NOLA & Baton Rouge, LA: March 11th – March 19th

Everyone has their opinion of what makes a city great, but for me, it has to be well-rounded. By that I mean that the cities I like most offer a little bit of everything: sight-seeing, beauty, food and night life, to name a few. Other than the fact that New Orleans has a distinct culture and is by far the most unique city in the U.S. that I’ve yet to see, I think the main reason I loved it so much was that my week there was, as one would say, well-rounded.

On top of that, there were a few special circumstances that made my week in NOLA that much better. First, by the grace of God and an even higher power, my boss, our team had four days off in a row, giving us plenty of time to enjoy NOLA. Second, we stayed five minutes from the French Quarter in a duplex owned by a past-Hotdogger named Caitlin. Two of the current Hotdoggers, Jackie and EJ, were also staying in Caitlin’s side of the duplex while we stayed in the guest side. What resulted was similar to an episode of Friends, with all six of us roaming freely in and out of both sides of the house – it was a shell of a time.

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My wiener wives Caitlin, EJ and Jackie. No, we don’t practice bunogamy.

I have to tell you more about Caitlin, who’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Caitlin was a Hotdogger ten years ago who continued doing corporate tours for over seven years with everything from Sunny D to Audi to Oprah – yes, Oprah. After all of this touring, Caitlin bought a house in her dream city, NOLA, and she is more passionate and knowledgeable about her city than anyone I’ve ever met. She is extremely outgoing and personable, and she automatically embraces everyone as a friend, including us. Caitlin completely took us under her wing during our time in NOLA: we stayed at her house, she showed us around, introduced us to her friends and, by the end of the week, told us we are friends now too and welcomed us back at any time (fo free I must add).

We spent a day touring a plantation and a bayou! This lil gator peed on me when I held it and the tour guide called it Gatorade lol

Because she’s so well-connected with corporate tours, Caitlin mainly picks and chooses when she works, so she was able to spend a lot of time showing us around. One day she spent the whole day walking us around the French Quarter and telling us the history and ghost stories behind several of the buildings. Of everything we did that week, simply walking the streets was probably my favorite because the French Quarter looks and feels unlike anywhere I’ve ever been, and the interesting stories made it that much better. We also were able to tour the famous St. Louis Cemetery where we learned about voodoo, tombs and NOLA’s struggle to contain its dead – it was very unsettling, but cool.

NOLA is obviously known as a great place to party, and we definitely took advantage of it. We spent a couple nights out on Bourbon Street at the typical touristy places, and my favorite place was a karaoke bar called The Cat’s Meow where I did my first ever karaoke song, Super Bass by Nicki Minaj. Outside of Bourbon, Caitlin took us to several bars around the French Quarter including one with a carousel, a vampire speakeasy and the oldest bar in the country that is known to be haunted, like everything else in NOLA. She also took us to Frenchman Street, which is a more local, but equally “lit” street filled with bars and live music. Caitlin is very connected to the music scene and we saw several live shows and got to hang out with the bands afterward.

Captured: legendary jazz and blues hall, Vaughan’s Lounge AND a potentially juicy secret.

One of my favorite things about NOLA, and life in general, is the food. I was able to try all of the classics on my list: shrimp and grits, crawfish jambalaya, shrimp po boy, a hurricane and beignets. I won’t go into detail about how good each of them were, but if you ever find yourself in NOLA, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t fully indulge in all of these Cajun delicacies. Conner and I also went to a rooftop bar with Caitlin where we were spontaneously given a platter of crawfish from a traditional crawfish boil – this sort of good fortune seems to happen A LOT to Caitlin. I wasn’t too fond of breaking the bodies, but I was glad I got to try it!

shrimp and cheesy grits – a meal I still dream about to this day.

After a tiring, jam-packed four days, we said a sad goodbye to New Orleans and hit the road for Baton Rouge, LA. Our morale was at an all-time low as we headed to our St. Patrick’s Day parade at the crack of dawn, but it turned out to be one of my favorite events of the whole year. Why? Because Louisianans do not mess around when it comes to parades. As I drove through the parade route following Mr. P (who impressively walked over two miles in that swampy heat) I was repeatedly yelled to, cheered for and pelted with beads and other parade favors by what seemed like the entire population of Baton Rouge who were all completely plastered for the occasion. Yea, I’m pretty sure I peaked in that moment. The rest of St. Patty’s Day was spent at three different bars seeing two live bands and eating, ironically, one large Italian dinner. For having to follow a city like New Orleans, Baton Rouge wasn’t half bad.

I simply won’t settle for a job where I don’t get to ride through streets filled with thousands of drunk, screaming fans.

Honestly, every week as a Peanutter is pretty great. Even when I’m in a more boring, middle-of-nowhere city, I’m still getting paid to travel and there’s always something new to see or do. That being said, some weeks are just so exceptional from start to finish that I know when I look back at the year, they’ll definitely stand out among the rest. New Orleans was definitely one of them.

That’s All-mond for now, folks!


Corpus Christi, TX: March 4th – March 11th

To top off our month-long trip through Texas, the CenTrill nuts headed to Corpus Christi, which prompted the question, “Why the shell are we being sent to Corpus Christi?!” For one, it didn’t make logical sense with our tour; it was very out of the way for our next stop in NOLA, and we were going there to work at your average, everyday Walmarts instead of some grand event. Our resident Texan, Conner, had no good things to say about Corpus and was especially disgruntled that of all places in his home state, this is where we’d be ending up. I on the other hand was trying to stay positive about Corpus because of its proximity to two things: the ocean (this would be my first time at the Atlantic this year) and Mexico.

yes, it’s true: I possess the ability to be in two places at once.

I’ve mentioned before that I am very competitive (sometimes over trivial things) but luckily for me, so is PeConner. When we realized that, thanks to the large amount of time we spent in California and Texas, we would be hitting a smaller amount of states on our tour than most of the other Peanutters, we were both on the same page that that simply would not do. While our number of states was mostly out of our control, we decided the next best thing would be getting the most amount of countries, which is how we found ourselves on a day trip to the United States-Mexico border.

After driving two and a half hours and walking a short bridge over the Rio Grande River, we found ourselves in the new and exciting land of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico. Despite being only a quarter mile from the U.S., Nuevo Progreso felt drastically different. The streets were alive with loud Spanish music and carts selling everything from fake Ray Bans to cheap dental services. Conner and I enjoyed the best (and cheapest) tacos of our lives, received quality $10 pedicures, bought some very cheap and very fake souvenirs and took a shot of tequila in the middle of the street before heading back. All in all, I guess you could say country #2 was a great experience, and if any of you are looking for a food-shaped truck driver to do a Mexico tour next year, I’m your girl!

Iara’s brother Josio is too stinkin’ cute. He was super bashful about playing for us, but also very proud of himself when I eventually got him to!

Our day-trip to Mexico ended with a spontaneous stop by the home of our nutty buddy Iara. We were originally unaware that we were so close to Iara’s home, but upon discovering this fact we quickly re-routed to visit her family, who turned out to be the sweetest people alive. When her mom found out I had never had homemade tortillas, she quickly whipped up a batch which we enjoyed with butter and fresh avocado while talking to her nearly identical younger sister and listening to her brother show off his skills on his new mariachi guitar. Our visit was extremely short, but it didn’t take long for the Aldapes to completely win over our hearts.

Back in Corpus, there didn’t seem to be much to do outside of work other than walk/run up and down the beach and converse with the staff of our hotel’s breakfast restaurant (who were really obsessed with us shellebrities and treated me like their BFF all week). So I was really happy when I met a cool local guy who offered to show me around in exchange for a ride in the NUTmobile (you know, everyone’s dream). Said cool local guy turned out to be really nice and not only delivered on his promise to show me around, but also invited me out with his friends and showed me around the U.S. Coast Guard station that he works at. It’s always fun to make new friends on tour, but it’s also bittersweet when you inevitably have to leave them behind and hit the road, potentially never to return again. All drama aside though, I hope I get to see the cool local guy again someday!

The streets of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico

I often completely leave out the fact that we actually did have to work during the week, but I’d like to take this opportunity to share some heartwarming stories from our events in Corpus. 1) A man walks up to our table and the first thing out of his mouth is “I bet you can’t rob a bank with that thing.” What followed was a debate between me and him where I detailed why I did think it was possible and exactly how I would go about the deed. 2) A grown man took a crayon out of our box for kids and, without saying a word, began coloring directly on our leather tablecloth. It took a few seconds of shock before we were able to put a stop to it. 3) We pulled up to see emergency vehicles at our Walmart event. The manager came up to us and extremely cashewally said “Yea, we just had a fire, but it’s all good.” 4) Last, but certainly not least, a man pulled up to the NUTmobile and showed Conner his prized bumper sticker that read “Horny in Texas” before taking off into the store with his car still sitting next to us… running…with no one left in it. I simply couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried, you guys.

a lovely, filtered photo of the beach next to our hotel, courtesy of my Instagram story

So far I have been nothing short of #blessed with my central schedule, and though I was not about to complain and jinx that good fortune, Corpus Christi initially felt like the weak link among our solid line-up of Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and NOLA. But, everyone loves a good underdog, especially me, and I have to admit that Corpus Christi might be a front-runner for my favorite weeks of the half thus far.

That concludes Texas in a nutshell! Up next: Legumes of Louisiana.


San Antonio, TX: February 26th – March 4th

In traveling the U.S., one thing I’ve realized is that most cities are more similar to each other than they are different. Every city has something unique about it, but a lot of places have the same overall look and feel, the same mix of people and the same types of bars and restaurants comprising their downtown area. So when I find somewhere that feels and looks unlike anywhere I’ve yet to see, I find it very striking. And that’s how I felt about San Antonio.

The uniqueness of the city was apparent even in our first few moments in town. We first stopped at The Alamo to take cool pictures with the NUTmobile for our Instagram (@plantersnutmobile – a shameless plug) and I learned a lot about the history of Texas. I’d always wondered why Texans seem to have such a heightened sense of state pride in comparison to the rest of the country, and learning the history of their fight for independence shed some light on the answer for me.

fun fact that Conner told me: Six Flags theme parks are called ‘six flags’ because they began in Texas, which has had six flags flown over it. 

After taking some pictures and exploring the Alamo, we headed over to our luxury hotel, which my amazing partner Tanaja was able to score. In reality, it was more of a resort than a hotel and it included a full gym, a cafe and bar, a rooftop pool and even a toucan and tortoise that lived in the lobby. While that was all awesome, the best part was that the hotel was right on the river walk and we could easily walk along the river and access all of downtown San Antonio in only about ten minutes.

Mom took 1,000 pics of me – but this one has a cool view of the first ever San Antonio lights festival that we got to see on the riverwalk!

We did just that our very first night as we took to the river walk in search of dinner, and wound up at a cute Tex-Mex place looking right over the river. That night set the tone for what was to be a week filled with the joys of Tex-Mex – complimentary chips and salsa, strong margaritas in various flavors and all of the classic Mexican dishes – my favorite of the week was shrimp quesadillas.  

We also discovered Paramour – not the alternative band, but the mecca for hip bar lovers (which the CenTrill team definitely is) that we found on the rooftop of a law office of all places. I refer to it as our ‘mecca’ because the place checked every box on the list of things a good bar should have: great decorations/aesthetic, a wide variety of delicious drinks and a bumping music selection. As if that were not enough, Paramour also doubles as a coffee shop by day, so I was back less than 12 hours after our night out for an iced coffee. I’ve never felt I could live at a bar before, but I would definitely move into Paramour no questions asked.

If this isn’t the coolest bar you’ve ever seen, you’re wrong. 

Of all the amazing things about visiting San Antonio, I saved the very best for last: my mom came to visit! When my mom found out I was going to be in the Central region, she told me she’d love to come see me in San Antonio, and sure enough, when it got added to my schedule she didn’t hesitate to book plane tickets for a long weekend visit. My mom and I were both in awe of the river walk and we were content to walk up and down it over and over again, each time noticing something new. We also took advantage of the brand new river boats made in honor of San Antonio’s 300th anniversary, and took a boat tour where we learned all about the history of the city. The boats also served as water taxis, which we used to get around. My favorite stop was the Pearl Brewery, which is no longer functioning but is now grounds to a beautiful shopping and eating area.

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me and the GOAT 

As a lot of you probably know, in order to take the Peanutter job I had to sacrifice a trip to Europe that was planned (and paid for) with my mom. It was supposed to be both of our first times going to Europe, and the fact that she had to go without me made both of us really sad. As I was walking down the river walk with my mom and she was telling me about how it reminded her of Venice and the Seine River in Paris, I was thinking about just how much I love spending time with my mom. Both of us are similar in that we are content with just walking around, taking in the sights and enjoying the atmosphere with a coffee or alcoholic beverage in hand. I truly enjoy my mom’s company, and even though I had to choose this year-long road trip over our Eurotrip, she’s one of my favorite people to travel with and I can’t wait for the future trips we’ll take together.

Crazy (and probably annoying) as it sounds, after being on the move for so long, traveling can start to lose its spark. You find yourself feeling less motivated to get out and see a place and more and more okay with allowing yourself to chill at the hotel and watch hours of Netflix. I think it happens to everyone, and though I’ve tried hard to fight it, it definitely happens to me sometimes. San Antonio, with it’s unique riverwalk and the good company that I had there, revived my excitement to travel and got me refreshed and ready to finish up the year strong.

BUT the year is NUT done yet. More to come soon!


Houston, TX: February 16th – February 26th

One thing that continuously blows my mind on the road is people’s willingness to meet up with seemingly random other people. Imagine your friend reaches out to you and says “Hey, I know some people visiting your area and you should go hang out with them despite never having met or even heard of them before.” Would you go? Much as I’d like to say I would, before this job, it probably would’ve made me uncomfortable. And yet, it happens to us on the road all the time. Not only do people with distant connections to our program come hang out with us, they host us, take us around and show us so much kindness and generosity that I can hardly fathom it.

The path around Rice University. Safe to say I’m going here for grad school at some point! 

Such was the case in Houston, where eight months ago I didn’t know a single soul, but now I had friends, family and plans waiting for me as we rolled into town. The first person we met was Aimee, who is my old partner Elise’s best friend from home. After being partners with Elise and sharing rooms with her for seven months, I have listened into and participated in several phone conversations with Aim, and have come to feel like I know her extremely well, despite never having met her in person.

Aim showed up to our event and immediately gave each of us a huge hug, as if we were reconnecting after years apart instead of meeting for the first time. After finally getting to see the contraption that her best friend has been driving around the country, she left, but not before inviting us to tag along on her plans for the week. Throughout our stay, Aimee took us to Axelrad, which is still my favorite bar from the road, and her weekly open mic night, and provided us with expert recommendations for things to do and see in Houston.

 We witnessed a proposal while at Axelrad, and thank goodness the girl said yes or I would’ve died of second-hand embarrassment. 

We also met Elise’s aunt, uncle and her baby cousin, Logan, when they came to our event at the Houston Arboretum. Again, despite never having met us before, they plopped Logan right into my arms without hesitation and hung out and talked with us for quite awhile. On our West Team, Elise saying, “Look at this picture of Logan!” followed by the three of us passing around her phone and laughing adoringly at whatever picture she received was somewhat of a daily ritual. In a weird way, Conner and I have sort of watched Logan grow up over the year from afar, so finally getting to meet this small celebrity brought us more joy than we could say, and definitely made our work day much better.

Our honorary Peanutter, Lightly Salted Logan. 

I of course can’t forget the Grovers themselves. In addition to taking us out to lunch and inviting us to their work, Mr. and Mrs. Grover had us over for dinner one night for Mrs. Grover’s famous spaghetti, extra-strong margaritas (they even gave us rides each way so we could fully enjoy these) and some hot-tubbing. We also got to meet Elise’s brothers, Ryan and Reece, who were the only two family members I had yet to meet. Eight months ago I didn’t even know the Grovers existed, yet there I was sitting on their couch, sipping margs and chatting with Reece about his latest acting gig and Mr. Grover about sports like I was a part of the family instead of just a guest. Like I said, it’s hard for me to fathom the kindness and generosity of people sometimes, but the Grovers accepted each one of us on the spot and made us feel like Houston was our home too.

The team feat. Reece (he’s going to be famous so follow him now @thelittlegrover), Aim, Mabel and Elise’s bedroom

We also checked out a lot of cool areas in Houston that are worth mentioning. For one, we were staying only two blocks away from the Galleria – the biggest mall I’ve ever seen besides the Mall of America. I spent entirely too much time and money at the Galleria, and justified it by telling myself it was for Spring Break – my vacation within my year-long vacation. I spent nearly every morning at a different coffee shop in Montrose – the hipster area of Houston – attempting to catch up on blogs (which clearly didn’t go very well). Last, but certainly not least, Houston was where I discovered my intense love for Smoothie King – a smoothie chain that is like Jamba Juice only infinitely better. I had never seen a Smoothie King before, and honestly I’d probably be better off if I never had – I’m completely addicted and haven’t been able to pass them up since.

A pic from Montrose and a polite reminder that I have completely bypassed Winter this year and am enjoying 75 degree weather in February. 

There were a lot of reasons I decided to do a blog this year such as keeping my family and friends in the loop and showing future employers that I did a “project” of my own instead of just drive a peanut around and have a blast all year. Most importantly though, I did it so that I would always have it to look back on and remember this year. Each week on this job is so action-packed that I’ve already started to forget some things, and as I look back on past blogs, it strikes me that, much like this post, they’re all more focused on people rather than places or things that I saw. Traveling the country is awesome, but cheesy as it is, the people you do it with and those you meet along the way are definitely the most noteworthy things, which is why I think I’ve unintentionally centered these posts on the people I’ve met in every nook and cranny of this great country.

Hasta Legume-o!


Austin, TX: February 12th – February 16th

How does one land a job driving a giant peanut? It’s a question I’m asked countless times every single day, second only to “What y’all got for free?” My own story is pretty boring. I knew the Wienermobile was holding a hiring information session on campus, but, being the busy little college student that I was, I couldn’t attend. I sent in a resume anyway – expecting to never hear from them again – and actually received a call from the NUTmobile the next week. And the rest is history! While my case is a little different, the majority of our program gets hired through on-campus information sessions (like the one I missed), and that’s what we were doing at the University of Texas at Austin for the week.

how could you not want to work with these good looking people?!

I’ve mentioned several times in past blogs how much I love being on college campuses, so I was expecting recruiting at UT to be a blast. The reality was more bittersweet than anything. It’s kind of cruel and unusual to be tasked with finding your own replacement for a job that you love, and it was also a harsh reminder that my time with the nut was nearly over. On top of that, many students were flat-out uninterested, which made me want to shake them while yelling, “ARE YOU DENSE?! THIS IS THE BEST JOB EVER!!” I was able to refrain from doing so, and the downers made me enjoy the students who talked to me for a long time and peppered me with seemingly endless questions that much more. After one class presentation, the five of us (we were recruiting with two wiener women) were reflecting on how “selling” our job to others gave us a new kind of excitement and appreciation for what we do – which ended up being the sweetest part about the week.

Also on my list of cool animals I’ve held on the job: an iguana, a snake and an alligator.

Despite the drawbacks of recruiting, I still loved spending a week on campus. We parked the NUTmobile and Wienermobile right in UT’s main circle, so we were constantly surrounded by the hustle and bustle of college life. One day there was even a pop-up petting zoo right in their center quad, and we were asked to help carry the animals. I got to hold a kangaroo wearing a diaper, and Jackie got to carry a full-grown alpaca as we trekked them across campus and back to their van. It just goes to show that college campuses are a place like nowhere else, and I love the feeling that there’s always something new going on.

Outside of being at UT, I didn’t get to spend much time seeing the rest of Austin, which was definitely a bummer. Of all of the cities in the central third of the U.S, Austin was the one I was initially most excited to visit because my friend Maggie lived there over the summer and Conner, who is a proud UT grad, had a monstrous list of restaurants and bars for us to check out. While there was no chance we’d make it to all of them, we did get to try a good amount of bomb Austin food, and had a great night out on the legendary Dirty Sixth Street.

my trusty ex-partner Elise brought Shell-don to Gurnee, IL to meet my mom, aunt, uncle and grandma for Valentine’s Day dinner!

My favorite meal of all though was our Galentine’s (+ Conner) dinner at 24 Hour Diner. The food was pretty average (except for my amazing pb & chocolate milkshake) but the company was amazing. This year has brought a lot of changes, and one big one is that I am no longer in a relationship, which means this was my first solo Valentine’s Day in over 5 years. Admittedly, I was slightly worried about how the day would make me feel, especially because it sometimes freaks me out when I think too hard on how much my life has changed in a short amount of time. However, as I sat at dinner surrounded by just four of the countless incredible people I’ve met in only eight short months, I found myself feeling grateful for how much I’ve gained this year instead of nostalgic for what used to be.

the five best friends anyone could have and a bunch of potential young nuts and dogs

I feel like I write a lot about change, but it makes sense because change has been the only constant for me since last June, and recruiting was a big reminder that the changes aren’t stopping anytime soon. This job is quickly coming to a close, which means I have to find a new job to replace it as well as a new home. My natural inclination is to let that terrify me, but if there’s anything I’ve learned this year it’s that change is good, and there’s no point in being anything other than welcoming to it. As our week at UT-Austin progressed, I found myself being more excited for the students we met rather than resentful because they were potentially beginning the job of a lifetime. As much as things have changed and will continue to do so, I’ve always stayed connected with what’s important to me, which is how I know that I’ll always be connected with this program and with future Peans and Wiens. That thought gives me at least a little bit of comfort about the uncertainty of the future.

Catch you on the nutty side!


Dallas, TX: February 5th – February 12th

You know what they say, “everything’s bigger in Texas, even the peanuts,” and after two weeks as a CenTrill Nut,  it was finally time for me to head to the biggest state of them all. With over one fourth of my coworkers being from Texas, including two of my partners for the year, I had heard a ton about the food, the people, the variety of cities and landscapes and more about this foreign land, and I was excited to take on my first stop: Dallas!

When crossing over from Arkansas into Texas, where else would one stop other than the great city of Texarkana?! Especially if it happens to be the hometown of your travel buddy, Peconner. Our team stopped for an interview with the Texarkana Gazette, which mainly revolved around Conner, as he was born and raised there. I’ve done a lot of media this year, but there seems to be something more fulfilling about riding the NUTmobile up and down the same streets you were born and raised on and, after 22 years, landing on the front page of your hometown paper. I’m now eagerly and hopefully anticipating my own return to Kenosha, although I hope to avoid mistaking my own past and telling the reporter I graduated high school in 2008 (*cough* Conner *cough*).  After our interview we grabbed a quick lunch and finally got to meet Conner’s parents before finishing our trip to Dallas.

My cousin Shane happened to be in Dallas for a Lacrosse game, and I got to surprise him with the NUTmobile. He was shell-shocked. 

On our day off, Conner showed me around the places he worked during the semesters he lived in Dallas. I toured his old office at the Dallas Theatre Center, got to stand on stage of the Wyly Theatre, and even received an invite to the company’s annual ‘Pie Day’ which happened to fall on the day we were there. When I say pie day, I’m talking 50+ pies that were sweet, savory and everything in between all waiting to be eaten by us (needless to say, my goal of eating healthier this half has been a struggle at best). After touring the theatre, Conner also scored us all free tickets to their production of Frankenstein the next night. It pays to have connections, and I’m already counting on this privilege continuing when Conner becomes a big-time Broadway director.

I spent my second day off biking and sightseeing. I’ve always thought biking was a great way to see a city because its cheap, convenient and keeps you active. I sadly hadn’t biked on the road since way back in South Dakota, but luckily, Dallas has an amazing bike-share system – all you do is find a bike and scan it with their app, pay $1/hour and when you’re done you just leave it wherever you are and it automatically locks its own wheels. The ease of the bike system plus the famous Katy Bike Trail made it a no-brainer for me to spend the day biking the trail and the streets of Dallas. I stopped at the Katy Trail Ice House for lunch, rode the streets passed the Cowboys stadium and Dealey Plaza (where JFK was assassinated), completed the trail and topped it off with a cherry limeade popsicle as a reward for my efforts.

My rented bike at the Katy Trail Ice House. 

There also happened to be two Hotdoggers, Maddie and Mayra, from last year living together in Dallas, and they treated us to dinner and drinks one night. They gave us a bunch of recommendations for the area, including some awesome bars in the Deep Ellum area, which Ner and I checked out the next night (I got to go to my very first speakeasy!). Mayra even took us out with her and her friends for a night that started in a luxury, high-rise apartment and ended at the bars in Uptown, dancing all night and screaming “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers at the top of our lungs – nothing new there. The best part of meeting Maddie and Mayra (besides the fact that they’re both awesome and fun) was that they’re both only one year out of the job and have only recently moved to Dallas, yet they clearly both had great jobs, a nice apartment, a community of friends and an overall appealing life in their new home. I told them over and over again that seeing them calmed a lot of my nerves about the future, and I really meant it. It was definitely reassuring.

street mural at the Dallas Art Museum because I’m #classy and #refined

I’m sad to admit that the last thing that really sticks out in my mind when I think of Dallas is fast food. No, not the local barbeque or Tex Mex, but the everyday, everywhere fast food chains. This is because we have long been in a heated debate with each other and with other Peanutters about which fast food restaurant is the best: In-N-Out, Shake Shack or Whataburger. Dallas happens to be one of the only cities to have all three regional chains, so we decided to finally put the debate to an end through a structured analysis of their burgers. When all was said and done, In-N-Out came out on top, although this was mainly because price was included on our rubrics and In-N-Out is much cheaper than the other two. Shake Shack won in ‘overall dankness’ and, in my opinion, is still the best taste-wise. Whatabuger truly can’t compete when it comes to burgers, but I also got to try their Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit, which is in a whole league of its own (note: I am not trying to start another debate and thus have to sample a ton of fast food chicken sandwiches because of this comment).

fast food burgers in all their glory

As I said above, Elise and Conner are both from Texas, and they often were in a heated disagreement about whether they liked Dallas or not. My own takeaway was that Dallas was the type of place I loved to visit, but probably wouldn’t want to live – although this may be tainted by the fact that the highways in/out of the city are extremely confusing and we spent much of our time lost, late or both. All in all though, the first week in my 16th state was one for the books, and I have high hopes for the many more weeks (and tacos and bowls of queso) in Texas to come!

Keep it cashewal!


Here’s the rubric we used for our burger challenge. If any of you are feeling like you want to take on this great feat for yourself, let me know what your results are!


Little Rock, AR: January 29th – February 5th

Because of all the people we already knew that we got to see in Missouri (my mom, Tanaja’s boyfriend and Brian), our week in St. Louis didn’t involve a ton of time spent as a team. Little Rock, Arkansas was our first official week with just us Central Nuts in a place none of us were familiar with, and already I could see the growth in each one of us as well as as a team.

For Tanaja, I could see it through her willingness to try things out of her comfort zone (Teri Goudie would be so proud). When we were at Winter Staff one of Tanaja’s old partners warned me, “Tanaja will never do anything outdoorsy with you.” Well, lo and behold, it was only our second week and Conner and I successfully convinced her to hike Pinnacle Mountain, which is an uphill, strenuous trek that is more like rock climbing than a hike at certain points. Although she did have some complaints and it took her awhile longer than Conner and I (we hiked a lot during our 7 months out west), she completed the whole thing and we were both extremely proud of her. I think she was happy with her experience too, although she claims that hike will be a one time thing (we’ll see).

The river and back porch of the cabin

For Conner, it wasn’t so much personal growth as it was a growth of my understanding of who he is and where he comes from. During our days off in Little Rock, we traveled to Conner’s family cabin in the middle-of-nowhere Arkansas for a night. We got tragically lost in a maze of dirt back-roads on our way in, but when we finally made it we were greeted by Conner’s extremely sweet and Southern Grandma. We spent the night four-wheeling, cooking a huge spaghetti dinner, making s’mores and playing Monopoly, of course! Conner’s grandma also shared tons of stories about Conner, and learning more about his past and what he was like growing up was so interesting because I feel like I know everything there is to know about present-day Conner. The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of honey biscuits and real scrambled eggs (as opposed to fake hotel eggs) prepared by Conner’s grandma before heading back to civilization.

driving an ATV is even more fun than driving a NUTmobile

My own personal growth happened mainly through the things I did on my own. After work one day my teammates were tired, but I was eager to explore. I first headed to Little Rock Central High School, the School that the Little Rock Nine attended. I spent time walking the grounds and the commemorative garden, and afterward checked out the museum. It was cool to be at a such an important, historic site that I’ve grown up learning about and I can be a huge nerd about history and museums, so I loved being able to take my time and look through/read the exhibits. Afterward, I headed to the Little Rock River Market where I hung out at a coffee shop for awhile. I intended to work on my blogs, but really ended up staying for much longer than anticipated eavesdropping on a very intense conversation going on next to me (gotta love coffee shops).


People often say one of their best experiences from this job is doing things independently. I’ve always been happy being on my own, but my old team was usually on the same page, so if one of us made plans, the other two would end up tagging along. My new team does a lot together too, but we all have our own preferences, and though that’s not bad at all, it is different. Being in an unfamiliar place and making a plan for your day definitely teaches you really quickly what you enjoy, and even though I love being with my team, I’m hoping to have more solo adventures this half as well!

As I’ve written about before, I am a huge fan of traditions, which naturally means I’m a huge fan of the most American holiday of all, Super Bowl Sunday. Although I couldn’t care less about the football itself, I love the Super Bowl for the hype, the commercials, the half-time show and the food – which for me usually means a heaping plate of loaded nachos. Tanaja and Conner thankfully honored my food request, and we spent the game at a bar with a huge viewing screen and endless rounds of nachos, wings, chips and drinks. As marketing professionals (sort of lol) we all especially enjoyed the commercials and even found ourselves getting sucked into the game – we love a good underdog and ended up passionately rooting for the Eagles.

This Walmart greeter is known widely in Little Rock as “Walmart Willy.” He spends his shifts yelling hi to every customer and giving them fist bumps before saying “BOOM!” He collects money during his shifts for homeless/orphaned children. He had us smiling and laughing during our whole event and is easily my favorite Walmart worker of all time.

For the millionth time since June, Little Rock had me hyper-aware of how extraordinary this job is. Not only am I learning a ton about who I am and what I like to do, but I get to learn more and more everyday about my “coworkers,” and do all of that while visiting somewhere I’d otherwise never go, like a river-side cabin in Arkansas. I can’t even fully comprehend at this point how much I’ve already grown and changed because of this job, but seeing that same growth in the people around me has been an incredible experience.

Cashew soon with a-nutt-a one!


St. Louis & Cape Girardeau, MO: January 19th – January 29th

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.

pretty sure lego architecture is my calling

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!

Brian treated us to dessert at Bailey’s Chocolate Bar – an entire dessert restaurant complete with fresh-baked cookies instead of bread rolls to start. 

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.

The team, mom and Grandma Ro-Shell

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.  

The Bar in downtown Cape G, which is the actual bar Ben Affleck’s character owns in Gone Girl. If you know me, you know I love anything Ben Affleck related. 

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!


Winter Staff & Team/Region Switch: January 15th – January 19th

Anytime you get a group of 21 recent college grads together, it’s probably going to be a good time, and that’s even more true because of the fun, outgoing personalities of the 21 Peanutters and Hotdoggers. Plus, the other Peans and Wiens are the only people who truly understand what our job entails, so getting together always means tons of catching up and stories with people that oddly feel like family.

Although we stayed in Madison for the whole week this time, our bosses had a lot of fun things planned for us. We played a huge, intense game of White Elephant (I ended up with the legendary Connor Gray pillow – the best present in my opinion), hit the downtown Madison bars for a night out and had a sweater decorating contest and fashion show. On top of all of that there were multiple corporate-funded lunches and dinners and business items like creating a recruiting video for next year’s class. We also finally found out who the winners of the big Peanutter Challenge Week were (see post from Palm Springs) and the Westies came out on top!

Don’t worry, we won’t quit our peanut job to become fashion designers.

While Winter staff was extremely fun as always, it was also kind of a weird time because it was a transition from first to second half, so while we were wrapping up and saying goodbye to our old partners and regions, we were also gearing up to hit the road with our new partners. In the spirit of this, I’d like to do the same thing with this blog post and summarize my first half and let you know what’s in store for me in the last few months of this job.

Westie Besties Wrap-Up

In short, my time out West with Elise and Conner was the time of my life. Probably more than any other team in our program, the three of us spent nearly all of our time together, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. After not only all of the cool experiences we shared together, but also all of the long, monotonous work days, I’ve learned just about everything there is to know about these two and could endlessly spout off random facts (for example: Elise’s tonsils spontaneously grow back and Conner doesn’t know actual song lyrics 99% of the time but makes them up as he goes). While It’s not uncommon to make friends with your coworkers, it is uncommon for your coworkers to become your family, but after 7 months of E&C being my listeners, advice-givers, workout buddies, fellow partiers and endlessly more, that’s exactly what happened.

Our very first pic with our girl Shelly, when we were all so fresh and pure.

Aside from getting to know the two of them as individuals, we also made an amazing team. We all went into the job with the same mindset: we were super grateful to have this opportunity and we wanted to make the most of every single day. And that’s exactly what we did.

Here are some of my favorite things from this half:

  • Biking the entire city of Pierre, SD
  • Getting front row seats in a random lady’s house for the 4th of July Fireworks
  • The money given to us to help others by a reporter in Rawlins, WY
  • Meeting Madi Grover and Gregory Plaza in Phoenix, AZ and having a SHELL of a time every time we came to the area
  • Our epic 15-hour day in Disneyland fo FREEEEEE
  • Working golf opens in Portland and Boise
  • Making multiple rap music videos and discovering Damien (Ner’s alter ego)
  • Hiking in nearly every city we visited
  • Staying in a B&B and convincing ourselves the house owner was evil
  • Buying Lawrence the Uber driver a McChicken
  • Eating endless bruschetta and fondue w/ pretzel bites at Postino & Culinary Dropout
  • Wine tasting in Napa Valley
  • Challenge Week & Mr. P’s legendary dance competition victory
  • Meeting Tenor, the only cat I’ll ever not hate
  • Ice skating with Mr. P
  • Seeing the Redwoods for the first time and taking an unintentional 6-mile hike
  • James Corden & Conan live taping
  • Private Ginuwine concert in Vegas
  • Making friends with the ladies who twerked on our NUTmobile
  • & probably a million more things I can’t think of at the moment
…..and our last pic with our girl Shelly and our boy Pablo, we’ve been through some $h!t together now.

At the end of every work day, we leave our boss an “audix” which is a voicemail telling her about the day. On our very last audix as a team, after we sang a parody of “California Gurls” by Katy Perry, I wanted to thank my boss for how awesome this job has been so far. I told her I could never repay her for introducing me to two of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. I also told her I couldn’t have asked for more positive partners who laughed with me when times were both good and bad and who made me a more confident, well-rounded individual and taught me new things about life and myself each and every day. It may have been extremely cheesy and cliche, but it was nonetheless entirely true.

CenTrill Team

Out with the old and in with the new, right? I have yet to mention that ya girl is coming home for second half to the Central Region.  I’ll definitely miss the west, but if there’s one thing that was missing from my experience, it was getting to meet up with a lot of people I know and being closer to home. I also will be traveling in a new nut: Grandma Ro-Shell. Ro-Shell is the original NUTmobile, which means she is not quite as decked out on the inside as Shelly was. Therefore, we also get to travel with a chase car, which means double the driving, but also always having a mode of transportation that is not a nut. You win some, you lose some.

A new region and new nut also means new partners! I’ll be staying with Conner for the rest of the year, and like me, I feel confident you all are well-acquainted with him by now. My new girl partner, Tanaja (or you can call her Tasty T, Tanut or Trail Mix Tanaja) is a Chicago native, Mizzou grad, and spent the first seven months of her tour on the East team. Tanaja can be what some would call “boujee” meaning she likes the finer things in life, and she is definitely the best person to pick out a place to get food/drinks and has a great sense of style. I have high hopes that her stylish ways may miraculously rub off on me, as well as her ability to save money on the job since she did a much better job of this than me and my previous team. All in all, Tanaja is an extremely strong, kind and interesting person, and it’s already been nice having someone new to get to know!

Introducing the new CenTrill team, a name I thought much too long and hard about.



Some of my goals for the new half are:

  • Continue to rock it at media and win the March Media Challenge
  • Take more of a front seat vs. back seat role in interactions at events (this was hard sometimes because Elise and Conner are the friendliest people on the planet)
  • Save more money $$$$
  • Even though I’m less excited about the Central Region than West, I want to continue seeing everything I can and finding the cool things about every city
  • Work out more consistently and eat healthier (although eating is part of traveling to me soooo we’ll see about that one. Texas queso will be my downfall.)
  • Stay more up to date with my blog
  • Book a Euro-trip for June & start looking for jobs and apartments in Chi City
  • Keeping having a BOMB time so that second half is the time of my life just like first half

Because this post was already extremely lengthy and all over the place, I’ll spare you any sort of conclusion to tie it all together. What I will say is I’m excited to keep sharing my adventures with you, and huge thanks to all of you who have continued to read this far!

Cashew on the Trail (Mix)!


San Diego, CA & Phoenix, AZ: January 3rd – January 15th

San Diego, CA: January 4th – January 10th

When I found out I was on the West Team, I immediately started thinking of all the cool cities I would get to see, and San Diego was always at the top of my list. But as the months ticked by and my time out west began to run short, almost all of my desired cities had been checked off while SD remained. Finally I caved and took matters into my own hands; I sent a desperate email to my boss essentially begging her to get us to San Diego. Either she likes me or she just wanted me to stop bugging her, but finally it showed up right at the end of our tour.

After the struggle of getting it on our schedule and my two weeks in the Midwest Tundra, I had an immense appreciation for the temperate weather and constant sunshine of Southern California. I spent nearly every moment possible outside either laying in grocery store parking lots to get sun during work breaks or taking long walks and runs both mornings and nights. Even though it wasn’t anything crazy or exciting, these walks were one of my favorite parts about San Diego. Maybe I was just feeling the time with my Westies coming to an end, but I truly enjoyed just walking around and talking with both Elise and Conner and discovering new things around us (the best thing we found was an abandoned mission-style building way up on a hill overlooking Old Town).

One of the beautiful restaurants we ate at in Old Town

It was also during one of these walks that I realized we happened to be staying right across the street from Old Town SD, which is a cool area with old-time buildings and tons of restaurants.  We ate at several of these restaurants during our stay, enjoying the authentic Mexican food and homemade tortillas that you could watch being made. One of my favorite food places was Roberto’s Taco Shop, which was little more than a run-down shack, but served the best California-style burritos (Cali style means with fries inside – an unhealthy, but ingenious invention). We also got margaritas one night at a huge, outdoor Mexican restaurant that had a live band and was so beautifully decorated that Conner said it reminded him of the movie Coco.

San Diego’s famous Gaslamp Quarter

One thing the three of us all wanted to do was visit Coronado Beach. The day we had set aside to do so turned out to be awful weather, but we didn’t let that stop us. Instead of bikinis and flip flops, we packed rain jackets and headed off to Coronado, which we arrived at, of course, right as the storm set in. We fully embraced the rain and danced and ran through the waves as it came down harder and harder, not caring how soaked we got until we left the beach and had to walk toward shelter while miserably cold and wet.

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post-storm chasing in Coronado

It’s hard to do San Diego justice through writing, but it really was my favorite city. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been because it was not only covered in palm trees, but also lush with other types of greenery lining the ocean and mountains. San Diego also has such a unique culture from Old Town to the Gaslamp Quarter, and everyone in the area seemed to have a friendly, easy-going vibe about them. It was definitely the type of place I could see myself living, and bugging my boss to get the NUTmobile there turned out to be 100% worth it.

Phoenix, AZ: January 10th – January 15th

For our very last city on the road, I couldn’t think of a better place than Phoenix, AZ. More than anywhere else, Phoenix feels like home to our team. We have friends there, favorite restaurants and things we don’t mind doing again and again. We even stayed at our traditional hotel, The Red Lion, which is honestly pretty sketchy but worth it because it’s right across the street from Bikini Bean and only a mile down the road from ASU.

Most of the people we know in the PHX area weren’t around for our last trip to the city, but that worked well because we had a ton to do to prepare for Winter Staff (we had to re-pack and ship all of our stuff to Madison) and we wanted to spend time together as a team for our last week. We of course did all of our favorite things: a night out at Devil’s Advocate and eating at Postino Annex and Culinary Dropout. We also woke up at the crack of dawn one morning to make a last attempt at completing the treacherous Camelback Mountain hike, but we were instantly turned away as the mountain was too busy and there was no parking for the NUTmobile. It was a huge let-down, but also a good reason for the three of us to take a reunion trip back to Phoenix one day to finally finish what we started.


an eerily fitting quote found on the wall at Culinary Dropout during our last dinner as a team

On our last night in town the three of us went out for our last dinner as a team. At Christmas, my Aunt Melinda had generously given me a check that was to be used on our last dinner and drinks, and we decided the best place to use it would be one of our very favorites, Culinary Dropout. Even though I knew my friendships with these two weren’t coming to a close, our time as the west team definitely was, and we all got a bit teary-eyed as we talked about all of the experiences we’ve shared as well as our goals moving into the next half of our journey.

Spotted: Three west nuts smiling through the tears, legendary pretzel bites with fondue, and our exceptionally attractive waiter approaching the table.

The next morning we woke up, packed all of our stuff into Shelly for the last time and headed off to Penske where we’d be leaving her for good. As our only form of transportation for seven months, Shelly was our closest thing to home out west and she was always present, if not integral, to our favorite experiences and stories. She may be an in-nut-imate object, but she was the real MVP of our team, and we all had an extremely emotional and heartfelt goodbye with her before we had to leave Penske without her. Our next, and final, stop out west was the PHX Sky Harbor Airport where we’d soon be taking off for Wisconsin and our reunion with the other Peanutters and Hotdoggers.

Cashew Later, West Coast!