2003.12.03 Looking for the other end of the highway

Written by David Green.


A few notes from a trip down Nowhere Road....

Fort Wayne, Indiana: There seems to be a rather large amount of Saturns on the Interstate, and they can be broken down into two groups. Fast Saturns, which are virtually all driven by attractive women at 75 or so mph, and slow ones, almost all driven by nerdy-looking guys doing about 45.

I don’t know if the folks at Saturn realize their market consists totally of geeky guys and gorgeous females, but the freeway doesn’t lie.

Anderson, Indiana: Since I didn’t start out until after 1 p.m., I stopped for the evening in Anderson rather than test the Friday night Indianapolis rush hour. The motel I stayed at had a stack of Sauder Village brochures in the lobby. I guess I didn’t drive as far as I thought.

Terre Haute, Indiana: Alas, I hit town too late for breakfast, so I didn’t get to try the locally-famous square donuts. Maybe next time.

Illinois State Line: I just barely entered the state when a red Ferrari went blasting past, followed by a SUV with a personalized license plate reading “TRYST.” Some states just don’t screen their plates as well as others.

West of Effingham, Illinois: Stopped at a rest area with four-foot high doors on the restroom stalls. These are really worthless. Almost everyone walking by seems to want to peek in. Finish business very quickly.

Mile marker 59, I-70 West: Oldsmobile’s million-mile odometer hits 111,111.1 miles. I consider stopping and pouring remains of my Mountain Dew over the hood, but not sure if Illinois state troopers have sense of humor. Continue driving west.

St. Louis, Missouri: Arrive the day before Aunt Sue’s birthday. My sister, who has already arrived, has secretly baked a German chocolate cake (Aunt Sue’s favorite) and left it in her freezer. Husband Gary will bring it the next day when he drives over from Kansas City for a few hours.

My sister gets up early on Aunt Sue’s birthday and goes running. While she’s gone, Aunt Sue bakes her own German chocolate cake, complete with frosting from scratch. My sister ends up being the one surprised.

When Gary arrives, he mentions that a Kansas state trooper stopped him for going 79 mph. Gary, who’s a sheriff’s deputy himself, apparently knows what to say in such circumstances as the trooper only cautions him to watch out for deer and lets him go.

My late Aunt Liz’s estate lawyer, who’s been working with Aunt Sue since Liz’s death, stops by with flowers and a birthday card and stays for an hour. I’m impressed, presuming she doesn’t bill for the visit.

I really like the neighborhood Aunt Sue lives in. There’s a Sinclair gas station a few blocks away. I haven’t seen one of those in many years. There’s a record shop called “Vintage Vinyl” that I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to visit. There’s all sorts of small shops, galleries and clubs. Chuck Berry was to appear at a club around the corner from Aunt Sue’s the day after I left. I really regret missing that. There’s also a supermarket with an armed guard just inside the door. Too many bread thefts, I suppose.

The big attraction, of course, was Aunt Sue herself. Once again, she didn’t fail to surprise. My sister broke the big news that she was helping sort through some papers and found Aunt Sue’s World War II service discharge papers, which listed “divorced” as her marital status. It turns out Sue was married for several years in the 1930s and somehow neither she nor any of her now-dead brothers and sisters ever mentioned it.

Later, we found out she also knew how to drive, learning how on a seven-passenger Essex during her marriage. After her divorce, there was no parking space at her new home so she just stopped driving but was apparently the only female in the family who did drive. I keep waiting for more big news, like maybe she was really Amelia Earhart, but those were the two big surprises for this trip.

After several days of a 97-year-old woman consistently kicking my butt playing dominoes, it was time to leave. The trip back wasn’t quite as eventful as the one out.

I did finally see one of the long-delayed Chevrolet SSR retro pickups on a transporter in Indiana. I stayed at a motel 40 miles southwest of Indianapolis and it, too, had Sauder Village brochures in the lobby.

I made my only wrong turn of the trip in a construction zone entering I-465 (locally known as the Dave Letterman By-Pass) near Indianapolis. I took the south exit off I-70 instead of the north and had to travel the wrong way several miles before I could exit and get back on in the right direction.

Stopping at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to visit their gift shop, I also used their rest room, which had full size doors and automatic commode flushers. Those people running the Illinois rest stops could take lessons.

With 30 to 60 mph winds at my back, the last 200 miles just flew by. And isn’t that the way it is with vacations?

    – Dec. 3, 2003 
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
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    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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