In September, 2006, when my best friend Rick Garman was about to turn 40, he said the only thing that would get him through this milestone was a trip to Branson, MO to see the World's Largest Ball of Twine, and also for some stops along the way for other typically American roadside attractions. I immediately signed on. Because we are both travel writers (I write Frommer's New Orleans, Frommer's Las Vegas, California for Dummies, Las Vegas for Dummies, and wrote the Bali section in the forthcoming Frommer's Dream Vacations, while Rick is the author of Moon Las Vegas, and runs, we blogged the whole adventure, which turned into an epic, 2,300 mile, nine-day trip down the highways, byways and back roads of the southern United States. As each of us deal with ongoing health problems -- I have been dealing with the occasionally grueling but more often annoying issues that come with ten years of metastisized breast cancer and corresponding brutal if well-meaning treatment, while Rick has added various serious conditions of his own (because he hates letting me always be the center of medical attention) -- we sardonically dubbed the trip "Plucky Survivors See America."

And boy did we. From the world's largest ball of twine to a series of exquisite hand crafted miniature replicas of famous locales, to the Britany Spears Museum to the Bill Clinton Library, from pie shacks to barbeque, from Bonnie and Clyde's death site to the scene of Civil Rights Marches to the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, we learned a great deal about surviving and what people choose to make their legacy. We saw a lot and we may have eaten even more.

So this year, we are doing it all over again.

"Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Midwest Express" begins August 30, as the plucky duo fly to Chicago and immediately set out on a 2,700 mile trip through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Along the way, in keeping with our special mix of sublime and ridiculous, and our belief that all accomplishments are worthy, even the ones that seem a little silly or, better still, downright weird, we intend to visit the Spam Museum, the Blue Bunny ice cream factory, the Museum of Funeral Customs and that's just for starters. There will be reports from the Negro League Baseball Museum, various Mark Twain homage sites, Hog Fest 2007 and so much more, illustrated with photos from cornet player Bix Biederbecke's grave site, the hobo graveyard and the original farmhouse from the iconic painting America Gothic. Expect some cutthroat games of Cow, the best road game ever. And of course, there were be barbeque. And donuts.

From ice cream factories to sculptures that sprawl across acres of land, from Abraham Lincoln to a psychiatric museum with a stop for a Big Giant Ball of Popcorn, once again, all of it will be updated with detailed entries, complete with photos and even the occasional video blog entry, daily at

"Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Midwest Express" hits the road August 30. Join us for the ride, won't you?

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