Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a weakness for falling in love with places. Perhaps it was the excessive amount of time I spent being carted around in the front seat of a Chrysler to sibling’s parades, and sporting events. Or maybe it was the interminable summer vacations to Florida in un-air conditioned automobiles with AM radio. Whatever the reason, I have always had a weakness for day dreaming about life in places seen out the window of a car. Each town we passed, each farm, each house on a hillside, I would lose myself in daydreams of what it would be like to live there. This affliction continued when I left Western New York behind and took to the road. Criss-crossing the country I would search for that one perfect place that would demand I stop and call it home. Of course, no place was ever alluring enough to overcome my desire to see what was over the next hill, or around the next bend. Life is like that.
Thankfully, in Mrs. 20 Prospect I found a reason to stop circling the country and plant roots. If not for her I’d still be wandering. And yet, even though I have lived in one place for 17 years now, I still can’t help but daydream when I’m traveling. As much as Minnesota is my home, there’s nothing about our little inner ring suburb, or 50’s Rambler that convinces me that this is the place where I want to grow old and die. If only I had a million lives to try out a million different places. I like to imagine that when you are dead your soul gets to go around and hang out in all the places you never got to when you were alive.
Last weekend we visited my In Laws in Eau Claire, a small city in a big landscape. One of those places that I can’t help but be drawn to. I brought along Isabella Cuevas, as I like to do when the weather is nice, and slipped out of town for a 3 hour ride through the hills and valleys of Eau Claire, and Trempeleau counties. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite places in all the earth to ride a bicycle. Perhaps it reminds me of Western New York, or maybe East Flanders. The rolling hills, and farmlands, interspersed with remnants of the real “Big Woods” of Laura Ingalls Wilder fame, are covered with small two lane farm roads, and dairy farms. Each ridge promises a view, each valley a twisting descent. The farm roads don’t adhere to any modern road building standard, and the grades can be short, steep, and leg snapping. Perfect for cycling.
I rode for 3 hours, and had I not been exhausted, I could have rode for another 3. Each crossroad called for exploration, and it hurt to have to adhere to a schedule, and route. Every time I spend a weekend doing this, I end up going online and looking at homes and property in the area, which only serves to torture me more. Some people dream of retiring to malarial swamps in Florida, or sun blasted desert in Arizona. I dream of retiring to a little house on a ridge-top looking out over a big river., with enough land around me to make neighbors a theoretical concept. It’s the hermit in me that dreams of a life of walking the dogs in the woods, riding my bike in the hills, and watching the sunset from my porch.
I don’t know why I do this to myself. I have no intention of moving until the kids are out of high school, and I am less dependent on the financial benevolence of my dark corporate overlords. Yet I find myself continually searching jobs listings and property listings in the hope that I find that one perfect place that was made for me, where I can eek out a living teaching at a small college, and spend my days reading and writing. Whenever I get caught in that funk, the only thing I can do is tell myself, “10 more years. Keep cashing those checks and squirreling money away.” And keep on riding. Always keep on riding.