joanna irl

Project: No-Buy 2019

*dusts blog*

*wipes away accumulated ads and other garbage*

*shines monitor*

Whew. Is this thing still on?

HELLO. I think the last time you heard from me was at least three months ago. I could check, but…. nah. Let’s just start this fresh.

This year is going to be a big one for me with a lot of moving pieces (thankfully my household is NOT one of those pieces– we’ll be staying put all year, thankyouverymuch!) and while last year was pretty much one long adjustment period (re-settling in San Diego! getting used to school! figuring out school/writing/other balance!), this year is going to be different. Blooming where you are planted means giving yourself ways to grow, right?

And so I’m starting a project. Well, sort of a project. Don’t consider it a new year’s resolution, even though it’s beginning in January. Rather, consider it as Year Two in San Diego.

Some background.

Usually around the time we’ve been in a home for a year, I finally figure out the space well enough that I can organize it and put everything where it ought to have been in the first place. I know that seems like a long time, but the reality is that we move often enough that I have to be very good at just Putting Everything Away so that we can get on with our lives.

It takes about a year to learn exactly how much space is in the spare closet, no I don’t like having my “pantry” on the bottom section of the cabinets, and I can’t reach the shoes in this closet if they are stacked that high. So a year into each place, I pull things out room by room and essentially re-move-in. (This is often accompanied by rearranging the furniture, which Jared has gotten so used to he doesn’t even question anymore why the entire living room set is piled in the middle of the floor at 10pm. This is just life.)

The one-year mark in this house happened to correspond with late December, so it gave me extra incentive to really think about the STUFF we have, and what we need, and how best to organize it. (No, I haven’t been watching that Tidying Up show on Netflix. Everyone asks, and I’m sure the show is helpful for folks, but this isn’t that.)

The Project.

Around that time I also decided that I wanted to try a new approach to my spending habits– and so the idea for a No-Buy 2019 was born.

The usual goal of a “no-buy challenge” is to not spend *anything* for a set amount of time, usually a month. Since I want to last a whole year, I had to make some adjustments. My goal isn’t to stop spending quality time with people or to miss all of the movies coming out this year (or otherwise make myself miserable)– my goal is to stop buying random crap at Target. Yeah, “it’s just $5” or “well, it’s on sale for $7.99” or whatever doesn’t sound like much, but that stuff adds up quickly!

My secondary goal is to really understand (and appreciate!) what I already have. And not only that– to USE what I already have! If I have something in excess (or in sufficient amount even), then I should use that thing and not purchase another one. Yes. Good.

Example: I have STACKS of shoes. (Literally stacks– I stacked them!) But when I have an event to go to or need to dress up, I spend forever fishing through my closet because I can’t find a pair to go with whatever I’m wearing. This is patently absurd. The problem isn’t that I don’t have the right shoes– it’s that I can’t FIND them!

Solution: I pulled every pair of shoes out of my closet (they are all in their original boxes, which helps tremendously) and organized them by type before stacking them back in the closet– in columns. Now when I want a pair of ballet flats? I go to the column of ballet flats and choose a pair! Need some pumps? There’s a column of them! Sneakers? Right here with all of the other athletic/outdoor shoes!

And here’s the magic part: I found shoes in the closet that I forgot I even owned. Shoes that I was so excited about when I bought them, but then forgot. It was like going shopping without spending money!

I’ve gone through my makeup, through my jewelry, through my books and movies, through EVERYTHING and organized it. I’ve even taken a sharpie and written on the boxes when they weren’t clearly labeled (see on the shoes?) to make SURE I know what I have. I want to USE this stuff!

I’ve rambled enough about the Purpose Of This Project. Now how about some nitty gritty?

Here are my No-Buy 2019 guidelines:

  • Purchase nothing on impulse.
  • Use (and use up) what is already here. Clean things out completely.
  • It’s okay to replace consumables. (Mascara runs out. Eyeshadow? I’ve got a drawer full.)
  • No shoes, no clothes.
    • Exemption: if I get a job (volunteer or otherwise) that requires, say, a uniform shirt.
  • Exceptions for:
    • Gifts for others (like the first birthday gift I will send in March to a friend’s kiddo)
    • Tickets to movies/shows/events under $50 (again– the goal isn’t to not DO anything, but to not buy excessive STUFF)
    • Pre-meditated purchases*
    • Organizational tools (like small shelves for the pantry)
    • Tools for repurposing old items (like paint to spiff up an old chair)
    • Haircuts and similar
    • Travel expenses**

That exceptions list is pretty important. I needed to be specific with myself and lay out ground rules, but I also needed to allow myself to function for the year. I don’t want to make myself frustrated after all! I want to be able to maintain this all year, and part of that is leaving room for fun things. The tickets exemption, for instance, is so I can still do fun things, but with a price limit so that I maintain balance.

And that’s it!

Why am I sharing this level of detail? Well, I thought it might be fun to document the year here with you all. I hope you enjoy coming along for this project with me. I’ve already had a couple of adventures, but I’ll save those stories for the next few posts.

Happy 2019!

 

*Pre-meditated purchases include things that I’m looking for long term but waiting for the right specific item– an example would be that I need a new jacket, but I want to get one that I like and that will last for several years. I’ll know it when I see it.
**I am planning some travel this year (more about it later) and would like to be able to bring back a souvenir without guilt.

joanna irl

Site updates, Summer 2018

Hello! This is just a quick note to let you know about a few updates that have come to the site. First, you may notice a slight layout change. I think it looks nice and shiny now! There may be a few more tweaks over the next little bit, but I really like the new layout.

Second, there is now a nice little drop-down menu button for purchasing Threadwalkers on Amazon! Easy peasy! I also added a new drop-down for non-book news and articles, as I was featured this week on SD Voyager Magazine. You can check out the article here [link]!

Things will been quiet here for the next month while I’m concentrating on school, but there’s probably a lot coming this summer that I’m excited to share. In the meantime, you maaaaay notice a brand new link at the top that says “Conservation Girl.” It’s not a new book– it’s the start of a project I’m working on for school. Take a peek if you like, and if you have any conservation questions for me, ask away! I’d love to add more content to the site, and hope to build it out more in the next few months.

So that’s about it. I’m looking forward to a California summer!

joanna irl, the geek life

It’s April and I’m back from my SoCal staycation

I’m really bad a titles, y’all. Blog post titles, anyway. But I feel like most of them are at least pretty informative about the content of the post.

We moved into our house in California back in late December, and Jared checked into his new command in early January, and in theory he was supposed to get 10 days to help get the house set up and us settled, but the Navy being what it is, he got to take his leave in….March.

Handily enough, I also had spring break in March so we lined the dates up and took a fantastic 10 day staycation in southern California, because sleeping at home and driving a little further is cheaper than flights and hotels. I won’t go into all the details, but here are some of the highlights! I might make more detailed posts about some of the individual outings (like the Food & Wine festival) in the next couple of weeks, but no promises.

Continue reading “It’s April and I’m back from my SoCal staycation”

joanna irl, story spinning, Threadwalkers

New Year, New State

Well, here we are.

It’s 2018, we’ve moved halfway across the country, and life is beginning to show the signs of settling back into some sense of normalcy in our household. J went back to work and I am waiting on school to start and generally speaking we’ve got an idea of the next few months.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen some of our recent local adventures, now that we’re back in southern California.

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Silver and gold sunset

A post shared by Joanna (@joannavolavka) on

It’s been good to be out of the cold weather, and I can already feel my mental health improving. It also helps that not only do I have friends still here, but I actually have, somehow, more friends here than I did when we left three years ago. Some have moved here and others have naturally grown from acquaintances to friends from just being in my broader circle, and I’m grateful for all of them. And, unlike my usual moves where I don’t have a niche (which is an ongoing issue for military spouses, and one that I should probably blog about separately), I also have a cohort to join and which has already been welcoming and happy to meet me.

So all in all, things are good.

And what of the writing?

Well, I’m working on a couple of things. The first is a fresh media push for THREADWALKERS, including a local book launch sometime in the next couple of months. (I’m seeking book bloggers/vloggers/etc for reviews and interviews and all, so if you are interested or know someone who is, please get in touch!)

I’m also working on the next book… It’s not a follow-up to THREADWALKERS but a new thing entirely. It started as a pet project to get some ideas out of my head but has grown into a thing that might turn into a Book. We will see. There’s still a lot of work to do.

What can you expect in 2018 from me?

  • I’ll be going to some conventions this year (would a schedule on my About page be of interest?).
  • New content related to military spouse life.
  • New content related to writing.
  • More travelogue things because you know I won’t stop traveling and that’s what I enjoy writing about here the most.

So there’s the update! If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, just get in touch! 

joanna irl

Choosing Military Housing

So.

We’re moving back into military housing.

If you remember the last time we did this, you might wonder why we made this decision again, so I’m going to walk you through the thought process. The pros, the cons, and why we ultimately went this route (at least for now) may help you through your own housing choices.

Or it might be ridiculously dull.

Either way, it’s what you get this week.

Pros of Military Housing

No deposit necessary. Depending on your budget, this can make a huge difference. You don’t have to pay the first month’s rent up front, either, just the pro-rated dates for the month you move in and then allotments come straight from military pay. Easy peasy.

Flat rate rent. There aren’t going to be any unexpected rent hikes. It also usually includes all of your utilities, which is fantastic when you’re running air conditioning in southern California.

A military-friendly community. There’s a lot to be said for a community of people who understand things like deployments and weird moving schedules and the like. (This isn’t really a factor for me, but for many people it’s a huge check in the PRO list.)

It’s bigger on the inside. Okay, not really, but often with military housing you can get more space than you’d be able to afford on the civilian rental side. This isn’t always true, though (case in point: Great Lakes housing is TINY.)

Cons of Military Housing

A military-only community. This may not seem like a con to some people, but I prefer living with a mix of neighbors, rather than all military. The vibe is different, as are the lifestyles.

High turnover in your neighborhood. It comes with the turf. People transfer all the time. Your neighbors won’t stay consistent. The good news is that a bad neighbor may very well leave soon. The bad news is the good neighbor will, too.

Flat rate rent is your whole Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Even though rent won’t change on you suddenly, it will probably take your whole BAH. For some people this is a deal breaker.

Not much pet friendly space. One thing we run into a lot is that instead of taking pets on a case-by-case basis, much military housing is blanket “pet friendly” in this neighborhood and “no pets allowed” in that one. It severely limits options* with our cats, and means we’re only allowed to live in certain neighborhoods. These also tend to be the older, less up-to-date homes.

Choosing Military Housing

So why did we choose military housing? The current housing market in San Diego is ideal for sellers, which means renters (like we would be) run a high risk of having a rental sold and having to pay out of pocket to move. We did that in Chicago and don’t want to do it again right away.

We don’t want to live an hour out of town. That housing market I mentioned? Rent prices have gone up by ~$600+ a month since we were there 3 years ago, and we’ve been mostly priced out of the San Diego neighborhoods we would have wanted to live in.

We’re moving over the holidays, and trying to get in touch with agents or owners who can show us homes and take the time we need would be a challenge in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

We’ve also been in apartments and condos for most of the last decade (with a 3 year exception in a duplex home), and are ready to not share walls (or floors or ceilings) with other people for a little while. Given that we wanted a little more space, it was worth asking the question, and sure enough they offered us a (pet friendly!) house that’s big enough for what we need and only about a 10-15 minute drive from the base.

….so we’ve got a house!

We’re moving in at the end of December, and it’s SUCH a relief to know we have a place to go and don’t have to go through the house-hunting process this go-round. If we stay in San Diego longer than 3 years, I don’t know that we’ll stay in military housing, but for now it’s a good fit for our current situation.

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*Military families are notorious for ditching pets when they PCS, and this policy does NOT help– making it more difficult to find housing because you have a pet is setting some animals up for being dumped. But that’s a soapbox for another day.

joanna irl

We’re moving in HOW many days??

Somehow even though I’ve been counting down the months until we would move away from Chicago since, oh, 35 months out (what can I say, winter is NOT my favorite thing and there’s a LOT of it up here), this move feels like it snuck on me.

Maybe it’s because we just moved into the current place a year and a half ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve just got so many plates spinning (working and booking and grad schooling and bears*, oh my!) Or maybe it’s that this move isn’t like most of our moves before it, in that we’re going to a place we already know (and have friends waiting for us there) and that we already have a place to live (I’ll get back to that) and that I’ve already got my grad school program lined up to move with me and it has (so far) been a really seamless transition.

In any case, we leave Chicago in 28 days. Exactly 4 weeks from today. As in, 4 weeks from now we will be halfway to our first stop in Missouri and Leena will probably have puked at least once and I’ll already be regretting taking a road trip with cats but it’s too cold to fly with them and we still have to move the car so what can you do anyway except pack them and drive for 4 days straight and hope for the best.

All the same, I’m starting to feel it this week as we begin to experience the “Chicago lasts” before the move. We went to our last (probably, as nothing else is planned) theater show this weekend with the 40th anniversary run of A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre.

It’s a very good production and the adaptation infuses enough humor to balance the more serious bits, and the set pieces are gorgeous. It helps that the Goodman is just around the corner from the Christkindlmarket, which opened this weekend, too. I got my gingerbread and cider fix before the show, though I suspect that was not, in fact, our last visit to that particular place.

It’s not all fun stuff, though. I’m planning for my last day at work, my last day at Shedd, scheduling the last vet visit for the kitties, and just did the last big deep clean before we vacate our current place, too.

Then there are the unknown lasts that are a little weirder, harder to pin down. Like when it snowed two Fridays ago and it occurred to me that it might be the last snow we see here (and how much I hope it doesn’t snow on the day we load the moving truck). It might not be the last one, but you never know.

I do know it won’t be the last time I’m in Chicago, though. While I doubt we will ever live here again (see the aforementioned thing about winter), I have friends here I need to see sometimes. But I am definitely looking forward to being a tourist here and not a resident.

The firsts in San Diego are a little different. We’ll see the house we’re moving into for the first time in about a month, for instance. But moving back to a place? This is the first time we’ve ever done that, and it’s actually really nice. I don’t have to find a new vet, a new dentist, a new mechanic– I’ve already got them all!

And speaking of that new house– we’re also doing a thing we’ve never done and moving into a house we rented sight-unseen. That’s because we’re heading back into military housing (though a VERY different scenario than the last time we lived in it). The thought process (and application process, etc) will be a blog post for another day. But we know where we are going and might actually have our first door-to-door move, with our belongings never going into storage. That would be so good.

So that’s it. A lot of lasts and a lot of firsts and in about a month I get to put my parka into long term storage.

I am SO ready.

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*No bears are actually involved in my life currently**, but it seemed the thing to say. Not even the Bears, which will likely be the only one of Chicago’s pro sports teams from my List that I won’t get to see. Cubs, Sox, Hawks, and Bulls– check! But no Bears. Oh, well.

**I feel like I need to stipulate that there are currently no bears because, being a zoo person, particularly who likes working with carnivores***, bears are always an option. And who doesn’t like bears??****

***Bears are omnivores. But you get where I’m going with it. I’m definitely a “lions and tigers and bears” person. And also wolves and sharks and snow leopards. Especially the snow leopards.

****If you don’t like bears, I don’t understand. I mean, have you SEEN a bear?

image source: UNFILTERED: The Great Bear Rainforest Agreement by Ian McAllister
joanna irl

Birthday Camping Weekend in the UP

I’m a month late posting about it, but for my birthday last month, we went camping in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and got an early taste of fall that was so much fun.

We camped in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is home to the second biggest freshwater waterfall to the east of the Mississippi River (the biggest, of course, being Niagara). Our site was near the Lower Falls, and when the breeze was still we could hear the waterfall in our tent at night.

There is a nice hike between the Upper and Lower Falls, but there are also parking lots and short trails with access points and overlooks if you don’t want to hike the 5ish miles (or, as is the case with our visit, if it’s been raining and the trail is too muddy to deal with).

The leaves were just coming into the start of their peak, and the ones around the waterfalls were mostly golden with a few shots of red thrown in. The roads between the UP towns had more autumn color, and I kept stopping the car to take photos.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is also home to the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery, which is located inside the park. They’ve got a restaurant and shop, and you can sit outside on their huge porch in rocking chairs surrounding a cozy open-air fireplace while waiting to be seated.

One of the days we were there, we visited Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The Shipwreck Museum has artifacts from about a dozen shipwrecks from Lake Superior, and stories about what brought the various vessels down.

You can also visit the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s quarters, learn about the history of lifesaving efforts on the point, and walk along the beach.

The museum’s signature piece is, of course, the bell of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, from the 1975 shipwreck immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot (which plays nearly on a loop in some parts of the museum). The bell was brought to the surface in 1995, and serves as a memorial for the men who were lost.

The other highlight of the trip for me was a visit to Deer Ranch in St. Ignace. Not only is St. Ignace a quaint, adorable fishing village with plenty of shops and restaurants (and Mackinac Island Fudge to boot), but it’s home to the oldest white-tail deer ranch in the US. For just $5 you can visit the deer, and for $1 more you can get a cup of food (we had carrots and apples).

When you walk through the ranch, there are barns and runs for the fawns, a huge yard for the older does, and then several wooded lots in the back for the adult resident deer, including some leucistic (white morph) deer! Since they are hand-reared, they are pretty comfortable with humans, and many of them enjoyed having their ears and backs petted. (I made so many deer friends!)

And of course there were meals in little local breakfast places and bakeries and cooking on the campfire and all the usual things that make camping so fun. We’ve enjoyed escaping to Michigan, and particularly the UP, during our time in Chicago. While I’m looking forward to getting back to the west coast, the north in summer and fall is quite nice.

joanna irl

Travelogue: Scotland 2017

It’s been a long summer.

I originally saved this draft in mid-August, about a week and a half after I returned from Scotland, but it has sat empty since then because Life has been happening and I just haven’t had the time to really write up a proper recap. My instagram was probably a pretty good overall peek, though! All the same, I’m including a gallery of some of my favorites with a highlight from each day of the trip below, to the best of my memory a month later. Better late than never!

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Day 1, we arrived in Edinburgh six or seven hours later than intended after a very long delay on our JFK layover that meant we pretty much hit the ground running. We had an opening dinner that night and got to hit some of the shopping highlights, but most of day 1 was jetlag and trying not to fall asleep before 8pm. I mostly succeeded.

In the middle of Edinburgh Castle

Day 2 began with a city tour and then a visit to Edinburgh Castle, and it was really neat to get to explore it again after having last been there 11 years prior. The weather was also nice and the crowds weren’t awful, and because the bus had deposited us at the top of the giant hill that makes up the Royal Mile, we were able to explore along its length on the way back down to our hotel, including stops at St Giles Cathedral and other historic spots along the way. We ended the evening eating in a cozy pub on Rose Street near our hotel, hiding from the rain.

St Andrews Cathedral ruins

Day 3 was a bright and early bus trip north to St Andrews to tour the town, visit the ruined Cathedral, and, of course, walk along the Old Course. I enjoyed getting my feet wet in the North Sea and walking barefoot on the beach (which is actually one of the only times I’ve gotten to do so this summer… weird!). I also made friends with a hawk named Bracken whose job it was to keep the seagulls off of the golf course. We ate in a fabulous fish and chips shop for lunch as well. That night we got to attend an event at the National Gallery to view their exhibit on Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Beyond Caravaggio) and for a traditional Scottish dinner with ceilidh (“kay-lee”) dancing.

Holyroodhouse Palace in brief sunshine

Day 4 had a free day, so we decided to stick around Edinburgh and head down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse for most of the day. I hadn’t gotten to see Holyroodhouse on my previous visit, as Jared and I happened to be there during the week of the Queen’s annual residence, so it was neat to explore it for the first time. The Palace is home to a huge collection of art, furniture, and other artifacts belonging to the Royal Family, and the tour book for purchase was worth every penny: we knew something about every room we visited, and were able to find notable specific pieces. The Palace grew off of the old Holyrood Abbey, which is now in ruins but much of which dates from 13th century and earlier.

Setting sail on Loch Lomond

Day 5 we took another bus trip out into the Scottish countryside, this time to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond. We began in Stirling, where the castle has been largely restored to look as it might have at the height of its occupation, but which means there are many modern-produced fixtures and the like. It was interesting to see how brightly colored everything must have been when it was new (hundreds of years ago). From there we continued to Loch Lomond and took a short boat trip out into the water. We also ate lunch at a little shop with a garden and very good soup, which was very welcome on a cold, wet day.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Day 6 was our last full day in Scotland, and we headed to the other side of town to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia. It’s been retired for quite a while now, but has many of the state rooms, as well as the dishes, serving pieces, art, and other artifacts houses aboard open for public display. We enjoyed a peek into 1980s and 1990s history, along with tea on board with a view of the harbor. We rounded out the night with a closing dinner, including bagpipes, and a lot of good food.

Last Castle view as we packed to head home

So that’s a (very) brief overview of the trip, but I wanted to write it all out while it was still relatively fresh in my mind. There will be more coming soon, I’m sure, as I’m gearing up for the book release and also getting closer to moving (less than 3 months away now, eek!).

joanna irl

Move.mil and the DPS System Make My Head Hurt: tips for setting up your HHG shipment

Okay.

We have “Hard Copy Orders” in hand. This means that J is officially set to transfer to….. San Diego! Ta-da!

But this also means that now it’s time to start all of the hoop-jumping that’s involved in actually, y’know, setting it up. This isn’t like doing a civilian move (which I just negotiated last March, as we had to move within Chicago on kind of short notice). We’ve got to have forms, copies of things, signatures, dates set months in advance…. and all on the beast that is move.mil (the DoD’s website for PCSing).

I’ve been at this long enough now that I remember when you used to have to schedule a “counseling” appointment, and actually go into an office on base and have some random clerk person fill out the paperwork for you while you tried to keep your head from spinning. Then they “upgraded” it so that you STILL had to go into an appointment in an office on base but you had to log into one of the DoD’s ancient PCs and use a digital form (that was kind of like using DOS in middle school was) to submit, and then still sign it with a “counselor” who was there to answer any questions. That stage of this “upgrade” my questions mostly were “WHY are we sitting here doing this at a junky old computer??” and “WHY can’t the counselor sit here with me when we need help with every other question??” and other gems.

Now the process is fully online, including the paperwork. You can download, sign, scan, and re-upload your forms all in one go. But the process to getting those forms? It’s still a pain. I spent probably 3 hours trying to get the website to work properly because, as a DoD site, it doesn’t run as well on new browsers. And you’ve got to allow it to generate pop-ups, and even once you do THAT, it only actually pops up about half of the time. It doesn’t tell you when it’s timed out until you suddenly can’t save anything anymore, and sometimes it times out while you’re actively submitting things. (I literally uploaded two forms, and when I went to click “Submit” it told me it had timed out. But when I logged back in, there were the forms! I DON’T KNOW EITHER.)

Thank goodness for good friends who help me keep my sanity:

PCS no cats or plants

(I’m in pink, click to make bigger.)

SO. If you’re here looking for tips to set up your PCS, here’s what I’ve got:

  • Move.mil isn’t terribly user-friendly, so once you’ve found your ETA SSO Portal and the actual DPS page, bookmark them both. You’ll have to log into the ETA SSO Portal first regardless, but having the DPS page bookmarked will save you the twenty minutes I always spend hunting down the right link.
  • The system will actually save where you left off, after you’re a certain amount along in the process. I’m not sure exactly how much that is, but I’ve been able to go back and work on setting up the household goods (HHG) shipment in pieces.
  • Military spouse/dependent? Be SURE to add yourself as an authorized agent for both pick up and delivery. It doesn’t hurt to hold a Special Power of Attorney covering HHG shipments specifically.
  • Add the new orders to the system (and upload them as a PDF to the website!!) BEFORE you start adding your HHG shipment.
  • You can sign and upload the documents you need directly to the site– DO NOT CLICK SUBMIT until you’ve done so!
  • WHEN YOU CHOOSE DATES, be aware that it’s asking for your “Preferred Pick Up Date” which means the LAST day that you will have movers. Anticipate them being scheduled for 1-2 days before this. (So if you want to start moving on Monday, list that Wednesday as your Pick Up Date. If you list Monday, they’ll come the prior Thursday, and so on.)
  • If you get an errorjust close out your DPS page and go back to the ETA SSO Portal. Click CTRL + F5 to give the page a clean refresh, and then go back to the DPS page. This resolved just about every error I encountered.

I was reminded of all of this last week as I fought the very clunky system. Got any other tips? Leave them in comments below. (I could probably use them. Heh.)

joanna irl

Roadside Attractions and Route 66 (Illinois and Missouri edition)

An old stretch of Route 66 in Dwight, IL

I like roadside attractions. You know this by now. (See: Cabazon Dinosaurs for previous stop.) And in the US at least there is no place for roadside stops quite like Route 66.

Route 66 has become, in and of itself, a bit of a roadside attraction in its own right. Begun in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985, it nevertheless remains in the cultural consciousness of the US. It was the road that could take you from Chicago to Los Angeles, the Main Street of America, the Mother Road, and it embodies the automotive spirit of America like nothing else. Countless communities along it prospered as long as the traffic came. And did that traffic come! Especially after WWII, the whole stretch of Route 66 became one of the most popular road trips in the country, and the little towns and mom and pop shops along it became iconic stops. But the traffic got to be too much, and the Interstates were born.

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, IL

You can still find most of Route 66 if you know where to look. It’s been recognized by Congress and the World Monuments Fund as a significant cultural site, and there is an organization committed to preserving what remains. The National Park Service even has a published itinerary with links to popular roadside stops and essays and maps. And there’s something really enticing about it, after all. Two lane roads and tiny diners and places ranging from the comfortable to the just plain bizarre.

I’ve been to the beginning, in downtown Chicago. I’d like to go to the end some day, in Santa Monica. In the meantime, I’m exploring the section that’s within a day’s drive of where I currently reside.

The Lily-pad Room in Onandaga Cave State Park‘s Cathedral Caverns.

For the July 4th weekend, we followed I-55 (which runs parallel to the old Route 66) down to central Missouri and the northern stretches of the Ozarks to meet friends who live in Kansas City. It was a lovely trip, but on the way down and again on the way back, we made a point of stopping on Route 66 as often as we could. Even our final destination, at Onandaga Cave State Park, is part of the cave system that includes one of the oldest stops along the famed highway, Meramec Caverns.

Jesse James Wax Museum outside of Meramec Caverns

Outside of the Meramec Caverns visitor center is a Jesse James Wax Museum that combines my love of roadside attractions with my love of interesting conspiracy theories: the museum posits that the famous outlaw Jesse James faked his own death and lived to be 103, dying in the 1950s. It was bizarre and entertaining and worth the price of admission (if you like that sort of thing, which I do).

The Mill on Route 66 in Lincoln, IL

On the drive home, we stopped at a site called The Mill which has just re-opened after about a decade of fundraising and refurbishment. If you look at some of the old photos, this place was brought back from near collapse by a dedicated team. I like that it sits right at the intersection of the train tracks and the old highway.

We’ve made a few other stops along Route 66 over the last couple of years, but these are the most recent. Have you driven any of Route 66? Do you have a favorite roadside stop that I should add to my list?