St. Louis, MO January 19th – January 26th
As we left Madison for our first stop, St. Louis, MO, I was the lucky first team member to drive the chase car for our drive day. I spent the six-hour drive listening to my favorite tunes and podcasts at alarming volume levels and talking to several friends and family members with the chase car’s bluetooth calling. Although my new NUTmobile (who I fondly call Grandma Ro-Shell) is less than exciting, having the chase car is a luxury and a worthy trade in my opinion. For the first time I feel like I have true freedom to do what I want since getting from point a to point b no longer requires the hassle of finding a parking spot big enough for a nut or paying for an uber.
We used chase a lot our first week in St. Louis, especially to get around town on our days off. Conner and I first stopped at Piccione Pastry, a bakery in STL that sells gooey butter cake (a STL classic that reminds me of a lemon bar without the lemon). We later found out that Piccione happens to be owned by one of the Peanutters from last year’s family and that she worked there over the summer – it’s a crazy small world. Upon learning this, we headed back the next day to show them the NUTmobile and were given cannolis in return! I swear it was the best cannoli of my life, although that could be because it was fo freeeeeee.
Our other off day activities included seeing the St. Louis Arch, eating amazing Italian food at The Hill and visiting the City Museum. I didn’t really know what to expect with City Museum because a lot of people had recommended it but couldn’t exactly explain what it was. Essentially, it’s a giant, industrial playground for kids and adults alike, and Conner and I spent hours climbing on and exploring the endless tunnels and landscapes. There were a lot of other creative, hands-on exhibits, and my favorite was the giant lego station.
We also met up with the famous Brian, a past-Hotdogger who pioneered the NUTmobile program and was the first NUTmobile coordinator (my boss’ position). We had heard that Brian loved to show teams visiting STL a good time, so we shouldn’t have been surprised when he pulled up to our hotel and immediately iced us in his car. Afterward, he treated us to a giant seafood dinner, a beer tower (I didn’t even know that was a thing) and seemingly endless other drinks. At some point in the night we discovered that Tanaja, Conner and I all loved the game Monopoly, and before he dropped us off at our hotel for the night, Brian stopped at his apartment to grab his own Monopoly game for us to borrow. Looking back, I’d say the first two things we bonded over as a team were our crazy night out and playing intense games of Monopoly, both of which we owe to Brian!
Cape Girardeau, MO January 26th – January 29th
After staying in St. Louis for a week, we switched hotels to Cape Girardeau because all of our events were in tiny, far away towns. Cape G was not a big, exciting town like STL, but it reminded me a lot of where my mom’s relatives live in Southern Illinois, and I immediately loved it for its small-town charm. On top of that, people in big cities often aren’t phased by the NUTmobile because they’re so used to a lot going on all the time, but people in small towns get absolutely hyped about it. By the end of our time in Missouri, us Centrill nuts had been on local tv, social media and newspapers and we felt like celebrities with a cult following.
Other than my week and a half of fame, the very best thing about Cape Girardeau was that my mom came to visit! We walked around Cape G’s cool downtown area which includes a riverwalk on the Mississippi River, got drinks at The Bar, ate dinner at a brewery, ate dessert at a whole different restaurant and ended the night watching a movie together at the hotel. The next morning my mom finally got to ride in the NUTmobile, and although it was fun, she freaked out most of the time and told me she now has a whole new worry about me driving it around the country (moms, amirite???). My mom traveled 14 hours round-trip to see me for less than one day, and even though it was short, it meant a lot to me to get to share what I’m doing with someone who helped me get here and who I love so much.
For our very last night in Missouri, Conner and I spent the evening walking around downtown Cape G and seeing all it had to offer including: driving the bridge from Missouri to Illinois, trespassing at a famous old Victorian Home and hiking a giant hill to the courthouse grounds. Afterward, we met Tanaja and her boyfriend at a billiards bar where we played several games of pool. After warning the three of them that I am embarrassingly awful at pool, I actually didn’t suck that much and even made the winning shot in one game. I now have a new-found determination to become amazing at pool and I plan to work on my skills across the country.
All in all, my first eleven days as a Central Nut were pretty awesome and the transition to a new region, team and NUTmobile was even more seamless than I was expecting. All three of us are pros at living life on the road by now, and if we can have that much fun somewhere like Missouri, our next few weeks in Arkansas and Texas should be a blast.
I Shell Blog Again Soon!