I am heading west and heading home! My work is done and with my case of road trip fever, I decide to head out for some new adventures.
I decide to just zoom on through the heartland and get into Nebraska, where I am still drawn to the Platte River. So, at odd hours this time, I high-tail it past the all the Temple Starbucks on the Ohio Turnpike, the exit for Joliet Junior College, and the Skunk River. I float over the Missouri River and into Nebraska.
That is not to say that my exit from the motherland was without things to report. I did make one quick stop at a Turnpike Oasis in Ohio, where a guy flirts with me! Seriously. I am wearing my shabby overalls because nothing else is clean. He winks and says, “I sure love those bib overalls”. Now that’s a new line. So I stare at the map trying to both ignore him and check him out using my crafty peripheral vision. He continues with some banter about the ATM, giving me his sweetest, naughty smile. I see that he is too old for me…probably over 40, so I don’t offer any encouragement and he saunters away after a while, towards the trucker lounge. Still, I may frame my overalls.
My first serious stop, after 402 miles of driving is the same store where I bought the chocolate chunk yogurt on my way east. This time I went crazy and got two containers. Ymmmm once again on that matter.
As I approach the Mississippi on I-80, not far from Yogurt Mecca, I decide to take a long break and visit the Mississippi River Interpretive Center at the Rock Island Arsenal. Apparently I drive up to the heavily guarded entrance to the operational Federal Arsenal. How was I supposed to know that it is the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States?
So anyway, I see that I am somewhere serious and there is no place to turn around so I drive right up to the secured gate like I own the place. Two youngish guards drop their jaws, looking quite alarmed. I am thinking that they are trained to look for vans that are driven by people who like to bomb Federal installations (think McVeigh). Still, a dirty, travel worn van driven by a grey-haired lady from Wyoming who is dressed in sexy, dirty bib overalls?
They ask for my driver’s license and scan it (apparently my fake license fooled them). They ask about the vent on top of the van. They demand to know what and who is in the van (just my dog I tell them, and lots of camping stuff). I get a lecture on leaving my dog in the vehicle while on federal property.
They still look nervous and I marvel at how I can instill fear in Federal guards. Finally I ask if there is a place where I can turn around. They show me, and off I go, smiling and waving goodbye to my first “return-trip” friends.
Later when I research Rock Island Arsenal it all makes sense. I learn that “in the zombie novel World War Z by Max Brooks, all of the continental United States east of the Rocky Mountains is overrun by hordes of zombies. However, Rock Island is mentioned as one of the isolated zones east of the Rocky Line that was still manned and defended, as one of the vital munitions manufacturing centers which were so essential to the war effort that they could not be abandoned. The US Marines at Rock Island managed to successfully defend the position for over seven years, until relieved by Army Group North as it drove east across the Great Plains. They were said to have faced some of the toughest fighting in the entire war (World War Z).”
While this little Rock Island adventure is the highlight so far, I do have one more. I decide as I near the Missouri River crossing on I-80, to look for a Nebraska State Park right on the river. Oh my! I found it eventually but what a stinkin hole, down in a deep, muddy ravine. Nothing there worth staying for, so I head on up to I-80 again, on my way to the next stop: Fort Kearny State Park for several days of R and R. I don’t get that far since I have been going non-stop since Ohio, sleeping only a few hours here and there. Sleep starts to take over, but I see a dog-friendly motel and that is 1.2 Sleep, my first official stop on the way home.
Things to look forward to: I found dehyrated hash browns! Will try while camping and offer a full report.