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On the Road to Chicago: Part I

After leaving Cincinnati at around 2am on May 1, we headed north on the 127 because Casper wanted to skip as much of Indiana as possible. I fell asleep in the front seat, surrounded by our excess of belongings. Salem hid in the trunk and Casper drank an energy drink.

We stopped at the Wall first, a brick wall outside of Stop-n-Go where we had the most important conversations of our early relationship. Last fall, it was the only place we both felt capable of opening up and talking. Per usual, at 2am the place was packed. We sat on the Wall, watching drunken college students make fools of themselves. The clerk always buzzes folks in at this our as the place is notorious for being robbed (some call it the Stab-n-Go). The security guard kept an eye on everyone, the college students lined up outside the door. And all this in the flashing police lights reflected from some crime happening around the corner. I’ll miss Cincinnati, but it was time to leave.

Our perfect sleeping spot near Lake Wawasee in Indiana.

I slept until around 4am. Casper pulled over at a rest stop and we slept in the uncomfortable front seat for a few hours before continuing north. Somewhere around Bryan, Ohio, we headed west on the 6. We’re avoiding freeways because we’re not hurrying anyway, we want to see the world we pass through and slower speed limits conserve gas (a theory we weren’t sure would be proven to but it has!).

The 6 took us across the entirety of northern Indiana. We missed Michigan by a few dozen miles so I still can’t check that state of my list.Around 11am, we stopped near Syracuse, Indiana, and followed our atlas to Lake Wawasee. We couldn’t find a way to get down to the water, but we found a most glorious square field full of lush grass, chirping birds and dandelions. We laid out our big red blanket and slept, thanking the sun when it appeared and cursing it when it slipped back into the clouds. We ate stale bread and delicious hummus for lunch. No one bothered us, though a cop car slowed down near us at one point and that freaked Casper out. Luckily, we were just strapping the car top carrier back on and he or she hadn’t seen us sleeping.

Me, waking up from my nap, and the glorious abandonment across from our field.

About a mile from our Wawasee location, we heard a weird thumping noise which turned out to be a flat tire. What are the odds?! Less than 24 hours into our road trip! Luckily, we broke down right near a farmhouse and northern Indiana feels like home to me because it looks like Wisconsin. I went up to the house, the young boy mowing the lawn eyeing me curiously, and asked the woman who answered if they had metric tire wrenches. For some reason, the tire wrench we currently have does not fit our car’s tires. It’s pretty silly.

The woman said no, but within a few minutes a man about the same age came out with some tools. We were unloading the trunk to get the spare tire and Casper was jacking up the car. The man, whose name I think was Dan, was accompanied by his second grader Lily. When he went back to his garage to get some tools, she returned with a hula hoop but was too shy to show us her skill. She made it clear, though, that she was a better hula-hooper than her dad. He agreed.

Dan was incredibly nice. He told us he’d never really left the Syracuse area in his life, but he didn’t treat us like weirdos even though I was barefoot, wearing sweatpants, a torn up pink vintage church dress, and a long red coat. Casper in his sleeveless black hoodie covered in obscure band patches, a blue bandana and patched up tan jeans probably didn’t look too rural either. Lily couldn’t keep her eyes off us, me in particular. She said she does, in fact, like school and she was very interested in the fact that we had a cat in the car. Her eyes looked like they were taking in all she saw and adding it to her growing list of things and lifestyles that are possible.

She, and her relationship with her dad, made me think so much of myself as a little country bumpkin 15 years ago in rural Wisconsin.

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My sweetie is finally into road gear: black hoodie, Carhatts ("Gap," he says) and bare feet. The Pearl, our car, ain't looking too bad, either. It's gonna be a good summer.

At midnight, on April 5th, we departed. We unloaded all our  goodies (clothes, tons of LPs, paper, photos) from the car and filled it up again with a random assortment of clothes and entertainment devices. We said goodbye to Salem – he is being cared for by our old roommates.

Our first stop was a mile or so north of our apartment where a Freecycler had promised me a crafting wreath would be left for me to pickup. Casper, of course, needed to have this to make into a laurel or ritualistic wreath. I jumped around the cold pavement, barefoot, until I found the right house number and retrieved the wreath.

Noah Gundersen to the freeway, a Drank for me and a Rockstar for him. I crawled into the backseat to sleep and Casper put on an audiobook of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I can’t believe how choppy that woman’s writing style is.

Giant Casper!

Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee. We stopped once for Casper to sleep in the backseat, but made it to Nashville around 7am. I slept most of the drive. We didn’t realize we’d switched into Central Time Zone for quite a while and kept having brainf*cks about it seeming really late. By chance, Adrienne came stumbling out of her house in her PJs and slippers, having suspected that we might have showed up. We’d only been waiting a few minutes so it was lucky, but we were all sleepy and me and Casper promptly commandeered her couch.

We: talked, hugged, slept, checked out her epic backyard, laid in the sun, and did stretches/yoga. During all the talking, I finally managed to glue all my extras into my last journ, finally making a clean break to the new one.

Adrienne went to work in the afternoon, leaving Casper and I home alone with the kitty, Greyson. We watched Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog for the first time ever and were surprised at how good it was. We took photos. I wove him a laurel. We talked and talked.

Adrienne's adorable front door.

We also practiced for a gig I just got offered today…I have no idea if it’s going to work and I’m keeping the specifics a secret until I find out more. It’s very daring!

Now, Casper is out buying groceries so there’s a lovely dinner on the table when Adrienne gets home form work. I think he’s thinking turmeric rice with green peas, but I’m not sure what else he’ll concoct.

Oh! Adrienne was given a piano today, though she has some time before it’ll be delivered. And she’s gotta find room for it in cute little house.

Casper and I have been on a DaVinci-style sleep schedule since Saturday and I’m hoping to get that straightened out starting tonight. There is talk of an air mattress so hopefully neither Casper nor I will be on the floor.

We’ll be heading back to Cincinnati and our apartment before going on the road for good. Since we’re planning to head north straightaway, we thought we’d come down south to see Adrienne before we leave the southern Midwest altogether.

We can already feel our bodies and minds shifting. Our concepts of time, money, responsibility, priorities, commitment and communication have already started making the transition to a freer, looser format.

We’re thinking more and more of hiding away in the woods for a long time at some point this summer. And snagging a long housesit somewhere cold and cozy come winter. We’ll see.

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