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Plains, Dungeons and Dragons, Churches, Lawyers, Fireworks and Crosswinds

We conclude our journey through the American Mid-West with a few highlights. So, what is the Mid-West? The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Mid-West as a northern region made up of 12 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. I won't give a history lesson, but this is a region that has been marked by the French presence, notably by Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, the latter a French-Canadian explorer and traveler. We covered seven of the twelve states. That's pretty good! We're now in South Dakota, visiting Badlands National Park. We've clocked up over 3,200 miles in 5 weeks on the road (5,000 kilometers - interesting now to deal with imperial measurements, but not quite, as the imperial gallon is 1.2 times the American gallon...).

We've already talked about our stops in Ohio and Indiana, and we've taken a whirlwind tour of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, all of which were day/night stops. We can't wait to tell you about the Badlands in South Dakota, which will be the subject of the next blog, but let's take a look back at our latest stops, including a special pilgrimage to Wisconsin. No, we haven't become Amish or Quacker!

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is the birthplace of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game. Gary Gygax, the game's creator (co-creator in fact with Dave Arneson) was born and lived most of his life in Lake Geneva, and TSR HQ was based there. As a huge D&D fan and active player for over 40 years (along with my friends Pierre-Jean, Nicolas, Sylvain, François and Éric), I wanted to stop by just for fun. For those of you who know nothing about D&D, you may want to skip over the next few paragraphs!

There were no big attractions in his honor at Lake Geneva, just a commemorative plaque and the local museum, which is preparing a special exhibition in his honor. The whole thing isn't finished yet, but we had the privilege of accessing the room that's being prepared - really cool!

Finally, we were able to visit Gary Gygax's home, where he created the game as a young man and established the TSR company. A modest little house owned by a charming lady, Yolanda, who had no idea of the house's past when she bought it. She shows visitors around the house, which has been kept in its original state, and rents it out to D&D fans who want to play.

I had a pretty crappy childhood and D&D gave so much to me, including an incredible group of friends. Sitting where he used to play, at the head of the table in his dining room, gave me enormous pleasure. I was able to share this visit with friends who were accompanying me virtually via Zoom, and together we geeked out like crazy! A stop I'll remember for a long time.

On a different note, the last few days have been tough as the heat has overwhelmed much of the USA, including the Mid-West. We exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) on several occasions. It's a real drag, as they say. Two female hikers died in Nevada (Death Valley) while on a long hike during the heat wave a few days ago, and another was killed by a Grizzly near Yellowstone. We'll stay cautious, never fear.

We saw the vast plains of the Mid-West and it's a beautiful region. The most striking thing is the civic-mindedness of the people and the small villages with grain silos. Of course, there's some Trumpism on display, but everyone says hello to each other, and our passing brings questions and kind comments. From Canada? Wow! From Ottawa, no we don't know 😊 The Americans we met know Toronto and a bit of Montreal, but that's it.

Let me tell you that with over 3000 miles, we've seen plenty of churches! If you think Quebec has a lot of them, you should see it here: there are almost as many churches of all denominations as there are banks! And so many "Jesus loves you" signs that you'd think it was Valentine's Day all year round for Christians! There are also many anti-abortion posters all over the roads. This must be intimidating, unfortunately, for a young girl in a difficult situation. Another observation is the number of posters advertising lawyers for those who have various accidents: With Mario you win the jackpot, quickly call 1-800-creepy-lawyer. Let’s also mention all the fireworks stores, at least two per mile. It's as if all Americans celebrated the 4th of July every day of the year. If they buy as many fireworks as flags, then I understand, because there's a great patriotic fixation on the Stars and Stripes. We saw a few Confederate flags, but nothing more than that. Having travelled across Canada, I've seen a few people with a flag in evidence on their property, but nothing to compare with the United States. There are flags everywhere, here!

Stephanie wanted to stop and visit the Amana colonies in Iowa. These are seven villages of German immigrants with distinctive community and religious values who set foot in America in 1855. Similar to the Amish, these pilgrims came to America to avoid persecution and found new societies based on egalitarian and democratic principles. You have to read Tocqueville's Democracy in America to realize that European immigrants established societies inspired by democratic values and principles, such as that all are born equal. That the American South promoted slavery contradicts this notion of equality, but many of the colonies, especially in the North, strove to reject the question of aristocratic domination. Stephanie and Francis enjoyed the Amana History Museum, even though they had to walk 30 minutes in the heat to get there. It was a bit surreal to think they were walking like that in rural Iowa on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. A delightful mother-son moment for both of them.

Finally, a quick recap of our mechanical failures to tell you that we repaired the inverter in Indiana thanks to Advanced Solar, a friendly Xantrex distributor, and a big thank you to John and Glen. The motorhome is going well, but the winds (quite violent at times) are getting in the way. The "Caravan Guard" sends us error codes at times and gives us the willies with luminous pictograms on the dashboard. The Mercedes-Benz de Sioux Falls technician we contacted (a little in a panic) reassured us that this is "normal", as the winds are distorting the speed sensor readings.

P.S. Our web editor is causing us headaches and we are behind on posting blogs (and Francis answering your questions!) but soon we will share our impressions on the Badlands and Mount Rushmore!

Also, we have met new friends, John et Sherry from California and they kindly invited us to spend a few days at their place close to los Angeles and Long Beach in September!

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