Here are some pictures of our apartment in Provo before we packed everything up.
And here's Lilli having fun with an empty box.
The next morning I left with the truck to drive to Madison and Leann and Lilli flew to Texas for a few days. My mom drove with me to make sure I stayed awake. After all, driving across the Great Plains can be…monotonous. Winter Storm Gandolf was slated to hit Utah and Wyoming that evening, so we got an early start. We managed to stay ahead of it the whole way, which was a relief.
We saw a lot of wind turbine farms along the way. I can only imagine how Don Quixote would've responded. Staying ahead of Winter Storm Gandolf meant that we avoided heavy snowfall, but had to deal with thick morning fog and 40+ mph gusts of wind—pretty scary when you're driving a high-profile vehicle like a 17-ft moving truck.
Besides wind turbines, we also saw some interesting rock formations in Wyoming.
And there was this dragline crane. You probably don't think it's that impressive until I tell you that the motor is larger than the average two-story house (e.g. compare it to the size of the cars in this photograph).
The first night, in Cheyenne, Wyoming , we ate at a local Mexican restaurant. Their food wasn't quite familiar to me because it was cuisine from Vera Cruz. All of the chairs and benches in the restaurant were hand-carved and hand-painted. When we went to pay, there was no cash register—the owner just pulled out a wad and counted out the change.
The second day of our drive was a long one. I wanted to reach Madison before 2 pm because some members of our new ward and some old friends, who are now living in Milwaukee, were coming to help us move in. So we passed up quite a bit of sightseeing.
Two bridges we crossed under/over were notable: the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument (top) and a bridge over the Mississippi River (bottom).
When we were driving between Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa, we had an eerie experience. Except for the reflectors on the side of the road, a few other vehicles, and the rare farmhouse, it was very dark. But then we saw a long line of blinking red lights on the horizon. It looked like something out of War of the Worlds. Several miles later we got close enough to see that these spookie lights were beacons on wind turbines.
That night we ate at a diner connected to a Flying J just outside of Des Moines. They charged us about $15 per plate. Mine was a blue cheese hamburger that was okay. My mom got mashed potatoes made from flakes, gravy from a packet, and corn from a can. That's worth $15, right? The hotel we stayed in that night was even better. The carpets in the hallways hadn't been vacuumed in weeks. There was a hole from a cigarette burned in my sheets. And when I sat on my bed the lamp in the middle of the room would turn off. I got dehydrated that night because I was afraid to drink their water. Needless to say, we skipped the continental breakfast.
On January 12th we reached Madison. Some of the street signs here are incredibly tiny. So tiny, in fact, that you're not sure what they said until you've driven one block past them. This (and the fact that one of the streets we needed to turn onto didn't have a sign at all) delayed us a while, but we eventually reached our new apartment. We were faced with a few more surprises. All of the outlets looked like they had wax in them. I'd never encountered this before, so I was hesitant to try to plug anything in lest I break something. (I later learned that these were tamper-resistant outlets and that it's fine to force in plugs.) Also, it is not standard to have ceiling lights in the living room and bedrooms. Since we don't own floor lamps, we had to rely on light from the kitchen or hallway. One of our neighbors was nice enough to loan us an electric lantern, which helped a little.
On January 13th Leann and Lilli flew into Madison. Leann immediately set about unpacking. Here are some pictures of our new place in Madison.
It's not quite a fair comparison since we're not completely unpacked, yet. So there aren't pictures on the walls, etc. But I think you still get an idea. Lilli's excited to have a fan. Leann's excited to have a newly-renovated kitchen. And, yes, that is my copy of A Memory of Light on the coffee table.
 I stayed up all night on Dec. 25th working on my dissertation so that I could get it turned in on the 26th. The defense was on Jan. 9th and I was scheduled to being my postdoc in Madison on Jan. 15th.
 I originally had plans to take a detour to see Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore, but I didn't relish the idea of being stuck in a blizzard in northern Wyoming/South Dakota.
 Earlier in the day, after observing the variety of things painted on water towers, I commented to my mom that if I were in charge of painting a water tower, I'd try to make it look like the tripods from War of the Worlds. This probably added to the eeriness of the experience that evening.
 When I was a kid living in Star Valley, Wyoming, I remember looking at maps of Wyoming and wishing I could visit some of the bigger cities, Cheyenne and Casper. Well, now I can say I've been to Cheyenne. I can also say it's not that big. I was a little surprised by that.