I have so very many things I want to blog about. So very many!

Random thoughts:

Highway rest stops must be like art galleries for dogs: so many interesting smells, such fascinating traces of other dogs and people, so rich with the canine version of color. And possibly over-stimulating? B has to stop every two inches for the first ten feet and then he’s all, “No more, no more, I must take a nap. Immediately.” And Z wants to smell ALL the smells, every last inch of grass. It does not make for fun walks.

Illinois has a seriously annoying toll system. Every ten miles or so, you have to pay another $1.50 or $2 or even $3. I’m sure it’s fine for the people who live there and whizz through on their e-passes, but at 5AM, only one cash booth was open at every stop and it always had a line of five or six cars in it. It was actually sort of stressful to be hunting for money in that line, knowing that the people behind me just wanted to get going.

Wisconsin has gorgeous wildflowers happening right now. Lovely and colorful, deep yellows, light blues, waves of lavender. Not literal lavender, I don’t think, but that color of light purple. I, of course, can’t tell you what any of them are, but I think some of the deep yellows were brown-eyed Susans.

Ending the random thoughts:

I spent the weekend at Caesar Creek State Park in Wilmington, OH. It is not a park that I will be returning to. It contains the dubious distinction of having the worst showers of any that I actually used within my first year of van life. Apart from that, I think it’s probably a really nice place to stay if you have big water toys to play with — motor boats, wave runners, that kind of thing. For me, it was just a vaguely pleasant, grassy parking lot near a place where my friend E was visiting for work. But the trails were too muddy to appreciate; the weather was either sweltering hot or raining; and the sites didn’t have water hook-ups, which was inconvenient — especially because the showers were not cool. Literally, in the case of one of them, which was jammed on a temp of “fill the entire bathroom with steam.”

Due to circumstances beyond our control, our time together was cut a little short and E was without a car, so instead of most of a weekend with easy and flexible transportation, we had 24 hours in Serenity. It was much fun nonetheless, but mostly revolved around food. And washing dishes. And then more food. And more washing dishes. The effort of washing dishes is much more noticeable when you’re carrying the water from a faucet several campsites away.

Anyway, Saturday night was grilled asparagus with lime, and sous vide steak, followed by spice cake with pecans. Sunday: blueberries, bananas, and chocolate granola; spicy sweet potato hash with poached eggs; arugula and mixed greens salad with cold shrimp, pea pods, radishes, cucumbers, avocado, and a spicy chili-garlic salad dressing.

The sous vide steak was good, but maybe not as good as I expected it to be — perhaps a fault of the cook, I will definitely try again. The asparagus was great; the hash was yum; and the spicy salad dressing was delicious. I’m going to make an appetizer of a radish slice, topped with a thin slice of avocado, a cold shrimp, and a drizzle of chili garlic sauce, because those bites of salad were so very, very good. And I do wonder why the world doesn’t contain more spicy salad dressings? It really worked so well with all the cold crunchy things, i.e. the pea pods and radishes and shrimp.

Anyway, due to said circumstances, I wound up giving E a ride to her hotel around 6 Sunday evening. Of course, moving Serenity means packing up and because the rain had been on and off, but it was temporarily dry, I decided to pack everything up rather than risk it getting wet again. But then on the drive I realized that I was headed 35 minutes west of the campground. Did it really make sense to go east again, to spend the night at Caesar Creek? My plan had been to leave early this morning, starting at 8 or so, and drive as long as I could last. Destination, the Badlands of South Dakota, 18 hours away.

I worried at the thought for most of the drive, then while E went into Target to pick up some stuff she needed, I consulted my map. And after I dropped her off at her hotel, I started driving.

Last night — the second-to-last night of Year One in Serenity, I slept at a Flying J gas station in Indiana, adding one more state to my total — 19 states, 74 places, and 3 parking lots.

Tonight — the very last night of Year One in Serenity, I will either be sleeping in Minnesota or South Dakota, adding another state to the total. I suspect it’s going to be in Minnesota, because instead of driving, I’m sitting in a highway rest stop on the Wisconsin – Minnesota border, writing a blog post. It would take me 4.5 hours or so to get across Minnesota, I think, and given that I started driving at 5, I think I’m probably not going to make it that far. My goal, though, is to get the total driving time to Mount Rushmore to be under 6 hours. And I’m not quite sure, but I think it might be perfectly do-able. Which would mean tomorrow, on the actual anniversary of the day I closed on my house and started driving north, I’ll finally be at one of the destinations I was aiming for. And it only took a year!

The Mississippi River, as seen from Minnesota