Monday, September 21, 2015

Wilbo Takes the Long Road Home to Ann Arbor @PureMichigan

Supertramp released the album, "Breakfast in America" in 1979, and most of the tracks on that album played on the radio and hit the top ten in America. That album wrote its lyrics straight onto my fifteen year old brain. Most of Bob Seger's lyrics engraved themselves on my teenage brain, too. Supertramp, however, traveled with me. "I took a jumbo across the Midwest, going to see the Saint Louis Arch". To wit, my parents saved up money to fly me by jet airplane to St. Louis, Missouri to live for awhile with a pen pal, and Supertramp dominated the airwaves that summer, a hot summer in a town known for hot weather. I've talked about the virtual jukebox that is my mind and how I often prefer my inner disc jockey to the radio or Pandora. My mind is still clear enough to recreate melody and lyrics, putting them on endless loop. Today, as I drove to Ann Arbor to see my child for her birthday, I enjoyed endless rounds of "You Took the Long Way Home". 

"You Took the Long Way Home" has to be a joke thrown up by my unconscious. I didn't hit the freeway to Grand Rapids, south to Kalamazoo and then east to Ann Arbor. I made up a route of Michigan blue highways. first, I departed Muskegon by following Apple Avenue so I could have my car checked by Vans, arguably the best oil change outfit in the business. I actually passed by the Van's on Sherman because I liked the one on Apple so much. I had no low fluids, my tranny fluid was cherry and one of my brake lights had a low intensity. Van's charges nothing for these checks and top offs, and I tip a fiver every time the time gives my Subaru the once over. I roll into Van's every time I have a road trip planned, and it's fun to banter with the friendly staff.

Amazing how Supertramp became the gateway into Dire Straits, Sultans of Swing, and the Doobie Brothers, What a Fool Believes. How many times I've sung to myself, "He's got a day time job, he's doing alright"? By the way, I have two interviews this week, and hopefully I'll be doing all right with a day time job. Right now, I feel like I am living the Book of Job, the early verses. Riding around in the belly of a whale, the story of Jonah, might be a good place to pass time because I've always wanted to travel on the Mediterranean. 

Apple Avenue turns into M-46, which terminates east of Cedar Springs abruptly at the shores of Pine Lake. I had little patience to find the road again, which goes all the way to Saginaw. I cut south to M-57, which had a huge zoo called Deer Tracks Junction. I stared at the deer in the field as I zipped past, gazing through a ten foot high wire fence that bounded the reserve. The deer had stripped the maples lining the property line up as far as a deer could reach, about nine feet up. I had some interest in stopping but put it on my leaky bucket list. Going to Deer Tracks Junction will probably leak out of the bucket in time.

I arrived in Greenville, and I had banking to do, a good reason to stop for a beer at one of several microbreweries in that town. Looking at a map now, I see 57 Brewery might have been the only game in town. And I turned south on M-91 in downtown Greenville, and the town just vanishes a few minutes south of downtown. I wanted a stop, and I saw nothing but oil changes and tire shops and transportation related shops. M-91 takes commuters south into Grand Rapids, so that's where residents of a bedroom community keep their wheels turning so the breadwinners can keep earning. 

I had hoped Belding might give me a place to bank online and make a pit stop. Downtown Belding has remarkable buildings from the days before 1932 when the town wove silk into famous thread. I found little that looked open. A coffee house promised comfort and lured me into stopping, when I saw the closed on Monday line. Three signs told about the Belding Brothers and their threads. Lifelines carried out to sinking ships by life boat rowers once were woven from Belding silks. Glad a sign was posted to tell me about that heroic fact as no one was around to share the history. One more town with history, scores of informative markers and dearths of pedestrians. I found an open Marathon station with a clean rest room, verified my funds had transferred, and punched in a route to Ann Arbor, a route requiring two hours to reach the practice field of the Marching Wolverines. When I arrived at the corner of State Road and M-66, I bolted for Battle Creek and ignored Siri. Siri was going to take me through a lot of traffic and through Lansing, and I just couldn't handle Lansing today.

So Siri announced every east - west road, nice facts to know, advising me to go east as I went south. At the Ionia off ramp from 96 East, a gravel hauler pulled across two lanes ineptly and I braked and steered into the shoulder to avoid rear ending it. I didn't curse or blow my horn as I didn't want to distract the obviously green driver who had totally ignored my oncoming presence. Not experienced enough to yield; hardly experienced enough to appreciate feedback. He's got a daytime job, he's doing all right, though. I stopped in Nashville, and one station had pumps promising only 85 percent ethanol. I had no idea if my car ran on ethanol and felt disappointed. I had just passed an ethanol plant five miles previous to Nashville. So I crossed the street to buy twenty dollars worth at Shell, and the Shell had an IGA superstore and a Subway sandwich stand attached, everything one could wish for the road on sale. 

In Battle Creek, I jogged through an industrial district, noting the typical businesses of a tenderloin, relaxation spas and self-styled gentleman's club. I arrived at interchange where Firekeeper's new hotel tower loomed, and I merged into traffic, finally moving at a freeway speed. I made Ann Arbor half an hour later than I had hoped and I settled in to enjoy a show made up of songs from movies starring Robin Williams. "Nano Nano", I wished to my companion in the stands. Poor Robin, no matter how badly pathology messed with that agile mind, I wished you had taken a longer way home.

Will Juntunen

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