I don't remember the town's name. I just know it was in the back country flats of northern-ish Illinois. Somewhere off the beaten path between Chicago and somewhere else.
We were on our way back from a miserable week-long trip from Minnesota to South Carolina to see my brother-in-law graduate from Basic Training at the base that Renaissance Man was filmed. That part of the trip was exciting but only lasted a few hours.
We were in a rush. Two days to get to South Carolina and two days to get back. That left us with three days in a state where the average 24-hour high was 106 degrees and the average low was 98. The humidity was worse. There was no relief. The air-conditioners in South Carolina were manufactured for Eskimo Igloos up in the Yukon Territory when the temperature hit the freezing mark - going up. We drank water like crazy and sweated through all of our changes of clothes on just the first day.
The food we packed rotted immediately. We realized children do not like bananas that drip when you open the peel. Crackers and bread became soggy and wouldn't hold the butter on as it slipped off onto whatever surface you were doing the buttering. All freezing cold liquids warmed up before you swallowed the first gulp and the condensation that collected on the glass you were holding caused you to drop it, spilling the contents, soaking your shoes, increasing the misery level.
Affection was banned. A simple goodnight hug caused two bodies to stick together so strongly, the hotel-supplied crowbars could not even handle the ripping apart job. Calls to the front desk became so numerous as well as the hot oils they used to grease the parent and child apart, that hugging, smooching, and even the holding of hands became unbearable. Thus, the ban.
To throw more fire on the coals, Frederic's face reacted to the heat and blew up like a balloon on the left side. He looked like a small edition of Eugene Proctor in Pure Luck after he was stung by the bee in the small airplane - one of the best movies of the 1980's, only available in VHS. We enjoyed a day in the bowels of the Charleston, South Carolina hospital system, sitting in the waiting room, watching one of our children take off his diaper and pee all over three of the chairs.
To make matters worse, the parking attendant had on a lovely shirt and I asked her, "Did you make that yourself?" To which she replied, "Why? Does it look that bad?" To which I sputtered something inconsequential, drove out of the ramp into the path of another car (we didn't crash), and would have turned red had it been possible to turn a darker shade, due to the heat my skin was already experiencing.
We left that state in a hurry, never to return again. Driving back, we decided to go straight through, Kristine and I switching off driving duties, catching a few winks here and there, and stopping at every McDonald's along the way to refill our coffee cups at the convenient drive-through.
It was 5:15 in the morning of the second day of driving back when we drove into the little Illinois town. The streets were very quiet and the air was a cool 55 degrees, a cold front having moved in the night before. The kids in the back began to stir and we decided to stretch our legs. Turning down a street that pointed to the city park, we pulled into the parking lot.
I got out to investigate and noticed that all four park slides and every piece of playground equipment, including every individual blade of grass and petal of white clover were covered with the biggest dew drops I had ever seen. I yelled for the kids who piled out of the car.
For the next hour, while Mommy watched, we dried off those slides with the butts of our pj's and the backs of our shirts. We used the playground equipment as natural slip and slide material. We even played tag and rolled around in the dew-covered grass, trying as hard as we could to dry off the place just enough for the pleasure of the townfolk. In short, we had fun. The first fun of the entire trip. And we got messy and sopping wet doing it.
Climbing back into the truck, our chattering kids enjoyed a packed breakfast and went back to sleep with smiles on their faces. I realized they would have been perfectly happy had we just gone to our local park, rather than the long vacation. Yes, the simple joys of life.