A trunkful of illicit drugs and a trippy tire change somewhere along I-70 between St. Louis and Columbia. A near miss with an oil tanker. Gastrointestinal distress in a sticky gas station bathroom.
Yeah, none of that happened. Well, maybe one of them did.
Our 700-mile trip from Ohio to the westward edge of Missouri wasn’t “Fear and Loathing” as much as it was a less introspective “Into the Wild.” A lot of farmland, fast-food stops, rest areas and faraway cityscape views from the interstate. Googling information about each city and reading them off to each other and then going “Hm. That’s interesting.”
For context, I am on a road trip with two of my co-workers — Curt Conrad and Nathan Hart. Our trek began early last week, when the Ashland University women’s basketball team beat Grand Valley State 61-58, earning an NCAA regional title.
The win put the No. 1-ranked Eagles at an impressive 34-0 record and secured the No. 1 seed in the Division II women’s basketball tournament. The Elite Eight is being played in St. Joseph, Missouri — a border town of around 74,000 people who appreciate the game of basketball to the point of supporting a gym large enough to host such a tournament.
Spherion Mid-Ohio said “go” by sponsoring the trip. So, the morning following the regional win, we dove deep into an editorial plan that included game coverage, player features and social media posts. The higher-ups booked a rental car and hotel rooms. We wrote our features, packed our bags and hit the road Sunday morning a little after 8 a.m.
Thus began our westward race against the sun. The sun beat us. We rolled into our hotel’s parking lot at precisely 9:43 p.m., Missouri time. Our route took us through Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City and finally — finally — St. Joseph. The takeaway from this road trip? Missouri is a long, boring state — from the highway, at least.
One of my Google searches revealed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located just five miles east of its namesake city, is actually located in Speedway, Indiana. The municipality swells to 25 times its size during the Indy 500 — and so it formed its own police force, trash service and other city-like services a while ago.
Also, Kansas City isn’t just one city. There are two cities with the name. One is in Missouri and the other is in Kansas. Most of you probably knew that before you read it. But I didn’t. Neither did my travel companions.
Another thing about Kansas City; apparently, the city’s steaks are worth eating. One of the steakhouses’ claim to fame was a 1972 article written by Calvin Trillin, featuring a steak he had. It became a hit, so the steakhouse named one of their steaks in its honor: the Playboy Strip.
Speaking of steak, we ate Chipotle in Indianapolis for lunch. Nathan got steak on his burrito. Hours later, he paid for it. Refer back to the last sentence of this story’s first paragraph. Sorry Nathan (and reader). I’m a journalist, after all. Details like those are ripe for stories like these.
Oh, and St. Joseph is where Jesse James was shot. It’s home to the Pony Express. We intend on checking out these sites — when the Eagles win and afford us an off day.
If they win, that means the semifinal will take place in St. Joseph on Wednesday.
If you’d like to follow Ashland University’s progress, you can stream the game here. It airs Monday, 7 p.m. ET.