So, living in Keokuk isn't all bad, but one does have to get creative at times in finding something entertaining to do. I've discovered that I really do not have a whole lot of free time, especially if I use some of that free time that I have to catch up on some much-needed rest. However, when the creative juices aren't flowing, I'm rested, and I'm not swamped with things to do...I have to figure out SOMEthing to keep me occupied. One Saturday afternoon I realized I just needed to "get out of Dodge". My cosmopolitan side needed some nurturing, so I figured I'd head up to the biggest nearby city and spend the weekend...and that would be Chicago (although St. Louis is actually closer, I figured Chicago was more interesting, plus I had a free room to stay in since my brother was getting trained for his new job up there). Five hours later I was nervously veering through the speeding traffic on the busy interstate system, and just enjoying the pace and speed and intensity and combustion of a big city. It was already really late so I ended up just locating my hotel and getting some rest so I'd be ready to explore the city the next day. I really had no agenda other than: 1) see people, 2) eat ethnic food, and 3) see something interesting for cheap. I checked the first thing off my list by wandering into a Vietnamese section of town and eating some good "pho". Yum! (The only "ethnic" food in Keokuk is a quite average Chinese restaurant and Mexican restaurant...unless you count Taco Bell as Mexican and Pizza Hut as Italian). I then wandered over to Lakeshore Drive and noticed the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline and hundreds of people playing beach volleyball, jogging, picnicing, and enjoying the beautiful autumn day. I decided to park my car about 5 miles north of downtown by Lincoln Park (so as to avoid any exorbitant parking fees) and got out and just started walking toward downtown. I was so impressed by the lively scene along the waterfront and how nice the city skyline was. I ended up walking miles down the shoreline and into downtown, stopped to window-shop at a few stores (even though I had no money to buy anything it was nice shopping at something other than Wal-Mart), and watched street-performers with the same amount of awe and entertainment as I remember doing as a naive and sheltered high-school kid the first time I went to Boston. It was so fun to just be in a city. I ended up probably walking 12-15 miles that day and loved every minute of it. When I finally decided I needed to head back to Keokuk that evening, I realized I had basically just driven 10 hours to "go on a little (urban) hike". I laughed at how it seemed in the past I had to find the perfect time, and have a 3-4 day weekend, to justify a trip down to Arches when I lived in Utah, or to go to Martha's Vineyard when I lived in Boston, or to go to Olympic Peninsula when I lived in Seattle. And here in Keokuk, I hardly thought twice about just getting in my car and heading up five hours just to BE in Chicago. With gas prices what they are, I don't know that I'll make a habit of that, but it sure was fun.