Sunday, August 30, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Posted by noisysmile at 9:23 PM
Friday, August 21, 2009
Posted by noisysmile at 3:15 PM
Thursday, August 13, 2009
*Important Note* Robert and I bought a small pull behind RV earlier this summer. This was our first long trip.
Please excuse all spelling and grammatical errors. Also, this is a tad long so you might want to grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable. I wanted to break it up but couldn't figure out how. Oh and for the pictures you need to visit my myspace.
Last Saturday, 8/1, we took off in our RV and rushed to Chicago to visit Robin, a very special friend of mine (we’re also related too-she’s my mom’s cousin). The last time I visited her was about twelve years ago and I totally loved her then but we didn’t keep in touch after that. About three years ago we found each other through blogging and since then it has been a wish of mine to visit her, Jay (her husband) and Meander (their golden). Well last week that wish came true! We were able to visit for awhile on Sunday and then on Tuesday she drove up to the campground where Robert and I were staying at and we went hiking and cooked out. It was a total blast. I wish we lived closer together. It’s interesting that my most favorite people, Scott, Robin and Louis, all live so so far away (mom and grandma you don’t count because you’re close by sometimes).
Oh but this trip was so amazing. We drove through Iowa just to see something different. We saw a lot of corn. Every little teeny tiny space was filled with corn. I think we even saw it in the median a few times. Just goes to show that different isn’t always good. But still it was my first time in Iowa. When I told my father that I was finally going to Iowa he said, “at least your first 22 years were good.” He never knows my age.
But Iowa wasn’t all bad. Somewhere towards the end of it was the world’s largest truck stop. It had a dentist, movie theater, food court and an entire wall of LED lights. Robert swears that he can build a semi out of the parts they sell there. And I’m inclined to believe him.
After rushing through Iowa we decided to stop for the night in a mystery place. My mom called after we woke up the next morning and asked where we were. I told her we were at a Flying J. “But where,” she asked. “Not a damn clue,” I said as I stumbled into a large water tower with 'La Salle' painted on its side.
We should have known that the rest of the day was going to be much the same way, with a lot of blundering and confusion, but no, we filled up on truck stop food (grits and rye toast) and took off blindly. It was a Sunday so we had assumed that Chicago traffic would be light and that we wouldn’t have a huge problem finding an RV spot so we could hook up, leave the dogs and take the truck into Chicago to see Robin. WRONG. After looking for and not finding an RV park we decided to look for a camping world. The first camping world no longer existed, although thankfully there was a sign in the parking lot with the new location written on it. When we found the new location the people there kindly directed us to Chain O’ Lakes (spitting distance from Wisconsin), which is exactly what it sounds like. Like a bag o’ donuts you buy at the gas station, a cheap little park filled with a smattering of lakes. At first we were excited. We had visions of swimming with the dogs, which has been a goal that we have been pursuing for three years now. Every place that offers swimming is always for humans or for dogs. There’s no swimming for dogs and humans. So Robert and I were pretty gosh darn excited about the swimming factor.
After we found the place we hooked up and dropped the dogs off and set off for
Chicago. We were perfectly aware of the toll roads. In fact we had spent about $20 in tolls just driving around trying to find an RV park, but we what we weren’t aware of was the fact that our GPS was trying to take us on all the toll roads. At one point we just decided to keep on driving straight (we actually missed our turn), and not only did we save time by missing the toll turn, we also missed the toll turn. I am not kidding nor am I paranoid. Our GPS was out to get us.
Finally, finally, we arrived at Robin’s place, which was this little extraordinary piece of paradise right on the edge of what appeared to be Hell. As Robert and I drove in we made sure the doors were locked and whispered small prayers. Well I did. When we arrived at Robin’s the view completely tackled me, and for a small moment I became a water person. It was unbelievable. Her apartment is right on Lake Michigan, and after meeting Meander and getting a quick and delicious bite to eat at a nearby Greek restaurant we all went out to her back porch and watched and listened to the waves. There is something healing about her place, and I’m positive that it has everything to do with the water. We had a wonderful chat that night, sitting outside with Robin and Jay, sharing memories and laughs. I cannot illustrate the power of good conversation with words. Nor can I illustrate the sound of the waves.
The next day Robert’s mom and grandma met us at the campsite. They were on their way back from Philadelphia and decided to stop by and explore Chicago with us. And that’s what we did. We ate the best pizza I have ever had and drove through Boystown. We even stopped at the Whole Foods in Boystown and picked up some vegan beef jerky (a no no) and root beer (fantastic!). After we left Chicago we returned to Chain O’ Lakes for our second night. Robert’s mom was thrilled to stay in the RV, but because Robert’s grandma did not receive a formal invitation to sleep in the RV she opted to sleep in the car. Yes folks, Robert’s grandma stayed in the car. At the beginning of the day Robert had pulled me aside, and with that cute face of his, asked me if his mom and grandma could stay with us. I was all for it, not because I really wanted them to stay but because I would be owed. Because it was a huge favor Robert would no doubt be playing with my hair and listening to Mary Oliver’s poetry all the way back home. It sounded like a good idea to me. Well then Robert took it one step further and asked me to invite them. This did not sound like a good idea, but I half agreed because I figured I might be able to get a t-shirt out of the deal. Well I never really invited them. I just said, “so are you guys staying with us?” Well apparently that was a big fat mistake because I didn’t say, “Ms. Audrey and Ms. Carolyn you are cordially invited to sleep in our recreational vehicle.” So Robert’s grandma opted to sleep in the car, and although we asked her politely and then not so politely to get in the damn RV, she refused. She wouldn’t even use our bathroom! At first we were worried about her, especially since she would have to walk to the park’s bathroom if she needed to pee, but later, as we sat around eating ice cream and playing cards we all started laughing at the situation, and you know, I kind of hope that his grandma heard us. The whole situation just makes me appreciate my grandma even more.
After Robert’s mom and grandma left we investigated the park where we were staying at and discovered that nobody could go swimming. Not even the dogs. Apparently there is an evil weed lurking beneath the waters. We didn’t ask any questions. I’ve read stories and seen movies about vicious plants. As a vegetarian I’m already on their shit list.
After Robert’s mom and grandma left, Robin, Jay and Meander came out to the park and we went for a wonderful hike which was more like a stroll through various parking lots, but because we were accompanied by three exuberant golden retrievers it was a very awesome experience. We could have been walking next to a sewage plant and we wouldn’t have cared. As predicted Meander and Ella became fast friends. Rose, who is strictly a Robert lover, even enjoyed his presence but had to use her stern voice a few times. After our hike Robert and Jay went to Wal-Mart and Robin and I had a wonderful conversation. When Robert and Jay got back we set some hot dogs and marshmallows on fire and had a fantastic dinner.
After dinner we sat around and chatted some more until a very old and cranky park ranger told us that we had to leave. Earlier in the day Robert had spoken to the park manager and asked for a few extra hours because we didn’t want to stay the night. The manager had agreed to give us a couple extra hours because we didn’t want to get charged for the whole night since we were leaving before the night even started. Well this park ranger told us to put leashes on our dogs (they were laying at our feet) and get out before a certain time. So we had to quickly pack up and say our goodbyes to Robin, Jay and Meander.
We headed to Joliet where Robert’s mother and grandma had found a motel (it’s ok I’m laughing too) and parked in a Taco Bell for the night that was located next to where they were staying. Robert’s mom actually paid more money to stay in a motel with an indoor pool so that Robert and I could go swimming. This was a huge deal, because as most of you know, she is a penny pinching, ramekin stealing, coupon crazed maniac.
The next day we started out on Route 66 and visited quite a few fun places including the Joliet prison and the Gemini Giant.
BUT, before I bore you to tears I am just going to skip ahead to my favorite part of Route 66 in IL. Robert and I thought we were just going to stop for a few minutes and take pictures of a semi with a ‘Humpin’ to please’ logo on it at Henry's Rabbit Ranch. It was late in the day and we weren’t expecting to see anybody. Boy were we in for a surprise. As we started looking around at the place the owner approached us and asked us if we wanted to look inside the shop. So we did. While we were looking around he started talking about Montana, a black rabbit who obviously meant a lot to him. He pulled out pictures, books and pamphlets bearing her name and pictures before finally mentioning that she ran for president. That’s when Robert and I knew that we weren’t just talking to an ordinary person. The guy pulled out banners, buttons and shirts with “Montana for president” written all over them and told us that she had one over on all the previous presidential candidates. “First,” he said, “she’s a woman. And not only is she a woman, she’s also black and old.” Well what could we say to that?
Before Robert and I knew it this man was telling us about the rabbits that he had rescued, past and present with this voice of complete wonder and adoration. He even asked if we wanted to meet the rabbits that he had at the moment. And we just couldn’t say no of course. It turns out that this man had 26 rabbits that were currently outside waiting to be loaded up and taken inside for the evening. Not only did he have 26 rabbits, he knew everything there was to know about them, including genealogy, temperament, and their current health conditions. He told us each and every one of their names and who their soul mates were. He told us stories about how he came to know them, tales of tragedy and miracles and introduced us to Montana’s running mate, a very clean and studious rabbit with freckles. One rabbit, a peanut butter colored one, had endured two seizures, the first giving him a lopsided appearance and the second reversing the affects of the first seizure.
Finally after meeting each and every rabbit he pointed to a cluster of VW Rabbits and said, “I collect all kinds.” Robert and I said our goodbyes and began to wander off. Before we could make it very far we stumbled upon a very large and well kept cemetery. Montana’s ‘headstone’ was the first in a very long line. As we stopped to read each headstone we noticed that each mentioned brothers and sisters, sidekicks and soul mates, and a complete character description of each rabbit. One headstone really spoke to me. On it was a rabbit that had clearly passed away, but beneath his name was a name I recognized as one of the rabbits the man had just introduced us to. Even though she hadn’t passed away yet there was room for her next to her deceased soul mate. It was definitely one of those moments when you feel like everything is right in the world.
Of course there was more wonderful and fabulous adventures including the best frozen custard ever and the charming dilapidated buildings filled with spirits and creaky floors, but nothing quite as special as the rabbit ranch.
We visited the Route 66 State Park which used to be Times Beach and stumbled into a patch of seed ticks that turned my black flip flops brown. Robert, in his superman cape, took them back to the RV, leaving me barefoot with the girls. Perhaps it was because I was walking quietly and focusing on each sharp rock in the gravel road, but somehow we stumbled upon two deer. One close enough to see inside her nose. We all froze, the deer, Rose, Ella and myself, and just stared at one another. I watched her nostrils flare as she watched the dogs pant. Our curiosity was so bright that it made all boundaries invisible. Finally Rose half lunged, half tripped and startled the two deer, but all the way back to the RV we could hear the faint rustle of leaves. A few times we even saw flashes of them as they followed us.
Our last day was supremely magical. After touring Meramec Caverns the day before we decided to wait to check out other caves at a better time rather than fight the crowds on a busy Saturday. So we ended Route 66 in Sullivan, MO and set out to Springfield to see Josh. On the way there Robert pulled down a gravel road that ran alongside a small river. I thought he was crazy when he said that we were going to climb down the embankment and go swimming with the dogs. I didn’t think he was serious. Not only was the embankment a sharp and dangerous mess of weeds and fallen branches, it was also a steep drop into the river. As soon as I realized he wasn’t joking I had no other choice but to throw on a brave face and my swimsuit. Going down wasn’t quite that bad. Rose had to be coaxed into jumping off the bank into the water, but while Robert coaxed her I took off with Ella. I will admit that I envisioned us swimming side by side, but I should I have known that was a little too unrealistic. She kept insisting on getting on top of my back which hurt like all get out so I carried her until she could touch. Once she caught her breath she got right back in and fought the current and conquered. Eventually we did get to swim side by side which is an extraordinary thing folks. Extraordinary. Once Robert got Rose off the hill and into the water she took off. While Rose may be a lazy whiner at times there is nothing that can stop her when she swims.
We swam for about ten minutes with the dogs and started searching for a way to get out where the dogs could reach. We eventually found a spot that worked for them but it didn’t work very well for us. Once we got up we knew we were in deep doo doo. As soon as we got out of the river we ran into what felt like a mile long patch of stinging nettle. Thankfully we had a massive web of fallen trees to distract us as we tore our way through the itchy, fiery mess of nettle. We had swam so far down the river trying to find a dog friendly exit that we hadn’t realized how far we would have to walk back, and I swear to you now that every single inch of our way back was filled with stinging nettle and fist sized spiders hanging haphazardly everywhere. When we made it back to the road we came across another obstacle: a barb wire fence. Let’s just say that we said a few prayers before we jumped. After we made it across the fence we were a slimy, muddy, scratched up mess. Rose and Ella, however, were still racing through the spider and nettle infested woods at top speed, happier than we’ve ever seen them. When I asked Robert if he would do it all over again he just looked over at me and gave me the biggest smile. What a way to end such an awesome trip.
Posted by noisysmile at 10:36 AM