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When we last left off, I was in Missouri.  Due to the heat and my desire to hang out with the popster, I skipped out on canoeing the Missouri River.  Instead we barbecued some ribs and avoided the heat.

So Monday (August 2) morning we loaded up the van and set off NW out of Columbia for Michigan.  Ordinarily this is a 10 hour drive but I spread it out over 2 days to match the theme of the trip.  We wound our way North West and crossed the Mississippi on Hwy 54 and then on into Illinois.  In Illinois we followed county roads which followed the Illinois and other rivers, basically winding our way through the river bottom lands.  We stopped for a swim in a lake whose name now escapes me and generally enjoyed the scenery.  The entire trip lent itself to seeing old sites with new eyes.  I’ve driven across Illinois 10s or 100s of times, how long since I saw something new?  But this trip was different, I checked out historic districts, 120 year old bridges, and just generally rolled through enjoying the country side.  We ended up that night in a motel in Lafayette Indiana.

Early the next morning we rolled out early to continue our journey.  After an hour or so on the road it clouded up, the heat and humidity became even more oppressive, then the magic show began: it stormed.  Lightening, thunder, and the excitement they engender is something I miss living in the bay.  This light show made up for years of missing out.  I pulled off the road, twisted a number and sat back and enjoyed an hour of hair raising lightening.  After the storm it rained….and kept raining as we continued our journey.  Two PM found us following the Maumee river through Ohio with the rain only a distant memory.  We stopped and swam near Texas, Ohio at a metro park and then wound our way through rural Ohio and into Michigan.

We spent nearly a week in SE Michigan/NW Ohio, visiting with friends and family.  I won’t bore the reader with too many details, but the highlight was definitely the bloom of the lotus.  Monroe has long been famous for the lotus blooms along the lagoons of lake Erie.  Recently (in the past five years) the lotus have disappeared from their most famous home near Dog Lady Island.  But this year I found that they had spread…everywhere.  I marveled at 100’s of acres of new lotus, all abloom and as beautiful as anything I’ve seen (pictures as soon as I get some free time to edit them).

The trip across from West to East was everything I had hoped, I managed to drive 3400 interstate-free miles and see a lot of country that I had never seen.

My friend, I’ll call him Joe, received a big payment from SDI and asked to ride out to California with me and then fly home later.  Joe and I were inseparable friends 20 years ago, we drifted apart when he became a junkie, we kept in touch but junkies really only have time for themselves and you become someone to be ripped off to continue their tragic decent.  Joe’s decent had bottomed out when he had his head caved in for some stupid shit, now he’s a 40 something, brain injured, recovering junkie collecting SDI and living at his mom’s.  A fairly sad proposition for anyone.  I knew it would be difficult, I knew it would stress my levels for compassion, but I told him to come along as long as he had a ticket to get back home, I would take him along.

I visited a few more days with family, even attending the Trapp family reunion.  I knew few of the attendees and snuck off to leave after only a few hours.  Despite this, the visit to my home town was fun.  It is often easier to see where you are when you can look at where you’ve been…and this trip supplied lots of facets as to where I have been.

Sunday night, the 8th, I loaded up my gear, shooed the dogs into the van and picked up Joe for the trip home.  My original plan was to drive like a mad man across I-80 and get home 48 hours later.  With Joe along, I changed plans.  I added a day to the trip and dropped down to I-70 in Denver to show him the Rocky Mountains and high desert of Utah.  Joe hasn’t been a lot of places, and may not be again, I decided to show him some sites.  We left Michigan at 8:08 on 8/8.

Leaving at night put me in Nebraska during the heat of the following day…and it was hot, with a heat index of 115 and no air conditioning…  I was a miserable tired man long before we got a room in Boulder Colorado Monday night.  I expected it to be frustrating to travel with Joe, but I had no idea exactly how frustrating it could be.  But I managed to maintain my composure (and compassion) and give a good tour despite the frustrations of traveling with someone who had lost the power of empathy.  We wound our way across the Rockies all day Tuesday and night fall found us in Western Utah.  At this point I put the cruise control on 75 and drove virtually non-stop to get home about 11 AM on Wednesday.  I slept one out of three nights on the way home.  I had thought that Joe could help with the driving, but that wasn’t the case, this put me home tired and ornery.

As I write this, after a 10 hour slumber, I have gained a little perspective and feel like a did a good deed.  After work today I will work on editing a few more photos…I will edit this post when I put them up on Picasa.  I now remember full well why I don’t usually travel during the heat of Summer.  Coming home into the bay, after baking in the sun for days on end to find the marine layer in full effect and a high of 61 degrees was a great reminder of why I’ve chosen the bay area as home.  As I’ve stated in other travel posts…it is always nice to come home after extended travel.

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