Category Archives: travel

Relocation: One Penske Truck at a Time

Oh hey guys. Sarah here. Sorry it’s been a while, but things have been pretty crazy with the move back to the Midwest. If you’re thinking to yourself, how crazy can it be just loading your life into a truck and driving it 16 hours? Well, if you want to go ahead and grab yourself a 5 hour energy and a Red Bull, I’ll tell you. And don’t skimp on the good stuff. No amount of coffee will be enough for this ride.

Let’s start back at the end of August. The sun was shining and a yet-to-be named yet storm system was gaining strength out in the Gulf just in time for us to pick up our first Penske truck from the local dealer in Sarasota.

And then, as if Sarasota was showing it’s emotion at our leaving, the rain started to fall. Hard.

As Matt waited for the truck to arrive in the rain, I headed back towards the house to meet the movers, pausing briefly as I drove through an already flooded road just outside the Penske lot.

Timestamp: 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 31, 2016.

Per the advice of Brock at the Sarasota Penkse (let’s go ahead and name each one by location for future clarification purposes), we waited to pick up the car hauler until after the truck was loaded. That meant 3-4 more hours of rain before we had to drive a moving truck and a CR-V back through the flooded road, which was now a full-on river.

Should we have seen the signs we were set for an adventure when we were blocked by floodwaters at the only road that would lead us to Penske?

Or perhaps when they told us the trailer we rented wouldn’t fit on a 22-foot truck and we’d need to swap it out for a different one before we even left? Perhaps. But we documented our exit from the Sarasota Penkse with a hopeful smile as the weather guy reported that I-9 was now a Tropical Storm projected to make landfall as Hurricane Hermine near the panhandle of Florida by Thursday.

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We’ll be on our way to Tennessee by that time, we optimistically thought. 

We were just north of Ocala when this happened.
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And if you’re asking yourself, well how far did you make it before the first truck broke down?

This far.

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A mere two hours in the rain to a truck stop just north of Ocala.

And unfortunately that’s as far as we’d make it for a few hours. Lisa’s husband, or brother or ex-husband informed us that we were not going to make it far with this particular sounds like its going to die, floor boards are melting my feet, jerking, shaking, AC and radio shorting out truck that is currently packed to the very edge with all of our belongings.

Now the good news is we were just 10 miles away from the Ocala Penske where they informed us that they had another truck of the same size waiting for us. We could spend the night in Ocala or they could call another set of movers to come over that night and ‘swap the load.’ We opted for the latter to try stay ahead of the storm, still hoping to make our reservation in Atlanta that evening.

Here’s a snapchat snapshot of what followed:

So they swapped the load and we set off for Atlanta Wednesday night but only made it as far as Valdosta to sleep for the night. The truck seemed better but as we set out Thursday morning, we ran into similar problems around Macon. After a brief stop at the Macon Penske dealership we were told nothing was wrong with Truck #2 and on we went.

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By this point I was googling Penske dealers out ahead of our drive and basically calling them to tell them we were coming. Just before the mountains on Thursday afternoon, we made a call into the Dalton, GA Penske and told them we were bringing our second truck in for service as there was no way we were going to make it through the mountains with it.

I’ll never forget the look on the lead mechanics face when he came into the break room and gave us the news as if we were getting a terminal diagnosis from a physician.

Unfortunately we’ve seen this issue on a lot of these trucks before guys and it’s not good. It looks like this truck was just serviced for the same issue a few months ago and they didn’t fix it. It’s not good guys. It’s at least a 4-day job. But you came to the right place. We are the place all of the other dealers bring their trucks because our technicians are diamond certified. 

And then he said the words that became oh-so-familiar to us so quickly.

Guys, we’re going to have to swap the load. 

Why don’t you go enjoy a nice dinner on us while we see about getting the movers here. 

And then he said the words that would save us for the rest of the trip.

We’re not going to give you another 22-foot truck. We’re going to tow a new 26-foot truck down from Chatanooga. It has air brakes and less than 17,000 miles on it and should be a more comfortable ride for the remainder of your trip. 

So we went and enjoyed a nice dinner at Chilis and tried to find humor in the last two day’s events.

Timestamp: 9:00 p.m., Thursday, September 1, 2016

Timestamp: 8:00 a.m., Friday, September 2, 2016

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Our new truck was amazing and we finally made it to St. Louis Friday evening, just a few days later (and a few more swapped loads) than we originally planned.

I’ll be back for part two where we unpacked boxes and found out how much of our stuff broke in the aforementioned load swapping.

And if you are wondering whether we would ever use Penske again after three trucks and as many days of moving, the answer is maybe. I don’t plan on ever moving ourselves again so that shouldn’t be a problem, but I will say their roadside and customer service made up for the crappy line of 22-foot trucks they acquired.

Until next time!

 

Seasonal Changes

Pop quiz.

Where’s home to the one of the most successful franchises in baseball and soon two Zalewskis and a Finnegan Murphy?

Hint for Cubs fans: they have 11 World Championships so Chicago is out.

Site of the 1904 World’s Fair.

The first American city to host the Olympics.

Hometown to Jackie Joyner Kersey, Maya Angelou and perhaps most importantly, hip-hop artist and new country breakout, Nelly.

Batter up. The Zalewskis are taking our talents to St. Louis this fall.

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But why on earth would you leave Sarasota, home to the best beaches in the country, year-long sunshine, arts, culture and the most laid-back dress code you’ll ever encounter?

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Decent Wednesday evening.

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A. Because we really miss gray winters and snow

B. Because alligators, fire ants and Trump supporters

C. Because we just love everything that goes into packing boxes and moving across the country

D. Because we were offered an earlier-than-expected opportunity to finally put down roots in a community we love, closer to friends and family and just in time to enjoy the best season the midwest puts on each year (insert all the I love fall hashtags here).

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If you answered “D” (with a sprinkle of “B”) you’re correct.

And while we are sad to leave Sarasota and everything never having to wear coats and closed-toes shoes has to offer, we know this is the right move for our family in the long run.

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Besides, since the Rams left town we won’t have to worry about standing in our driveway doing the SuperBowl Shuffle every Sunday.

You may be asking what our only sits under the AC vent, lover of the beach but not the water, greater swiss MOUNTAIN dog may be thinking about heading back to the midwest?

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Well, he loves car rides and cooler temps so we can only imagine he’ll love it as much as we think he will.  
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There’s at least one family member who will be pumped for a snow again after 3 years of 80-degree Decembers.

So that’s that. A little life update for you. My apologies for only using the blog for the occasional recipe and huge life change announcement.

You can rest assured that as soon as I come to grips with the fact that we just moved into a new house 4 months ago and have to do it again in less than 5 weeks, I’ll be back with more of the good stuff.

Until then we’ll be soaking up all of the sunsets and August humidity we can before heading back “home” this fall.

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Matters of the heart

They say time flies when you’re having fun.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

And they also say you should probably create your wedding video prior to the eve of your first anniversary.

Well I say two out of three ain’t bad.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since our wedding day. On the one hand it feels like just yesterday we were finalizing details and using all the big-ticket grandparent prayers we could for what turned out to be a beautifully sunny and warm spring day. On the other hand it seems like so much has happened over the past 365 days:

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Dinner and a view. 🌅

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  • We enjoyed some romantic meals and date nights
  • And we had a lot of visitors

So since I’m sure my husband is already celebrating our anniversary across the world right now in Goa, India (barring another record heat-induced power outage), I thought I’d share my better late than never look back on the day that I was blessed with the opportunity to walk through life holding this guy’s hand.
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Sarah + Matt

(photos courtesy of the oh-so-talented Wright Photographs)

On snowbirds

What if I told you that all of the defensive driving you learned over the years would finally pay off? All those times your mom reached for the steering wheel, pumped her imaginary brake and claimed we were all going to die when you turned 15. All those years navigating around ‘tourists’ who swerved anytime they heard a Chicago cabbie honk in the loop?

Well I’m here to tell you that it’s all been leading up to this moment.

Season has officially begun in Sarasota.

Yes folks, the snowbirds are back.

How do I know, you ask?

Well besides the increased frequency of observed recreational vehicles towing sedans with Ohio license plates and two-to-four beach cruisers adorning the front grills along 75 south, one can safely assume that in the two weeks following Christmas, the majority of seasonal residents have escaped the cold and ventured south for the winter (here’s your first bird reference of this post).

I, on the other hand, mark the official start of season at the date and time in which I witness my first old lady cross 5 lanes of traffic to make a left turn against a red light and somehow make it through without a scratch, dent or any awareness that the aforementioned event happened.

In this case it was 5:24 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12th.

Speaking of snowbirds, we actually had a woman walk into the office the other day and ask where along the Bayfront she should go to view the snowbirds she kept hearing about.

True story.

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I don’t know why we call them snowbirds. Squirrels seem like a better fit to me. You see like squirrels, (for those of you living in the city, squirrels are the small gray or brown rodents you may remember scurrying across the Quad in college) older generations manage to narrowly escape death by car far more often than most other creatures. Red lights. Roundabouts. Every single lane at once on the road. This is where you’ll find them most frequently.

But they shouldn’t be completely categorized as a nuisance. Instead, here are just a few reasons we should be thankful for snowbirds this season.

  • They teach us to slow down. Literally. It took me 4 minutes to walk from the entrance of the gym to the locker room because I felt too guilty to pass the sweet old lady in front of me Saturday morning.

You rock in spin class, Gloria!

  • They remind us that every day is Saturday when you’re retired.

Check out Suzie and Bob over there just hammering 2-for-1 Martinis at Bonefish on a Tuesday.

  • They get your children safely across the street, they drive cancer patients to treatment and they fill important jobs that make an economic impact on the region.

Perhaps Phyllis can make the best recommendation for a ‘supportive’ bra at Victoria’s Secret, given her years of experience and eagerness to not let gravity get her down. 

  • And they make sure all that defensive driving you practiced finally has it’s shining moment while going 75 miles an hour on the Interstate.

You are of course going 75. George? He’s going 40.

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All Roads Lead to Rome

Believe it or not it’s finally time to wrap up our tour of Rome and end the honeymoon. And unlike our quick 10 day visit, if we count blog time, you’ve been there for nearly a month so you’re practically a resident.

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But there’s still so much to see. The Trevi Fountain.

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The Spanish Steps. Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo, spanish steps, trevi fountain Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo, spanish steps, trevi fountain

The Pope!

Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangeloWe were told that Vatican City was about 40 minutes from our hotel so we decided to make the most of a warm 85-90 degree day (all acclimated now that we live in Florida) and walk. We made our way down through Piazzo Novana to take another look at the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (fountain of four rivers) which was designed by Bernini, who studied under Michelangelo and was known for his attention to detail (i.e. Matt Zalewski biceps).

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Each corner represents a major river. The Nile representing Africa, the Danube representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, and the Río de la Plata representing the Americas. Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo

A quick walk across the Tiber and we approached Vatican City. It was a good day to explore the area as there was a parade downtown in celebration of Republic Day so we avoided the crowds and got to see a little of the fly-over along the way.

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Whether you celebrate Catholicism or not, Vatican City is a must if you’re heading to Rome. When we arrived, we did as most tourists do and got into the longest line we could find, inching forward to see St. Peters Basilica and hovering in any sliver of shade we could find along the way.

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It’s hard to explain a church known as one of the greatest of all Christendom but let’s just say good ol’ St. Peter lived up to the hype. Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo IMG_5196 Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangelo Vatican, Rome, Italy, honeymoon in italy, roma, vatican city, pope, sistine chapel, st peters basilica, bernini,  michelangeloWe grabbed a bite to eat at a local spot recommended by our friend John, who lives in the area, and spent the rest of the afternoon working our way through the Vatican Museum and towards the Sistine Chapel. If we were allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel or even speak above a whisper, we still could not translate the beauty and history of one of the most famous pieces of art in history.

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Are you ready for some ruins?!

It’s Day two in Rome and you’ve got a date with a Gladiator in the Colosseum.

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There are several career paths you’re now husband has mentioned over the years that fit his personality type and high tolerance for pain. Firefighter. Police Officer. Top secret member of the U.S. Army Special Forces or Navy Seal. But a Gladiator? Weren’t they all unfortunate criminals or prisoners of war with no citizenship? Sure, some of the attributes line up: brute strength, athleticism, courage and enough craziness to fight to the death, but who would choose that path? Well, if you measure it in giddiness and chatter during our tour of the Colosseum, he would.

And apparently he wouldn’t be the only one. Even free men opted to enter the ring in search of glory and prize money. Confident in your abilities, my dear, but happy it’s no longer an option for you.

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Having a hard time picturing what all this rock is about? Let’s revisit a classic scene to put us in the Gladiator spirit.

That’s better.

It’s really hard to believe this building still stands after thousands of years, earthquakes, floods and fires, but it does. There are parts of the massive arena that still showcase the original marble flooring as well as a reconstructed area that simulates what it looked like in its prime.

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You try not to compare it to familiar places like Soldier Field, but it’s hard not to when so many of today’s mega-stadiums resemble the same framework the Colosseum originated so many years ago. roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,

Now uncovered, the area below the main floor housed two levels of compartments and included trap doors that could spring the animal up onto the main stage to excite the audience and challenge the gladiator. Kind of reminded me of the bushes behind my old Montessori school where I used to run an imaginary zoo. Much friendlier animals in my care, of course.
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Thanks to high-end designers like Tod’s and Fendi, historic sites like the Colosseum and Trevi fountain are getting the funding for much-needed restorations that they otherwise couldn’t afford. Check out this recent 60 Minutes episode to learn more. It’s really fascinating.  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,

 

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We wrapped the Colosseum tour and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find our way out of the fiery maze that was the Roman Forum. Fortunately we had learned a lot about it the day before so the main focus became trying not to suffer heat stroke and keep our minds clear. The fresh water fountains helped.

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One of my favorite parts of the forum and surrounding hills were the contrast of bright poppies and fresh water against the red and brown rubble.
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Remember popular 90’s game Labyrinth? Yeah it was kind of like that. roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,

That saying, all roads lead to Rome? Thanks to Augustus, technically all roads lead to this rock.  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,  roma, rome, honeymoon in italy, colosseum, gladiator, ruins, roman forum, vacation, honeymoon,

After the forum, we headed back towards the hotel to try what our guide John said to be the most authentic and homemade gelato in the city. And with a line out the door 100 or so flavor offerings, I’d say he was right.

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We wrapped day two with an evening aperitivo on the rooftop followed by a heaping plate of carbonara. IMG_0423_2 IMG_0425

When in Rome!

Rome: It’s like Chicago but older

Today we land in Rome and I must admit this city far exceeded my expectations in the three days we explored it. I was excited for Rome because I knew Matt would be really excited for Rome. Why do you ask? In the short six years we’ve known each other, I’ve come to learn that my new husband is a bit of a history buff. Falling slightly behind any shows that involve ultimate survival and fast and loud car restorations, chances are if he’s watching television, he’s tuned to the History Channel.

So I knew Rome would live up to Matt’s expectations and for that I was pleased. And while I did really enjoy Mr. Peterson’s World History class, I must admit I went into Rome a little rusty on my ruin knowledge. Fortunately for Matt, my parents gifted us with a private tour from a family friend who lives in Rome and just so happened to have a Masters in philosophy, a PHD in theology and a rich knowledge of local gelatology. The amount of knowledge our guide, John poured into our carb-and-wine-filled brains was enough to fill a semester-long course, but it set a foundation (no Roman pun intended) that we were able to use for the rest of our trip and for that we are very grateful. If you plan on going to Rome, check out John and his wife Ashley’s web site and be sure to meet up with them. You’ll be glad you did.

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I’ll tell you a little more about the forum when we go back for a closer look on Day 2 but just imagine the above photos some 2000 years ago. And if you still can’t picture it, this may help.

source

We were privileged to learn that John also served as a consultant in restorations to the local Catholic churches in the area so we got an in-depth lesson in Art History and more Catholic facts to supplement our recent marriage prep workshops.

Rome, Roma, Coliseum, pantheon, honeymoon in italy, Italy, michelangelo, Roman Forum, visiting rome, rationalist movement, bernini

dome is not in fact a dome but painted. Take that Rationalists.

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John also set us up for a dinner reservation that evening, stopping by the restaurant towards the end of our tour and putting in a good word for us with the chef. A tour guide and a concierge!

Rome, Roma, Coliseum, pantheon, honeymoon in italy, Italy, michelangelo, Roman Forum, visiting rome, rationalist movement, bernini Rome, Roma, Coliseum, pantheon, honeymoon in italy, Italy, michelangelo, Roman Forum, visiting rome, rationalist movement, bernini

We wrapped Day one sharing a good bottle of shiraz, mussels and linguine with black truffle.

Next up, a tour of the Coliseum.

Rome, Roma, Coliseum, pantheon, honeymoon in italy, Italy, michelangelo, Roman Forum, visiting rome, rationalist movement, bernini