The big 3-0: The final few days..

Welcome back my dear readers! It has been a while! Ironically I’ve been pretty rubbish at blogging for most of the pandemic – you’d think with more time I’d have found it easier but no.. Weird, right?

Anyway, those of you following along on this journey have read countless posts on this particular series – from the early planning stage to theΒ farewell to the rubbishΒ summary in the immediate aftermath of the trip.

The next step of blogging about the trip was determining the “right way” to relive it. I have a habit of rambling and my concern was that breaking it down by location would see an enormous post on destinations such as New Orleans or San Francisco and then a four word post about other parts of the trip, so in the end I decided I’d post a day-by-day retelling which has worked well (I think).

However now that we’re approaching the finish line I’ve been conflicted on whether to stick to daily posts for the last few days or just wrapping this up with one last post – I’m leaning towards the latter.

I was asked many times after this trip “what was the highlight?” or “favourite place?” or whatever but I sincerely loved every minute of it. The end to this trip was just as special as the start of it and it was quite nice to wind down for a few days before heading home. Given I’d be landing in England on Monday and returning to work on Tuesday after an entire month off, it was quite nice having that downtime at the end of this trip.

That said four days in Moses Lake of not doing much won’t make for particularly exciting reading so here we are! One final post to wrap this trip up!

Moses Lake History
Moses Lake, Washington

After leaving San Franciso, California on Monday morning we’d made it back to Moses Lake, Washington on Tuesday evening. I wasn’t flying home until Monday so in spite of everything I just said about a relaxed end to this trip being nice, I would have loved to have had a few more days traveling and extended our travel right up to Sunday night.

However Haleigh teaches and some genius decided sending the kids back to school on a Thursday after 3 months of vacation would be a good idea and lead to a really productive two day first-week back. Consequently we had to cut our traveling short and make sure we were back to Moses Lake on Wednesday at the latest.

In hindsight I do actually believe it worked out for the best but before this trip I was probably more bitter that the schoolyear’s calendar was so inconvenient for me (that’s not the first thing they consider?) and that I’d lost 4-5 days that I could have been traveling instead.

Anyway, we woke up on Wednesday morning back in familiar surroundings and Haleigh was off to school – last minute preparations for the new school year!

I had the choice of staying in bed or joining Haleigh and getting a small glimpse of the school life from the “other side”. I’d only ever experienced school as a young student – you turn up on day one and everything is in place. That’s obviously the same for the teachers, right?

Washington School
An American classroom!

Well let me shock you right now – apparently there are no magical school fairies that do it all! It’s actually teachers and other school staff that are the ones going in before the school year to get things set up for the year! Who knew!?

After grabbing breakfast (pancakes) at one of our favourite breakfast spots in Moses Lake we headed on over to Haleigh’s school and I got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of teacher life! I met various other teachers and administration staff over the next couple of hours – one little academic family working their own magic.

The main reason I’d tagged along was to hope I’d be of some use. Given that my time in the US was running out I figured the sooner Haleigh was done, the sooner we’d be out of there and spending quality time together so I helped where I could before Haleigh was satisfied that she was all good to go for tomorrow!

We grabbed a late lunch but didn’t do too much with the rest of our afternoon – I think we may have even napped! A little later our focus switched towards dinner and we decided we’d return to another Moses Lake favourite – “Rock Top” – a restaurant downtown and also host of mine and Haleigh’s first proper date roughly a year earlier. It’s a nice place with nice food so it’s always somewhere we enjoy visiting.

On this particular occasion they seemed to be having issues with their beer availability. I ordered a particular beer with my dinner and then two minutes later my waitress returned to to say they were having some issues and that particular beer wasn’t available.

No bother I thought as I ordered a different beer instead but then a couple of minutes later she again returned apologetically telling me that wasn’t available either – nor was any other beer – but she’d personally buy me a cider for my troubles.

I’m not much of a cider drinker but who am I to turn down a free drink? It was a sweet gesture and one I appreciated – infact I probably tipped better than I normally would do (still generous) so I guess it balanced out a little. It was a good reminder of why this place had proven to be a favourite though with some great service despite the problems they were having with their stock!

The next day it was “back to school” and this time I had no desire to wake up early. As Haleigh got herself ready for the first day back, I snuggled up under the duvets and basked in the cozyness of a nice, warm bed.

I didn’t really end up going back to sleep but certainly made the most of a lazy morning before pondering what to do with the day. I’d been to Moses Lake before – twice infact and it’s not a big town, there isn’t an awful lot to do. Nevertheless I didn’t want to sit around the apartment all day on my own so I figured I’d have a wander, grab some lunch and maybe catch the football if I was lucky enough.

One of the unique things about returning to such a small place is that the differences between visits perhaps seem more noticeable. On my walk in to town was this apartment complex which had been pretty much nothing when I first visited (Sep 2017), construction when I returned (Feb 2018) and something glimpsing more of a finished product (Aug 2018) come the time of this trip.

Moses Lake Development
Moses Lake, Feb 2020 – there was nothing on this land on my first visit!

The rest of town seemed much the same. I noticed a couple of new statues that I hadn’t seen previously but otherwise it was business as usual in Moses Lake. I popped in to my favourite little coffee shop and ordered myself some tea and took my “usual” spot by the window.

Following on from some tea I decided to go grab lunch at a favourite bar from a previous visit. It has a nice atmosphere, a lunch menu and more importantly a bunch of TV’s so I was hopeful I’d be able to watch some Europa League football which kicks off at 8pm in the UK and would make perfect lunchtime viewing.

Sadly it seems no US network has picked up coverage for the competition so I settled for some lunch accompanied with some beer. The food was good, the atmosphere as friendly as ever and to my surprise I was even recognised!

“I remember you! You’re the guy from England with the teacher girlfriend..”

Or something to that effect anyway. I have to say I was a little surprised by it. I’d only been to this bar once – six months ago – so to be remembered was a real sign of how few out-of-towners a place like Moses Lake attracts. Brits are certainly few and far between so I was subjected to a taste of the “rockstar” lifestyle – remembered and welcomed. It was an experience that added to the feeling that I was at home here. I’m very much a “big city” person but small-town life definitely comes with its perks.

MidwayPubMosesLake

I could happily have stayed in that bar all day but I thought better of getting too drunk and made my way back to the apartment for another relaxed evening with Haleigh.

Friday started pretty much as Thursday had. Haleigh’s alarm went off in anticipation of the school day and as she got ready, I once again snuggled up and had a little more sleep.

I didn’t really have any idea of what to do with my day, however as it was my last full day in Moses Lake for quite some time I figured I’d go make the best of it and again made the trek downtown.

I decided to wander a little further today and find somewhere new for lunch. I’d never noticed it previously but this restaurant / bar popped up on Google Maps and I was intrigued enough to check it out.

“The Hangout” as it’s called looked anything but from the exterior. It didn’t give off the impression it really wanted to be found and as I walked up to the doors I did ponder if it was even open – there was no inkling of what laid beyond the front doors.

It was a weird little place. The “stay away” exterior vibes didn’t really change as I walked in with pretty much every head turning towards the door to give the intruder a look.

“Were we expecting anyone else?”

I must have been 30 years younger than anyone else inside, staff included, and certainly felt like I stuck out a bit – that’s before I’d even opened my mouth. I took a seat at the bar and gave the menu a quick glance before ordering myself a burger.

Hearing the English accent came as a bit of a surprise and caused another “rockstar” moment! Brits always seem to be welcomed with open arms in the US – particularly in tiny towns such as Moses Lake.

A guy at a stool sat to my left took a bit of a shine to me and actually welcomed the company. Its standoffish exterior and interior did a fine job of scaring away the Instagrammers hunting photogenic spots but once you got past the appearance, it was actually a pretty friendly place and you could tell customers and staff alike all knew eachother and in some cases probably saw eachother daily.

My new friend was reminiscing of his youthful trips to England and how much he was fascinated by all things London (Kent included). I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that London didn’t stretch quite as far as Kent but it was still a pleasant experience and nice to have the company whilst enjoying my lunch.

IMAG6541

I didn’t stay beyond lunch. I wanted one last stroll by the lake before heading home and then took a detour via the local museum on the way home. I’d been to the museum before (Sep 2017) but it’s free to visit and I was hopeful that the exhibit would have changed by now.

Fortunately it had and I was treated to an exhibit on Bigfoot, Sasquatch and a few other bits and pieces that made for some interesting reading. It’s not a huge museum but for a freebie it’s worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Moses Lake (why would you be?).

Bigfoot!
Proving my innocence!

Happy that I wasn’t going to be mistaken for Bigfoot on the way out, I called it a day and made my way back to the apartment and soon afterwards Haleigh was home. We decided we’d go out for dinner for our final night in town and chose to visit Rocktop’s partner restaurant – “Michael’s On The Lake”.

Michael's On The Lake

Unsurprisingly given the name, it’s a restaurant that sits overlooking the lake and offers some pretty views. We timed it pretty well as we got to enjoy most of the sunset whilst we ate – a perfect setting to end our time in Eastern Washington.

After dinner we went and played some bowling. I managed my best round of the trip (Portland, Klamath Falls & Moses Lake) which was rather unfortunate as Haleigh also bowled her best game which would have probably beaten me on any other occasion.

and that was that for Moses Lake.

Haleigh bowling

The next morning I woke up fairly early. With Haleigh still sleeping I packed up the last of my bits and prepared myself for another Moses Lake farewell. I knew I’d be back at some point but it’s always tough leaving when you feel so at home somewhere.

Before this trip I was worried I might end up feeling homesick but the reality is that I could have stayed much, much longer. I was in no rush to be going back to work and reality. Nevertheless it had to be done – time was almost up.

We grabbed some breakfast before hitting the road and making our way Westbound towards Seattle. The realness of the situation had hit! It was the third time I’d had to say goodbye to Washington and it just got harder every time it reached this point of a trip. I knew I still had the rest of the day to enjoy with Haleigh but the fact that we were going to Seattle meant I knew time was nearly up.

The music didn’t help.. Our self-created playlist seemed particularly cruel and had synced perfectly with the occasion. On came the next song with lyrics of “Jason’s going home and you’re never going to see eachother again..”

Admittedly it might have been something a little more subtle than that but it was certainly something tauntingly cruel that only helped ram hope the point that I was leaving. We ended up having to make a stop somewhere close to the Colombia River to get some fresh air. The tears were streaming as we got out of the car but a pretty view helped get our emotions back in check – it was too early to be sad!

Washington!

We hit the road again with Haleigh suggesting we stop for lunch in Ellensburg – a college town in central Washington. She really wanted to revisit a restaurant and we figured we could also check in on our friends Maddie and Cassie before going home.

As it was it seems the restaurant was closed for the holidays and Maddie and Cassie were ironically in Seattle having taken a friend to the airport so I didn’t get a chance to see them before heading home (our fault for winging it last minute!).

We ended up heading downtown and grabbing lunch elsewhere, plus checking out a couple of stores downtown before getting back on route to Seattle. Ellensburg is the last major stop on the East side of the mountains, once you get past Ellensburg the scenery really begins to pick up. It’s a journey I’ll never tire of – particularly as a passenger able to just take it all in and admire the views.

Washington

Soon enough we’d arrived at our hotel for the night. I wasn’t actually leaving until tomorrow but I had an early morning flight so I figured it was convenient to be staying by the airport for my final night in the US.

We didn’t end up venturing in to Seattle itself. Had we not been to Seattle before we might have reconsidered it but I don’t think either of us felt like doing much and just wanted to enjoy our final few hours together.

After a bit of relaxation our focus switched to heading back out for dinner somewhere. A quick look on Google suggested this Thai place would be a good place to check out. Unfortunately we drove over there and finding somewhere to park was impossible which was when we spotted a Cheesecake factory across the street.

Rather than struggle to park we crossed over and ended up eating at the Cheesecake Factory instead – a second on this trip after San Francisco.

Much like in San Francisco it was really busy. I’ve seen mention of them in TV shows and things but they’re a fairly big deal in this part of the world. I could understand the wait in San Francisco given the time and day and central location but this was nowhere really – it’s clearly an American favourite with a host of options to take your fancy.

Unfortunately we weren’t sat with the best of company and ended up next to the most obnoxious guy which spoilt the atmosphere a little. On the plus side some of the members at his table seemed equally displeased with his company so at least we weren’t stuck with him for the evening haha. The food was good and we made the best of enjoying our last meal together for the foreseeable future. After another tasty meal and dessert we headed back to the hotel, chilled out for a bit and got ourselves an early night. A 7:40am flight meant an early start to the day!

The alarm started going off at silly-o-clock. Rather stupidly I was flying home from Chicago. I’d flown in to Chicago on day one and for a multitude of reasons I thought it made good sense to just book a return flight home but in hindsight that was a mistake.

The second I booked the flights I seemed to instantly regret that decision and should have just flown home from Seattle. It’s the second multi-city US trip that I’ve done this for and I regretted the inconvenience on both occasions. In 2017 it robbed me of a few more hours in Dallas and on this occasion it robbed me of a little more time in Washington with Haleigh.

Seattle Art
Seattle artwork at Seatac Airport

Haleigh came with me to wave me off at the airport, extending our time together by a few more minutes but eventually it was time to separate. We said our painful goodbyes (yet again) and I made my way through to the other side and breezed through security.

Sidenote – the Seatac staff were particularly cheery on this day so that was something at least!

Reversing the cycle of the holiday, I ended it as I started it. On day one I kicked things off with a pre-flight beer or two and despite the silly time in the morning I did likewise here.

Unfortunately the task of finding a bar that was open was a little trickier at Seatac than it had been at Heathrow. I eventually stumbled upon one but despite being a pretty busy airport, the bar was relatively empty. I thought you Americans liked a beer? I think it further highlighted what a drunken little island we are – you’d find any good Wetherspoons airport bar back home packed no matter the time of day!

After a couple of beers I figured it was time to go and find my gate. It was at this point that I noticed the TV’s behind me had been showing the English afternoon football and I’d needlessly been checking for updates on my phone – oops!

Soon enough I was boarding my flight to Chicago and back in the Windy city. I had a mini layover, probably three hours or so before I’d have to be back at the airport so I was in two minds about going in to the city. I wanted to but I also realised I needed to eat and with a 30-40 minute journey each way I pondered if it was even worthwhile.

First things first, I figured I’d try my luck at the bag drop off point. I didn’t want to be lugging my suitcase around with me but to my surprise they were happy to check my bag in extremely early so going in to Chicago was that little more tempting. Nevertheless it didn’t seem worthwhile to go all that way given I wouldn’t really see anything and the only plan was to eat. I’d also avoid any mishaps so stayed at the airport and made my way through security.

It actually took quite a while getting through O’Hare’s security but given I had all of the time I wasn’t too worried – it was actually pretty appreciated on this occasion as I knew I’d be fairly bored for the next few hours anyway. Eventually I got through, found a little shop and bought some postcards to take home with me before switching my attention towards getting something to eat.

I opted for a sit-down pizza place and to my absolute horror, they had no Chicago-style pizza on the menu!

We’re in Chicago!! How can you not have Chicago-style pizza on your menu? It was a travesty! Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means my favourite style of pizza but there should be laws against such wrongs in the world!

In the end I grabbed food elsewhere which wasn’t a much better choice really. The food wasn’t great, service was rubbish and topped off by a waitress deciding I needn’t receive any change. I waited a while for her to return but to no avail. I didn’t particularly want the change because who really wants loose change in a foreign currency to take home after a trip but nevertheless it was a sneaky move – one way to ensure you receive a generous tip I suppose.

The rest of my time passed pretty quickly. Given I was at the airport for so long it felt a lot shorter. I popped in to a bar but only seemed to have time for a couple of beers and I was then boarding.

The trip was over – reality was near! I landed in London and knew it was “back to work” tomorrow.

Nevertheless, what an experience! It’s undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done and despite a blog series that never looked like ending at one point, I don’t think I’ll ever adequately summarise what a special summer it was. Thirty days spanning six states with countless faces and memories – what a celebration!

I know at some points it seemed like I wasn’t doing much but I suppose that’s the perk of longer travel. I had the right balance of busy and time to wind down and it was just an incredibly perfect trip that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

If you made it to the end (even of this post alone, let’s be honest I like a ramble) then thank you! I still don’t know that I really did the trip justice but I feel really grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to embark on this adventure.

Thank You!

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts I’ll link all of them below – from start to finish but next up on the blog? Travels from a trip other than this one! Stay tuned!

Jason

P.S – see all of the posts for this trip below
The big 3-0!
The big 3-0: Update
See you in September!
The big 3-0: a terrible summary
2018: A travel round-up
The big 3-0: Day one – Chicago bound
The big 3-0: Day two – exploring Chicago
The big 3-0: Day three – Minneapolis
The big 3-0: Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
The big 3-0: Day five – New Orleans!
The big 3-0: Day six – The real New Orleans!
The big 3-0: Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
The big 3-0: Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
The big 3-0: Day nine – Wedding day!
The big 3-0: Day ten – To Portland!
The big 3-0: Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
The big 3-0: Day 12 – Oregon City and Portland
The big 3-0: Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
The big 3-0: Day fourteen – Walla Walla
The big 3-0: Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
The big 3-0: Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
The big 3-0: Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
The big 3-0: Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!
The big 3-0: Day nineteen – California pit stop!
The big 3-0: Day twenty – San Francisco bound!
The big 3-0: Day twenty one – San Francisco begins!
The big 3-0: Day twenty two – San Fran continued!
The big 3-0: Day twenty three – Alcatraz!
The big 3-0: Day twenty four – Where to?
The big 3-0: Day twenty five – the return to Moses Lake!