Chicago was beautiful. The weather was cool, and the wind off the lake did not disappoint. I checked out the Shedd Aquarium and the beluga whales and dolphins put on a show. I saw the lake, and the city, and hung out with my nieces and nephew and older brother and his wife, and generally had a really good time.
Then I was off towards Saint Joseph, MO to see my other brother and my newest nephew. I followed the Illinois River and stopped a couple of times to take in the scenery, then crossed over to the Mississippi and into Missouri, and camped at Wakonda State Park among the cotton wood trees.
That morning, I took the back roads across the rolling hills of Missouri, passing red barns with silver roofs, farms and ranches, fields of golden wheat and perfectly groomed rows of young corn glowing a vibrant green. I passed through dozens of identical small towns each with a town square built around the court house. Old farm houses dotted the country side, grain silos, cattle pens, and rolls of hay fresh cut scattered across fields.
It has been fun seeing the way the country has changed, from the mountains of West Virginia and the woods of east Ohio to the flat lands of Ohio and Indiana and Illinois to the gently rolling hills of Missouri. In some ways, very little is different. Small town america in the mid-west has a very distinct character. Old men hang out in McDonalds talking about this and that, drinking coffee. Body shops, car dealers, farm equipment, mechanics, and all the things you associate with the business of growing things, all privately owned. Old and new looking buildings, many having seen more wear and tear than not, quietly standing their ground, serving the purpose for which they were made.