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Published: July 24th 2010
Entry Two: Chicago, Illinois to Iowa City, Iowa
Miles driven: 255 (Thurs.) 49 (Friday)
J.T.’s voice during his third Thursday phone call was “back to normal.” In the first two, groggy sleep and general pre-trip anxiety filled the earpiece of my new Sprint Evo phone; he had pulled an all-nighter overnight Wed. in a bar-soaked adventure with a friend. After singing live-band karaoke until 2 a.m., the duo were heading off to another bar when Wes, the now-drunk “starving artist,” squeezed the front handbrakes of his bicycle, launching him over the top and “face planting” into the Chicago sidewalk. A hospital visit, yielding 7 stitches, precluded sunrise cocktails and a memorable story. In any case, J.T. was now packed and ready to go.
I packed up the “technology center” (which includes the laptop, the phone, camera battery charger, and both an Mp3 player and an Ipod), jumped in the now-full truck with Sophie the dog, and left the condo for the last time for at least a month. I stopped by the bank (I have about $600 cash), headed north from 47th Street along Lake Shore Drive, and headed southwest out of the city on Hwy 55.
Traffic, as is often the case coming into, or out of, Chicago soon reared its ugly head. Surprisingly, it had no effect on me, as my stress level had subsided now that the packing/decision-making was over and I was officially started. I headed south to the east-west interstate 80 and merged right, heading toward Iowa. J.T. is attending a “middle-of-the-novel” workshop at the University of Iowa, his alma-mater. I’m joining him, free of charge (the $16 per-day camping fees will be reimbursed by his employer. Spending two nights in Iowa with a drinking and guitar buddy is a nice way to start this summer’s trek.
At a rendezvous at a TA Truck stop along 80 at 5:00 p.m., we viewed the map and decided to camp at McBride State Park. The first person to hit Hwy 1 near Iowa City (the turnoff north to the campground) was to call the other to check in. The drive was nice, and although construction dominated many parts of the route, crossing the Mississippi River was a psychological victory. Also, there were some interesting photo opportunities with the sun, which had dropped behind a large cloud bank. I listened to some early
Stones and sang along.
Ten miles east of Iowa City, I turned north on Hwy 1 and called J.T. He was somewhere in east bumble, having bought into the “alternative by-pass” to avoid the construction near the Mississippi River. Being lost now placed him a good hour behind me. I arrived at McBride State Park just before sunset. After picking a spot and setting up the tent, I walked back to the “tent loop,” which offered 12 closely-packed spots. Since there were no other campers, I moved from RV land to the loop and waited for J.T. He phoned at about 9:15, stating that he was at a locked gate and could not access the campground. It didn’t matter, as it turned out that he was at the wrong camping area. He finally arrived, disoriented and groggy, 45 minutes later. Dumping cold water over his head and downing a couple of PBRs soon took us both into “camping mode.”
We took a small path off from the campground which took us to McBride Lake. Stripping off my clothes, I took to a midnight swim. Although Sophie the dog would not go in (the shore is formed
by big rocks), J.T. soon followed. It was very relaxing, and I ended up swimming twice in the lake. The rain started shortly after turning in for the night, but Jennifer (my girlfriend) and mine’s new tent, purchased at a Chicago REI “garage sale” for $183.00 (with footprint included) held up nicely. The tent offers 42 square feet of room and 2 large vestibules (when the rainfly’s guy lines are extended). I slept very well, as did Sophie the dog.
Friday morning, after a breakfast of macaroni and cheese, all 3 of us headed to Iowa City. J.T., in his recent exploration of various public performances—stand-up comedy, storytelling, poetry—had the desire to busk for tips (both of us playing guitars and singing in the pedestrian mall. The constant on-and-off rain prevented our trying to make enough money to purchase lunch. An expensive outdoor store yielded no bargains, so we ate lunch outside of a high-end grocery store/market. I bought $40 worth of groceries, including eggs, Morningstar veggie sausages, Gouda cheese, and some canned dog food for Sophie (which will be mixed with her boring, dry dog food). The rain, which was quite heavy at times, showed me that
there’s two types of people: Those who don’t mind the rain (which, of course, include J.T., Sophie the dog, and myself), and those who vehemently try and avoid it. We chatted briefly about barging into J.T.’s former fraternity house and demanding a “free shot and a foot rub,” but, alas, this adventure will have to wait for another time.
Back at the campground, we strummed guitars a bit, drank a couple of PBRs, and took a nice hike/swim along McBride Lake. I saw a family of nice yellow birds (either finches or warblers) and a couple of Turkey Vultures. Our conversations were both poignant and irreverent, including one 20 minute discussion of how much money would we have to pay our camping neighbor (a probably retired, strict police officer) to give us foot massages. I figured that he (or just about anyone) would rub a stranger’s feet for one hour for around $400; J.T. seemed to think that the minimum price would be $1000).
Once darkness fell, we witnessed, for 3 solid hours, an incredible display of lightning. Although it was neither windy nor raining, the sky would flash and light up on a constant, steady basis.
We sat along the lakeside at 10 p.m. and watched the show. As the rain finally arrived, it was time for bed. The lightning, thunder, and rain occurred throughout the night, but I slept wonderfully in the dry tent.
This morning, I awoke at 9:30 a.m., made breakfast of coffee, eggs and sausages, rearranged the bins (still trying to establish solid and workable methods of access), edited the blog photos, spoke with Jennifer on the phone (who described a fresh, new produce/grocery store in our “food desert” neighborhood of Bronzeville, on Chicago’s Southside), produced this blog entry, spoke to J.T. on the phone from the writers’ conference, and washed the dishes. It’s around 1:30 p.m., and after posting, Sophie the dog and I will jump in the truck and head east to the Mississippi river. From there, we’ll head north…next stop on the list: Bob Dylan’s old stomping grounds of Duluth and Hibbing, Minnesota.
Thanks for reading the blog; comments and recommendations are welcome!
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