Tara has a different traveling philosophy than I do.
I am very much a let’s get from Point A to Point B person. I plot out our route, calculate the mileage, add in a little cushion for the requisite stops (gas, food, rest areas), and figure out how long it will take us to arrive. I’m pretty good at coming up with an estimate.
My wife, on the other hand? She is all about the journey instead of the destination. Case in point: we’re cruising down Interstate 80 in Iowa this morning and she asks me if I want to get out and stretch my legs. By this point I’ve been driving for three hours, so I am eager for a break.
“Take this next exit,” she says.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“There’s a nice-looking park with a lake and walking trails.”
“Is it right off the interstate?”
I don’t know about you guys, but five miles down a country road where cows outnumber people doesn’t equal right off the interstate in my book! Nevertheless, Anita Lake State Park was very nice. Not at all what I pictured Iowa looking like.
We spent a solid hour strolling around the park. I really enjoyed it, but all along, I’m doing mental calculations in my head.
OK. We’ll get into Champaign at 6:00 instead of 5:00. I can live with that.
When we got back to the car, Tara took over driving duties. The next couple of hours were uneventful. We passed through Des Moines, the Iowa state capital, which is sprawling. It was the biggest town we have seen in our travels so far.
A little ways past Des Moines, we passed a sign for Amana Colonies.
“What’s that?” Tara asked.
“I have no idea,” I said. “But I’m sure Google does.”
Google did. Amana Colonies, it turns out, is a collection of seven villages built by German settlers on the Iowa prairie in 1856. Fleeing religious persecution in their motherland, they established a self-sufficient local economy that relied on communal living. In the middle of freakin’ Iowa. Go figure, right? The system must have worked, because they kept it up until 1932.
It sounded intriguing. And because Tara was behind the wheel, 30 minutes later we found ourselves wandering the streets of one of these seven villages. In the middle of their May Day festival. It was absolutely charming and turned out to be the best spontaneous detour ever.
That bratwurst was one of the best I’ve ever had, by the way.
As a result, we didn’t end up pulling into Champaign until 7:45…nearly three hours later than my projected schedule. But it was totally worth throwing off our schedule for. We could easily have spent many hours wandering through each village, but had to settle for 60 minutes in one. We are already talking about making a return trip sometime.
I must begrudgingly admit, then, that maybe Tara is onto something with her whole “we’re on vacation…time doesn’t matter!” attitude.
Because she’s right. We are, and it doesn’t.
After checking into our room in Champaign, we walked a half-mile to a steakhouse for dinner. As good as the place smelled, we’d had a late lunch in Amana Colonies, so we opted for the salad bar. I was actually surprised to see one; it almost felt like a relic from another era, like a phone booth or something. You had to mask up and put on gloves, but other than that, it was your typical salad bar experience. I will say that Illinois seems to be a lot more strict when it comes to COVID protocols than South Dakota, which is kind of like the Wild West of the prairie in pandemic matters.
There were also a ton of state troopers patrolling the Illinois highways. We hardly saw any in Iowa or South Dakota. Also: it’s really green here. (It was in Iowa, too.) I’m a little jealous about that.
Tomorrow, it’s on to Dayton! With a couple of stops in Indiana along the way. More on that in my next post.