Mike Thvedt: freelancer, vagabond.

Heat Level: Thai

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One grey day a while back I pulled off the highway for some coffee. I ended up in one of Chicago’s more affluent suburbs, north of the Kennedy Expressway. While I was there, the grey drizzle turned into a torrential downpour. Sirens went on in the distance. They sounded a little like Chicago’s air raid sirens, which are of course never used but still tested periodically. But no, it was the tornado siren. Tornado siren! I didn’t know tornados were allowed so close to Chicago. They belong mainly on farms in Kansas. I think there’s a law.

The protocol for tornado warnings is, evidently, to cram every gossipy old person and vapid teenage girl into the cramped Starbucks I was in. The chain coffee shop apparently doubles as a tornado shelter. Then, everyone proceeds to be loud and incredibly annoying until the tornadoes have all been frightened away.

Though I am not a tornado, the protocol worked on me. Once the sirens died down, I promptly fled that place, returned to my car, hydroplaned back to the highway, and headed further west.

I stopped by a Thai place for dinner that day. The menu explained any dish was to be ordered on a 1-10 heat scale. This was the scale:

1. Mild
2. Mild-medium
3. Medium
4. Medium-hot
5. Hot
6-10. Thai

You might say they have some pretty Thai standards.

I later made my way to the Illinois Valley, home of Starved Rock State Park, among other things, and spent several days there. Two hours west of Chicago, this is the most beautiful place I’ve seen in the Midwest, and among the most lovely spots I’ve seen anywhere. Stay tuned…