Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mummies, Museums, Mischief and More!

We've been moving much faster on the second half of our journey — suddenly, time has become our enemy because we are much too Californian to face any kind of real east coast winter, and because we have the goal of reaching Florida, where Colin has rented a condo for a week, by November 1st. So from Utah we headed into the Boulder area to meet up with Nicki, who was staying at an AirBnB where we managed to make a few meals and sneak a shower. Boulder was cold, possibly the coldest temperatures we've experienced yet and one night a little slushy snow even came down on our sleepy van. The weather prevented us from doing most of the outdoorsy stuff Colorado is known for best, but we took a pretty rainy day hike and had some cozy cafe days with Nicki.

Once we left Colorado, we were strangely excited to get to Kansas, despite it's reputation as possibly the worst state ever. But a Kansas native had given us a weird tip in Idaho, so we headed to Lucas, Kansas (the grassroots art capitol of Kansas) and checked out The Garden of Eden, a limestone "log" cabin and cement sculpture garden built by an old eccentric veteran and Mason depicting some of his unusual beliefs. SP Dinsmoor, the artist, also actually had his body mummified and entombed on the grounds, so we got to see a moldy dead guy as well.

Our next stop was Lawrence Fucking Kansas, recommended to us as a hip little liberal haven within the state. We couchsurfed with Travis, a Texas native that had a long term house sitting arrangement with an old professor of his, and we spent Saturday night with him and his friend James, sipping fancy cocktails at a speakeasy that purportedly serves freedom as a side with each drink and plate, and then listening to some pretty great music at a dark little jazz bar, and finally getting to meet James' pup Sadie before heading back to the van to snooze. The next day we met James and Sadie for a stroll around the KU campus and then Travis showed us some of his favorite places in Lawrence: a wonderful little used bookstore, a friendly record shop featuring cats in bow ties, a fun little hippy shop, and a smoothie place.

We cruised into Kansas City late at night, urban camped, and then spent some time drinking coffee and jogging in town before continuing onto St. Louis, Missouri, where we arrived at another couchsurfer named Amy's house and hung out with her and her also well-traveled neighbor, Matt. We had more fun than we could possibly imagine just hanging out with them, chatting and laughing and exchanging travel stories as well as talking about home well into the night. The next day, we met a second host, eerily close to Amy's place. Ryan was this hilarious fish expert who happened to be from Northern California. We drank beers and wandered around some St. Louis alleyways, peering into dumpsters and harvesting unloved tomatoes that were dangling outside of people's fences, and our night culminated turning a Contact VHS we found into a drinking game with two of his wonderful friends.

Our last day in St. Louis was spent at the City Museum, this absurd wonderland of crazy interactive art, climbable tree houses, caves, a 10-story slide and a rooftop ferris wheel. We took off in the evening and arrived at our next hosts' house in a Chicago suburb absolutely pooped. Our new hosts, Jordan and Nate, were an unlikely duo — on Ohio native and architecture grad turned print shop manager and an Southern California grad student aspiring for med school. We planned to spend our first day working and jogging respectively and then we'd take the train into the city and see what there was to see, but after the work/jog portion of our day, Jordan locked himself out of the apartment, so instead we drank a bunch of beer in the van until Nate got home and then made him drink a bunch of beer, explored their dusty attic and then ordered a pizza. The next day we actually made it into the city in spite of being public transport novices, and met up with Kelsey's friend Chelsea for a stroll to Millennium Park which was full of iconic art and then we went and had a real Chicago pizza experience at Giordano's where we all got drunk on cheese and carbs and had to waddle back to the train stations to get back to places where we could succumb to the inevitable food coma.

There are probably a million more things we should have done in Chicago, but cities overwhelm us, so we were actually quite relieved to move on. Next up: Indianapolis. We couldn't find a host here, but Kelsey ran through the city a bit, found some exciting foliage, and Tressa did her coffee shop thing, and then together we walked around Broad Ripple, a kind of collegiate township where we sipped some Indiana beer and people watched at the Triton Tap while the sky throbbed with pink lightning before we had to scurry off the patio and out of the rain. 

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