Posted by: chlost | October 26, 2014

Travel together, stay together?

October is nearly at an end. We have had a spectacular fall here in the upper midwestern U.S. The trees have had beautiful fall colors. The leaves have stayed on the branches of the trees, allowing full appreciation of their colors, opposed to many years when high winds and rain blow them to the ground very early. The temperatures have been relatively warm and it has been sunny for a good portion of the season.

These fall colors help to offset the dreary, white and gray that we suffer through for our 5 months of winter. I guess if we see these vivid colors, they should remain burned on to our retinas before the world goes into its colorless stage three weeks from now.


One of the trees in our front yard.


To celebrate our late October wedding anniversary (35 years! I think we beat the oddsmakers at our wedding), Merle and I took a road trip. We both enjoy traveling. Usually-well, let’s say for the past 37 years- we have traveled the way that Merle prefers to travel. We set out to reach a specific destination very far away, and “haul ass” to get ourselves there. We then turn around and go home in as short a time as possible. Merle and the Interstate Highway system were made for each other.

This time, it was to be a trip in the style I have always wanted. We had no plans. None. We had a week. We (well, Merle) wanted to be at a cow sale on the last day. Other than that, we simply pointed the car south and started driving. It was very difficult for him.  He wants to “make good time” when he travels. I have always wanted to just meander along and see what there is to see, taking the side roads. This time he agreed to try to do it my way. That didn’t mean he agreed to enjoy it. He started out a bit stressed, shall we say.

The trip ended up to be a combination of our styles. The US Highways that we traveled were often 4 lanes, and had 70 mph speed limits. That was frustrating for me, but Merle loved those. We did have many miles on some old 2-lane roads, which I enjoyed immensely. We had some great discoveries along the way.

Most of my photos were taken from the car. He couldn’t be relaxed enough to actually stop at every interesting spot where I might want to take a photo. We drove south along the Mississippi River for several days, then stopped in Memphis for two nights. Then we headed west and returned north along the Missouri River. Both rivers were edged with beautiful fall colors. When we figured out approximately how far we’d be able to drive each day, we booked a hotel online at a town within that range. It really pushed Merle’s comfort level not to have a place booked ahead of time.

We stayed for one night each in Dubuque, IA, Quincy IL, and Cape Girardeau, MO. Some of the river towns were quaint. Many of them were a bit shabby. Some of them were downright in tatters. Keokuk IA was one of the saddest towns I have ever seen. I felt too guilty taking photos, as it seemed like it would be disrespectful. Not one house we saw in that town was in decent shape. We saw no one out and about. Hannibal MO, was shabby. I was so disappointed after imagining it to be a picturesque river town as I had seen in my mind from the Mark Twain books.

In Quincy, we discovered a “moor-style” home called Villa Kathrine built along the banks of the Mississippi River in the early 20th century. For some reason, it seemed quite fitting to see this moorish home in the pouring rain. Who’d have guessed that such a place would be in this little town?



Merle was not very excited to see it, but after we were there, he found it very interesting. Unfortunately, the rain obscured the river views.

When we were in Memphis, Merle started to understand the concept of just checking out interesting places we found on the map. He suggested that we visit a botanic garden which still had bright fall flowers and trees.

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And some lovely sights along the pathways through the large wooded areas.


There was also a “Playhouse Lane” in the botanic garden. These were very unique and fun to see. We couldn’t help but wonder how much fun our granddaughters would have had if they had been there with us.


There was a playground with a large birdhouse as the center play area.


The botanic also had a very large Japanese Garden. This was much larger than any others that I’ve seen.


The garden turned out to be one of the favorite stops on our trip. Merle was beginning to enjoy this meandering a bit more.

But the best part of Memphis, of course, is the blues music and the barbecue. We combined the experiences by going to BB King’s Blues club on Beale St. Merle was a bit apprehensive about going to Beale Street. He is a bit uncomfortable in unfamiliar places, and an unfamiliar big city is the worst for him. But he loves BB King. Friends had told me that Beale Street would be fun, so I was dead set on going. There was a Pearl Jam concert at the FedEx stadium just behind Beale Street, so there was a fun combination of tourists, concert goers, and regulars out and about on the street before the concert. Once the concert started, there were not too many people left on the street. It was ironic to see the Civil Rights photographs in a photo gallery down the street from BB King’s which shows the history of the area, and then see all of the people out on the street now. I wonder what those activists and marchers must think of it.

We had dinner and watched the show at BB King’s club. I believe that dinner was one of the best I have ever had. The music was not blues, but it was soul, and the group, King’s Bees, was quite good. We enjoyed ourselves. Merle is a blues fan, yet he admitted that he had a good time even without the blues music. If you don’t know him, you cannot fully appreciate the rarity of positive comments. He actually had a smile on his face, and he began to really relax for the first time since we’d left home.

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We are getting old and do not do the club scene, so it was a treat to sit at a table right in front of the stage. Loud, but fun. We were able to watch the interaction of the band members as well as listen to the music.

While we were in Memphis, we also discovered an Agribusiness Center, where we just walked in and the President spent about an hour chatting with us about the place. This place is quite similar to where Merle works, so he loved it.

From Memphis, we went north to stay a night in Springfield, Missouri. On the map, we saw that there was a civil war battle site for a battle Merle had not known about. He is a bit of a Civil War buff, so he really enjoyed driving around the site. There were more deer than humans in the place, as we didn’t get there until dusk, but that meant that we also didn’t have to pay any admission price, either. Big score on this one!


We saw over 50 deer in the battlefield park area. They were not fearful of people. Somehow, it seemed fitting that the wildlife have taken over a battlefield where so many humans killed each other.


We traveled through Arkansas and Missouri, following the Missouri River back to the north. We ended up on a two-lane highway in northeastern Kansas which followed the bluffs along the river into Nebraska. Who knew that there were beautiful bluffs in eastern Kansas and Nebraska? Kansas Highway 7-if you are ever in that area, it is worth it to take the slow road.


Our final night was in Omaha, NE. When we got to town, we just had dinner in the hotel and relaxed. We had only the next morning to find something fun in Omaha, as the cows awaited us just a few miles to the northeast. We weren’t hopeful for fun. I mean, what fun could there be in Omaha?

But we did find a gem of a railroad museum run by the Union Pacific. It is housed in an old city library, which was completely renovated by the railroad. The building had been vacant for several years before the renovation, and was nearly demolished. The building is beautiful. The ceilings are arched in several directions, there are arched doorways and stained glass throughout. (apparently I lean to the left while taking photos….sorry.)


The ceiling arches were gorgeous. There is a center glass area, with the arches setting it off. There were pillars that went to the floor from the arches.


The exhibits were very informative and interesting, including a copy of an advertisement for Pony Express riders:


We made it to the cow sale site in time to view these prize Hereford cows. Technically, these are Hereford heifers. We didn’t stay for the actual sale which was held the next day. The average sale price for these animals was $20,000.00  Way out of our price range. I lost interest in the cows in about 20 minutes. Merle, of course, looked everything over, took notes, and made comparisons for close to 2 hours. It was a good thing that there was some good people watching to keep me busy.

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We made it through a week-long trip which was a blend of what I wanted and what Merle wanted. I think that in the end, he would acknowledge that he enjoyed my way of traveling, but it was very hard for him at times. I still prefer my way.

Over the 35 years of being married to each other, we have at least figured out how to compromise a bit, even in the different way we do something that we both enjoy.

One week in the car- 2500 miles, 6 cities, innumerable cows, fields, and tractors, through rain, clouds, wind, sun, and only a few miles of being lost- we made it home without killing each other.

We’re still married.



  1. My husband likes to ‘make good time’, too! Sometimes we explore unfamiliar areas, but he is definitely one to prefer some sort of game plan. We’ve never stayed overnight anywhere without having a reservation. That’s way too seat-of-the-pants for either one of us! I’m glad you found compromise and survived the trip – still married 🙂

  2. Oh, this is just the best! As I started reading, I was so hoping Merle would come around to your way of travel (it’s my style, too), and I really like that he did and he didn’t. A perfect metaphor for marriage, indeed.

  3. Being married to a farmer, I strongly related to admiring crops & cattle along your trip, especially the “get there/look out the window/turn around & head home” mentality of our men! We, too, are “still married,” a great Garrison Keillor title–50 years, come January 23. I really enjoy reading your blog.

  4. You’re lucky that both of you can leave at the same time. Thank you for allowing Merle to have some say in the matter. We men really appreciate that sort of thing. 🙂

  5. You came to my state! 400 miles away in my state, but still.

    I much prefer back roads and meandering, too.

  6. Sounds like quite the trip. Fortunately, we both like to meander, although the interstate is always an option if we need to make time or are bored, like part of our drive through Iowa this summer when I pleaded that we MUST get back on the interstate. We loved Dubuque. I have yet to blog about that and Galena, Illinois.

    That garden you visited is fantastic.

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