You are full of the friendliest people.
Sure, you have a lot of quirks that the rest of the country likes to poke fun at:
- The radio stations always seem to have a ten-year buffer. No more, no less. That's why we heard Kelly Clarkson's first hit 3x on two different stations between Nebraska and Iowa.
- Speaking of Nebraska and Iowa, folks like to make fun of the Midwest's religious following of college sports. How we are not living in the post-apocolypitic ruins of a Huskers vs. Hawkeyes vs. Gophers vs. Badgers vs. Illini "Corn War" is beyond me, but chalk it up to the fact that Midwesterners can be passionate about something without feeling the need to kill somebody over it.
- The portions. How is it that I, a grown man, could not finish a "small" soft drink from the first Mid-West drive through we visited on this trip? Because it was bigger than a "Large" back home in Montana. All kidding aside, that's not healthy.
But y'all are kind, and hospitable to each other and your visitors. So much so, we weren't ready for it. Don't get me wrong - Westerners are hospitable...just in a, "I'll give you your space and please give me mine." kind of way.
Here's an example:
On Friday, we woke up from a solid night's sleep in Lincoln, NE and headed down for a quick bite to eat at the hotel's breakfast bar. Breakfast ended up taking nearly half an hour longer because the hotel's hostess wanted to talk. And talk. And talk. Which was wonderful, but at the end, Elyse and I were kind of like, "Whoa, we forgot how folks back here like to make conversation."
Bread-basket of America, thank you for the hospitality.
Now that we've reached the official half-way point of the trip (in days), I suppose it's a good time to give a crew status update:
Jared: I'm good. Before rolling in to Chicago, I would have said "exhausted but happy." Now I'm feeling rested and happy. I've driven nearly 4000 miles in the last two weeks, which would be nothing if I was a truck driver, but that's more sitting than I've done in years. As with Elyse and the kids, I thrive on new places and experiences. This trip has been a constant stream of that, and I'm loving it. Working from the road has been a bit more of a challenge than I anticipated, but mainly because of connectivity issues. Verizon's coverage map is far from honest when you get to the southwest, and hotels mean by "high-speed internet" is a very broad description. This has lead to some very late nights after very long days of driving. But, I'm still thankful for the opportunity.
Elyse: Great! She is loving the new experiences, seeing dear friends across the country, and getting to show the kids exciting new places and experiences. She said the other day that seeing so much of the Southwest at once was exhilerating and life-changing. I'll let her expound on that here at some point. On a personal note, the way she's wrangled the kids while I've been working from the road has been nothing short of heroic, and I'm in awe of her. My best friend kicks butt.
Ewan: He was dealing with some homesickness after Phoenix, but is doing really well now. In fact, he's come alive socially in some new and exciting ways. There are still some struggles that come with many kids his age, but he is really starting to open up and express himself. He's very much enjoyed getting to know some of Elyse's friends and family - so much that he's cried every time we've had to leave. He love the adventure, but he also loves the ground under his feet, and I love that about him. Dealing with the homesickness was a new struggle for us, but having worked at camps helped know a little of what to do. We wanted him to be able to communicate what he was feeling, so we encouraged him to tell us about it, and did not hold it against him for feeling it. Bozeman is a tough home to leave for anyone, but especially kids. He's grown a lot through it.
Hannah: I'm coming to terms with the possibility of Hannah moving out to some extreme corner of the world at age 16. I'm not saying that I'm ok with those terms, but I am starting to see that she's the exact opposite of a "home body." She's loved just about every minute of this trip. She's loved every new place. She's asked where we are going next, at least once a day. She just seems wired for travel and exploration. She's developed new mannerisms that she picked up from different friends and family along the way, and that's been fun to watch. She has mentioned "my Montana" (what the kids call home) quite a bit, but only to reference for a story. I swear, she's growing up faster than I can keep up with.
On the note of Hannah, we did have a bit of a scare on Friday.
She started to develop hives on Thursday, the day with left Colorado Springs. The hives got much worse overnight and her face started to puff up. By noon on Friday, she was in a bad way. Looking for Benadryl in rural Nebraska/Iowa turned out to be a challenge, as exits with services are few and far between...and children's Benadryl is not something that's stocked in all gas stations. Thankfully, we eventually found some...as she was starting to drool and look pretty bad. Once she had it in her system, our little spunker came back pretty quickly: