Travel Journal: Summertime Dreaming in the American Heartland

The diminutive city of Baldwin, Kansas is about as far (geographically and culturally) as possible from my actual hometown (a mythical place located between Manila and San Francisco), but something about our recent trip to the Midwest has got me feeling nostalgic about it in a way only people with actual roots there must feel.

American Flag | Baldwin, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

I suppose I could always compare notes with my boyfriend, Derek, who is in fact “from there.” Or, partially, anyway. He only lived a few high school and college years at his parents’ house in Baldwin, but that’s where his folks still live now, where holiday gatherings are hosted, and where I first felt like part of a new family. So it’s home, in a sense, to me.

Football at Rock Creek High | Saint George, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

We’d both been due for a long vacation (Americans, read: a whole week! Europeans, continue rightfully soaking up your holidays), so taking time out to reconnect with family we don’t get to see very often just felt right. Among our “restful adventures” were: a football game at Derek’s old high school, a road trip to Nebraska (by way of Iowa!) to visit Grandma, learning how to properly enjoy a car’s moon roof (thanks to Derek’s little niece and nephew). We saw a lot of blue sky.

The Littles Roadtrip | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Fields Off the Highway | Iowa | Carla Gabriel Garcia

At some point we managed to get a little spiffed up for the Dinner Train, one of Baldwin’s charming odes to yesteryear (the 1940s, to be exact).

Derek & Carla on the Dinner Train | Baldwin, KS | Carla Gabriel GarciaRose on the Train | Baldwin, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

A few post-dinner shots at the station:

Baldwin Train Station | Baldwin, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Baldwin Dinner Train | Baldwin, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

We didn’t take the train very far that evening (just around town), but we eventually traveled further into Southeastern Kansas over the weekend. This year’s Labor Day family gathering (we’ve decided this has to become tradition) took place at the highly scenic yet unassuming Lil Toledo Lodge in Chanute. Derek’s sister, Holly, a gifted portrait photographer, has made a lovely home (and business!) there with her husband, John, and their new baby girl.

Sunlight through the Trees | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Mom and Pops put us up at one of the lakeside cabins, where we reveled in quiet countryside delights.

A Lake View | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel GarciaLakehouse Green Door | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Boathouse Deck | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Grandpa, Grandson Fishing | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Caught a Fish | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Just before dinner, John graciously took us out for a sunset tour of the lake. The kids (big and small alike) were thrilled.

| Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Lake Tree | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

| Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Lake Sparkles | Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

| Lil Toledo Lodge, Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

It was so sweet of Holly to arrange a private portrait session for the whole family during our time there. This may sound terrifying to some (I know, I prefer to stay behind the camera most of the time), but was really perfect for capturing moments that we don’t often get to share. Sorry to bum you out, but those photos are best enjoyed on Facebook :-) The following are the shots I took “behind the scenes.”

Red Cabin | Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Cute Family Photoshoot | Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

| Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

Baby and Grandma in the Shade | Chanute, KS | Carla Gabriel Garcia

I’ll leave that as a beautiful parting shot to savor :-) We miss our Kansas family already.

P.S. Video coming soon! Video is up here! :-)

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