We’re heading up to Hillsboro, IL, for the Old Settlers Festival, which I imagine beforehand will be seven old people and a one-eyed boy pushing a dog in a buggy around the streets while a man holding a kitten waves an American flag behind a barricade.

OK, the kitten is also waving a flag.

To be honest, I prefer my small-town Americana like this. When Team USA does their parades at the peak of their abilities, it’s a little unsettling under current conditions. Something too big and too polished just looks a little too Red Square and militaristic for comfort.

I love small American towns because they don’t feel like you’re in the clutches of a superpower ideology. Everything is smaller, homier, less polished. There’s less of a sense that everything needs to be perfect.

I know that no small town is really like this; but to me, a perpetual tourist, they’re kind enough to pretend as long as I’m watching.

We’ll be driving for two full days. Preparation for this kind of journey is everything, so I:

  • Find some more Lin-Manuel Miranda songs for the journey.
  • Download podcasts for the journey.
  • Collect my audio books together for the journey.
  • Update my iTunes playlists for the journey.
  • Buy batteries.

Do you see my role here?

Two days in the car are going to fly by, right? I have no idea. I have never spent that long in a car, ever. It’s one of the transformational experiences I’m expecting from the vacation.

I’m pretty sure we have a couple of Valiums around here somewhere.

Living in Austin, we’re pretty spoiled when it comes to food – if you like American food like I do, it’s just about perfect. Burgers…BBQ…pizza…if Austin is not the heart-attack capital of America, then some of my neighbors just aren’t eating enough.

We’re so spoiled that I can blithely create a list of places I will never eat in again. (Whataburger, McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s. Dairy Queen. Chick-fil-A. Jack in the Box. Chilie’s. Taco Cabana. Long John Silver’s. Gatti’s.). If you’re not eating there for financial reasons, or if being there isn’t some nostalgia-trip, then what is the appeal? Tacos, burgers, pizza…everything tastes better somewhere else.

But, my wife has warned me, road trips that last for two straight days run on different rules. You don’t judge a place by its food but by its toilet facilities. So, she warns, we might be seeing a lot of McDonald’s.

And that’s OK. Road trips and vacations are all about doing the new, the dangerous…the thing the locals do. If it comes to it, I’ll eat at a McDonalds. That bacon burger they’re advertising on TV certainly looks good… I’ll keep you posted.

For now, preparations are finally over. I’m pretty much packed. Work projects have been handed over. The doggies have gone to their spa for the week. Now we just have to think about anything we might have forgotten, get a good night’s sleep, and we’re off. Over the week, I’ll do a photo project with these two little guys.

Because why not? Carrying two nerd toys around is something a grown-man can do in America, dammit. It’ll be quirky. Maybe there’s a book in it. Or a movie. Weirder things have happened.

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