6/30 Marietta, GA 1130 miles

Wow, southern Illinois, what a stunning load of absolutely nothing. An entire state of nothing that has nothing and looks like nothing. The Department of Transportation really needs to look into this. If they want us to travel and spend money, then I need a reason. I mean it. Entertain me. Fix the geology, spruce things up a bit, add more wildlife (the living kind).
We managed to see a giant Superman. Not much about him that was exciting except that he was excessively large and he looked like Christopher Reeve (before the incident, not now). Stopped at the gas station near the massive man of steel and I was confronted by an uncomfortable discovery: While Chicago is very much part of the north, the rest of Illinois is firmly entrenched in the south. There was a ‘Meat Snack Center’ in the store selling me jerky, pemmican, chicken leg meat snack and slim jims. A grizzled man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth sat blankly in front of a slot machine by the door, hitting the button over and over again and never winning. A post-teen boy who can only be described as slack-jawed stood behind him and in my way, watching him lose. The act of me walking towards him confused him to the extent that he directed his blank stare at me, but found himself incapable of moving out of my way.
We had lunch in Nashville after taking pictures of the place where the original Grand Ole’ Opry performed. Jack’s BBQ was our well-picked lunch destination. Nashville residents charmed me and it was still early enough in the day to not be irritated with how damned slow everyone is.
Chattanooga was pointless and gave me a headache. Yeah, sure you can go up really high, but it takes a long time and frankly, this isn’t a city you really want to spend a lot of time staring at.
The night will be spent in Marietta, dinner at a Texas-style meat joint. The food was good, but once again… You guys need to hurry the hell up!!!
Tomorrow will be spent discovering Atlanta, Macon (mmmmmmmm, Macon), and Savannah.

6/29 Effingham, IL 580 miles

Here I am in the appropriately named Effingham,IL. The entire industry of this town is based solely on the nexus of two major interstates, and the existence of a giant, water tower-sized cross.
With the exception of Chicago, Illinois is quite possible one of the most boring places on the planet. The highlight of my day was adding another coat of nail polish after dinner at Denny’s. Yes, Denny’s. I had the French Slam. Now, normally if you had asked me if you should eat a meal with ‘Slam’ in its name I would slap you and send you back to menu training. Bu the French Slam had 2 french toasts, 2 eggs, 2 bacons, 2 sausages and a soda. Unfortunately, I tasted the error of my ways too late. The bacon tasted of chicken, you should never bite into a piece of smoked, cured pork and think of the original white meat. Worse than the chickeny bacon was the sausage. One bite of the sausage and I was transported from the ‘Decadent Meat’ section of the food pyramid directly to the ‘Vegetables that grow Underground’ section. Eggs tasted of warm white pulp and the french toast had the texture of bath towels.
Lesson learned, in a big way.
Tomorrow, Nashville and Atlanta and better food. A word of warning to those of you down south, Minnesotans don’t like to chat with people they don’t know. We are pleasant, quiet, reserved Scandinavians; we aren’t trying to be rude, it’s just that our sense of personal space extends beyond the physical. I know I sound funny to you, but you sound just as funny to me and you don’t see me engaging you in an ongoing converstation just to hear you talk. In Minnesota, when we are asked ‘How are you?’ we lie and say, ‘Fine,’ and leave it at that. If you ask where we are from or where we are going or how long we are on vacation or what our DNA sequence preferences are, we will only be suspicious of you and edge away.
If necessary, I will get a little name tag that says “Hi, My name is Heather, I am from Minnesota” and that is all you will need to see.

I can do this

I can get through the day. I can do my job for the next few hours. I can remain productive. I will not go sit in my car and pretend to already be on my trip. I will not stare out my window and imagine that the mall is a new exotic locale and the students are natives to this wild wonderful land.
I can make it through today. I will not imagine the outcomes of “Who would you rather sleep with” in advance. I will not make up scenarios in advance for “What’s that guy’s story?”.
I will get through this day. I will not make threatening remarks to my coworkers just because I am leaving for 2 weeks. I will not insult or berate the people around me. I will remain ever charming and pleasant.

So soon i can taste the dew point

In a bit over a week, I leave for my magical trip around the eastern part of the United States. Our trip starts with us driving hard and fast down until we get to the southeast. Atlanta will be the start of our tourism, and from there we will hit the coast and drive north, stopping frequently until we hit New York then back west to home.
I tell this to people who ask and they look at me with that same half-interested look that you come to expect from Minnesotans. Then they ponder your route, their faces screwed up in disgust, and they ask, “You’re going south? In the summer?” “Um, yes…” “You know it gets hot there, right?”
YES, I KNOW IT GETS HOT THERE. It’s summer. It gets hot here, too. We aren’t all igloos and parkas! I know heat. And my car is equipped with air conditioning as are the hotels I am staying at. I am pretty sure that all of the places I have picked to visit are still able to support human life even when the temperature and humidity rise.
I could understand their confusion if I said I was travelling to Jupiter:
“I am going to Jupiter, I am packing extra polo shirts for the trip.”
“Jupiter’s atmosphere would suffocate you if it had the chance to before it crushed you mercilessly in its intense pressure.”
“So I should drink lots of fluids?”
But I am not going to Jupiter. I am going to Washington DC, this great nation’s capitol. I understand it was built on a swamp, making it humid, but you people need to be aware that it was not built in the middle of a toxic sulphur vent. Charleston is muggy, but adequately outfitted with mint juleps and charm. In New York City, I am more concerned with my ability to get around than I am with ambient temperature.
I guess what I am trying to say is, “I am not retarded”. Now if only I could think of a response to “You’re going south? You know they have southerners down there, right?”