Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thanksgiving Day 2017: Survival of the Bourbon Lover

I've been gone a while, but I'm back.  For those of you who hoped that I'd finally met my demise, or at the very least suffered enough brain damage to render me illiterate, I'm happy to inform you that I'm alive and my mental faculties are as sharp as ever.

You guys in the back row can stop laughing just about any time.

On Wednesday, November 22nd, I put my car under me and headed out to enjoy Thanksgiving with my brother, Shotgun Bob.  Bob and his family live in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, which is 750 miles door to door.  This translates into a 12 hour drive, but don't you believe it.  For one thing, you have to contend with Chicago, and its slimy political container Illinois.

I left Columbus, Ohio at 7:30 AM, and by the time I got to the West side of the big windy, I had severe doubts about making the drive in one day.  I got as far as Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and checked in to the good old Comfort Inn - which, as it turned out, was a smart move.  I was fatigued, and the motel was featuring some kind of event that featured free food, beer, and wine.  I passed on the beer, and knocked myself out on the free slop (it has to be edible - providing the FDA has heard of Black River Falls and made a stop over there in the last 25 years) and did my best to deplete the box of white wine.  The red was empty.

One extended family played it smart and ordered their own pizza.  They were having some kind of family reunion or something, and the grandparents were getting all gooey over the grand-kids.  The kids were too busy hogging down pizza to make more noise than a garbage disposal processing forty pounds of over cooked spaghetti, and I was too tired to care anyway.  I polished off the wine and went to bed early.

Driving the next day was an easy two hours to Shotgun Bob's new home, which is set out in the middle of nowhere, and by that I mean nowhere.  Rice Lake itself is in the middle of nowhere, and Bob's home is outside the big city - somewhere in the middle of a place that city dwellers don't realize exists, and suburban dwellers would dream about when they're high on pot, and wouldn't last more than a week in should they actually decide to visit.  There is no cable TV service, and likely never will be.  I can't imagine the company that will be willing to install thirty-five miles of fiber optic cable to add two customers, one of which has "Privit Propitty - Keep Out!!" signs every ten feet in three different languages.  And while I'm on the subject, remember that all that cable will have to be maintained during the Wisconsin winter; just ask the regional (there is no local) electric company or phone company workers about that little caveat.  Not the managers, mind you.  The workers that actually have to go out, find and fix downed wires.

Shotgun Bob's household consists of one wife (The Girl), one son (Albert), four dogs and two cats.  His home will easily accommodate five guests; ten if they're friendly with each other.  Instead of a garage he has a pole barn which will house six full size pickup trucks, a four wheel drive farm tractor, and a workshop.  Wildlife is plentiful; Albert shot a deer the morning after Thanksgiving, and there are bear in the area.

Saturday we drove in to Eau Claire for dinner an a movie.  We saw Murder on the Orient Express, which is an excellent film even if you know the story.  I've seen earlier versions of this one, and they pale by comparison.  The cinematography of the mountains is outstanding, as is the acting and the costumes.  The film's only problem is this: You have to watch the film in order to enjoy it.  This cuts the audience size by half or more, as the young people of today have no respect for their elders the attention span of a ferret on methamphetamine.

I drove back on Sunday, making the drive in one day.  That was probably a mistake in some ways, but not so much in others.  I went through the big windy again, mainly because I'm too lazy to decide on an alternate route, but also because I have a nice, new I-Pass that I wanted to use.  Believe me, it helps.

'Twere a bit brisk the morning I left.  Check the photo of my car, and know that I let it warm up a bit before the drive.

My Car, the Day of Departure
Wisconsin is picturesque during the day.  I wish I had someone riding shotgun to operate the camera and get a few shots of the countryside.  I managed this one, as there was virtually no one else on the road.  The shot doesn't do Wisconsin justice, but I think you'll get the idea.

Wisconsin, On the Way Home
It was easy living until I hit Illinois, then the whole thing slammed to a 5 mph crawl.  One accident after another clogged the expressway.  Here's a shot that I managed to take while driving.

Accident on the Freeway
The worst stretch of highway was I-65 between Chicago and Indianapolis.  The traffic crimes I observed most often were speeding and tailgating.  I'm sure distracted driving is another major factor, but I was too busy dodging cars and trying to stay alive to see if drivers were busy on their cell phones.

I'm going to write another rant about dangerous driving in general, but on I-65 I saw five accidents.  I was one to two minutes behind two of these, one of which was a rollover accident.  A car was upside-down in the median between the highways.  All were multi-car accidents, and although I didn't stop to interview any of the drivers, I'm giving 12 to 1 odds that no one, not one driver, would ever admit that he caused the accident and should change his future behavior to make sure he never caused another.

Anyway, by Divine protection I survived unscathed.  It's nice to be home.


CWMartin said...

Only trip in Big Windy was as a yout' with sis's bro-in-law at the wheel. On the Dan Ryan, asks we three kids (oldest maybe 12) to help him get in the right lane for Comiskey Park. After a hair raising 10 minute eternity, we had him where he needed to be. We settled in to yak with each other and in a heartbeat he was three lanes back whence we came. NEVER gonna do it on my own.

Mad Jack said...

CW: That's the Big Windy, alright. I'm not sure what's worse, the Big Windy or Detroit. I had a contract in Southfield, and I remember driving I-75 during rush hour. The speed limit is 55, and I'm in the center lane of a 3 lane highway doing a solid 85 and praying I don't get rear ended. People in the right lane are probably doing 70, 75; the left lane had to be doing 95 or 100, and wanted to do 120. No, I'm not exaggerating.

Every morning in Columbus I get the weather report, and the accident report. You'd think people would learn something, but I guess not.