After our second night of debauchery in Denver the band broke up, with Mark taking a flight back to Minneapolis for a fund-raising event. After over a week of traveling together it was sad news, however he invited me out to Minneapolis for a camping trip the following weekend and I decided that I would fly out to Seattle from there as well.
Nate, Pat and myself spent the vast majority of the day in recovery. I had woken up with post-it notes over my face saying (among others) that everyone had gone to drop Mark at the airport and would be back in an hour or so. We spent the afternoon at Nate’s aunt’s rooftop pool, later deciding to checkout the chalk art festival that was happening over the weekend in Denver. A large intersection was blocked off near a park and artists from all around Colorado came and spent two days designing and drawing some incredible murals. As the night wore on there was some live music and a few bars catering to the crowd however I wasn’t quite yet able to stomach any more beer. We stopped into Starbucks for a pick-me-up and Nate managed to fall asleep in the lounges, to the amusement of us and others passing by the window who took notice. After a few more hours surrounded by chalk art and the probability of expired parking dawning, Nate ran back to successfully avoided a fine before re-parking and returning to the same house as the party the previous night to hang out for a few hours.
That next morning we began the long stretch to Peoria, Iowa to drop Pat off before finally winding the trip up in Neenah, Wisconsin. We had considered leaving late the night before but decided that was definitely not the safest decision and instead chose to drive for 12hrs, through what could possibly be the most boring state to drive, Nebraska, and spend the night in Omaha. Why is the drive through Nebraska dull? The highway cuts a straight line through the state and on either side of the highway is nothing but flat farmland, whose crops had only just been planted and not exactly eye catching. Omaha itself didn’t seem to be the exciting small city I had expected it to be either. It’s nice wide city streets and parks were all but deserted and without Nate (surprisingly) having any cousins in town for us to stay with or show us around, we briefly paid patronage to the quiet bar scene before giving up and going back to the motel.
Iowa had a much more pleasing landscape to drive through and we also received a much needed opportunity to rest in the form of a Five Guys burger. Five Guys is burger chain from Virginia that is experiencing rapid growth right now with 5 stores opening each week. They specialize solely in greasy burgers with a huge range of toppings, meat that hasn’t been frozen and can pack over 800 calories in a single burger. They also had delicious cajun fries which were devoured with haste when we got to Pat’s house to eat. After lunch and a quick stop at a nice lookout Pat took us to, it was only Nate and I that remained on the road with the next stop being Madison.
Nate had friends living next to the MSU campus and was himself going to be interning there for the summer beginning the following week so we decided to break up the drive and stop in for the night. Before we got to the house however we made a stop for alcohol where we picked up, amongst other things, my first Fosters beer. It was not at all delicious and I actually found it disappointing that Fosters is how Australian beer’s are most widely represented on the world stage. A few of the guys in the house who weren’t working early the following morning decided to have a couple of drinks with us and then go out to the student bar which had $1 beer night. One thought of mine that solidified that night is that although Americans don’t tend to have the same Gap Year or large holiday culture that we do, a huge number of students do study and intern abroad. A lot of the people I met that night had studied in Australia and even Nate and Mark both did a semester in Woollongong and Brisbane respectively.
Following our night of $1 beer and planking the MSU campus, Nate and I made the final journey to Neenah, a small town in Wisconsin where Nate’s family lived. His family were wonderful and let me spend a few nights with them, even indulging me in some home cooked ribs which were nothing short of amazing. It was a great few days of relaxing, sampling some more of the best burgers the Midwest chains had to offer and even getting out for a game of golf. Once I had finally organised my onward travel plans Nate dropped me off at the Greyhound station, (where I would finally see some real-life Amish people!) for a quick-sad goodbye and a final end to an incredible road trip. One which I’d love to repay by taking the three guys on an Australian road trip if they were to make the journey over.
This was also the end of ‘the journal’, a hand written account of funny/random things that had happened in the past two weeks that Mark suggested we start, for both prosperity and time filling purposes. If anyone reading this is planning on a road trip, I’d definitely suggest keeping one because it is a great way to kill time and help piece together hazy nights.