Currently in a little town west-ish of Rapid City. Not as tired as I could be. Saw many interesting oddities today - the Jolly Green Giant statue, a random sporting goods store with full, life-size diaramas of dead animals attacking each other, the Corn Palace and the South Dakota Badlands, among other things. Since I'm writing this from a hostel computer, that's all for now. Going camping in Yellowstone tomorrow, so it may be a few days before I can post again.
Today saw an earlier start, but not unreasonable. In the back of my mind, I know that the salad days of this trip are over as of tonight. Two days of eight hours each loom, followed by a day and night of camping and then a 12-hour shlep to finish it off. Hoo boy. I'm still disappointed about not seeing Chicago. Gives me a good reason to come back to the States, right? The other frustrating bit was the Motel 6 and AO Hell not being friendly with each other. Now, I can live fine without access to email or this blog easy, but I was looking forward to another search on the Roadside America site. As Katie and I drove along, we saw a sign for the Circus World Museum, located in Baraboo or Babaroo or some such name in Wisconsin. Whatever value the museum may have had as a off-highway oddity was outweighed by the desire to conserve funds and avoid a screaming tourist trap for bratlings and their parents. The rest of the ride was uneventful - shocking to learn, I'm sure. Upon arrival in Minneapolis, we hit the Mall of America because at 5 p.m. on a Sunday, it was the easiest thing to find. And of course, deep down, Katie and I are secret mall whores. Shyeah, right. She thought there was a rollercoaster in the Mall, and that was enough to sell me on it. We headed in. Snoopy was ubiquitous there - maybe Universal Features Syndicate is headquartered in Minneapolis, or maybe Charles Schulz is from here. I don't know. Anyway, the Mall was appropriately frightening, although the rollercoaster was enhanced by a father giving second-by-second support to his young son, telling him when to scream his head off. And as the pictures show, the LEGO store was more than worth putting up with tres cool teenagers attaching a phallus to the life-size Harry Potter LEGO statue. I'm toast, and it's past midnight. Next stop: Rapid City.
According to the Roadside America Web site, the Oz Museum is "Just outside of Valparaiso in a town called Chesterton (rt 49) is the Yellow Brick Road Gift Shop and Museum, which boasts a collection of photographs and homemade Wizard of Oz paraphernalia. The museum is one-room big and only costs a quarter to get into. Outside on the lawn are wooden cutouts of various characters and buildings from the movie. The gift shop is bigger than the museum itself. Be careful not to go on Tuesday, that's new beanie baby day. In Valparaiso itself is a restaurant called Kelsey's Irish Pub that has a large fiberglass bull next to its sign. Also, Valparaiso is the birthplace of Orville Redenbacher, and every year in September (the weekend after Labor Day) they have a popcorn festival. Valparaiso University is home to the largest chapel on a college campus. [Darlene Maloney, Christine Breecher, 02/27/2000] [RA: Chesterton is the town where L. Frank Baum allegedly wrote the WofO book.] " Okay, so I've been getting the name wrong. Whatever. It was a kitschy experience, as the photo gallery will prove. There's not much else you can say about a six-foot-tall red high-heeled shoe, except that I kept wondering which foot it belonged to, and where the mate for it was. Could somebody have stolen it as a Chesterton High School prank? Now, that's aiming high.
Well, on cross-country road trips, sometimes today becomes tomorrow, which is why the posting about driving from Columbus to Chicago is a day late. AOHell simply does not like connecting from a Motel 6 room in Arlington Heights, IL. The day started late. The drive to Columbus had left us drained, and not seeing any need to rush to Minneapolis, we went back to our original itinerary. I was hoping to actually see Chicago, as well. In the past, the closest I've come to the Windy City has been the O'Hare airport, which is like saying that you know somebody really well because you've talked with their third cousin twice removed about them once, for five minutes while waiting in line to get on a bus. Also, Roadside America had a listing for the Wizard of Oz Gift Shop and Museum in Chesterton, IN. Katie loves L. Frank Baum's Oz books, so we decided to check that out since it wasn't too far off our route. Only planning 6 hours of driving in one day helped nudzh us towards an uncertain destiny with kitsch. The drive through western Ohio and into Indiana was markedly uneventful. We found several "blank" spots in NPR's coverage, which wasn't so traumatic except that it was in the middle of a new episode of This American Life, an excellent program focusing on slices of Americana. It's better than apple pie. Really. (Check out their Web site. They've got the passed seven years worth of episodes archived. The one about..., well, just pick one. they're all good.) We blinked through Indianapolis, which now I'm regretting. Driving north on Rte. 65 to Chicago was duller than a speech from Dubya. Yeeesh. Lots of corn. I kept hoping that a bee would fly in the window and sting Katie, like in Pennsylvania. Not because I dislike Katie, of course. I just wanted something to happen. Cross the time-zone line was great because there were a few minutes of activity, changing all the clocks in the car (cell phone, watch, Palm Pilot) back an hour. When I realized where our motel was - Joilet - and that it was out of the way for arriving in Chicago and leaving in the planned direction the next morning, I decided to call upon the skills taught to me by my sainted mother, and switch. Utilizing the ever-handy AAA guide and a cell phone, I quickly found a less-expensive motel in a better location. Thanks, ma. We turned off at the Merillville (I think that was the town's name) and Valparaiso exit, and learned just how exciting the corn really was. Valpo, as the natives call it, was a strip-mall hell. Friendly enough folks, especially when we asked for directions to the Oz Museum, but even their frozen yogurt lacked culture. You can read about the Oz Museum in the above post. The trip after the Oz Museum to the motel was unexciting, except that Chicago has a really neat-looking skyline, and when I get back from Japan, I will visit the city proper. Sigh.
Here's an itinerary, for those interested. Aug. 16: Columbus Aug. 17: Chicago Aug. 18: Minneapolis Aug. 19: Rapid City Aug. 20-21: Camping in Jellystone - uh, Yellowstone! Aug. 22: Salt Lake City Aug. 23: Arrive in S.F.
I'm going to try and keep these "on-the-road" entries short. They cut into my sleep time. But if you go to the gallery section, you'll see that the amusing test gallery has been replaced by the first "real" one. Most of them are shots from the road, as my girlfriend and I were attempting to go from Boston to Columbus in one day. Featured are a drive-by military helicopter, a drive-by motorcycle with sidecar, and a drive-by karate instructor. Katie and I certainly didn't expect our friend and teacher Fedele Cacia to be so distraught over our departure that he would follow us to Connecticut, but there he is. Now if only he could teach me how to drive without using my hands, like he does! For those of you who care about timeliness on road trips, the nearly 12-hour journey was stretched to 13 hours by traffic and freak rainstorms. Our friend in Columbus is being a kind soul and an excellent host by letting us crash on his floor. I could make some glib comment here, but I'm just too tired. Good night.
Thursday night was my last night in Boston for a long, long time. Sandwiched in between running around like a beheaded chicken packing up my stuff and seeing two friends, their son and two new twin girls, and loading up my poor small car, my girlfriend and I went to one of the best seafood places in Cambridge. The East Coast Grill and Raw Bar, on the 1300 block of Cambridge St., is a sort of seafood/grill/Polynesian Tiki Bar fusion joint. The oysters were good, the Polynesian PuPu Platter was deliciously eclectic, and the salmon (in place of the mahi mahi, which they had run out of for the night) was excellent - light, flaky and moist. But the drink I had that was about 99% rum beat all. I've spent more years in Boston than I had originally hoped to, and have relished every moment of it.