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God only knows how but I managed to return the car, code name Sox, on time to downtown Chicago this morning with: a full tank. This was entirely serendipitous; at least that’s what I am choosing to call my misplaced driving round the mean streets during which I happened upon a gas station. See, how I can now speak Yankee Doodle Dandy…

I left north Michigan this morning at 6. It was freezing with a bulging crescent moon and a clear starry sky to rival those night skies I have seen over Devon. I had about 4 hours sleep so when I started up the car it was with a sense of anxiety, not helped by AC/DC singing a Highway to Hell as my travelling overture.

You get an extra hour driving west and I needed it, dropping the car off at just after 11 am, a putative four hour trip having taken me six. My ability to travel slowly even when seemingly driving fast never ceases to confound me. Or others, I suspect.

Anyway I dropped off Sox in the subterranean car park and wished him well. I hope he makes it back to his Rocky Mountain home state some day.

Since we parted ways I’ve been waiting. I spent an hour like a pan handler on a street corner downtown; suddenly the adventure, the emotions, the fatigue and the sheer weight of my literal load did for me.

I sat in a shaft of sun between two skyscrapers and got my head together. I ate a turkey pastrami sandwich on rye that had been packed for me and sorted through my rubbish to lighten my luggage. For that hour it felt like that was my corner of this vast continent. I am glad to be going home but sad to leave. I’m frustrated I didn’t get time to go to Detroit, or Mackinac Island; that I haven’t seen the cherry trees in blossom or the ice melted on the lake. Perhaps another time. For now this is my spot in the world and it just about encapsulates how I feel.

Where it's @

Where it’s @

*This post was composed in a coffee shop, still waiting. I also put in a shift waiting on a railway platform in the sunshine. I was waiting for the hostel to open @ 3 – which it has.

The waiting is over.

The State Archives

I spent yesterday in Lansing, with mixed success. Firstly, we caught the state archivists flat-footed, with an antiquated indexing system and archive databases that don’t interface and are impossible even for them to navigate. I’ve had to leave it with them to get in touch with me on Monday. One archivist seemed disinterested; fortunately another had the good grace to be professionally embarrassed and I am hoping the files turn up next week. I resisted my strong Russell instinct to imagine every archivist in the building to be a total idiot… a genetic trait which requires the suppression of fulmination and the urge to go back there and find the damn things myself.

It’s a frustrating setback but hopefully only temporary.

The time not spent in the archives was instead put to good use. I was given a tour of key sites in town; travelling in some style in a red Pontiac. It made a change from the Nissan Versa (grey), which I keep trying to get into on the no steering wheel side #embarrassing

Determined not to give up on the documentary evidence side of the research, I returned to the state library to look at newspaper microfiche reels. I have discovered that these give me motion sickness at the moment (as well as elevators) and are to be avoided, for now. I did manage to gain some information that can be used for contextual detail later on. I was in the library so close to closing time that I ended up locked out in a second floor open air quadrangle, trapped like a myopic Rapunzel by my own curiosity. After a bit of rushing around trying doors (locked), I finally attracted someone’s attention who let me in, so I could then exit in the usual manner. Which I did, feeling a bit of a twit and still giddy from turning the microfiche.

This is the view from the quad. One, I might add, I had taken earlier, before I thought I might be sleeping there.


On the Road & on the Radio


I saw two dogs in Chicago. This was the second. The first was a black lab. I’ve only seen this photo on my phone but I liked the reflections of the windows on the street. And the fire hydrant. Why don’t we have those in the UK?

Anyway, I was liking Chicago a lot until I had to drive out of it: being honked at by a monster ice road trucker was the low point… Mind you I was going too slow.

I was temporarily horrified to find myself in Gary, Indiana; my cursory glance at the map hadn’t factored in that Illinois doesn’t segue directly into Michigan. All I can say about that is when Dame Helen Mirren described Essex, she obviously hadn’t been to Indiana.

Driving into Michigan on interstate 94 settled the nerves. In this neck of the woods the speed limit is largely observed and there are less trucks to get sandwiched between. I am a bit puzzled and alarmed by a sign on my offside wing mirror. It says, ‘careful, objects are closer than they appear’. Go figure…

The radio calmed me at my most angsty; singing along tunelessly helps. I had proper American stuff, nearly perfect for a road trip. We had Journey, John Mellencamp, Simon & Garfunkel, The Monkees and The Doors. The British held their musical end up with T Rex and the Eurythmics. I made do with ‘Dreamweaver’ as today’s theme tune, but perfection would have been Roxy Music’s ‘There’s a band playing on the radio…’ as I rattled the Nissan Versa (grey as Grandpa would say) over the interstate slow lane potholes.

Big Plane, Little Plane

I left home just before 7 a.m. yesterday morning and finally arrived in Chicago last night at around 9.00 p.m. local time. I had acquired a deaf right ear and a banging migraine behind the right eye along the way but after 19 hours travelling I am here so all is good. Now it’s 7.30 here and I have left my dorm mates (a French girl, a German girl and an unknown) snoring gently in the hottest bedroom in the known universe which seems to smell of stale alcohol this morning… For once, not mine.

I had to take two planes yesterday. A giant one for the transatlantic leg to Ottowa, where I was right in the middle of the middle section, next to a man from the Village People on my right who shared his white wine with me and a Canadian lady on my left, who (selfishly I thought!) did not. The second plane was a little one, very narrow. It only sits two and then one either side of the aisle. I was in the single seat but despite feeling a bit concerned, the pilot was chatty and gave us prior information about bumpiness, which I decided helps. In the event, it was not too bad at all, and I can recommend a phobia hypnotherapist in Southend-On-Sea, should anyone need one. I can also report that Chicago O’Hare airport is a piece of work. We came into land on a northern runway – planes of a similar (small) size were just queuing up behind us with one landing every minute or two. At one point I thought a jumbo was headed right for us as we made our descent over Lake Michigan, but they have their own runway, fortunately. The airport is massive and hugely busy. Still it’s nice; it smells of popcorn and they have some art projects showcased with local kids. Seems like they certainly know how to do an airport here in Illinois. I could have taken loads of photos yesterday once airport side, but as I could hardly stand up, or see straight I didn’t šŸ™‚ Because of my taking a connecting flight in Ottowa, I was able to clear US customs and immigration there, a nice quiet Canadian airport surrounded by piles of dirty snow. US immigration always put me on my mettle, they seem so cross. Anyway, despite my feeling they might put me right back on a plane to the UK, they have let me in, but not before a lot of questions, fingerprinting and a photograph.

The train from O’Hare is interesting. They tell you off for something you might do after every station stop. No eating, gambling, littering, putting luggage on seats and plenty of other mini travelling crimes that as I had never thought of before, I seem to have now forgotten. Anyway, I can feel that this is gently rambling, so I will end it here. I feel like I am still moving – this happens to me after a long trip and I am sure it will settle in a day or so. The deaf ear I can do without. It makes me seem like even more of an old dear than I already do in this hostel filled with youngsters.

Sorry, for any typos, I feel like I am typing on the poop deck in a gale, so re-reading is out of the question. Also, no pictures as I am doing this on a hostel computer. Same language, separated by a different keyboard. Keep getting a \ instead of a

Next challenge: driving.

Chicago, Illinois

In the first two months of 2013, 57 people have been shot and killed in the South Side of Chicago alone. Tragically, the latest victim was a 6 month old baby girl.

Earlier this week, also in Illinois, in a place called Waterloo, a 43 year old golfer was instantly swallowed up by a sinkhole 18 feet deep. Fortunately, and unlike the unfortunate man who recently met the same fate and disappeared in his bed in Florida, the golfer survived with just a dislocated shoulder.

Then last week I read about the massive snow dump that closed Chicago’s O’Hare airport. That’s the one I’ll be flying into in two weeks time.

This all makes excellent reading for your stress levels when you are flying into the city in two week’s time. Did I say TWO WEEK’S TIME?

I think I need to make an appointment at the GP for some valium. Sadly, I am not joking.

Looks pretty, if a bit wonky, but what lies beneath?