Now onto part three of this adventure, in which Missouri and Kansas treat me well.
Speaking of famous Missourians. I camped in Brad Pitt’s hometown of Springfield for three nights. It was one of my favorite (and largest) campsites, in a hayfield managed by KOA proprietors Scott and Diane King, off a stretch of rural highway, along the hot and dusty outskirts of town.
It is Wednesday, June 13.
I’m happy to say I’m not in Branson. I’m in Springfield, MO. And I love this campsite! I praised Jesus for this campsite because earlier while intending to camp in Branson, Missouri I discovered Branson is a honky-tonk clusterfuck of rotund old people driving $75,000 RVs. A Barbara Mandrell, Yakov Smirnoff clusterfuck of bellbottom-wearing, bibbed overall, red plaided, eat-til-you-puke, Aqua netted, cake-faced hoe-downed, imitations of the imitation Donnie and Marie Osmond cabaret of overpriced performers. I could’ve spent $30 a night to camp on a black top slab in Branson or … I could be here — in Springfield, Missouri in a cow pasture by the railroad tracks, in my tent under the hickory tree by the white picket fence, shooing fireflies out of my tent, my pug once again snoring, filled up on the couscous I cooked for dinner and the white Sunbeam bread from Jasper County, SC I toasted on Zac’s super duper one-burner camp stove.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I feel compelled to write something on the nature of roughing it. More than once I’ve been asked how I’m managing without bathrooms, showers, manicures, matresses, hair dryers and shopping
I have not gone a single day without a shower. I love showers! (Ask Zac.) Every campground has a bathhouse. The facilities are better than those of the Hawkins Court cottage I lived in for a year. The bathhouse in Asheville had brass racks for your toiletries. The bathhouse in the Smoky Mountains had granite vanity tops. In Hannibal the shower stall had a shampoo/soap holder hanging from the shower head. Here in Springfield, MO the facilities are kickass. I took a shower this morning in the handicap stall, which is apparently the perfect height for me plus I could sit down and let the water pressure hit my back in all the places I have bug bites.
The worst toilet I’ve encountered thus far was in Branson West at a gas station staffed by a woman with black teeth and a good sense of direction. (Thank you black toothed woman for heading this lost-in-a-paper bag bozo out of Branson and in the direction of Kansas City.)
– sugar packets
– salt & pepper packets
Rather than moisturize with Bath & Body Works Berry Bananza lotion or whatever I moisturize with OFF! Deep Woods Sportsmen bug spray.
I’m eating better than I did in Sarasota because I’m forced to make wise choices when I stop at Piggly Wigglys for groceries. I buy berries. I buy bananas. I do not buy chips or cookies. Chips and cookies hold me over for about an hour and then I’m hungry again. Cookies are gifted to me by all midwestern moms and dads I’ve stayed with so far. (Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Schnelle.) Besides, I won’t buy anything Cubbie can’t eat and chocolate upsets his stomach. I think.
My biggest complaint right now is that I don’t have my bicycle. I couldn’t fit my fat pug into the basket Betsy gave me so I left the bike at home. I’m going through withdrawls. I despise jogging and so does Cubbie. So I suppose I’ll have to be content with the amount of physical activity I get from schlepping my cooler into the shade whenever the sun changes positions and putting up and taking down my campsite in the sweltering, swamp-assing heat of the day.
Anyway. Ro just called. Yeah, I’m on the phone writing emails from a picnic table in southern Missouri. I’m getting a tan and really … I’m not roughing it at all.
When I’ve crapped in the woods I’ll let ya know.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is posh. The shopping is upscale and chic. The houses are enormous and cheap. Everyone seems to have a deck, a furnished basement and a subbasement. Kids marry young in Kansas City. Not to suggest that marrying young is in any way abnormal or problematic. Not in the least. It’s just the way it is. I’m envious a little of how every young, adorable couple I met had their lives under control. Their careers, their domesticity, their Maytag appliances … for every lapse in my judgment, for every second guess, for every fickle move I made in the past or to come … the couples I met in Kansas City were so well put together I hoped that just by brushing elbows with some of them, their clear-headedness would rub off on me.
KC was my last stop in the Midwest. Phew too! I was aching to go west. (I saw more of Missouri in one week than of my own home state.)
“Take this,” he said half-joking, half-not, “… if you have any trouble.”
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I did what everyone told me to do in Kansas. I drove in a straight line from east to west. About an hour out of Kansas City the land flattened into high plains like TV tables in the fields of wheat. It was raining when I pulled out of Meg and Cory’s place in KC, Missouri. It was the first time since Tennessee that I had to use my windshield wipers. I was dreading the drive – doubly now because I hate driving in the rain and because everyone I know (with the exception of my editors) said the state of Kansas was one big drive-right-through-it-if-you-can bore.
Cory called me soon after my leaving his place.
“Just checking to make sure you got out of the city alright.”
“Yeah, I’m good. It’s raining.”
“How far are you?”
“A little ways into Kansas.”
“Good luck. There aint shit to see.”
You were all wrong. Kansas is spectacular. In the same way I respect the pair of cutoff khaki shorts I’ve had since I was 14, I respect Kansas — for its unfussiness. Whenever I reach a place where I can see so far I have to squint things into focus, my imagination runs wild. And if there is anything in this world I want to run wild, it is my imagination.
Kansas is a canvas.
Wish I had camped in Kansas. Took me a few hours to get through it. Pulled over several times to take pictures. Ate lunch on a dirt road in between the wheat fields. Met no locals and was fine with that.
The sun popped out about half way through. I blasted my radio. Daydreamed. Felt unencumbered. Felt like I wouldn’t mind living in such a place. Felt like Dorothy had a good thing going when she said, “There’s no place like home.”
I pulled over in Quinter, Kansas. Sat on the side of a dirt road that stretched so far into the horizon I squinted my eyes and narrowed it into one gold strand. Imagined Kansas like Goldilocks. Thanked Kansas for its carbohydrates. Sat on a folded bed sheet, leaned up against the car, let Cubbie loose into a wheat field and watched as patches of dusty gray dandelions wisps stuck to his black face. I didn’t bother to pick them off at first because he looked so perfect covered in them. I asked Cubbie what he thought of Kansas and he said he didn’t understand what all those people were talking about when they said to drive right through it.