Posted By bbinns on September 23, 2009Chicago to Council Bluffs, Iowa: 463 miles. Two states: Illinois and Iowa and
Council Bluffs to Paxton, Nebraska: 312 miles. Two states: Iowa and Nebraska
Check it out! Two days and almost 800 miles flew by while you weren’t looking.
But I was. Looking, that is. Out through the windshield. At corn. There is a reason I usually take the southern route across the country, and it ain’t ALL about the weather.
Back in my Euro-trash days, my first husband and I drove all our worldly goods from London down to the southern coast of Spain, in a very large truck that had air-brakes. I almost killed us both during a hair-raising game of chicken with a tractor-tailer in the Pyrenees, but that’s another story. On that long-ago drive, you could look out at rows of olive trees, doze off for an hour or two, and wake up to see rows of olive trees. It was like being in a stationary camera-car with an endless loop of olive-movie playing in the background. (My life during this period is best viewed as a movie anyway, a comedy). Iowa is like that, except that it’s corn instead of olives, and when you stop for the night dinner does not come with thick slices of jamon serrano and a never-ending carafe of rustic, dry rose.
And, of course, instead of searching out dinner opportunities in the Michelin, you go to roadfood.com. But I am in something of a hurry on this trip, and didn’t do the kind of in-depth homework that normally occupies a solid week of my productive hours before departure. Thus, I’m incredibly grateful to chow down on Meathead’s carefully-packed leftover, award-winning maple and chipotle ribs (aka Pig Candy) in Council Bluffs, complemented by a take-out green salad from a local (yes, non-chain!) Italian restaurant, and some Beringer Founder’s Reserve chardonnay from the Hy-Vee.
Behind-the-wheel boredom is kept at bay during these two monotonous days via a combination of distractions: I do a little phone bidness with the coast, listen to Life Sentences, plus podcasts of KCRW’s Good Food Show and This American Life, and attempt to find myself near a rest stop when it is not raining, so Stella can run around a bit before she turns into a lovely black-and-white dog-statue (Stella won’t get out of the car if it is raining).
Note that, apparently, Nebraska is a wannabe Western state. Many cowboy-oriented roadside attractions trumpet this notion. Sorry. I’m not in The West yet.
This driving across the country thing doesn’t get old, exactly, but I do find it helpful to keep to a certain code of conduct. Every once in awhile I remind myself of the Rules of the Road:
* I will Not Patronize Any Chain Restaurants. (In extreme circumstances only—see suburban Birmingham AL, 2007—exceptions may be made for Outback Steakhouse.)
* One appreciates one’s creature comforts, but will not leave anything behind in a hotel room or friend’s house. This includes jewellry, phone and camera chargers, dog bowls and toys, fluffy blankies and pillow. (See 2006, when I left my favorite barn coat and silver teaspoon at an Oklahoma La Quinta. In defense, I’d just realized a biblical blizzard was about to sweep across my proposed route.)
More to come…