Tomorrow (11/12) we head for home. It is Tuesday and we are at a Comfort Inn in Collinsville Illinois, the home town of my youth. This Comfort Inn is located on highway 157near the confluences of Interstate 55 and I 70 at the base of the glacial terminal moraine of the last Ice Age, sixteen thousand years ago. Where once roamed woolly mammoths and giant sloth’s now rumbles Kensworth and Peaterbuilt’s pulling forty foot trailers full of the commodities of the day. We have spent the last 64 days running with the eighteen wheeled monsters traveling eight thousand three hundred and fifty miles on what we decided to call the South West Expedition 08 or the SWE 08. The original plan was for seventy three days and since it was to be an extended length of time we felt that to call it a vacation was a lot like calling a Clydesdale a pony, the Queen Mary a skiff, the Mississippi a stream. It is interesting to note that the ground on which the motel is built was once a horseradish farm owned by one of the Eckman brothers; a chunk of dark, rich Mississippi river bottom soil where as a young teenager I toiled for Seventy five cents an hour: suckering, lifting, planting and digging the big white roots. (Collinsville was once the horseradish capitol of the world). Ain the morning we will meet my cousin Ray and his wife for breakfast. He is much older than I, by a month or so, so I really feel sorry for him. I still make about seventy-five cents an hour on SS and I really don’t care for horseradish that much.
The SWE 08 departure date was September the 9th, 2008 ACE. After securing the camper to the back of the Ford Focus we pulled out heading West on the first leg of the expedition. Our first encampment was in Iowa City at the Country Inn where we frolicked with other travelers in the heated pool and hot tub. We parked the camper just out side of out window so we could keep an eye on it (can’t trust the natives, so I’m told) however other than McCain-Palin signs we had no problems with the indigenous peoples of the area (the Ioway or Baxoji, a Siouan tribe now taking revenge on the white man by taking his wampum away at various casinos across the state). We found no traces of the Louis and Clark Expedition of 1804. I don’t think that came through this part of Iowa.
The next morning after a continental breakfast, provided by the Country Inn staff, we headed on to Nebraska City and the home of our nephew, Don Ayer, who owns several acres back in the hinterlands of South East Nebraska. He and his wife Sandy live in an immense two story home/hunting lodge on 60 acres of woods, a lake and trails in the low rolling hills. They of course offered a bed, but we, being the intrepid explores that we are elected to set up the camper (known as The Good Karma) next to their lake under to a big weeping willow tree. Don’s brother Ron was also staying with them and he helped us set up. I wanted to see if Maggie could do it her self but Ron insisted on helping her. Don and Sandy of course fed us royally the two days and nights we were there. It rained the first night we camped fortunately it was a short walk to the house for breakfast: bacon, eggs, steak, toast and coffee. Boy camping is rough. The day that we left to head north to Omaha (another Siouan tribe) we parked The Good Karma in their massive Butler building with the tent up to dry out while we were up north with family in Elkhorn and Lyons, camping in guest rooms and eating lunches at the Happy Days Senior Center (the land of the whistling ears). We would return in one week’s time to hook up the camper and proceed west.
When next I post I will tell of hail storms, rain, gusting winds, and 100 car coal trains passing in the night, every half hour, 1/8 of a mile from the camp site, passing two crossings where it is a DOT law that they sound their air horns four times at each crossing, one long two shorts and another long.