Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

I've Been Lost in Milwaukee in the Rain

The Serendipity of Travel

Louise Colln


Two, three, or four people in a car going somewhere they've never been before or back to a place they loved the last time is one of the happiest situations I know. The anticipation or memory of what is around the next curve or over the next hill is mind expanding.

There are few places I don't like to be. I like being where pioneers and Indians have been and learning what happened there. I like the mysteries of who lived here and how did they live, as at Indian Mounds where artifacts show that the first American natives also liked to travel.

I enjoyed being wakened in a motel in Nebraska by the wind whistling across the grass just as it did when the pioneers, the Indians, the people between the ice ages, and the dinosaurs slept there. The land is itself and changes for no one.

Some of the things I love most frighten me. I love the feel of mountains, the sharp spikes of bare peaks, and their dark, vaguely menacing bulk when night is moving over them. But there are times when I am simply trying to hide the fact that I'm not looking as we drive across the edge of nothing.

I like the valleys where a part of me reaches out to the mountains sweeping away. I like the canyons where I feel more inwardly complete in the shadow of the gigantic layers of rock, beside the river that cut them down.

A great Colorado memory is of being lost somewhere on a lumber road in the Rockies, where we probably weren't supposed to be. We ate tuna sandwiches beside a shallow stream, while a small boy in the party piled up rocks to build a dam across it. Small boys, too, are part of nature, and the water simply tumbled over his rocks. Later we made sandwiches on top of a mountain by having one person hold the bread down from a hurricane wind while the other layered on ham and cheese, and shared our meal with a young couple passing through from Illinois.

One of my favorite places in the Rockies is a real ghost town in Colorado where few tourists visit. There is nothing except pieces of falling buildings, some humps where buildings used to be (and graves still are), and the greatest silence I have ever heard among the pines whose needles pad the ground so deeply that it feels like walking on water.

Riding down the Upper Michigan finger to Copper Harbor, we kept hearing of winter snow measured in feet. Watching clouds weave in from the lake to melt away above us, we spoke without meaning it, of spending a year there to experience the seasons.

I like to walk in history. We took a boat across a small tongue of dancing Lake Superior to the old Light House, where we wandered among Pre-Cambrian rocks. On the other side of the point, near the place where one of John Jacob Astor's sailing ships was storm wrecked in the nineteenth century, we imagined the storm and saw a black spoon bowl rusted out to a dark metallic lace floating among the rocks at our feet. It danced tantalizingly before us, then sank under a wave so quickly we questioned its reality.

Driving south from Omaha to Kansas City, we traveled through a flat triangle, pressed down millennia ago by a heavy tongue of ice. We drove along beside a line of rough dirt hills, pushed up by the eastern edge of the ice. Soon we began to see hills curving in from the west. They came closer together mile by mile until, shortly before St. Joseph, we crossed them. Then ancient heaps of earth drifted along shaped like waves of melt water, rolling off to form the dashing Missouri River.

On a genealogical trip to South Carolina, every road we drove down took us to an unplanned town, where we found unexpected fortunes of information, and, isolated on a mountain road, the best southern cooking I have ever eaten. Then a good night's sleep in a lodge pressed so deep into nature, it caused the creation of an enchanted poem (not mine).

About midway between home in Tennessee and back home in Missouri, we stopped overnight in a lodge where the frisky Current River is playing with the idea of changing the landscape by pitching its soft waves against the graveled shore, leaving a small island between its possible new course and its old one. Something there massages my creative soul. I have never left there without some new expressions.

Driving at random up a mountainside near the river, we came on Expanded Horizons Weekend Dining, sitting on the edge of space, where the Saturday Morning brunch was as good as the view.

Once upon a time in Milwaukee, in a slow autumn rain, we drove over and under the interstate but missed the on ramp again and again. The low clouds kept odors close to earth, and even through closed windows, the old world scent of sauerkraut and beer crowded into the car. Is the town at its best in the rain? My memory of an hour drifting through its damp nostalgia is treasure.

You don't have to get lost to enjoy traveling, but it helps.

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Louise Colln writes in Franklin, Tennessee, where the natural beauty and sense of history encourage her interest in earlier times and the care of the world we live in now. Louise, who is secretary of the Council For The Written Word, speaks at seminars. She has four books published by Heartsong Presents and has adapted three children's classics. Her short stories and poetry are published in magazines and anthologies.

© Louise Colln

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012