Monday, August 31, 2009

August Travels

I love to experience new things, meet new people, and see new places. August has been a wonderful month for all of these, both in the U.S. and abroad. I often find the need to fight the status quo and guard against complacency, so new experiences are food for my soul.

The month began when my friend Krisanne invited me to go sailing and camping. Leaving Minneapolis early Thursday evening I joked that she had packed enough equipment to keep us going for a month, though she did think of everything we might need!

After an hour's drive we arrived at Hok-Si-La campsite a mile north of Lake City and quickly put up our tent as dusk fell. We had a wonderful location with a view across Lake Pepin to Wisconsin. Shortly afterwards we met her friends Katie and Rick at the marina and boarded the yacht. When about a mile from shore Rick cut the engine and we just drifted, the sounds of Abba (Rick‘s choice) emanating from the cabin.

The evening was perfect. There was the slightest of breezes, the moon periodically emerging from behind the clouds, casting a shimmering reflection on the water. Our two hours on Pepin were wonderful. We laughed, told stories, and drank beer. Most surprisingly, we didn‘t see another boat during the entire time - just the moon, the stars, and the lights of Lake City in the distance.

Around midnight Krisanne and I headed back to Hok-Si-La where we built a fire and sat up until 3 am chatting. We also paid a visit to our nearest neighbors, whose voices we could hear in the distance through the trees. Here was tranquility and calm, an escape from the city with just the wind, the rustling of leaves, and the sounds of the night to keep us company. Rick and Katie stayed on the boat.

We woke up to the gentle beating of raindrops on the tent but soon went back to sleep. When we woke up again the rain was falling so hard that we couldn’t see across Pepin. And our tent had started to leak. The rain showed no signs of letting up so we decided to pack up, getting very wet in the process. But what fun! On the way home we stopped for lunch at the St. James Hotel in Redwing and were reunited with Rick and Katie. Krisanne is a great traveling companion.

My next trip was a lot longer, both in time and in distance. In my quest to see all 50 states I try to see at least one new state each year. Because I have been everywhere within a day’s drive of the Twin Cities, and also because I loved Kansas City so much when I visited in 2007, I decided to venture back there, stay a couple of nights, and take a separate trip to northeastern Oklahoma.

Leaving Minneapolis early on Friday morning I headed south on I-35, past endless fields of corn and giant clouds that drifted lazily across the sky. The clouds in the midwest seem bigger than on the coasts or in England. There is something calming that the solitude of an open road offers -- a different kind of solitude to being in the woods, but a solitude nonetheless.

The flat fields of Iowa gradually gave way to Missouri’s gentle rolling hills and after eight hours on the road I arrived in KC. That evening I visited a wonderful coffee shop (with live music) in Westport, site of a famous Civil War battle. I also spent some time in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum.

At breakfast the following morning I sat studying my road atlas when a woman covered in sweat and dressed in running gear approached me and asked, “Where are you going?” We chatted like old friends and she suggested I also go to Arkansas, adding, “…but you’ll need to haul ass!“ She then invited me to join her and a friend in the evening. I accepted the invitation, which turned out to be tremendous fun.

The day was interesting though I would think twice before spending so long in the car again. In Arkansas I went to Bentonville, a charming town in the Ozarks. It is also home to Wal-Mart though I didn’t know that when I arrived. Sometimes when traveling my accent can elicit interesting responses, especially in small towns. Ordering coffee in a cafĂ© I was told “there’s a girl who comes in here who does a great impersonation of your language.” I smiled. Bentonville was charming.

I then headed to Miami, Oklahoma, where a corvette rally was taking place. The town had seen better days, but the sight of 100-plus corvettes lined up on Main Street before heading onto Route 66 later that day made me glad I came. Having been to Arkansas and Oklahoma I've now been to 32 states - I wonder where will be next?

The journey back to Minneapolis was long though I did strike it lucky in a casino close to the Iowa-Minnesota border. I am no fan of casinos and don’t know why I went in though my 10 minutes there saw me part with $5 and walk out with $80.

Last week, on my way to visit my dad in England, I decided to stop in Iceland. When I arrived it was cold and grey and most people were dressed in wooly hats, gloves, and big coats. I wasn’t prepared for that. In a coffee shop early in the morning a woman asked if the seat next to me was free. Recognizing each other from the plane, we chatted and arranged to meet for coffee that evening.

During the day I explored Reykjavik and met my new friend later on. Walking around the city we stopped and stared at the sight of 30 Danish men wearing suits who were singing on the pavement outside a Danish pub. We couldn‘t decide what the occasion might be but it was wonderful to stand there and listen. Later on we listened to Celtic music, performed by Icelanders. The night was great fun. I also loved the slogan on her business card, “Adventure Seeker”.

In contrast to the timeless tranquility of my dad’s village and Arlington Row, in particular, I spent yesterday, Sunday, in London. I dearly love Minneapolis but London will always burn brightly in my heart. I went somewhere touristy (but fun), Speakers’ Corner; visited a couple of old haunts, Covent Garden and Camden Market; and experienced something new, the Notting Hill Carnival, which I have always wanted to see.

Perhaps Samuel Johnson, writing in the 18th century, knew a thing or two when he wrote, “...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

I don’t think I have ever traveled so much in one month. I write this from the rural charm of a hotel beside Rutland Water in England’s smallest county, Rutland, on the last day of the month (a short break with my dad). In a couple of hours my aunt and uncle are coming to dinner. What a great way to end the month.


Anonymous said...

good one boy. one thing perhaps missing would be more detail of the interesting people that you met.


Christopher said...

That's a great point, Ev. They were both very cool people.

Amanda Symes said...

Hi Chris!
I have not been keeping up with the blogs of our classmates from Creative Non-fiction, but I mean to change that now.
I love your story about your travels. You sound like you had a great time.
If you have not ventured to lovely South Dakota yet, or want another trip, I am from there and can give you some great trip ideas.
I hope all is well with you!