Well, I’m back.
My journey to Wisconsin was refreshing, wonderful, exhilarating, highly caffeinated, occasionally uncomfortable, and a smashing success. Here, in no particular order, are some of my thoughts from the trip.
The pastor who invited me to speak at his church is a really cool dude.
Rev Kev, the pastor who invited me to Wisconsin, is a tough-looking dude with epic tattoos, pierced ears, manly stubble, and massive biceps. He could probably have snapped my spine with his bare hands.
Fortunately, the good Reverend turned out to be a true gentleman and total geek. He and his family—which included a dog, three cats, and a colorful assortment of friends and honorary family members—were welcoming and kind. I was treated not as a guest, but as a friend.
Rev Kev has an amazing story. One of the highlights of my trip was sitting in his dining room, drinking coffee and listening to his testimony. His faith and story inspire me.
In other news, Rev Kev has a wonderful church office. Surrounded by Star Wars and comic book posters, a large plastic Hulk stands on his desk, wielding an Adam West Batman action figure like a club. ’Nuff said.
My only concern about the good Reverend is that he might be a Sith Lord. No doctrine in Christianity states a person can’t be a Sith and a pastor, but I still consider it cause for concern.
I drank a lot of coffee.
For all my jokes about coffee, I do really love the stuff. In two days of traveling, I drank roughly eight cups of brewed coffee, two bottled frappuccinos, a latte, and a double shot of espresso. I also drank a masala chai tea latte, because variety is important.
I ate the best burger I’ve ever eaten.
My humble road trip was transformed into a glorious pilgrimage by a quick stop at a tiny burger shack called Wedl’s. This burger vendor serves such good food that it was featured on the Travel Channel. Wedl’s grills its burgers on a skillet that has been in use for nearly a century.
A drunk driver once totaled Wedl’s and broke its skillet. Fortunately for all of humankind, the shattered skillet was repaired. Just as the broken shards of Narsil were reforged into Andúril in The Lord of the Rings, so Wedl’s skillet was restored to its divinely-appointed purpose of grilling tasty burgers.
Rev Kev and I discussed the legend of Wedl’s skillet, weaving a story of how the skillet’s greasy shards were held by a weeping maiden in a lonely meadow, only for a kingly elf to ride up on a stallion and pledge to restore it. He worked in secret, reforging the skill on a magical anvil, his furnaces blazing hotter than ten thousand suns—and it was done. Wedl’s skillet was resurrected, and its noble work continues to this day.
When I bit into my Wedl’s burger, my reaction was pretty much the same as Samuel L. Jackson’s in Pulp Fiction, but roughly seven hundred percent more excited.
Wisconsin has beautiful scenery.
On my way home, I following winding roads past green hills, lovely woods, and beautiful streams. It was fantastic. Indiana occasionally has nice scenery, but approximately ninety-six percent of the state is covered by cornfields. What I saw of southern Wisconsin was breathtaking.
I don’t know how I lived without a GPS.
As usual, I seem to be a decade or two behind everyone else in my generation when it comes to technology. I finally acquired a GPS, and it is amazing. It made traveling so, so much easier. My GPS, GLaDOS, is a gift of God.
Hell has a tenth circle, and its name is Chicago.
As much as I appreciate my GPS, I must quote its namesake, GLaDOS from the Portal games: “Remember when you tried to kill me twice? Oh, how we laughed and laughed, except I wasn’t laughing.” My GPS made two attempts to murder me by taking me through Chicago going and coming back.
I have an embarrassing fear of city driving. (My decision to buy a GPS in the first place was prompted by a stressful visit to Fort Wayne.) For all my travels, I haven’t done much driving in big cities, and I have long made a point of staying away from Chicago. Unfortunately, my GPS took me through Chicago twice.
The Chicago freeways were vast rivers of faded asphalt, channeling streams of vehicles over, under, and through an arid wasteland of concrete, weeds, and rusting metal. The summer sun blazed overhead. (My car lacks air conditioning.) The traffic was predictably slow. My trips through Chicago were all sweat, noise, fumes, desperate prayers, and hopes for the sweet release only death could bring.
This brings me to my next point.
It did me good to work through some of my anxieties.
Besides my fear of city driving, I’m stressed out by traveling alone, public speaking, and prolonged social commitments. My trip to Wisconsin consisted of driving hundreds of miles by myself, hanging out with new people for hours on end, and speaking in front of a church congregation.
My anxieties are silly and irrational, but also very real. I was forced to confront them, and I lived to tell the tale. As George Orwell wrote, “You have talked so often of going to the dogs—and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.” I survived my anxieties, and that’s encouraging.
It was nice to get away from my typewriter monkeys.
For two glorious days, I didn’t see a single banana peel, hear a single explosion, or smell a single whiff of burning apartment. It was nice.
Now that the trip to Wisconsin is done, what’s next? I wish I knew. I suppose I’ll resume my quiet, caffeinated, day-to-day life, and daydream about my next road trip.
Sounds like a great time! I would note: If you found Chicago driving unpleasant, please never consider going to New York City in a car. Even if you aren’t driving. 😛 (Or maybe that will be the ultimate step to conquer that particular anxiety!)
Burgers must be the thing to have on road trips, as we were in California last week (and Nevada, and Arizona) and I stopped at an In-N-Out Burger for the first time. Good stuff! No divinely healed skillets, but they do print bible verses hidden on their packaging and cups! 🙂
It’s my intention to stay as far away from New York City as I possibly can. Its traffic is notorious, and it’s neither the safest nor the friendliest place. Besides, I’ve seen the Marvel movies. New York City is always getting torn apart by some supervillain or other. I prefer not to take any chances. 😉
Before I ate that Wedl’s burger, the best I’d ever eaten was an In-N-Out Double-Double. Good stuff, good stuff.
Lately, you seem to have done quite a lot of traveling yourself! I hope your travels went well.
Yeah, I’ve traveled more this year than I have in the past four combined probably. Not over yet, either, as I’ve got a tour of Canada coming up! (So tired!)
Wait… So where exactly were the dogs on this trip? 😉
An enormous dog awaited me at my destination in Wisconsin, actually. It spent much of my visit slobbering and shedding on my jeans. 😛
Glad you loved Wisconsin! Having worked in Milwaukee a few summers back, I miss that state a lot. Well, at least the summertime version.
Glad you survived Chicago! Hell’s tenth circle indeed. At least the driving part.
Rev Kev is kinda scary. But in a good way for scaring away demons, I think.
Any plans to blog about what you shared at the church?
I’m sure a veteran traveler such as yourself has done quite a lot of city driving! For my part, driving through Chicago was… certainly an experience. 😛
Rev Kev looked tougher than nails, but he and his family were incredibly sweet. I really enjoyed my visit.
At some point, when the message I shared is posted to the church’s YouTube channel, I’ll probably post the video here on the blog. The message recycled content from a few old TMTF posts, but I might share it anyway for anyone who wants to hear it.