Sunday, August 19, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On - The Mid West

August 13 - 18

Wisconsin is amazing.  I had a wonderful stay in Stoughton, WI with my friends Matt & Amy and their boys Jack and Gavin. I also got a lot work done, via some nature walks and the University of Wisonconsin Arborteum. What an amazing place.  They have an extensive display garden of native plants and I was able to learn about the native species growing through-out the upper mid west ecoregions.

While in Stoughton I was also able to sort out the first round of photo postcards for all my kickstarter backers.  If you didn't get a postcard yet.... you will!  My last day I checked out Madison, WI about 1/2 hour  north.  I got there near happy hour. They blocked off a street to do a "LIVE AT FIVE" jazz fest. I found a comfy seat near the capitol building and watched a dog drink out of a water fountain while listening to soft jazz.... I then ate fried cheese curds.  hhmmmmm cheese curds.

On Thursday the 16th I said goodbye to my upper mid west family and began heading south towards my middle mid west family! Feyette Missouri was my next destination, but it was about 10 -11 hours away.  Instead I found another motorcycle enthusiast to allow me to bunk out for a night.  It traveled from Stoughton, WI south to Davenport, Iowa.  The ride was little over 3 hours, but probably my hardest yet.  The wind gusts were nearly 15 mph as the corn fields don't offer much shelter. My bike tends to drift a bit in high winds as my gear/luggage act like a large sail. It's without a doubt a struggle to ride in that condition, but I made the best of it by stopping often, but was very exhausted.

Dave from Iowa
  I met up with Dave in Davenport's neighboring town of Bettendorf, Iowa.  Big thanks to Dave and his lovely family for having host me for the night! Dave was a gracious host and I had a great nights rest on a comfy pullout couch . I was back on the road at 8 am.  I decided to find a local place for a quick breakfast and WOW did I have a treat.  A ton of food, great service and cheap to boot. Also I noted the sign hanging in the cafe that read "Keep Calm and Carry on" - I like that - Big Up Indigo Cafe. Before I left, Dave recommended I travel a few miles west on interstate and check out the largest Truck Stop / Truck Museum in America. Hey, who can resist that!

truckers museum
What was 4 hours and 55 minutes on my google map took me about 8 hours in travel time.  The ride was south from Davenport Iowa to Columbia, Missouri .  I took smaller routes and hugged the Mississippi shore line! And heck I decided to stop off  and try my luck at fishing the mighty missss.  Speaking of miss, no fish again, no matter, was a lovely moment.

While cruising along I became really excited when I saw a sign for the Mark Twain wildlife preserve! I was still excited when I saw the sign for the Mark Twain Creek. I started getting curious when I saw the sign for the Mark Twain Caverns.  I realized  Mark Twain was  being turned out when I saw the sign for the Mark Twain Riverboat and Casino, Water park, RV Campground and Spa.

Meanwhile, while stopping to shoot some roadside goodness, my camera battery went dead. Oops, I forgot to buy a spare for this trip, I'm gonna need a charge.  Luckily, not more than a few miles a away I saw a sign for  Starr Cave Park, Nature center and Reserve.

When I arrived I politely asked if I could plug in my camera's battery charger and of course, learn about Starr Cave Park and Preserve and the native plants.  Turns out this is a big destination for seeing my buddy the Brown Bat, that is, up until a year ago when they closed down the cave due to...yup you guessed it....... white nose fungus.  I'm feeling a bit like batman. I will note that women working at the park were very helpful in talking to me about the natives and they had a lot of signage on display telling you about the different trees and shrubs on the trail, very informative. Alas, my charger was charged and I was on my way again.

scott mcmahon
If you don't already know, in real life I help run a photo arts organization in Philadelphia.  We have a Facility and a Gallery. Our upcoming show next month features two amazing photographers: Ahmed Salvador and Scott McMahon. Both went to school at Uarts in downtown Philly.  Three weeks ago Scott moved to Missouri and is the heading the photo program at Columbia College, which subsequently is the neighboring city to Feyette where my next destination / hosts / friends live. Scott will soon fly back to Philly to hang a show in our Light Room Gallery. I might add that I have been inspired by Scott's photographic work long before ever meeting him, which was just recently in fact so it was a real treat to meet with him over a glass of local beer after such a long trek!  Thanks Scott!

With only 1/2 hour ride from Columbia to  Fayette, Missouri,  I made my way to meet one of my oldest and closest college friends, Janine, along with  her husband Fritz and children Brian and Sidney.  Janine works at a local bar and grille and I arrived just as she was getting off her shift. Not surprising Janine has managed to make time to sort out an amazing studio in the neighboring town of Boonville where she continues her artistic endeavors.

the pond & serious drought conditions

Janine's studio
The next day was spent traveling in and around their 300 acre farm in the heart of Missouri. Janine's husband Fritz is a local arborist and was happy to show and discuss the plants and trees that reside on their property. They are also in the process of hand building a new house which will facilitate not only the family, but farm equipment, glass studio and wood shop.  Not bad!  A quick note to mention this area of country has had no rain in weeks.  They are calling it the 100 year drought and the wildflowers I was hoping to see are all but non existent.  The good news is I will have to come back again to see to visit and re-explore this area of the world.

Brian Brockting-Daniels
 My next stop will be on the outskirts of Wichita, KS where another family I met via the cycle site will host my tent on their property, then it's off to Colorado!!