Ok, so we’re off and rolling. We left Ann Arbor, MI about 6:00 am. We’ve rented a 19 ft travel trailer that I’m towing behind my 6 cylinder Trailblazer. I mention this because after fighting strong head-winds all day, I realize why experienced haulers have 8 cylinder engines (and diesel at that). While the Trailblazer can easily haul a 3,000 pound travel trailer, it does so at a cost – Fuel. I figure I’m going to burn 25% more fuel than anticipated. Bummer.
Anyway, we made it to Dubuque Iowa, which is our traditional first stop when heading out West. My wife hails from here so we always stop to visit family when we’re traveling near-by. Dubuque IA, is a beautiful, if not flooded place. There’s lots of evidence of flooding in the form of unplanted and dead fields. It’s a real mess and I can only imagine the economic hardship it has caused. People live very close to the land here. Something that is a bit hard for me to relate to since I was raised a city boy (and feel like one every time I visit here).
The pastoral beauty of the place is still amazing to me, even after 20 years of visiting here (yeah, I’ve been married 20 years, hard to imagine). Right now I’m sitting on a deck overlooking farmlands that stretch to the horizon. Cows graze a mere 50 yards from me. Hummingbirds flit back and forth from the feeders. The sky is purple velvet.
My wife and kids are currently with the my in-laws at a go-cart race. You read right, a go-cart race. It’s one of the forms of entertainment you don’t experience else where (well, I least I haven’t experienced it). Tonight, my 7 year old nephew (Ok, great nephew) is racing. How cool (and weird) is that. They limit the speed to 30 mph but still that’s a good clip for a 7 year old. I can’t imagine something like this occurring in Michigan.
The other thing I’ve noticed on this trip is how few cars are on the road. I’ve driven this route for close to 20 years now and know it well. The high gas prices have really cut down the number of vehicles. It’s clear to me that people are pulling back. I’ve begun to wonder if the family road-trip vacation may be endangered. It’s likely gas prices will be higher and not lower next year – and the year after that. The days of families driving for long distances to exotic and new places are numbered. I’m blessed that I earn an income that entitles me to take vacations like this.
I’m sad and a bit disconcerted how close others live to the economic edge here in Iowa. I want to help and know that at the same time it likely won’t change things. I feel selfish at such times.
We camp in the Bad-Lands tomorrow. It’s a long day of driving but I’m seriously looking forward to it. There is something about the harshness of deserts that has always attracted me. Arid is just in my nature I suppose.