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  • Writer's pictureHeather Tanguay

Aug 5: Oh What a Beautiful Day!

Because I spend all Sunday afternoon at Laura Ingalls Wilder's home, I arrive at my hotel later in the evening and get a slow start on Monday the 5th. To compensate, I try to find a high speed level 3 charger that is not Tesla. I am not successful. Then I search for level 2 chargers. I am not successful. Finally, my phone grudges up an RV park.

The entrance bumps over a gravel road. The area in front of the office sports junked cars and disemboweled household appliances. The office is jammed with things, used or new but crumpled. Cigarette smoke rings the owner's head. His speech is punctuated by deep liquid coughs.

He is helped by his grandson, about six, who curious and chatty. Several cats wander in while we are negotiating the price of an afternoon's charging. One is three legged and his ears are gnarled rags. But each cat I meet during the afternoon is friendly and talkative. The owner tells me their names and their backstory. He is clearly very fond of them. They allow themselves to be petted and purr willingly. Their bodies feel study and healthy.

The price settled, the owner and grandson drive an ancient dune buggy to lead me to my campsite, all of 100 yards around the back of the office. This driving of some kind of off road vehicle seems to be the norm for RV parks. Golf carts are the most common.

While I am setting up the Blue Frog's charge, the owner offers that I can swim in the pool and use the washhouse for a nominal fee. My husband has said, of his Appalachian Trail hike, that when a hostel owner offers an inexpensive meal after negotiating the stay price, you take the meal, even if you are not hungry. To refuse somehow transgresses a kindness. I take this swim/washtub offer in the same spirit. I am not sure what the pool will be like, but I will at least dip my toes.

The pool is lovely, clear blue and nice smelling. I swim, four strokes, flip turn, repeat for over an hour. Then I wash my clothes in the washhouse. By the time the car is charged, everything I have is clean and repacked.

I have such a nice time that I consider just resting where I am. It would be relaxing to sleep in my little tent under the trees on the soft grass and talk some more with the cats and the owner and his grandson but farther places call. Late afternoon, I head out.

I have been following old Route 66 wherever is diverges from Route 40. The old road is harder to find here in the Midwest than in the West. It no longer "looks" like iconic 66. The tumbled down buildings and kitchy signs have mostly been replaced by buildings from other eras, both older (mid-19th century buildings) and newer (20th century strip malls and fast food restaurants).

Happily, I discover the "avoid highways" feature of Google maps. Without highways, the app sends me onto secondary and tertiary roads. Farm roads. Corn and soy beans. Hay fields. Mostly crops, rarely livestock. Where are the cows, I wonder.

Since Oklahoma, the vegetation has become lusher and more verdant, state by easterly state. The weather, still hot, is now humid. Thinking about Oklahoma, I stop the car and mess with YouTube until I find a full restoration of the 1943 version of the musical, sung by students at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Rolling along the ripening fields, at 35 to 40 mph, the damp, warm, busy wind flowing through open windows, the Blue Frog's wheels crunching softly on the gravelly roads, snatches of bird trills flitting in and out, the first song is an apt expression of this place.

There's a bright golden haze on the meadow

There's a bright golden haze on the meadow

The corn is as high as an elephant's eye

And it looks like it's climbing clear up to the sky

Oh, what a beautiful mornin'

Oh, what a beautiful day

I've got a beautiful feeling

Everything's going my way.

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