On the road: The good and bad
The road trip from Chicago to California was such a great, great experience. Despite the leg cramps and dry, itchy eyes from the constant A/C - it was the most perfect way to see the U.S.
Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska: Flat and pretty. I mean, some of the drive was boring - but some parts were just beautiful. Farms, barns and lots of green grass. It was, in a word...'Merica. We stayed in a hotel in Lincoln - and it was probably the worst experience ever, due to dirty/stained sheets and switching rooms, BUT - we found this awesome pizza/beer place downtown, called Yia Yia's and I have no idea how to pronounce that.
Lincoln, Nebraska to Denver, Colorado: Holy moly. Colorado is gor-geeee-ous. I'd been there quite a few times before, so I knew it was, but I had never driven through the entire state. Breathtaking. Driving through the Rockies was no small feat, though. It was like a rollercoaster, and certainly the complete opposite of flat Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. We stayed downtown at Hotel Monaco, and it was the most stylish hotel I'd seen in a while. Plus, we had the best dinner at the restaurant connected to the hotel, Panzano.
Denver to St. George, Utah: Things plateaued in Utah. Literally. Utah, to me, is almost as beautiful as Colorado. It's astonishing to see the natural formations and colors of the landscape. We ate at this Mexican place called Pepper's Cantina - where they say their food is the "best Mexican food in the whole world!" - and the service was painfully slow, and the décor a bit cheesy, but the food/margaritas were delicious. Best in the whole world? I don't know. I've had some awesome Mexican food in Mexico...so maybe the best in Utah.
Utah to Orange County, California: Comin' down the homestretch, here! Mountains and mountains and mountains finally gave way to smelling salty air and feeling the ocean breeze.
And, we were home.