Road Trip 2: The Return

Day 4: Tuesday, July 2

Leaving Denver, we managed to make at least two wrong turns such that instead of finding ourselves on Route 76, as intended, we found ourselves meandering through Colorado farmland in a vaguely eastward direction. Eventually we made it back to the freeway, in plenty of time to pick up I-80, our old friend.

I-80 proved no more or less interesting than usual, which is to say that the land was flat and we saw a lot of corn and not much else. Driving through Nebraska, we spent much of the time reading The Mambo Kings and trying not to be lulled into sleep by the monotonous landscape. The clouds, however, were most impressive in the bright blue sky. We didn’t encounter rain once.

In early evening, we crossed the Missouri River into Iowa. Here we encountered a very pertinent problem stemming from Iowa’s less than breathtaking landscape: a dearth of state parks along our route. When we passed Council Bluffs it was too early to stop, and we couldn’t make it as far as Des Moines, but the majority of the campgrounds along the way — which were few and far between — were 8–10 site deals located in, of all places, city parks.

Not having much of a choice, we pressed our luck and stopped in Adair, a tiny town a quarter of the way into Iowa with a smiling, yellow water tower that turned out to be its mascot. The city park, which was just a few blocks off the freeway, had a sign featuring the smiling, yellow water tower, with the message: “Welcome to Adair! It’ll make you smile!” Even though there were only spots for about eight cars, there was plenty of room for us to pull in and set up camp. There was no one to demand our money; following the honor system, we put six dollars — in ones and change — in an envelope and slipped it through the slot in locked office door. It was the cheapest camping yet, plus it had hot showers!

Almost immediately after we arrived, another car with California plates pulled in beside our car. The mother and her two teenage children, from the southern half of the state, were traveling cross-country to Buffalo to drop the daughter off at her Girl Scout Wider Opportunity, to visit family and friends, and to stop at every national park they felt the whim to visit. Even though California is a huge state, it still felt comforting to meet someone from there when we were so displaced.

Day 5 »

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