Perhaps it has to do with my family having lived in the Chicago suburbs with a lake house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin beginning when I was in 5th grade. The lake house became our permanent residence for a few of my middle/high school years, but even then, we made regular trips of the 7-hour drive to visit family and friends. Let’s just say I am familiar with the route.
Although our lake house is long gone, I haven’t seen the Northwoods for years now, and I was headed to Minnesota instead of Wisconsin, the simple act of getting behind the wheel of a packed car awakened my inner road tripper.
Driving the 8 hours (the first 4 hours of which repeat the path to our old lake house) to visit my dearest high school friend and her family brought back memories I didn’t know I had. As a result I felt grounded, centered.
Having expected a dreary, rainy journey, my eyes were thirsty for the sunshine, blue skies, and brilliant greenery I experienced instead. I drank in patchworks of farm fields, rolling hills, and distant farmhouses. I soaked up stacks of sedimentary rock layers, towering evergreens, and humble wildflowers. I even snapped a photo of windmills in the distance because they reminded me of my friend Kim’s poem comparing them to fireflies at night. Sights that used to blend into the background of routine travels became new to me.
I was surprised to encounter slowed traffic only to discover the cause was an army convoy. I had forgotten how commonplace it used to be to pass a convoy of camouflaged vehicles carrying supplies and uniformed soldiers. I recalled the thrill it used to trigger in my youth and was struck by the depth of emotion the convoy summoned from my current heart.
However, even though some things have changed, one constant was the comfort of being with a friend who really knows me. Since her husband was headed out of town for a business trip, Dena and I were able to stay up late each night chatting at her kitchen table. Those quiet moments, extended time to allow moments to just breathe, were just what I didn’t know I needed.
In her fabulous hostess fashion, Dena packed my few days with fun-filled outings. No matter how many times I tried to convince her that I considered driving her son to piano lessons and swim practice to be fun-filled outings, she wouldn’t leave it at that. She got front-row tickets at a play of Charlotte’s Web. The costumes were completely designed out of materials found on a farm—burlap heads and funnel beaks for the geese, a grain scoop face for the sheep, and a metal bucket snout for the pig. How fun!
The food was incredible! Dena took such care in selecting restaurants that would suit my taste—both culinary and aesthetic. Look at that beautiful wood tabletop—and we ordered our food on an iPad!
|gourmet lunch at Lunds & Byerlys Kitchen|
|a Caribou Coffee smoothie--my favorite (Caribou Coffee is becoming extinct in the Chicago suburbs)|
|a fun sandwich shop based on characters from stories a father told his children at bedtime|
On top of all that, Dena even made sure we had time to fit in a visit to my two favorite spots in Minneapolis (pay attention if you are headed to NCTE in November—these two should be added to your list of must-sees) Wild Rumpus and Hunt & Gather.
Wild Rumpus is a bookstore that specializes in children’s books. The book collection is so wisely curated that I am always able to find true treasures amidst the shelves. In addition to books, the store is home to several animal friends. The welfare of the animals was a big concern of mine, but having visited several times, I am convinced the staff goes out of their way to educate visitors about proper interaction and to provide relief for animals that are tired of attention.
|one of the cats greeted us at the door|
|a window cat|
|a chicken roams the store freely|
|a tarantula named Thomas Jefferson|
Hunt & Gather is an antique and gift shop filled (and when I say filled, I mean FILLED) with fun finds. I could spend hours wandering through the two floors of goodies. We had a blast sifting through the many collections to find the gems we wanted. I even went back to the store on my way out of town because I couldn’t bear to leave some treasures behind. My car was sure FILLED for my trip home!
|lockers on display|
|lockers being transported to their new home|
|a fun chair in on display|
|the chair being transported to its new home|
My car wasn’t all that was full at the end of this road trip. I headed home with a full heart and a fuller sense of who I am and who I want to be. Now that’s what I call a road trip!