Miles 4745-5816: Bright Lights, Big Cities

The Twin Cities Metro: the largest place we’ve been in a long time, and I’m honestly feeling something like shell-shock, what with all the people. We eat breakfast, find a cafe to squat in, get to work; given that this is some of the best tea I’ve ever tasted, I’m not surprised when Spyhouse Coffee’s population skyrockets later in the day. The tables being communal, I’m also not surprised when I’m drawn into conversation by an entrepreneur developing his client base looking to spread the love. I’m flattered and all, but I don’t think I’m necessarily the best person to write copy for a home renovation company. That whole “living out of a car” thing.

home sweet home; picture from this morning

By the time we’re done with our must-dos, our host for the evening, J, is done with his, too – J’s involved with the Minnesota Chapter of Leave No Trace, and has offered to put us up for the evening. We meet his pups Benson and Loki – the latter aptly named for his boundless energy – and then, his wife, R. To thank them for their hospitality, we take them out to dinner; they suggest Surly Brewing Company, and oh what a fine choice that is. The beer and the food both are phenomenal, and I’m left giving my props to Minneapolis and to J+R for their fine taste.

also, it’s HUGE

Another workday awaits on the other side of sleep – for me, at least. After a crazy breakfast at the Hi-Lo Diner, I’ve got writing to do, so I bust out more words, more thoughts, more feelings about this crazy trip I’m on. J+R have offered us another night at theirs, so we’re not too worried about getting up and moving, which is nice. We haven’t had that experience in a while. The gents decide to go for a hike and while I’d like to go, there always seems to be more to do, particularly when we have access to internet. I wonder if we’ll ever get our to-do list down to zero.

In the evening, I abandon the still-numbered list and Spesh and I head to Abel Seedhouse and Brewing; Spesh is doing a segment for the Trail Show there, and while I decide to taste all the beers, I’m primarily along as the designated driver. We talk with the CFO, John Mowery, about the brewery, about his experiences outdoors, about his hopes and dreams for the future of the Seedhouse. We also talk about ourselves, our work, what inspires us. By the time we all come to, more than three hours have passed, and it’s time to release John back into the wilds of life. We nestle ourselves back in with J+R, and hope we’re not being too much of a burden with this second night.

Mornings are generally for packing, so it’s getting packed up and ready to go, and giving huge thank yous to J and our compliments to R, who’s off at work – then to breakfast with Pookie, a friend of mine from college, who just happens to be in town. She has a pretty new tiny human in tow with her, and I’m in awe of her accomplishments as a doctor and as a mom. Not for the first time on this trip, I’m struck by the way our choices build, one on top of the other, combining with circumstance and sheer luck to form the lives we lead. She’s lucky, I’m lucky, her tiny human is lucky, we’re all lucky to have managed to get some time together.

Then it’s southward, to for more visits – this time, with MNHikingViking, a fair reader who’s offered us a place to stay.

MNHV and his lovely wife are kind and generous and free in sharing their time, their hearts, their stories about their homes trips lives with us. It’s so nice to feel understood – it’s like we all already know each other, which is incredibly freeing. They already know what to expect from me, for certain, so the words and the laughs and smiles come easier. The day passes quickly into evening, and sleep, when it comes, is restorative.

I come into the morning gently, far earlier than Spesh, who’s usually the earlier riser of the two. MNHV and I have coffee and chat outside, and when Spesh wakes we all have breakfast together. It takes too long to do laundry, and I worry that we’re keeping our host, but we make it out of his hair by noon. I hope we’ll see him again, on down the road.

packed and ready to go

We take MNHikingViking’s advice and drive down the Mississippi River into Iowa, staring up at the bluffs, marveling at the width of the river this far south.

we also take his advice re: tasty treats along the way

I take a nap, wake to the news that the man who killed Philando Castile has been acquitted; it seems appropriate that the weather has turned, become as dark as my mood. The rest of the ride to Des Moines is quiet, so quiet, though I’m forced to the present when it comes to finding a place to sleep.

Walnut Woods State Park, right beside our venue, is full-up for the evening, we have to be to the event by 7:15a, and the nearest campground is 16 miles away, so we tap into our Hotel Stipend and get a motel not too far away. The floor is damp and the sheets are sticky from the humidity, but the shower is nice – not that I’m paying much attention to anything. I’m curled up in bed, reading the news, letting the sorrow sink into my bones. I have to smile tomorrow, I think, as the lightning flashes and thunder rumbles both inside and out. I’ll be what I am tonight.

The event is easier to smile at than I think it will be – the event host is incredibly amiable, and the location is beautiful, and giving a presentation to young girls is always heartening. So much energy, so much life. The event is shorter than expected, so we eat a little and drink a lot of coffee before we meet my friend Musicaa, who’s getting married next weekend, and who’s kindly decided to put up with us up for the evening.

and decided we needed to try some Krunkwich ramen

We talk like four years haven’t gone by since we last saw each other, like thirteen haven’t gone by since we really spent a lot of time together. As the evening goes on and we all don’t want for conversation, I’m thankful for good people, good friends, and wondering what I can do to pass on how lucky I feel.

The conversation continues late into the morning on Sunday, when we finally have to pull out to make it to our next event. Green Valley State Park’s name takes me back to the Anderson’s, and the Boy Scout troop in Creston is just as warm and welcoming. I go fishing for the first time – though it makes sense to me, fishing is more meditative than I thought it’d be – and get my first rod, to boot. We eat in town – dang, we really need to go shopping – and then it’s back to the park to settle in for the evening. The constant whuffle of wingbeats calls us out of the tent, and soon enough we’re creeping on the committee of turkey vultures resting in the nearby trees. The fireflies make their magic late into the evening.

We’re lazy in the morning, writing and reading and enjoying the hours as they develop, but eventually, we have to start the long trip towards Illinois. Podcasts and Spotify keep us company as we make our way to Graham’s Cave State Park in Missouri, which has apparently been abandoned to the spiders. The cave’s cool, though:

I see this and think “of course people used to live here. Of course they did.”

The campsite at the park is eerie all by itself, and the tent sites, as per usual, aren’t so great; we hunt for other options, and find free camping across the highway at the Danville Conservation Area. We’re alone here too, but at least it’s free.

In the morning, we head to Marion, the largest metro closest to our destination, set up shop have a workday. It’s the first time we’ve had to work in a chain cafe, and we’re not particularly stoked on it, but we do what we must. We don’t finish everything we need to do and head out late, arriving to Jackson Falls as dusk settles in. Setting up in the dark is never my favorite thing, and it doesn’t help that the night here is alive with sound – snaps creaks pops. I’m almost asleep on three different occasions when loud noises wake me; this week’s been so full of high peaks and low valleys that I’m not particularly surprised. I’ll rest eventually, and, eventually, I do.

6 thoughts on “Miles 4745-5816: Bright Lights, Big Cities

  1. Lynn Duncan says:

    Marion in Indiana?? My parents grew up there..lots of relatives used to live there.

    But there are Marions in other states.

    If you Google Marion, Indiana.. the wretched legacy of the KKK is evident in pictures of an infamous lynching.. But the bystanders and the apathy are apparent.

    Chills my blood.

    So, if you are there (or not) sending you a hug….


    • Brown Girl says:

      Marion, Illinois – I’ll edit to be more specific.

      Marions and lynching histories are quite common, sadly. Though not together, at least to my knowledge.

      Thanks for the hugs! Hope you’re well.


  2. Sea G Rhydr says:

    it is a funny thing, peeking into the back of your car – packed full of stuff and the pod on top – thinking – yes – this is the woman hiking ultralight – seems the stuff really does expand to fill the available space 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:


      I mean, Spesh is into cooking, so that’s our kitchen area, and a lot of stuff in the car and the rocket box is Leave No Trace educational materials and the 10×10 booth and and and. Our car is definitely less packed than the other teams.

      (I definitely have a 5-book library back there though. 😁)


    • Lynn Duncan (Seamonkey) says:

      Isn’t that the truth?

      I did a long road trip years ago, in a Camry, and I wasn’t camping so didn’t have as much equipment but I did have a thermoelectric cooler for my food. As the trip went on and I acquired a few souveniers, the 3D jigsaw puzzle got more interesting.

      Now I drive a Prius C, so the available space is a bit more challenging!!

      Amanda, do you find that your pack (or whatever you use daily) is heavier or lighter off trail.. when you have other places to store food, cooking gear, tents, etc?


  3. Lynn Duncan (Seamonkey) says:

    Oops, I see your reply.. of course you have “stuff” that comes with your job.

    Well.. I’m sort of glad you aren’t in THAT Marion, though I would hope things are better than back before I was born.

    Heck, I just read that OREGON is the, or one of the.. whitest state! I had no idea! And their history.. wow.

    How nice that Spesh is into cooking!! Cute and talented as well!!


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