2,459 miles. Six days. Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin.
Here are my road trip revelations:
Listen to the locals. At the BBQ joint last night, the lady behind the counter told me that their mac and cheese was pretty good but I should probably order the creamed corn instead. Creamed corn in Kansas and Missouri isn’t the emulsification of corn that we think of as creamed corn. It is CORN IN CREAM and a fair amount of butter. I worship this corn now and want to eat nothing else the rest of my life.
Go to the small town museums. They are labors of love. Nothing except maybe really wrinkled old gum wrappers is curated out. It gets exhausting looking at all those old flat irons but each one pressed somebody’s shirts and deserves a look. These little homemade museums tell you what was important to folks. In Oklahoma, buttons were a really big deal. There were walls of buttons. It made me think about how little attention I’ve paid to my own buttons.
Viewshed is a thing. Here’s the Wikipedia definition: “A viewshed is the geographical area that is visible from a location. It includes all surrounding points that are in line-of-sight with that location and excludes points that are beyond the horizon or obstructed by terrain and other features (e.g. buildings, trees).” The viewshed in SW Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle is incredible. You think you can see your mother hanging out the wash fifty years ago in Michigan, that’s how huge the viewshed is.
Being ‘bummed out’ doesn’t mean what I thought. I came of age in the 60’s and my language shows it. I am frequently bummed out, think things are bummers. And actually say, “Bummer, man,” pretty frequently. So standing in the No Man’s Land Museum in Goodwell, Oklahoma, I read a newspaper clipping where a guy describes his family’s experience as Dust Bowl migrants in California. He describes going door to door asking for food but being turned down because the locals who lived near the train tracks were “bummed out.” In other words, they had had enough of ‘bums’ coming to the door. Bummer.
There is nothing more precious to find than an old cemetery. While a museum holds people’s things, a cemetery holds the people. No matter how long ago they died, they are there, present, and it is quiet and still. I walk as if they are my own relatives, the parents and the babies, I read their names and their time on earth. I feel dutiful being there as if to say, somehow, I see you. You are very long gone but I am here today and I see you.
Those are my revelations from this fine little road trip. Worth the going.