The morning started out bright and early for us. With an anticipated 13 hour drive time - and change in time zones to our detriment (making it even later when we arrive), it was important to us to get a very early start - as in before the sun had even risen. Yeah for a 4am wake-up on the alarm clock...which really meant only about 4 hours of sleep due to the late hour I finally got to bed from unpacking from camping and repacking for the road trip.
The first stop, before we hit the freeway, was, of course, Starbucks. This is the sunrise from our local shop.
Contrast that to the this view of the sun, taken 13 hours later - in Rexburg, Idaho. Also taken in a parking lot - this time of our first three nights of lodging at the Spring Hill Suites.
John had a good time with photography - including converting some of the images to HDR - like his version of these sunrays:
We tried to be as strategic as possible in our decisions on where to stay. Since we have accumulated the most points with Marriott, and are most comfortable with the "feel" of their rooms - we tried to stick with their brands where possible. It ended up that 5 out of 8 of our nights of lodging were "free" because of accumulated points and "megabonus deals" earned from all of Mikayla's Webfoot trips. That really helps the budget.
So, this location is part of the Marriott chain - and while Rexburg is still quite a distance from where we were hoping to visit, it was centralized enough to give us three days in the same spot to accommodate visits to Yellowstone, The Tetons, and Jackson Hole.
When you walked into the lobby, the decor made a very dramatic statement. Almost a "Retro-Modern" feel. It wasn't exactly our first choice, but it wasn't offensive at all - we were pleased.
What our first "home" for three nights looked like.
After dumping our luggage in the rooms and doing rapid clothing changes, we were off to "Wingers" for dinner. (A very late dinner for us). Rexburg, Idaho is the home of BYU Idaho, and consequently a town comprised largely of those belonging to the LDS Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). This showed itself in a number of ways while we were there:
1.) While fitting a stereotype I've encountered to be overwhelmingly true - everyone was BEYOND friendly, warm, and gracious to us. It felt like such a "safe" town, with couples walking hand in hand everywhere we turned.
2.) There were no Starbucks to be found. Predominately, Mormons don't drink coffee - and therefore coffee shops of any kind were non-existent in Rexburg.
3.) Not that I was looking for it, but alcohol was served at only one restaurant in town. The hotel dining guide made it a point to detail this fact - suggesting Applebees as the place to go if that's what you were looking for. Well we weren't looking, so no worries for us.
4.) Nothing was open on Sunday. Including this particular restaurant that I had looked up ahead of time and thought would be a perfect fit for our family. So, despite the late hour, we dined there Saturday night - knowing Sunday wouldn't be an option, and believing Monday would be so busy that dinner would probably be eaten from a drive-thru.
When we walked in, the host greeted a couple before us. As it was a tight space, it was easy to hear their conversation as the couple talked of their visit to the LDS Temple earlier in the day. The host quickly launched into a conversation about one of his visits in which he brought in M&M's in with him in his pocket, and then accidentally dropped them all over the floor during one of the quiet moments. He apologized that he wouldn't be able to serve that couple as they weren't in his section, but I found myself thinking already, it would be cool for us to be seated in his section. (Steve, if you are at any point reading this...I bet you didn't know that little tidbit...see, you made an impression from the moment we walked in....)
Sure enough - that guy did end up being a server for us. His name is Steve, he's a pre-med student at BYU Idaho - married, with a one year old daughter. And, he's now a very good friend to the Riley family - in a friendship that despite all odds, we hope and believe will only grow over the years. The conversation kicked off as he noticed us snapping photos at every turn, which led us to telling him where we live - and then, BINGO....things exploded from there as Steve LOVES Eugene - both for "Tracktown" and the Oregon Ducks Football Team. When we mentioned our relationship with Kenjon, things started getting really deep as he got a taste of what our passions are as a family to invest in the people we know and how we long to live genuinely and openly in our relationships with "young people"/friends/family as well as our relationship with the Lord.
By the time we'd finished our meal (before we even finished, in fact), we were posing for pics with him, exchanging emails and cell numbers, and promising we'd be back to see him again on Monday night. When he returned from the kitchen telling us how sincere he was in his thankfulness in meeting our family - by mentioning that he told his manager just then that in the year and a half he'd worked there, we were his favorites - well...I can't even express how that made John and I feel. Not just because we felt the same way about him and the hopefulness of a friendship just beginning (we intend to host his family when they come for the UCLA football game in October)...but, because, there's just about nothing we'd desire to hear more as a description of the impact our family could have on someone. Despite all of our shortcomings - the fatigue we felt from driving so long or waking up so early, or arguing about who has to crawl back to get the pop for daddy from the cooler, or the significant differences in driving styles that make John and I "comfortable" - someone was able to see through all that and appreciate us for who we were. What a sweet way to kick off our trip - recognizing that God was already using it to go beyond us just seeing spectacular sights or engaging in entertaining activities.
While we would have loved to have talked to Steve all night, he was still working at his shift at Winger's, and it would be a little inappropriate to monopolize him more than we already were. So, after some deliberation and advice from him - we took off for Nielsen's Frozen Custard - similar to Fro Yo around here.
We'd seen it as we drove to Winger's and were already attracted to the 50's soda shop feel of the atmosphere.
It was delicious - I had vanilla frozen custard mixed with cookie dough pieces. Hard to go wrong with that combination!
I was stopping the boys to take a pic as we left - and again, a friendly couple offered to take the image of all of us. Such great people!