Days 61 and 62: from Normal to the Cottage…

Windmill farm between Chicago and Normal

Wednesday and Thursday went incredibly quickly, but I suppose that happens when you are driving on the interstate and trying to keep up with traffic. I have to reflect on the contrast of returning from Normal Wednesday and driving to the cottage on Thursday.

The SLA wrapped up with sessions Wednesday morning and early afternoon. I decided to skip the last session because I did not think it would help me in my role as the Communications Liaison and I wanted to get home.  It was hot, humid, and still. The kind of weather that makes me recall my time growing up in Houston. I have grown accustomed to the Midwestern summers with cool mornings and warm afternoons – especially at the cottage. I do not do well when it is hot enough to melt crayons.

Windfarms in the midwest - from National Geogrphic Magazine.

Heading north on I-55 out of Normal the traffic slowed to a crawl as two lanes trimmed down to one and then back to two. Along the horizon, I could see large clouds to the north and I knew I would drive through thunderstorms on the way home. I-55 parallels the old Route 66; the ‘mother road’ popularized by the Nat King Cole song of the same name and later a television show in the early 60s. Route 66 connected to Chicago to LA and followed the old Sante Fe rail line. I-55 connects Chicago to St, Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. The landscape is much the same mile after mile; prairie planted with mostly corn and an occasional town. About an hour into my ride, I reach the windmill farm that I could not see Monday night because of darkness, that stretches from east to west in a narrow band as far as the eye can see to the east. Ironically, there is an article in the August issue of National Geographic Magazine about how alternative energy will transform the electric power grid.

The 21st Century Grid: Can we fix the infrastructure that powers our lives? article from National Geographic magazine

The closer I got to Chicago the darker the clouds became and it soon began to sprinkle, then rain. The radio informed me the region is under a severe thunderstorm watch until 8 PM. The rain ended as quickly as it began. Though it was remained hot and humid, it did not rain again. Most of the rain went south or north sparing the Chicago area another rainy day. Just last week we had received 5 inches Friday pushing the total precipitation to almost twice the average rainfall for July.

I was tired from the drive and the conferences and I took a short nap before running a couple of errands. Sleep came easily and it was morning before I knew it. I needed to pick up some plumbing supplies before driving to Grayling. Traffic was light and I was in Indiana, then Michigan with an hour and half. The first part of the drive to Grayling, hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan and is forested in fact, Michigan is largely forest. Along the drive, I stopped at Dutch Farm Market, a favorite stop of our’s. They have fruit orchards and run popular vegetable market just off the interstate south of Holland, Michigan. All of the produce is early and they had Red Haven peaches. I got a peck, some beets, a 5# box of blueberries, and green beans. Beth had called and requested I stop and shop. Summer fruits and vegetables really make a difference in what we eat at the cottage and at home.

Olivia points Ely boat home after an afternoon at the beach

Farther up the road, Beth called to check in and was disappointed I was not closer and I told her to go along with her plans. I would meet her when either they got in from the lake or I would take Ely boat across the lake to meet them. It is exactly what I did. I pulled in the drive and unloaded the car. I changed, hopped in Ely boat, and took off across the lake. It was windy and the lake was rough. I pointed Ely into the wind and she pushed her way across the lake. The hills on the far side of the lake provide shelter from the wind and it calmed, as I got closer to shore. I turned round the corner and Olivia came running down the hill, Ivy barked, and William hooped. It was good to be at the lake. Olivia still could get in the water or swim and was anticipating getting her stitches out Friday. We played for a while before heading home. I carried Olivia over to Ely boat – she and I would ride home together – and helped push the pontoon boat away from shore.

I got Ely started and Olivia and I headed home. The lake was still rough, but it was easier on the way home. Olivia drove and I sat behind her and watched the lake, giving her advice when she needed it. We pulled in just after the pontoon docked. Olivia hopped off the boat and slipped while trying to get on the dock falling into the water. She jumped out worried that her stitches had gotten wet; she dried them off, and raised Ely on to the lift.

It had been a good day. I was back at the cottage for a final few days before we returned to Wheaton to get ready for school. Olivia was getting her stitches out Friday and we were all making plans to visit Camp Grayling for its annual final review. It had been a good day. Friday, we were planning to have the Parkses and Eberlys for hamburgers and hot dogs. It is gonna be a great day possibly the best day ever!

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