Midwest From Home - Day Five
July 2001
Otherwise known as, "What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part I"….

Wednesday, June 27
(My 31st birthday!)
Final destination:  Milwaukee

We got a late start this morning… I had to wait for my Traditional Birthday Morning Wake-up Call from Mom and Gram. (I answer the phone, they sing [off-key, natch], and my birthday is thus consecrated! Don't tell them, but I SO look forward to this every year! It isn't my birthday without Mommy and Gramma singing!)

THTM and I decided to take off-the-beaten-path routes back to Milwaukee. We had a lot of ground to cover, and it was gonna be a long-ass drive, but we didn't want to see nuthin' but Such-and-Such Turnpike. We consulted our map, highlighted the smaller roads - not a single major city on our route today! - and then headed for a grocery store to collect breakfast (the inevitable Baked Lays and cheese-pretzels, plus some crumb cakes, and containers of watermelon- and cantaloupe pieces, and orange juice, all courtesy of the inevitable local Albertson's). Last day on the open highway, y'all!

We headed northeasterly, taking the 4 towards Atchison (which, again, got me singing the predictable Judy Garland tunes from old movies). And as we continued our Driving Journey, I carried out another Birthday Tradition: the List for the next year. As we drove, headed to the Missouri River town of St. Joseph, I speculated to The Husband-Type Man about this year's goals and decisions. It was a hot day, a summery day, and as we talked, there was a nearly-continuous patter of bugs hitting the car windshield to punctuate our conversations.

We reached St. Joseph around lunchtime. Suddenly, up ahead, I spied a yellow and blue sign- Why, it's LONG JOHN SILVER'S! Oh, such a special birthday lunch treat! That greasy fish and chicken-plank meal went down just like… well, a bunch of greasy fried fish and chicken. Nummy. Then we drove into Iowa, picked up the 35 for a spell, and blasted music while I gunned it towards Highway 18.

This day was by far the best one for scenery. We traveled mostly on winding back roads and smaller highways, and the countryside got increasingly beautiful as we continued on. In Kansas, there were those rippling fields of grasses, black-eyed Susans and other assorted wildflowers, swampy lakes and muddy rivers. Iowa was unexpectedly lovely, with shorter, greener grass and rounder hills and plateaus than Kansas; I saw cornfields, of course, and masses of pale purple flowers and yellow yarrow (I think), along with more black-eyed Susans. There were clear, clean lakes there, and lots of birds… many small black ones with red spots on their backs, unlike any I'd seen before. Upstate Iowa by the Mississippi River was the most beautiful yet; there were woods and cliffy mountains and lots of inlets of water, and then two river forks that we crossed via a huge bridge… and ta da! Back in Wisconsin!

Not long after that, we stopped in Pierre du Chen at a small Mom&Pop country restaurant off the 35. A large family was seated at the tables in the middle of the restaurant, and four children ran around and screamed while the adults ignored their antics to converse with each other. I ordered a hot turkey sandwich, and was served a plate with white bread and turkey covered with an unearthly bright-yellow gravy… which made me long for the down-home goodness of Cracker Barrel… or, ah, Long John Silver's! THTM got a skimpy salad, and some truly heinous French onion soup. Shoulda stuck with the Baked Lays and cheese pretzels….

THTM took the wheel for our last leg of the Adventure. We decided to cross Wisconsin via the 18, and our drive was a long, lazy and pleasant one. I read more LHOTP to THTM and we talked plans for the remainder of our vacation, such as a trip to Chicago to take an architectural tour, something we'd wanted to do before. At one small town - Mt. Hope or Mt. Ida or Preston or someplace thereabouts - we saw several horse-drawn buggies, and a small group of men and boys, all dressed plainly and wearing flat black hats, who averted their faces from our car as we drove by. I didn't realize there were Amish communities in Wisconsin.

We didn't get to our hotel outside Milwaukee until after ten that night. When we finally parked, got out, and stretched, the night air was still warm, and the sky was clear and filled with stars.

That's not the end of Dwanollah's summer Adventures! Be sure to check back for Part II and get all the dirt on hangin' with WaCu… and Dwanollah's New Boyfriend.


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