This is a continuation of our family trek from Fort Mill, South Carolina to Fairbanks, Alaska. For other parts in the series, click on the links below:
Day One – KENTUCKY
After originally planning to stay at a campground in Clarksville, Tennessee (Tennessee rule #1 – your town name must end in ‘ville’), I told my wife that I was just going to keep driving. I was full of energy and Cheez-Its and knew I had to strike while that iron was hot. We headed north into Kentucky and stopped at the visitor center right across the border. By this point, dusk had begun to pass us and we were needing a healthy stretch after nine hours of driving. The kids ran around losing their shoes while my wife and I lured the cat out of his carrier in an attempt to get him to go to the bathroom. Our cat, Nooches, is a total weirdo. He won’t drink water unless it is from something gross like a dripping faucet, condensation on glass, bathwater on the floor – anything but water out of a dish. Likewise, he is a pampered, indoor cat and will not do a 1 or 2 unless it is in a pristine litter box. What a guy.
So we put the cat next to a tree surrounded by dirt, mulch, and stone – you know, the type of stuff that an animal would love to poop on. Well, not señor prissy pants. Our cat instead decided to walk away and slink around a picnic table, mewling like an idiot and acting like he didn’t know what to do. After a short grace period, I gave up on him and walked towards the visitor center restrooms. There, a sidewalk enveloped by a grouping of trees gave way to a scene that only Alfred Hitchcock could have imagined. It was difficult to see in the darkness but the entire sidewalk was covered in droppings (poop being the current theme of this blog) as what can only be assumed as thousands of birds chattered away above. By the point that I realized I had entered a trap …
… I knew it was too late to turn back. I had to just go for it. I didn’t get through unscathed, however, as a precision hit from the red baron nailed my lower back. In life, undershirts come and go, some to time and others to stain. For this particular shirt, his burial was held in a nearby trashcan with my empty Cheez-It bag. On the plus side, walking around the rest stop with no shirt was sure to make the ladies swoon.
Kristina said she would take over driving at this point, telling me to rest up a little. I gladly accepted the offer but within five minutes of hitting the road, she started to yawn. Not once. Not twice. Not even four or five times. Nine times she yawned in those first few minutes! Nothing could stop her once she started though. I tried talking to her. Yawns. I cranked some Bob Seger. Yawns. I rubbed her neck. Her eyes started to close. Nope – we’re going the wrong way, here!
Day One – ILLINOIS
My wife drove on all the way to Marion, Illinois. There we stopped for gas one more time and decided, as a complete long shot, to look for some cat litter so that my pampered little feline could make some tinkles without rotting out his bladder. Luckily, Casey’s General Store was open at 11 something at night and not only that, they sold cat litter! Talk about being prepared for the worst. Sarah McLachlan should do commercials for this gas station, instead. Not only that, but to make the moment feel even BIGGER than it actually was, a baseball game or some such event had just finished and fireworks were going off just a few blocks down the street. What a time to be alive!
I thanked my wife for driving through the traffic nightmare that is Paducah, Illinois (sarcasm) and took over driving again so that she could sleep. Onward and upward I drove.
Day One (still) – MISSOURI
The sun had long since set and I now drove us toward the blinding lights of the city that never sleeps, St. Louis, Missouri. I wish I had a better experience of this city, I really do. It’s not really Saint Louie’s fault that I drove through it around 1 in the morning and with the caffeine in my veins slowly dissipating. But here were my honest observations:
- The Mississippi river smelled rotten, as if the river bottom were composed of raw sewage and fish guts. I’m not sure if this is typical or not.
- The arch to the west looked smaller than I imagined it, perhaps because of the skyscrapers lined up behind it. It also looked altogether unimpressive from the freeway but, again, it was nighttime and it didn’t hold my full attention.
- The bridge crossing the Mississippi, however, was lit up and looked pretty cool (see extremely blurry picture – gimme a break, I was driving!)
- The few people on the highway at that time of night were driving erratically … or maybe they were just trying to avoid me.
- The city, like many Midwestern cities, disappears as quickly as it appears. I was back in four-lanes of infinite darkness before I even had a chance to browse all the FM stations.
As I was continued to drive through the immense nothingness that is Missouri, a car crept closer and closer from the horizon towards me until finally they were riding my butt. For whatever reason this person decided to just do whatever I did instead of just passing me. I slowed down to 60 and so did they. I sped back up to 80 and so did they. I literally changed lanes when there was almost no reason to do so and they followed suit. I naturally went into fight-or-flight/protect-my-family mode and was certain I was bound for a Mad Max ram-battle on I-70. And yet, just as suddenly as this drifter arrived, so to did they finally pass me and go on their merry way but not without being a part of my life for over ten minutes.
Eventually I became too tired to go on and pulled over at a rest stop one hour shy of Kansas City. By this point, my wife, kids, dog, and cat had all been sleeping for quite a while – anywhere from 4 to 6 hours depending on who you’re talking about. The instant the car stopped, the dog woke and up started to whimper to go pee. The cat started to meow and jumped up on the dashboard, pacing back and forth. My youngest son woke up and started to restlessly toss and turn for the next hour, kicking my seat a million times. Needless to say, amongst all the commotion, sleeping upright with a steering wheel jammed into my thighs was not really pragmatic. I slept for three hours, maybe, but it was enough to finish off day one of our adventure.
Coming up in Day 2 – We zoom through Iowa and make pit stops in Kansas City, Missouri and Sioux Falls, South Dakota!