“Hey what’s that sign say?” I asked Ten, pointing to the brown sign by the road.

He squinted as it rapidly approached and answered, “Birthplace of Ronald Reagan”.

“Awesome. Wanna go?” I said, making the decision for us as I pulled off the highway at that very exit. We’d been driving a little over an hour and were definitely still in Illinois. Spontaneous side road trips… commence!

We got to a stoplight and turned in the direction that the sign had indicated. Moments later, we encountered another roadside announcement: “Birthplace of Ronald Reagan: 14 miles”.

“14 miles??!” I exclaimed. I looked at Ten. “Is it worth it?”

Ten raised an eyebrow. “Whatever you want to do, Deb.”

He is way too easy to get along with. This will only prove to encourage my spontaneity. Which is definitely going to get us into trouble one of these days…

But today was not that day. I flipped a u-ey and got right back onto I-80 W.

Our day’s destination was Cedar Rapids. Ten and I had packed up my car early in the morning, then gone to breakfast with my parents. They were happy to get a chance to know Ten a bit (the word “interrogation” might be closer to what the conversation sounded like), and we were thrilled to get one last free breakfast (especially at our favorite spot, Egglectic).

Cedar Rapids was only four hours from Chicago. So, instead of attempting another harebrained adventure in western Illinois, I drove until we got hungry for lunch. I dragged Ten into Buffalo Wild Wings in order to watch a few minutes of the U.S. Open. He went rather willingly, saying something about wanting to watch the Euro 2012, whatever that is…

If his name alone doesn’t throw you for a loop, Ten’s story will. I don’t want to give too much away yet, because I plan on writing a full “bio blog” for him soon, but he’s originally from Thailand and has lived in six other countries since then. He has an amazing ability to adapt to any environment/culture that he is around. He’s also got plenty of good stories to share on these long car rides! I’ll be sure to share some of them with you soon.

Needless to say, we made it to Cedar Rapids. My good friend, Chris Johnson, lives in the area and graciously offered us a place to crash for the night. Chris and I went to the same church back in Santa Cruz, California, so we’ve been friends since high school. We told him we were up for anything, so he suggested we drive out to a place that he claimed “would make you forget you were in the middle of Iowa”. My skepticism was quickly dispelled by the park where he took us. A cloudy river meandered through the woods, hedged in by bluffs on both sides. Our hike was cut short, though, as a wedding party started making it’s way down the slope!

As we headed back to town, I still only had one thing on my mind: the golf tournament. I asked Chris if there were any fun, local places that might have the Open on. He laughed and pointed to a sign just up the road. The old, wooden banner advertised a restaurant called “The Irish Democrat”. We pulled into the lot just as it started to rain. The place was rather dark inside, but full of people (let me rephrase: it was full of old people. Apparently, everybody in town who categorized themselves as “Irish” or a “Democrat” was over the age of 65). The food was delicious, though. The specialty was a burger made with egg, bacon, and peanut butter. Yumm…

We finished out the evening with a board game back at Chris’ apartment, followed by an episode of “Sherlock” (a made-for-tv miniseries that is fantastic). After a good night’s sleep, Ten and I tagged along with Chris to church in the morning. All too soon it was time to say good-bye and hit the road again! Next stop… Omaha, Nebraska.

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