Anyway, we had several short conversations from across the restaurant over dinner and when it was time to pay our bill, we found ourselves receiving hugs from our new acquaintances who had already taken care of it. In addition, Willie and Edna Marie offered us a shower and a place to camp behind their truck stop. It doesn't sound that glamorous, (which it wasn't), but it was unique and interesting and they were the cutest, kindest 80-something-year olds ever. Edna Marie fretted about trying to clean up the bathroom and shower to make it acceptable for us while I tried to convince her we don't mind dirty (heck, we live outside). At the same time, Willie, who had been a trucker on Route 66 for about a million years, eagerly and proudly wanted to show us around his shop and all of his collections and memorabilia in a 5-minute time span before he had to get back to work and haul a few more loads that night. They bickered at each other continuously, each fighting to win our attention so they could tell their stories - it was adorable how we could see their love for each other amongst their petty quarrellings - they were adorable!
Inside Willie's truck stop.
Willie's Hall of Fame Trucking plaque.
Our whirlwind tour of their life ended as quickly as it started when Willie energetically hopped up into his rig with a monstrous smile on his face saying, "Gotta get back to work! I'm 86 years old kids - can't stop now!" I've never seen anyone love their job as much as Willie.
After they left the shop we spent hours looking at their displays of not only trucking stuff but also mementos hung on the walls marking their long life together. We were reminded of Mike's Grandpa who has a garage full of random things he's been collecting forever. To most anyone, it's a bunch of junk that's nothing more than interesting to look at, but to him, it's his treasures, his life. Willie was the same way and we loved it!
Our other fond memory from Illinois was the few days we spent at Stephanie and Ethan's house - some friends who used to live near us in California. Our days were occupied playing with their adorable 1-year old, Addie, going for walks, attending a U of I football game, chatting and laughing just like the good ole days. It is so special to see familiar faces while we're traveling because it allows us to talk to people who really know us instead of only strangers with whom we never get beyond the small talk. It was, once again, hard to say good-bye, especially because this was our last "for sure" stop in the US. We both know people on the east coast, but our route is not yet set in stone due to uncertainties in the weather. We hope to get to see some of those folks, but if the weather doesn't remain nice we might make a mad dash for Florida and fly to a warmer climate.
Addie in her swing.
Mike, Cari, Steph, Ethan & Addie at the Illinois football game.
Mike, Addie, Steph, Ethan & Cari.