The Wisconsin trip was more than just tractor and kayak destinations, obviously. Between the Palmetto State and the Badger State were many interesting miles and conversations. Here is a glimpse of the fling and return of last week’s 2,387 miles.
The trailer was longer than the truck, and it’s a big truck (Nissan Titan crew cab). Getting used to the feel of it following was not too difficult, however. Remembering to make wider turns and give a little more room for stops were the main adjustments we needed. The strong 5.6L V-8 moved the trailer without complaint, but the price for that power came due quite often at the gas pumps. The highest I paid per gallon was $3.189.
On Monday we drove from Lancaster to a little past Cincinnati. A taxi ride took us to Great American Ballpark where we saw the Reds lose 5-4 to the Astros. It was a great evening for a game, and it really felt good to be back at my team’s field, eating Skyline Chili, and watching the boat traffic on the Ohio River. Cincinnati has more of a minor league feel than a lot of other major league venues, and I mean that as a compliment. There is a genuine hometown feel, without the glitz and noise that too many teams insert into their game settings. Sitting there in Section 417, Row F, Seat 20, I got the feeling that this town truly loves baseball, and that the team really appreciates the town. It felt like community, and I was glad to be part of it for the night, again.
Tuesday’s driving took us through the flat, wide farmlands of central Indiana and Illinois, where big tractors are still necessary to accomplish the work. Relatively speaking, not many big tractors remain in use in SC; the farms just aren’t big enough to warrant the size and expense, except for some counties down on the coastal plain. I enjoyed watching the big equipment operate as I drove past, remembering the pictures of these mechanical beasts in Progressive Farmer and Farm Journal magazines that had impressed me as a boy.
At a rest area in northern Illinois, Will and I threw a Frisbee for about fifteen minutes to work out the stiffness of so much riding. Earlier that day I had set the CD player to randomly choose from six disks, and it took most of the day to cycle through the complete set of good driving music: Eagles (Hell Freezes Over), Santana (Supernatural), Shania Twain (Up!), John Fogerty (Blue Moon Swamp), Hootie and The Blowfish (Scattered, Smothered, and Covered), and Bob Seger (Greatest Hits). When we finally made it to Cameron, WI, we found a wonderful roadside motel that I’m glad to recommend to anyone going that way: The Viking Motel. It is the old one-story motor lodge type of motel, most of which went out of business after the rise of the interstate highway system. This one persists and is entirely pleasant and comfortable.
On Wednesday, while driving to our first tractor pickup, we saw a bear near the road, which ran back along the woods edge as we approached. It was the first bear Will had ever seen in the wild. Later in the day, after both tractors were in tow, I began to notice how many Allis-Chalmers tractors were in yards, in fields, and parked near the road. This was the southern half of Wisconsin, true A-C territory, not far from the headquarters of the company, West Allis, WI. I wanted to stop and look at them all, but the journey was afoot once again.
We decided to drive on into the night to put us in position the next day to see another baseball game. Along the way, we missed an exit, sending us toward Chicago instead of Bloomington. Since it was not an easy mistake to correct, we decided to continue through Chicago, guessing that the traffic wouldn’t be overly thick at 10:30 at night. We guessed wrongly. But we made it through and spent the night in Hobart, IN.
On Thursday we got a later start than intended, putting us off schedule to catch the 12:00 Reds game. Some phone calls to family members sitting at computers informed us that the Tennessee Smokies were not playing at home, but the Lexington Legends were. We had plenty of time to make it to the Legends game, so that became our goal for the day’s drive. The game turned out to be another highlight of the trip, with the Legends beating the Lake County Captains 12-11. In attendance at the game were about a dozen Miss Kentucky contestants, wearing their crowns and trying not to sweat. They were each attractive in various ways, but the most stunning woman in the place was one of the ballpark ushers. She was absolutely beautiful, and on my way out after the game, I told her so, as she stood at the exit giving out free stuff. After that, Will and I went to Wal-Mart to buy a chess set so I could teach him how to play.
Friday was a day for getting back home. We left Kentucky, crossed the Tennessee and North Carolina mountains, and came through South Carolina without incident. Shutdown in Lancaster was around 5:15 PM, and sleep was good that night. I didn’t unload the tractors until the next day.
Now, I’m sure, somewhere in all of this detail is some lesson of balance, but I’m not going to analyze it too much. It was a safe trip across many highway miles, and I add to my prayers for such at the start my prayers of gratitude at the end.