puyallup to fort leonard wood (the road trip)

day one (puyallup to butte, 604 miles)

On July 16, John & I woke early, finished packing our belongings into our car, and hit the road for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Well—sort of. As with all plans, things went sideways immediately. Our plan was to hit the road by 10:30am after spending a leisurely, meaningful breakfast with our parents (minus my dad, who was working that day and to whom we’d said our goodbyes the night before). John’s mom Martina made her signature German pancakes; my mom brought yummy donuts. Fresh coffee greeted us the moment we woke. All portents of a good morning.

But moving is crazy, and the beginning of the day was mostly a whirlwind of questions and nearly-left-behind-belongings. I think I ate standing up. John’s dad Brian tetris-ed our luggage into the car, then helped John check the engine—which led to some unfortunate revelations about our oil and various-other-crucial-car-parts. When we said tearful goodbyes to our families and hit the road, our destination was not Butte, Montana (where we planned to spend the night), but Subaru Puyallup.

newlyweds with a very full car. all this luggage weighed out at over 600 lbs!

We finally left the Subaru dealership at 2pm. Then we began our roadtrip! …sort of. Because we were doing a Personally Procured Move with the Army, we had to weigh our car before & after packing it (this weight determines the amount we’re reimbursed for moving). So after leaving Subaru, we went to a quarry in Lake Tapps in order to weigh our car. (For those interested, we also did a Household Goods move, which means all of the non-necessity items that didn’t make it into our car are being shipped. We expect to receive those items in a few weeks.)

The first of many Milo the goat photos, taken outside Pioneer Coffee in Cle Elum, Washington. This baby (originally a gift from sister-in-law Emma) made the trek to Missouri with us.

Anyways—we made it on the road eventually.

As we entered the Snoqualmie Pass, there was a major slowdown on I-90. After at least 15 minutes of stop-and-go, a long train of people began to appear on the other side of the highway—women in dresses and aprons and bonnets, men in hats and vests and suspenders, some bearing wooden handcarts. They were waving enthusiastically at the ogling vehicles, some pumping their arms as an encouragement to honk. Were they on pilgrimage? Amish people in Washington? Historical LARPers? We couldn’t seem to tell. And too enraptured by the strange moment, neither of us thought to take a photo, so you’ll just have to believe us, dear reader.

Later in the day, as we drove the last stretch of the interstate before towards Idaho, we noticed that the agricultural fields have their crops labeled with metal signs and streamers. I assume this is to keep drivers entertained, as the signs don’t seem to serve any other functional purpose. And it works! We could see each sign coming a ways out due to the glinting streamers flying in the wind. We’d try to guess which crop was next—sweet corn? Potatoes? Alfalfa? Hay? Peas?

just two kids at a rest stop.
milo (ha! a kid) at the same rest stop.

We were in Idaho for all of 74 miles, winding past Lake Coeur d’Alene and then up through Silver Valley, past forests and gulches and boulders, and then at the height of Lookout Pass we crossed into Montana—the third of our eight-state trip. (This also meant crossing into Mountain Time, though we neglected to update our clock until the next day.)

Milo climbing a mountain in Montana.
We had the view of this beautiful sunset as we crossed from Idaho to Montana. If we hadn’t left home so late, we wouldn’t have seen it.
Milo making a dinosaur friend at the local Sinclair gas station.

We made it to our destination of Butte, Montana well after one in the morning and stayed at a really luxurious Motel 6 (jokes aside, it was clean and air conditioned, which is all we really needed). The next morning, we grabbed caffeine from Oro Fino Coffee and hit the road for Newcastle, Wyoming!


day two (butte to newcastle, 534 miles)

Montana is so, so beautiful. Unfortunately, the skies were a bit hazy due to fires. Also, I believe this is the last photo I have before our windshield got plastered with Midwestern bugs.
We walked through a farmer’s market in Butte to grab coffee, which is where we spotted this profound encouragement.
Milo at our coffee stop in Billings—a 20 minute pitstop that somehow became an hour and a half long? Billings did not like us. Anyways, you might notice Milo’s looking a little rough around the edges here, which is exactly how we were feeling at this point.

There’s not much exciting to report from our second day of travel. We filled the time by playing music, calling loved ones, and listening to the occasional podcast (Weird Religion—a podcast produced by two George Fox professors—has been the recent go-to listen). We stayed that night in Newcastle, Wyoming at a sweet little inn called The Pines.

Miscellaneous sights from Newcastle. This is the street our inn was on.
Perkins tavern was quite seedy. We chose not to eat there, but we did make a (very drunk) friend.

day three (newcastle to kansas city, 800 miles)

Sunday was our craziest day of travel—Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Badlands, and then 11.5 hours of driving before we made it to Kansas City for a late dinner with friends. We learned that most food places are closed on Sunday mornings in rural Wyoming, agreed that we’d love to camp and hike in the Black Hills, saw countless signs for Wall Drug, and discovered that South Dakota is so boring to drive through (check that map above for reference—we really drove in a straight line across the bottom of the whole state). I tried to entertain myself by researching midwestern ghost towns and inadvertently learned about one in Fort Leonard Wood (only one building is left, though, so its status as a ghost “town” is rather disputable).

Milo says #LandBack!

A side note (but one I think is important): Mount Rushmore was a strange experience for me. It’s undeniably an architectural marvel, and I know many Americans treasure visiting it. But I also know that the Black Hills were given in treaty to the Lakota Sioux people, then seized illegally when gold was discovered within their bounds. The specific site of Mt Rushmore is known as the Six Grandfathers to the Lakota people & is considered sacred. I couldn’t feel the same excitement as my fellow tourists with this heartbreaking history at the forefront of my mind—especially as I consider important sites that my own people, the Tolowa, have been fighting for years for the right to access again.

We also saw some of the Badlands, but because we were on a bit of a time crunch we only stayed for a few minutes. In our brief visit, we saw one grazing bison and a whole bunch of goofy prairie dogs. We also learned where the term “badlands” comes from!

One of the sweetest moments of our trip: reuniting with Colleen (and meeting her fiancé Austin) in Kansas City! Colleen was my roommate in Rome & it’d been over a year and a half since we’d seen one another. They introduced us to Kansas City barbecue.
We also witnessed a very strange sideshow à la Fast and Furious—dozens of cars doing donuts and burning out in central KC, bystanders gawking and jumping way too close to the moving vehicles, and the cars speeding away as the cops showing up to disperse the gathering.

day four (kansas city to home, 204 miles)

KC’s best coffee, recommended by a real coffee aficionado.

Driving across the Missouri state line was surreal. After almost 2,000 miles and 27 hours of driving, crossing into eight different states, we’d finally made it to the one we’d call home for the next seven months.

The next morning—Monday—we drove the (comparably) short distance from Kansas City to Fort Leonard Wood. In all honesty, I slept nearly the entire way. I do remember rolling green hills, oak trees as far as the eye could see, and the increasing feel of holy cow. We really are in the middle of nowhere. They don’t call it Fort Lost-in-the-Woods for no reason.

I think this photo speaks for itself—we finally made it!

There aren’t really words for the strange mix of relief, excitement, and terror that filled me as we drove around post for the first time. We are so far from home, surrounded by so many strangers who know so much more than us about adulting.

And we are also so grateful. We have a home, an income, and a community cheering us on from afar. And Jesus is ever our comfort as we adjust to this new life.

This is home for now, and we are grateful.

Obligatory Milo-made-it-home photo. Coffee stains and all!

Ways that we have seen God’s faithfulness recently: we drove over 2,000 miles with no incidents! God led us safely to our new home. We are also praying over whatever ministry the Lord has for us here and trust that He will reveal His will to us as we walk in obedience.

Things we’d love prayer for: patience as we settle into our new home & community. Finding other believers to run in fellowship with. A growing desire for Jesus’ presence and word!

Please message me if you’d like our mailing address for any reason!


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