The storage unit was full. Our mail had been forwarded. We were rested and showered and ready to hit the road.
After loading up Fordy with our duffle bags, camping supplies, and steel-belted cooler of the gods, the first stop on our road trip was South Bend, Indiana. We were heading there for an annual meeting for Notre Dame football boosters. (Cue laughter and confusion.) Okay so we were there because Gracie had an annual advisory board meeting at her alma mater, Saint Mary’s College. We stayed at the welcoming Saint Mary’s Inn, which let me tell you, was full of absolutely wonderful people and a breathtaking soda machine that I called “skiing the slopes of Mount Happiness.”
On campus, Gracie introduced me to faculty members and other alumnae. I was most excited to meet Gracie’s former Italian professor, Dr. Checca, who upon our introduction said “Maria Grazia was the best office assistant and student I ever had. One of a kind, Andrew. I hope you know that.” We chatted about politics, growing up on a farm, and generally just about our shared fondness for Gracie. I think I held my own. By the way, she’s mine buddy.
That evening we were fortunate enough to meet Krista Tippett, the host of the nationally syndicated radio show “On Being.” She joined us for dinner and then gave the annual Christian Culture Lecture, hosted by Saint Mary’s Humanistic Studies program. Let’s just say Gracie and I were very psyched to be among podcast royalty.
“Tolerance was the primary civic virtue we chose to navigate difference. And I think this word was always problematic,” Tippett said. “Tolerance connotes allowing, enduring and indulging. In the medical context where it comes from, tolerance is about the limits of thriving in an unfavorable environment.”
The next day after Gracie’s meetings wrapped up and we happily got to hold our friend Rachael’s adorable baby girl Molly, the real road trip began as we headed west across Indiana and Illinois to spend the night in Des Moines, Iowa. My cousin Monica, her husband Brandon, and their dogs Lucy and Sally had graciously offered to host us for a night in Hartford of the West. Yep, apparently that’s Des Moines’ nickname. We got to their place, stretched after the long drive, played with the pups, and promptly headed out to a local brewery to celebrate our arrival to Iowa. Who doesn’t celebrate when they get to Iowa?
Now it is very important to mention that our guest room in Monica, Brandon, Lucy, and Sally’s house had a framed copy of the Holstee Manifesto. Gracie and I have been inspired by this piece since the first time we saw it, thanks to our great friend Leslie Nelson-Abell. It is the kind of thing that makes you stop for a moment and reconsider lots of things in your life. It continues to be one of our many mantras for this road trip and life journey together. (So upon seeing it, we pretty much freaked out and starting excitedly yelling that our road trip had just been affirmed from above. Lucy and Sally pretty much freaked out then, too.)
So, Monica and Brandon: thank you for the laughs, the warm bed, and for your shared love of viral Pinterest images.