Travelogue -- Day One, the Trip to Quincy
It was pouring as Chris and I left Oklahoma City about 5:30 AM and headed northeast for our annual Sister Trip. The rain did relieve my concerns about my garden while I was gone, but it was dark and Chris was unfamiliar with both the road and the car she was driving. She had arrived the evening before driving her husband's new car for the first time. We were taking our vacation in style, to be sure, but along with that was the apprehension that we would not deliver it back in the same pristine condition.
Those concerns receded somewhat with dawn. The sun on the horizon was as big and red as I've ever seen it, and seemed to confirm that our trip would be exceptional. Chris and I find pleasure in the same kind of things and we enjoy each other's company, so our sister trips are always wonderful, and truly the highlight of my year.
This year we would be a sentimental journey. We would be driving back to Quincy, Illinois first, an old German river town next to the Mississippi where we were born and raised. I have been back a few times since we lived there -- mostly on the way to art shows -- but it had been many years since Chris had made the trip back home. We would be staying the first three nights with Kathy, my best friend from high school, who lives with her cats, Lady Jane and Katy Kitty in the same house she grew up in. We've kept in touch all these years and even play scrabble regularly via the computer.
Then after our visit in Quincy, we would be driving on to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri where we vacationed so many summers during our growing up years. We would be meeting two dear friends from my art show days there, where we would stay in side-by-side cottages right on the lake. Erik lives in Toledo and Jill lives in Clyde, Ohio, and it had been a long time since I had seen either. I was so looking forward to spending time with them, too. Chris had met them both and liked them. I was sure we would all enjoy our time together.
It quit raining somewhere past Tulsa, though it took us a while (plus instruction from a stranger at a gas station) to figure out how to turn the windshield wiper completely off. We stopped to have lunch at Lebanon Missouri, at a Sirloin Stockade. The fried chicken was good, though most of the food we sampled on the buffet was mediocre. They did, however, serve some of the best bread pudding we'd ever tasted.
The afternoon went by quickly as we drove across Missouri toward our hometown. We played a couple music CDs but mostly we talked. Quincy is not on the way to anywhere, so to get there it is necessary to take secondary roads the last hundred miles or so, but getting off the interstate was a pleasure, as one really gets the flavor of a place that way. We went through the picturesque town of Herman where we crossed the Missouri River. The little bakery I remembered from previous trips that sells exceptional cheese Danish was closed. They always close when they run out of pastries. It was just as well, though, as we were not a bit hungry.
We crossed the Mississippi River at Hannibal, Missouri late that afternoon after buying gas. Kathy had warned us to fill up before crossing over into Illinois and we were glad we had, as it was over three dollars a gallon on the other side of the river. Chris got a Snickers ice cream bar at the gas station, and when she laid it on the counter to pay for it, the clerk said, "That will be a dollar seventy-three please". Chris was shocked and said, "A dollar seventy-three?" The clerk looked at the enormous diamond on Chris's finger and replied, "If you don't have enough money, dear, you can leave that ring". We laughed about that comeback for days.
We got to the outskirts of Quincy and I tried to call Kathy to let her know we were almost there, but couldn't get a signal. We were a bit earlier than she expected, so we drove through our old neighborhood and down through South Park a bit. The park is only about three blocks from the house where we were raised. As children, we had played countless times along the creek that meanders through the park. That was during a time when parents didn't have to worry about their children walking to the park by themselves or playing for hours without supervision. We decided a hike in South Park would be first on our list the next day.
I finally got a call through to Kathy while we were in the park. In five minutes we were in her kitchen. Kathy had homemade dill bread baking and a wonderful meal waiting for us to help assemble. We had hot and sour soup and a lovely salad. For dessert she had made delicious pumpkin bars, which we snacked on at every opportunity during our visit.
That evening the three of us played scrabble. We all like the game, and it was fun to play in the same room after playing over the computer so many times. Kathy won, of course, as she almost always does. We went to bed at nine-thirty. Chris hadn't slept well the two previous nights, and it had been a long day. We were both exhausted but happy and looking forward to our trip down memory lane in Quincy.