It’s been a thousand miles plus and I have made a few big decisions: every thousand miles, I get the tires checked and I get a massage. Well, it worked at the first thousand, so why mess with that plan?
As I hit the road, I desired to keep off the super slabs as Michael Wallis refers to the large interstates in his book The Lincoln Highway, but let’s get real: the layers of concrete get you places. That said, getting to the state and national parks requires more red and yellow veins than the blue ones of my Adventure Edition Road Atlas. The smaller roads are the ones that course through the hinter lands and what they take away in speed, they give back in beauty.
The drive in early morning from Frontenac State Park just outside Lake City, MN, (the birthplace of water skiing, don’tchaknow?) found me winding my way through Highway 2, State Road 10, and WI 35, two lane roads that slip into Wisconsin and then back across the Mississippi and the La Croix Rivers to return to Minnesota. At the workingman’s town of Red Wing an incomprehensible desire to buy work boots came over me, instead of boots, I pulled over for a picture. The incredible bluffs along the river glistened their orange and dark brown raw edges against the blue sky and the sign at the local service station advertised Minnows, Worms, and Leeches. I was in the heart of the Midwest outdoorsman world.
All the campsites have been acceptable, some with higher ratings than others, but that is to be expected. In Iowa, I didn’t expect to be offered dinner by the retired fisherman at the campsite next door and when he offered up bratwurst, the vegetarian in me declined. He said he really felt like pancakes…that I could rally around. I think he really desired some one to chat with and that we did. Chris is a retired arsenal worker from Rock Island and lives in my birth town of Davenport. He was up to MacBride State Park for Walleye that he proclaims are longer than his leg, but a low pressure system has kept much from biting.
As I weaved through the Midwest, I stopped in on many friends and the trip has felt more like a reunion than a solo exploration. Patrick Lucas in Lexington—former UNCG professor and now head of the Design Department at UK—took me around for a fabulous tour of his hometown where the architecture is stunning, especially when appreciated through the eyes of a professional. I happened upon other campers. The students had their Blue Madness camp out week. Tent City included 760 tents this year as students skipped classes to hold their spots in line for the much desired UK basketball tickets.
In Indianapolis, Amy Arnold—fellow runner friend who spent two years in an RV traveling the country with her family of five—met me at the door of her 1880’s home in historic Lockerbie area ready to do the city’s greenway on bikes. We rode along the river and the canal and ended up at the farmers market where I scored more green beans (FYI: The best travel food!) and Amy signed up for home milk delivery.
Chicago, or more precisely Hinsdale, allowed me to be out of the campsite and into a bed at my old college roommate’s house, Christie Eddins. She never fails to make me feel like the most important person in the world while she manages a busy life of three children and immense social schedule. She also introduced me to Dalia, the Lithuanian World Champion Arm Wrestler and massage therapist (thus my new plan to get a massage every thousand miles). I interviewed Dalia as a part of my traveling documentary on daring and intriguing women with nontraditional professions and interests and I even got to arm wrestle her. Well, okay…she could have been filing her nails while I arm wrestled, but still I did it!
In Iowa City, I caught up with my teacher from Queens, Jim McKean. We writers need shots in the arm and encouragement about every five minutes and Jim was right there to help push me onward. He even gave me an assignment before we parted and wants me to return to Iowa City for the writer’s workshop next summer. Hot coffee and warm souls can be found in this part of the Hawkeye State.
I’m sure the hospitality from the road will not be over even though I now cross the invisible line that takes me away from the familiar places of the Midwest and into rugged areas with names like Badlands and Black Hills and Rocky Mountains. So far the weather gods are shinning down and as far as I am concerned, they can keep at it! And, I’ll keep giving up sun salutations each day.
More from the road soon. Love, the traveling yogini