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American Idle -- Writer's Poke #269




Before going to work, I like to stop off at the local coffee shop in the morning. I find it's a good place to center myself, prep for the day ahead, and catch up on some grading.

Meanwhile, hordes of older people congregate there, too, for no other purpose than to gossip, chat loudly, and drink coffee. And I have to admit it; if it weren't for my trusty headphones, I'm sure I would find them and their idle conversations to be annoying at best and depressing at worst.

This morning I happened to forget my headphones, and so I was treated to chatter about who was most likely to be voted off American Idol, how late the winter Olympics forces people to stay up past sensible bedtimes, and where to stay in Las Vegas on upcoming adventures.

I don't blame these people for being old. Unless you die, you have no control over the aging process. But I do blame them for how they apparently "live." Do their lives really revolve around TV and trips to Las Vegas? Or, is that just the kind of thing that people find interesting to chat about in coffee shops? Actually, I found the conversation about Vegas to be rather interesting, but all too often, what I tend to hear is talk about the latest reality shows on TV, and I find myself thinking that perhaps living a long life isn't all that important if it's spent watching others "live" and then reporting back to others on your observations.

How long would you ideally like to live? What plans do you have for your life, and how will you know when you've lived long enough?

"We would all be idle if we could." -- Samuel Johnson

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First stop: Caledonia, Minnesota. Where's that? It's a small town in the southeast corner of the state. Before I opened my Rand McNally Road Atlas, I had never heard of it, and before I punched the town name into Trip Advisor, I didn't know if there was anything there worth visiting.

Distance from home: About 75 miles.

Challenge #1: Leaving by 6:30 a.m.

Challenge #2: Taking my dog, Atticus.

Actually, Atticus is a good dog on a road trip, but the forecast indicated that it was going to get into the 90s. I wanted to leave early in the …