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Unless you grew up there, I’ve probably been to Elkhart, Indiana more frequently then you.

Over the years I’ve developed a few habits when in Elkhart—habits which have been largely private, at least until this afternoon when I introduced Nuris to the Steak and Shake fountain milkshake.

Really, it had never occurred to me that the Elkhart shake is somewhat excessive. But I now suppose that it can be seen as so. (This is a view that I do not personally share. For me an excessive milkshake would be built on real ice cream with loads of butterfat and not on something called “milkshake base” But I digress, and risk losing my point in the bargain.)

The point being that, in the same way that foreign travel should broaden one’s horizons while at the same time deepening one’s appreciation for life beyond the world of things and stuff, so might familiar, even repetitive domestic traveling bring opportunity for fresh insight. This is particularly the case when such travel is conducted in the company of a foreigner. For that matter, any location might present this opportunity, which may at times be easier to appreciate when in the company of an observant companion. But you probably already know that.

But it seems that the spur to insight or appreciation needn’t even be human. To wit: I’ve probably stopped in Elkhart, Indiana on more than 50 occasions over the past 25 years and I’d never noticed that Elkhart is less that 2 miles from Michigan. It took the little mechanical man in the Waze application on my smartphone to draw my attention to this fact, which he did promptly when I asked the software to plot a path to Pinedale, Wyoming—and stay off the freeway.

As we move around the central and western states over the next few weeks or months I’ll do my level best to explain what we are seeing in a way that doesn’t make me feel overly foolish and that remains consistent with my own cultural bias. Wish me luck.

I’m pretty sure that my salvation and deliverance will stem from the fact that the United States is a pretty awesome place, no matter who is doing the sayin’.

Chicken fried steak, anyone?

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