We do make strange choices. Somewhere along the way yesterday we decided that our primary goal was to get a few hundred miles behind us, and so we launched from Hot Springs through the winding roads of the Ozarks, up to Missouri and northward to settle in Columbia, at the intersection of I-70 and Route 63.
We neglected to put much thought to where we would stay. By design, our trip “plan” was simply to drive until I waved a white flag of surrender, and then park the Airstream in some convenient spot until the next day. This fits our “no reservations” style, and we have enough experience on the road to have no fear of winging it.
Often in these situations we’ll subconsciously trade off one expense for another, being notorious cheapskates. In this situation we’ll occasionally decide to drive later than usual, and reward everyone in the car with dinner at a restaurant so that we can get a change of scene after the long day. Our cheapskate budget for dinner for three is about $30, which comes to the average price of a commercial campground, so if we skip the campground and just park somewhere, dinner is easily justified.
But we didn’t consider one factor yesterday: what the weathermen call “oppressive” humidity. As I write this, at 3 a.m., it is still 82 degrees and the relative humidity is 84%. Or to put it another way, it’s disgustingly sticky. I’m wide awake at 3 a.m. because it’s impossible to sleep. The air is so thick that I am aware of every heavy breath. The air drapes around me like a steam blanket that I can’t remove, and there is no possible escape without a 30-amp plug to power our air conditioner.
Now, we’ve camped in some pretty awful conditions before. A pair of nights in Death Valley in June come to mind right away. We camped in a powerless campground, and at night it didn’t drop below 100 degrees until well after midnight. Camping in Death Valley in summer naturally yields some bragging rights — “Yeah, it was hot, but nothing we couldn’t handle.” But Death Valley in June can’t hold a candle to Missouri in June. This is much worse. It’s just that bragging about spending a night in Missouri doesn’t really impress anyone.
Now you know a secret to travel writing: It’s not that the experiences are always that exotic; it’s simply a matter of being located somewhere different. Death Valley heat is not particularly special, it’s just interesting because it’s Death Valley. If you are living in Arkansas or Missouri this particular week in June, just turn off your air conditioner for a day and a night, and you too can experience the joy of the professional travel writer. As an exercise, try writing an 800-word essay about your adventure that makes it sound much more interesting than it is.
Eleanor’s concern, when she wakes up from her sticky and disturbed rest, will be that I didn’t get enough sleep to safely tow us up to Iowa. Well, you’ve got to take what life hands you. I’ll be fine for a half-day drive. My plan is to leave very early, perhaps before dawn, and drive until midday, then settle into a campground with the one convenience that we care about (power), and nap the afternoon away in dry air conditioned comfort. Emma won’t be fond of this plan, but she can sleep in the car. Once we reach Iowa, we will be within a short drive of our goal in Wisconsin, and we can slow down enough to start smelling the roses along the roadway.