An Old Friend
October 27, 2013
The hammer feels light in my woolen hand. The tips of my fingers freeze as I pound the stakes into the cold earth, snagging my woolen fingerless gloves. It’s 20 degrees and pitch black at a campsite outside Waterloo, Iowa. I have only my lone light, strapped to my head, to guide me and a couple late season RVs for company. But the night is crisp, the stars bright, and the distant highway a quiet white noise.
I cook some rice in instant chicken broth, add some black beans, and wolf it down to help stave off the cold. I try to tidy up my cooking area. I know I shouldn’t leave anything out in case of wildlife but a quick walk to the bathrooms proves fruitless: all facilities closed for the season. No wonder only RVs remain. I decide to leave my dirty dishes in the car to clean tomorrow and dive into my tent.
I’m so cold I simply take off my coat and bundle into my sleeping bag fully clothed. Never have I been more grateful for my over-preparedness. The bag is rated down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and I know I’m going to need it tonight. I pull the opening tight around my head and cover myself with an additional blanket. After some experimentation I find a sleepable position and doze off.
I begin the long drive to Nebraska, packing up camp the next morning. I’ve been told Iowa is one of the roughest parts of this transcontinental voyage but I find the rolling fields and massive farming equipment oddly interesting. The cruise control pulls me onwards to my old friend.
I don’t remember much about my elementary school friends. My teachers and family take up my most vivid memories from that time. I do remember my first crush though (not counting my puppy love for an early music teacher, I consider that more a maternal sentiment). Sadly she left DC before we even knew holding hands was a thing and I haven’t seen her since. Now over fifteen years later I drive on to meet her and her boyfriend.
From the moment I pull up and say hello I can tell we’re still friends despite the gulf of time that divides us. Her boyfriend is even in my field giving the two of us instant conversation fodder. We go on a brief tour of Lucky Bucket Brewery nearby before a quick dinner and drinks with some of their local friends. We polish the night off at a fun bar arcade that sets off pangs of nostalgia and sadness for Barcade in Brooklyn so recently left behind. However this location has some more recent games and I manage to indulge in some Crazy Taxi before the night is through, if only because my host insists I ask the people hogging the machine for a turn. On our way out we visit the local sex shop which contains a “Tunnel of Love,” one of those classic circus illusions where you walk through a spinning tunnel. The optical effect combined with our mild inebriation is overwhelming. Sleep overtakes us soon after as I get decimated in billiards back home.
I leave the next morning amongst many thank yous and assurances of future visits to San Francisco.
Now onto my most anticipated part of the trip: America’s rugged southwest. After a day of driving through the Nebraskan monotony if route 80, I finally find a KOA campsite north of Pueblo where I cook and fall asleep.
I’m now sitting in my car deciding where to go next. My goal is to get to the Salida hot springs before finding a campsite along the Million Dollar Highway.