A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #4: Final Sights & Reflection

Despite feelings of sadness that arose upon having to leave Calgary, I was also feeling a sense of excitement and curiosity at what was to come—a mindset this trip instilled in me for not only our actual vacation, but about life in general. As I go into recapping these last few exciting days of our trip—where we were surprised and excited about many of the awesome experiences—I also want to share with you all the major takeaways I learned from this entire week. And when I say major, I do mean that. These aren’t just ‘little’ lessons you may pick up on, like being nice and welcoming to others, though that is crucial and something we were reminded of. These things I learned are truly about mindsets and have expanded and grown me as a person and in my faith.

I knew I wanted to go into this trip without any strings attached: no rigid expectations, no cynical attitudes about if things will work out, and certainly none of the unhealthy mindsets I was prone to indulging before I embarked on this journey. And I was blown away by what God taught me and showed me when I was simply willing to enjoy the ride.

With all that being said, I’m thrilled to write yet another blog post—the LAST one, so sad!—finishing recapping this trip. Again, to experience the full effect of this trip and all the insights I want to share with you that can help you no matter where you’re at in the world, too—I highly recommend reading all of my recap posts in order. The first one is here, about our road trip and journey up to Canada, the second one is here, about visiting Banff and seeing the mountains, and the third one is here, about exploring the city of Calgary. All have a taste of the lessons I’ve learned sprinkled throughout, but this post will be the one that ties them all together.


Day Six: Driving Through Montana

Leaving Calgary and Canada

I remember waking up early (again) because of course we had a certain time we had to get checked out of our hotel. I did leave out a Canada t-shirt I’d gotten at a lovely Dollarama at Kirsten’s request so we could take a picture in them later, but otherwise I dressed about the same as I previously had. I made sure to double check I had everything packed and ready to go, and it was not long until we were making our way downstairs for the last time. We stopped once by the elevator, though, to get a picture of the rooftop hot tubs we would miss so much.

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We stopped at McDonald’s some point for a snack and because Kir had to go to the bathroom, and then we had to get gas at some point, too. I waited in the car, but Mom brought me back these adorable heart shaped cookies. They were just as great as they looked and actually chewy, so that made up for the one cookie in Banff, haha.

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The drive mainly consisted of counting down the hours until we got to the border and GOT OUR RECEPTION BACK! All things went good getting back in there, thankfully, and then we were in Montana again.

Glacier National Park

This was the first thing we did in Montana, though food was getting scarce again and reception was sporadic, if not nonexistent, at this point. Beginning to see mountains was exciting again as we had left the ones in Canada. Glacier National Park had views as beautiful and breathtaking as Banff, and thankfully, we were able to see some views for free. We did not go all the way through the park, but we parked on the side of the road quite a few times where they had places for that, and we got lots of pictures that attempt to do it justice. As soon as we began driving through it, I was in awe. I also changed into my Canada shirt for a photo with Kirsten even though we are in the USA hahaha. It’s a good reflection photo of our trip, though, because Canada was where our main stay was. I simply could not believe how blue the water was and how lusciously colored it appeared.

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I mean, really. It’s not even necessary, hardly, to edit photos like these because of how stunning the color is. From the vibrant greens of all the trees and grass, to the deepest blues sparkling with the golden sunlight…I was in awe of how God created this but yet not surprised because that is how amazing He is, and this is only a glimpse, truly, of how majestic He is.

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Ashlee and Mom by Glacier National Park river.jpg

There were not many cars around as we started our drive through, and I remember this because once we got to the sign of the entrance I had changed my shirt and was worried about a lot of people being around to see haha. However, as we began our journey back out and were finishing up with pictures, it started getting lots more traffic. Like Banff, there was just a simple two lane road winding through all the nature. While Banff was priceless, I think this park was just as stunning, and we only saw the tip of the iceberg. I’m glad we could take in the sights at both. We pulled over quick by the sign because you know us tourists and our photos by signs!

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Ashlee and Kirsten by Glacier National Park sign.jpg

We found this big gem of a lake alongside the road and pulled over to get some photos. I was unable to wrap my head around the boldness of that color: it’s a perfect turquoise, and the water just looked so smooth. As you can kind of see near the bottom of this photo, though, there was actually a huge ledge right there, so we had to be cautious about taking photos because to fall off of that would have been horrifying.

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Pictures were great and all, but I tried to always take a few moments to take in the views on my own, without constantly holding a phone up to it. The views were humbling, but I am thankful for all the photos we got, to document this special time.

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Moving on, we then found another lake that was even more translucent than the first one, if you can believe it. This one was literally a sheet of glass and mirrored all of the nature around it, from the towering mountains to the cascading trees. There was a somewhat steep gravel hill leading down to this that we came down to see. At first I wasn’t sure about going all the way down because the bugs were annoying the crap out of me, but I’m so glad we did because one of my favorite photos from this trip came to be because of it.

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There are no words to describe this. All I can do is thank God and praise Him for who He is and even allowing me to experience the joy of seeing sights such as these. It’s humbling to be in the presence of the world like this. It is a testimony in and of itself of God’s existence and His worthiness.

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The water was literally a mirror, the kind you see and don’t think it truly exists…

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Kir said she’d love to live in the mountains, and I would certainly love to visit her there!

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There was even a little bouquet of purple flowers amidst the rocks down there. The photos with all of us in it down here are my favorites. A nice lady took this photo for all of us and did one normal and then another in Portrait Mode—which was an epic effect to give an already outstanding photo an enhancement.

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We kind of neglected Buff for awhile but finally I got a picture with him and a backdrop of the beauty of the park, which was appropriate for him and suited him well, I think! It brings out his color well haha.

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No More Food

So…then we ran into the dilemma of being in Montana and trying to find food again hahaha. It started getting misty after we left the park and a haze dropped over everything, but it was cool to see that effect on the mountains. We thought about stopping for sandwiches at a cafe near the park, and we also stopped in a souvenir shop where the girls got some things and I couldn’t find any of my candy haha, but we decided to keep looking because we weren’t particularly in the mood for sandwiches. It did give us an excellent view of the nearby mountains, though!

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As we were making our way out of the area, there was this ledge we pulled over at that offered a sweeping view of a valley and the mountains. It was starting to sprinkle here and there, but it made for more awesome sights.

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Road Trip to Great Falls

Our hotel for the night was in Great Falls, and once we started leaving behind the mountains for good, the roads got pretty windy! There were big drop offs, and one time there was construction and we had to drive through this mud-like substance while it was drizzling… Thankfully we didn’t get stuck haha.

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Taco John’s

We found love—I mean food, that is—at another super small Montana town, but hey, when you recognize the fast food chains, you can’t go wrong with that! We decided on Taco John’s, and I was super eager for the potato oles of course. I also just got a plain soft shell taco with cheese, and it was perfect.

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Driving Through Montana Some More

Montana had not changed much in that there were long stretches of plains throughout, but I tried to appreciate every view because I knew they wouldn’t be lasting much longer. Also, the reception started coming back gradually, so I loved that, haha.

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Hotel in Great Falls

Before long, we had arrived in Great Falls. I was pleasantly surprised by this town—it was practically a city, by Montana standards, anyway. Well, they had a mall, which my mom told me and then informed me I couldn’t go, which broke my heart. We got there too late anyways, though. We got checked into our hotel, and this hotel was actually one of my favorites under the one we stayed at in Calgary and also under the one we stayed at in North Dakota on our first night. This had that desert-like look to it on the outside—picture those types of buildings you see more commonly in Arizona. Not that I’d know, but Mom told me that when she went down there on a girls’ trip one time. This hotel had a very nice look to it—I love when there’s an open view in the center like that of all the rooms, and they had a waterfall trickling down beside mounted animals, giving it a nice outdoorsy look. They also had a room dedicated to their pool and hot tub with a slide because Kirsten and I walked down there later at night, but it was all dark when we got there because it had closed. I’m pretty sure we saw some people still there, though, so evidently there’s some rule breakers, but you know how it goes. This is also where the ice machine was, and there were stairs from our balcony on the second floor to get down to the pool area, but we just stayed up on the balcony.

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Great Falls Target

After getting settled in, I ended up pulling out my laptop and sat at their lovely oak desk to do some shopping to fill the void in my heart of not getting to go to their mall! It wasn’t long, though, before we decided a visit to Target was in order to refill on some things. Luckily, Target was open later… Kir and I got laughed at by some boys because we walked right up to the exit door and then wondered why it didn’t work. They’re like, “That’s the exit!” Mmkay, I think we got that, we’re not total dumb blondes. We FaceTimed the boys in Target, and I found the matching bikini bottoms to that top I got at the Target before we even left for this trip haha. Just in time for the Fourth of July the next day, though I never got to wear it because the hot tub had closed haha. The sky was gorgeous!

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Sip ‘n Dip Lounge

Okay, so I’m not going to lie, this is a bar Kirsten wanted to see. You might think Ashlee, what in the world are you doing recapping a bar…I know, I DID NOT ACTUALLY GO IN THE BAR, but Kirsten wanted to see this because a lady at our hotel check-in was telling us all these things to see in Great Falls, and she said this bar has actually been in a movie with its display of underwater mermaids. Literally. I did not go in the bar because duh, my age, but when we approached the entrance I was able to see this big aquarium. There are actually real girls dressed up as mermaids that swim around. Kirsten and Mom went in the bar because Corrine had to babysit poor me, which I’m thankful she did though, haha, and they said the girls go up for air and then swim around for a solid few minutes. They got their own pictures, but let me tell you, when we pulled up, there were a coupe guys sitting outside by the window of this strip because the lounge was just a part of it. We were just hopeless Illinois people according to our license plates, and we had to go around the block once haha, which is when we spotted them, but then they helped us find directions to this bar and this one guy…oh my gosh. I found my love on this trip hahaha just kidding.

So then, when Mom and Kir were up in this bar and Corrine was babysitting me, fortunately it worked out that they had a whole stand of brochures and what not, and Corrine loves this stuff, so she was busying herself looking at that right by this window where said cute guy was sitting…so I got a nice view of him, he got a nice view of me, it was wonderful. I mean, who needs bars when there’s cute guys like that for me to enjoy looking at!! Well, you know the saying, when God closes one door, a better one opens!!! Hahaha. That made my night. Kirsten snagged a picture of him for me, too, because I thought about it but then thought it’d be too obvious, and plus it was one of those moments you just want to be in as long as you can without trying to force a picture, you know? So thank God she got one of him for me because I was heartbroken that I’d forget what he looks like, and then I’d never remember my two minute fling in Montana. Well now I can!!! I got a picture of her guy in the truck, and she got a picture of mine. Priceless.

Getting Ready for Bed

I am so proud of myself, can I just say, for getting my mom to buy pajamas on her own from one of my fave stores. Look at this, we’re twins. I have like four pairs, and she got herself a pair when she bought me some stuff there for Christmas the year before. We should have gotten an actual picture of us in them, but I think enough people saw me from the bar off the side of the counter at our hotel when Kir and I went down there to ask about why we weren’t getting breakfast at this hotel either (haha, gotta love travel sites, though they made it right), and yeah I went looking like a pink candy cane. I prefer that description much better…my brother told me I look like I’m in a woman’s prison…but he doesn’t know fashion, and he’s so wrong it’s not even funny.

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This is a wonderful picture to showcase all of our party food. I got my special baked chips!!! I would tell you where we ate for supper, but I honestly don’t remember. Everything had a way of blending together when you’re in the car for that long, and besides, with all our party food, who needs anything else!

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I took a shower in this hotel, and though it was older, I admired the design of their shower and loved those little shelves they had—ideas for my future home, haha. Also, now you can see my pajamas and nobody better tell me I look like a prisoner…

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Day Seven: The Last Day and Back to North Dakota

Leaving Montana

Last full day of the trip!!! So sad. We still got to see a lot of neat sights, though, before leaving for good. I took some pictures of the downstairs in the hotel before we got all checked out.

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Ashlee and Corrine at Great Falls Montana hotel.jpg
Ashlee and Mom at Great Falls Montana hotel.jpg

On the Road

Then, like that, we were on the road again, but it was a bittersweet feeling to know our journey was coming to an end. It was the Fourth of July, though! I kept photographing the views and taking advantage of all my data. It was a pretty easygoing drive, except we were running out of food…again… #montanaproblems We ended up eating in some super small “cowboy” town, at a ranch-like restaurant. We were all pleasantly surprised by it, though, and it definitely had a true cowboy feel to it. The small town had a parade earlier, we were told, for the Fourth. It’s hard for me to imagine life like that, in a town so small, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I just find it fascinating to think of how people can live differently yet that is “normal” to them. I love exploring like this and seeing the world—it keeps my imagination fresh for writing. In the meantime, I about ate this whole bag, but I promise that’s not saying too much because they don’t fill them worth a dang anymore.

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It’s not like you can see this, but there were actually cows way up at the top of this ledge!

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I absolutely loved seeing these rock formations when we made our way out and felt I didn’t take enough pictures, so I took some more. To think this view stretches for miles…

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I can’t imagine just driving casually down these roads, like an everyday thing, just part of life… It’s so interesting to think of everyone’s different lives like that.

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Driving Through North Dakota Again

It wasn’t long before the sandy looking rocks were replaced by bright green hills as we crossed into North Dakota and made the way to our hotel there. I remembered enjoying the hills here, and I also took some more pictures to document the sights.

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North Dakota has a bunch of stunning views of its own to offer. We actually ended up approaching one on the main road. There was literally a sign saying “SCENIC VIEW” with an arrow pointing to it and an exit and entrance ramp off the side. So of course we pulled over! Things like that were just made for us.

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I got my dream standing in the middle of the road pic haha so good thing they had a ramp.

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We stopped at another area trying to find the overlook of Theodore Roosevelt National Park we went to earlier but got lost and went to the wrong one haha where there actually are museums and such… Haha, that was cool to browse around, but I was starving again, and I found a bag of Reese’s minis somewhere. I also found this pink glittery cowboy hat. I didn’t buy it, but all I would need is my sparkly booties to be a rhinestone cowgirl!

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Yeah I think I ate like this whole bag.

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Eventually we found our overlook again, and it was much quieter this time. There was such a tranquility about it, and Mom spotted another buffalo.

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We were arriving back to our hotel pretty late, but the views of the sunset across the hills and plains were wonderful.

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A million windmills…that’s starting to look more like Iowa, haha. That brings back good memories of all my car rides up to Estherville, though, with family. I just think appreciating every view, no matter where you’re at, is absolutely essential to a joyful life and gives God the glory He deserves because there is beauty everywhere—you don’t have to break the bank going on some elaborate trip just to see that, although that’s a blessing to be able to do.

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It was the coolest sight, though: as we entered the city of our hotel or nearby Bismarck, it was fireworks galore. I took a video because I found no picture served it justice, but long story short, the horizon was littered with sparks of light from people lighting off fireworks everywhere! We were somewhat bummed we never got to see fireworks, so this more than made up for it. The sky was still a cloudy, fading blue after the sun set, which made the fireworks that much cooler to see. It almost looked like the hills were on fire from our view on the highway! Kir and I were definitely rolling down our windows trying to get the best photos. I loved it. The photo below was crossing the bridge in Bismarck. Those lights are from the city, I believe, but you know how I feel about those!!!

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At the Final Hotel

It was pitch dark when we did arrive at our hotel. This hotel was probably my least favorite of all of them, which was appropriate for the mood of our last night, haha, though it was still not bad. We watched fireworks being set off near the Capitol building—not too far from us—from the hotel parking lot. Then, seeing as we were hungry again, we headed to McDonald’s for supper and brought it back to our hotel room, which conveniently enough was right by the door.

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The hallways were so long, haha, and went in a square around the hotel, and we did walk down to see the hot tub, but that was closed. Kirsten ran down the hallway and back and I recorded it. We had some nice last memories like that to end with, and there’s nothing like eating McDonald’s on a hotel bed!


Going Home

I’m going to quote Kirsten on what she said upon pulling into her driveway: “I would say this is bittersweet, but it’s not sweet, it’s just bitter.” Hahaha, I was somewhat eager to get home because sometimes you get in that mood where once you’re on your way, you just want to be there, and that’s how the drive back to Minnesota went. I think our late nights and early mornings and lack of normal food schedules and indulgence in party food had caught up with us as well, haha. It was a pretty quiet drive back, but before we left, we FINALLY ended with a hotel that granted us free breakfast! Their breakfast area was nice, I will say, and so was the food, but I was not in a mood to eat a lot.

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Oh, so then we ate at Culver’s at my request at some place in North Dakota, and my flip flops I’d been wearing this WHOLE trip snapped. The strap part literally came out as I was getting out of the car, so I could barely walk. Thank God it happened at the end of the trip, though. Haha, that’s when you know the fun’s over. I was happy once we made it back to Kir’s house, though. We got to see her family one last time, and I had to change my shoes of course… Good thing I only packed like four! I was going to miss Kir and Corrine so much, but I was also eager to be back in my state, back in “my” area, and back to talking with Mom so we could process and reflect on the week. Kir and Corrine left to go take the rental car back when we did, and I’m so grateful for all they did on this trip for us. From their planning and deal hunting, to Corrine driving all the time and Kirsten coming up with lots of great ideas of things to see and places to get pictures…they made it so special, and I’m so thankful. It was such a special week of my life I will remember forever, and above all I thank God for blessing me with and allowing me to just relax and enjoy it. I really didn’t have that high of expectations or know what to expect, but this was definitely beyond what I could have come up with.

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Back in Iowa

Mom was a little stressed about driving home through some storms, but we made it through good for the most part, and we ended our trip the way we started it: by getting Wendy’s in Clear Lake, haha.

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Arriving at Our House

We got home late, it was all dark, and we were worried about running into some sort of accident as we got close to home since a cop had flown by with their lights on. Thankfully we made it home okay. The boys, who had been so sweet and eager to have us back from our trip, ended up being too preoccupied watching a race to come greet us properly haha. I mean, what can you expect from men…kidding! Kind of. Mom and I wore our Canada shirts to bed.

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Reflection…

So with all this being said…WOW. If you’ve followed along thus far and read ALL these posts, THANK YOU. I appreciate it so, so much, and I love being able to share these fun times with you all, but this is the part I really want to hit home, the reason I share anything about my trips at all, is because of the insights God gives me through them. I have lots of lessons I’m going to do my best and summarize here because the truth is, about all of these lessons could be expanded into full blog posts… I kept pretty solid notes on my phone of any thoughts I had because I’m a pretty avid journaler but knew I was not going to have time to write or reflect at all. We had a couple moments here and there maybe just sitting in the car (when Corrine was in Dollarama! Haha) but not really, and that was fine because the whole point was us being together and doing all these things. BUT…if you think you can ever just escape life by doing that, you can’t, and that’s what I really want to write about with these lessons and thoughts and personal notes I wrote to myself on my phone.

You have to know a little background information about my life first prior to this trip. Nothing was wrong with me or anything, but we went on this trip the last week of June, extending into that first week of July. School had gone later into June due to all our snow days we had last year, and we got out of school a mere couple days before my family went on their trip to Canada and I stayed in Estherville with my grandparents. And if you read my recap blog post about staying with them here, I actually talk about how I was kind of struggling because of trying to unwind with school being stressful and just not being able to let go of some of my bad mindsets. So, only a couple days later, we were going on this trip, and I knew I did not want to be having a bad attitude on that trip. I know enough about myself to know I get obsessive about things, and that’s never a good recipe when you have bad mindsets you’re harboring. So I did end up praying and writing a lot. I’m thankful God used that for me and helped me to keep an open mind about it because that helped immensely, and I was also able to learn that much more about everything and have that much greater joy, and now I want to share those lessons with you, too.

You have to let God be in control of what you want. You would think since I’m being blessed with this amazing trip, nothing else would matter, right? I wish that were the case, but oftentimes we have to be careful about having blessings because it can be all too easy to wish for more. It’s certainly not bad to pray your desires to God and still have desires even after you’ve been given some because that’s life, there will always be more of what we want to do, see, etc. But what becomes a problem is if you, like me, are prone to thinking about that next thing. You know how it goes. I’m in the car with Kirsten on our way back from the Twin Cities, following our moms in the rental car, when my mind starts drifting. About thoughts of my writing. Is it going anywhere? Will it ever go the places I’ve dreamed? Or then it’s about guys again. Do they like me? Are they thinking of me? And I imagine all this stuff I think I should have then, and it starts eating at me, and I feel my lack of patience being triggered yet again. You know what all this really is? Distractions. They’re distractions because they’re going to suck you out of the moment you’re in, ruin any peace you would have, and leave you not enjoying the life you’ve been given.

But I do have desires, I do have dreams, and it’s all too easy for me to think my life revolves around those instead of the present moment. So I remind myself of what I’m about to be experiencing, I tell those thoughts to God, and I begin typing out a note on my phone—of which I probably have tons just like it—and it goes something like this, “You’re doing too much. If you’re reading this, quit trying to find any other truth: you’re doing too much. Worrying too much. Let it go. God CAN and WILL handle it.” I also wrote about learning to control your thoughts because you DO have a choice with how you think about things. I used the example of a country song I heard and liked, “Love Someone,” and for me, I said I could be down about being single, or I can accept the truth that I will love someone, too, in God’s timing—and pour my heart into the people I have right in front of me.

If you can’t learn to surrender like that even when you don’t feel like it, then your peace is only as good as your emotions and what you’ve been given. That’s not a recipe for joy—I can tell you that from all my fits throughout sophomore year, haha. My poor mom.

Pictures are great and all, but don’t make your life revolve around them. So, I learned pretty early on, like the first day of this trip, that not all of the photos being taken of me were the most flattering. Not every photo was turning out the way I’d dreamed it should in my head. And in a world where your life is only as good as what you post, and in someone’s mind who’s got a thing for photography and is already a perfectionist…that’s really not a good combo. I have journal entries dating back to me being in seventh grade and literally being mad over my pictures and them not turning out the way I wanted… It may seem dumb, but it’s a struggle I face regularly if I’m not careful. It is a struggle that is extremely amplified in a society that prides itself on being so visual and blah blah blah… Look, I get it, okay? I love photos as much as the next person and maybe even then some. Photos have been an immense source of joy in my life—God has used them on more than one occasion to remind me of my blessings and His faithfulness. But like anything good that He uses, you better believe the enemy is going to try and attack you by twisting that on you.

What is sad to me, though, is how social media revolves around this. The best of the best in terms of photos and things you’re doing—otherwise, what even is your life, is the message we’re all being sent. Well, social media is a lie. And you know what else? Even pictures can be a lie. The reason I tried to include our bad moments on this trip is to show you just that. Life is a mix of good and bad. This was an amazing vacation, there’s no doubt about that, but people still got stressed. People still got tired. I got stressed and tired. Your mind can still wander to places you don’t want it to go, and not everyone is going to be nice to you. Not everything is going to go as you planned. But you know what? That’s everyone. That’s life. And likewise, not every picture is going to turn out perfect. But you can really hurt yourself and make yourself upset if you live through what you post. Pictures are staged. Do I love the pictures we got on this trip? Yeah, I do, and there was a lot of special memories behind them. But they were still staged. Big time. Social media is even showier. I prefer writing this blog to posting on social media any day because at least here, I know I can be authentic. I can tell you about what really happened behind that “perfect” photo, but with social media, everyone’s too busy playing a game of keeping up with each other’s highlights. It’s pathetic, and I won’t play it. The world thinks photos are everything precisely for this reason: they cover up pain and give the illusion of a perfectly happy lie. Please don’t fall for that. If you’re staging photos, and you’re upset by how some turn out, then don’t think for a second other people aren’t doing the exact same thing. Let your worth not come from your photos. I’d rather be known for being real and vulnerable than being showy and unattached any day. I don’t want to make people jealous. I want to make them feel secure in the love and joy God has for them. You don’t do that by sharing your highlight reel.

Plus, one bad photo is not a reflection of who you are. I had some photos I loved of myself and others I despised. These things are fickle, and what people decide is cool and trendy changes before you can even keep up with it. And it’s EXHAUSTING trying to keep up with it. So just don’t. Let God’s plan for you be enough because it IS. It’s made just for you, and the enemy wants to do everything to take your joy from you. Place that hope and trust in God alone, not things or trips or photos. These things all fade with time, and they rarely go exactly as you dreamed, anyway. They’re wonderful blessings God can give, but they can never fill the ultimate blessing of knowing Him deeply.

This brings me to my next point…

The key to being content is literally enjoying right now. Oh my gosh, if there was one thing I learned on this trip, it was this. Of course, I’ve always known this, but after going on a trip of my dreams, it was even more obvious to me. Everyone thinks, oh, if I go do this, I’ll feel better…or once this happens, life will get good… Um, I don’t know how else to say this except no, it won’t? Every time I go on a trip, I think maybe I’ll act different, like be so in awe of things I just lose my mind, I guess? I don’t know, I think it’s part of that fantasy that again, when you go and do things like this, you’ll be the happiest you that you’ve ever been in your life. But I was shocked at how normal I felt. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I was just…me. Same personality. Same wishes and dreams and thoughts about my writing and guys. Same worries about fitting in and getting good photos and making it to the hot tub in time and will we see any hot guys? Same love for pink and shopping. Same capacity for joy and same potential to worry and think negative. Did you hear that? Same capacity for joy and same potential to worry and think negative.

That means, plain and simple, changing your location is not going to change your joy. It is not going to change your mind. This can be good or bad. If you have God as the center of your life and know your joy comes from Him, you’re going to have that much more of an enjoyable trip. And if He’s not at the center or you’re not intentional about putting Him first, then your struggles and temptations are going to be the same as they were back home. Doing fun or fancy things doesn’t numb any long-term pain or free you from battles in your mind or other temptations you face. Jesus alone does those things. Please know that. I know I am so prone to comparing myself to others, and it’s so easy for me to think, wow, if I just took photos like her my life would be made, or if I would go to all these places, I’d be so happy. False. If you’re not happy right in the moment you’re in, you won’t be. As a disclaimer to that, though, I’m not saying every moment should be happy because some things in life genuinely do suck and aren’t what God rejoices in—like our incident on the road, for example. That was a scary thing, and there would be something wrong with me if I wasn’t down after that. However, I am talking about your overall mindset, which is greater than your circumstances. I’m talking about how you think of your joy being—does it come from what you have or what you post, or does it come from God’s faithfulness alone and reflecting on His goodness, even when you don’t feel it?

It’s worth thinking about because a vacation alone is not going to fix that, but it may reveal to you where you stand when it comes to being content. Are you able to enjoy each moment of your life or place your trust in God when something doesn’t go as planned, or are you constantly looking for the next thing to do, the next high, and plunging forward with no reflection or gratitude?

The key to being content is that you are not working for something else or waiting for something else to get your joy but just being present in each moment with God. If you do that, even the little things feel like the big things, and if you don’t live for God and are content in Him, then the big things will never feel good enough or be enough to replace that emptiness in your heart. So the next time you see someone you are jealous of or are thinking of something and can’t have peace about letting it go…remember this. You truly can have joy right this second. But you have to know that true joy only comes from loving God. Nobody’s highlight reel can even hint at the goodness and peace of loving Him. I could never record that if I tried. I can only write about it and attempt to do Him justice, and I don’t come close. Until you experience this yourself, it’s hard to just explain it. But my prayer is that through reading this blog, you all can become more inspired to live a life for God. My goal is not that you feel more inspired to live a life like mine—you have your own life and story God wants to bless, and all I want sharing my life to be is inspiration for you to pursue Him, who never stops pursuing you.

Lastly…after having some good, deep talks with family in the hot tub, I wrote a note to remind myself of some areas of things I struggle with and what I know to be true. If you want to have this joy and fellowship with God, I pray this inspires you.

Don’t be the obsessed girl. Don’t be the desperate girl. Don’t be the restless girl. Be the passionate girl, who loves God with all that she is and is beyond grateful for every moment. Be the confident girl who knows her worth is not in what she has but in who God is shaping her to be. Be the content girl who appreciates where God has her and is not trusting in things or people to make her happy but takes everything as it comes from God and lives for Him always. That’s when you’ll be a mature, beautiful girl that truly leaves sparkle behind for God’s glory and lives life as He intended it.

Bonus…I have never been more thankful for my COUNTRY. Yes, Canada is beautiful and I enjoyed my time there, and no, the United States is not perfect, but DANG. The way we do things here, for the most part, I am truly blown away at how people take our freedom for granted. No country can parallel our blessings here, and I’m so proud to be a citizen of the United States. I kept telling Mom we’re the “United Great” haha. I pray God will help us to be a light, though, in the decisions we make, but just because some people make bad decisions is definitely not going to stop me from loving this country and praying for it to shine for the glory of God. It was pretty fitting we were back in our country on the Fourth because God bless the USA!

Okay, I think that about covers most things! Like I said earlier, if you’ve followed along with all of this, I can’t thank you enough. I pray you’ve enjoyed seeing all the pictures and reading about all the funny moments, but more than anything, I pray you’ve been touched by the insights and the lessons God is trying to teach all of us, including you, regardless of where you’re at. I love times like these, but I love Him more, and it’s because of my love for Him that times like these are as special as they are despite the trials that may and do come. Thank you all so much for following along.

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A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #3: In the City

This was the day of my trip that made my dreams come true. That may be a little dramatic but not really because I have been dying to see real skyscrapers since I’m pretty sure the BUILDINGS in Des Moines don’t classify as that. As Calgary was our main destination on this trip, I was thrilled to finally start exploring all this big city had to offer. Kirsten and us girls had spent a couple nights deciding on what we wanted to see and had in mind a couple amazing spots. This post is the third part of a four part series in which I recap the amazing trip God blessed us with between me, my mom, and cousin Kir and aunt Corrine. I’m so thankful for all we were able to do, and if you’re not caught up on all the adventures and lessons along the way, you can read the first post here, all about our road trip up to Canada, and the second post here, all about exploring Banff. This post is going to recap one of my favorite things…the city.

Wow. It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite day of this trip, let alone a favorite thing or memory. But Kirsten asked me on the way home what part was my favorite… Honestly, I don’t know if I can pick any one thing, as all of it blends together in the most amazing, memorable way, and each part was beyond special in its own way. But if I absolutely HAD to choose a day…something that stood out just a little bit more…I guess what can I say, I’m a city girl, and exploring this city was truly a dream for me. Walking downtown and seeing all these true skyscrapers left me speechless and giddy, the views were something I could only dream of, and at the end of the day we wrapped it up with some shopping, and I scored some deals at my favorite store (in Canada!!), and then we ate pasta. The city, shopping, and carbs, what more can I ask for!

All of these pictures are some of my favorites, the best I’ve ever had in my life. I am so thankful to God for all of this trip but especially this little part in particular. He knew I wanted to see a city, and these views He blessed me with the ability to see did not let me down at all. In fact, they were better than I could have imagined.


Day Four continued: Beginning to Explore the City

A Canadian Walmart

The first thing we did once we got back from Banff was head to a nearby Walmart, close to our hotel. Our hotel was still in the city, so there was lots around us. Since we wouldn’t be having breakfast at our hotel, we needed to go pick out some breakfast foods and stock back up on our party snacks. It was a lot colder in Calgary maybe because a front went through or something, so I turned into a snowflake as we walked inside, and then we all had to find the bathroom basically and Kir and I went right back to capturing photos hahaha. This Walmart was quite different, though. Like Kirsten had said, it seemed more like a Target, maybe because of the lighting or how big it was. Mom found Hunter a couple Calgary Flames shirts he’d requested, which is their NHL team. They had pretty nice quality shirts—made by the NHL. We looked around and picked up some stuff while solidifying our plans for the next day. Our day in Banff turned in to just that—a full day, so we got home around suppertime, which didn’t leave time for much else. Kirsten had mentioned this cafe type restaurant in the city she’d wanted to try, called Regrub, so that was another thing we thought we were going to have to do the next day.

But before I forget… I literally couldn’t believe what happened at their Walmart. Like I honestly laughed out loud. They have those self checkout things like ours, but at the end, it asks how many grocery bags of theirs you used. You have to enter a number, and THEN THEY CHARGE YOU like five cents per bag. It’s socialism at its finest.

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Regrub

God worked a little miracle for us then in that it just so happened Regrub ended up being across the street from Walmart. Kirsten was so excited and like that’s the place, so all we had to do was put our groceries in the car and walk over, since it was just on the other side of their parking lot. We had supper that night there instead, making it one less thing we had to worry about finding the next day. I love God moments like that.

Regrub is a burger bar and that is basically all there is: burgers and shakes. Which was perfect! Kirsten had read about it on another blog and knew she wanted to try it after seeing a picture of one of their elaborate shakes. The place seemed to be inside a big building with an industrialized theme, and from my spot at the table I could see other places way on the other side that looked either closed or out of business. The decor was so cute. I also raved about their water haha because I thought it was some of the best “natural” water I’d had at a restaurant. I’m like that girl on Signs who’s so picky about how water tastes haha. The service was also impeccable here. Right away, the girl and the guy running it were welcoming and gave us menus. It’s convenient because we took our table number (on this cute bunny haha) and then could look over the menu, then we would walk back up to the counter and order, allowing you all the time you need. They had this pretty mural on the wall next to us, too.

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Mom and I decided we’d split a cheeseburger, since we guessed they’d be fairly big, and neither one of us can usually finish a whole one to ourselves. We just got that plain except with Ketchup of course because we figured the shakes would be very filling. The guy was so sweet and made sure he recorded exactly what we wanted on the burger since we asked for it plain haha. Then we decided we’d split a shake, and Kirsten and Corrine did between each other also. We all went with the Dr. Peanut, which had ice cream mixed with LOTS of peanut butter of course, a Reese’s peanut butter cup, and Reese’s peanut butter M&M’s. They brought the food to us and were all around very nice. That was one good thing also, that as the days went on, we did meet some nice Canadians haha. Mom talked with a nice older man who pumped our gas for us at one of the gas stations when we filled up before heading to Banff earlier in the day, and he welcomed us to Alberta after Mom told him we hadn’t met some nice people. Also, when Kirsten and Corrine checked into the hotel, they mentioned our incident on the road, and they scored some drink coupons haha. Being kind is far undervalued in society; never underestimate the power of having good character and doing the right thing for the glory of God.

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How adorable is this setup? They know the drill!

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At the Hotel

Staying in hotels and the memories made there were some of the more underrated memories of this trip. I enjoyed FaceTiming the boys back home and seeing my dog, too, of course. I enjoyed always hounding Kirsten to send me the day’s worth of photos, which she always had to do via Messenger because we didn’t have reception, and it would take forever for all of them to go through. Somewhere around midnight, though, when we were turning in for the night, they would come in and I’d be thrilled. It took a couple days for them to come through in Canada, so when they finally did I was in heaven. I have some of the best, most heartwarming memories of everyone in the hotel room doing our own thing and just talking and reflecting on it all.

We went to the hot tub again, all of us, and it was cold! We wore our robes out, but the hot tub would actually get so hot that I would take my arms out and feel the cool breeze blow across. It was a nice combination. We had some good heart to hearts out there as well. We knew they were doing fireworks in the city for Canada Day, but we were too far out to see them unfortunately, but someone told us we probably would be. We had a moment on our trip that definitely made up for it, though, which will be recapped in the next post.


Day Five: Exploring Calgary

I was not sure what to expect from exploring the city but was definitely eager to get the adventure started. I couldn’t yet fathom how the skyscrapers would look being so close to them, just like I couldn’t imagine how the mountains would look either. I took my backpack again, we had some of our breakfast foods, and then we were on the road again, off to our first destination.

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Peace Bridge

Before we arrived in the heart of Calgary to start our adventure, I took a photo of our hotel from the highway. Then we made our way to the Peace Bridge, which looked beautiful in photos, and Kirsten and I knew we had to go there.

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There are those skyscrapers!! I absolutely could not wait to be right next to them.

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Okay, now onto the Peace Bridge. There was parking alongside the road by it, so we hopped out into the cool breezy day with quite a bit of cloud cover, leaving everything at a good temperature. I had brought my leather jacket along, though, because I get cold easily, and plus I liked the edge it added to my outfit. As we were walking across the street and onto the sidewalk to the bridge, I was already in awe of the views. I can only imagine what they would be like at night. And being so close to the skyscrapers left me thrilled at all to come!

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Finding Parking

This was an adventure itself but not really all that great haha. Navigating inner city traffic like that is stressful I’m sure. I’m so thankful Corrine was able to do it for us while Mom helped with directions. We did pretty good all in all for not having any reception or a map. Eventually we just paid to park along a certain road, and one of the security guys was really nice in helping us figure out how to do it. I took plenty of photos of the skyscrapers! I was IN AWE. I didn’t know how big they would actually be, but they were MASSIVE.

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I loved how the building below had such a clear reflection; it looks like water almost. Just seeing one building after another towering over us and the people walking…it was like something out of a dream. I love that lifestyle.

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This skyscraper was so luminous I had to tilt my phone just to get it all in a video.

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Calgary Tower

When we did find parking, we set out on foot to go to the Calgary Tower. I knew I wanted to go up in a skyscraper somehow, and while this wasn’t technically a skyscraper it still counts. It was a bit chilly, and as we walked I didn’t really know what to expect with this. I was envisioning something like the tower at SeaWorld we went to in Orlando, where you sat in a chair and just stayed there while it spun you to the top. However, this was so much more amazing than I could have dreamed. It was funny because we had just been talking about the tower in Chicago with that glass floor, and I said I’d like to do something like that. After getting our tickets, we went into an elevator with a bunch of other people, and to my surprise this elevator takes you all the way to the top. Once at the top, you can walk in a circle to see the panoramic views of the city, AND they had a glass floor at the edge of the entrance! I was a little freaked out by it at first but quickly warmed up to it. There was a lot of people there at first taking pictures so we had to wait, which got me a little frazzled, but it all turned out great, and these are some of my favorite pictures ever.

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Me probably thinking it’s so beautiful I could cry…haha.

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For whatever reason this picture of Kirsten kills me…because her head is literally inside of the camera…

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It was interesting to see them working on one of these skyscrapers—the one on the left, at the very top.

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But really…the views were surreal. To be that high up and seeing it from that transparent perspective, like I’m sitting on top of other skyscrapers or the main roads…it just blows my mind. I loved it so much.

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We walked around taking photos and videos of these views. We could even see the mountains way off on the horizon, which was surreal to think we had actually seen them. They also had a mini theater inside a room at the center of the tower, and we went in and watched a clip about how it was created and its construction process, which was neat to see. It has lights at night, and I think it would be amazing to see it in the dark.

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When we were trying to find parking, we ended up finding the Saddledome haha, which Hunter wanted a picture of because it’s the home of the Calgary Flames NHL team. We were also of course able to see it from the tower. It makes me dream haha!!

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Here we are repping our hotel with their lovely water bottle we forgot to move… This photo literally could have been perfect but no, there always has to be a photobomb. I still like it anyways, though.

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Walking Downtown

One of the best things after that high (literally though haha because we were up in a tower…), we just decided to walk downtown. We were going to try and find this mall that was downtown, but we ended up deciding to go to this mall that I thought had the best selection, so then we turned around to find our car, especially because we didn’t have much time left to be parked where we were. Walking around, though, right by the skyscrapers, was a dream for me. That was so much fun and just stopping to take pictures and talking with Kir and the girls. They had this luxury pet hotel we found funny. Everything seemed so fancy except for this one bridge we had to walk under haha. All of the buildings had such cool designs, though, and the sidewalks were pretty nice. There was quite a bit of construction in some areas, though. It was fun to just explore like that, though, and my backpack turned out perfect for this day, except I almost forgot it in the tower and about had a heart attack because I left it by the glass and then we walked around and I realized I didn’t have it… Thank God no one took it, though.

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I had so much fun taking the picture below, and a young lady walking by gave us a big smile haha. Being tourists and being in awe of something really is a wonderful thing. I never want to lose the wonder and awe for life, for God, for the seemingly little things… Some people get so bored and passive about life, just because they’ve been more privileged or just don’t have that passion and zest. I think it’s sad to be that way, and regardless, I know I want to always keep that fire for God and all He puts in my life.

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Since the Calgary Tower took up a bit of time and we decided to go to a different mall than one they had downtown, we decided to then head back to our car before our parking time ran out. We cut through some outlet mall like building, and I tried to squeeze into the revolving door with Kirsten, which didn’t work out the greatest haha.

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CF Market Mall

This is the mall I had looked up the day before and thought I would like to visit. They had a big directory of stores I recognized and liked, and on the way back from Banff, we actually went right by the name of the road it was on, and I pointed that out. This was clear on the other side of Calgary, though, so it took us some time to find it. While we got turned around a couple times, I think we did pretty good for not having a GPS in a big city! This mall had all of my favorite stores as well as stores the rest of the girls were interested in, too, so we were all able to get something we liked. They had a Disney store Corrine got a lot at, and I believe Kirsten found some things she wanted also, and Mom got a bunch of Canada blankets she loves. And I found one of my favorite stores so we were all happy. We entered through Topshop, which is a store I’ve heard of thanks to fashion bloggers but we don’t have one in Iowa, and talk about overwhelming. I had a million things I liked there, but it was so big there was almost too much to choose from. I thought I’d come back to it but after getting lost and taking the long way to my store with Kirsten, I was too worn out to find anything else, plus I’d already gotten what I wanted.

I almost didn’t get any of the stuff I’d picked out, though, because they kept declining our cards, which freaked us all out because we had been using them constantly on our trip (it’s way cheaper using your card than cash in Canada because with cash you lose money since ours is worth more). The machines were just super picky about how the cards were inserted, though, so finally we got it. Gotta love when you need more retail therapy for the retail therapy that ends up causing stress haha. I loved what I got, though, and by the time we got back to the hotel and I took pictures of all of it, I was just thankful to have gotten it.

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The Old Spaghetti Factory

After seeing (and smelling!) this in Banff at their mall, we decided we’d have to eat here the next day. After having our fill of shopping, we made our way to find this. I don’t think this was too far from the mall—the mall was actually in the area of our hotel—but on the road it was on, there was a train going down the middle of it, which was cool to see with its station and all. Corrine also spotted a Dollarama nearby. Kirsten was very thankful we didn’t end up going to it.

We didn’t have to wait too long to be seated, and the restaurant had a nice look and warm feel to it.

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I was just in the mood for simple spaghetti because you can’t go wrong with that. Corrine and I were both wearing white haha, and she did spill a little bit on her shirt, but hey, this was our first time eating all day long since breakfast in our hotel room, except Mom had to get a pretzel at the mall because she gets super hangry when she shops without food. She just won’t do it.

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Back at the Hotel

Really, my obsession with shopping and this store is kinda bad. But look at the pink bags! How could I not love it? It’s a total girly girl’s fashion dreams!

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One of my favorite things about each day was picking out new outfits to wear and pajamas for each night and then packing other stuff away. Something as simple as that can teach me gratitude as I thank God for all the material things He’s provided me and blessed me with. Living out of a suitcase was a blast for awhile, but like Mom was saying, it’s a blessing to be able to have somewhere to come back to, a place to call home.

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We stayed out late since it was our last night in the hot tub, and then Kirsten and I took photos of the city view in the dark.

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I was quite sad to be leaving the city and to think that was our last night, plus that hot tub was super nice. I was so filled, though, after a day like this. What more can I say about it? It was a dream come true for me, and I loved getting to talk to God through all of it, when a desire like that does become fulfilled because of His abundant provision and love. Not to mention how being surrounded by people in a populated area like that always gives me that longing and wistfulness to share His love and light with the world. That’s what I hope these recaps can do despite all the photos and such, is show His faithfulness and how He is always with us and what life is about. I was also thankful we had quite a bit to look forward to on the way home. We booked our hotels that night (Kirsten cracks me up because she says she’s a hotel snob, and we were looking at this one we booked where the town had two of them, and one looked exceptionally nice while the other was still nice, too, but Kirsten goes “we got the crap” hahaha even though ALL the hotels were nice especially considering their price). We also had things to look forward to on the way back, like Glacier National Park. Stay tuned for the last and final post finishing up the recap, as well as my reflection on how God used this trip to reveal more to me about Himself and the life He’s calling me to live. Thank you all so much for following along with me!

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A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #2: Visiting the Mountains

Seeing mountains for the first time is hard to take in at first. That’s what the next two days of our trip mainly consisted of, but we were also blessed to be staying at this nice hotel with an awesome rooftop hot tub. And, on these couple days, we ran into a couple problems along the way, but they got resolved thanks to God. This post is going to continue recapping the amazing girls’ week I still find hard to believe has already come and went. This is the second part of four posts recapping the trip, and while you can read them in any order, for the full effect you have to start from the beginning. Read my first post here, which is all about the road trip portion from Minnesota to Canada! I won’t spend too much time distilling information because all you need to know is in the first post. I’ll get right in to sharing the amazing memories of continuing our trip up to Calgary, then heading to Banff where I saw mountains for the first time, heading back and checking into our hotel, and then also the next day we spent at Banff.


Day Three: Driving to Calgary and Exploring Banff

Breakfast in Medicine Hat

Picking up right from where we left off, we did have free breakfast at our hotel in Medicine Hat, so after getting ready we headed down there right away. I learned from prior experience that eating healthy on this trip just wasn’t going to work for me and accepted the fact that for breakfast I would only be eating chocolate muffins, so, that’s what I did. Afterwards, we got back to loading up our car and getting back on the road.

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Driving to Calgary and Banff

The drive to Calgary followed the routine of the other one in that it was not too exciting. Except I believed we stopped somewhere on the way because Corrine found another Dollarama. There was a legitimate reason why we stopped, but I don’t remember now. I was exhausted, and Kir and I both slept for a portion of the drive. I wasn’t really all there until something wonderful happened on the road to Calgary… Just wait for it.

Kirsten took this picture for me when I didn’t even know it. Gotta love having a photographer for a cousin!

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I was ecstatic once I could see those skyscrapers!! It was also surreal once the horizon was not full of hills but literal mountains. I have never seen the mountains before, and I know Kirsten really wanted to see them on this trip, and she’d heard of a nearby town, Banff, which we saw lots of road signs for. We didn’t drive through the main downtown of Calgary on this day, and when we arrived we decided to keep driving to Banff because we couldn’t check into our hotel until three in the afternoon anyways. It was not that hard to drive to Banff, and thankfully Mom was still able to see our location on her GPS, but we had no reception! I sure missed that aspect of Canada, not…

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But back to that wonderful moment. On the road, it was like three lanes and we were in the middle, well, Kirsten found this cute guy in a black pickup next to us. Well, Kirsten and I were trying to look at him, and I guess we weren’t being all that discreet or quiet because he ended up looking back at us, and then my mom said he waved, but neither of us witnessed that unfortunately because that, I’m sure, would have been hilarious to see. We wanted to get a picture of him without being creepy, so I just was casually holding my phone and talking to Kirsten since he was by her side, and I was just casually pushing the camera button while he drove by without actually glancing at him. I actually got the most perfect photo ever, just at the right time when he’s right next to us, and he’s looking right at us. It’s gold. Kirsten put it on Facebook even. You’re welcome. I’m getting too good at this. Unfortunately he ended up turning off on an exit, but there’s nothing like flirting with a guy you’ll never see again in your life for a solid few minutes. I’m not as brave as Kir so I’m not going to post that pic, but I bet you can never guess who’s right in the lane behind us here…

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We drove right by their tower for when the Olympics were hosted here. I’m not posing it though because it ended up being a traumatizing landmark for us on the way home. Let’s just say we had a dumb, rather unfortunate incident on the road…not a car accident, but definitely the potential for one. That was really a downer after coming off the high from Banff, when we were all exhausted and just wanted to get to our hotel. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Entering Banff

The views going into Banff were breathtaking. The mountains kept coming at us, and then you could fully appreciate their size. Like Mom said, we were like little ants driving into them. There is actually a main, very busy road that goes into them. SO MANY TOURISTS!! Oh my gosh, Banff was about as populated as the Disney parks we went to as a family in May, which you can read about here. And I don’t mean anything by saying this, but it was surprising how we hardly ever saw any Americans. There was people from all over. This is fine until it becomes near impossible to take photos without people getting in the way or in the background. Kirsten was about ready to blow a gasket. It is a stunning place, though, with LOTS AND LOTS to do. They have many various towns in this area—Banff is just one of them—and there’s so much you can do without even entering the Banff park. What we explored on both of the days was really only the tip of the iceberg. You could easily spend a whole week just at this place, and they had many resorts, but Kirsten said they were super expensive. We got to see so much for free, though, which was priceless.

Back to seeing the mountains. Those trees from Ontario literally were littered all over the mountains. I tried putting the size into perspective by thinking how I’m not even as big as one of those trees, and one of those trees on the mountains is like a dot. It’s amazing to see them and how God made them.

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Stopping for Lunch

They had towns and exits periodically, which was interesting in and of itself. Normal looking towns with normal fast food chains and such right between ginormous mountains. One even had a high school. We ate at an A&W, which was busy. Everything was, really, but I was starving and also somewhat irritated because our cooler had leaked onto the seats and got the bottom of my jeans wet… I do love the jeans I’m wearing on this trip, though; the material is very durable, and I love the color of the wash. I literally brought every piece of denim pants I own with me haha, which was still not an insane amount but definitely overpacking haha.

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Canmore

We then kept driving into Banff. Like I said, there is tons to do here, and this could be something you do for a week on its own. There are also many towns along the way (everything was Banff to me, though, haha). Kirsten had some spots in mind, though, for taking pictures, so we kept driving around for a spot we could pull over at. The roads in the mountains and by the lakes were so crowded, with so many people pulled over for hiking and things like that.

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We made another quick stop at an information site for tourists. Scored free WiFi, too!!! I was starting to get tired by this point, but I’m glad we stuck it out for the views to come.

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We made our first turn onto a backroad by this mountain, which had a very small waterfall trickling down it. There were signs for a bunch of lakes around here, as well as exits for the actual town of Banff and some others. It could be very overwhelming, honestly, with all there is to explore and especially because we were just looking around without any concrete plans.

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Lake Minnewanka

We actually stumbled across this spot by accident… We were on just a basic two-lane road with no place to turn around, and we all freaked out a bit when we start turning onto this big bridge, and then this crystal blue lake pops out. It was gorgeous!

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Cascade Ponds

Then, not too far from here once we got turned around, we stopped and parked by the Cascade Ponds. Parking was definitely an issue here with all of the crowding. We had this problem the next day also, but thankfully we were able to find a spot here, and we went out to explore this hidden gem of views. All. The. People. So much camping. This is where Kirsten started getting irritated about all the inevitable photobombing haha. The air also had a bite to it—I didn’t want to hang around too long for photos in just my t-shirt.

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Also, it’s worth mentioning to enjoy this obnoxious pink shirt while you can because you’ll never see it again. I was stoked when I found this bright pink shirt while shopping for my birthday because the pinker my life is the better it is, but I’m also realizing I have to have boundaries when it comes to pink, which is something this shirt does not have. It stained all of my clothes once when I wore it up at my grandparents’ house INCLUDING my white denim shorts, but thankfully that came out. I thought maybe I’d try washing it since I didn’t think I had since buying it, but no. It ruined my bras, too. I was not happy about that. But I guess that’s just an excuse to buy more, right!! RIP my pink shirt, though. It was nice while it lasted.

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Cascade of Time Garden

This is actually in Banff, and we got to do some driving around the town before arriving here. SO MANY PEOPLE! I mean, the little town streets were overflowing with multitudes of people. The town was so quaint and cute, though, and so nice looking, wedged right in between luminous mountains. It was such a sight and fun to recognize some of the stores—like they had one for The North Face and stuff like that. Corrine had wanted to check out this garden, and I’m so glad we did. While this was also pretty crowded, it wasn’t as bad as some of the lakes, and the pictures and views were to die for. The sunshine also felt great on my skin. This photo is a view looking down one of the roads in Banff.

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Thanks to the nice people who took this photo for us!

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There were sweeping views around every corner, full of such vibrant color and natural wonders. Photo opportunities were definitely in abundance! At first I wasn’t so sure about all there was to do in Banff, but I was quickly humbled by the vast array of views. Just taking them in is amazing to behold. God’s creation is beyond beautiful. I can still remember seeing the sights like it was yesterday, and it’s hard to believe I was actually in these places, sensing all of it. I’m thankful to have the photos and memories now. I definitely wouldn’t mind going back!

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I love waterfalls! I have another fantasy that I am going to have something like this in my backyard one day. #whenimrich haha

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It actually reminds me of the Rock Garden in Estherville I love to visit when I see my grandparents, except times a thousand with water flowing through it and in the valley of mountains.

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My mom was pretty proud of herself for directing this photo, and Kir and I couldn’t be more thankful!

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Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

This is a luxury hotel in Banff that is literally a castle. Kirsten told me it is super expensive for a night—I think she said like a thousand dollars or maybe a little bit under that. We drove into a nearby parking lot to get some photos with it. I can’t remember if we were technically allowed to do that or not, but it worked out that we could jump out quick to get them. I only wonder what it looks like inside.

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Bow Falls

This is another secret treasure of the area. And we discovered it by accident when trying to find our way out! As soon as we saw it, I’m pretty sure Kirsten made some obnoxious, raw noise that made me die. Talk about all the heart eye views. We were able to actually snag a couple photos where it looks like no one is around, but don’t be fooled. This was probably one of the most crowded spots. There was a big ledge up to this river that everyone was getting pictures by, and the parking lot was completely full. A lot of people were just driving through and then would stop and jump out of their car, which is what we did quick.

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Hotel Clique Calgary Airport

Alas, time to introduce the grand hotel we stayed at while in Calgary. Kir found a great deal on this fancy hotel, which was not far at all from their airport. While it wasn’t in the heart of the city (read: SKYSCRAPERS), it still held plenty of mesmerizing views, especially at night. Our fave thing, hands down, was the rooftop hot tubs. I’ll recap these plenty of course. When we first got there, we were still nerved out by the ride home. Okay, we actually had quite the traumatic experience on the way home that made us homesick for our country because on our first day there, we encounter a frightening situation and rude people. We were already anxious to get back and find our hotel and get checked in after a long day of being in the car and exploring Banff, and running into this scary situation on the road, when we were so close to arriving, was very unsettling. It killed the mood for awhile, and then to make matters worse, once we parked at the hotel and Kir and Corrine went to check in, Mom had called Dad and then laid her phone down and couldn’t find it. It honestly was like it disappeared, so that was a fiasco trying to find it. We knew it had to be in the car somewhere.

Long story short, I couldn’t really stop to appreciate the hotel until I caught my breath because they came and got us, we headed up to our room, and then I had to get connected to their WiFi and get on Facebook Messenger to text my dad if he could call Mom’s phone, since she was the only one of the four of us to have phone reception—another hiccup on the trip in and of itself, since Corrine and Kir had to call their provider to get theirs figured out. There was actually a moment that was funny in a sad sort of way because Kirsten was wondering about what would happen if she gets charged, and she goes, “Like what if someone blows up your phone?” Then the poor girl gets to find out after being put in a group chat on Messenger with her co-workers, had about 60 incoming messages including both photos and videos. She about had a heart attack, but I don’t think they got charged too much. And Mom did find her phone. Corrine found it for us thankfully. She was down in the car listening for it while Mom kept searching all our stuff in the hotel room. It was somewhere wedged in the seats. I know I was frazzled after all of that stress, but then it’s like no, take a deep breath and relax. There might be bad things that come, but God will get you through it, even if it feels super uncomfortable for awhile. It WILL pass.

After getting settled and attempting to catch our breath, Kir wanted to scope out the hot tubs with me and the views, so we went for a little walk around. Our room was not too far from the elevator and stairs on the corner, which was nice. We were also on the fourth and highest floor. We walked the opposite direction of the elevators down this hallway where there was a big window giving a panoramic view of the city and nearby highway—which reminds me that another blessing was how easily we were able to find our hotel. This is also where their ice and vending machines were. The hot tubs were actually on the third floor on a section of the roof, and right by the elevator there was a window overlooking them, which was nice when we wanted to spy on whoever was out there!

When we got back, we needed to decide on what we were having for supper. They had a restaurant and bar in the hotel, and Kirsten and I also walked down there to get a menu. The hotel had a sleek and modern appeal to it. There was also a shelf by the check in with movies you could rent, which was cool, but we ended up not having the time for it. Even though we felt frazzled, we decided just to go down there and eat. Unfortunately that probably wasn’t the best decision, as we were less than impressed with their food selections and the quality, and plus the service, once again, just wasn’t there. Welcome to Canada…not. That didn’t help with lifting the mood unfortunately, but as time went on and we got more relaxed, it all turned out okay.

The rooms were awesome, though. I absolutely loved ours. Once again, they had very comfortable bedding, and the beds GLOWED. The overall decor was modern, almost futuristic, but classy and neat. The bathroom was also super nice, and the shower was another story! It was a great shower, but it took my mom and I like ten minutes to figure out the controls because it was definitely different. All of it was nice, though. I enjoying getting ready in the bathroom because the walls were almost this cool orange sort of color, and it was cozy and fancy at the same time. They even had a mini TV on one of the shelves in the bathroom that you could watch while in the shower!

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Rooftop Hot Tubs

Let’s be real, this is the selling point for us on the hotel. It was always nice having to look forward to these at the end of each day. It was breathtaking at night! City lights—I was in heaven. Kirsten and I were eager to check out the hot tubs after the long day, and with all of the stress, our moms wanted to come along, too. Just Kir and I went at first, and then they came out closer to dark. Kirsten wanted a picture of the sunset, but unfortunately we were a little late. I just couldn’t believe the views, though. I love the city and seeing it at night. We could also see planes coming and going. On all sides of the hot tub, there was just beauty to take in. We got dressed then, and the hotel provided these cute little robes, which was nice as the nights got chillier. Before we ran off to the hot tub, though, we had to get pictures of the views.

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Another random little note about this trip is all the kissy faces we made hahaha. It’s only natural, I guess, that when you want a picture, gotta blow that kiss! No, but we actually tried to get our moms to do it and thought it’d be funny if we had them doing it while we smiled normally because usually it was the opposite way around and they made fun of us for it, but let’s just say they don’t really understand the art of the kissy face… Hahaha. I don’t think I’m allowed to post our selfies in the car of said attempts because…yeah. A for effort though!!

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The views of the hot tub, though. They have this whole little hangout area by the hot tubs, and there’s two, which is nice so they don’t get too crowded. There were chairs and furniture off to the side, and they also had convenient benches and hangers for robes and towels, as well as a rack of towels. The fitness room was also right across the hall from the hot tubs, where we helped ourselves to some of their water, which they had branded, haha. The views were just a dream for me. They also played music, and our boy Shawn was on!!! It was also nice how late they stayed open, about until midnight I believe. Corrine and my mom took pics for us at first, but then when we all came back Kir and I wanted our phones, and thankfully I didn’t drop mine in the hot tub, but the risk was worth it haha.

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We always liked the one on the right. It was closer to the bench and the side views of the city—THE LIGHTS!

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This hotel was right by another one also, so we think people from there would come over also. It never got that busy, though, for us. It was so nice because when Kirsten and I were in there, we were planning out the next few days in Calgary and what we wanted to do. We decided to spend half a day in Banff the next day and then start doing things in Calgary. We went over the spots we wanted to check out in the city, also, and reflected on life together.

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After that full day and I finally showered and got caught up on my beauty routine, I think we all slept good. We planned on getting up pretty early again to head back to Banff. On Canada Day. We didn’t realize it was going to be Canada Day on our trip, so that may account for some of the craziness. We were excited, though, to do a bit more exploring and take more photos and then get ready to see Calgary.


Day Four: Another Day in Banff and Exploring Calgary

The Absence of Breakfast and Driving to Banff Again

I was excited and optimistic for a new day in Canada despite the previous day’s struggles. To wrap up this post, I’ll just share the part of the day in Banff, and then the next post will pick up where this one left off. Instead of bringing my purse, I had brought a cute backpack I’d gotten for Christmas with me to haul around, the perfect size for all the essentials and for adventures like these. I had fun transferring everything into that, and then we were on the road once again. Revisiting driving again after the traumatic experience was somewhat bitter, and pretty early on I was ready to die because we hadn’t had breakfast. Another unfortunate thing that happened was we thought we had free breakfast at this hotel because the site they had used to book it said so, but then they told us it wasn’t included… That was probably okay because we were not fans of their restaurant anyways. But I was still dying, and the drive to Banff was still over an hour. Views of the mountains were a welcome distraction.

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I just can’t imagine climbing a mountain. I kept thinking it would have been fun to actually see someone on one, though.

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Finding Lunch

We tried to find Lake Louise, and we went up along the roads to it, but it was so busy that all of the parking was gone, and the wait for a shuttle was hours long. That was a little disappointing because Corrine had wanted to see it, but we had no idea the wait could be that long, and when we found these cute shops near a cafe we ate at, the local workers told us the best time to go is at night or super early in the morning, but we didn’t have time to do that. The views we did see were more than sufficient, though. And I was just happy to find a cafe. We ate at Laggan’s Cafe. Everyone loved it, and I loved the views and such, but I was slightly disappointed by what I ordered. I’m so picky though with food, so take that as you want. I got a hot dog that was good but pretty tough for my taste, but what upset me most was this giant chocolate cookie I got. I thought it would be super soft, but it was hard and crunchy. I only like my Oreo’s that way, otherwise I like my cookies soft and gooey haha.

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Bow Falls Again

Kirsten wanted to come back to this spot again for more pictures. Since we’d found it the first time by getting lost haha, we had to consult our map and pay close attention to the signs to find it again. We did, though, and it was just as beautiful. There were tons of people again, and we had to just park off to the side somewhere again and get out quick to take the photos.

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Kirsten bought me this hat just for this photo she had planned. I was supposed to wear it the day before, but seeing as it was buried in my suitcase which was the first suitcase to go in the trunk before all our others…that was out of the question. It would have clashed with my shirt anyhow, so it was much better I wore it this day, and I made sure to take it with.

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Kirsten was mad at the people on that island for getting in our photo haha.

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Downtown Banff and Cascade Shops

One of the things we wanted to do today that we hadn’t the previous day was explore the downtown of Banff and their shops because they were a town full of various places, from a full fledged mall to cute little bakeries. In fact, one of the interesting things about Banff was this mall. We entered on a regular corner, and there wasn’t anything flashy about it; it just looked like a regular store of theirs except it was right by a Gap. You step inside, and the first thing you see are these escalators and glass overlooks, just like at Jordan Creek. It still blows my mind how it ended up expanding into that. They had clothing stores, places to eat, and more. We went into an Ardene, which reminds me of Forever 21 to a T (and a lot of things are named differently in Canada…like Reese’s candy bars are just called “Reese”), and then we saw an Old Spaghetti Factory, which stirred up our appetites all over again, so we decided to find one in Calgary for when we explored later. At Ardene, Kirsten got a few things, and while I really wanted to, I knew we would be going shopping later in Calgary, so I decided to hold off.

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I enjoyed walking around their downtown, though it was stressful trying to find a place to park. So many of the parking places were full, but eventually we found a street nearby one of the main ones to park on, and then we just walked the rest of the way. We ended up exploring a few souvenir shops and tried to find an ice cream place for Kirsten because she had been craving it for many days, but all of the places were so busy we decided to wait.

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I still can’t get over the amounts of people. Even at pedestrian crossings, it wouldn’t even be our turn, yet there was such a big group of people just walking across a four-way main intersection, forcing traffic to stop. We followed the crowd I guess because what do you do? Go with the flow of traffic, haha. That didn’t really work out too well for us on the road during our traumatic experience, though…

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It was Canada Day, which I think is like our Fourth of July, so Corrine and I snagged one of these cuties they were giving out at one of the shops! Gotta love all the food we ran into on this trip!

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Kirsten Gets Her Ice Cream

We decided to stop at a McDonald’s in one of the towns on the way out of Banff. That was crazy busy also to wait in line, but then we sat down at one of the booths. Kir and I both got Oreo McFlurries because I guess they don’t have the Reese’s peanut butter cup ones we normally like. I can’t complain about Oreo’s, though. While we were eating, the one thing I was responsible for on this trip was finding the mall we were going to shop at. I did some research and scanned the directories and screenshotted the one I liked best along with the address using their free WiFi. We did not have time for this today, though, as our day in Banff got pretty long, and Canada Day shortened the regular hours anyway. I was excited, though, and a little nervous about making everything fit, but things did have a way of working out, and after awhile I realized it was not worth it to get all uptight about making things happen. Rather, I was just going to be along for the ride and take in whatever we were blessed with. And God blessed us abundantly.

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The Drive Home

This drive was much more low key, thank God. It got cloudy as we left and looked like it could storm, but the views of the clouds crowding the mountains were amazing.

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Kirsten got this cute hat at one of the shops. I also thought the weather was really nice on this day, but it seemed to get colder as we got to Calgary, where I wore my jacket more. It was also a sad feeling to leave the mountains, as this was the last we’d see of them up close anyways. Like my mom had said, seeing the mountains is truly a special experience and not one we can just have anytime, whereas doing things in the city we pretty much can do anytime. At first I was nervous about being in Banff so long, but once I realized that I remembered to soak in every moment. It’s definitely not worth it to waste away beautiful moments like those just because you’re anticipating something else. Enjoy every single moment as it comes because that’s what makes up a life. That’s when God will grow you and show you things you never dreamed you’d see. About yourself, about others, about the world, about life, and about Him. And that’s what life is about.

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I am so thankful to God we got to see Banff. I guess I had never heard of it until Kirsten told me about it, and when she showed me a picture I thought it was beautiful, but I thought it was just a lake and mountains, but WOW! It blew my expectations out of the water. I didn’t realize how big it truly is and all it includes, and we literally explored probably just a bit of it because we didn’t even go into the park. I didn’t realize it was such a big tourist attraction either, which makes me feel all the more blessed to have been able to go there. It was truly unforgettable and a very humbling experience. It makes me in awe of how big God is and what a small place I have in the world but also knowing that it’s that spark that can change and influence the world. I’m so thankful for all He’s created and for Him letting me get to see it. Stay tuned for the next recap of the trip—all about the city!! Thank you for reading and being a part of this!

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A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #1: All the Views & Bonding

Simply amazing, is how I would describe what was already a week ago. Already over a week ago, I got home from a fun, mostly easygoing road trip with my mom, cousin Kirsten, and my aunt Corrine. They are lots of fun to be with, and Kirsten and Corrine are basically travel agents, and they scored us some amazing deals on hotels as well as found some great places for us to explore both on our road trip and in our main destination, Calgary, Alberta. Yes, I went back to Canada. But this experience was radically different from my experiences in Ontario, which you can read about here.

Before I get in to recapping this, some background information. First off, I’ve blogged numerous times about my cousin Kir on this blog, with the most recent post being here. I’m grateful I have her and that we have so many common interests, including driving our moms insane by taking ten thousand photos of us. Thanks so much, Corrine and Candi!!! Really, most of the photos you see here will be because of them, and Kir took some for me, also. I appreciate it so much. On that note, I literally probably have a good 500 some photos I want to share here on this blog, so instead of breaking my website and writing you all one big book to read, I’ve decided I think it will work best if I break this trip recap into four parts. The first part, which you’re reading now, will recap the road trip portion of our trip on the way up to Calgary, where we spent three nights. We spent two full days and a half driving up to Calgary. That is what this post is going to recap—our first two days. Then the second part will be about arriving at our hotel and going to see Banff, which was an amazing tourist town only a little over an hour away from Calgary. We spent two days checking out that place. The third part will be all about Calgary, from getting back from Banff to the full day we spent exploring the city. The last part will cover our trip back and hit hard on everything this amazing trip taught me.

I have always tried to learn something from my vacations because I think anytime you experience a different part of the world or take in new experiences, there is such a potential for you to grow as a person and become wiser if you let God speak to you through the experience. I also learned rather quickly that you can’t expect a vacation to go perfect, and you can’t expect it to be an escape. If you have crap thoughts at home, you’re going to have crap thoughts on vacation. I’ll write more on this throughout this post, but there were definitely some overall major takeaways I learned from this trip that I’ll share once I’ve recapped all of it. So stay tuned! We were so blessed by God to witness so many parts of His beautiful creation, and so many things worked out great. While of course there were still some hiccups because a vacation can never be perfect, as is true of life, God worked them all out, and I can look back on this trip with wonderful memories and thankfulness to Him for it.

Kirsten had been wanting to go on a trip for awhile, and when she invited my mom and me, I was ecstatic. We bounced ideas off each other for awhile and, at first, I didn’t think this trip was going to work out. I think it was something we all definitely needed, though, to bond with each other after our extended family had been hit hard with trials, and I think God blessed this time for us as a result. Sometimes it’s hard planning for four people who all have slightly different interests, and there were a couple times I didn’t think things would work out, but of course God is faithful, and everything had a way of falling into place. One thing I really appreciated about this trip was how it combined both nature and the city. My mom is definitely more of a nature person and loves things having to do with the outdoors or with history, and this trip had that. This trip also had the city, which was a dream come true for me, so it truly was the best of both worlds. I only feel a bit overwhelmed on recapping this as there is so much to share, so hopefully I haven’t missed any information.

Now, without further ado, let’s get straight into recapping this because there’s a lot, and I’m so excited to share it all with you!


The Day Before


Driving Up to Corrine’s House

We live about four hours away from their house up in Minnesota, which is also not too far from the Twin Cities. This is where our road trip was going to start. I didn’t mind the extra drive with my mom at all because we talk so much, and it seems there’s never enough time for that. We left later in the evening, after my dad had gotten off work. I was going to miss my boys, so we made sure we talked to them and said goodbye and made plans to be in touch throughout the trip. One of our cars doesn’t have air conditioning, either, which makes things brutal in the summertime, so that’s another reason why we left later. I know I’ve said this before, but I truly do love my state, so I enjoyed our mini road trip through Iowa as it was the last I would be seeing of it for a week.

Mom and I decided to have our supper at Wendy’s. We ate inside, at a Wendy’s off the interstate in Clear Lake, also home of the Surf Ballroom, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing when I attended a Hairball concert there with my family. Yeah, that was an experience in and of itself I need to write about eventually…

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What can I say, I love Wendy’s. We wanted to eat somewhere where we couldn’t easily at other times, and we don’t have too many Wendy’s around us, so I’m glad we ate there. One of the wonderful but dangerous things about this trip was all the eating out we did. I absolutely loved it. I’ll make sure I recap everything we ate, don’t worry!

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Target

The weather was mostly nice on the way up, but it started raining as we got closer to their house. I was so thrilled to see Kirsten again, even though it had only been a month since I’d seen her last. We had lots of fun talking to each other the night before on the phone as we packed. What we packed is a whole other story, haha. As we arrived, Mom realized that of everything she packed, she forgot a coat. There were a couple other things, so we wanted to make a run to Target, especially since we don’t have too many Targets nearby except for in our “cities” like Des Moines, Ames, or Iowa City. Kirsten adores Target, so I knew she’d come with us. Theirs closes earlier, like around ten, so by the time we arrived we basically had to pick her up and then head over.

And of course we got distracted right away. Right away, they had the cutest swimwear. I’d been wanting a Fourth of July bikini for awhile. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve always had a thing for the Fourth of July and it’s one of my favorite holidays, or maybe it’s because I still have my fantasies of being on a boat in Okoboji for the Fourth if that ever happens… Either way, they had the cutest bikini top but no bottoms left. But I bought it anyway. Kirsten got a new one piece there, too, that she ended up liking.

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It was also pouring rain while we were in Target. Mom ended up getting a denim jacket as her coat, but another thing about this trip we were so blessed with was nice weather. It was never too hot or too cold. I mean, there were a couple times I felt it was chilly, but I’m always cold so what’s new. We didn’t really have much rain, which would have basically ruined all our plans if we had since most of what we did on this trip involved being outside. I am so thankful to God for that.

While heading back, we stopped at a gas station to fill up our truck so it was ready for when my mom and I drove back home, and there was a guy in the gas station who dresses up like Johnny Depp in those pirate movies, so we just went on in there to get a picture with him. Kirsten had known who he was, and Mom is evidently not afraid of just walking up to people and asking for a photo, so that’s what we did. He was great, haha.

At the House

Once we were back, we talked with her family for awhile and carried our luggage inside. Thankfully the rain had let up by then. It was fun because we had gotten them some little gifts for our trip—my mom got Kir and me these adorable custom made notebooks—and Kir got us some things, too, like a hat for me we wore for one of our pictures you’ll see in the next post.

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It was also fun because we were down in their basement where Kir’s room is that my mom and I slept in, and her computer was down there, so she and her mom booked our first two hotels on the way up. We’d had our hotel booked in Calgary for awhile. They go through some awesome sites that find hotels for really cheap. I don’t think we ever spent more than a hundred bucks on any hotel, except for the one in Calgary, and even that one had a good deal. There was also not a bad hotel we stayed in, either. Some were better than others, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like any of them. But I love hotels!! It was heaven for me getting to be in that many different hotels in the span of a week. I’ll write on all of those, too. We had decided to break up our road trip into a couple different parts. For the first night, we were staying at a hotel in Dickinson, North Dakota. On the second night, we were staying in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and then we would drive the remaining distance after that to Calgary.

We went to bed somewhat early because we had to. To get our rental car, we had to be up at such an ungodly time in the morning. I don’t even remember what, I know it was before seven, and that’s too early for me.


Day One: Road Tripping to North Dakota

Getting the Rental Car

Yeah, so I don’t remember much about what I did in the morning because it was too early. All I remember doing is getting myself dressed and washing my face and making sure I didn’t forget any of my closet I brought with me, haha. All of us drove up to the place near the Cities in Kirsten’s car. Once we got that car, which we were thankful was a size small enough to be cheap yet a mid size car so there was room for all our luggage—which we each had a full suitcase just of our own clothes and then some, so it was a miracle everything fit in the trunk haha—Corrine and my mom drove it home with Kirsten and me following them. Kirsten and I enjoyed jamming to the radio. It also is worth mentioning that it cracked me up because I took a video of one of the songs on the radio, and Kirsten made the comment about making sure she recorded on this trip because she always regrets not doing that. Meanwhile, by the end of the trip, Corrine had driven Kirsten up a tree about everything she wanted her to record. It was hilarious.

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Breakfast and Leaving

It was also funny because we stopped at Target another two times before leaving as Corrine had to pick something up, so Kirsten joked that a couple hours later we would be on the road. Everything worked out really well, though, and we weren’t really in a hurry, which is nice. We picked up breakfast at some gas station. I had the breakfast of champions of course, a lovely donut, while the rest of them tried to be healthy, but I’m not about that life even though one of these days I really need to be.

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As we left the Cities, I admired all of their glass buildings and how one of them is a college. And I let everyone know about my dreams of having a career where they send me off to different cities around the country, haha. If anyone knows where to find these careers specifically with communication or writing or design, it’s not too early for you to give me much appreciated advice!!

See, like look at this. They’re rose gold buildings.

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Mom was really good about helping Corrine with directions, and Corrine was very gracious about doing most of the driving, especially in the city, which Mom can’t do. Once we got on the road, we started plotting our route and the things we could check out along the way.

Stopping for Lunch

I don’t know what town we stopped in to eat lunch, but we had KFC inside. And we were so rowdy, oh my gosh. That’s what being in a car for that long will do to you. Like we couldn’t stop laughing about things. Mom said there was this one cute guy sitting by himself Kir and I noticed that seemed quite amused by us… We kept poking fun at Kirsten because Mom said there was some pyramid attraction thing, and then we drove by one of those big piles of dirt that forms a pyramid shape, and Mom joked to Kirsten, “There’s the pyramid!” And Kirsten was like, “Is it really?” But then I had a moment at KFC when we got this biscuit with frosting or something like that, and I go, “It tastes different. It’s like…a biscuit.” Well, what summer does to your brain, anyways.

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Well, KFC didn’t really work out for one half of us as we found out a couple hours later, and that’s all I’ll say about that, so we didn’t have that on the trip again.

“WHERE DA OTTER AT?” or Fergus Falls, Minnesota

My parents used to live here, so Mom asked if we could stop there for a trip down Memory Lane since we went right by it on our route. They had this giant otter structure by a scenic pond, so we had to get pictures. Kirsten is the author of that wonderful quote, by the way.

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I’m not huge on this photo of me below because I look wide for whatever reason, which reminds me of one of the most hilarious moments on this trip—to me, at least, because I don’t think Kirsten is going to appreciate this—but we were having issues with how we looked in the photos, and Kirsten made some comment about looking 500 pounds, and Corrine was flustered and said, “Well, you are what you are!” I about fell off the picnic table I was laughing so hard.

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I thought Fergus Falls was a nice little town, and I know my parents appreciated the memories because my mom was texting my dad about it.

Driving Through North Dakota

We stopped at some gas station in Fargo, North Dakota. Mom was looking at shirts, and at first North Dakota didn’t look much different than Minnesota, but that eventually changed.

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We had bags of snacks for the road, and Corrine and Kir introduced me to these little chocolates you can eat about ten of.

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Kirsten was our pro at taking selfies with all of us in them, and it was hilarious as we tried to get one in the car. I remember all the laughing the most, which is what is so special. Life isn’t meant to be stress, pain, stress, etc. Pain is part of life, but it doesn’t have to kill you. God wants us to have an abundant life, and you can know for sure that joy and laughter is part of that. Don’t take everything so seriously, that’s one thing I learned on this trip. Just relax and enjoy the moments of being with each other.

Jamestown, North Dakota and a Buffalo

Our first stop we made and decided to check out and that was free was this cute little town called Jamestown, and this hit on the history that my mom enjoys. They had this old town set up where you could walk around and read about past buildings and such, and this is where the “World’s Largest Buffalo” is. We enjoyed stopping to walk around and check out all of those things.

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This was our view of the interstate we had been on:

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More Driving Through North Dakota

For supper I had way too many Mike and Ike’s. I had way too many of these on the trip, but they were wonderful for the car rides…

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North Dakota could be extremely flat at times…

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I always enjoyed the radio playing, too, and we heard so much Kenny Chesney and Shawn Mendes from listening to Kir’s and my stations, and then Mom played some of her and Corrine’s music, too. We had a good variety, and I found quite a few new songs I liked. We got lost a bit in Bismarck, but it was okay because I enjoyed seeing one of their “cities.”

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Eventually, as our drive continued and we got closer to our hotel, it got a lot more hilly, and that was cool to see. I actually really enjoyed the scenery of North Dakota.

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I found it cool how they would put a bunch of power lines or towers on top of the hills. It reminded us all of communicating with aliens haha.

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Dickinson, North Dakota

I was very excited to finally arrive at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at in Dickinson was a Ramada and my favorite we stayed in on our road trip. It had a lodge theme and was very nice. I loved the style of the rooms, and all of the beds in the hotels we stayed at were heavenly. Dickinson was also a fairly good sized town, so it was nice to be around civilization haha.

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We really didn’t have trouble finding things too much thanks to Mom’s GPS on her phone, so it wasn’t too far of a drive to our hotel.

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We had to bring all of our luggage into the hotel because we needed mostly everything but then later figured out to condense some stuff, but in the meantime Kirsten and I had quite the time trying to figure out these carrier things and find our room. We only got lost like three times… I’m sure the people at the reception desk were like there they go again!

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We made a run to Walmart that night to get more snacks, and then while Kirsten and I wanted to eat at a restaurant, it got to be super late by that time, so we decided to just have fast food for supper. We ate at Burger King! It was wonderful to me of course.

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When we got back, Kirsten and I wanted to check out the hot tub. We didn’t stay too long, especially because it was packed with kids even though it was so late, but it was relaxing while it lasted.

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We got to see a lot of the lights while driving around from Walmart back to the hotel. The town reminded me of the size of Ames, so there was a considerable amount of city lights, my favorite thing.

The main thing I learned from this first day was to just let go of negative thinking. If I’m not careful, thoughts of how I should look or how things should be and other things I think I need right now can steal my joy out of moments like these. I typed lots of notes to myself on my phone for this reason. I knew I didn’t want to be thinking negatively on my trip, but you can’t just rely on the trip itself to fix that. You have to be intentional and seek God, which can also be hard to do when you’re so busy like we were on this trip. But remember it’s as simple as just telling Him your thoughts. Or taking some time while everyone is laying there in the hotel room falling asleep to stay up a couple more minutes and share what’s on your heart. And you’ll be amazed at how much that makes a difference.


Day Two: Road Tripping Through Montana and Alberta

Once we had our first day of driving down, it made things easier as we knew what to expect. We had to find a route, however, that had a station where we could cross the border into Canada. In the meantime, we were going to continue our road trip by going through Montana and then up to Canada.

Breakfast

Things were slightly more laidback in the hotel. We had free breakfast at this one, so we got dressed and ready and headed down. I tried eating eggs and sausage for protein, but once again the only thing that really impressed me were the chocolate chip muffins… #ineedhelp

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And as far as packing for this trip goes…I think all of us agreed we overpacked a little bit. But you never know, and Kirsten and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we take our closets with us basically!

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On the Road

Before we got on the road, we stopped for gas. We didn’t have too far to go before we would cross into Montana. I was excited to see Montana because I’d heard it has beautiful views, but another thing I found interesting to see in North Dakota that you’ll all probably think is ridiculous were the oil rigs. The reason why is because of my favorite movie Twister, and if you’ve seen the opening scene where it shows all the clips of storms brewing, there’s an oil rig in one of them… Well, I’ve never seen one of those in real life, and I got to see tons, so I was quite happy about that.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We made one last stop before leaving North Dakota. This park looks like just a rest stop off the main road, but it gives an absolutely surreal view of the Badlands. We definitely stopped for a million photos here and took some for other people as well, since it was fairly popular. Mom cracked us up because Kirsten and I were first to discover the views—our moms were busy in the gift shop, and my mom bought a buffalo stuffed animal! His name is Buff. We did see a buffalo, by the way! It was laying down way out there, but it probably can’t be seen good in photos, and I don’t have the photos of it, but I’m sure my mom took some. These views are what we’d been hoping to see, and talk about humbling. It’s just amazing to know God created this and to take it all in and just wonder how He formed all of it.

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They had an awesome overlook perfect for photos! Kirsten is a photographer and was hoping to get photos of views like these, so she took a lot, and then we got some altogether, too!

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On the Way to Montana

After those views, we were all super pumped for the rest of the trip, as it was truly only the beginning. I ate more crap food and brought my favorite pop with of course.

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The Montana Sign

Yes, I’m not kidding when I said we were all pumped. So pumped we had to pull over to get a bunch of photos with the Montana sign. There’s even a little path along the side of the road for it. And we had quite a few people honk at us as they went by on both sides of the divided highway. I have such fond memories of this! It sure is fun being tourists, haha.

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Driving Through Montana

The pretty views extended into Montana for quite aways, too.

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Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum

This was the first stop we made early on in Montana. I LOVED THIS PLACE. We didn’t have the time to actually pay the fee to see all of this museum, but we perused the gift shop, where they had lots of neat items, from jewelry to other artifacts. They also had so many books I wanted. Why? Because this place has a distinctly Christian and biblical view on the creation of the world, aka the truth you never hear about in public schools… I’ve always despised learning about evolution in school. If they were going to teach it as a theory and also share these other views, that would be one thing, but instead this manmade idea of creation is considered and taught as a fact. It’s very reassuring to see places like this that accept the truth and share it. I wanted honestly like five books, but I just got one to start with, and I’m definitely excited to begin educating myself on the truth.

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Driving in Montana Some More…

Okay, here’s the thing about Montana: it is absolutely gorgeous in some areas and so very dull in others, haha. As our drive stretched on, there was basically a whole lot of nothing, and at some points we were the only car on the main road. But those speed limits though!!! You wonder why, haha. I remember we were all about to die because we were getting so hungry for lunch, but all of the towns we would pass through were so small and run down we couldn’t fathom them being a town, so we kept waiting and eating whatever crap food we had left. Finally we stumbled on a town that was more populated, and they had a Subway! We also found people who were very nice at a gas station and helped us with directions because we were trying to figure out if we were on the right track to cross the border. I don’t know what you would do if you ran out of gas there. It was also the beginning of the end of our phone reception. In more populated towns, you would have data, but way out in the middle of nowhere you didn’t get much of anything.

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However, we had so many funny moments and just times to talk with each other. My mom had said she’d always wanted to go on a road trip, so I’m very thankful we were able to do all of this together. There were points where it felt drug out, but really, everything went quickly in the scheme of things because of that. We were still able to contact our boys back home for awhile, too, which was nice. I couldn’t believe the amount of ranches out in Montana. Yeehaw, haha. It started looking more and more like the mountains…

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I mean, look how flat this is. But hey, it’s still beautiful. All of God’s creation is beautiful, and Mom kept telling us to imagine life as a cowboy and that’s what you saw. Kir and I were more like please find us a cutie cowboy but anyways, I probably shouldn’t because I don’t think I could do that life personally, haha. I did enjoy seeing and imagining what it would be like, though.

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Driving in Alberta

Oh, my gosh. So we thought Montana was bad. Alberta was absolutely nothing for MILES. And the speed limit made a rather steep drop. We couldn’t figure it out at first thanks to the lovely metric system and our rental car didn’t have conversions to kilometers, but Mom finally found a photo of our speedometer she had for some reason, and then we got to go a little faster. But we were going at a turtle’s pace for awhile and thought we were going to die. That final stretch did get long. We had aways to get up to Medicine Hat, where our second hotel would be. It did get hillier at some points, though, and at another point, I saw those trees that are littered abundantly throughout Ontario.

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Arriving in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat was another fairly good sized town. It was my first time seeing a “normal” Canadian town because you don’t see too many of them in Ontario, that’s for sure. Corrine spotted a Dollarama there, which is their version of a Dollar Store or something, and she is in love with those the way I’m in love with a lot of my stores. We saw like three of them throughout our trip, and we stopped at most of them except one was closed. Kirsten was thankful. But the first time we went, Kirsten got a Canada t-shirt, and I got one, too, which we wore in photos I’ll recap in a later post. The hotel we stayed at here was still nice but probably one of my lesser favorites of the trip. It was a lot older, but for the price, it still was nice, had a comfy bed, had a hot tub, and we got free breakfast, so no complaints from us. This is one of the structures Medicine Hat had, and actually we had a funny moment later that night at the hotel because Kirsten said, “I don’t really know what people would stay in this town for,” since we quickly figured out it wasn’t a destination for tourists primarily. And Corrine goes, “They can go see that teepee!” We all cracked up, including her, and she ended up spitting out her water, which just added to the humor. It was neat looking, though.

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Corrine and Kirsten took a pass on the hot tub, but my mom wanted to go to relax our muscles, so her and I went while they went to pick up some things, and we ordered pizza, so they were going to stay for its delivery. Those hot tubs were the perfect thing to look forward to after a long, full day of being cramped up in a car. This hot tub was much more tame compared to the other pool. There weren’t as many people with their kids.

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We ordered pizza from Papa John’s, and it was delicious, especially after being in the hot tub. It was such a great feeling to come back from that, get dressed in comfy pajamas, and then eat pizza on the bed with Kir.

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This time at night to just relax and talk with each other was also fun because we started generating ideas for what we wanted to do in Calgary. Kirsten had seen pictures of the mountains and lakes in Banff, which wasn’t far from Calgary, so she wanted to go there and get pictures. We also wanted to go shopping, I was dying to go up in a skyscraper so we saw the Calgary Tower was something we could do, there was this awesome bridge that went over a river by the skyscrapers we wanted to get pictures at, Mom wanted to see the Saddledome and get a picture for Hunter (home of the Calgary Flames!), and so on. We started browsing through ideas of things to do both in Calgary and Banff, and it was a lot of fun looking at photos of all the attractions and getting excited to soon be doing those things.

This is Buff. His full name is Buff Shawn Trip because we heard Shawn Mendes constantly, so now we named him after Shawn, but it only seemed fitting because Shawn is from Canada.

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And here’s all of us with Buff!

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All my energy and excitement must have finally gotten to me, proven by like five different things I wrote down on my phone that I thought were funny. I was driving my mom nuts because we shared one bed while Corrine and Kir had the other, and Mom goes to bed too early just like my grandma and I kept laughing, and it’s hilarious because I took a selfie of us where she’s, like, about knocked out, and you can tell she’s just about ready to strangle me, and then there’s me, wide awake and loving life. I’d post the selfie, but it’s really not that flattering of either of us.

And that’s about how I feel now about being able to share this first recap post! These days were truly just a glimpse of what was in store for us. I was so thankful for all God blessed us with and also for helping us through other times in the trip when some things didn’t go as smoothly. I’m so thrilled to share all of it! Stay tuned for the next post that should be out soon! I don’t know if I’ve ever had this much fun writing blog posts, even though I was irate with my photo app because evidently uploading 500 photos at one time is too much to ask. But it’s all coming together! The next post will recap driving to Calgary, our wonderful hotel there, and both our days in Banff! Thanks so much for reading about our adventures and the thoughts I have along the way as well as how God is continuing to grow me. There’s much more to come!!

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Bailing on Canada | Estherville & Okoboji 2k18

Long time with no writing! I was hoping to update my blog as much as possible over my vacation spent with family when my parents went to Canada, but we got to be so busy that it made it a lot harder. But I took tons of pictures, so I'm thrilled to recap this now!

I got home yesterday and just finished unpacking a little bit ago (as of 3:44 from June 23, 2018). I had quite the amount of bags to unpack: when I left, I had brought five bags. Yeah, I know that sounds like a lot, but since my mom was bringing her huge suitcase that I normally take for all of my clothes, I ended up bringing three bags of clothes. Yes, I brought the whole summer portion of my closet, and I'm glad I did: I was able to wear a new outfit everyday, haha! And I made Grandma take a picture of me everyday so I can post them all like the wannabe fashion blogger I am! Haha just kidding, but I am saving them for a future blog post on modesty.

I did only end up bringing one bag for my entertainment type things, and for once I brought only the bare minimum for those. So it all balanced out. And then my fifth bag was just my purse, so I don't know if that really counts. I ended up coming home with NINE bags though, but that's because they were smaller bags of things I bought that wouldn't fit anywhere else. I got a lot of good deals and things I bought that I'll go over, too!

First things first, my parents and brother went up to Canada with some friends, and it sounds like they had a good time! I already recapped our first trip to Canada as a family here, here, and here. I never did post our second trip, which was last year, and honestly that's because it wasn't too interesting on my end at least. I determined the fishing life isn't my life, so I mainly stayed at the cabin and read. Canada was still beautiful, though, and I did have pictures that I never posted, so I'll show you them below here:

*we went to Cabela's on the way up, Tobie's with amazing donuts, and attempted to feed deer
**Hunter caught a huge fish right off our dock when our parents were out fishing, so I helped him but he had most of it done himself, and then these guys in the cabin next to us had just come back from fishing and helped us store the fish—it's mounted in his room now
***on the way home, I got Arby's and went by the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild


I already miss everyone and Estherville so much I could cry. It's always a blast, and I'm already making plans to go up again. I blogged some images of my first day there here. I went up to Estherville to stay with my grandparents a couple days before my family left for Canada. They were spending the night at my uncle's house, also, so I would have a few days to talk to them before they had to battle finding an internet connection. I had fun just hanging out with my grandparents and making the rounds at ShopKo and Dollar General.

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I had ordered some jeans from American Eagle that (finally!) came back in stock, so as soon as Mom and I saw that, we jumped on them and bought them and had them shipped up to Estherville because I would be up there when they came. Also about that swimsuit, that didn't get shipped until after we left to see our relatives up in the Cities, so I hope nobody has stolen it or the elements haven't destroyed it...because I guess Estherville is drowning right now with all the rain...

That night we made it a goal to walk down on their recreational trail everyday, so we headed down.

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This is random, but I was kind of proud of myself because I made it a goal to shower every single day I was up there (because normally when I'm up there I slack off and then always regret it because I have greasy hair in all of my pictures), and so I actually did that, AND I actually rotated through both of my shampoos I'm supposed to be using every other day, so yeah, now if I can just get that disciplined with my writing, Bible study, and fitness routines we'll be good.... I also had had horrible drainage for the majority of my time up there, but it got better with each day, and I had to take these horrible pills that tasted disgusting on your tongue, and they were so big that I about gagged on one of them each time I took them. Ugh. Good memories.

The next day, I went for a bike ride with my Gramps. It was cool in the mornings with a faint breeze, and since I wore an airy top it was bearable. We didn't get to ride bikes much later though due to the humidity and high temperatures. But we went on an extensive ride that day, clear down by the hospital and then headed south down by this church that always greets us upon coming into town. Then we had to find a place to cross the busy highway that goes through downtown, and it was uphill from there. We were definitely shot after that, but I loved it.

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He also took me for our truck ride!! No visit to Estherville is complete without one of those.

Grams also took me on some rides out to Fort Defiance, and I love being able to talk with her on those.

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My older cousin Kirsten who I'm super close to and who feels like more of an older sister than a cousin called us frequently, which is always fun getting to talk to her, especially past midnight when Grams is ready to kill us both. ;D

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We also went to their VFW to talk with some extended relatives. I enjoyed the company of everyone and was glad I put on that long-sleeved shirt, which Grandma nagged me to change into because it was freezing.

Hey look... It's me with Grandma in her signature pose, on the phone. ;) <3

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All the small town vibes <3

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My family also recently introduced me to Forrest Gump, and oh my gosh, that just may be one of my next favorite movies. So Grams and I watched it at night and only finished it in three days, haha. That's because she was too tired the one night and then too busy on the phone the next, haha.

The next day, we headed over to Spencer because Gramps got his windshield destroyed when a rock hit it when he was going to pick up Grandma after her trip. It turns out they ordered the wrong one, which he was not at all happy about, but we at least got to go shopping down at their little strip mall. It had rained heavily the night before, and thankfully we got back before more storms came, because Grandpa said that if it hailed on his car with all of the damage it already had he was going to drive it off a cliff... ;D

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I went into JCPenney with Grandma, and I found two new summer tops that were both up to 70% off! The material also felt really nice, too, and not at all cheap. Then we went to Hobby Lobby, a store Grandpa and Grandma love that I do also now, and their girly room decor took my breath away! I think it was supposed to be marketed at five year old girls, so I guess I'm still five...? I don't know, but I absolutely loved it.

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Then at Hobby Lobby, I got this frame for my room. It's hard to see completely what it says because I haven't taken the packaging off of it yet, but it says "Live big little girl." I liked that a lot, even though I don't know if I'm so little anymore, but I probably act like one with all of my far fetched dreams and fantasies. ;)

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We did our nightly walk again, and I believe we also went to the Dollar General again. I can't remember what day this was, but on one day Grandma had to go to the Dollar Store so many times—I think five, no lie—and Gramps was so exasperated, he was like, we should move it to our front yard. ;D

Here I'm under the bridge that goes over the trail downtown. It has a weird echo, and every time we walk underneath it I morbidly wonder about it collapsing on us... I'm sure it's fine though, and it is definitely different to walk underneath it, but I like it. The trail is a blast to walk on and so is the Swinging Bridge.

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The next morning I bought six donuts at Casey's because they had some deal going for that. And I ate all six of them over the span of two days. My diet is so good, you guys. I don't even know what to do about it, except keep eating. :D

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I actually did do some sporadic writing on my book, and there were some times just driving around the town, under the perfect sunset, that my heart seemed to just swell with the story and the themes and the thoughts I had that I just can't get over until I write about. If that's not motivation to write, I don't know what is. So I am going to seriously start working on it.

We went to the library later just to look around. I wanted to get a feel for the young adult books, to get an idea of any I might want to buy. I am SO picky about the books I read anymore because they are all so redundant—especially YA. As if teenagers can't handle any deep things of substance. And sometimes they will put deep problems in the books, but you know what is always missing? DEEP THEMES. I don't know if I was in the best of moods after reading all the summaries, haha. I have such a deep desire to make my stories different from the norms, but who knows if that even sells? Even most of Christian fiction is repetitive and fluffy: sure, they give their characters problems—that are all miraculously solved. It's annoying because it's not authentic.

But anyway, enough on that rant. I LOVE their library. While ours is more modern and sleek, theirs is more classic and timeless. I think I like their look more to be honest.

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They also have the best furniture and these cute tables that I loved. I also like how theirs is two stories. The library gives such a fancy addition to the downtown.

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I got to go eat out with Grams at Godfather's again, and then we hurried home to see company and had some nice chats. I always love being able to talk deep with her though. 

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Their town is so pretty, I love committing it to memory. <3

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I did stay up late working on the draft of a letter to you know who that I've been promising on here, but it got late and you know how Grandma gets when it's "too late," and then we went to meet my cousin Kirsten the next day (yay!!!) so I never got time to finish it up there. I will eventually, though.

For a year, Kirsten and I had been planning to go jet skiing over at Okoboji, and we had set money aside to rent one. We also had other plans to do things, and we got mostly everything we wanted to done. Both of us had just recently bought leather jackets, so we wanted to get tons of pictures together. We made poor Grams come out with us to the Swinging Bridge where we bossed her around with different photography commands. I'm sure she was close to throwing us off the bridge, but we made sure to thank her profusely, especially since she actually got quite the batch of good pics haha!

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Then we made Grams take us out to Fort Defiance, too. :)

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We had some downright hilarious photos as we attempted to get this one:

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Kirsten requested that we eat at Godfather's, which of course I wasn't going to deny just because I ate out the night before. We were rowdy when we arrived—we were the only ones there—haha. And then when we went to ShopKo, Kirsten yelled "I gotta go pee!" a little too loud, right by a worker, haha. Memories. Since I'd gotten pizza the night before at Godfather's, I decided to try their chicken. It was so much better than what I remembered it to be; I loved it.

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Kirsten and I also went for a bike ride around the neighborhood.

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We brought Kirsten with on our nightly walks and of course made Grams take more pictures.

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That night we did our nails, and I finally used some of my polish from my large collection of nail polish I've neglected since 6th grade (right Mom?). It was a blast, except I'm so slow and messy when it comes to doing my nails. I need to do it more often.

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We stayed up until three something talking about everything: guys we like and our types of guys, inside jokes, deep questions that are going into my book, psychology, creepy stories, our memories, etc. I love having someone like her to talk to.

The next day was going to be the day we had planned for: jet skiing at 'Boji and all the fun things around there! There was a place to rent a jet ski just off of Arnold's Park. We wanted that so we could have something as a landmark so we didn't get lost out in the lake haha.

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Jet skiing was so awesome. Seriously. It affirmed my dreams to live on a lake and get a bunch of toys for the water, a jet ski now being top of the list. We didn't venture too far away, but we did go out to the center of West Lake Okoboji. Maybe if we're braver next time we'll go under the bridge that we drive over coming into Spirit Lake like we saw some other people on jet skis do. :) We also couldn't have asked for better weather. It was a blistering hot day, but honestly, those are the days you want because the water is cold if not, and the coolness of the water on your skin is that much more refreshing when you're out there. Plus, you do get WET, as we found out, so if it's hotter outside you dry off faster.

We rented a jet ski for half an hour, and I made Kirsten drive. ;) I think she was worried about it, but she did a great job. We rode it as fast as we could (only like 7 mph...for some reason I thought they could go up to 70 like a car and I have no idea why I thought that haha). She was also smart about her driving, too, though, because the last thing we wanted was to tip over! And there were some solid waves out there because it's a very populated lake. We made sure to slow down for those, but I absolutely loved each second of it. I let my arms dangle around Kirsten's waist and made sure I stayed snug against her so that I wouldn't fly off, but I really think that's harder than one imagines. Both of us agreed we would do it again, and hopefully we can! We didn't think we would get as wet as we did but wore a spare change of clothes just in case, and I'm glad we did. The water temperature was just right: my bare feet were getting scorched as we walked down to the jet ski, but letting my feet rest on the sides of it where the water collected felt amazing. Kirsten took the brunt of the splashing waves, haha, while I ducked behind her. But being the back, water would spray up from behind and splash me, too. I absolutely loved it. I wish we would have gotten more pictures of us on it, or that we had a Go Pro. We both agreed that if we ever become rich like a lot of the people over here, the first investment we're going to make is a photographer who can follow us around and take pictures, haha. :D

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At first we didn't know if we'd be able to get to go jet skiing but had a backup plan of going canoeing if not. I'm so thankful we got to go jet skiing though. I'm very thankful that God blessed us with those moments together. For years we've driven over the lakes, and I've watched as all of the people had their fun on the lakes, and so it was really special to finally be able to get to be a part of that. I hope we can do something like that again next year, and who knows, maybe one day I will make my dream come true of having a lake house on 'Boji. ;)

Okay, then there were these pictures when we were done that Grams took. They crack me up. I just love how our movements are completely identical to each other—in this picture we look like zombies or something, and then Kirsten has an even better one of us where we're looking over to the side and we LITERALLY look like the real BigFoot. Yeah, I can see that one: two BigFoots spotted live in action on the coast of Arnold's Park.

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The lake life in 'Boji? Heck yes. Canada? Sorry, but I had my two years and was more than ready for this change of pace. ;)

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We went into a nearby restroom to change into drier, fancier clothes. And then got pictures!!! Duh.

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They've been making some new changes to the park, which look awesome. I thought it would've changed in appearance a lot more than it has, but I'm okay with that because I wouldn't want the look to be unrecognizable. But Kirsten and I went walking through all of the shops, and there was this new museum for rock and roll and a new fun area with this huge slide we might try one day haha. Then up at the Emporium, they have a brand new Lilly Pulitzer store. OH, MY GOSH. I died, because I've always admired Lilly Pulitzer from afar and wish I had the budget to splurge on their clothes. The shop was so cute, and I found two tops easily I would've loved, each only $100! Not. I totally don't have a budget for that right now, but maybe one day... Nonetheless, I'm glad they have the store; it's adorable.

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We also did the free Mirror Maze and Tipsy House inside the park, which are always fun. We got gum balls from the golf course I've always wanted to golf at and even won a yellow gum ball, which means a free round for one person to golf there! So then we made Grams take this picture, too:

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We went to go eat at the Spirit Lake Dairy Queen (it never fails). Originally we had wanted to eat at a restaurant on the lake, but they were unbelievably crowded. Kirsten and I tried to check out one, and you could barely walk.

We actually got Gramps to go mini golfing in the park with us! Since it was Father's Day, he got to go free. It was actually way cheaper than I expected it to be but very crowded. It wasn't horrible though. I really enjoyed it, except it got a bit long after awhile especially with the heat. Every once in awhile there was a breeze. Ha, actually there was a breeze a lot, because our balls kept going all over the place, and Kirsten's and my hair kept flying everywhere during pictures. It was fun though, and I'm glad we got to do it. Grams kept score for us; I don't think golf is her thing. We always joke with Gramps about mini golf because a long time ago he went mini golfing, got mad, and hit the ball clear over the highway! Normally that's how I feel because we went mini golfing the year before, and I did absolutely horrible. Gramps beat us by a lot, and Kirsten and I almost tied for last, but Kirsten lost by a couple more points. Kirsten's ball really liked her: it kept coming back down the hill to the starting point hahaha.

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Gramps also took us for truck rides, too, which we enjoy. We went on the Swinging Bridge again, too.

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On a ride around town, the sunlight peeking through the clouds was an awesome sight:

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Kirsten wanted to watch Forrest Gump with me since it had been years since she'd seen it, so I was more than happy to because I'm obsessed with it! We stole some of Grandma's M&M's from her food she was saving for circle at church the next day, and I sprinkled them on my popcorn. We paused the movie for awhile though to talk with Grams, which I loved. Kir and I had some honest talks that I loved getting to talk with her over, like our unfiltered, raw thoughts on different types of people. It felt good to be able to connect like that. You know, the more I think about how lonely I feel, what God has lain on my heart is that I'm not as alone as I thought. At school, yes, and in my faith, yes. But He knows how to send just the right people, like my cousins. Getting to talk with Kirsten is like getting to talk with the older sister I wish I had or the best friend I've been wanting. I appreciate that so much. I also love that we can have our own inside jokes, jokes that are better off not told with Grams in the room...haha. :)

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The next day, Grandma had to lead circle for church. We were planning to go to Spirit Lake afterwards just to check out Walmart. Kir and I went for a bike ride while we were waiting. Grams had to be at church early to get ready, and the route we took led us by the church, and we saw her car. So we were like, let's stop and say hi! So we did. The church was quiet and black, with hardly any lights on. Kirsten and I were trying to find her, but we couldn't. Evidently she was outside and then tried to hide from us with one of her friends. It was funny. Their church is decorated really nice. What was even FUNNIER, though, is what happened a half hour after Grams said it would be over. We wanted to hurry and get over to Spirit Lake because Kirsten wanted to check out a consignment shop that would be closing soon, so we decided to walk down to the church since it wasn't that far away. On our way over there, I made the comment that what if Grams drives right by us? We were hoping we could find her and then just get a ride back.

We got down by where the church was, and then Kirsten and I couldn't remember which road it was we took that led us to the front of the church. We started down one road, but then we realized that it would probably take us by the back of the church, so we'd have to walk around. I told her to keep her eyes peeled for Grandma, just in case. Then all of a sudden from the road over a block, I see her driving by. I quickly yell to Kirsten that that's her, so we actually RAN to the end of our road to go meet her. Mind you, Kirsten and I do not RUN, and we were certainly not dressed in running attire. We must have been a sight: running as fast as we possibly could right down the middle of the road, waving our arms and yelling. And Grandma? We watch as she drives right by us, not even slowing down. Kir and I were exhausted, and then we had to walk all the way home. Haha, good times...

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Shortly after we made our way over to Walmart in Spirit Lake. I sucked on gum balls that we got from trying to get a bunch of yellow ones for mini golfing, haha. Mom says this looks like my tongue. Yeah, I wish I had a pink tongue, that'd be interesting.

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I think Kir was kind of disappointed in their Okoboji clothing selection. I stayed by her to help her pick something out, but she couldn't find anything really. Then we went to the makeup section together and talked about some of our fave makeup brands and which ones we haven't found to be the best. We really waned to look at the nail polish in particular. When we did our nails, I had let Kirsten borrow a gold color I had, and so she wanted to find one like mine. We also wanted to find a rose gold color, and I wanted a bright neon pink color. She found her gold, and I found my colors, too. Then we did self checkout, which I just LOVE.

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It was our last night to walk, so we enjoyed doing that together. Grandpa would always drive us down and drop us off by the Rock Garden, where the trail begins, and then he parks down by the Swinging Bridge.

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We finished watching our movie, and Kirsten and I got preoccupied making food Instagram accounts. It was her idea; we decided that since we have so many pictures of our food, we should make accounts for them, haha. You can follow mine here!

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After that we had to take Kirsten back. :( The time with her flew; I wish we had a lot more. The three of us, my grandparents and me, were headed to the Twin Cities to see relatives. My other older cousin, Amanda, just graduated this year, so we were going to help them get ready for her graduation party. I am also very close to Amanda like I am Kirsten. I love getting to talk with her, too. We had a blast together and got to do everything we wanted to do. On the way up, Kirsten wanted a donut from Casey's, so we got an awesome breakfast.

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When we made it up there, Amanda and I convinced Grandpa to take us to Marshall's. Kirsten introduced me to that store last year, which is a store with expensive stuff for really cheap. I got this plain black tee I'd been needing from Ralph Lauren for half its original price.

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We had Wendy's for supper, one of Gramps' faves. He also likes Hardee's, and when we were back in Estherville, I introduced him to their shakes, which he didn't even know they had.

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Amanda and I had fun going on Pinterest looking up pins of hot guys, looking through her collection of books, and bugging Grams by keeping her up until two thirty. On our first full day, we decided to go to Barnes and Noble, our favorite.

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Afterwards we went to a nearby mall and checked out some stores. I got a few things there that were on sale from my fave store, though not as much as I thought. So I had a lot of money left over, even after buying three books. They also had the cutest puppies there in a pet store!! We had been to this mall last year, and I fell in love with them then. I wish they would let you hold them...

Two out of three books I got I liked. One was from a series I had already read and loved, but I wanted to buy it for myself. Another was the first book in a series by an author I loved because of their other previous series. And that series is actually being made into a movie on Netflix, and I'm already cringing over it. I've never read books first and then had movies made after them. Usually I see movies first, and then I go read the books. I know some people think that's weird, but my reasoning is that I can't stand it to go to all that work visualizing people in my head and hav