the morning in the MINI dealership. Roxanne was getting her new O2 gauge installed, which introduced us to worn out brakes. Roxanne got new brakes, an expensive and more time-consuming procedure. Karen and I found that the service from the MINI dealership was excellent though.. A sunshine in a grey morning.

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