Big Dog finds out the warning “dings” Sprockets was giving us were coming from having too much oil so it needs to be looked at. T and D come out, we drop Sprockets at an oil/lube place and they take us to breakfast at Waffle House, another popular chain restaurant in this part of the country. It, too, is packed.
“Does anyone cook his own meal here?” Big Dog wonders.
I knew we’d be eating a lot of restaurant food on this trip. It’s not easy when you are used to meals made from scratch. Not just the entrée, but the bread, the seasonings, the condiments…the whole shebang. But it’s tolerable for now. I’m too excited about being in a place I’ve never been. And while the people and culture are so familiar, the fact that those people and that culture are concentrated here makes it different. I’m used to California and metropolitan centers across the United States where there are many subcultures. Here, it’s mostly mainstream, no ethnic subcultures (although there are ethnic mainstreams) or any other subculture. At least, not that I can see.
No snow today, but a cold, steady rain. After saying goodbye to T and D, Sprockets is back on the road, going across the Mississippi into St. Louis.
“Don’t get off in East St. Louis!”
“It’s the Mississippi…the Old Miss…Old man river…”
We trade lines and references from the Chevy Chase movie “Vacation.”
“Where’s the Arch?”
“There it is!”
“Keep your eyes on the road!”
“Oh, now I see it. Just the bottom part…”
“Eyes on the road! Please!”
I don’t want Big Dog looking out into the fog, trying to find the Arch. But I’m happy he’s liking how Sprockets drives. And I’m liking it, too. Especially the nice, high view.
In the freezing rain we cross that square on our road map called Missouri. From one end of Missouri (St. Louis) to the other (Joplin) the scenery does not change much. This is Mark Twain Land, with the Ozarks, rivers, and…LEGAL fireworks! From earlier travels we know that many border towns in these states (which for some reason are mostly “A” states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona) have Fireworks Superstores.
The Ozarks are all rolling hills and woods. What must it have been like for the early explorers? One would need nerves of steel to go into such vast unknown. Of course, this whole adventure has been a step into the unknown for us, too, and all it took was a bit of stupidity. Maybe that’s what the early pioneers had in droves.
Despite the cold and fog, Big Dog is on a roll now (and so is Sprockets.) We roll past Springfield, MO (NOT the home of the Simpsons although there is a giant Simpsons billboard) and make it to Joplin, on the western edge. The thermometer in Sprockets reads 30 degrees but who can tell the difference between 3 and 30. Anything below freezing is too friggin’ cold!
The Motel 6 in Joplin has gone through some renovation and has oddly contemporary furniture. (But no soap in the bathrooms and some other guest was complaining about the lack of hand towels.) It seems cleaner than last night’s nearly fake Motel 6.
Tonight’s Mid-American Meal is at Freddy’s, a local “steakburger” place. Inside, the chrome and vinyl reminds us of the Johnny Rockets burger chain. It’s Saturday night and the place is hopping. The people are the same ones we’ve seen in Idaho. Middle America stretches wide. (“Like the butts on some of these people,” I say, rather unkindly.)
“I can’t believe you got a ‘California Burger,’” I laugh at Big Dog’s choice.
“It was the only thing that seemed to have any vegetables,” he says.
Big Dog also has a cup of “frozen custard” – so we can check it out and see what it is. It looks like (and tastes just like) soft serve ice cream.
I choose a bowl of chili and some fries. It’s okay. I had been carrying a tub of purple cabbage slaw from LA but the last of it was eaten before dinner, in the motel room. The thought of eating like Mainstream Americans day after day makes me a little faint.