Thursday, July 23, 2020

Living Large

You have heard that tiresome joke about not being in Kansas anymore? Well some days its just the right thing to say and arriving back at the house Rusty avoided the van in the driveway and ran straight to the front door. Indeed we are not in the van anymore....
My wife has a cousin Lynn who with her husband Bob live in the eastern suburbs of the Windy City and arriving here after an absence of too many years was a priority of the trip, the van shake up cruise. My wife, the mistress of the malapropism described our first shake down cruise in our new boat as a shake up cruise many years ago. As that first weekend away was on San Francisco Bay a notoriously windy proving ground, "shake up" was he exact right description and it has stuck as we learn to live in 72 square feet with a dog who prefers the comforts of home.
It was a long, and I am forced to admit rather dreary drive across the plains of Indiana, which chose to exhibit itself per stereotype, down to the waving fields of corn and a dead straight dead flat Interstate 65 filled to capacity with 18 wheelers, and one Golden Van. Actually driving the Promaster is a lot easier than  writing about it. One sits high enough off the ground to be able to see a long way over the roofs of sedans and high enough indeed to look into the laps of passing truckers, not a view I would recommend nor encourage but to the van driver like myself, a former truck driver, the view is now available. 
Indiana also sprouts a large number of roadway windmills turning languidly under the roasting midwestern sun and we drove through heavy thunderstorms followed by gray skies and periods of bright sunshine in 94 degrees. I much appreciated the powerful air conditioner keeping me in a sweat free bubble inside the van. Setting cruise control at a blistering 63 miles per hour it is easy to sit back and drive much slower than I would were I in the Ford Fusion which at 80 miles per hour gets twice the mileage of the Promaster at 70 mph (15 mpg versus 30mpg). There is something completely relaxing about cruising the slow lane a nice cup of home-brew (tea in my case your choice may vary) in one of the many cupholders listening to NPR on the box and Rusty snoring between the seats. Not actually snoring but laying down wondering when the noise will end. He also found the scenery new and interesting because he is my dog and curiosity is a required characteristic in my family.
In an effort to seek out a smidgen of the old days my wife looked up a cidery in Indianapolis of all places and we made a cautious reconnaissance. Mask, distant tables and not many patrons at two in the afternoon. We took the plunge. Rusty and I walked and Layne ordered a flight of her favorite alcohol. For Rusty and I the big city is a new experience and he was as fascinated as I by a group of young people huddling and then separating; what he thought I don't know but I suspected some relief from the tedium and downtrodden neighborhood changed hands in the alley. I rather missed Key West as we strolled past wrecked homes and trash and signs of gentrification even.
And our 21 foot van backs nicely into a car space. Front wheel drives means no transmission tunnel through the van making for a flat floor and a six foot wide body allows for a queen sized bed set sideways. Oh and front wheel drive gives the van a better turning circle than some sedans which combined with an expansive back up camera (useable while driving down the road incidentally) makes it easy to park around town. I used to drive eighteen wheelers in San Francisco for a living so my views may be biased by experience.
We penetrated Indianapolis for one reason: to taste Layne's favorite tipple, hard cider. We hoped for the best but were prepared to drive away were crowding masks or lack fo awareness an issue and of course they weren't. Masks everywhere, properly distanced tables with just a couple of customers mid afternoon and we tasted a flight of ciders, only after Rusty got his neighborhood walk, of course.
Our brief foray to the Ash/Elm Cidery was a bittersweet reminder of how much we are missing on this trip thanks to the limitations imposed by the coronavirus. It can't be helped that attractions and museums and points of interest are all closed and in the grand scheme of things it doesn't in the words of Rick in Casablanca "...amount to a hill of beans." And God knows the world has problems at the moment. But these limitations bring one back to earth after miles of innocuous, as normal driving. 
And so we went on, Up North to the day's goal, too far, too quickly but very necessary. Two people to visit  in as many days before we test our mettle in the Far North Woods of Wisconsin, we tackled the traffic and the lane changes demanded by Google maps to arrive at Lyn's place in the suburbs. 
We pulled up in a wooded leafy suburb and after Lynn told me the van was fine where it was I changed my order from lemonade to a glass of wine. We had arrived. Rusty was in no state of mind to refuse a comfortable spot on a thick pile carpet until it came to bedtime. Then he got other ideas about the best way to rest from an overly long road trip.
It wasn't long before I joined him and left the cousins to their natter.