Sunday, April 20, 2008

20 - 20

820 miles.
16 hours of driving..
..In 2 Days.

Yes, I went on this awesome, spectacular, painless road trip all by myself to spend time with friends. It was kind of an eye opener for me. A lesson - for underestimating the midwest's beauty.

I always thought that there was no scenic beauty in the midwest. The only thing to see here were corn fields that perhaps outnumbered the population of India. Jay Leno recently joked about how the earth quake a couple of days ago wanted to flatten Iowa but really could not because it's already flat!

But before entering Illinois, I passed throught this beautiful city called Dubuque which immediately made me think that I may have been lost. The city is situated on the banks of the Mississippi, and there is a very narrow bridge that took me across the river, and while I was on that narrow bridge I risked my life by taking my eyes off the road, looking at the scenic beauty that the river offered, and concluding that the midwest is beautiful indeed.

When I hit highway 20 from 35 North, I saw the usual scene - cornfields, cornfields everywhere not a corn to eat. It was like that for nearly 170-180 miles. I did see a few bigger cities (according to Iowa standards, that is) and took a break in Waterloo where for the first time in roughly eight months I had a McChicken meal. I was thrilled. Totally. The very first bite brought back memories of my days in grad school, when I would not have enough time to go back home before class, and I would go to the only McDonald's in Normal and eat a McChicken meal almost everyday.

Anyway, around 30 - 40 miles from Waterloo, things started to change. The corn fields suddenly vanished and I saw myself surrounded by greenery, greenery everywhere. There were a few very beautiful colleges, and I realized that I was turning my steering wheel a lot more often. I was not on a straight road anymore, and it was time to stop singing (sang to myself for around 3 hours) and pay attention.

The journey was very fascinating from Dubuque onwards. I drove through (small) mountains, before reaching this amazingly beautiful city called Galena in Illinois. The narrow brick roads that went up and down, zig and zag immediately made me feel like I was somewhere in Europe. Not that I' ve been there, but the pictures of Europe that I have seen over the years made me think that I was really somewhere there.

Zigging and Zagging my way to glory, I passed another location that overlooked a huge green area of land with perhaps thousands of black and white cows roaming around - eating grass and making merry.

Then I passed through many small towns that were unique in their own ways. One town had a glass museum, another town had a "peculiar house" on sale, and in most of these towns, there was land in abundance, and people had built there houses in the middle of huge farmlands - just like in those beautiful postcards and posters that we have been admiring since childhood.

Well, the one way journey ended when I reached Freeport and saw Kedar's face. Seeing him after so many months was really very nice. He surprised me by feeding me a chicken dish that he had made, which was damn hot and very very delicious!

From Freeport we went to Normal, where we spent the night with Shalva, Vinay and Harsh. Drank the entire night and had amazing fun after such a long time. Next day around noon we left Normal. I dropped Kedar first and came back to Ames - once again admiring the beauty of Galena, IL and Dubuque, IA, thanking mapquest for making me take highway 20.

Highway 20 was really amazing. I was earlier kind of apprehensive about taking 20 just because it is not an interstate, and that there would be a lot of traffic and the speed limit would be not so great. Well I did find all that (in some towns the speed limit was 25 for fudge's sake), but thankfully I discovered some really beautiful places that totally changed my perception about the midwest.

I just wish I had someone sitting next to me taking pictures.

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