With my June 21st start date in sight, it was rapidly becoming time to hit the road. My last few days at home were spent boxing things up to get prepared for the move. At that point only a token amount of my things were going, mainly necessities such as clothing. Once I got a place to live we would get the rest of it. One the things we did was look at some mattresses and I was able to pick one that suited me just fine and is a very comfortable one. So much so I've set up my computer by it and even now am lying in bed typing, thanks to the internet router I acquired having wireless, allowing me to surf the net anywhere in my apartment.
The big day dawned bright and sunny without a cloud in sight. After a quick stop at Walgreens to get a Father's day card for Dad, it was wheels up for the big trip south. For the initial leg, it followed the very familiar line of march down to Omaha. Except a "minor" detour had surface, namely in the form of the Missouri river and the flooding that had dominated the news. In Sioux City, there were lots of areas that were completely flooded and barricades had been erected to keep the interstate passable. Were it not for these, there were sections that probably would have been underwater. Just north of Omaha, I had to head east for awhile on I-680E before rejoining I-80 and skirting the eastern side of Council Bluffs as it turned out. Then I turned south and there's where the journey started into previously uncharted waters.
A wrong turn might well have made that a literal statement. Just north of the Missouri line, the flooding once again forced a detour. I'll admit that I hadn't scouted my route quite as much as I should have, which could have made things very interesting. I took a gamble on this small southbound highway. There were areas where the waters were just a few yards from the road; I was honestly anticipating my gamble to fail me and to come across a sign saying "Road Closed" with a section just a short distance ahead underwater. Were it not for the trees and houses dotting the otherwise blue landscape, a person might well think they were on some ocean side highway in California.
My luck and sense of navigation served me well; the road took me to a little town called Hamburg without having to tread water (which I wouldn't have done, that didn't end well for me the last time I tried it). I wandered the streets, mostly for lack of a clear idea of how to continue my southward voyage, my initial hopes of rejoining I-29 were quickly dashed by a barricade of sandbags separating me from the river and its new horizons. After a journey of length, I found a south bound highway that emptied out in an east-west one just east of the town of Rock Port. Even though I was still in sight of the relentless waters, I-29 was once again open to me and so I was back on areas my predetermined course would take me. Another point of significance, I was finally in Missouri proper. But my trip was far from over.
As I was getting close to St Joseph my tank was getting to the vapors. On the outskirts I decided to go for the first gas station. My situation was also compounded by the fact that my bladder had the exact opposite problem of my car. My routine consumption of soda on car trips will do that, especially when there's some distance involved. One of my pet peeves that has emerged in the wake of the ever increasing gas prices is the predominance of places that force you to prepay if you're using cash. That's something that irks me to no end. With me its one of two options, either overpay and have to go in twice, once to pay and once to get my change, or underpay and leave with less than a full tank. But I got that business taken care of and then it was back on the road.
I had to say I was a little nervous driving through Kansas City. Navigation is something that I'm fairly good at, but highways are a bit trickier and on the busy ones you have to be careful that some ham head won't put a dent in your trip, literally and figuratively. Thankfully I was precise and got right where I needed to be. It was kind of a watershed moment seeing the sign that marked the end of I-29. And as monumental as this achievement was, I still had half of the distance to go. I was grateful that the amount of road construction was minimal. I don't doubt that the commitment of construction assets to controlling the Missouri flooding probably contributed to this. After a short jog south of Kansas City, I finally hooked up with a highway that would take me east to town called Clinton. Then I turned south on another highway that would take me towards Springfield. It was on this southbound leg that I got the first definitive clue that I was getting into the South proper. One of the farm houses along the highway had a Confederate flag flying. About halfway down this road I decided to fuel up again. I had the good sense to know that I was heading into an area with a lot of small towns. Until I was familiar with the area, I knew I would do better to keep my tank topped and not run the risk of running low on fuel with most of the gas stations closed.
This journey seemed a lot longer than any of the subsequent ones, in part because it was my first trip and also it was marked by the anticipation of getting down here to start everything. But I finally made my way to Highway 65, the road that would take me to Mountain Grove and that has become a VERY familiar stretch of highway to me. Here's where I got a greater sense of the topography. I have to say, it seemed fairly familiar. With the road cut out of stone hills, it had an air of familiarity with the roads I drove on back in Rapid City, sans the mountains of the Black Hills. Also there were a massive number of trees and here they were of the deciduous variety rather than the conifers that dominate the mountains of western South Dakota. I had to say I was a bit surprised at some features of the roads. Its a divided highway, exactly like an interstate. Only it has stop lights at some of the major towns, that took some getting used to. Also, it was a bit of a surprise to see so many highways and other access roads spill directly into the road. One has to watch them self a bit more carefully that they might think coming from the mentality that a divided highway is interstate.
It was a great relief when the sign that said Mountain Grove finally came into view. I had to admit, I was getting a bit nervous, even at the point of the longest day pretty much, the sunlight was fading and I did not relish the idea of navigating in unfamiliar territory at night. But I did make it and I took the business 65 exit which took me into town proper. I ended up driving around a little in town to take in the lay of the land. I have to say a good number of the buildings when I was first coming in looked like they had seen better years (or better centuries if I was inclined to be flippant). After a brief visit to the square, I headed north past the high school and a lot of other businesses. At this point, I was starting to look for the hotel I was going to stay at. My initial sweep took me right past it. After missing it on another pass, I headed north of the highway and found the store that would be my home store, Walmart number 88. I parked in the lot and took some time to figure out my next move. After back tracking a bit, I finally found the Travel Lodge that I had been looking for.
When I first set out, my first thoughts were "man its hot here." The heat was more like what we'd normally see in mid July or later in SD. It was going to take some getting used to. But at least I was finally here. It was time to meet my destiny, both as a man and as a health care practitioner.