Cross-country adventure

Or masochism?

Embued with determination and a spirit of adventure, my youngest sister Edna is traveling by van all the way from Minnesota to Palm Springs for a visit. She is accompanied on this lark by her husband Carl and two of their adult children, Joni and Tom.

Journal for: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Epilogue | Meyer poles

trip overview
Would a sane person make this drive?

Meanwhile, youngest daughter, my niece Carol, seems to have been appointed trip historian. It is not known to what extent this role was coerced. In any case, I will include her commentary.

Day 1

day 1 route
Day 1: Red Wing, MN to Topeka, KS.

One Day, Mom wished, out loud, that she had been dreaming of visiting her brother, Paul, in California...

As her medical team/advisors, Tom and Joni said "Why not?" They said, "California is the place you oughta be, so they loaded up the van and ..." headed to Palm Springs...swimming stars

Mom, Dad, Tom, and Joni left this morning around 11:00--amid light snow and 31 degrees. They stopped in Des Moines, IA, around 2:00 for a picnic lunch--38 degrees is never too cold for a picnic (especially if it's inside a van). When they arrived in Topeka, KS, around 7:30, Mom said she'd had enough for one day, so that's where they touched down for the night.

For someone who has traveled quite extensively, Joni has never been through the breadbasket of America, and decided Iowa is mighty flat, as is Missouri. And as the navigator, she wants to know who put a town called Kansas City in the state of Missouri?

They say that the van cruises just fine, and no butt blisters are reported yet. It was a little warmer in Topeka, about 49 degrees. When I talked with them, Tom and Joni were trying to find their way back to the motel--they had gone out to find take-out and bring it back to eat, while Mom and Dad were relaxing. I advised them to take a left...and felt much better knowing the surroundings were looking more familiar to them before I hung up.

I guess I get the dubious honors of journaling their trip for you--presuming you are interested. They're figuring it will take at least three days, possibly part of the fourth day before they arrive at Paul's. He has already assured them a reservation in the "honeymoon suite" and the "slave quarters". The rest of the itinerary is unscripted...we'll have to wait and see.


Day 2

day 2 route
Day 2: Topeka, KS to Silverthorne, CO

Getting information out of the weary travelers is a bit like pulling teeth--they insist they are making up their route as they go along and really didn't want to divulge any more info than that.

The truth is, it's a little like playing "Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?" because they actually did not know what town they ended up in tonight, until they read the literature in the motel room, but this is what they did know:

Upon waking up, they asked Mom if she wanted to go east (return home) or west? She replied, "Go West, young man" and off they headed. They said they were on the road today by 8:30 a.m. Dad took over the co-pilot/navigator seat, until he directed them to Montana Mike's for lunch. Montana Mike's is actually in Kansas, but it got him fired from his duties after eating a buffalo burger and having a beer.

They've decided there must be an "air quality" problem in the back of the van, because whoever rides back there falls asleep. Mom has been traveling as a passenger in the middle of the van (rather than in the co-pilot seat) and they've devised three different "lazy-boy" positions for her to use for comfort.

After two days, the license plate tally is up to 23. After going through the town in Iowa, claiming to be the birthplace of John Wayne yesterday, today they saw oil wells pumping, fields of green winter wheat and/or alfalfa (they weren't really sure which one), passed through some historic mining towns (we're not in Kansas anymore!), went through Loveland Pass in Colorado, where they were at 11,000 ft above sea level and encountered ice and snow as they went through the tunnels.

They ended up in the heart of ski country tonight, and finally decided the town they are in was called Silverthorn, CO.

It sounds like they'll stay on I-70 through Utah and then head south on I15 towards the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas tomorrow.

Till then...

Day 3

day 3 trip
Day 3: Silverthorne, CO, to St George, UT

Was it: A) the food, B) new medicine, C) altitude sickness, or D) Tom's driving? (Joni thinks it was D.) Mom was feeling a little "green around the gills" this morning as they left Silverthorn, CO. The question asked each morning is "Go East? or West?" and she queazily answered, "West----I guess."

It had snowed a little overnight and the morning drive was beautiful. With a death grip on the arms of the wheelchair and barf bag in tow (never used, though), they passed through Vail and Copper Mountain and talked about how much fun JT (Tom's son) would have skiing down the vertical faces of the slopes. Solemnly swearing to remain sober all day, Dad reclaimed his chair as co-pilot and duties of navigator (and official spotter of animals and Meyer poles along the way).

The license plate count only climbed to a disappointing 27 today; after leaving the scenic mountains, the state of Utah did not get rave reviews for its scenery...very rocky and barren. They said, had they been the pioneers who settled the West, the US would not have gone all the way to the coast...a very long drive.

Tonight, they are 110 miles from Las Vegas in the Utah/Nevada border town of St. George, UT. The green in Mom's complexion seemed to disappear during the day and tonight she showed color again. Tomorrow, a little extra time will be spent touring the Hoover Dam, before hopefully arriving in Palm Springs. Don't worry, Uncle Paul...they said they won't arrive before lunchtime (and Joni says she's got some Montana Mike's BBQ sauce for the rats that survive the poison in the "slaves quarters"!) They also wanted you to know they are taking time to pee, but it isn't slowing them down much.

Before he could snuggle down for the night, though, Tom had to go on a mission...wash the van, gas it up, buy a peanut buster parfait for Dad, and a 6-pack for himself.

Till tomorrow...

Day 4

day 4 route
Day 4: St George, UT to Needles, CA

"Water, water, everywhere....and not a drop to drink" or "It never rains in pours"; either statement pretty much describes Day 4.

You know how yesterday I said they planned on arriving in Palm Springs today? Well, they didn't quite make it. Seems the road they wanted to take wasn't there anymore — washed out — thanks to the deluge of water the west coast has been getting. But they did arrive safely in Needles, CA, where they are spending the night.

They traveled through the Valley of Fire, beautiful red, rock formations in the Las Vegas area, saw the Hoover Dam which they described as "phenomenal," cruised the Vegas strip (you can't lose any money if you don't get out of the van, right?) and paused momentarily at the Little White Chapel of Love, where Joni asked Mom and Dad if they wanted to get married again? Mom said, "Once is good enough." (I would think so--it's lasted darn near 50 years.)

Carl's tattoo

It's my understanding that Dad did want to stop to get a tattoo on his a--, and had to be restrained. Too bad... I was hoping we could all get a glimpse of that on Uncle Paul's web cam.

Dad navigated again today (which means Tom didn't share any of his 6-pack from last night) and as they drove through the Valley of Fire was telling stories about the Indians. Seems there was an Indian named Mouse, who collected water in a tank (the landmark was Mouse's Tank) and after a while the water turned into firewater. After drinking of the firewater, the Indians designed the roads (which explained their meandering pattern) and somehow the rocks got moved into the Valley of Fire... Anyway, the conversation went on for a while, until Tom looks over at Dad and says, "I might not be a brain surgeon, but you're full of sh--!"

It sounds to me like they need to reach their destination----real soon, if you know what I mean. Route 66 They're gonna travel the "Old Route 66" tomorrow, otherwise shown on the map as I-40, drop down on I-15, turn the corner and head back east to Palm Springs. Sometimes the shortest way to get there isn't necessarily a straight line.

When they called tonight, they asked me to notify Uncle Paul and tell him not to wait up for them. He and I had already chatted several times via the internet today, and I could see from his web cam that he was not "working" at his computer (Uncle Paul spent the day "working", trying to make enough money to purchase large quantities of ice cream, peanuts, and beer to feed the weary travelers), so I phoned him with their message. If they should happen to arrive in time for lunch tomorrow, it sounds like they'll get served what they would have eaten for dinner had they arrived today...boiled rat?

Hopefully the skies will soon clear over southern California, or I'm afraid for the sanity of the whole group! Make sure you visit Paul's website at to view the web cam, and enjoy his added comments to the chronicle of the journey.

I'll keep you posted...

Day 5

Day 5 route
Day 5: Needles, CA, to Palm Springs, CA

The final leg of the adventure had our weary travelers up and on the road by 8:00. Breakfast was served in Ludlow, CA, at a colorful, local establishment (unnamed, but compared to the Whistle Stop, which is the local diner in Frontenac), only "more colorful".

Dad resumed his seat as navigator again today. Things got a little dicey around San Bernadino, however, and the navigator threw the map at Joni in the back seat and told her to take over! A crucial mistake...because for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and that would be permanent reassignment to the back of the van for Dad. And we all know what happens to the passengers in the backseat— zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

They arrived at "Chez Paul" (his endearing term for his humble abode) around 1:00 pst, and were met at the van by Uncle Paul, digital camera in-hand. (We are all anxiously awaiting the unveiling of the photos on the web page...tomorrow?)

The reservations for the honeymoon suite and slave quarters had to be swapped, as there was a slight miscalculation on the doorway width on the honeymoon suite--seems it isn't quite wide enough for Mom's wheelchair. (Good thing all the rats succumbed to the poison earlier in the week.)

And speaking of rats...mmmmmm....the stew was delicious.

The rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and the afternoon was spent outside on the patio, watching bunnies, hummingbirds, a few lingering clouds, listening to the whisper of the palms, and tanning. Oh yeah, there was also some beer and red wine involved.

They called me at around 8:00 pm (10:00 cst) to share the news about the day and pass me around the table. (Some of you may not know what that means...that means they had sat down to play cards, 5 handed 500, I believe, and somebody said, "We probably better check-in with Carol", so they call you up and as each one finishes their conversation, passes the phone to the person sitting next to them, until you've made the full circle and nobody knows anything else for news.) From, they instructed me to launch the Veocam which allowed me to view them (in real time--well, almost) sitting at the table playing cards, until some big galoot walked over and got a little too close to the camera! More beer and red wine was involved.

playing cards
Playing cards
some galoot

...and the evening ended in a drunken stupor...I wonder who will be green around the gills tomorrow?

Sweet dreams

Day 6

"...and the evening ended in a drunken stupor...sweet dreams." That's how our story ended yesterday. How prophetic those words ended up being!

Some motels turn down the sheets for you and leave a mint on your pillow...Dad went to bed and found an entire box of chocolates on his. He tried to sample them and discovered they were "hard as rocks"! (They actually were rocks. You see, as part of a long-standing joke, Mom and Paul would exchange rocks as presents. This went on for years and years. I remember Mom getting lava from Hawaii for Christmas. I remember a gold spray-painted rock being unwrapped another time. There were "pet" rocks, magnetic rocks, you name it. Sometimes, there would be a gap of several years where no rocks showed up at all, then, just when you thought they had forgotten about it, it would start all over again. Tag, it must be Mom's turn again.)

up and at em

The travelers enjoyed a leisurely morning, each waking up at their own pace, and doing their own thing. Tom went for a run and then enjoyed a cup of coffee with Paul (who had been up and at 'em for hours, just ask him.)

They ventured out late morning, to grab a bite to eat and do some touring (next three photos attached). Lunch was at the Veggie and Tea House, a Japanese vegetarian restaurant. Dad enjoyed it thoroughly, said, "It was good, but it was no Wiederholts" (his all-time favorite place to eat). They left with full bellies, lower cholesterol and improved sex drives. (That's what they told me!)

ready to gowhere did I leave my suncreenta-ta

As they toured, the license plate count reached 37.

They visited and did "off-road wheel chairing" in the Living Desert, which has plants and animals from the deserts around the world. (Mom is also doing "wheelie" training. She proclaimed she's "all shook up!")

They saw Bighorn sheep, which are native to that area, Mom got swooped by a golden eagle, they went face-to-face with a cougar (through a one-way glass enclosure), learned that roadrunners really do go "beep-beep", and described ostriches as "frickin' huge"! There was also an enormous model train exhibit, featuring "G" size scale trains. "G" size trains are double the size of a Lionel or Lincoln model train.

They have learned there are "rules" when you stay at Chez Paul, three to be exact:

  1. Thou shalt squeegee the shower door when done showering.
  2. Thou shalt not "pace" thyself. (I had to ask for an explanation on this one--as they were enjoying martinis, Paul noticed that Tom's was not disappearing as fast as his own. Tom explained, "I'm pacing myself.")
  3. Moderation is NOT a virtue.

There happen to be four rules at my house, as follows:

  1. Listen to your Mother!
  2. Life is not necessarily fair.
  3. Life will be easier for you if you accept, as gospel, rules #1 and #2.
  4. When all else fails, defer to Aunt Joan's judgment.
dinner time

They had just sat down to eat dinner when they decided to call again tonight. (I see a pattern developing here.) I was given a time limit, as food was on the table, so that's all I learned for today. It sounds like everyone is having a grand time...there are pictures posted on the website if anyone wants to view them.

TGIF tomorrow!

Day 7

As with all adventures, sometimes events happen that cause you to change direction, like detours or washed out roads. Our travelers have already encountered washed out roads, but today they had a different event occur that will put them back on the road — heading home a little earlier than planned. (But then they always said their trip was unscripted.)

During the night last night, Mom's breathing became increasingly labored. It had occurred to them previously that she may need oxygen to assist her, and so they had obtained equipment, just in case. Even so, it was a long night. By morning, Joni and Tom knew that today Mom should go to a doctor to see if there was any medication, beside oxygen, that might help ease her breathing.

The diagram is a cross-section of the two lungs one on either side of the body, filling most of the chest area. The bronchi are like tree trunks with smaller tubes or branches leading off them. Surrounding the lungs are two thin membranes known as the pleura, between the two layers is known as the pleural cavity. The ribs surround the lungs. At the bottom of the right lung is a darken area so that the lung is pushed up, this is a pleural effusion.

They headed to the Desert Regional Medical Center at around 10:30 a.m and spent the next seven hours or so, waiting while the medical staff took lab samples and x-rays, waiting for results of the lab samples, and waiting while the doctors removed 1.2 liters of fluid that had accumulated in the pleural space that exists outside the lung and inside her chest cavity (see: "pleural effusion" in diagram, right). Removing the fluid helped to re-expand her lung and has brought great relief! She is feeling MUCH better!

During all this waiting, there was time to discover that Nurse Omar and Nurse Lisa are fellow Minnesotans, hailing from St. Cloud and Coon Rapids.

The spirits on the trip back to Chez Paul were much lighter than the departure this morning. A liquid diet was served...Mom requested a chocolate milk shake (and she wasn't going to listen to anybodys guff about it!), Paul's preference was a martini, Joni's was a Corona, Tom was drinking "weasel p---" and Dad finished off Paul's dusty bottle of whiskey. (It's been around since John Wayne came to town and it was Dad's assignment to make sure it was empty before he left.)

sound check
Sound check. Carol was complaining and complaining that she had no sound and couldn't read lips on the Veo
snapping Carol
Tom snaps picture of Carol aka Veo. Isn't she cute?
chocolate mustache
Edna wanted a chocolate shake for dinner. Tom snapped the chocolate mustache as proof.
white legs on couch
Study in white legs on couch. Editor's note: They're not that white — it's protective coloration
martini or corona
Martini for Paul, Corona for Joni. And they were both good.
corona or fat weasel
Corona for Joni, Fat Weasel for Tom. Editor's note: It does not taste like weasel p---.
Carl reads
Gotta finish this book. Carl, you've got a ways to go if you read each page 10 times!

The team has decided to cut their visit short and will be starting the journey home tomorrow. The Dr. McArthur has encouraged them to avoid the mountain highways (the thin mountain air may cause Mom some discomfort), so they plan on keeping low on the map and taking the long way home. Are they going to have marathon driving days?...probably not. One of their passengers (I won't name any names, but he was the former navigator) is rumored to have to make frequent pit stops. They were contemplating attaching a garbage bag with some duct tape to help them get some extra miles under their belt.

Everyone is needing a little extra sleep tonight, so they planned on an early bedtime. We are definitely hoping for sweet dreams tonight.

Day 8

They're off!

The white van was last seen turning left out of the driveway Chez Paul, instructions to turn right notwithstanding. It may take longer to get back to Minnesota than expected.

Carol takes up the tale with the daily report:

day 8 route
Day 8: Palm Springs, CA, to Winslow, AZ

My evening phone call came from Joni. She was "standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see..." Everyone had gotten a good night sleep, especially Mom. She slept without the aid of oxygen and woke up feeling so sunny that Tom (when he finally returned from his morning run--he got lost) decided to rename her: instead of Edna Mae she's now Edna Ray! Paul woke up with the start of a head cold, feeling all stuffed up. But being the gracious host that he is, he allowed Mom to "order breakfast off the menu" and served up a special order omelet. (The rule is that, as host, he does not cater to his guests and only serves Continental breakfasts, although I don't remember that rule being mentioned previously on the Chez Paul rules list (see Day 6). Even with all the rules, they tell me that they highly recommend Chez Paul for accomodations! (Visit our website at for rates and reservations--call early to avoid the rush!)

It was a beautiful day in Palm Springs, 76 degrees, no clouds. They even spent some time on the patio enjoying the weather before they left. Although he'd been twice removed as navigator, Dad reclaimed his seat as co-pilot. They gave Mom the choice of east, west, or north (they couldn't go much farther south) and she chose Home, so that's where they headed.

They saw a magnificent grove of orange trees outside of Blythe, CA, near the Arizona border. Saguaro cacti were growing all along the freeway as they drove through Arizona. They passed under an overpass named Sore Finger Road. Joni says that her finger was not the body part that was sore at the time; can you guess which part was sore? For the first time on the trip, they actually encountered bugs, and had to clean splatters off the windshield. Another first happened when they got to use an H.O.V. (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane around Phoenix. They supported the Girl Scouts of America, Phoenix chapter, by buying and eating a box of cookies--Tagalongs.

When they started out the morning, they were at sea level, sunny, and 76 degrees. By the time they reached Flagstaff, AZ, they were at 6000 ft above sea level, 33 degrees, and it was snowing to beat the band. It would have only been another 30 miles (or so) to see the Grand Canyon at sunset, but it was almost white-out conditions, so they passed on it.

The license plate count has climbed to 43.

Father and son seem to be "bonding" during this trip. Or maybe it's because the branch doesn't fall too far from the tree? the restaurant where they dined this evening, Tom and Dad were sitting next to each other. Dad had ordered a brandy on the rocks to go with his meal, but hadn't really drank too much of it. Tom looks at the drink and says, "if you're just gonna throw it away, I guess I'll get rid of it for you." Dad told him never mind; he could manage to take care of it. A little while later, Dad is still nursing the drink, so Tom asks him if he "needs a nipple for that thing"? (Sounds like Tom will be on a 6-pack mission again later tonight.)

After listening to Uncle Paul quote "his mama" the past few days, they wanted to let him know that the movie they are watching tonight is Forrest Gump, and "Mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates'." (They're sure you're missing them already!)

Tomorrow they'll continue heading east on I40, into New Mexico and will pass through the northwest corner of Texas on their way into Oklahoma (unless they see something interesting or scenic along the way.)

To be continued

Day 9

day 9 route
Day 9: Winslow, AZ, to Shamrock, TX

As our story continues, our weary travelers left Winslow, AZ, around 9:30 this morning, following Old Route 66, otherwise known as Interstate 40, heading east, amid fog and 36 degrees. Mom's quote for the day was, "I'm seeing different things, but it's still worthless." Obviously, she is not impressed with Old Route 66 and says if it's on your must-do list, cross it off. (To: Paul--maybe disappointed she didn't see Tod and Buzz in the corvette?)

They passed tons of Indian markets, selling souvenir rocks, Indian dolls, Mojave blankets, and artwork--all made by authentic Indians, who else?

They reached the New Mexico border around 11:30 and were met with hail and snow, or as Dad called it, "solid rain." They saw new and interesting vegetation and rock formations, otherwise known as buttes, mesas and snow capped mountains.

About an hour west of Albuquerque, they passed the Continental Divide. When they reached Tucumcari, New Mexico, they decided to stop to eat at a place called "K-Bobs". Joni recommends their "fire-breathing" hot wings; the others were more considerate of their close-quarter traveling companions and opted for milder choices requiring less flame extinguishing.

They followed a rainbow into Texas, at around 6:30, and returned to central standard time. (Yahoo! My eyes were starting to get a little blurry from these late night compositions.) Did you know...Texas has a slower speed limit at night? (It's five miles slower than the daytime posted limit). Did you know...there is only one rest stop on I40, but it has lots of picnic spots and lots of parking? Tom's quote for the day came as they crossed the Texas border, "...smells like cow shit".

Dad's quote for the day was "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz". (There seemed to be an air quality issue in the front seat today.)

In all, they traveled 639 miles today, finally ending up in Shamrock, TX, holed up in the executive suites at the Best Western. Joni said they have more room space tonight than they know what to do with. Tom thought he'd go for a swim; Joni opted to do a little laundry. Tomorrow they plan on adding a northern curve to their route, but couldn't tell me where on the map that might be...yet (still non-committal on the itinerary)...they'll have to sleep on it.

Till then —Carol

Day 10

Day 10 route
Day 10: Shamrock, TX, to Cameron, MO

Breakfast in bed sounded like a good idea this morning! (I thought so, too, but I couldn't get room service to answer my call.) I suppose that's what sleeping in the executive suite will do to you.

Our travelers left sunny, Shamrock, TX, around 10:00 a.m. on a smooth road, Oklahoma bound, heavy emphasis on smooth...which leads me to believe that prior to this, the roads they've been traveling could have been just a little rough? Three thousand, six hundred and ten (3,610) miles into the trip, Mom said to Tom, "Did I ever mention to you that I give you permission to miss the rough spots in the road?"

Red dirt, red dirt, and more red dirt. It's everywhere! ...Who came up with the name Elk City, Oklahoma? There are no elk, only cattle...They passed through what seemed like every Indian nation, the Comanche, the Navajo, the Hopi, the Cherokee, the Apache, the Cheyenne, and Arapaho (I asked how they knew that they had passed through all those nations---they said they knew because a sign along the way announced each one as they entered.) Mom said she "wouldn't have fought the Indians for any of that land, except maybe the Cheyenne around Oklahoma City, where it was greener and the cattle looked like they had something to graze on." They crossed the Chisholm Trail, more than once.

At Oklahoma City, they changed directions and headed north on I35. Tom told Mom to "lean into the turn".

The big news of the day was that Dad did such an awesome job of navigating them around Oklahoma City, that they've decided to reinstate him to "probationary" navigator status, however, Tom still says he's full of sh--. Dad's been feeling a little plugged in the ears and finally announced "my brains must be loose, that's what's rattling around."

They saw more rows of Meyer poles--at least, Joni, Tom, and Mom did. No comment from Dad left them wondering if perhaps he has been retired from Meyer Industries a bit too long. Shouldn't there be a penalty, like losing your pension, if you actually pass by a line of poles and don't point them out? He also missed the herd of buffalo. (I think he just needed his glasses cleaned. He saw the oil wells, didn't he?)

They entered Kansas around 2:30. They're trying to tell me they saw cotton fields in Kansas. (Are you sure the wheat didn't just have snow stuck on it?---I did the research and yes, Kansas was one of 17 states with cotton as an agricultural output, but it was second to last on the list.) There was a stretch of interstate where the trees on both sides had no foliage (they didn't say why)--but in the trees were lots of hawks and other birds of prey. Lots of wind today.

The Sirloin Stockade in Ottawa, KS, won the restaurant lottery of the day. There they raised their glasses (2 milks, 1 ice tea and 1 diet Pepsi) in a salute to Steve Flynn, on his 15th birthday. Congratulations, Steve! They plan on saluting Barney tomorrow, on his birthday, with their morning cappuccinos. Happy Birthday, Barney! (And Tom's birthday follows on Wednesday...)

They were back on the road again in time to enjoy the beautiful sunset near Wellsville, KS. It was between 6:30 and 7:00 when they saw the lights of the Kansas City(s), Kansas and Missouri. The road should start looking familiar from here, as they retrace their tread marks from the first day of the journey. They kept going, but only as far as Cameron, Missouri. (Hey! I've been to Cameron, MO. Several times, in fact. I've even shopped at the Walmart there. My husband's oldest sister has lived in Manhattan, KS, for several years now and we've made the trek a few times over the years.)

The mileage for today was a mere 560. We posed this question to Aunt Joan tonight when she called..."Based on today's mileage, how many days would it take you to go around the world?" She said, "None, because I'm not getting back in this car and you can't make me!" They figure they have about 7 hours of driving left yet tomorrow, before this adventure is officially complete.

Here's to one more day

Day 11

day 11 route
Day 11: Cameron, MO, to Red Wing, MN

Let's say you were trying to decide what to wear today--it's March 1st, you're in Cameron, MO, (about 150 miles south of Des Moines, IA), it's sunny, but the temperature outside only reads 25 degrees, and you're heading north...did you choose shorts? Tom did, and that's what he was still wearing when they arrived home tonight.

"Go North, young man", Edna Ray said to High Beam (Tom's new name). They got on the road around 10am today, and shortly after had to salute Barney Flynn's birthday at the a.m coffee break. (Here's to you, Barney!) They seem to have developed quite a liking to their morning cappuccino routine. They crossed the Iowa border shortly before 11am and remarked that the landscape was starting to look more like home. Someone spotted a semi truck from the S.B. Foot Company, Red Wing, MN.

Just south, and a little bit west of Des Moines, is the town of Winterset, IA, birthplace of one Marion Robert Morrison, otherwise better known as John Wayne. Did you ever hear the story about the time Dad bought The Duke a beer? (He's the only one who can tell it, so you'll have to ask him about it sometime.) The town of Winterset also happens to be right in the middle of the Bridges of Madison County. That's why is took the travelers 10 hours to get home--somebody still had some sight-seeing to do!

Originally boasting 19 covered bridges, six remain today. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors, not to keep the snow off in the wintertime, but to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were more expensive to replace than the lumber used to cover the bridge sides and roof. Usually, the bridges were named for the resident who lived closest. The original cost to build a covered bridge was between $900 and $2000 dollars; present day renovations have cost as much as $120,000 to $225,000! They visited three of the six bridges; the Holliwell Bridge, the Culter-Donahoe Bridge, and the Cedar Bridge. The Cedar Bridge is the one featured in the novel. It had to be reconstructed after it was destroyed by arson on 9/3/02. It is the only bridge you are still allowed to drive through. So they did. (I also understand that Dad left his "mark" on two of the three bridges they visited.)

When they stopped for lunch at the Northside Cafe, Tom's attire made for interesting conversation with the locals. Most were amazed that he was from Minnesota, and heading to Minnesota, in shorts.

Officially, they travelled exactly 4,500 miles round trip. Officially, the license plate count ended up at 47--including 5 Canadian plates, 1 Mexican plate, and 1 District of Columbia plate.

Officially, they arrived home at 7:00 pm, cst. Joni asked Mom if there'd be anything they'd do different next time? Mom officially declined.

And I have officially completed my assignment of journaling their trip for you. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.



Geezer tourists
Geezer tourists

Nothing can compare to sleeping in your own bed, with your own pillow and blankets around you. Ahhhh--it's good to be back home! (It could be a little warmer though.)

The suitcases are unpacked and put away, the dirty laundry is processing, the 'fridge has been restocked, photos developed, even the van has been washed and vacuumed. It feels good.

Tom and Joni are ready to go again — just not tomorrow.

After eleven days without watching Bonanza or Gunsmoke, and no computer solitaire, Dad has picked up where he left off, in his recliner with a remote control in both hands.

two-fisted remotes
Two-fisted remotes
designated drinker
Designated drinker

Mom stayed in bed today, giving her bottom side a much needed reprieve. She said, "Maybe I'll think about getting out of bed. Tomorrow."

And I'm signing off — until the next adventure.


Meyer poles

For those with an abiding interest in "Meyer poles" — and there apparently are such among the faithful readership — here are some Meyer poles (Thank you, Jim). Read all about them at Meyer Steel Structures.

utility pole
utility pole
utility pole