Apparently I can turn a 10-hour drive into a 15-hour day, no problem! I stayed 9.5 hours from Sioux City Monday night… if I took interstate. However, interstate was going to take me through Saint Louis during rush hour, so I said no thank you, chose a route with no highways and headed north on some pretty small country roads. I told a friend who knows the area where I am from that the roads were narrower than the “Harrison Road,” which is what we called the county road between Corsica and Harrison, SD when I was growing up. Once I was far enough north that the GPS quit trying to get me to go back south to Saint Louis as the fastest route, I added highways back into the routing.
I ate breakfast at a little diner called “Country Kitchen” in Taylorville, IL. I thought there was a chain by that name, but this definitely didn’t seem to be a chain restaurant. After I finished a very hearty helping of hash browns, corned beef, eggs, and veggies, an old timer came and sat down across from me as I was counting out my money to pay. He opened the conversation by noting how hard life can become when you are 90. He wasn’t a whiny sort of fellow nor was he lonely for the whole restaurant had been filled nearly to capacity with old timers having breakfast when I came in. He chatted about his family, how he worked for the telephone company for 38 years, and especially about his wife.
After his initial comment about his age, I asked him what decade he liked the most. He needed me to rephrase the question, so I asked him what the favorite time in his life was. He said it was when he was married and expanded the comment to say he was married 61 years. The convo continued, but every little while, it circled back to how long he was married and how much he loved his wife. Although he didn’t mention it directly, it was obvious from the way he referenced her that she had died. Eventually he told me it was from cancer. As our conversation was wrapping up, he got out his smart phone. I knew I was just about to see a picture of his wife. Sure enough, there she was holding a little pot of flowers. It wasn’t a picture of her when she was 20, but when she must have been 80 or more. It was so clear that he loved her forever. What else struck me about it was that the picture he showed me was not her in what the average person considers the prime of beauty and life. Rather it was her after they had grown old loving each other. She was gorgeous to him at that age.
I made my way back on interstate and about 2 I became bored with the passing miles of interstate (I had only been there for a few hours), I decided to take a turn north again. This turn wasn’t chosen by my GPS, but by calling a friend and asking where I should turn north. She said I could on 63 or, if I wanted a curvier road, 149 seemed to be a good choice. I decided on the latter option. I was now on the curviest road I had been on so far – even in the Smoky Mountains. This time it was around hills covered with trees and pastureland. I was in northern Missouri. The difference between my diversion in Illinois and Missouri is that in Illinois it had been incredibly simple to find the next highway to take me west. Missouri was a different story. It took me hours to get back to interstate. It was well worth it though because I had wanted to see the hills of Missouri very much. You can tell the difference between Illinois and Missouri in the pics by whether they are flat or hilly. I went through Iowa as well but did not stop to take photos. It looked much the same as Missouri with a few less trees and straighter roads.
Oh, and after being on 149 for about 20 miles, I came to a sign that said “Road closed in four miles. Local traffic only.” So I just took random roads west and north until I got my GPS to take over again. These are the good times!
I finally slept in this morning. I have been waking around 4 for weeks just due to stress. It feels so good to be typing this from my bed, and it is almost 9 am!