Her dimples accentuated her sweet smile while my train of thought skipped, jumped and finally derailed. For a minute, maybe two, all I could do was gaze speechless upon her face. Finally the words arrived and I leaned forward to whisper them softly in her ear, “You look well rested.” She responded with a look as queer as my statement. She made my heart skip a beat and the best I could muster was, “You look well rested”. Thankfully no one else in Starbucks heard my lame comment. But my words were true. That is how Sue appeared under those dim LED lights sitting next to a large poster of Oprah hawking her new tea.
With the above distraction behind us lets focus on the main topic, travel. In a few hours Sue and I will leave on a two-month driving tour around the US. We will first head toward northern Utah, past Zion, Bryce, Park City and the Wasatch Mountains. We will be mostly car camping and hoteling across the US but we do plan a couple of days hiking on the AT. One of the early highlights of the trip will be a visit with my brother and sister-in-law in Casper Wyoming. It has been far too long since we have enjoyed each other’s company.
The next stop I am looking forward to is Hannibal Missouri. Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors and it’s always fun to see his stomping grounds and watch the muddy Mississippi River roll by. We are in a bit of a hurry to get to Virginia but have scheduled a full day in Hannibal.
Now I suspect I’ll get some odd looks when I say the next state I’m looking forward to is Indiana but it’s true. In fact the Midwest is one of my favorite regions of America despite being devoid of towering mountains or ocean beaches. But it also doesn’t have “the attitude” that I’ve witnessed in some of the other regions I’ve lived in.
One of the many pleasant characteristic I associate with Midwestern’s is they are less preoccupied with image. They don’t obsess about being the trendiest, coolest or weirdest people in America; they’re content with just being themselves, citizens of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, etc.
If you have only seen the Midwest from an interstate you have not experienced its soul. To experience the charm and beauty of Middle America you need to travel slowly. You need to visit small farm towns and be there long enough to see the fields change color and texture. You need to stroll down the midway of a county fair inhaling the smells of grilled meats and roasted corn and then take a seat in one of the arenas to get an earful of the men in jeans and overalls speaking their version of American English. A county fair is a wonderful blend of fun and education for all ages.
The Midwest also has great biking. Some of the prettiest and toughest bicycle rides I have done have been through Southern Indiana. If you want hills that will force the average and even some above average cyclist to get off their bike and walk, Southern Indiana can oblige. Indiana also has a wonderful state park/lodge system. The lodges are close enough that you can cycle from one to the next. TRIRI is a bicycle event that takes advantage of that and if you want to see Southern Indiana at the peak of autumn colors ride the Hilly Hundred. The Hilly is the best-organized cycling or running event I have ever participated in including RAGBRAI and the Marine Corps Marathon.
From the Midwest we’ll head to Virginia where we will celebrate my niece’s graduation from Montessori and her entry into High School. After that we hope to spend some time in the Mountains of Virginia and hike a few miles on the AT before traveling to Upstate New York to celebrate my father-in-laws 95th birthday. If he shares any secrets to his long, healthy and fulfilling life I’ll pass them along. By the way I suspect he would agree with me about Sue’s cute smile. He’s been mesmerized by it even longer than I have. Well that’s all I know about our trip so far. Thanks for stopping by and happy travels.