There is something romantic, I have heard, about traveling the open road for summer vacation. Max and I love driving just about anywhere, romantic or not, because we love seeing different parts of the country. For most of our married lives, we have owned a convertible, so seeing the country is a noisy, albeit really fun, endeavor.
For many years, we have, with the top down, traveled to Whitefish Bay, Wis., where my aunt and her family live, for the Fourth of July. Whitefish Bay looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. The houses are small and in close proximity to each other; they are landscaped to the hilt, and for July Fourth, the village’s citizens decorate their yards in red, white and blue, to remind everyone they are celebrating our country’s birth.
Another reason to visit Whitefish Bay for July Fourth is that it is usually about 75 degrees in the middle of the day on July Fourth. Occasionally, we have sweltered there just as much as we have sweltered at home, but generally, the weather is much milder at Susie’s house than it is in Sedalia. Several times, dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, we have watched fireworks over Lake Michigan while huddling under a blanket!
Part of the fun of the trip is driving through Illinois on Interstate 39 toward Chicago. The interstate is surrounded by flat crop farmland and occasional small burgs whose best days are behind them. During the past few years, we have seen huge wind farms, as well.
This year’s copious rains have turned the farmlands absolutely gorgeous with deep green color and produced corn that is “high as an elephant’s eye.” To me, the wind farms are also gorgeous, the tall white skeletons waving in the winds. Alot of people see the windmills as blights on the landscape, but to me, they look like characters in a science-fiction novel acting as guardians of the surrounding acreage. There is something peaceful and graceful about them.
Every now and then we pass an exit leading to a series of small towns with funny names, such as “Gillespie.” Also, one of our friends hails from Streator, Ill. The sign showing the exit to Streator says this:
As we pass, Max says something like, “I never knew that Randy’s home town had a first and last name!”
We also see signs for cities we have heard of but have never visited, such as Peoria and Joliet. The drive takes us through Rockford. Max and I knew we were made for each other when we discovered that both of us had memorized Bill Cosby’s “Noah” routine and that we both loved “The Rockford Files” and James Garner. How could I not marry a man who thinks that James Garner and “The Rockford Files” were “da bomb?” So when we go through Rockford, I think fondly of James Garner AND of Max!
(Side note to Travis McMullen: The interstate outside Rockford is a toll road. It was well-maintained and easy to drive over, much better than Interstate 70. It is food for thought.)
And so we enter Wisconsin, land of Mukwanago, Waukesha, and Wauwatosa, ready to kick back for a couple of days and to think about 1776 and what courageous people decided to begin this country. “1776” is one of my favorite movies/plays, and I remember one line especially, supposedly written in a letter by George Washington prior to one of the Revolutionary War’s big battles: “ … and how many brave men I will lose…” So many gave their lives so that we can live in this country, and even now, many are still on battlefields around the world. After seeing some of those brave people in Afghanistan, this time with my family in the United States of America, this time of seeing the agrarian Midwest at its finest, this travel on the roads with the top down to Norman Rockwell’s America, is just what the doctor ordered.
Happy Fourth of July!