Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - January 2, 2015

Sunday meandering

On Sunday, husband Art, youngest daughter Katherine, friend JoAnn and I decided to have brunch about 20 minutes from Jo's home in southwest Wisconsin.

"I just love all these meandering little roads," I said to no one in particular as we made our way along Sleepy Hollow Road. "But I don't think I'd love them so much if I had to drive on them in bad weather."

Our travel took us along the path of the Kickapoo River, which winds through several counties in the Driftless region of the state - the part never covered by the last glacier. We've been to the area several times over the past few years, and I always enjoy the forested hills, large limestone outcroppings, grasslands, marshy areas and streams. I also love the fact that it is populated by small organic farmers, Amish communities, artists and even some "off-the-grid" types - those who, for whatever reason, have decided that they want to live less "connected" to the rest of the world.

"You know where 'meander' comes from, don't you?" Art asked.

I admitted I didn't.

"It's the name of a river in Turkey," he said.

I looked it up later and found that Art was correct. Turkey's Menderes River - known in ancient times as the "Maeander" - flows southwest and then west to the Aegean Sea. It was legendary for its winding course.

We had followed our own winding course that morning. Jo got up first to tend to her cats and hen and to stoke the wood fire. Art got up next so when I awoke, the buzz of their easy conversation filtered through the heating vent to the upstairs bedroom. I eventually wandered into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and then joined them in the living room. Finally, Katie came down as well.

We talked for several hours, then Jo suggested that we head to the Viking Inn in nearby Viroqua.

Passing through Readstown, I saw Crazy Frank's Flea Market on our left. I didn't get an enthusiastic response nor a negative one when I said it looked like fun and suggested we stop there on the way back. But I figured everyone was hungry and focused on what to have for breakfast.

We entered the inn and were met by the smell of cooking bacon and sausage. Our early-20s waitress greeted us warmly in a somewhat southern accent. Art immediately asked her where she was from. She told us Tennessee. Being the curious person he is, Art asked what had brought her to Wisconsin. She gave a sort of mischievous grin and suggested she'd give him three guesses.

"Did it involve a man?" he asked. She nodded it had.

"Still in the picture?" Art continued.

"Long gone!" she replied.

Art gave her a sympathetic nod and then we got down to the business of ordering our food.

We ate pancakes, French toast, eggs, sausage links, omelettes, coffee and juice while chatting about movies we'd seen and books we'd read.

We left the restaurant right before they closed at 1 p.m. Art, who had parallel parked next to the restaurant, waited to make sure there was no traffic from either direction and then made a sharp U-turn in the middle of the street.

"Good thing there isn't a cop around," Jo said.

"It's only a ticket," he replied, chuckling.

We drove a short distance to an antique shop and discovered it was actually composed of several sheds stuffed to the rafters with old farm tools, glass door knobs, wire egg baskets, plant stands, dress patterns, photographs and other items. We ambled in and out among the aisles, careful not to knock anything over.

After about half an hour, we drove to Crazy Frank's huge sheet metal building. We strolled through row after row of stuffed animals, tools, toilet paper, Christmas ornaments, vases, baskets, kitchen utensils and other miscellaneous stuff. Katie got bored within about five minutes and went to the car. Jo wasn't far behind, followed by Art, and then me. Jo had bought some wash cloths and I "adopted" a couple of small stuffed bears that looked surprisingly like some we had seen in Berlin, Germany. I told the others that the bears had begged me to take them home.

We followed the same circuitous path back to Jo's place, then gathered, once again, by the fire. Our conversation also took various twists and turns - politics, genetics, education, religion, books, movies. Art's smart phone was kept busy adding additional information about fractals, decorating styles, the score of the Packers game, actor Benedict Cumberbatch, scientific studies about who is attracted to whom. 3-D printers became a topic after Katie's boyfriend Matt texted her about the progress he and his father had made building one. Texts also arrived from daughter Mariya, who was with girlfriend Miriam in Washington, D.C. She sent pictures of the Newseum and a "selfie" of her and Miriam with Abraham Lincoln in the background.

As the day wound down, I thought of those old-fashioned "Sunday drives" my family used to take. Saturday was always a busy day when you did those things you couldn't do during the week due to school and work. Monday would begin another busy week. But Sunday, after church and lunch, sometimes we'd get in our car and Dad would just start driving with no particular destination in mind. Our recent Saturday had been spent driving 600 miles to be with Jo. Monday, we'd get in the car again to head off to Art's hometown. But Sunday? Well, with no real goal for the day, we just relaxed and meandered.

Top: While the conversation wanders from topic to topic, Deuce finds a comfortable place in Jo's arm; bottom: Art using his smart phone to gather additional information on the topic of the moment while Katie studies the basics of crocheting.

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