January 30, 2009

An Introduction

I’ve never been very good at staying one place for too long. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I took every available opportunity to travel: family vacations, debate tournaments in distant cities, and even joined a high school play traveling to the Fringe Festival in Scotland. When I turned 18, I packed my bags and headed to Chicago. After a year of the big city, I was already getting the itch. The next year I spent most of my time traveling. I visited four countries, thirteen states and had nine different mailing addresses. I spent a weekend at a conference in South Dakota and took a road trip to see Hell, Michigan. I spent three months in Edinburgh, Scotland and took a small vacation in Amsterdam. I crisscrossed the country and began exploring more of the world.

But then reality hit. I was working full time and finishing up my degrees at Northwestern University so I didn’t have time to travel. After graduation, I moved to Kansas to work for a non-profit and start saving money for law school. But in just six months, I was already getting restless. Where were the adventures? I began staring at my old duffle bag and thinking about all the places I wanted to return to and others I wanted to see for the first time. With little money and even less time to spare, I realized the only way to travel would be by staying close to home.

I hit the internet hard and started looking for the unusual, the interesting and the just plain weird. In doing so, I discovered the Midwest is the heart of the country and also the home of some very strange people. There is the world’s largest ball of string in Missouri (not to be confused with the world’s largest ball of twine in Kansas). Museums dedicated to disease, disasters, dead men and even the random objects of dead men such as suitcases and feather dusters. There are statues and monuments to commemorate everything from historical figures to cartoon caricatures.

I started making a list of places to go and then plotting them out on a map. They had to be somewhere I could drive to and from in a day so I would not have to miss work. They would have to be interesting places with a story – not just blips off the highway. Now a plan was formed. I was going on a road trip (or rather several very small road trips) to see the roadside attractions of the Midwest.

So begins my Yellow Brick Road Trip – from Kansas to wherever the highways take me.