Jenny Anne Mannan

American Songstress

The Heartland

Real talk from the road: The car could easily be mistaken for a hovel. (Which my brother Jesse insists is pronounced hah-vel? He's wrong, of course, it's huh-vel.)

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Now then, if I may draw your attention to the piles of books and papers mixed with random game  pieces and bits of trash and the occasional corn nut around the kids' feet - how do these little people generate so much mess? 

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Unable to reach & clean up the mess, I concentrated on their faces and the view.  

From this point forward, our route followed the interstate. Changes in the landscape were almost too subtle to pinpoint, the gentle slope of farmland stretching to infinity. 

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Farmhouses mark the sites of original homesteads, and as we drove past I wondered how many of the original families still farm this land.  

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Since it is so easy to get lost on those endless plains with just one road for hundreds of miles, June took on the job of Navigator. 

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The blue is obviously land.  

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Waylon was not so much playing the travel Battleship as he was strewing the teeny tiny red and white piece into all the cracks and crevasses of the car.  

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We drove through a tiny corner of Iowa, but no road sign welcomed us. Then we turned south, Kansas on our right and the hills of Missouri on our left.  

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This was all we saw of Kansas City.  

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And we turned east before we got a straight-on view of St. Louis. 

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Since the following day was June's birthday, we made a quick Target stop in Illinois to grab a few gifts. We'd planned to wake up in Nashville on her birthday, but she was elated at the prospect having her birthday in the trailer. 

As night fell, we realized our goal of making it to the Paducah KOA was far too ambitious considering our (still) malfunctioning running lights, so we pulled off at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. We drove on a dark country road through hazy fields and 'controlled hunting areas', the way illuminated only by our headlights and thousands of lightning bugs. When we finally found the campground, it was full. Of course. Friday night of Memorial Day Weekend.

We remembered a sign just off the freeway for a campground in the opposite direction, so we turned around just in time to see flashing lights in our rear view. Caleb pulled over, and a friendly Illinois police officer told us, "You got no lights!" Before he could write us up, a loud boom from the campground distracted him and saved us from a fine. He sent us on our way, and we crossed our fingers hoping for a vacancy at the Whittington Woods. 

There was just one empty campsite, so we thankfully pulled in, set up, and threw the kids into bed, but not before a friendly fellow camper helpfully pointed out, "Your running aren't working!" We both smiled and thanked him, and as soon as he was out of earshot we said, "WE KNOW!!" in unified exasperation.  The air was thick with humidity and bugs, and the boys were delighted to see a frog hanging out on the door to the bathroom.    10:00 pm found Caleb and me sitting beside our campfire while every mosquito in Illinois feasted on my feet.  

There was just one empty campsite, so we thankfully pulled in, set up, and threw the kids into bed, but not before a friendly fellow camper helpfully pointed out, "Your running aren't working!" We both smiled and thanked him, and as soon as he was out of earshot we said, "WE KNOW!!" in unified exasperation. 

The air was thick with humidity and bugs, and the boys were delighted to see a frog hanging out on the door to the bathroom.   

10:00 pm found Caleb and me sitting beside our campfire while every mosquito in Illinois feasted on my feet.  

625 miles on day 5, and only a 150 or so more to go! 

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Copyright 2016, Jenny Anne Mannan. All rights reserved.