I like Ike just okay.
I did not see Graceland.
I did not eat ribs.
I did, however, shake hands with the one man in all of Shelby County, TN, who was willing to detail my car after Penny's ass exploded all over the back seat.
It took all day to find Carl, and when he showed up, what he said shook me: "I've been doing this for 20 years. This is nothing."
To this day, I am immensely proud of the restraint I exercised in not asking him for every gory detail of car detailings past. And I assume they were gory: every other car detailer told me I needed to call people who cleaned up murder scenes in hazmat suits, because they weren't touching my shit-mobile with a 10-foot pole.
Driving out of Memphis was a different experience than driving in. Less than 24 hours ago, I was barreling down the highway out of Arkansas, all the windows rolled down and my head hanging out the window like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy.
What I learned on that leg of the trip: you can't practice mindful breathing when your car smells like hell's asshole.
The drive back to Colorado was thankfully uneventful in comparison. Two quick Missouri overnights (one in Springfield, one in Kansas City) and I was sliding down 70-W with Denver just a few hundred miles away.
Signs for Abilene reminded me that Eisenhower's childhood home was there and I still had the chance to visit.
My admiration for Eisenhower pretty much starts and ends at his coining the term "military industrial complex", so I just about missed the exit before I remembered there was also a carousel (less lauded) in the small, innocuous town.
The Museum of Independent Telephony posed some questions my brain had never encountered before, which in itself paid for the meager admission price.
Is there museum of codependent telephony? Is it open 24 hours a day and are the comment cards multiple pages long?
Are these phones real or are they...phony?
Why is there wheat here?
Wheat was the first exhibit in the Museum of Independent Telephony.
My list of questions was growing: who, what, where, when, why, wheat?
Everything else following that made sense, because they were all telephones -- everywhere. On walls. On desks. Under my hands.
I touch things at museums sometimes. Shh.
The heritage center was actually an outdoor exhibit, with what looked like a small movie set plunked into the museum's backyard.
It was one of those "bygone era" museums that capitalizes on the nostalgia of simpler times (feather beds, kerosene lamps) without acknowledging their severe consequences (fleas, house fires). (Guess which I find more interesting.)
These in situ history museums remind me of elder relatives who are revered and relocated to places a safe distance from people trying to get anywhere on time.
Familial out of duty and kept just close enough to our core, these not-too-distant cousins remind us of different versions of our own immediate family -- of how things could be, and our misgivings about the past and present versions.
The Town of Abilene Twice Removed also featured a tiny, tidy barbed wire exhibit. Barbed wire is something I never enjoy seeing, as it's a reminder of the practical efficiency of human violence.
Wincing at imagining the metal pinches, I wandered over to the carousel, which the two grannies at the front desk offered to fire up for me for what would have felt like an excessively self-indulgent solo ride.
I did, however, find this yahoo staring at me as I walked around the calliope-free pavilion.
There's always gonna be that one guy, isn't there?
Kansas said goodbye in the most Kansas possible way: with a skeletal windmill standing motionless above me in the dry grass.
I was ready to wend my way a little left of middle America and its well-dusted, neatly displayed anachronisms, nostalgic for nothing except kinetic energy -- and perhaps the way my car used to smell.