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North America » United States » Kansas » Lawrence
October 14th 2011
Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: 38.9731, -95.2365

Friday morning in Nashville, set to be in Denver by the next evening - 1200 miles between. Piece of cake.

The day went somewhat slowly as I babied the clutch, accelerating like a sloth but keeping the RPM a little closer to 3000, where the clutch seemed to be stronger and not slip as much. I was determined to make it to Denver unscathed, which would be a much better location to find a shop to doctor up my poor Tacoma, or at least a better location to get stranded by gambling and continuing to drive it sans repair.

I passed through Kentucky, seeing little more than the freeway (which was not very impressive) and a quick stop in Paducah (even less impressive), and crossed over the Ohio River into the southern flatlands of the Land of Lincoln. I remember very little of the next three hours while I passed by farm town after farm town, corn field after corn field. I was told at one point during my journey that most of the corn we see is actually used as animal feed and not for human consumption. Whether or not that's true, well... I don't know... I bet Wikipedia could tell me, but I'm too lazy to look that up. But to whatever degree that is true, with the addition of how corn or corn syrup or some corn-derived substance seems to be in just about everything we eat, I suppose we owe this part of the country a debt of gratitude. Unless you are a vegetarian and don't eat anything processed, then I suppose you can place your debts wherever you would like.

After doing a little smart phone research on the St Louis Arch, I figured that getting a few pictures out the truck window as I was passing by would be about as valuable and memorable to me as taking the time to drive and park, pay an entrance fee, walk around and take a couple pictures - all the while not gaining any lead on the route to the Mile High City. Plus, it was almost rush hour at the time I was approaching St Louis, and after directing a good portion of my daily curse words toward the hideous wind and clutch slippages, traffic was the last thing I wanted. I was still a little too late and was waylaid a bit, the freeways oozing like not quite warm enough honey as the masses were returning home after their days in the office.

Missouri: it's green, just like Virginia and Tennessee and North Carolina, but it's just.... ugly. Being green doesn't make you pretty. Kind of like how there are a lot of pretty blonde girls, but being blonde doesn't make a girl pretty. A big nose, however, that's somethin else! I love a big nose. Not a BIG nose, like a witch nose, but just a little bit of a bump... a tiny bit of a convex turn on the upper part of the nose. I know - I'm weird - but if you don't like it, well, you can have the girls with little noses.

Another observation about Missouri. Missouri is like that ugly that girl that wears way too much makeup to try to look pretty, but she's still kind of ugly. Seems about right, right? I shared this with Claire and she told me Pennsylvania is the pretty girl who doesn't know it so she lets people take advantage of her because she doesn't think she can do better (referring to natural gas drilling, for example). I'm sure they all tell her they will still love her in the morning, but I doubt any of them do.

Quickly approaching were the sunset, hunger pains, an empty fuel tank, and the Kansas border. I had always heard tales of a mythical food chain in the midwest that ushered in greatness and glory. A food chain that separates the boys from the men. The weak from the strong. Hardees (aka Carl's Jr?). Any reader who is familiar I can imagine grunting in agreement and appreciation. It was delicious. It was rich. It was filling. It was sure to wreak havoc on my arteries and bowels, but it was delicious. I sat and read for a while in the restaurant, probably not a very common event, but my mind and eyes needed to be on something other than the road for a short time. Missouri removed some of her makeup and showed me her true beauty through an incredible open skied sunset as I was getting back on the road. Straight ahead, a molten splash of incredible orange and yellow quickly changing to a deep soothing blue directly overhead, creating a greenish stripe of sky between while purple clouds spread out like loose cotton balls, catching the final bits of light on their soft edges.

Under the cover of nightfall, Kansas City looked as if it would be a fun and interesting place to visit (I might think otherwise in the day), but continued on to Lawrence - home of the U of K. As I had gotten accustomed to and quite good at, I combed the streets looking for the ideal roadside to call home for the night and easily found a dark covered area just a couple blocks off of the main street. It was a town; there were some bars; there were some bartenders and patrons... nothing new, nothing special. I may have already said this in an earlier post, but I've come to find that, especially after about 10PM, a bar is a bar. The plague of the man drinking alone. Don't know how to talk to guys. Sure as hell can't talk to women. So what's left? Duckbills and goosefeathers.

I did find a little upstairs jazz club with live music. 'A $10 cover ought to at least keep some of the annoying college kids out', I thought. Perhaps it did, but there was still an abundance, including one machismo who decided that pouring hot wax out of a burning candle into his mouth was a good way to impress girls. Judging by the gloss over his eyes and the sway in his step, I'm sure he did not feel a thing until morning. God help him then. My favorite part of this particular venue was, in fact, the candles. Back in May, I visited my friend Jenny down in Tucson. We got pretty lit up one night downtown. Closing time was approaching, we were having a grand ole time when I began to admire the candles on the bar tables. Blue, about the size and shape of a fist, with veins on the outside, giving an appearance somewhat akin to a brain or tectonic plates. Enamored and astounded at the beauty of the candles, I picked one up, blew it out, made sure no one was looking, and convinced Jenny to put it in her purse. Then I completely forgot about it. The next morning I was stepping back in to the hotel room after taking a shower when Jenny looked at me and laughed "I left you a surprise in your backpack!" Befuddled, I unzipped the main compartment, reached in, felt a foreign object, and pulled out a beautiful blue candle. It took a moment for the memory of the night before to seep back into my brain, but when I did I laughed and laughed! "Oh man, I totally forgot about that!!!" Since then, I made it a point to... um... 'borrow' any similar candles I saw from that point on. Current count: 6 (1 blue, 3 red, 2 white). A whole collection of identical candles, other than their color and origin. One from Crested Butte, one from Madison, two that I cannot recall, and the sixth from Lawrence, Kansas.

The music wasn't great, but people would go up in waves and dance, and I figured since it was the last night of my journey, I might as well go out with some fun. The bar was cash only (and not exactly cheap), so my courage and dancing was fueled by a single beverage (well... plus a few others from earlier in the night). A lively group of 30-something women were energetically cavorting around the dance floor while their friend sat solitary at a table, reluctant to join them. Once or twice I caught her eye and motioned to make her way out, which of course she refused with a blush and shake of her head. I was forced to take desperate measures, walked over, took her hands, and led her out as her friends giggled, bringing even more color to her already beaming cheeks. I did not notice until then that she stood a good three inches over my own head! Now, I can't say that it was my best showing of dance (whatever the hell that means), but at least she didn't abruptly walk away and start dancing with an old woman like the stunning redhead in Bend many months earlier. It happened to be the last song. We smiled, laughed, chatted a bit, I bid her a good night, and returned to my home, pocket bulging from my new souvenir.

Earlier in the evening while strolling up and down the quaint city streets, I was pondering over the prior hours, the prior months, contemplating people who seem to be content with things and lifestyles that seem so dull and insipid to me. In a somewhat despairing voice, I recorded the following memo into my phone: "I can see now why people settle down, instead of always being out there to find something... seek for something... chasing some elusive... feeling, or revelation... that just might not be there."



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