The judges have decided—the votes are in! Having traveled more than 8,000 miles and scoured the country for the very best, here are the 2015 DOWNING ROADTRIP AWARDS…in order of encounter. Continue reading
Kansas from the car
When you drive over 400 miles, as we did, in one day, topics of conversation start to become a bit thin on the ground. We occasionally play games to pass the time; ‘I Spy’ is a popular choice, or the license plate game, where words are thought of that have all the letters of passing license plates in the order in which they appear, albeit with other letters of course. Sign posts provide some amusement. Outside of Augusta we spied one that said, “Herculaneum McNutt.” That still has us rolling around; we don’t know if that’s a person’s name, a place, or, indeed, two places, but it will surely reappear as a character in one of my books one day. Then there are the billboards which, in Missouri, seem to be evenly divided between fireworks for sale, ‘Adult Superstores,’ and various proclamations portending damnation. On top of everything, Cristal swears she saw a triangular spaceship in the clouds while driving.
In the parking lot of a rest stop, we were approached by a man, barefoot and with cigarette dangling from a corner of his mouth, who needed to borrow jump leads. It was one of those moments where you’re quickly running through in your mind (a) whether you’ll ever see those jump leads again; (b) whether you can spare the time to wait for their return on a trip of 400+ miles; or (c) whether you will do the right thing and loan them—if you can find them. Well, we did the right thing, found the leads straight away in the bag right by the trunk door, and handed them over while we went off and walked to get some exercise. When we went over to collect the leads when the gentleman was finished, we got into the kind of conversation that would be most welcome over a bottle of wine on a lazy evening with no place to go. It ranged from Hopi spiritual beliefs to environmental preservation around the country, and a singular rattlesnake.
George Williams, wherever you are, thanks for the brief respite from boredom, and let’s get together for that bottle of wine one day.
Wine for Cristal and me, motel style
taken at the Daniel Boone Homestead
Every time someone has asked us what our itinerary is for this trip, everything is fine until I mention Augusta, Missouri. ‘Why Augusta?’, or ‘What’s in Augusta?’ invariably is asked. So here, in black and white, is the truth of the matter. We considered St. Louis as being on our route but, having included Charlotte, Nashville and Memphis, I rather felt that we were getting heavy on the cities and wanted a change. I might have liked Independence for its historical significance but it didn’t quite fit into the driving, and I’d recently been to Kansas City so nixed that. In the end, when we discovered Augusta was one of the centers of Missouri wine country, also offered Daniel Boone’s Homestead, and had the bonus of the historic Katy trail for Cristal to run, it seemed like an excellent choice.
Daniel Boone Homestead
Well, choices are one thing, reality often proves another. Our little cottage is charming and we made some local antique purchases this morning as well as visiting the workshop of a local glassblower and making another purchase there. But when it came to Dan’l Boone’s Home, after a twenty minute drive, we discovered the tours went out on the hour and we would have a forty-five minute wait in stifling heat. So we hurried through their self-guide tour of the homestead and village buildings—not permitted to enter any without a proper guide—and in a rather sorry state decided to return home. Without wine.
Some days just have hiccoughs.
Peace Church in the village at Boone Homestead
We are in Augusta, MO, and Cristal is cooking dinner as I write. After a journey of over 300 miles, somewhat lengthened by the need to detour a flooded road, we have arrived at a vacation rental in wine country: a whole cottage with well-fitted kitchen. One of the worries of traveling for seven weeks is WEIGHT and how not to put more on. Cristal, of course, is fine; she is training for a half-marathon and is skinny as a rail. She works out or runs every single morning except one per week, and can currently eat like a horse without putting on an ounce. Me, well, that’s a different story. But her routine has encouraged me to follow her to the gym most days when one is available, and to eat as healthily as I can. This is difficult; if there is a fine restaurant within 2 miles of any accommodation in which we are staying, we head there for dinner—we are hard core foodies! The huge amount of walking we’ve been doing has helped and, so far, my jeans have not got any tighter. Unfortunately, after yesterday’s double meal with the fried chicken at Gus’, and a lunch today at a Cajun restaurant in Cape Geradieu, MO, we are crying for vegetables and a low-calorie meal. Soooo…thank you, Walmart, thank you Cristal, and thank you brussel sprouts!