Our last major stop on The Big Road Trip would be a visit with Monique's sister Babs in Lake Lotawana, Missouri, a lake just a bit east of Kansas City. To get there, though, we had a long day of driving across Eastern Colorado and all of Kansas. We didn't take any pictures of the drive, so you'll have to put up with a bit of actual text narrative to fill in that 10-hour gap.
We spent the day listening to a big swath of the audiobook we listened to throughout this trip: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. If you haven't read it, it's a novel about a cattle drive from the Rio Grande River on the Mexican border all the way to Montana. It was a great selection for this trip. Not only is it a great, sprawling novel, but it sprawls across the Great Plains, so we often found ourselves crossing places and rivers shortly before or after they were mentioned in the book.
We also saw a lot of wind farms in this drive, and in retrospect I regret not having taken a few photos of them. We noticed a lot of windmills in Minnesota and South Dakota, but the stretch of I-70 between Denver and Kansas City had the heaviest population of wind farms that I think I've seen anywhere in America. The last time I drove that stretch all there was to look at was grass and farms. Now it's grass, farms, and windmills. All the windmills that have sprung up make a big difference in the landscape. At some level I missed the big, wide-open featureless flat expanses. But all-in-all I prefer having the clean energy of the windmill-scape to the sheer vastness of the empty plain.
Eventually our audiobooking and windmill watching got us across the plains and to Babs's house in time for dinner on Wednesday night. After dinner, there was a bit of late night swimming...
Those shadowy figures up there in dark. Is it Batman and Robin?
Nope. It's Malcolm and Henry, night-jumping off Babs's boathouse.
Our view of things improved considerably the next day once the sun came up. The thing that was most immediately apparent to us is how much work and improvement she and her housemate Amy have put into their gardens since our last visit. Here's a quick tour around their lot:
The hill down to the boathouse.
The lakeside patio.
The streetside yard.
We all had a great, relaxing day at Babs's place. Henry and Malcolm took full advantage of the opportunity to do some water skiing
Babs, Henry, and Malcolm.
Monique went along for the ride.
In the afternoon Kobe (Henry and Malcolm's cousin, Babs's grandson) came over and Kobe, Henry, and Malcolm embarked on a long session of jumping off the boathouse:
Here are all three in frame at once:
We had a really nice dinner with everybody, including Hillery (Babs's daughter, Monique's niece, Kobe's mom) who came over after she got out of work. But I don't seem to have any photos of that. So instead, we move on to the post-dinner tubing expedition.
Henry and Kobe.
Henry and Malcolm.
I would like to point out that when we started The Big Road Trip I was clean-shaven and had a full head of long, dark brown hair. This sort of expedition can age a fellow.
Kobe and the girl who lives next door to Babs. (Alas, that I've momentarily forgotten her name.)
Henry and Malcolm.
Your humble author claiming a well-earned float in the lake with a beer.
It wasn't all lazing about the lake. I took advantage of the quiet afternoon to take Big Smoky out for a well-earned car wash, a bit of maintenance, and a full tank of gas: premium, naturally. Big Smoky is a Jaguar after all, and Jaguars have expensive tastes.
With Big Smoky cleaned and packed we hit the road Friday morning for the final day of driving, another long stretch from Kansas City to Detroit.
I present to you a drive-by photo of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis from far off:
The tragedy here is that we took a wrong turn in St. Louis, left the highway, and drove around the arch three times before finding our way back on the highway. But I never thought to pull out the camera,even thought we were so close to its base that I had to open the sunroof just so that we could see it overhead. Ten days of snapshots had obviously dulled my reflexes.
And then, just like that (well, after another fourteen or so hours of driving) we were back in our very own driveway in Wolverine Lake:
There, and back again: 4,409.9 miles in the Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas Supercharged Saloon -- plus another 300 or so in my brother's SUV, which we drove from Casper up to Thermopolis and back. That's nearly 5,000 miles of driving in ten days.
It's good to be home: