One Six Short of a Devil (USA Day 36)
After two days of camping, we were both tingling at the idea of tonight’s WarmShowers host, a real bed, a good soak and a laundry. However, if we’ve learned one thing on this trip, it’s to count your blessings, not your chickens. Even with a short day of 51 projected miles, it was due to be hot, potentially quite dull, and twice as long if our heads spent the entire day waiting for us in Lincoln.
As it happens, we dispatched the miles fairly easily. Dipping from shady tree to covered picnic table and so on, we worked hard to get the largest fraction that we could out of the way before the midday sun defeated us. Each county has its own take on how to preserve the historic Route 66, which is now essentially a bumpy minor road that’s almost always flanked by a much more significant one, so it’s barely used except by tourists and a few locals. At times, the road went bump more often than a ghost story written in braille, causing our wrists and backsides to complain most vociferously. Other times, some kind soul had laid a fresh bike path just beside the road, with the softest, smoothest tarmac money can buy. We spent much of the day judging each county’s roads department most harshly, and will gladly share the tabulated results on request.
Punctuating this rollercoaster of not only emotions but roads we discovered a smattering of towns, each full of proud American kitch to celebrate its position on the historic highway. Chrome-clad diners called “Buffet 66” or old Chevrolet dealerships with those lurid yet excellent winged cars sitting out front. Great murals adorned roadside walls, depicting happy travellers with collars straight from the 60s or the famous shield emblem that marked the road’s route, just big enough to be seen from space. Giant sun-worn statues of hotdog men or anthropomorphic pickles stood proud in parking lots, beckoning drivers in for a bite and a turn below the air conditioner. The main street of each town seemed alive and well, despite the brain-melting heat, which cheered us immensely after passing so many towns with no visible humans whatsoever.
Also, there are cornfields in Illinois. Not just hopeful ones, either. Knee-high by the Fourth of July is the rule, apparently, and we passed corn up to our waist on multiple occasions today, with three days to go. That’s just showing off. So yes, food crisis, but no, not universally. There’s still hope. We arrived blissfully early at our hosts’ house in Lincoln (named after, and also by, the famous one) and washed off the salt before settling into an afternoon of useful bits and pieces. It’s hard to thrive in the heat (just ask plants) but we’re pretty darn close to doing so.