Back roads trip lifts spirits, stirs travelers’ imaginations
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.