Today we drove about 550 miles. I can't feel my butt anymore.
We left Sioux Falls somewhere around 8:30 this morning, jockeying the line between Iowa and Nebraska down Interstate 29 most of the day. We were hoping to eat steak in Omaha for lunch, but decide the folks at Omaha Steaks are in cahoots with the Mormons. Is there no truth in advertising? I assumed, given the name of the company, that I could get steak in Omaha. Just like I assumed the Tabernacle choir really would open their practice to the public on Thursday evenings as their website indicates. Now I just think it's a ruse they both use to get you to stop in a town you would otherwise have no reason to visit.
To top my steak-less disappointment, Flat Stanley is peeved because we couldn't find the "welcome to" signs for either Iowa or Nebraska. I think that little one-dimentional man is getting a little big for his britches.
Our destination stop for the day is Kansas City, Missouri. I have family there that I haven't seen in quite some time. I get to sleep for about two hours as Mom drives in the morning, and when we switch off, Grandma helps me navigate. But between trying to read the map upside down, and confusing Kansas City with the state of Kansas, we're a little directionally challenged. We do pretty well, but it's still about 4:30 before we arrive.
This is my father's brother's family. I really loved my Uncle Chris. He was a big man with a big personality and an even bigger heart. He died of cancer 20 years ago, and since then, I haven't seen my Aunt Pam or my cousins, Andrea and Kimberly more than once. I wish my parents had made sure we spent more time together, but you know how things go. Two summers ago, their youngest son, Christopher, and I got to hang out. It kind of inspired my desire to form a closer bond with my family. A desire which bore the first stirrings of the idea for this trip.
There's something magical about family. No matter how much time passes, when you get together -- it feels like home. It was so wonderful to catch up and see that despite the distance between us, we still have much in common. Andrea's sense of humor, Kimberly's passion for travel and Christopher's reflective quality ... the things I love most about them are traits I also see in myself. And despite this being my Dad's side of the family (my parents are divorced), we all felt welcome. That's my aunt's charm in action. It was a wonderful way to start celebrating my birthday.
Sadly, we had to get back on the road to make the three hour drive to Springfield to stay on target with getting back home before my plane leaves Sunday. My brother, Ryan, wishes me a happy birthday on the phone, then proceeds to go into graphic detail about how I was "made". Graphic is an understatement, and I have to say -- there is something about considering your parents actually doing it that gives me the heebie-jeebies. Thankfully, my mother reassures me that I was indeed immaculately conceived.
The streets south of Kansas City are all named with letters, like "O" and "AA". Very original. The problerm is, it's causing me road hypnosis. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. When we take a wrong turn that requires us to cut across a very dark and rural country road to get back on track, we play a game using the alphabet to help keep awake and alert. The first person comes up with two words using the first two letters of the alphabet. The next person uses the last word and adds another starting with the next letter of the alphabet.
For example ... "Apple Butter" becomes "Butter Cookies".
But we get more creative, and then it's all "Dog Fart" and "Fart Growing" and "Growing Hard". This may not seem funny as you're reading this post, but when your 86-year-old Grandmother comes up with some of the stuff she comes up with -- laughing so hard she can barely get the words out -- it's pretty comical. What makes it hysterical is when Mom stops laughing and tells us to knock it off.
Because if she keeps laughing ... she's going to have an accident.
If there's anything I've learned on this trip so far, it's that the bond between family is incredibly strong. Who else can make you want to kill them one minute, and then make you laugh so hard you think you'll pee your pants the next?