Alex McRae

Yellow fever

I bored my pals senseless bragging about how the caper would come off. No problem, I said. Done deal. Sixth-grade bombshell June Johnson was dying to spend some time in my bony arms.

And so when the music came up and the lights went down at the annual 4-H Club banquet, I cleared my throat, walked right up to the girl of my dreams and, as my buddies looked on, croaked, “Uh, June, you want to dance?”

When she hissed “With you?” Don Holmes laughed so hard milk spewed from his nose. I simply curled up and whimpered softly.

I have since been careful about boasts I can’t back up. But I don’t hesitate to say that when it comes to road trips, I am a legend. Call me the Maestro of motoring.

My secret is staying spontaneous. At least when choosing a route. The latest outing offered me a chance to discover dazzling new sights, sounds and adventures between Georgia and Wisconsin.

In the interest of better motoring and marital bliss I started by looking for spots I knew would appeal to my wife, Angela. Which is how we wound up in Paducah, Ky. And yes, Paducah is waaaay out of the way. But Paducah offers something you won’t find anywhere else...the National Quilt Museum.

Paducah was the perfect pick. First, because I had never been there and love visiting new places. Second, because if the National Quilt Museum lived up to Angela’s expectations I would earn enough brownie points to pick the next stop with no questions asked.

Paducah was swell, and I got to see lots of it while Angela browsed the museum. When she came out, she was beaming. So was I. Mostly because I had spent the previous evening choosing our next stop — a place that had Me written all over it.

Peoria, Illinois, is pleasant, attractive and relatively harmless. It is also home to Caterpillar International. Caterpillar has recently opened a Visitors Center featuring loads of equipment to play with and drool over. When Angela heard me gush at the thought of seeing that much heavy yellow metal in one place she took it in stride. She even went to Catland with me. 

Our tour started in a “theater” featuring 66 plush movie seats. All the seats were filled. Better yet, they were all in the bed of a Caterpillar dump truck. And not just any dump truck. The Cat 797 is the world’s largest mechanical drive haul truck.

I repeat: the world’s LARGEST truck. And I was sitting in it. 

The lights went down in the “theater” and the promotional film began. For 10 minutes the screen was filled with images of giant machines doing giant machine things. It was heavy equipment porn, complete with heavy breathing throughout the theater. 

After the film we toured the rest of the facility, which was packed with massive backhoes, graders and dozers. 

I wanted to dig a hole so bad I couldn’t stand it.

Angela was a good sport and even bought her father a Cat hat at the gift shop. I got one, too, plus a shirt and coffee cup.

Then it was on to Wisconsin. After a wonderful visit with the grandboys, we hit the road for a mad dash home, pushing straight through from Sheboygan to Newnan in 15 hours, stopping only for fuel and food.

The pace was frantic, but my travel skills still prevailed. I’ll never believe it was an accident that I selected a fuel stop in Bowling Green, Ky., that sold plastic cups like the one Uncle Si drinks from in Duck Dynasty.

Boom!

Quilts, Caterpillar and Duck Dynasty in a single excursion. Sometimes, I even amaze myself.

send your email comments to: alexmmcrae@gmail.com.




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