The Longest Route to Belize

The Longest Route to Belize

Andy Travel Leave a Comment

And since I’m the one writing it, it will be told in the longest possible way… which is also the reason why Lynn writes the majority of the articles.

I wrote an article a little over a month ago about why we quit our jobs to travel the world, and I mentioned how it hasn’t actually hit us that we’re leaving on this 7 month adventure. I think it finally hit us… well, it hit me anyway, right as we were getting ready to leave the Denver airport. We also had a few other things hit us (literally). The bottom of a pool, a soccer ball… but hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll get to that later because after all, this is an article about the longest route to Belize and a lot more happened before we got to that point.

The Journey Before the Journey

During my last week of work I was talking to one of my co-workers about our trip. She was curious when we were actually leaving Chicago to start traveling. I said, “Well, we don’t actually leave the country until the 10th of September, but we leave Chicago on the 24th of August.” I continued to tell her about all of the places we were driving to and flying to in order to finalize parts of our trip and meet up with family and friends. She said, “Wow, I hope you make it through all that travel before you actually start traveling.” I had never actually explained the pre-travel schedule to someone before, so after hearing the full schedule out loud all I could think was, “Yeah, me too.”

Farewell to Chicago

The day after our last day of work we planned a farewell happy hour at Friar Tuck, our favorite Chicago dive bar, which just happens to be the bar we met at and the same place we had drinks after our wedding reception. It was only fitting that we returned to Friar Tuck to meet up with friends and say farewell to Chicago.

We tried to get to the bar early, but not early enough because Lynn’s brother and sister-in-law were already there when we walked in. It was good timing though because we were able to sit down, get some drinks and chat with them for a while before other friends started to arrive. We ended up having an amazing night with so many of our friends making it out to see us before our travels. We tried to get pictures with everyone individually, as well as one large group shot, but unfortunately it was impossible to get everyone in the group shot since most people were stopping by at different times during the evening. It didn’t matter though because it was the perfect send-off and it was really great to see so many friends before we left Chicago.

Friar Tuck Farewell to Chicago Party

The New York Road Trip

For our last week of work we were living in the guest room of a couple friends of ours. I guess we were lucky that we had friends in Chicago that actually had a guest room, especially since space is often pretty limited in Chicago apartments. With us in that guest room were our fully packed traveling backpacks as well as our remaining clothes packed in two carry-on suitcases. To say the least, we had stuff covering the majority of the floor space in our room.

Early in the morning on Monday August 24th (2 days after our farewell party), we set our traveling backpacks in the corner of the guest room and lugged all of our remaining luggage and possessions with us to downtown Chicago… on the CTA Red Line… during rush hour. We were picking up our rental car and starting our road trip to New York City.

Lynn wanted to make sure that we were fully prepared for a 12 hour road trip, so she checked out 4 different books on CD from the Chicago public library. It was a good thing that our rental car actually had a CD player. I wasn’t too worried about the long drive since I have been road tripping long distances for many years. These long distance road trips are somewhat new to Lynn, but we both agree that the books on CD help pass the time.

In Indiana we actually got pulled over by the state police. I didn’t think I was driving that fast, so I was curious why we were getting pulled over. As the officer walked up to the passenger window, I said, “Oh I’m sorry officer, let me turn off this book on CD so that I can hear you properly.” At that point he told us to move along and whispered “Nerds” as we drove away. Ok, so that’s not actually what happened, but it could have gone down that way. The officer asked us where we were going and told us that we were going about 9 mph over the speed limit. He then told us to slow down and let us continue on our way. That was the first time I’ve ever been let go after being pulled over. It must have been either Lynn’s good luck or her good looks.

When we weren’t learning about the collapse of ancient civilizations from our book on CD, we were usually taking breaks by listening to the radio or counting trees. As we were crossing Ohio we actually had a scheduled phone interview with an editor from the Living/Travel section of a website called SheKnows.com. They wrote an article about how we saved a bunch of money and airline miles, and quit our jobs to travel the world. Even though we haven’t seen much traffic from the article, it was a fun experience and pretty cool that we were even asked to be interviewed to begin with.

After our long road trip we arrived in New York City pretty late in the evening and headed straight to our hotel in Long Island City (Queens). Long Island City is where I lived for all 8 years I was in New York City, so after we checked in to the hotel Lynn and I headed out to get a couple drinks and something quick to eat.

One Day in New York City

The main purpose of our trip to New York City was to get our visa for Kenya. Our visa for Kenya was something that we could have mailed our passports in to get, but the visa only lasts for 6 months from the date of issue. Because we wouldn’t be visiting Kenya until the end of our trip we needed to get our visa as close to the start of our trip as possible. We also were paying a little more to get our Kenyan visa completed in the same day. We woke up “early” that next morning and headed to the Kenyan embassy near the United Nations building. Amazingly, this process was extremely easy and probably should have taken us about 10 minutes if we hadn’t gotten wrapped up in a conversation with the man at the Kenyan embassy for 35 minutes.

Door of the Kenyan Consulate in NYC

The quicker than expected stop at the Kenyan embassy turned our busy day into a “what are we going to do for the rest of the day?” day. This was fine though because we had plans to meet with a college friend of mine for lunch and from there we figured we could catch the subway down to the World Trade Center. I hadn’t been down there in quite a few years and it had been even longer for Lynn.

We walked around the World Trade Center area and then down to the park where the ferries depart for the Statue of Liberty. It actually would have been pretty nice if it wasn’t one of the hottest days in weeks and we both weren’t wearing jeans. After walking around trying to find a bottle of water that didn’t cost $6 we finally found a Duane Reade with reasonable prices. We downed a large bottle of water and decided that we were done with the heat. We hopped on the subway and headed north to a bar in the Chelsea area where we planned to meet up with a bunch of friends that evening.

The rest of our evening was spent drinking and chatting with friends that live in and around the NYC area. Some of them I hadn’t seen in years and others I didn’t even expect to see. Just like our final night out in Chicago, our night in NYC was just as enjoyable. Even though some friends couldn’t make it out, it was great to see those that did and hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with others the next time we’re in NYC.

A Few Days in Upstate New York

Before we left NYC, there was one last stop we had to make: Brooklyn Bagel Company. This was our go to place for weekend breakfast bagel sandwiches (bacon, egg, & cheese) when we were living in Queens. Luckily Brooklyn Bagel is pretty much right on the way to the highway. Even though I felt like my bagel wasn’t quite as soft and delicious as I remember, it was still enjoyable. After our quick stop we were back on the road and headed to Sullivan County, NY where I was born and raised.

Our 3 days in Sullivan County were spent seeing as many people as we could fit in. Our first day we spent hanging our with my godparents at their house and small exotic farm. Lynn was in heaven as she got to walk around and help my godfather feed all of the animals in the morning. Some of the animals included: donkeys, deer, emu, rabbits, tortoises, wallabies, lemurs, and alpacas. I think Lynn’s favorite were the lemurs, mainly because they’re so friendly and make funny noises as they eat.

Lynn Feeding the Lemurs at Douglin

The next day we went over to my cousin’s house since him and his wife were not able to make it out to our wedding, which meant they hadn’t met Lynn yet. It was nice to just hang out in the back yard in some lounge chairs and have some drinks with them, their two young girls, and my aunt and uncle. After drinks my cousin cooked up some burgers on the grill and ate dinner with everyone.

Our final day was spent mainly with my cousin Mark since he took the day off of work. We told him that we were interested in going fishing during the day. It worked out nicely because he has a small fishing boat, so we headed off to a small lake nearby. We ended up catching quite a few fish, but didn’t end up keeping any because we knew we would be eating dinner that night with my aunt and a few more of my cousins. Our main catches of the day were a bunch of perch and some large mouth bass.

Andy with His Large Mouth Bass

After our fishing expedition we met up with my aunt and her step grand-daughter to visit her family’s alpaca farm. Again, Lynn was really enjoying this part of the trip. Not only did we get to see some young alpacas with their mothers, but we got to see a very small alpaca that was just born that morning. On our way out Lynn also got to hold one of the softest bunnies she has ever held.

Mother Alpaca with Her Baby

Lynn Holding a Large Fluffy Bunny

That evening my aunt came over to my cousin Mark’s and made some of her famous pizza using an old secret recipe which I hadn’t had in years. Lynn and I spent the rest of the evening eating pizza, chatting with my family and finally hanging around the fire in the back yard roasting marshmallows for S’mores. It had been quite some time since all of my cousins from that side of my family were able to get together, so it was pretty awesome to hang out and catch up with everyone.

Off to Michigan

The next morning we were up early (actually early this time) since we knew we had a long day ahead of us. Our plan was to drive up through the rest of upstate New York and cross the border into Canada at Niagara Falls. From there we would be on to Detroit to have dinner with Lynn’s grandma and then finally make our way to Battle Creek where Lynn’s parents live.

We actually made pretty good time up to Niagara Falls, and our plan was to stop there and get some pictures that we were not able to get when we were there last year. Unfortunately, it ended up being a bigger detour than we expected and because it was a weekend the park by the falls was super crowded. We ended up walking down to see the falls, but turned around shortly after we got there and went back to the car to get back on the road. In hindsight we should have just skipped going to Niagara Falls and took the Peace Bridge into Canada, which would have been quicker since it bypasses the falls.

At our next stop in Detroit, we spent a little more time than we originally thought we would, but there was a lot going on when we got there. When we arrived at Lynn’s grandma’s house we got the news that Lynn’s aunt had a huge glass chandelier fall from the ceiling and shatter all over the main entry way. At that point, Lynn and I were put on picture taking duty… at least we were after we got the tour of her aunt’s house while making sure to avoid the shards of glass throughout the main entry way. Priorities people. It’s customary to welcome someone into your home and give them a tour before you have them do work for you.

After our photography shoot we were off to dinner at Olive Garden with Lynn’s grandma and aunt. I think the last time I was at Olive Garden was 14 years ago for a New Years Eve party in Times Square. This experience was similar. I’m kidding. Nothing alike. I drank a lot more this time.

Even though we ended up leaving Detroit a little later than we expected, it didn’t really matter, plus we got to have dinner and spend some more time with Lynn’s grandma before we left on our trip.

Later that evening we pulled into Lynn’s parent’s driveway and were relieved that we had reached our final destination for the day. At this point we were excited for a comfortable bed and a good night sleep.

A Couple Days in Battle Creek

The majority of our time in Battle Creek was spent hanging out with Lynn’s parents, doing laundry, and eating vegetables. You may think I’m joking, but eating vegetables was actually the number 1 thing on Lynn’s list while we were in Battle Creek. It may have been tied with happy hour on the back deck… at least it was for me.

Luckily Lynn’s parents treated us like resort guests by cooking for us, making us drinks, and doing our laundry. Ok, they didn’t do all of our laundry but they did a lot of it and ended up doing everything that we left there as we headed back to Chicago.

The interesting thing about our stop in Battle Creek was that we would be leaving 90% of our stuff there. Almost everything that we brought on this road trip with us was stuff that we would not be bringing with us on our trip around the world. Since we already had our backpacks packed sitting in our friend’s apartment in Chicago, there wasn’t much else we needed. So, we said goodbye to Lynn’s parents and left Battle Creek with just a few necessities.

Our Final Night in Chicago

Over 1,600 miles later and we were back in Chicago where we began our road trip the week before. Along the way we saw a lot of family and friends, but most importantly we learned about the collapse of ancient civilizations, the Walmart effect, and why Justin Halpern (Sh*t My Dad Says) sucks at girls… all thanks to books on CD!

One of the most exciting things for us about our final night in Chicago was that we would get to spend it with our cat Gingerbread. She is staying with our friend Michael in Chicago while we travel. When we realized that we would be coming back to Chicago and staying one night before we left for Denver to see my family, we asked Michael if we could stay with him that last night. Luckily he has a guest room at his place, so we were able to stay the night and spend some quality time with Gingerbread.

On to Denver

Yes, this story keeps going and that next morning we were up and headed to the airport with everything that we planned to take with us on our trip. We still had a week to hang out with my family in Denver, but from here on out we would be living out of the backpacks we packed for our 7 month journey.

Leaving Chicago with Our Backpacks

We flew into Denver on September 1st and we were not scheduled to leave until the following week on September 8th. It just made sense for us to stay through Labor Day weekend and once we looked at award flights from Denver to Belize, the flights for the least amount of miles left on the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day.

So, what does one do when you have a week in Denver? Road trip!

Road Trip Through Part of the Great Plains

I know, with the schedule that we already had and the journey we were about to embark on, adding another road trip was probably the last thing we needed to do. I think that’s just how we roll though… always moving.

The Wednesday after we arrived, Lynn, my mom and I took off on our road trip into Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. I could go into detail here, but it makes more sense for you to just get all the details from the article Lynn already wrote (plus, it’s a lot less wordy than anything I would write). A brief summary of our trip would be that we stopped in Carhenge in Nebraska, then went on to South Dakota where we stopped at Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, and Deadwood. Our final day we were in Wyoming and hiked around Devils Tower.

The Weekend With Family

We started our family weekend with a hike in the mountains. The road to get there was a little rough and took a little longer than expected, but we finally made it. Once we did, we ended up completing a 5 mile roundtrip hike to Diamond Lake. My mom stayed back in Denver with the youngest of my nephews, but we hiked the entire thing with my other 5 nieces and nephews ranging from 5 to 12 years of age. I kept count of the following requests/complaints:

  • 6 – “I have to go to the bathroom”
  • 9 – “Can I have a snack?”
  • 3 – “How much further is it?”
  • 4 – “I ran out of water”
  • 11 – “When can I ride on your shoulders?”
  • 1 – “When are you going to have a baby?”

FYI, I don’t want to make it sound like Lynn and I were heroes for doing this entire hike on our own with all of my nieces and nephews, but that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Kidding, we hiked with both my sisters and my brother-in-law. Zero responsibility on our part.

At Diamond Lake Wearing Sparty Gear

The next day we opted for a less strenuous activity and decided to meet everyone at the pool. Well, at least we thought it would be less strenuous… Ten minutes into our pool experience, Lynn and I headed for the two water slides that sit at the far end of the pool. We decided to race each other down the slides. I easily won… mainly because my slide was actually shorter, but also because I know the trick on how to hit high speeds on water slides. Unfortunately, Lynn was the loser in two ways:

  1. She lost the race
  2. She slammed her foot into the bottom of the pool while coming full speed off of the slide

For some crazy reason (probably for the safety of small children) the depth of the water by the slides is only 3 feet. Lynn had no idea it was this shallow and was not expecting it at all. She pretty much fractured two of her toes and bruised the side of her left foot on the bottom of the pool. She was sidelined for the rest of the day.

The day at the pool turned into grilling at my sister and brother-in-law’s house. I played the part of grill master, which meant that I got to stand by the grill and people would bring me glasses of wine as I pretended not to overcook the food.

Grilling turned into S’mores by the fire pit and after several glasses of wine I thought it was a good idea to play soccer with my nephew… barefoot. While Lynn’s injury happened due to a pool that was way to shallow (not her fault at all), my injury happened because I’m an idiot (completely my fault). All it took was one hard kick from my nephew and me trying to block it and I ended up with a fractured toe as well. Not quite as bad as Lynn’s injury, but pretty painful as well.

Family in Denver

More Friends to See

With both of us injured and limping around, we still had plans to see some of Lynn’s friends in the Denver area. That next morning after our foot accidents we headed into south Denver to have breakfast with a previous co-worker of Lynn’s and her husband. Nothing makes you feel better than being able to have dessert for breakfast, which was basically what my pancake flight was (Yes, a pancake flight… 3 different pancake flavors).

Then later that evening (still limping) we were out in Morrison, CO to have drinks and hang out with another friend of Lynn’s and her boyfriend. We actually had a really fun time just drinking wine and singing a little live karaoke as Lynn’s friend’s boyfriend played the guitar. After a late night we ended up spending the night at their place in Morrison, and then driving into Denver to have breakfast with another friend.

We were realizing that morning was the day we were actually leaving (BTW, still limping). It still hadn’t hit us and it almost seemed like our friend was more excited for us leaving on our 7 month journey than we were. For some reason today just seemed like another day in the journey before the journey. We had been waiting so long to actually leave that it almost seemed like it wasn’t real anymore.

We’re Actually Leaving… Sort of

Here it is. The day has arrived. All we need to do is pack our stuff into our bags one last time and hope it all still fits. Nope. I’m leaving my jeans behind. Ok, now we’re good.

Now all we have to do is get to the airport, say goodbye to my mom, limp through security, get to our gate, board our plane, and we’ll be in Belize in 40 hours. Wait, 40 hours? You mean it’s going to take almost 2 days to get to Belize? Haven’t we already been through enough? I guess this is what happens when you book your flights with award miles, and you realize that going forward you have more time to waste than you do money…

So, there I sat on the plane ready to leave Denver, and as I stared out the window it hit me… we’re actually doing this.

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About the Author

Andy

Born with a sense of wanderlust, it's only natural that Andy would be traveling and writing about it. He has traveled extensively throughout the U.S., even golfing in each of the 50 states. When he's not updating this blog, you can probably find him riding his bicycle, baking desserts, or working on his goal of attaining the "best credit ever."