Back in Colorado Springs (finally!) after five weeks away. Most of the trip was about family things that are not of general interest, and I've discovered that writing long trip reports on a netbook makes my eyes cross. So here's the report in retrospect.
We didn't get away from the Chicago area until 4 PM, so our first day on the road was short and we only made it to Davenport, Iowa. Quick tip: Avoid the Davenport Clarion. It was very un-Clarion like; old, grungy, basically worn-out, with lots of broken things and pillows that felt like they were stuffed with leftover pantyhose.
To make up the foreshortened day we grit our teeth and drove for ten hours the day following, making just short of 600 miles, from Davenport to North Platte, Nebraska. It was a dull haul across some pretty country that we now know reasonably well, and we didn't take time to do any sightseeing, with one exception. While I was gassing up the 4Runner in Stuart, Iowa, Carol saw a copper dome off in the direction of the town center, just past the inevitable grain elevator. We followed our noses to the dome and saw a remarkable thing: A large Byzantine-style stone church in the midst of a very small (population 1,700) town. (See above.)
It's a sad story: The beautiful 1908 All Saints church was torched in 1995 by a psychopathic arsonist who said he wanted to destroy the Roman Catholic Church. (I know someone who might say, "He should have become a liturgist instead." Religion geek joke, sorry.) The interior decoration was ruined, and, lacking the funds to restore it, the local Roman diocese gave the building to the town. Stuart did some savvy fundraising, and is close to completion on a $3.2 million restoration project that will see the building become a secular community center. Stuart itself is a grid of nice old houses with a reasonably functional downtown retail strip and a Victorian gingerbread town hall built in 1884. It's the smallest town I've ever seen that I'd be willing to live in, even though it doesn't have a museum full of bombers close by.
We spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express in North Platte, and that may well be our favorite hotel along the Springs-Chicago path that we've pounded so regularly for the last several years. It's everything the Davenport Clarion wasn't: clean, comfortable, and completely functional--plus perfectly willing to let us keep four rowdy bichons in the room with us.
Our last day on the road was gray and wet, and although we stopped at Lake McConaughy, we didn't stay long. What we saw there was startling: The lake was about 18 feet higher than it was when we were last there, in August 2009. The water's now higher than it's been since 2001, and the enormous sand beaches are mostly gone...because they were just exposed lakebed to begin with. There are still beaches, of course, but they are narrower now, and have young trees protruding from the water. The seven-year drought has passed, and the lake has grown from inflows of as much as 2500 cubic feet of water per second from the Platte river.
It's funny how QBit seemed to know he was within a few miles of his house, as he began seriously agitating from his kennel in the back seat as soon as we got off I-25 in Colorado Springs. (He didn't make any fuss at all when we got off I-76 at Fort Morgan earlier to pick up a snack wrap.) We emptied the car and collapsed into bed. I'm thinking that we may have to make more trips there but shorter ones, and let United Airlines do the driving. The dogs kennel better than I handle Interstates, especially over 1100-mile routes crawling with 18-wheelers and oversized loads.
At this point I'm going to rest. Just rest. Everything else will have to gracefully wait.