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On The Road; Day 1

Thursday, April 26, 2018, I packed the last of the last in my car, placed Mr. Jones (my pom) in his shoebox sized nook between the console and the passenger seat - the only available real estate within Rhonda the Honda. My Mom was away visiting my sister, so I made my stepdad take a photo of the three of us, gave him a hug, and we were off.

My plan was to jump on Interstate 70 from my hometown of Martinsville, Indiana and drive west to St. Louis, and from there jump on Route 66. A funny thing took place. Instead of leading me the way I thought, which was highway to highway, my GPS took me along the backroads, which happened to be the very roads I grew up on as a child. I think I hadn't switched my settings back from the "avoid highways," something I meant to do. I wanted to get to 'the route" as quickly as possible. I didn't feel like I needed to take the scenic route in Indiana - I was well aware of it, but the Universe had a plan. I laughed at my "mistake." How appropriate my journey begin where it all actually began. I passed through the cornfields of my childhood. As a self-appointed gypsy, these were the only roots I knew. As a little girl, I can vividly remember looking out of my Dad's truck windows and thinking to myself, what's out there? What comes after all this corn? Who's out there and what are they all doing? I had no way of finding out then, but I secretly promised myself that one day I would. Yes, how fitting that I leave the way I came. Wide open Indiana spaces. Hoosier Heartland. Morgan County.

Once on I-70, I started to cruise. After a couple of hours I crossed the Illinois State Line, and soon saw a sign for the "World's Largest Wind Chime!" I love wind chimes! Then also, "World's Largest Rocking Chair!" All in one spot?! I thought to myself, well this wasn't on the list, but this IS what it's all about, and so, my first stop was in Casey, Illinois, 'Big things in a Small Town.' It was amazing! I pulled right up to the wind chime, parked, took it in, snapped a photo for my instagram story, looked across the street to the rocking chair and did the same. I ran into the cafe that was next door and confirmed that this chair was officially the world's largest, because according to my book, it lived in Fanning, MO. The people of the cafe assured me with pride in their eyes that THIS was the NEW record holder, and I believed them. "Well, alright," I said, "I'll take the World's Largest Coffee if ya got it, cuz I'm on my way to California!"

A few hours after I crossed the Mississippi River and Missouri State Line, three times. You see I really wanted to get a good look at the Chain of Rocks Bridge, where route 66 was re-routed through in 1936. It has this wild story and construction, but I was meant to enter it on the IL side and missed the turn, so I turned around and drove back across the Interstate/ Mississippi, and attempted to follow the directions in my book, but felt like I was going far too far in the wrong direction, so once more I returned to the interstate to cross the MO State Line, for the third time. Laughing at myself (I do this a lot), I made my way to the Gateway Arch. I'd been to St. Louis, but never to this 630ft stainless steel monument. It was so easy to access. I simply pulled up to it, left my car running, set up my camera, grabbed Mr. Jones, and snapped our perfectly placed, beneath the arch, photo. "Got it," I declared to my pup, and away we went.

I managed to make my way to route 66 from St. Louis and found quite a few gems along the way to note. The town of Bourbon got its name from the railroad workers who liked to drink whiskey from the general store in the 1850s. They called it the "Bourbon Store,' and the name stuck. I like Bourbon so I liked this town and its story. Cuba. Cuba is awesome! The town was revitalized with a mural project to attract route 66 travelers. Twelve outdoor murals line the route, depicting the town's heritage including Route 66 businesses, a series of Civil War Murals, paintings of Amelia Earhart when she landed outside Cuba in 1928, and Bette Davis's 1948 visit to the town in her Packard station wagon. It was mind-blowing. I made so many U-turns in Cuba, it's a miracle I made it out before sundown. I also made a stop in Fanning, just to capture the now World's 2nd Largest Rocking Chair at the Fanning 66 Outpost General Store. I didn't have the heart to tell the fine people of Fanning about Casey, so we snapped the shot and buzzed outta there.

There are so many treasures and stops one could make in Missouri. I rolled through a lot of it, wanting to get to our hotel in Springfield before sunset. Truth be told, I REALLY wanted a beer from the Springfield Brewing Company. As magic hour beset upon this beautiful midwestern town, I drove around with hearts in my eyes. Who knew? I was smitten by sweet Springfield. I took random roads to see the town, and each turn was as charming as the next. I checked us in to the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, where sadly the Elvis Room was booked, settled Jonesy in, then took myself for a drink after a long day's drive. I sat at the bar with beer and tacos and listened to live music. Everything felt right. The road had been good so far, and I felt accomplished and confident and proud of myself. The bartender was a beautiful college student.

Her name was Courtney.

You mustn't live so lightly,

Spin your stories, tell your tales,

Let them dance across the oceans

And set the wind upon your sails.

For every truth found on your travels

And in the pits of your despair,

Is a shout into forever

Of "I existed, and I cared."

~ Erin Hanson

Los Angeles, CA

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