A Different Kind of Fair: 2018 NC State Fair Recap

Another year has come and gone at the NC State Fair, but this year was different in many ways. I had to travel by air this time to get there thanks to living in a new zip code, but I was willing to do whatever it took to be there. I’m pretty sure hell would have to freeze over before I gave up State Fair.Image-8It was different in more than the airplane ride this year, though. This is the first year in 16 years of showing at the fair that the Lintons have not shown a goat at the fair. What?! There was a time that I never thought I’d say that. Granted, there was a time when I swore I’d never own a sheep. Here we are, bringing 18 of them to the fair. Never say never. This was also the first year that Alec didn’t show. Adulting, man…it’ll get you. He was able to join us after the sheep show to help us load sheep and eat fair food.DSC_6328Yet another aspect that was different this year was that the fair closed the first day due to Hurricane Michael. Guess who had a flight scheduled to land that day? This girl. Thankfully, the storm had blown over by the time I arrived. Somehow, I managed to miss the five inches of snow Lincoln, NE got and the hurricane rains. I did bring fall temperatures with me (your welcome NC).

Anyway, there was a lot going on. Everything worked out, though. On Friday morning we headed to show Isaac and Gideon’s infamous pigs. The boys had a lot of difficulty with these pigs throughout the circuit shows, and it was killing me not to be there for them. Facetime and text updates were what I had to resort to. Aldo and Mack were stubborn and loved the rail (not a good combo for shows). The boys were nervous heading into showmanship drive, and to be frank, I was too. I felt like throwing up. Granted, this is normal for me when they are in the ring. I gave them a pep talk with a few pointers and in they went.

I could have screamed when Gideon got pulled for the final drive and was doing mental praise hands when Isaac did too. Our goal was final drive. Anything else was sprinkles. My nerves were still bad, though. Bad enough to give my friend and bridesmaid, Joanna, the finger. Not THE finger, but the “hang on/cannot deal right now” finger. Thankfully she totally understood and watched from the rail. Isaac ended up in the final 5 and did so good. Good enough that I was in tears (just think what it will be like with my own kids). While neither G nor I got a banner, they both ended up in top 6. They stuck with it, kept cool heads, and drove those pigs. I was dern proud.DSC_3879DSC_4613The rest of the day was spent catching up with friends and running around taking people’s photos. Thank you to all who entrusted me with taking pics of your kids. You helped pay for my plane ticket to be there!DSC_4590DSC_3873DSC_4585DSC_4634DSC_4226The day at the fair concluded with me showing in the performance hog show. Ya’ll,  I’ve been coaching the boys on showing pigs, but showing them yourself…man, I felt rusty. Nonetheless, I had a ball showing the barrow and ended up with a Reserve Champion Market Performance Hog for See Farms. My day was made complete with a trip to CookOut. They don’t have those in NE.DSC_4666The second day at the fair was a bit different than the first, but it was still busy. My Fit Bit let me know that I achieved 8,000 steps that day. Instead of showing, I was on the job for the Sale of Champions. I helped check buyers in, took photographs, and videod the sale with my partner in crime, Emily. It was a record-breaking sale, bringing in $190,000, some of which goes to scholarships. It is always a ton of fun to work the Sale, and I often pinch myself that this is my job! Once the sale was complete and the truck loaded, Emily and I headed to the Golden Arches for dinner at 10 at night followed by a tour of her new apartment. I got home around midnight to get up the next morning for a sunrise engagement shoot for some friends. It was early, but amazing lighting and so much fun!Image-6Image-10The next few days were spent washing and clipping 18 sheep. Let me tell you, this is no easy or speedy task. It took us a solid 2 ½ days to complete. The sheep, of course, despised us, but didn’t look like a hot mess for the show. One sheep, Cain, even did a flip in the air and landed in the mud—he got washed twice. Mom, grandma, Isaac, Gid, and I clipped until dark while Dad and Alec built a divider for the trailer. The guys also built a new sheep stand, that made much easier. Those nights, we didn’t eat until 8.DSC_5984DSC_5948DSC_5971DSC_5965DSC_5981DSC_6017Image-7Image-9On Wednesday, Mom, the boys, and I loaded up the truck with all our feed and supplies and put all the sheep in the trailer. By the way, that is simple to write, but not simple to do. Catching sheep isn’t always a walk in the park. Thankfully, I have brothers who are excellent sheep wranglers.Image-11We were off to the races…errr… show. The fair had decided to rearrange things a bit which meant no backing trailers for this girl. I approved of the new set-up. The vets were super helpful, and we got the 18 sheep checked-in in no time. After some last-minute touch-ups, we headed back home for some Brightleaf hot dogs (because you can’t get those in NE either), grabbed our bags, and headed back to Raleigh to stay in a hotel. The show was early, and we didn’t want to deal with morning traffic.

Sheep show day arrived. We were hopeful for many of our sheep, but also knew that it was a bigger show than years before, with new people. The next several hours went in a blur. While we brought 18 sheep, we showed many sheep more than once because they were entered in both the junior show and open show. All in all, we entered the ring around 50 different times! No, I’m not exaggerating. I just did the math. The boys didn’t show them all. I showed in the open show. Let me tell you…it’s weird having your name called Marisa See over the speaker phone…yet another difference this year.DSC_6070DSC_6081DSC_6265DSC_6267DSC_6165DSC_6271DSC_6196DSC_6199DSC_6203DSC_6182DSC_6258DSC_6147DSC_6144DSC_6125DSC_6068Ultimately, we couldn’t be more thrilled with how it all went. We came home with many top 3 in classes and a few champion banners! Our top honors included:

Junior Show:

  • Reserve Champion Junior Ewe–Georgette
  • Grand Champion NC Born and Bred Ewe–Georgette

Open Show:

  • Medium/fine White Grand Champion Ram–Churchill
  • Medium/fine White Reserve Champion Ram–Pierre
  • Medium/fine Natural Grand Champion Ram–Gus
  • Medium/fine Natural Grand Champion Ewe–Stormi
  • Medium/fine Natural Reserve Champion Ewe–Georgette
  • Supreme Grand Champion Fleece–Gus

Gideon also came away with the Grand Champion Junior Showman and both boys placed in costume class.DSC_6398DSC_6320DSC_6317DSC_6303Each of the boys is attached to a certain sheep. It does my heart good to see them cheer on their sheep as much as I cheer on the boys. Isaac’s prize sheep is Astrid. While she didn’t win a banner, she did win top NC Born and Bred in her class. She is, and always will be Isaac’s Astrid. Gideon has bonded with Gus, our only natural born ram this year.  Well, Gid and Gus won not only their division, but took home the top honor of Grand Champion Fleece, beating out purebreds (we always get odd looks at our crosses, but we also get results) and people out of state. DSC_6162DSC_6243Alec was able to get off work early to meet us right as the show was ending. So, the whole family was able to head out on the fair to ride some rides (bumper cars and Ferris wheel being my only rides), and eating all our favorite food.DSC_6414DSC_6410DSC_6422DSC_6463DSC_6465DSC_6457DSC_6407DSC_6435DSC_6492DSC_6440Image-5It was a wonderful day! We packed up by 9, and headed home. I caught a flight the next morning at 10am back to NE. I now sit here in between the classes I teach, reminiscing on the 2018 NC State Fair and time with family and friends. While I wish I were back to be with them, I’m also happy to be back with my husband who had to lead a bachelor life while I was gone and deal with the very needy and moody Callie Cat. This was also our first state fair not together.Image-4Needless to say, this NC state Fair was a tad different than years past, but it still holds all the wonder as before. I still made memories with the people I love, and still enjoyed the fried food and livestock shows as much as ever. NC State Fair, you are worth every mile I traveled to reach you, and while there’ a lot of changes happening in life right now, you stood pretty constant.DSC_6473

 

 

 

A Weekend in Western Nebraska

With Labor Day approaching, the hubs and I decided to explore this state of Nebraska we now call home. Taking advantage of the long weekend, we made a plan, booked a hotel, and ended up having an awesome time!

After Garrett’s last class on Friday, we packed the car and began our 6 hour trip from Lincoln to Scottsbluff, NE. The landscape changed from flat fields of corn to rolling prairie filled with cattle.

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Scottsbluff greeted us with spectacular sunset skies that made a beautiful backdrop for Chimney Rock. We were starving by the time we got to town at 8:30pm so ate before checking into the hotel for the night.

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When in western Nebraska, the first thing you should do is leave Nebraska. No, seriously, that is exactly what we did. We drove the 45 minutes to Register Cliff which is in Wyoming. Register Cliff was a stopping point for settlers on the Oregon Trail. There are hundreds of names inscribed from those who had traveled the trail centuries ago. It was amazing to see the names and imagine who they were and what their story was. We even found someone with the last name of See…pretty unusual when we haven’t even met someone else with our last name before.

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Our next stop was off of the same road as Register Cliff. The Guernsey Ruts are wagon ruts carved into rock. Hundreds and thousands of wagons made the trek west, and their mark is branded into the ground that they trod. I was amazed at what humans did. Guernsey Ruts has an easy, paved trail that made a loop. It also has a lovely picnic shelter with great views. We ate lunch there with the lunch food we had packed for the weekend (ham sandwiches, BLTs, boiled eggs, pasta salad, popcorn chicken, and cookies).

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After lunch, we headed back the way we had come into the town of Fort Laramie. Here we drove to the old Fort Laramie. Originally established as a fur trading fort in 1834, it transformed into a military post. It housed soldiers until 1890 when it was sold at auction to homesteaders. Eventually, there were efforts made to preserve the many buildings at the fort. Some of the buildings have been redone, but others lie in ruins. It took around two hours to make our way around the fort and through the different buildings. It was truly fascinating. Fort Laramie is a bit of civilization in the middle of nowhere.

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We enjoyed our time in Wyoming, but it was time to head back to Nebraska. We stopped at a few places like a gift shop for ice cream in the town of Fort Laramie and down a dirt road to an access point for the Platte River. We also found the Army Iron Bridge. It was built in 1875, a bit too late for many of the settlers to use to cross the Platte, but just in time to be used by the military. Simply, we just explored anything interesting along the way which made for a wonderful day.

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Army Iron Bridge

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Platte River Access Point

Day two was hike day. Our biggest hike we scheduled for the morning to avoid the heat and so we were fresh. Scotts Bluff National Monument was a landmark for those on the Oregon Trail on their way west. Prairie grasses give way to a large rock formation guiding them on their way. Entering the park costs $5 for a seven day pass. We hit the trail to the top of the bluff. It was 1.6 miles one way and straight up. It was a nice paved path, but steep in areas. For those who don’t want to hike the trail, no worries, you can drive to the top. It was a fabulous walk with amazing views and a tunnel through the bluff. I’ll admit, I was glad to get to the top, though. Your girl was a bit winded. At the top are some .5 mile loops with various views. We walked those too and walked back down. Tip: don’t forget sunscreen. We had to put some on at the top of the trail.

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Once a bit sweaty and sun-kissed, we meandered down the road to Chimney Rock, 30 minutes away. We ate lunch in the parking lot (it would have been better to eat at Scotts Bluff in hindsight). The Chimney Rock visitor center costs to enter the museum and viewing center. We decided that it wasn’t worth it, so we just grabbed some pictures outside and went to our next stop. It is important to realize you can’t hike to Chimney Rock.

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We hit the road once more and traveled to Jail and Courthouse Rock. This one is off the beaten path a bit. We drove past it at first, but turned around to head down a dirt road lined with sunflowers. It leads to a dead-end road. There is a small footpath that goes up to the rock figures. There are no signs, so we were cautious, but absolutely loved the seclusion and adventure. Highly recommend this stop.

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Our last stop of the day was a random place Garrett found called Riverside Park. It has a campground, zoo, and a great path along the river with informative signs. It was a great way to end the day!

Our last day on vacation, we drove an hour north to Agate Fossil Beds. Make sure you fill up your gas tank before heading up there. Gas stations and cell service aren’t a thing.

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Agate used to be a ranch, but the rancher found fossils in the 1890’s. Originally, the land was Lakota Sioux territory. It is a gorgeous area with a fabulous museum. The rancher was a big friend with the Lakota and a room filled with gifts given to him are on display. There are two trails on the premises. One is short, but shows fossilized burrows. The other trail is a little over two miles, but paved with great views and old dig sites! We picnicked at the base of the trail.

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This is a fossilized burrow.

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Leaving Agate, we turned on a dirt road that we took for about 30 miles. The remoteness was astounding, and we even saw pronghorn!

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On the way home, we stopped at Carhenge in Alliance. It was a short stop, but it is fascinating to see a man’s imagination and artistic ability. We took HWY 2 home. These were more back-roads but some great sights. The biggest issue is there aren’t a lot of options for food, but with proper planning, it isn’t an issue.

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While many Nebraskans will tell you to leave Nebraska to go on vacation (and technically we did that the first day), the state of Nebraska has some amazing places just waiting to be explored.

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We made a u-turn to take a picture of this beauty. Props to Garrett for being the photographer.

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 7

Day 7 was quite the series of events. It was our last day on the Isle of Skye, which was a bit of a bummer. The day started with Garrett breaking his shoelace. This was only the start of a series of unfortunate/interesting events. Despite these events, it makes me smile and was so fun!

We started with a tour of Dunvegan Castle. It is the longest continuously inhabited castles in Scotland. Because of this, it was not in ruins, but did have some nods to other centuries. It was a combination of a castle and Biltmore Estates in NC. The MacLeods had a lot of family history in the castle which was very interesting. Outside were impressive gardens complete with waterfalls. They had been developed throughout the years. While the most expensive castle to tour, it was worth it in my mind.

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After eating lunch at a cafe that overlooked a loch, we headed to the Fairy Pools. This was another favorite place of mine on our trip. It is a popular destination, so go early or prepare for some crowds. We had to park a quarter of a mile down the road and hike to the trail head. Keep in mind we were pretty dead from the day before; however, this hike was very pleasant.

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The trail follows water that leads to the Fairy Pools. These pools are deep, crystal clear, blue, and very cold. Many were swimming in the pools. We didn’t go swimming, but we did take our shoes off and dip our feet in. While there were a lot of people, we were still able to find secluded spots to enjoy the scenery. The hike back was equally as pleasant until we reached the hill to the road. That sucker was steep. I was sweating and out of breath by the time we reached the car.

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We found real fairy homes

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I will note that by now, Garrett is driving like a local and even made a 3 point turn on a one lane road. Today, though, his driving would be truly tested as we headed to Fort William. Little did we know that it would take an extra 4 hours to get there.

 

As we were heading out of Skye, we were remarking on how funny the mist looked up ahead in the mountains.

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As we got closer, we realized it was billows of smoke! This was confirmed when were stopped by the police and told to turn around due to a wildfire that had spread to the road and was quite large. He was very nice and even apologized for the inconvenience. We thanked him for not letting us get burnt!

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After getting directions from him, we headed back down a very curvy narrow one lane road to Portree. We had just been down that road that morning. It was much more busy now. Also, meeting a tour bus on such a road is a bit nerve-wracking. Garrett did great, though on the hour detour. As we were finally leaving Skye, you could see the line of fire run across the hills. I’m glad we didn’t get trapped on the Isle. There aren’t but so many roads.

Before we could make it to Fort William, we hit traffic on A85. People began turning around. A bus driver rolled down his window and told us there was a wreck ahead and there would be a 5 hour delay!! We were only 45 minutes from Fort William. Our choices were to hope it wouldn’t be a 5 hour delay or drive an hour to Inverness to go 2 hours to Fort William. We decided the 3 hour detour to Inverness was safer than waiting. It ended up being the right decision.

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We went to Inverness and ate at La Tortilla, a restaurant we had seen but didn’t go to a few days ago. I had a hankering for Mexican and was really hoping for some salsa and chips. Yeah… that’s not what this place was. It was Spanish. No chips and salsa. Just bread and an odd menu that we weren’t sure what was what. We asked the waiter how this works and ended up ordering 2 bowls of potatoes with spicy sauce, 1 bowl of chorizo sausage, and a bowl of garlic chicken. It ended up being cheap and very delicious. And yet, our adventures for the day were not over.

The alternate route to Fort William took us down a very scenic, but was very narrow and curvy. I was nervous, especially when on-coming traffic came. This was a two lane road, but the narrowness and curves made it scary. Garrett did good, but also scared me. I was white-knuckling it. What made it worse was it was 50 miles of it! It was all made more scary by impending darkness. Finally, we made it to Fort William.

We arrived at the cutest hotel, but had to park in the last parking spot–a bus spot at that. Inside the hotel was newly redone and very nice. We had to climb a narrow steep staircase to our room. It was certainly hot in our room (no ac) but the view out the window was over the water.

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Our adventurous day was over. It was absolutely crazy. To think, it all started with a broken shoelace.

Tips:

  1. If you go to Dunvegan and are a student, be sure to show your ID for a discount.
  2. If you can, go early to the Fairy Pools
  3. When the weather is warm, pack a swimsuit to the Fairy Pools and take a dip.

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 6

I was really excited to start this day out. It was going to be all about exploring and hiking. Disclaimer: Garrett and I took charge of planning different parts of the trip. Today was one of the days I had planned. I may have overestimated my abilities. You’ll find out what I mean in a bit.

Our first stop of the morning was Fairy Glenn.

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We weren’t sure if we were in the right place at first. It was also a bit sketchy considering it was a one lane road. By one lane road, I mean that it is a two-way but there’s only room for one car so you have to pull over onto special passes. We’d get really used to these type of the roads as our adventures in Skye continued.

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Cattle guards  on a one lane raod

Needless to say, we ended up in the right place and it was truly magical. You could really imagine fairies in the glen.

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After a quick jaunt, we headed to Quiraing. Wow! The scenery was gorgeous!

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We were amazed at the amount of traffic. You have to park on the side of a single car road. There aren’t large parking lots or car parks as they are called, so the side of the road it is. We would learn that sometimes that mean parking on the edge of a cliff or half a mile from your destination, and that’s not in peak tourist season.

The Quiraing was a wonderful hike. While we didn’t go to the very end, we hiked for over an hour on a trail that was just cut into the cliff.

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Garrett teased me a lot because I would often get distracted by all the sheep that were able to just graze anywhere it seemed. They often shared our path.

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I wanted to take one home. This pic is the closest I got to taking a sheep home.

We made the quick stop to Kilt Rock and the falls before eating burgers at a cafe.

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The next point of interest was Brother’s Point, also called Rubha nam Brathairean. We almost skipped this stop, but I had read on the Earth Trekkers blog that it was worth it and not as touristy. They were right! There was a small car park just past the Glenview Hotel. We had to cross the street and walk down the road just a bit to get to the trail head. We went down what looks like someone’s driveway, entered two gates into a sheep pasture.

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Don’t forget to close the gate behind you. Sheep are inside.

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We certainly were doubting if we were in the right place, but noticed a few people down towards the bottom. We also saw signs directing our path.

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We found ruins, lots of sheep, barnacles, and the most gorgeous of views. What’s better is it is secluded and not crowded. The hike is not too strenuous either. From here, you can also see Kilt Rock in the distance. We didn’t walk all the way down the point, but even still it would become my favorite place of the entire Scotland trip! I cannot recommend it enough!!

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Behind the scenes of the photo above.

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Our final stop was Oldman Storr. It was completely opposite experience than Brother’s Point. I straight died. Don’t believe me? Garrett documented:

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The trail to Oldmann Storr is all uphill, no shade, and a long way. In fact, we didn’t make it. I looked up at Garrett and said I can’t. In my defense, my foot ankle was not happy, I had a slight cold, and poorly planned a long hike at the end of a full day of hiking. I absolutely hated to call it quits, but I know my limits. I think Garrett was a bit relieved too. Moral of the story, rethink planning all major hiking on one day. That was my bad. I also suggest bringing sunscreen. You wouldn’t think that would be needed in Scotland, but we were blessed with warmer than normal weather and full sun.

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This is where we were supposed to go, but never reached.

After calling it quits, we went back to Portree to shop where I got some things for the boys. In my journal my exact words to end the day were, “we ate at Isles and called it early for bed. We wrote postcards and planned tomorrow. We are pretty dead.”

And that is the end of day 6 on Scotland. It was my favorite, but also the most taxing physically.

Tips:

  1. In order to plan different parts of the trip, but still collaborate, we used the website Inspirock. It was fabulous. It not only allowed us a venue to plug in our plans and information, but also gave suggestions. This is a great tool for any trip anywhere!
  2. Bring lots of water hiking.
  3. Visit Fairy Glenn in the morning before crowds hit. It makes for a more intimate experience that adds to the magic.
  4. Don’t hold out for a parking spot in a parking lot. Just go ahead and park on the side of the road.
  5. Kilt Rock was cool, but will only take you 10 minutes to see it. Plan for that as you travel.
  6. Make the time for Brother’s Point. You can also find dinosaur footprints.
  7. Beauty lies everywhere. Even on the side of the road. Stop to see it.DSC_0505DSC_0510

 

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 4

You know, at the completion of this day, I was convinced it was my favorite. I would later say this about every day after.

The only thing that we had planned for the day was a fancy dinner in Inverness. I didn’t even know about it because Garrett had secretly planned for it. However, the night before, we had done a quick search and found a few options of things to do.

We drove to Beauly to see the Beauly Priory, an old abandoned monastic community established in the 13th and 14th century. Before exploring the Priory, we ate at the Priory Hotel that was right beside the monastery.

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Garrett and I ordered a pot of tea. He ate meat pie and the most delicious mandarin orange cheesecake. I was totally kicking myself for not ordering that for myself. He was gracious enough to let me eat a bite or two. I ate a bowl of soup and pork burger. We also had a lovely conversation with our waitress who was from New Zealand (she called herself a Kiwi) about places to go and the best routes to get there. I just love nice people!

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The monastery was in a bit of ruin. However, it was understandable considering its age and that most of its stone had been seized by Cromwell to build Inverness Castle. There wasn’t a roof and parts of the once expansive building were missing. Oh, but the history that was there was incredible. There were tombs, holy water vessel, wall cupboards, and more.

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From the inside

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Where holy water was kept

After our exploration of the priory, we made the decision to head to Fort George. Boy, am I glad we did! The fort was built in the 1700’s but is still a working military fort to this day.  There is plenty of history in this fort to explore, but there are also many building you cannot enter, because it is in current use by the military. DSC_0138

Fort George is on the North Sea. When we arrived to the fort, the mist was rolling in like clouds giving the whole thing a mystical feel. I hope you can see the mist in the photos I took.

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It didn’t stay too long which was good, because little did we know that Fort George is a premier place to dolphin watch. We didn’t really think we’d see any, but we hadn’t been looking for more than 2 minutes when one popped up. We ended up seeing a dolphin about a dozen times!

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While Fort George almost didn’t make it on our itinerary, I’m  so glad we went. It was not only interesting, but very beautiful, and a great place to take a stroll. They also offer free audio tours.

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Getting to write your name in a guest book is way more exciting when you are newly married

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Can you tell we are tourists?
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The slashes in the stone are from when soldiers would sharpen their bayonets

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We made our way back to Inverness to get ready for our fancy dinner. Garrett had made reservations to Rocpool, and we took a taxi to the restaurant. The restaurant was sold out. We were escorted to a corner table by the window with a view of Inverness Castle!!!

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The view out our window

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We couldn’t have had better seats. For our starters, I had fried gnocchi with duck ragu and Garrett had pork belly.  For our main course, I chose lamb on couscous with pomegranate, asparagus, and goat cheese. Garrett selected loin of veal with black pudding, haggis, and potatoes. Creme brulle was the final dish. It was all amazing. Garrett did good…real good.

We decided to walk back to our hotel rather than grab a taxi. That was also a wonderful decision. We walked along the river as the sunset, and it was all simply perfect.

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Tips:

  1. Go to Fort George. It’s worth it.
  2. Stop along the road. If you see something cool, don’t be afraid to take a photo shoot. That’s what we did, and I love them! This was on the way to Fort George. You can actually see a shadow of it in the right side of the first photo below.

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Grand Canyon/ Vegas Trip

After looking at more than a thousand photos from our Grand Canyon and Vegas trip, I’ve narrowed it down to a handful to share with you all. It was such a wonderful trip filled with a ton of adventure. Garrett’s family was gracious enough to invite me to come along. They promised fun and adventure, and boy did we get it! I hope you enjoy this little recap.

Day 1:

This day was filled with smooth travels…minus the time Garrett got stuck behind a lady who reclined her seat in the plane. That doesn’t bode well for his large frame. Regardless, we finally arrived in Las Vegas. We met up with the rest of the group (Grandma Murphy, and Garrett’s aunts—Kristen & Melanie) who were coming from other parts of the country and set out for a late dinner. We ate at a Mexican restaurant near the strip that had the best tacos and the coolest lighting. After that, we were all pretty pooped, so we decided to call it a night.

Day 2:

We ate breakfast and hopped on the monorail to head to the strip.

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We started at one end and worked our way down. Ya’ll, the strip is really long, and we definitely did not make it down the whole thing. After exploring Hershey’s Chocolate, eating at Gordon Ramsey’s Burger joint (best pork burger ever!), and looking at a lot of the sites, we went back to the hotel to change for our show that evening.

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We went to the LINQ to see Matt Franco, a magician. If you don’t know who that is, look him up on YouTube. He was super good and funny. We even got souvenir playing cards from the show. After the show, we headed to… well the food court. We each chose various places to eat (Garrett and I chose Panda Express…unique I know). The real winner, though was in the Venetian (my favorite hotel). In the Venetian is gelato!! When I went to Italy, I fell in love with gelato, and what they sell in the stores just doesn’t cut it. This, though, was the real deal. As you can tell by my face, I was excited! It was a perfect way to end the day.

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Day 3:

We started the day with brunch at Payard Patisserie & Bistro in Caesar’s Palace. Super yummy pastries and omelets were served!

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Afterwards, we explored Vegas more. Our last stop on the strip was Circus Circus. We had a little too much fun playing ski ball, arcade games, and winning tickets for prizes. I walked away with a cup and 5 whole Tootsie Rolls. The kid came out in all of us.

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Once our prizes were claimed, we went back to the hotel to change for dinner and a show. We ate dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris with the most delicious steak. We then went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and watched the Bellagio light and water show from the top. While cold at the top, the view was awesome!

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Finally, we booked it to Treasure Island to watch cirque du Soleil Mystere. Let me tell you, that was the oddest show. Good but odd. There were amazing costumes and acrobatics, but there was a weird story-line involving adult babies. I was left a touch speechless at the whole thing. That would round up our third night in Vegas.

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Day 4:

We said bye to Vegas and looked to a more natural landscape. On our 5 hour drive to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at Red Rock Canyon to travel the scenic drive and hike some. There were some gorgeous views.

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We also spotted bighorn sheep. Of course, I didn’t bring my zoom lens the one time I needed it. I still took pictures, but they aren’t too close. We hiked to a waterfall, that ended up being more of a trickle. Nonetheless, it was a really nice stop and adventure. Once we got back on the road to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at In ‘N Out Burger for lunch. I’m a proponent for them bringing those to North Carolina. Milkshakes and animal fries are where it’s at. The sun was setting when we arrived at the Grand Canyon, so we headed to our hotel rooms and got dressed for dinner at the El Tovar. The El Tovar was built in the early 1900’s . I think it was my favorite meal of the trip. I had chipotle tomato soup and prime rib with potatoes. The desserts (creme brulee, tarts, and more) were also to die for. I was a huge fan. It was a good thing that we ate a big dinner that night. I would need the sustenance the next day.

Day 5:

The morning started with a quick hike to the rim to make sure the Canyon really did exist. Once that had been established, we grabbed breakfast and made a game plan. The plan was to hike the rim trail until it was time to grab our flight over the Canyon. I think we hiked about 2 miles of the rim.

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We then went to a tour place that had flights. We hopped into an 8 passenger plane and flew over the canyon whilst listening to a guide. It was really cool to see the Canyon from that point of view. I was nervous about the takeoff and landing of a little plane, but it ended up being smoother than any of the big planes I’ve ever ridden in!

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After our flight, we went back to the Canyon to hike the Kaibab Trail. We (Me, Garrett, Michael, Emma, and Dr. See) wanted to hike the trail before it got dark. This trail goes down the side of the canyon in cutback dirt trails.

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They say that however long it takes you to get down the trail, it will take you twice as long up. It took us 30 minutes to reach Ooh Ahh point and see a view that literally will make you say oohh ahhh. Best view of the week!

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We turned around to go back up, and suddenly I was doubting my decision to hike so far down the trail. We had gone a mile down with 700 feet drop in elevation, and now we had to go back up. There were no flat spots; it was a constant uphill. There were several times I thought I was gonna die. I may or may not have stopped to “take pictures” just so I could catch my breath. Finally, we made it to the top. Once I caught my breath, I no longer regretted my decision to hike the trail. When we got to the top, two older women came up and said they had just hiked all the way down to the bottom and back in a day. They hiked 11 hours with only 45 minute break for lunch. I felt like a total wuss after listening to them. It’s ok, though, I did it.

Once we had all learned to breathe again, we went back into town and grabbed Wendy’s for dinner and headed towards the Imax theater to watch a show about the Grand Canyon. It was the perfect way to end the eventful day.

Day 6:

You’d think that after the Kaibab Trail, I’d be over the whole hiking down the canyon deal…not so. We started the day with breakfast and started a hike down Bright Angel Trail.

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This trail was very similar to Kaibab, but slightly less strenuous. We only went down 500 feet that day. It was infinitely better. It also helped that we hiked at a much more leisurely pace.

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We even spotted petroglyphs. We also checked out a museum featuring photographers from decades ago. We then grabbed lunch and drove down to Desert View Drive, where we would stop at certain places for hikes. These hikes were very flat and leisurely, but still had amazing views!

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At the end of the drive, we toured the Watchtower. The tower was built to look old and built by natives, but in reality it is just designed to look that way.

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Finally, we watched the sunset. The night ended with dinner at Bright Angel Lodge and some souvenir shopping.  We called it an early night so we could be up by sunrise the next morning.

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Day 7:

5am came early. I didn’t worry about hair or makeup, but I did worry about layers of warm clothing. I even borrowed a blanket from our hotel room. We found a good spot to watch the sunrise and got our cameras ready. Although, way early, it was quite magical to watch the day begin at the Grand Canyon.

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Now that the sun had risen, we headed back to the hotel to actually take a shower and get ready for the day. Our time at the Grand Canyon had come to an end.

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We packed up and headed to the Hoover Dam. I love the history of Hoover Dam, and it always amazes me what man can build.

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After our stop at the dam, we continued our way back to Vegas. Once back in the city, we stood in line to take pictures at the iconic Vegas sign, ate way too much food at the Golden Nugget buffet, and went to Fremont Street.

Ya’ll I have been to Fremont Street before and it was definitely PG-13. They have bumped up the rating since then. My eyes hurt a bit after some of the sights that I saw. Nonetheless, the light show, experience, and live bands made for the perfect last night in Vegas.The next morning we’d be headed home.

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Day 8:

Just kidding! We thought we were done with Vegas, but Delta had other plans. We stood in line for 5 hours that day, waiting to get new tickets because the storms had made a hot mess. The issues had still not been fixed 4 days later. We heard many a horror story of people’s luggage being sent on without them, but they had to stay behind, or sitting on a plane until midnight only to have the flight cancelled and told to get off. It was so much fun! Delta did give us vouchers for hotel, transportation, and food, though. We wouldn’t be getting out of there until the following day at 11pm. The food vouchers could only be used in the airport, though. So, we grabbed airport Wendy’s, grabbed a cab, and checked in to another hotel. We decided to grab a show last minute that was on sale. The Mentalist was really good, but I was terrified he was going to pick me to participate. Thankfully he didn’t! We ended the evening at a delicious nacho joint.

Day 9:

The decision was made to purchase 2 tickets for Michael and Emma on another airline so they could get home early as Michael had to work. After seeing them off, Garrett, his parents and I hit Vegas again. We went to the pawn shop that is on the show Pawn Stars. That was really neat. After grabbing lunch, we grabbed our luggage and went early to the airport…just in case. Today was not nearly as bad as the previous day. We checked in no problem. We used some of our food vouchers at Chilis for dinner, but we still had a bunch left. The rest of our time was spent going to all the different stores buying food with our vouchers. We went to Starbucks, a smoothie place, Hudson News, and cookie store. The vouchers were for $15 and you could only use it at one store. So, if you only bought $5 worth of stuff, you lost the other 10. Therefore, we tried to get as close to the $15 mark as possible. Just so you know, jerky and a bag of chex mix is $14.98. Boom! We ended up with a lot of snacks for the plane, but it was fun to use them all up.

It was finally time to board our flight!! We were standing in line when over the speaker, they said you have 30 minutes to get on this flight or it is cancelled. What?!! Mind you they don’t just let you on. You have to go on according to your zone. People slowly made their way on the plane. I don’t know if people didn’t hear the announcement, didn’t believe them or thought that if they made it on the plane they were safe, but they could not get a second gear. One lady asked for ice. Ice! Those of us (me included) who were taking the 30 minute deal seriously were telling folks to hurry up. I even grabbed one person’s luggage for them so they could sit faster. The guy in front of us had been on 2 planes already that day and had them cancelled. Still, people would not hurry. I was texting my mom giving her a play by play. Prayers work, though, and all of a sudden, the door closed and we were moving towards the runway. People started to say, “oh, I think they were serious about cancelling the flight.” Ummm yeah they were. The pilots were about to time out. It all worked out, though. We flew overnight (not fun) and landed in New York at 8am, hopped another plane, and finally landed in home sweet NC. We were all pretty tired, but safe and home. Our luggage made it, and we headed to the car only to find the battery dead. Oh Monday, you do show yourself up sometimes. We got that fixed and finally headed home.

I grabbed a shower, and went into work in Raleigh. I finally made it home to my neck of the woods around 8 that evening. With that, the adventure was over. Our trip went longer than expected, but we had a blast! If you’ve lasted this long through the whole dialogue, thanks for reading! If you decided to ignore the words and make this more of a picture book, that’s cool too. Happy weekend!

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