Contrary to what the title implies this isn’t about my new job. I don’t have nor do I want one of those. It isn’t about an old Dolly Parton song or movie. It is about my bucket list.
Before I talk about my bucket list I’m going to bore you with a few thoughts about bucket lists in general.
Merriam-Webster says the first use of the word(s) bucket list was in 2006. I guess my dad didn’t have one or if he did he called it something else. The definition is simple: a list of things one has not done before but wants to do before dying.
I frequently credit Merriam-Webster as my source for definitions. I have their app on my IPad and IPhone, it is free and if you need that sort of thing I highly recommend it.
I think the list should be a mental list and should not be written. I think it should be fluid; new things added and stuff that for whatever reason is no longer important removed.
Over the years my personal and professional travels took me to a lot of places across this great land. One day I got the grandkids crayons and a blank U.S. map and colored the states I had visited. I guess I really just did that in my mind; anyway I had been in 39 of the 50. I made a bucket list entry to visit those other eleven.
They were scattered; two southeast, two a way out west, three northeast and four up north in the Great Plains and Midwest.
The last good run Sharyl and I made before she got sick was in the summer of ’08. That trip took care of the two down in Dixie. That reduced the magic number to nine. This week I reduced it again from nine to five. Hmmm 9 to 5 that sounds like a good title for a blog post.
I removed Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota from the bucket list. A recent addition to that list was a visit to the Surf Ballroom. See the previous blog, visiting the Surf is no longer on the list.
Taking care of those bucket list things was just a little gravy. The real reason for the trip: I needed to analyze some things; I do that best when I am running down the road. Most people probably don’t need to drive 2000 miles to perform an in depth personal analysis; I am not most people.
I’ll get the serious stuff out of the way first. I am proud I made the trip. I needed to do this one alone. I like who I am, and I am OK with where I am. I think I need to continue to make my little world bigger. I think I am on the right road and going in the right direction. When I compare where I am to where I have been I believe I am doing OK. I think I drove way too far to see something so obvious. I should have been able to do figure that out on my way to the grocery store.
All right, we got the serious stuff out of the way. I’ll try to cover a few of the highlights of the trip. I mentioned in Sunday’s blog, I left home late Sunday afternoon. Old habits are hard to break; that is the way Sharyl and I typically did when we traveled. We would get on the road get three or four hours behind us and find a hotel. Sharyl didn’t like to make advance hotel reservations but “by god” I better find her a bed before ten or she wasn’t a fun traveling partner.
I didn’t have a plan or a schedule. I had three things on my agenda. I wanted to visit those four states and the Surf Ballroom; it is in Iowa. I wanted to gather my thoughts. I figured I would know when it was time to come home.
I spent the first night in Joplin MO. If you are ever driving an Interstate through MO and you aren’t sure if you are there; if you haven’t passed the big firework stores, you aren’t there yet. Likewise if you wonder if you are still in MO, if you haven’t passed the big fireworks stores again you are still there.
In Des Moines, Iowa I saw a personalized license plate “61YANKS”. I have never been a Yankees fan but, you gotta love that ‘61 bunch, it was a special year. Roger and Mickey both were chasing the magic 60 homeruns in addition to all the typical Yankees hype. I maneuvered through some noontime traffic to get a look at the driver. I believe she might have spent the summer of ’61 carousing with The Mick, Whitey and the boys. If we had made eye contact I would have given her a “thumbs up” or maybe not she might have thought I wanted to do some carousing. A term some of you will recognize; she looked like she had been rode hard and put up wet and she looked like she was OK with that.
The only scheduled stop, actually it was about the only stop on the trip was at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. I don’t recommend driving 700 miles just to see it, but if you are ever up at that end of I 35 give it an hour or so of your time. I think everyone that was anyone in the music business from the ‘30s, until the big name acts started using the 15,000 seat arenas, played the Surf. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has a museum dedicated to Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. There are also hundreds of autographed pics of the other performers including Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Maud Oklahoma’s own Wanda Jackson. Willie Nelson will play there sometime this spring. If you want to know more about the Surf just check the Internet. It is a very neat place especially for an old Buddy Holly fan.
I spent Monday night in La Crosse, Wisconsin, (or is it West Consin). I had been in three of the four states and visited the Surf Ballroom; all that remained undone was North Dakota and the analysis. I started to drive some two-lane roads up through Wisconsin to Duluth Minnesota. I wanted to see if there is a sign that says I 35 ENDS. I have seen the one at the west end of I 40 in Barstow CA. and some of the other Interstates. That might have started a whole new bucket list; there is a lot of Interstates and they all have two ends.
I drove a hundred miles or so of 55mph speed limit two-lane and was finally on I 94 for a few miles. The sign said it was just 326 miles northwest to Fargo North Dakota. As I said a few paragraphs ago I figured I would know when it was time to come home; it was time. I said goodbye two-lane US 53 and hello I 94. A few hours later there was a sign welcoming me to North Dakota.
About ten miles from Fargo I told the GPS I wanted to go home. The thing adjusted on the fly. I never looked at the entire route, all I knew is I should take I 29 south and if I didn’t stop I would be home at 4:36 Wednesday morning. Thirty years ago I would have probably shaved an hour off that GPS estimate and got home about 3:30 AM, today no way, if it would have said 2:36, I might have got home about 1:30.
Hotel reservations are not an option the way I normally travel. If you travel the Interstate system finding a suitable room or at least one with clean sheets and a hot shower is not a problem; unless you happen to be running down I 29 through the Dakotas and Iowa (I will explain later) I drove about 3 or 4 hours longer than I wanted but I did find a room and I was still in Iowa, just barely. It was one of those places where I think the sheets were clean and the shower was hot; Sharyl would not have been happy.
Wednesday morning the GPS said six hours forty-seven minutes to this place I call home, with an estimated time of arrival about 3:00 PM. About 2 miles of that was in Iowa, about 65 in Nebraska, the rest was “been there done that” Kansas and Oklahoma. I saw a lot of snow on the ground up north but the only snow I saw fall was up near the Kansas / Oklahoma border. Like the GPS said, I got home about three. I was tired but I felt better about Dave than I did when I left.
This one is getting long but I have to rant just a little bit. I have added an item to my very long pet-peeve list and moved an existing one up several notches.
The new entry is the no billboard law in some states. If you freelance like me you depend on the billboards to find food, lodging and other services. I know they have those little signs about a half-mile from the exit, with maybe 8 hotels, restaurants and gas places on a small sign. I don’t think the guy that dreamed that up ever traveled alone and tried to read those at night at 70 mph, make a decision get slowed down and safely exit in that ½ mile distance. I would gladly trade an unobstructed view of another cornfield for a big billboard telling me there was a Comfort Inn and another one telling me about a Cracker Barrel at exit 122 four miles ahead. The Dakotas and Iowa do not have billboards; they do have a lot of cornfields.
The existing pet peeve that moved nearer the top of my list is an issue I have with those little signs telling me there is five different fuel stops at this exit. I exit and when I get to the stop sign at the bottom of the exit ramp, the signs tell me 2 of the fuel stops are 4 miles east and the other three are 7 miles west. If you are going to tell me I can get fuel at this exit I should be able to get fuel at the exit not 4 miles east of the exit.
The preceding 2 paragraphs are the reason I drove about fourteen hours Tuesday. I know places like Sioux Falls S.D. and Sioux City Iowa have hotels but you just can’t tell by looking at the exit signs where they are. I feel better.
There are still five states on a reasonably long bucket list. It would be totally out of character for me to have a plan in place to visit them. I do have a couple hair-brained ideas that might get me to the two out west, Nevada and Oregon, and up northeast to Maine. The other two are Rhode Island and Delaware. It would probably be OK to leave this world with some things on the bucket list.
In the course of reading this one you have probably already said at least one prayer for me so I won’t ask.
Good Night and God Bless