Best invention ever: DVD players for cars.
Remember those long, boring hours driving cross country on vacation when we were kids? Playing roadside bingo, getting carsick from trying to read? Seeing this great land of ours through the car window and realizing how dull the vast majority of it is? (And I love nature, I do. But let's be honest: One hour of Midwest often looks a hell of a lot like the previous hour of the Midwest.) The endless "When are we going to get there?" whines?
And now, you bring a bunch of movies and the kids watch them, sitting quietly, thoroughly entertained, and the grown-ups can talk. The grown-ups are still left to note such highlights as exotic license plates and what color cows that farm has compared to the last herd we passed, but at least the whining is greatly reduced. Technology rocks.
Observations: Not only do I have some issues with the treatment of livestock much of the time, but I also have issues with the smells that emanate from the farms with animals. A handful of sheep stink plenty—I hope I never have the opportunity to smell one of those vast factory farms with pigs. There are those who say big cities stink; to them I say, I will see you a garbage truck and raise you the manure from a herd of cattle.
Here is one bizarre thing from my trip: My mom, my sister, and our kids had dinner at Applebee's in a farming/meatpacking town in Minnesota with some old family friends. We fought over the check and my family lost the battle, so my sister offered to leave the tip. Our friend chided her for trying to leave a generous tip: "You're not in a big city here. It's different in small towns"—apparently, in small towns, people tip like cheapskates? Anyone familiar with this rural tradition?
It is good to be home.