Monday, June 27, 2011

Great American Road Trip, Part 1

Le Claire, Iowa and Alliance, Nebraska

Irritatingly, I find I will not be able to add pictures until I get to my regular computer. Though this makes me beyond miffed, it's time to do some reporting even though these posts will fall far short of what I intended.

I enjoy planning vacations. For this trip, the real destination of which was 22 hours away, I loved finding little pockets of kitsch at which to stop and photograph and stretch. This post will take us through the kitsch.

I don't know about you, but the Getting Out the Door portion of the trip is by far the hardest. There's always so much stuff that has to be thrown in at the last minute and the week was so crazy -with the pinnacle of insanity during the last hour at home- that, yes, there were things which should have made the trip with us and were forgotten. But after we picked up Michael at work and slipped out of town, I felt the care leaving my body. Let me be perfectly clear: it's not that I was simply relaxed, I was ridiculously giddy. I grinned like a fool and promised tremendous things. As I posted in a comment on Margo's recent blog, everyone in the family gets that the point of our trips is Togetherness Without Distraction. It is so lovely and we are all on board.

We drove 4 hours to the edge of Illinois and spent the night just shy of The Mississippi.

Our whole family enjoys a show on the History Channel called American Pickers. These two guys get in a big white van and travel mostly around the Midwest, hunting through people's barns and basements, picking through their stuff and offering them cash for the stuff they think they can sell. Often they have arranged appointments with these people, but it's extra fun when they simply drive through the country and find a property with four or five outbuildings and STILL they can't contain all their "collections," which is what the Pickers call them - never junk. When I learned recently that the location of their store is in LeClaire, Iowa, I thought it would make a terrific first stopping point.

According to the website, The store didn't open until 10, so we were leisurely in the morning. Ava and I swam laps in the hotel pool and we enjoyed breakfast and filled up the car's gas tank. We crossed the Mississippi into LeClaire and drove through the main Drag looking for a sign directing us to the store called Antique Archeology. We found it to be a charming town, but they were certainly not broadcasting their relationship with these guys, their store or their show, which I found unexpected.

We needed bread, so we also had our eyes peeled for a grocery store. The only promising storefront was a place called Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. At home this would be nothing more than a convenience store, but it looked to be the only kind of food market around. There I asked the woman (Mother Hubbard?) about the location of this famous shop.

"Oh!" she said. "Well, it's right behind us right here! In the alley. But Mike's not in town. No, he's out of town until mid-July.". Now that was the kind of small-town familiarity I was anticipating.

Around the corner to the alley we drove, and we couldn't believe what we found. It was little more than a garage door that opened with "collections" that came spilling out when the tattooed girl with the giant flower in her hair raised the garage door at opening. It took us exactly fifteen minutes to tour the whole thing and we left wondering how The History Channel ever discovered such a small outfit. By 10:30 we were back on the interstate.

We drove until bedtime, through the emptiness of Iowa and into the barrenness of Nebraska. We stopped at a fairly crummy hotel (more on that in a later post) and got outta there as quickly as we could as soon as Sunday morning dawned.

I had nothing really planned until our arrival in Cody, Wyoming, the following evening, but I was delighted to see, an hour or so into our Sunday drive, a sign advertising "Carhenge," a reproduction of Britain's regal, prehistoric monument - only this is just out in some guy's field, and made entirely of vintage, junked cars.

Oh, we took the 40 mile detour and frolicked around the quirky spectacle. We took 28 photographs and texted some of them to family. Michael picked me a wildflower and I spent too much time and money in the gift shop (the gift shop!?). Looking back, I think we were all just high on Vacation Frivolity.

And that is a very satisfying drug.

On to Cody.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chewy Brownies

Here is some scary math for you: If a=a two-week vacation and b=a departure date this Friday, c=a return date a day before Leadership Camp, d=5 4-H projects for which e=a due date the day after Leadership Camp, then a(b+c) + de=a personal due date of This Friday for all projects and my stress level to the seventh power.

This is always busy time in our household. We are finishing up the last week of Little League with games nearly every night of the week. I'm trying to prepare for vacation, with jobs like making the van spic and span, laundry, packing, and - as my mother-in-law has always done - vacuuming myself out the door. I also have the big job of overseeing the time management of my 4-H-er.

What can console me at a time like this? Baked goods. For an end-of-the-year choir activity, Brooks volunteered me to provide brownies. This recipe comes out just as I like them - not too dry, not too cakey.

And now, to make you laugh and me cry, I find that I have loaded these pix in the order they were taken, making them appear in the reverse order than which they are needed. Please scroll to the bottom if you care to read the recipe from the beginning. (It really is funny, I suppose.)