This week, at long last, I’ll visit Pepin for the first time.
Do you remember your fist homesite visit? I do. It was Independence. Seems logical, since I live in Kansas. But I’m on the opposite corner of the state. Worse, there’s no straight highway that runs from here to there–just a lot of twists and turns. Distance decreed that it made more sense to combine the visit with another trip, so when I flew home to Boston from Kansas City, I tacked on an Independence trip to make a roundabout drive home.
On the way home from the airport — normally a hulking seven-hour drive — I detoured south. I checked the hours of the Independence site in advance, since I knew I’d be arriving on a Sunday. All clear. As I wound my way south that June morning, my anticipation grew more and more taut. I followed the signs toward Independence. One sign made me almost stop short, a small rectangular green one on a bridge.
Every part of my skin that faced downward or touched the seat–the bottoms of my feet up to my shoulders–tingled with electricity. I was driving over the Verdigris! I briefly contemplated pulling over and making my way down to the water’s edge, but even as I did so the car continued to pull me forward into downtown Independence. Maybe later, I’d be back.
On Route 160, which ran right through Independence, I followed the signs through town and out the west side, turning south onto Route 75. Each new sign that dictated a right or left turn spurred my anticipation. I was out in the country now — no hotels, no gas stations, no Wal-Marts. Just hill after rolling hill of prairie. Truthfully the area wasn’t THAT hilly, but after a year of living on land as flat as the floor beneath my feet, even small hills felt sinfully luxurious in my field of vision. On each side of the road open pastures, alive with June wildness, backed up against rows of trees. Black-eyed susans — or what I decided were black-eyed susans — and other wildflowers I couldn’t name dotted the golden grass that whispered in the breeze. I drove more and more slowly, stretching out this introduction to Little House on the Prairie. The clear day revealed a cerulean sky so brilliant it infused the scene with the aura of omniscience. The Mona Lisa of skies.
I made the last turn and saw the cabin, set back about 50 feet from the rail fence that lined the road. I pulled onto the shoulder and a sign on the gate caught my eye. A hand-lettered sign.
“Closed for Father’s Day,” it said.