Archive for Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back roads trip lifts spirits, stirs travelers’ imaginations

October 7, 2010

We determined to leave Atchison and cross the Missouri River. We accomplished the feat by accident when we took a wrong turn trying to find downtown and found ourselves on the over arching bridge crossing the river.

I tried not to look at the bridge itself. The floor of the bridge seemed wooden and the structure tired and worn. I wasn’t driving so I focused instead on the river itself: murky, brown and swollen from the recent rains.

I thought about the barge traffic that used to fill this watery highway; the River Queen and other paddle wheelers, filled with passengers and supplies, barges carrying roped tied bundles and people; Huck Finn sneaking out of the pages of historical fiction.

Such a trip stirs the imagination; lifts a spirit, out of deeply implanted day to day cares; and creates new routes through unmapped territory. Detour ahead!

I wasn’t driving. I had full confidence in the one who was driving, so I sat back and waited to see where we were going. When one leaves Atchison, the roads narrow and curve — a lot. We passed soy bean fields, dried corn rows, overgrowth that filled the ditches along side the road. Then the paved road ended: bridge out.

We turned onto the detoured road: dirt and gravel. We were driving a four wheel drive SUV, so we forged ahead. I say “we” because what option did I have. I watched the road narrow; the corn stalks become denser, the ruts deepen. We passed a house — if you can call it that, with road signs and license plates nailed all over the out buildings. A novel, “The Beans of Egypt Maine,” came to mind.

My driver, a seasoned traveler, pulls a map out of the glove box. I wonder what good a map will do as we drive down dirt and gravel, unmarked roads coursing by farm houses with no mail boxes. We plunge ahead; eventually find ourselves back on highway 45 — but not before we have seen the banks of a swollen creek, at close range; too close for my comfort — the water is, of course, on the passenger side of the car.

We end up in Weston; another historical river town. The main street is lined with shops — antique, second hand, arts and crafts; and the sidewalks were dotted with benches and sit upons filled with stragglers, whose companions were touring the shops. I try not to become a straggler.

Hunger overtakes us. We found a small café, clean and friendly with home-made soups and pies. I’m not sure why people in such small places seem so genuine, so real — like a page out of a book written in the 50’s — why their realness calls to the truth in us; something in us answers back.

We ambled the afternoon away; came home in sunlight; the fog lifted. Life as it should be.

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