Out in the sticks

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Now this is the Midwest.  Asking a resident of LaGrange, Indiana what people in the area consider to be “the city” garners the response of Fort Wayne.  With a population of a quarter million, I can see how it would be considered urban, but it obviously doesn’t compare to the metropolises out east.  The hustle and bustle of the Northeast is of course far behind us, and to make it official we set our clocks to Central Time (or rather our technology made the switch for us).

We made it all the way to Chicago tonight and are now holed up in a hostel, but the drive here was country through and through.  For miles at a time the only buildings in view were farmhouses and barns, as we sped across western Ohio and the entirety of Indiana.

Ohio countryside

Ohio countryside

The first leg of our drive saw stops in a handful of small towns, which were practically indistinguishable from each other.  From my perspective, what binds all of these places together, though, is the reverence they place on war veterans.  Service is recognized by monuments of varying size and shape, but not one town square was without some sort of tribute to soldiers.  I see this as being central to creating community in these places. By memorializing these sacrifices, small town America ensures the next generation remains connected to the past, whereupon they look on citizenship as more than just a laundry list of rights and privileges – citizenship also includes the responsibility to respond to the call of duty when the community needs to be defended.

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Memorial to the veterans of LaGrange, Indiana

Civilization i.e. chain restaurants and traffic mergers reappeared on the horizon as we came within range of South Bend, the home of the University of Notre Dame.  We spent a good hour touring the campus, highlighted by the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the mural known as Touchdown Jesus.  While these landmarks were more than impressive, I can’t help but think that any church topped by a golden cross is missing the point.

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Traveling across a road like Route 20, one can see what sort of things people do with their free time by what kind of stores are open for business.  Apparently people like to shoot off fireworks, since there’s a store advertising them for sale every few miles.  After that comes liquor stores, and though infrequent thus far, gun shops gain in popularity as we head further out west.  I’m still waiting for the establishment that carries all three.

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