12 1/2 hours on the road today. Road warriors. That's what I'm going to call us from now on. We couldn't resist visiting a couple of Roadside America attractions - including a giant shoe, the largest candle in the world, and Hartman Rock Garden. We listened to bad pop music. We listened to comedy. We listened to corn growing. Mostly we listened to corn growing. We also listened to our bodies. When we were tired, we stopped for a minute to stretch or use the restroom. When we were hungry we stopped for healthy snacks (coffee cake). When we were thirsty we drank water. And when we were lonely and weary, we called Kelly Barton and told her we needed her to make herself available for lunch.
We made a detour off our route to Crawfordsville and took her out for tacos at an awesome little bodega. We traded stories about small towns. We talked about raising kids. We talked about what it means to settle and what it means to take a risk and make big changes. We visted a Little Free Library 2 blocks from her house, owned by a friend, built by a local handyman, and painted by Kelly herself. I would have known it was her handiwork anywhere. It's got that Kelly Barton flair, the one that says, "Hello, world. Here's a song that I'm singing. C'mon get happy. A whole lot a lovin' is what we'll be bringin'. We'll make you happy."
And she does. Dang that girl makes me happy.
I'm thinking about scale, about large and small, foreign and local, distant and intimate. I'm thinking about how flat the country was where we drove today, cross three state lines and the horizon line uninterrupted by mountain or molehill. How vast and green the fields looked. The mirage of oasis on a long stretch of highway. The bigness of Ohio and how old the farmhouses look. And then, the tidy and tiny altars at Kelly's house. The sweet front porch, inviting. Taco Thursday at El Charro. The glass of ice cold water. Frozen custard at Culver's in Decatur, IL. 36W into Missouri. Thousands of stones to build a tiny backyard castle. The beauty of technology - the maps it gives us at the touch of a button, a roadside attraction, a place to eat, the distance to a hotel, photos in an instant - and at the same time, how there's a part of me that wants to ditch all that, soak it all in as it comes, let it land where it land without telling the story just yet. It's a funny age we live in now, this itch to document. It is, by turns, a beautiful and daunting task. It makes me pay attention differently. It makes me look more closely and further away at the same time. It encourages me to see in shades and shapes. It makes me laugh and it humbles me. I fill up quickly and then something else comes along and I am spilling. Tonight, for example, when we rolled into Macon, Missouri to find a hotel and dinner and happened up Hawg Father's BBQ. We were one of the last customers for the night, and Charlie - the owner - came outside for a smoke and a chat. We ate our sandwiches and the good cold slaw and spicy fries and swapped stories about our tow trailers - he has one he hooks up to his motorcycle - and then talked travel, and wild rides, and bicycle trips, and he took us back 30 years with a story about 3,000-mile circuit from Missouri to Yellowstone to Nebraska and the Dakotas and Wisconsin and back again, and how he still manages to get on his bicycle once in a while believe it or not. And when we told Charlie and his crew about our tandem tour and little free libraries and how we're just a few days away from starting our ride out of Boulder, he gave us $20 to help us along our way. And for a moment, he looked just like my father, urging me to have the adventure of my life. And I am. I am.