One doesn't simply drive through Iowa without stopping to see the Field of Dreams. It's a pilgrimage for anyone who has ever felt their heart jump when they've heard the whisper, "If you build it, they will come". After all, the field is about so much more than baseball. Then again, it isn't.
That's the beauty of the sport. In a chaotic world where it seems humanity is self-destructing, life hushes and appears a little more simple when we gather around a baseball diamond. We forget all of the fights, the hate, the confusion... we're just people, enjoying America's favorite past time. You don't have to be Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, or Stan the Man. Just grab your bat, ball, and glove, and dream big.
And so, that's what we did-- we were dreaming big as we drove under a gray blanketed sky through Minnesota. We had witnessed the wonder of the Apostle Islands, but hadn't quiet satisfied our wanderlusty-souls. The clouds vanished as we rolled through the seemingly endless miles of cornfields in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Iowa. Our hopes of something different than the typical American Dream waved around like the golden corn blowing by. We'd been on an adventure since the day we met, and our hearts were stirring for something new.
Cell service is sparse along the rural highways leading to Dyersville, home to the legendary Field of Dreams. According to our atlas we were nearing our destination, yet the monotony of farms gave no hint to the existence of the iconic landmark. Even as we entered town, a few unassuming signs were all that made mention of the famous field. Suddenly as we turned down a gravel road, the stadium lights appeared, standing taller than the stalks surrounding us. Our hearts raced as we parked our rig. Hopping out of the truck with the enthusiasm of a wonder-struck child, my husband disappeared into the camper, quickly returning with a wiffle ball and bat. He was beaming as we approached the field, talking about how he couldn't wait to hit one on the Field of Dreams.
Of course he hit on the first pitch. He always does. Bounding around the bases, he grinned from ear to ear as I cheered for him. Onlookers joined in the applause, and the older gentleman had a look of longing as my husband rounded for home. Extending the bat to him, he quickly accepted the invitation to hit a few. Like a scene from the movie, as the man headed to first it seemed his age disappeared, leaving a youthful version of himself to run the bases. The game continued as another man approached, asking if he could pitch a few. "I promised my son I'd throw the ball when I got here," he said as he motioned for his buddy to record the event. Perhaps more beautiful than the pristine farm and field, was the ongoing game of ball between strangers that has perpetuated through the years.
When we had our share of fun, we made our way to the concession stand, which was lined with memorabilia available for purchase. These trinkets, along with donations, were the only funds supporting the place. Like a kid in a candy store, we pondered which treasure was the best representation of our time at the Field of Dreams. The woman at the counter was a perfect representation of the wholesomeness of this place. The lines that graced her face curved around her gentle smile as she thanked us for visiting.
As we drove towards home, full of joy, we thought of what the Field of Dreams meant to us. It goes far beyond baseball. The field represents the crazy calls on our lives and the amazing things that can happen when we take risks to go for our dreams. We are building our field of dreams. Our goals may seem crazy... they make no sense to the sensible. But I believe that if we keep plowing ahead, planting the seeds of our plans, our time will come.
It seems our travels always involve three things: adventure, education, and missed chances. Even if I were to never recount our journeys here, their memories will forever remain incredibly vivid in our minds. To us, they're legendary. Our recent trip to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was no exception.
We awoke early that morning to the sweet symphony of nature outside our camper's windows. Perched above Lake Superior and nestled beneath towering oaks and pines, we continued to revel in our campsite victory. The city of Bayfield, Wisconsin maintains a campground just north of the marina. When my husband suggested camping there, I was reluctant because I had pictured a slab of concrete with little privacy or amenities. While the park lacked amenities beyond the basics, it more than made up for it in privacy. With our only neighbors tucked distantly behind the trees, we felt like camping royalty with our hidden spot and superior views.
The air was crisp, and the winds were charging off of the lake, cutting into our still thin Midwest skin. As groups of tourists gathered on the marina docks, whispers of six foot swells began to circulate through the formed line of guests anxiously awaiting the blessing to board the tour boats. Compassionate guides began making their way down the line with the disheartening news: due to the size of the swells on open water, we were not going to make it to the highly acclaimed Devil's Island-- an island known for jaw-dropping sea caves carved by the forces of nature. It was strongly recommended that weak-stomached landlubbers stay ashore, full refunds available. With a mix of ignorance and excitement, we shrugged off the warnings and climbed aboard.
Prior to shoving off, our captain reiterated the warning of choppy seas and offered us two things: last chances and barf bags. We refused, nervously chuckling about the thought that while rough waters weren't tummy-turning, a boat full of puking guests would certainly weaken the most iron-clad stomachs. Once we were no longer protected by the marina barriers, the chop was evident but more closely resembled a busy weekend on a Midwest lake. We settled in and began to soak in the panoramic scenery beyond our vessel.
Each island had a fascinating story that was animatedly described by our captivating captain. For example, Hermit Island was aptly named in honor of the legend of William Wilson, a man who despised the thought of company on his private island so much that he kept hopeful visitors away by firing rounds from his shotgun. Even if there were no tall tales to be told, our vigilant captain readily peered through his binoculars in search of wildlife that was abundant on the islands. We were privileged to see the majestic bald eagle, circling a nest on the tip of Oak Island. We were awed by the rock formations and boulder outcroppings that only enhanced the picturesque beauty of the shorelines.
As we neared the approach to Devil's Island, the waves begin to grow, tossing us around. Suddenly our sizable ship seemed to diminish in stature against the tumultuous waters. After some off-mic conversation between the captain and his crew, he addressed his guests by gesturing towards the fifteen foot spray crashing into the southern tip of the forbidden island. Avoiding a dance with the devil, he steered our ship towards calmer waters and redirected our attention to more island folklore.
As we approached Raspberry Island, the ship filled with shutter noise from every camera that was intently aimed at the crown jewel of the park. The lighthouse stood gleaming and proud atop the rocky shores, ready to beacon passing ships. A recent $3.4 million dollar restoration, equal to the annual operating budget for the entire park, brought this crown jewel back to its former glory. Although we did not go ashore, we immediately decided to make it part of our return visit.
Returning to the marina, the skies parted giving way to brilliant blue skies. The sun sparkled across the lake, marina, and charming city. As a gesture of kindness, the captain offered partial refunds to all guests in reparation for the missed island. Although we were impressed by this offer, we never felt slighted. Sure, it would have been incredible to witness the sea caves of Devil's Island, but we were equally satisfied with our adventure.
Oh, and I'm happy to report that no barf bags were filled on our journey!
Born with a severe case of wanderlust, I'm always searching for new adventures and sharing those stories here.