September 29th – Beached

     In daylight, I found that I was parked at a place called Hawthorne Park. A thicket of trees surrounded the lot I had stopped in, and just past those trees, I discovered a beautiful wetland reserve. Since I was already parked there, I decided to start my morning off with a brisk walk around the water.

     With the invigoration that comes from spending time in nature, I began my drive to Chicago. I made two miles of progress before my stomach reminded me that invigoration is a wonderful thing, but food is much more practical, and I hadn’t eaten yet. I stopped at a Subway and walked in to buy I sandwich, as I usually do. After I parked, I realized that this Subway had a drive-through window! I continued in my old-fashioned ways though and walked in, bought my sandwich, and got back on the road. 

     A hundred fifty miles later, my attention was irresistibly drawn to signs on the Interstate that advertised for the, “Albanese Candy Factory.” It wasn’t the name that attracted me though, it was the pictures of giant gummy bears. I followed the signs and found the factory a few miles off the Interstate. Several windows in the back of the store allowed me to see into the candy factory, but cameras were prohibited.

    There was a wide variety of gummy candies in the store. I managed to restrain myself to purchasing two small bags.

    After driving another seventy-five miles, I made it to Chicago. That was the extent of my planning for the day – just make it into the city. So I pulled off the road and enjoyed this beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline as I worked out a place to stay.

     I couldn’t find a free campsite anywhere near Chicago, so I prepared myself to pay for a site. I settled upon the Illinois State Beach campground. I had to drive another fifty miles to get there, but I it was a great campsite and I did not really want to stay close Chicago itself.

     The day ended with pushups, a shower, and a chance to sit down and read more of A Walk Across America. 

Travel Details
Starting Point: Terra Haute, Indiana
Destination: Illinois State Beach, Illinois
General Route: North on State Highway 41 and Interstate 65
Miles Driven: 275
Additional Note: 200 push-ups completed at Illinois State Beach, now 9 states done!

Additional additional note: I will include the above section when I have long days of driving so that it will be easier to see where I have been and how I’ve gotten there!

September 22nd – Milford Lake

     I woke up to find that, in daylight, there was a beautiful view outside my windows. I also found that the sun, which highlights the landscape so well, heats up the air also. Especially the air in a confined space, like my car. So I got out of heat box and took a short walk, then returned to my car, started up the air conditioner, and drove toward my next destination. 

     That destination wasn’t very far away. It was a basketball court in Hill City, Kansas that I’d found online last week. When I began my trip, I intended to do basketball drills twice a week as I had done with my brother during the summer, but it has been more difficult than I anticipated to find courts. Well, here was one in the middle of Kansas, and I was going to use it. Even though the sun was hot, and even though the court was on a street corner so that every driver probably stared at me as they drove past and said, “Doesn’t he look funny, doing all those weird jumpy thingies!”

     I think I did look funny doing my jumpy thingies, but that is okay. I finished up my drills and got ready to get back on the road. Before leaving, I pulled some food out of my stash. I used cajun deli turkey, Muenster cheese, and tortillas to make a delicious wrap.

     One hundred fifteen miles later, I was in Junction City, driving around Milford lake in search of a shady spot to park and camp. It took me two loops around the campsite to find the only tree in the area that provided decent shade. It wouldn’t cover my car, but it did cover a grassy spot so that I could inflate my balloon chair underneath it and spend the rest of the afternoon reading comfortably.

     And that’s what I did. I continued reading A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. This book is an autobiographical narrative of Peter Jenkin’s trip across the country, a little bit like the blog that I am writing. There are a few differences though. Peter didn’t have a cozy car to hide in, and he didn’t spend afternoons reading under shade trees. He started his walk in 1973, in upstate New York and traveled about thirty miles a day in his quest to cross the continent. It has been fun to read this account of another traveler, even though we’ve had different paths and approaches.

     I stayed happily in my spot until the sun met the horizon. Then I got up, took a few pictures, and put my balloon chair back into my car. I finished the evening with a call to my family, then climbed into bed. 

September 6th – A Blessing of Showers

     My drive today was a short one – only two hours. I made it to the West Yellowstone KOA before noon, checked in, and spent the rest of the day dawdling around my camping area. I picked one of the four simple tent camping plots available.

     Today I finished reading a book that I started while I was camping at the Hoh River. It’s called In Conquest Born and was written by C.S. Friedman. This was first Friedman’s first published work and she has never become a super successful author, so it’s not an amazing read. I enjoyed it though. It is a Sci-Fi novel that tells the story of two very different galactic empires that exist in perpetual war. The Azean Empire tries to build its power by genetically engineering diseases and defects out of its race. Science, experimentation, and bureaucracy drive the people and the military. The Braxin Empire is run by an aristocracy of “purebloods” who are physically and mentally superior to the rest of their race. They use fear and misinformation to keep their empire in line. The story follows an Azean with psychic powers as she overcomes inhibiting circumstances to become the most powerful general in her empire’s fleet, and a Braxin who violates many customs of his proud race as he gathers power to himself and eventually becomes Emperor. These two powerfully driven individuals meet early in their pursuit of power and become consumed with personal vendettas to defeat the other and end the war between the empires forever, with the extinction of the enemy race.

     As I said, this was not the best book ever written, but it did have me on the edge of my seat. After I started it last Saturday, I have been keeping myself busy with driving, sleeping, and doing the small chores that need to be done every day. Today I finally had a chance to sit down and enjoy the book.

     Another change I appreciated was the availability of a shower. It has been awhile since I left Seattle – my last civilized stop. I’m learning to be grateful for “small” things like showers!

     In the afternoon I took a picture of the back of my car so that y’all can see how wonderfully comfortable it is.

     In the evening, I went to the pool – the pool building, to be more I accurate. I stayed in the hot tub the whole time. That gave me the opportunity to talk to other travelers.

     I met a young couple who live in Eastern Washington. I asked them about their work at a YMCA children’s camp and about their experiences at Yellowstone. They told me to be prepared for huge crowds of people in the park.

     We were joined by a couple who are on vacation from the Netherlands, taking a break from their jobs as an accountant and a school teacher. A few minutes later, another couple joined the party. They were from Michigan. They had just dropped off their youngest child at college and were celebrating their new time alone together. They talked with the couple from the Netherlands about football – both couples are diehard fans. I tuned out for awhile and closed my eyes.

     I only got to keep my eyes closed for a few seconds before I began being talked to by a gregarious young homeschooled girl. She told me that she was excited to be entering the sixth grade but wanted her mom to put her back in normal school so that she could see her friends again.

     Finally, a group of six people entered the building and made their way toward us. I knew I was a prune from sitting in the water for so long and I had no wish to be turned into prune juice by having six people sit down on my lap. I took the opportunity to head back to my car and get ready for bed.

     That’s about all the interesting stuff that happened today. Tomorrow I will start exploring Yellowstone!

September 2nd – New Friends

     Have you ever tried being friends with a stone? How about a shelf made of rock? Maybe a fallen tree branch?

     Well today, I did all three. I intended to spend the day in perfect happiness like I spent yesterday. But today I planned to read more and move less. That proved to be more difficult than I expected.

      After another slow morning, I set about the task of enjoying my reading time. It worked well for an hour before I got tired of the flies constantly landing on me. So I spent the day moving from place to place in the vain hope that I could find one location where the flies might not bother me. Around 11 A.M. the sun added itself into the equation. It wasn’t a hot day, probably only 80 degrees or so, but it was warm enough to be uncomfortable if you happened to be sitting under the sun trying to read.

     So I fidgeted around, then decided to go for a drive. I ended up at a cafe that sits just inside the park border. It’s called the Hard Rain Cafe. As much as possible, I am trying to keep food costs down by buying groceries and making my own food and I’ve been doing pretty well. So at the cafe, I intended to continue being good; to just get a cup of refreshing Huckleberry iced tea. That worked until the tea was all gone. At that point, I broke down and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich with onion rings. Real, warm food! After I enjoyed my splurge, I drove back to my campsite – where I promptly resumed my circuit of the available seats, trying to escape the flies, hide from the sun, and avoid having rocks poke through my back. I cycled through several chairs in my quest.

     First, there was my tent. That worked for awhile, but the sun eventually ducked below the trees and spoiled my private party. Then there was my balloon chair, but that would only work on the sand, and the sand was mostly in the sun too. On my first day here (Thursday), I made friends with the fallen tree branch that sat invitingly by the firepit. Today I visited him again – but no, he was having a meeting with the sun and the flies. They invited me to join, but I walked off in search of less bothersome company. Eventually, I saw a hospitable looking stone. I asked politely if I could use it as a temporary seat. It did not reply, nor did it protest as I sat on it. With people, silence does not always mean consent, but with inanimate objects, sometimes that just has to be enough. He After sitting on him awhile, I moved to a shelf of rocks by the water. This was a perfect spot for me to sit and dip my feet in the cool river. So I did. And I found that I could also lean back and recline. The rocks did poke me a little, but after the shelf got to know me a little better, I think it tried to be more gentle with me.

     That was the extent of my excitement for the day. Oh, except for one more thing! While moving around my campsite, the most terrifying insect I have ever seen landed right next to me. I am not usually scared of bugs, but this one had me running. I grabbed my camera (since it was on my way away from the insect). If anyone knows what exactly this creature is, I would love to find out. I’m guessing it’s some kind of a beetle, but I don’t know which type.

     Now, as I go to sleep, I will hope to avoid nightmares of large insects with menacing antennae crawling across my tent and finding their way inside. Ugh!


September 1st – R&R

     The sun woke me up for a minute as it rose over the trees on the far bank of the river around 8 A.M., but I happily ignored it and went back to sleep until 9 A.M. Then I decided it was time to bless the world with my unkempt hair and grumpy morning personality.

     Breakfast today came in the form of a tuna bagelwich – a meal I invented at lunch yesterday. I bought six cheese-jalapeno bagels to pair with the canned tuna that my mom kindly sent with me when I left. It is my new favorite meal!

     Next, I looked for a book to read. I brought three boxes of them with me, so it took a few minutes for me to decide. I settled upon a novel by Andrew Klavan, titled True Crime.a I spent the next three hours entranced. The story is a detective thriller, but the excitement didn’t come from the crime or the trial, as it usually does. The subject of the book is a man on Death Row who has one day left to live. A journalist is assigned to interview him; to learn what goes through the mind of a man who is about to die. But as soon as the journalist is given the assignment, he smells something fishy about the case. The details of the crime don’t connect for him and he is left with the horrible thought that this man might have been convicted falsely. This is where the story takes place. It follows the journalist as he tries to figure out what doesn’t make sense, then rushes around attempting to find solid evidence that will support his intuition so that he can stop the execution in time.

     So I spent the morning reading. But after several hours of sitting, my legs started complaining. They used the oldest trick in the book – emotional manipulation. “If you really like us, you’ll use us to go take a walk.”. I gave in and told them I’d drive to the Hoh River Visitor’s Center so that we could go hiking. That made them happy. However, when I arrived at the Visitor’s Center, I had to disappoint them. I went inside to get a map of the area but encountered other people on the way. Other people! I simply couldn’t be asked to socialize today. I was having too much fun being alone and reading.

     I apologized to my legs for the false promise I had given them and drove back toward my campsite. On my way back, I decided to check in with my family. I suppose that some people are okay to talk with and be around. In the depths of the forest, I had no cell phone reception so I drove north until I regained a signal. When the beep of incoming emails sounded, I knew I had made it. I found a shady spot to pull off the road and called home. After talking, I noticed that the place I had pulled off really was nicely shaded. I decided to stick around for awhile. First I made myself another tuna bagel-wich, then I called James – the friend I stayed with in San Luis Obispo. Finally, I returned to my book.

     With seventy pages left to go, I took a break to reassure my legs that they were still greatly appreciated. When I finished walking, I figured it would be good to go back to camp and finish my book there.

     So I did. It was a great story and had a great ending. I won’t spoil it!

     Filled with the excitement of finishing a good book, I started the one responsibility I had set for myself today – 200 pushups. Twenty-three minutes later, I was done. Now I’m three for three! California, Oregon, and Washington are all done. Next up is Idaho.

     And that’s all for today! The river is murmuring quietly beside me – I think it’s telling me to get some sleep. I’m going to stop writing and listen to it.