The semester was taking a toll on us with midterms and project submissions. We had long ago decided that we needed to do something happening in our lives. So we had this cliched idea of a road trip. As the mid-sem week was about to end, we rented the cars worrying that they won’t be available over the weekend due to the spring break rush. Now we had 2 cars and no destination, but one thing was clear, we had to go out of our small town Ames.
Friday night of pre spring break week, as we have the cars we plan and go to Des Moines for some Indian food at Persis restaurant. A good chicken biryani after a hectic week was all we needed to get things sorted. At Persis, we underestimated the serving size of the biryani and so had to pack half of it for the next day. We were done with Friday, but after futile discussions still did not know where to go over the weekend. I get a text late at night to be ready by 11:00 am on Saturday.
I am ready at 11:00 am and no one is in sight. Till 2:00 pm we are still in Ames, figuring how to fill gas in the car, if everyone has their jackets, who all are finally coming to the trip with us and many other such issues. At 3:00 pm we finally decide on St. Louis, the largest metro city in the state of Missouri, and set it as the destination on google maps. Happy that we have a direction to go, the two car somehow manage to take different routes. Now, the best part about google maps is that it takes you through the shortest route. Being first timers, we took this route but were taken through numerous desolate towns and equally frightening internal roads. This was initially very exciting but due to the low speed limits could take us an eternity to reach our goal.
We reach a very small town of 300 something population, and find a gas station, head in and buy stuff so that we can use the washroom as if following some unwritten rules. I have a chat with the owner, an old lady in her 50’s, she asks us how did we end up in that town, little did she know we were as amazed as her. I take directions from her to the highway and we set off towards St. Louis. At around 100 miles to go, we realize that we do not have a place to stay for the night. Apps are downloaded and the hotel search starts frantically. Prices are compared in both the cars, but either the availability is low or the prices are too high. As the mile markers decrease in number, panic starts increasing. We enter St. Louis and I am able to finally connect with the customer service of a motel chain after half an hour on the IVR and manage to book rooms for the eleven of us. The room scene was now sorted and we needed a place to eat. Luckily, someone had already done the research and we ate the delicious deep dish pizza at the PI pizzeria.
Sunday morning we wake up early and start discussing the places to visit for the day. Mark Twain national forest comes up out of nowhere. But how can someone visit the forest, so I google their website and randomly pick “Lake McCormick”. Again, google maps has the destination and we set off in our cars.The drive is beautiful, winding roads and scenic views. After a 5 hour drive we reach Lake McCormick and this small beautiful lake greets us. We eat lunch on the shore of the calm waters enjoying the serenity of the lake and then afterwards explore the lake surroundings. If I get a chance, I would want to visit the lake during summer when the trees would be lush green and beautiful surroundings.
Post lunch, we leave for St. Louis but this time decide to take the highways for convenience and reach just before dusk. As it was still early to go to the hotel, we decide to visit the famous arch of St.Louis standing at a towering 650 foot above the ground. Finding a parking spot in the city was a concern but luckily we found one. When we reached the arch,to our disappointment, the arch was closed for renovation and we could not go to the top. Therefore, we had to be content with watching the magnificent structure from a distance.
Monday morning as we decide to leave for Ames, discussions started about going to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. There are a few disapprovals as it had began snowing. However, later all of us agreed to go. The beautiful Cathedral was surprisingly empty for being a tourist spot. Amazed by the architecture and the mosaic art, we click pictures and try to soak in the history. It was around noon and the stomachs were shouting for food, we had planned to have lunch at an Indian restaurant and walked there. Welcomed by a the pleasant smells of homely food almost made us cry. The taste of the food was stupendous and we were eating like ravenous beasts. After a heavy lunch, we finally leave for Ames with a short stop in Kansas City with plans being made for the next journey.
This road trip was the one we wanted to have since the thanksgiving break. Only this time it was unplanned to a bit of extremes. We spent a lot of our time travelling in the car laughing at ridiculous jokes, translating songs with weird lyrics and learning how to navigate the American roads. This was a good experience where we learnt to drive in the US of A and overcame the inhibitions of different cars, driving styles and rules. Luckily, we were not pulled over by cops in our multi state tour and reached back home with a memorable episode of a RANDOM ROADTRIP.
Road trips are not measured by mile markers, but by memories made