Day 9 and things are finally smoothing out a bit. My wife and daughter are slowly adjusting to life on the road, as am I, but the only thing taking away from our time now is our daughter's obsessive nature about going to the playground, and trying to play with the neighbor kids without throwing sand in their faces, or throwing a tantrum every time we have to go home. Life is simpler, but more complex in that it takes more effort to make a meal, or set up camp etc. You really do enjoy each and every bite of your food as it took twice as opposed to just ordering in or throwing something in the microwave. Although we did eat Subway at Walmart today while shopping...I was joking about how we live in a trailer and eat dinner at Walmart as our crossing over into true white trash. Mainly, though, I do cook the meals on our little 3 burner propane stove.
Let's see...We've been through Nebraska--spent 2 days there at the Holiday RV Park. Really nice park with a pool and a few playgrounds for Gwen, but the minute we went to set up the tent trailer SNAP! One of the cables broke on it. Yet another slice of bullshit to deal with on a trip already peppered with an odd amount of mishaps. They neighbors, looking like a pack of Harley riding good ol' boys came over to offer some assistance and rigged us up with a 2 x 4 which held up the camper until we could get it fixed. We made up the extra bed out of the dining room table in the camper to sleep on, so as not to tempt fate and have the camper top crashing down on one of us (most likely me) while we were sleeping at night. The next day found me heading off to Larry's RV Sales and Service Center about 2.5 miles away to sit and wait for the cable to get fixed. I think the service center goes in order of how old you are, because 2 octogenarian couples got their RV's serviced first even though they came in after me. Maybe the closer to death you are, the more sympathetic the service people are. Oh well, gave me time to grab a nap in one of the nicely decorated floral wicker chairs in the waiting room, when I wasn't reading one of the many travel magazines mixed in with the books on good Christian values. Odd. Took about 3 hours to fix, but that made the dip in the pool I took when I got home that much sweeter.
Went shopping that night for groceries on a budget of about $40 for whatever food I thought might last us until we had some sort of reconciliation with our landlord over the financial bullshit he put us through. It's a tough thing to make out a list of what to buy that is healthy and cheap. Lots of beans and rice on that list. Also bought some hot cocoa for morale. Too exhausted to have any though, so went to bed and got some much needed sleep. (Goddamn, just burnt my eyes on the smoke of the fire!)
The next day we packed up the trailer, cables working fine, and headed out on what was a decent trip through the remainder of boring ol' Nebraska and into the rolling hills of Iowa. We were headed to Saylorville Lake just north of Des Moines, an Army Corps of Engineers run park surrounding, obviously, a huge lake. I was skeptical of the accommodations as it was a state park with limited amenities, but when we arrived we were treated to a great camp site with tons of space between neighbors, plus we backed right up to a playground for Gwen to go have some maniacal fun on. After camp was set up I made us a nice dinner of pasta tossed in pesto sauce--hell, yes, we get fancy out here. Rachel did some reorganizing of the car etc. and I ran up to the front to get some firewood out of a 'Firewood Vending Machine'. Yes, you put in 5 bucks just like a soda machine and a bundle of firewood falls out. Finally got to sit in front of the fire with some hot cocoa, and a bit of whiskey, and hang out with Rachel which is tough to do with Gwen in a tiny trailer. It gave us time to reflect on how amazing the land is that we just crossed even though we haven't had a lot of time to enjoy it. To watch the landscape change from desert to 10,000 ft up in the Rockies to the flat, corn filled plains of Nebraska is a trip.
It feels so good to shed the skin of San Diego and see something different, and not just some lame ass vacation, or a week in some city for a comic con, but to get into the heartland of America and get into some states I've never seen. I lived in San Diego for 12 years and did nothing more than a 2 week road trip, as far as time away, which is not enough time to let a new place settle and sink in to your mind. Not enough time to pick up a custom or fall in with the regulars. Not enough time to remember an obscure street name or know where to go for the best local entertainment. It amazes me how fearful people are of packing up and leaving their comfort zone, even though it might be killing them. To me the idea of packing up and seeing new places is an ingrained idea from early man. Nomads. Going where the seasons took them, or the food. To stay in one place and swear by it is odd even by modern man terms. Tonight I almost obliterated a family of raccoons crossing the street on my way to get more beer, but watched them split up--half climbing up the razor wire surrounding the campsite, and half running back the way they came. Now that is a vacation story, not how the Quality Inn gave you a free continental breakfast because you had a AAA card. Well, and to bring up a previous blog, who can top drinking at Woody Creek Tavern.
Alright, cracked open another PBR. What else...where were we...ah, yes, now I'm in the camper, was tired of the smoke from the fire changing direction and burning out my eyeballs while I tried to type. Had to stop too many times as well while trying to type with one hand and wielding a collapsable shovel in the other to stoke the fire with. Ok, so after Iowa it was the last leg of the journey before we got to Chicago (or just outside of it), and to the campsite from which I'm typing this right now. Took much longer to get here than we thought due to the last half of our journey being on 2 lane, backwoods highways leading us through towns with abandoned warehouses that backed up to train yards, huge victorian homes, and small roadside bars that tested the imagination as to what goes on in them.
Along the way we stopped at this badass German restaurant--the name eludes me now, but I grabbed a pic of the sign I"ll upload in the next few years. The place was something out of a movie, small time diner appeal with 70 year old waitresses taking your order, and an old bar dripping with oak and leather that would make a nun unable to control the desire to throw back top shelf scotch. Evidently where we were was a collection of 7 villages that were made up of German and Swiss immigrants that came to the midwest and set up shop many years ago. Incredible Ruben!
Finally made it to Volo, IL and Fish Lake Beach where we are staying for the next 7 days. Interesting place. Huge. Lots of full timers and camp sites, but the amenities are killer. Lots to keep the little one busy including a huge lake to swim in, paddle boats, craft day, Sunday school, playgrounds, kid's bingo, etc. etc. Picked up 2 bundles of firewood tonight and that's where you found me at the beginning of this blog, sitting at the fire writing after Rachel had gone to bed. I was in my element. Sippin' whiskey, writing and enjoying a fire. Tomorrow we paint though! Been too long...got lots of commissions and lots of ideas. Tomorrow is prep day for the Chicago Comic Con. Sketches, paintings, book inventory etc. Looking forward to the convention as it will be a totally different crowd for me. Baltimore next week. My home town. Been too long. Haven't been back in 3 years. Alright, time to catch some sleep....