I Just Got Back From a Week Spent in the Midwest

Last week I worked remotely from Festus, Missouri. Festus was the place I called home before leaving for the Marines in 1988. I’ve lived several places in mid and southern Missouri when growing up, but I always think of Festus and Hurley, Missouri as my “hometowns”—though I only lived in Festus for approximately four years or so and spent an even shorter amount of time in Hurley.

Last month I decided I wanted to get away for a little while and visit with my mom and eat some Imo’s Pizza. I needed to get some road time and sort some thoughts out. I find that driving is my favorite way of unwinding and driving the flat roads of Indiana and Illinois are mentally therapeutic for me. My mom lives in a particularly rural area of Missouri, so I can’t work remotely when staying at her place because of poor internet quality. Luckily, during this visit, my ex-brother-in-law (?, my sister-in-law’s ex-husband) let me stay at his place while in town and I was able to work without issue.

Each day I was in Festus, I was able to meet with family or friends for lunch or dinner. It was a nice, short, sweet visit that gave me a little face time with folks important to me and gave me a flavor of hometown life. Living in a suburb of an old east coast city, one forgets that the entire world isn’t abrupt and unkind. When back home, I’m reminded of just how generally nice and friendly people are in the midwest. It’s that reminder that keeps me grounded and focused on the slower pace of small-town life.

The drive was supposed to take around 14 hours, but it really took about 16 hours each way. On the way out to the midwest, I stopped in Ohio at a La Quinta Hotel around Columbus, which is roughly halfway. I stay in La Quinta hotels because they are dog friendly and I was traveling with my dog, Zoe. Traveling with my dog always reminds me of the sci-fi novella I read when I was in grade school titled “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison.

I headed to Festus on June 3rd and arrived the next day. I started my trip back at 4 AM on June 10th, but drove the entire distance in one day. I was exhausted when I arrived that evening, but I was glad to be home and to see Amy. I like starting my drive back to the east coast well before dawn, heading east on a lonely highway so I can watch the sunrise with an unobstructed horizon. That means I have to be past Troy, Illinois before the sun comes up. During the late spring and summer months, this means I have to start really early in the morning.

Reading what I just wrote, one may think of me as nostalgic or sentimental. I guess that’s true. I’ve performed this trip (or many like it) countless times in cars, SUVs, and on a motorcycle… with people and solo. For me, the almost-annual approximately two-thousand mile round road trip is important for my mental health and sanity. My mom is getting up there in years and when she passes away, I’ll probably have less of a reason to make this particular journey. For now, I’ll just keep making the trip when needed and happily think back to the yellow lines on the pavement and wide open landscapes along the way.