Cows across America


me and cake

me and cake

We got up at the crack of dawn today–I actually saw the sunrise at Susanne’s parents’ house, which was gorgeous. As I am unable, I didn’t run down the stairs to grab my camera, but it was red and full over the tree line, and from the top of the hill where the house sits, it cast a pale ochre gleam across a half-sky of puffy clouds, battling the bright blue of the sky of the retreating night sky.

Okay, enough of that. We hit the road at 7:30 am and motored our way through to Kalamazoo and then the Michigan-Indiana state line. It was at this point that I realized that though there still are jerky drivers in the Midwest, they don’t come as fast and furious as they do in DC. It’s kind of like the easiest level of Frogger versus the later levels when the logs are all short and the otters are out in force. 

The drive was pretty uneventful; we stopped for gas a couple of times, and I saw a strange sight next to the station, a big pink elephant. Like the kind you’re supposed to see when you’ve kicked back a few too many.


Pink elephant statue in Elgin, IN

Pink elephant statue in Elgin, IN

We also saw that it was on a small road called “Elephant Trail,” which confusingly ended in a field (the field you see behind it). Trying to Google it I see there’s a large elephant monument in Elgin, Ontario, so I wonder if this has anything to do with that. Not too sure, since I’m now out of my neck of the country.

We had lunch in Illinois, in some random suburb of Chicago, in a building that looked like the bastard child of Denny’s and your friendly neighborhood orthodontist’s office. Denny’s in layout and menu, and Dr. Elkin in decoration and color choices. Hey, Dr. Elkin was my orthodontist at the Brace Place in New Jersey, and it looked just the same, okay? One buffalo chicken sandwich and California chicken croissant (which means it had two slabs of avocado on it) later, we were back on the road.

We entered Wisconsin and were suddenly confronted with billboard after billboard hocking cheese curds. No similar signs for whey, nor any mention of the availability of tuffets. I really think the tuffet lobbyists and marketers need to get off their lazy asses and stop the monopoly of ottomans. Further, descendants of the Ottoman empire who are out there reading this, how are you possibly okay with people thinking your greatest achievement is the footrest? That’s not the lasting legacy I’d be interested in, is all I’m saying.

So yes, cheese curds. We drove by cow herd after cow herd, standing, sitting, basking as it were, in their glory of cud chewing expertise. Brown Jersey cows, black and white cows, we’ve seen cows from New York through Wisconsin, but we hadn’t seen the barrage of “Lindsey’s cheese curds,” “Blue Hen cheese curds,” “Black Jack’s cheese curds,” all a mere highway exit away. It reminded me of driving through South Carolina seeing the plethora of signs for fireworks. Or Indiana, for that matter. I had no idea Indiana was the South Carolina of the Midwest, but there you have it.

As if the pressure to procure cheese curds wasn’t enough, I also noticed something strange. Somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin all the people of color suddenly disappeared. Now they were just abstract concepts; a legend that humans come in more than pasty white and ruddy white. Even stranger, the white people themselves started to look different. Men were no longer avoidant of mustaches, or plaid pants. Women’s hair fashions got bigger and bigger, almost in some kind of direct correlation with the size of their sunglasses. I started to feel alienated, and it slowly dawned on me: these are not my people. I can only hope that these folks–and I’m sure they’re all LOVELY people–are not like the ones I’ll meet in Walla Walla. Please, God.

We left the rural highway and made our way past Eau Claire and into Minneapolis/St. Paul, where we had a lively dinner with Susanne’s former coworkers at our hotel restaurant. We managed 750 miles today! We’ll head out early again tomorrow to go into Saskatchewan where I shall attempt to track down my mother’s farm, where she grew up. Presumably it has not moved in the last 50 years, so if it’s still standing, I can catch it. I’ll be sure to post pictures. Speaking of pictures, I’ll end with these from the wilds of Wisconsin:


Wisconsin field

Wisconsin field


Welcome to Wisconsin sign

Welcome to Wisconsin sign

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Categories: driving, Uncategorized


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One Comment on “Cows across America”

  1. jody
    August 20, 2008 at 8:33 pm #

    Hey now! Wisconsin rocks! Well, at least Madison, WI rocks. People in Wisconsin are known for being ridiculously nice. Like “everyone is on really good happy drugs” nice. Definitely that was my experience living there. Must be all the good beer they drink. Very white up there, though. More diversity in Madison than in the rest of the state, but still pretty white there too.

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