roadtrip with ping: the end is nigh

Across the mighty river
 To cross the Mississippi River heading west—at whatever point—is always exciting for me. Changping had never heard of the Mississippi river. I tried to explain that it was one of the world's mightiest rivers, but I couldn't even begin to describe what it means culturally. I gave up.
    On this bridge, halfway across you enter the state of Missouri, which means I'm about three hours from home. This area is called the Bootheel. It floods. There are cotton fields. It is closer to the South in character than the rest of Missouri, which itself has a split personality—Midwestern, Western, Northern, Southern. Its borders eight states, the most in the US: Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. The Ozarks, my area, is hillbilly central. I spent my formative years in the Ozarks, in Arkansas, and the rolling hills feel like home.
Storm forming over the Walmart parking lot in Dexter, Mo.

When I hit Missouri, I hit Walmart. The chain began in Bentonville, Ark., not all that far away, and dots the state of Missouri. However, there are few such emporia on my route, and I need to buy drinking water, milk and other necessities to get me through the night at my place, which is half an hour from the nearest store or gas station.
   I should have taken that storm as an omen.

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