Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us!


Pasadena, CA, 91106
United States

A compilation of stories, telescopes, internship resources, and other things radio astronomy.

Graduate School: Applying, Living, Thesising

The Professional Student is a blog about everything grad school from the application process to my experiences living as a grad student, being a parent in grad school, and researching the role of chemistry in the evolution of our universe.

Road Trip to Grad School: Day 2

Olivia Wilkins

Total distance on day 2: 624.5 miles
Total distance so far: 940.8 miles

Yesterday, I cheerfully told Alex that we didn't have a "Güni cried for 200 miles" story. Today, I couldn't stay the same.

Today, we learned that the southern parts of Indiana and Illinois are desolate. For the last leg of our trip, there was nothing. After stopping at a rest area just past Louisville, Kentucky, there was... nothing, no opportunity to stretch before stopping for the night in Mount Vernon, Illinois. Around mile 400—with approximately 200 to go—Günther made it known he was ready to be out of his car seat. Luckily for us, however, Günther crying for 200 miles means five to ten minute bouts of crying broken up by spans of giggling or wide-eyed stares up at Daddy, who was in the backseat with him.

Considering we covered more than 600 miles today, I can't complain about some whining and the occasional elevated crying.

After a small continental breakfast at the Inn at Snowshoe, we hit the road west around 8:00. Heading south on WV-219 toward I-64 (which we would take all the way to Mount Vernon), we detoured via Highland Scenic Highway (WV-150) and saw just why the elevated landscape is called the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The scenic views continued on I-64 west as we traveled from Lewisburg through the region around New River Gorge. Climbing and descending the mountains built up an appetite, so we stopped for an early-ish lunch in Beckley, West Virginia, opting for a Panera Bread Alex and I had enjoyed two years ago on a fall break trip to the area.

Another two hours on the road, and we stopped to enjoy our first pumpkin spice lattes of the season...

... which we enjoyed with some Thomas the Tank Engine (the original tales, not the contemporary creepy CGI ones).

The mountains faded into rolling hills, and West Virginia turned into Kentucky. Finally, our journey through state number five (the first four being PA, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia) came to a close at the Ohio River.

While I drove, Alex was Master of Twitter (thank you Alex!).

Shortly after entering Indiana, we stopped for a rest after having not stopped at all in Kentucky. There, Güni relished in his freedom from the car seat, happily arching his back so he could look up at the trees. We were happy to be welcomed by Indiana, closer to our stop in state number seven (Illinois). If only we had known then that southern Illinois was nothing but flatness.

As the sun set, we finally made it to Illinois, where I realized two things: 1) we've changed time zones, and 2) riding into the sunset is not as enchanting as films would have you believe; it is blinding and painful, especially when you don't have mountains to hide the sun as it approaches eye level in the sky.

And finally, after a little under 13 hours since leaving Snowshoe, West Virginia, we arrived in Mount Vernon, Illinois, where we found a room at a Super 8 (cheap rates and breakfast included? Here's to not stretching that grad school budget quite yet!) and the worst Taco Bell service ever (ice when I asked for no ice, and all the effort of the cashier asking me if I wanted hard or soft shell and me not even receiving my taco).

Nevertheless, we are happy to sleep and still going strong. Tomorrow's goal: Tulsa, Oklahoma, after lunch with my friend Zev in St. Louis!