It is my second day of travel and I spent it on the road, traveling to Milwaukee, driving from Farmington MO where I'd spent the night before. My first day of travel was long - over 700 miles - and I spent those hours getting from Houston to Farmington.
Even yesterday was pretty amazing.
As I planned my route for this trip, I wanted to avoid the construction delays on I-40 east of Little Rock. I scrutinized the map a little more closely and discovered that US 67 heading northeast out of Little Rock was actually shorter than the way I've always gone when heading toward the Chicago area. It would be an adventure. It was actually a surprise and was nothing, if not interesting. Way more interesting than I-40 to I-55.
US 67 between Little Rock and I-55 just south of St. Louis represents every conceivable type of roadway. Everything from bumpy two-lane to smooth divided four-lane. And every road condition in between. Faster than the alternate route? Maybe, maybe not. Shorter? Absolutely. More interesting? Most definitely. The section that ran through Arkansas was signed as the "Rock and Roll Highway 67" and every time I saw one of those blue signs I wondered about the genesis of that designation.
As I neared exit 69, I saw this sign:
And all I could think of were the guys on the MTF forum who have a running gag about gourmet possum going. Possum and grape? Maybe a new twist to the marketing strategy?
But then day two of the trip was my birthday and was filled with some pleasant memory-makers.
The first was at the counter of a McDonald's in Festus MO, right off the interstate. I stopped for gas and there was a Mickey D's right next door. Everyone knows how much I adore their latte's - so full-bodied and served piping hot. The drive-through window traffic was wrapped around the building, so I parked and walked inside. Only one other person was at the counter, an attractive young lady who'd already paid and was waiting for her order. It was one of those caramel macchiato-type concoctions, complete with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle on top. She picked it up and as she turned to leave, sheepishly smiled at me and said, "I know it's not the most healthy breakfast, but what the heck. It's my birthday!" I couldn't believe my ears. "Oh my gosh! It's my birthday, too!" I responded. We wished each other a happy birthday! What a fun way to start the day!
The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee is one of those "Grand Dame" hotels, lovingly restored and maintained in it's Victorian era grandness, like others of its breed: The Palmer House in Chicago, the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, the Omni Parker House in Boston.
When I stepped up to the registration desk, I handed the staffer my credit card and driver's license. I don't know what made me say this, except that I felt alone on this birthday and felt the need to share. So I said to her, as I handed her my license, "Today is my birthday." Just an off-handed comment, reaching out, searching for some personal connection, that's all.
|Some mighty big running shoes!|
Luggage safely stowed in my room, I went out of the hotel and began walking south toward the Italian Community Center, down in the historic 3rd Ward district of the city, to the Fitness Expo to pick up my race packet. As I walked along, I enjoyed the pleasant breeze off the lake, the moderate temperature and humidity, so unlike the conditions back home in south Texas.
|Note the hand-lettered sign...still |
a small-town race. Give it time!
As I passed through the lobby, I decided to sit in the very pleasant lobby piano bar and treat myself to a glass of bubbly cava. I sat there and enjoyed the soft music, the people-watching, as I sipped my wine. Too often my birthdays - and many holidays - are spent alone and it's at these times that memories of my late and much-loved husband come back to me. It's when I wonder what my life would be like today if he were still alive. Would I have taken up running? Most likely not. It was his passing away and the desire to do something in his honor and memory - raise money for the American Cancer Society - that took me down this path. Would I be riding a motorcycle? Most definitely not.
After having dinner at the hotel restaurant, I stopped in at the little hotel cafe to buy something sweet for dessert. My eye caught the few remaining cupcakes and I quickly decided...that's what I want! I chose the chocolate cupcake and the red velvet cupcake and, again - don't ask me why - I mentioned to the gal behind the counter that I needed cupcakes to celebrate my birthday. She carefully packed them into a box and then handed them to me, saying, "These are on the house, for your birthday." Oh, my! I was moved almost to tears by the gesture. I certainly didn't expect such an offering.
Back in my room, I was just about to dive into those cupcakes when there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, there stood a bellman holding an envelope and a small box. "Compliments of the hotel," he said. Really? A hand-written note from the front desk wishing me a happy birthday and offering me this small box of truffles as their gift. Wow! I was overwhelmed.
It was a "just right" birthday. Nothing big happened. No cake and balloons. Just an accumulation of small, nice little things that added up to one great day.