This summer has been a very busy one! The first part of this blog post, where I talk about my trips to South Carolina and Colorado, can be found here. Following these short trips, I still had a few more fun weekend adventures planned. Between these, I continued working 50 hour-weeks, filling my time off with cat cuddles, roller skating, and reading. I also applied and was accepted into The Un1t, the first ever ambassador program of my favorite app, 1 Second Everyday! It’s been an exciting summer, made even more exciting by the time I was able to spend with my best friends.
St. Louis, Missouri (July 2021)
One July morning, I drove four hours to St. Louis to meet up with Mackenzie for a mini weekend of exploring! We met at our Airbnb and then headed out into the city. Our first stop had to be the St. Louis Arch, of course, so we found cheap parking and walked towards the monument. Rides to the top were sold out for the day (which helped our decision of whether to ride or not), so we sat in the grass for a while, talking, watching strangers, and soaking in the sun.
After we had enough of the tourist-y views, we walked back to the car and drove to Taco Bell for frozen drinks. We drove down the St Louis Mural Mile, but the wall had become a mess of graffiti and it was hard to pick out individual images, so we didn’t stop for any pictures. By that time, we were getting hungry, so we ordered food online from my favorite vegan restaurant, Lulu’s Local Eatery. We explored a shop next door until we got the text that our pickup order was ready, and then we found an outdoor table to eat. It was super hot outside, but we were so hungry, we didn’t care. We dipped our tater tots in vegan cheese, enjoyed our meals, and talked about books.
After getting some cold water from a gas station, we drove to our next stop: Forest Park. We slowly made our way toward the St Louis Art Museum, taking in the sites of the park. Eventually we made it, after climbing up a large grassy hill and almost dying. The art inside the museum was beautiful, and even included a painting by Monet and a few by Van Gough. We saw lots of different art styles and had lots of funny commentary on all the pieces.
We left shortly before the museum closed and sat in another beautiful patch of grass, this time with a view of a pond on one side and the beautiful museum on the other. We had to snap a few pictures, of course, because that’s who we are.
At that point, we were hot, tired, and really needed some coffee. We found a Starbucks on our maps and followed the directions to a really cute downtown area. There were people playing music, which really set the mood of the area. We got our drinks and walked around, stopping in a bookstore and taking pictures with a cute mural. Everything just felt very happy and free and it was really nice!
After that, we headed back to the Airbnb to rest for a while. We watched TikToks and talked about past travels and adventures, and before we knew it, it was dark outside and the day was almost gone. We left the Airbnb one last time to grab some food (I got fries from Five Guys and Mackenzie got ice cream from a local shop), then called it a day and went to sleep, excited for the next day!
Sunday morning, we picked up smoothies from Tropical Smoothie and vegan pastries from a local coffee shop. The vegan blueberry scones were to die for and I haven’t stopped thinking about them. Then we drove about an hour away to The Gentle Barn, a nonprofit group who takes in animals who have escaped from slaughter houses. While there, we saw chickens, pet pigs, hugged cows, and watched goats play. It was such a fun couple of hours and I loved getting to be around animals who are happy and thriving, the way all should get to be.
It breaks my heart that most animals never get to experience love, safety, comfort, or care. I’m thankful for groups like the people at Gentle Barn who use their resources to bring light to these beautiful creatures.
After watching the pigs get fed their lunch, Mackenzie and I parted ways to drive home. It wasn’t goodbye for long, though, because we both had road trips planned the next weekend too!
Indiana (July 2021)
Just six days later, at 5:30am on a Friday morning, I left home and drove to Indiana for the first time to visit Chey and Levi in their new apartment! I stopped in St. Louis to get more vegan blueberry scones and an iced coffee and hit a lot of traffic in the last 50 miles of my journey, but I finally made it after about 9.5 hours on the road. Chey and Levi were waiting for me with an adorable sign, and while we waited for Mackenzie to get there, we talked about life and then made some mini pizzas! We left the apartment to feed Levi’s parents’ dogs, which gave me a little view of the town, and got caught in the rain at the end.
Once Mackenzie got there, we ate more pizza (with frozen margaritas), laughed a lot, and hung out until it was time for bed!
The next day, Saturday morning, we got up early and dressed cute for a day in town!
After taking some pictures, we drove to the Downtown area for a local Farmers Market! There were a bunch of booths set up in a square, and there was even one with some vegan treats. After the market, we took some pictures in front of a fun mural, which has become a tradition for our group. Then we walked around and checked out a few stores, including a cute used bookstore and a crazy toy store!
We planned on eating lunch at a local vegan cafe, but they were almost out of food since it was so late in the day. We did buy a bunch of pastries though, and I decided to try their vegan “Po Boy” even though I didn’t know what it was. Back at the apartment, Chey, Levi, and Mackenzie made pasta while I ate my lunch. It ended up tasting really delicious, even though I still wasn’t sure what it was. After that, we headed down to the pool for a couple of hours. Chey and I played mermaids while a child stared at us (she was probably jealous of our mermaid powers).
Later, we went out for dinner at Three Amigos. We ate delicious guacamole and salsa, even better meals, and I had a large frozen margarita that had me feeling “swimmy” after just a few sips.
We had plans to watch a movie and we picked the Emperor’s New Groove, but we only watched ten minutes of it before getting distracted by the storm outside, our drunken laughter, and who knows what else. We stayed up late talking before heading to bed, but not before finishing our “day in my life” TikToks that Chey, Mackenzie, and I all made. You can watch our day from three different perspectives!
The next day was going to be a sad one, but we were determined to make it fun while we could! We slept in a little, and then us girls headed out to Top Banana while Levi drove to feed the dogs. We looked at local grocery items and spent a long time in the garden section, looking at plants, taking pictures, and laughing about the littlest things. Chey even picked out a plant that she named Kenzie after us and I wanted to cry.
Shortly after that, it was time for Mackenzie and I to say goodbye and begin our long journeys home. I cried saying goodbye to everyone knowing it might be over a year before I see them all again. I’m so thankful for my best friends and our weekends together. Every day I spend with them is genuinely one of my favorite days of the year, I feel such peace and happiness with them. This feeling is so rare and I’m so grateful ❤
Jaycee’s Bachelorette Party (August 2021)
My best friend from college, Jaycee, is getting married next April, but because I’m moving so soon, we had a little bachelorette getaway weekend for her early August! Everyone met in Branson and her wonderful maids of honor planned such a jam-packed, fun few days.
Thursday afternoon, we met at the hotel which had been decorated just for the bride to be! We caught up and spent some time talking before heading out for our first set of plans!
First, we went to the Fun Spot for a friendly game of lazer tag! Girls versus boys. During the game, I felt like I was doing great. My proudest moment was when I jumped in the air and shot one of the boys who had been hiding behind a wall. Once we saw our final scores though, it was a different story. The lowest scoring guy still had a higher score than the highest on the girls’ team. I may have had one of the lowest scores over all, but I had the highest accuracy percentage!
Next, we went to the Branson Landing. We walked around, popping into a few stores, until we got hungry enough for dinner. On our way to the restaurant at the end of the Landing, it started pouring rain and we all got soaked. We still enjoyed dinner at The Paddlewheel, though! Next we got shave ice from Swick’s in town (team cotton candy!) Then we headed back to the car and to the hotel, where we learned how to play a card game called Werewolf. If you’ve ever played Mafia, it’s essentially the same game, just in card form with a few different rules. It was a ton of fun and we stayed up late playing many rounds.
On Friday morning, after I ran back home to feed the cats their breakfasts, we went for a hike at Table Rock State Park! It was an easy hike, but very humid outside. I enjoyed having the time to talk and catch up more with Jaycee and Amanda!
Then we went for a morning coffee run at Vintage Paris. My iced vanilla/hazelnut latte with almond milk tasted even better once we got out of the heat and humidity. We also took some pictures at the scenic view right across the road from the coffee shop!
Next was one of my favorite parts of the weekend: ziplining! Branson has so many places to zipline, but despite growing up here, I’ve never done it. We went to the zipline place at Indian Point, which had four different lines for us to go on. It was a lot of fun, and I even had the guts to have my phone out and film a couple videos for a couple of my 1 Second Everyday projects!
After our adrenaline-filled adventure, we drove to Ozark for lunch at Lamberts. I’m gonna be honest, this place stressed me out like crazy with how loud it was, and with rolls being thrown over my head, and all I ate was a potato. It was definitely a unique experience, and I’m glad everyone had such a good time!
Last on our to-do list for the day was Moonlight Madness at Silver Dollar City! Tickets were cheaper, lines were shorter, and the sun wasn’t as hot as it was heading out of sight for the day! We started with the American Plunge, where we packed in a log and got soaked! Then we road Wildfire, Fire in the Hole, Powder Keg, and the Big Barn Swing!
It was getting dark, but we were able to squeeze in a few more rides before the park closed at 10. Night time is the perfect time to ride attractions like Wildfire, and it was a blast!
We rushed out of the parking lot to make it to Walmart before they closed so I could get some food (I was starting to feel sick from only eating potatoes). Back at the hotel, we spent another couple of hours playing Werewolf. People were starting to come up with scary-good strategies at this point, and I was proud of myself for one of the games I played as a werewolf.
On Saturday morning, we lathered on sunscreen, packed our bags, and headed out to the State Park Marina for a day on the lake!
When we first got there, I was excited to meet Fat Louie, the cat that lives at the marina. He was the sweetest boy ever, I instantly fell in love.
Then we headed out on the boat! It was such a fun day. We got whipped around on a tube, ate a lunch of sandwiches and chips, relaxed in the water, and even managed to pull some of the guys on a water ski! Our six hours on the rented boat flew by, and it was easily most peoples’ favorite day of the weekend.
Then we headed back to the hotel to rub aloe on our burned shoulders and get ready for dinner. Most of the weekend, we did things with the guys, but Saturday night we had a special dinner just the girls. We all put dresses on, did our hair (I did the best I could), and went to Pasghetti’s for a delicious meal of pasta, breadsticks, and drinks. It was so nice to celebrate Jaycee, her future marriage, and the wonderful woman she already is!
When we got back to the hotel, we spent one last night playing Werewolf. In the morning, we went our separate ways. It was such a fun and memorable weekend celebrating Jaycee and David, and I can’t believe they’re getting married so soon! It will be here before we know it.
This summer has genuinely flown by and I can’t believe it’s already over. I’m so thankful I was able to visit so many of my friends (thank you vaccine for helping me feel safe enough to do so). The next chapter of my life is beginning in just three weeks, and I’m both terrified and excited to see what’s to come. All I know is, I’m grateful to have so many people in my corner, and so many warm memories in my heart (and on my camera roll).