We woke up in Miles' place, which, in the light of day, was a dead ringer for Michael Douglas' house in Wonder Boys. While Noah is fine drinking free coffee from AA meetings, Grace wanted to find some local brew, preferably without a siren on the label. The first place we tried was called Oddly Correct. It was empty but for a tattooed youth with a circa-2011 handlebar mustache trying to coerce a confused elderly man into getting a drink. Today's drip selections were listed next to their flavor profiles. Noah agreed to get a dark roast with hints of grapefruit, cardamom and diesel if we could also get a "real coffee" later. Upon ordering, we were informed that the asterisk next to the word "Cappuccino" meant that it could not be ordered to go. It could only be enjoyed correctly, in a ceramic cup. On site. Five of the eight items on the menu had asterisks. Apparently things had gotten a little too "Up to Date in Kansas City." We found it Odd, so we Corrected the situation and left. ASTERISK THAT, BRO. Around the corner, we found what were lookin' for: Broadway Café. It’s the kinda place with a good house roast and homemade baked treats wrapped up for a dollar a piece. She was full of adults getting their morning fix, children getting a morning cookie and busty baristas in knit sweaters. They let us order what we wanted, including a vegan pumpkin bread because carnivorous pumpkins aren't in season 'till fall. Thanks, Kansas City.
Bobber Café, conveniently just down the road.
Noah wanted to pull his dick out for scale.
Doing her part.
Noah wanted to stop at a highway emporium called Pyro City to get fireworks, but we already had some in the trunk (he refuses to travel without them), and if we hustled, we had a shot to make it to Cincinnati for dinner. Instead, he committed to get a Black Cat tattoo on his left shoulder. Or left butt cheek. We'll always not have Pyro City. He also wanted to stop at “Kleinschmidt's Western Wear” store to get boots, but we already had some in the trunk (he refuses to travel without them), and if we hustled, we had a shot to make it to Cincinnati for dinner. Instead, he committed to maintain support for Sephardic cowboys across the country. Ever the Bacon-Eating-Jew, Noah selected pork as the day’s jerky, along with a peculiar cylinder of "Jerky Chew" designed to give everyone, no matter their age, the experience of dipping tobacco. It was recommended to us by the woman working a convenient store counter who, when Noah went to buy water and smokes, asked "do you want jerky with that?" She was in fine spirits. Today was the day her husband was going to get his staples removed after surgery. She was finally gonna "get some."
Look at my shit!!!
Get on the bus.
WAIT. WHO’S DRIVING?
We continued down the highway, fighting for the driver’s seat (the Jeep is fun to drive) before inevitably stopping at Ozarkland. We followed the distant calling of more cheap fireworks, moccasins and Missouri-themed playing cards. Hildy was allowed to come too, so long as she was carried. Grace ordered the fresh left counterpart to a worn right display moccasin. She departed for the washroom, where she was watched peeing through a crack in the bathroom stall by an eight-year-old boy, dragged into the Ladies’ by his mom. When Grace caught him looking, he merely raised his eyebrows. Ever The Kid, Noah was in the proverbial candy-shop. They had a dedicated Knives and Fireworks section. He got a wood-handled pocket knife with "Noah" and "Missouri" written on it. If he ever loses it, that’ll surely be enough information to get it back to him. He also got a rabbit’s foot and an assortment of fireworks, including but not limited to: Bunker Busters, Saturn Rings and, of course, Dixie Dynamite. We almost sprung for an ironic NRA-branded money clip before realizing the lack of irony 'round these parts. Come on, who actually uses money clips these days?
Shit. We forgot the wind bells.
One of Gracie’s myriad positive influences on Noah is her insistence that he gain at least a working knowledge of musical theatre. As we exited the freeway for a state route, she put on “The Last Five Years," a recent piece about a couple’s relationship told from their respective perspectives in reverse chronological order. It’s pretty high-concept. Less high-concept, but more aptly meta, it’s about an egomaniacal Neurotic New Yorker who falls for a Shiksa Goddess only to let his own selfishness and insecurity ruin the relationship. Luckily, it’s pretty funny and the torrential downpour happening in reality kept us sharp. Routes 16 and 32 were a pleasant respite from the freeway, a much-needed slow-down, not just because of the rain but because it’s America, bro, so you should relax and see it. The two-lane blacktop through Eastern Illinois led us to our major tourist destination of the day, The Two-Story Outhouse. It’s representative of true partnership, the kind of duo that we’d like to be, next to Mickey and Mallory, Bonnie and Clyde and, of course, Riggs and Murtaugh. Unfortunately, the Two-Story Outhouse is no longer functional, which meant that to complete the experience, we both tried to raise Hildy above our heads and squeeze her. She did not cooperate, thank goodness.
Everything the light touches is our kingdom.
A few hours later, we rolled into Cinci, greeted by the Phipps’ family dog, Zelda, and her dad. We had some much-needed real food, watched a little situational comedy, and slept in a bed like people. Gracie didn’t grown up in Cincinnati, and Noah’d never been here before, but after such a long journey, motels and unrest stops, so much jerky, it felt like headquarters. Wood floors and cold cuts in the fridge and a dad and a washing machine all made it a real home, a short destination on a long trip. Over the next few days we plan on having some fun here in Ohio. We’ll be attending a baseball game, walking dogs, maybe we’ll get a mani/pedi. It’s a recharge after the last week of travel. We’ll check in when it’s time to get back On The Road.