Monday, January 05, 2004

Moose tracks, nuclear corn, and the bermuda triangle

column #2 of Travels with Lola (from the Oberlin News-Tribune)

And we’re off!

Our much-planned cross-country journey in our little school bus has finally arrived. After a few weeks getting ready at my folks’ place in Ashtabula (and dropping most of our belongings in their basement), we sped off in search of excitement and adventure in the U.S.A.

But then we were passing Cobblestone Square on I-90 and couldn’t help but stop in and see what movies were showing. Three hours, sixteen dollars, and "28 Days Later," we were back on the road.

Soon we passed the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant and Kaci noticed the many rows of corn across the street from the plant. "Wouldn’t you like to eat that corn?" Kaci asks. (Do you know where your food comes from?)

Just after sundown on our second day, a blown tire on I-94 in southern Michigan brought our trip to a screeching halt (at least that’s what it sounded like to me).

Within ten minutes, Officer Rule stopped and contacted the Good Sam Club for us. Good Sam is similar to AAA road service, but specially geared for RVs and motor homes.

I guess we were looking fairly pathetic at our misfortune, so the trooper tried to cheer us up. "If it makes you feel any better, this is where semis run off the road, cars cross the median, and fatalities occur." She even told us that the Michigan State Police refer to that section of highway as the "Bermuda Triangle" due to all the strange accidents.

I’m not sure why this would make us feel better. Perhaps her point was that we just had a flat tire, and not a large semi barreling down the road at us. But with massive trucks driving 80 mph and passing within feet of our bus, but we were not put at ease by the added knowledge that one of them could easily go off course.

Good Sam indicated that their nearest truck from us was 100 miles away, and they would rather reimburse us to hire a different company. The trooper called the nearest driver they could find.

It was only when he arrived 90 minutes later that we learned the "local" driver was 65 miles away when contacted. And it was only when he was done and showed us his bill that we learned he was charging us mileage for the 130 miles of driving he had to do to get to and from our lonely spot on the highway and he was charging us labor for those 2 hours of driving. Of course, this was in addition to the labor of changing the tire.

Yes, we had one of our tires replaced by one of our spares, for a mere $364. By the way, if you ever have tire trouble in southern Michigan, the name of the company you can count on for the same friendly service is Carlson’s 24 Hour Truck Repair. (Stay tuned to see if we do get reimbursed by Good Sam.)

Eventually we made it to the Lake Michigan coast and ended up in the small resort town of Pentwater. Walking down the street, I recognized the shop where eight years earlier I first experienced the amazing power of moose tracks ice cream. I can still taste those flavory fudge swirls mixed with those crunchy-yet-creamy peanut butter cups in that wonderful waffle cone. You never forget your first.

Alas, a memorial cone was not to be. The only animal listed on their ice cream menu was a grasshopper or a cow or some other silly thing. No moose.

After our day in the little town, it was time to say goodbye. Prior to our trip, Kaci had volunteered to work at a week-long music festival in Michigan for women only (or rather, "womyn" only). We decided to incorporate it into our trip rather than wait until it was over to begin our journey.

So I dropped her off near Hart, with the plan to pick her up after the festival. I headed north up the coast of Lake Michigan, arriving in Traverse City late at night. Fortunately, there was a nearby WalMart where I could stop for the night.

WalMart has a policy of allowing trailers and mobile homes to set up in their parking lots at night. I guess their assumption is that when you wake up, you’ll stop inside for your coffee, newspaper, or other groceries rather than heading somewhere else. Some don’t allow the overnight parking, but that is more often due to city ordinance than any store policy.

Kaci and I may not agree with all of WalMart’s politics or economics. But we’re not against accepting a free spot of land from them when it’s late and we need to to rest our weary bus.

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