Miles Today: 247.2
Total Miles: 10,316.0
Days on the Road: 150
68.773 miles per day*
2.865 miles per hour*
9 National Parks
1 Non-family donation
3 Chili Dogs
*naturally, this would be assuming we drove all day, every day. We don't.
Mommas, Don't Let Your Babies Grown Up To Be Dummies
And so it was that we missed Trek Fest in Riverside, Iowa, the "future birthplace of James T. Kirk", by one day. We knew the existence of the place, but found out only on Saturday that the annual par-tay was this weekend. Turns out it's not quite enough of a festival to warrant an entire weekend, and so is only on Saturday. (The last Saturday in June, for those planning next year's summer vacation.) When we arrived, Riverside looked like any other tiny little prairie burg, except there was a Tilt-a-Whirl being packed up in the park.
Slightly disappointed, and missing our planned lunch of corn dogs, we headed west. Little did we know that some mind-numbing distance down the road we would run into our third "fiction meets reality" spot this week, the "Bridge" of Madison County. There are many, as the plural title of the book and subsequent movie attest to, but this was "the one", the main one. We don't know, neither of us read the book or saw the movie, but this one was pretty important, according to the lady running the "yes, we're really open" gift shop.
To be perfectly honest, it's just a bridge, though an admittedly spiffy one with a great coat of homestead-barn-red paint. The mind reels only slightly to contemplate that it has been standing there for 120 years, but is then whipped back to tourist trap reality by the realization that it has been extensively restored, primarily for the filming of the movie. One can buy a memory book in the gift shop, complete with Clint Eastwood's photographs of the bridge and pre-written journal entries such as, "we have been coming toward each other for my entire life," but that doesn't help either.
Ever westward, we happened upon the twin cities of Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. We spent the night in the area, at White Trash State Park; complete with drunken teenagers, confederate flag-draped tents, and mysterious, rambling veterans. One of these last chatted with Anthony in the bathroom about "mumble mumble mumble ...kill 'em all, and how do I talk to my kids about that? They want to know what Daddy did in the service... Oh, Pensacola? I did my prisoner of war training there, the S.E.A.L.s are down there too, ya know. I was never there though, always deployed to hot spots..." They were also featuring 8 a.m. Jet Ski revvings, unnaturally early garbage truck visits, and fire rings mistaken for trash pits.
The thing to see in Omaha, besides the state's only Czech restaurant ("Czech us out!", says the sign out front) is the zoo. They have a bitchin' zoo, as you can tell by the hordes of people visiting on a Monday morning, seemingly the entire population of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. As is usually the case with zoos, the Average Americans exhibit (Joeus Sixpacus Fatticus) stole most of the attention from the mostly bored looking animals. We were enthralled and entertained by the parents giving their children all sorts of inaccurate information about the animals they were seeing, 1% bothering to read even one of the information signs, preferring instead to speculate that the sloth is a member of the monkey family, or that the dam-building, flat-tailed creature emerging from its lodge is a muskrat. The best part, though, was when a gray-haired specimen decided that the appropriate thing to do, and to allow her young to do, was to feed the alligators Chex Mix.
Sweaty and unable to find a lunch that wasn't foot-long, we skipped the IMAX movie and continued our wagon train west, a decision which finds us just outside of Anselmo, Nebraska, directly in the middle of the beautiful nowhere. Closest tourist attraction: really far away.
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.