The Final Post - Day 62 - Springfield, IL to Home

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
  - Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

This will be a long post.

We made it, and we did it.  Safe and without any major incidents, we traveled around the country for close to 10 weeks (62 days doesn't count our 5-ish day non-blogging travels in mid-June...).

Today we woke up in Springfield, Illinois in the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center.  It is a much-renovated older place that is the first ever Holiday Inn on Route 66 plus many additions.  The place is FULL FULL FULL of stuff - memorabilia related to Route 66 and Middle-Americana. Decent hotel - not a knock out, but honestly we were a little nervous going in on what we would find.  Given that we came in late after the Drive In movie and then were up early to head home, it suited us fine.

Once on the road, we needed chow, so one final Big Trip stop at Charlie Parkers Diner. This was our last 'friendly tip' (thanks Midthuns!) and it was a good one, including being our final Diners, Drive Ins and Dives rated joint.  Packed to the gills with people on a Sunday morning, their motto is 'Eat it and Beat it' and they're not kidding.  Cheap prices, great food, huge quantities and they got you out in a hurry.  A single pancake is 16" wide.  Oy!  Nice job, Charlie Parkers!

And then a three hour drive home.  Happy.  Sad.  Reflective.  All of a sudden busy with things to do.  It will be a strange transition, but here we are.  It feels like the get-together we had before we left was a year ago. People from my workplace have retired, new employees have come aboard, friends have had babies, we have new neighbors.  It was a long vacation.

OK, here's the part of the blog post that will sound like an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.  We would like to recognize and thank the following people:

- My employer, Oak Bank, and all of my associates that work there.  It's a special place that would say 'yes' to a 10-week vacation request and a special group that would support me for 10 weeks while I was gone.  Best job ever.
- Kim's employer, Adesys.  All that I said above goes for her as well.  We are amazingly fortunate.
- The family and friends that kept an eye on our home and stuff while we were gone.  It was a risk to tell the world that we were gone, but people are generally pretty cool.  Ha-ha to the negative nellies who commented on our news story and guaranteed that we would get our stuff stolen.  Special thanks to Grandma Marge & Grandpa Craig for weeding through all the mail and downed trees :-)
- Folks who we were able to meet up with (and regrets to those who's paths we couldn't cross) while we were on the road.  So great to see you all.  Friendly faces and home cooked food came to us just when we needed them. 
- New 'friends' who we met and followed virtually, who took/are taking similar or much longer trips than us.  There are travelling folks everywhere, most are much more adventurous than us and they form a fascinating fabric of people around the country.  
- Everyone who sent us tips and thoughts online - thank you!  We were sincerely overwhelmed.  We couldn't do half of what we wanted and could only try maybe 1% of the tips we got.  We had to thank folks so many times and not take their advice, simply due to time.  We heard and read everything that everyone sent to us.

And now, some facts and figures from the trip:

- We drove 15,528 miles.  Congrats to MK's friend Mallory who won the 'Guess the Mileage' contest - she was within 120 miles!  She won herself a Graceland Pink Cadillac snow globe for her prize!
- We went thru 711 gallons of gas and averaged 49.2 miles per hour.
- We stayed in hotels 62 nights.  The majority were in IHG (Holiday Inn and related) hotels.  They treated us right.  They have a very solid and VERY consistent breakfast at their hotels.  We don't ever want to see it again :-)
- We visited 27 states.
- We had UNBELIEVABLY good luck with the weather.  In almost ten weeks of travelling, we got rained on four days.  Four!  And two of those were in LA and San Diego where it basically never rains in July.  The other two days were Boston and Crater Lake National Park.                                   - We wanted to log one million steps on Kim's FitBit.  We only made it to 932,315.

And now the mushy stuff.  It's hard for me to get my hands around how well everything went and how we all got along.  During countless talks, Kim and I discussed how when really good planning meets really good luck you get, well, The Big Trip. No doubt we had our moments, but the smiles, laughs, amazing discussions and good times so far outweigh the tough times as to make them a footnote.  We wondered if we would feel closer as a family when we were done and we confirmed that we do, far past our expectations.  We wondered if we would have inside jokes and, man, did that work out well.  My leg is shaking, I have a question, I hate this elevator, goo-goo-poo-poo, wack-jack/wack-jack.  I guess you had to be there.  

The trip was educational well beyond what I thought, and I thought it would be pretty educational. Such a great opportunity to learn about this giant, diverse, fascinating, amazing, frustrating, flawed, limited and limitless country.  Hey, you know that line about history repeating itself?  It does.  I saw lessons from 600 years ago repeat again in the Revolutionary War,  The Civil War, the 60's and today on the news.  The trip also confirmed the Pollyanna in me.  People are, by and large, very good.  Don't let the few bad ones get you down.  Smile, ask questions.  Someone will be there to help. 

And then, in the end, I just completely love my family.  Maggie and MK are the niftiest little folks that I could imagine.  And my wife.  She is the best person I know and a rock that you could only dream of building a family around.  Such a complete treasure to spend so much time with them.  We will truly remember it forever.

If you get the chance, take a long trip.  If you can, take those that you care about with you.

Cheers, all.  Thanks for all the reading, keep in touch, peace.

- Jim


Our last night's lodging.

We tagged a sign in the hotel, because we're rebels and we're dangerous!


Holiday Inn pancake machine.  We will be OK if we never see one of these again :-)

The very last stop before home, breakfast at Charlie Parker's Cafe.

Riding off into the sunset.