Once we decided to head toward Wisconsin it was obvious we had some people to see in Chicago along the way. Layne's cousin Lynn actually became the source of some controversy as my wife insisted I had not seen her "new home" in the Chicago suburbs. I thought I had. We proceeded due north only to discover I was right and Layne was wrong. I had been here before and the new house had been occupied seven years and I scored heavily in the bragging rights department. In my defense it was a lot of hours of looking at cornfields and watching 18 wheelers pass us by that led to my taking a bet against my wife in the first place.
Driving a van as a means of conveyance is new to me so I felt rather out of place in a 72 square foot mobile home amidst the suburban splendor. After an evening of much family chatter and dare I say whisky tasting I got up the next morning to do my duty by Rusty. He happily sniffed every trunk and every flowerbed in this lush neighborhood while I trailed along wondering why it reminded me so much of my childhood. I grew up at least in part in southern England where summer brings explosive green growth, just like these upper tier states. I walked Rusty through my childhood. It was excellent.
I guess I haven't been paying attention like I should but apparently under cover of political protest people have been stealing from box stores around the Windy City and so once again we face the prospect of more law and order posturing sets the newspapers to creating headlines. Golly one feels so far away when on vacation. I should do this more often. I remember when President Clinton bombed Serbia in the Balkan War I was busy sailing Central America and had no notion of what was going on in the outside world. Impeachment? Kosovo? Never heard of them... that must be another reason van life seems so appealing!
Lynn has fine taste in neighborhoods and we enjoyed our walk leaving the Tribune's fulminations to some other lucky reader. I'm on vacation.
I was certain I had visited here previously when Rusty and I happened on the duck pond, serene as a mirror and lined with what appeared to my nostalgic eye to be weeping willows.
At this stage in our journey to Lake Superior and back Rusty was viewing life on the road with a somewhat jaundiced eye and sure enough the van was still waiting in the driveway when we got back. Breakfast, eggs and lox and bagels as only Jewish cousins can enjoy, strong coffee to fortify us for the road and distanced farewells. We have discovered lots of reasons to come back to these northern parts and Lynn still remains the strongest draw. It's odd how some people make you feel like you should never leave and Rusty was of that opinion clearly stated. He had to be coaxed out of the house into the torture machine.
Next stop Evanston where I miraculously found an open parking space and stunned Layne and Webb by parallel parking Gannet 2 in a spot across the street from Webb's apartment.
Once you've sailed round the world half a dozen times and set a few records a van need not necessarily be considered anything close to a boat but Webb was very nice about it on his page. We left Layne to household chores and took Rusty to the lake which is a few blocks away.
Rusty was embarrassingly interested in every blade of grass and every tree trunk on the way out. He doesn't mark them so much as just pause to sniff them all which required Webb Chiles, a noted long legged walker to slow down a bit but he seem pleased to pit up with a lot from me. We talked of future travel plans and past travel adventures and in an odd way Webb managed to see the van for what it is: a vehicle for adventure and he sees the boat related similarities. I find it reassuring.
He gave Gannet 2 a close once over and of all the people who have enquired about our living arrangements he was the one to ask how many tanks we carry our 35 gallon water supply in...on a boat that is a critical requirement in case one tank splits, but we fortunately can stay simple with one big tank and should we spring. leak we will I hope be close to a supermarket for emergency supplies. We will I should point out, be carrying a water purifier as used by backpackers to render lakes and streams potable. I like to describe myself as an unarmed prepper, though I never expected my camper van to become a coronavirus bubble. The world's an unpredictable place.
From this point, watching Webb recede in the rear view mirror we were casting off from the known world and heading north into unknown territory with no friends, no kith nor kin down the road ahead of us.