Life’s a TRip: Episode 10

By Ojijaak

Nokomis

The sun was a bit less than a finger’s width above the horizon, but it was a dull red-orange and surrounded by a blue-gray sky. The air was close, and, together, these conditions promised an uncomfortably hot and muggy day ahead. I was already perspiring freely as I bent over the boot of my beautiful “new” car to attempt replacement of the left rear turn signal bulb.

After removing those things in the boot that I had not taken into the hotel room, I removed the three screws that attach the liner to the interior body panels. Phew! Lo and behold, as I moved the lamp socket, the bulb began blinking. Hmmm…not quite grounding. I pressed the socket back in place, and the blinking stopped. Here you may insert various “adult” words. I repeated the process with the same result until I decided that the correction (including, as Mark Macy later suggested, cutting some paint where the socket makes contact) might best be attempted in Polly’s home garage where there was less risk of damage.

Back to the room for the morning shower and checkout. It was July 27, and Polly, Nokomis, and I were due in Quincy, Illinois, later that afternoon. I wanted Polly to take her first long day on the road in short runs, stopping frequently both for her as well as for the benefit of Nokomis and me. Secondary highways, “blue roads,” across the farmland, varying speed and engine speed as we drove.

Polly did well. Nokomis and I missed the comfort of air conditioning. We drank and wore lots of water. Fun fact: It appears that every town in Illinois with a population of 200 or so has at least one Casey’s General Store. They sell water.

I have gotten ahead of myself. Back to the hotel: We all have routines. For me, the start and end of each day includes a shower, toothbrushing, optional shaving, etc. When traveling, I must add unpacking and packing as well as checking the room for items that may have been overlooked while packing.

Nokomis has a routine as well. If you have a dog, you know the particulars. Nokomis likes a morning walk, but most hotel parking areas are less than ideal for proper dog walking. We do our best.

Finally, Polly has an enforced routine. Before starting up, I check fluid levels. This will take place, so I will not include the ritual description after this. Because Annie is fitted with the hyperactive Weber carburetor, I have begun to check dashpot oil as well. This proved to be unnecessary in Polly’s case, but I have difficulty in forming new or breaking old habits.

The result of following these routines was that we drove off from the hotel just before 08.00 hours, Eastern Time. That is about one hour later than I had thought, mostly due to the time spent with the faulty turn signal.

Polly has own dedicated Garmin GPS device. The programming for this device, as well as for Annie’s avoids “highways.” I would have been better served to navigate out of Indianapolis. I know the area. Garmin, though, directed me from the south suburbs northward through the western edge of downtown to Michigan Road in order to intersect US 52 in Lebanon. Evidently, Garmin is unaware that Indianapolis does a poor job of synchronizing traffic lights, and many of these seem to require that you make an appointment for passage.

Thus, more time was lost, and Lebanon appeared to be the lastgood opportunity for fuel until we reached Rantoul, Illinois. The fuel tank in a TR6 is not generous, so we filled and bought our first water for the day.

US Highway 52 is a rolling, smooth, four-lane divided route, ordinarily lightly traveled. It is perfect for varying engine speed without annoying other drivers. That is what I was doing, and not really paying attention to the speedometer as we approached Indiana Route 28 south of Lafayette. We crested a hill and there was the local cop in the median trolling for revenue for his townor the county. No, sorry…I meant to say that he was promoting public safety by monitoring vehicle speed. Sure, that’s what he was doing…

I glanced at the speedometer, but having determined that it reads about three percent slow, and that, whatever the result, we had already been tracked, I motored on. Evidently, we failed to set off his wake up alarm or perhaps he felt that anyone driving such an old car would not have sufficient resources to cover a fine. My best estimate is that we were cruising at about 63 mphin the 55 mph zone. Onward!

Left, westward, on Indiana 28, a two-lane, truly “blue road.” Farms, corn, beans, flat, here and there, 90-degree turns. Not much fun, but a lot more gearbox work, and not much to distract a driver. I became more aware with each mile of just how completely driving Polly enveloped me with driving the car and feeling the road. I had forgotten these sensations because Annie doesn’t venture so far afield, Polly had been off the road for more than a year and a half, and it came to me that this would bemy longest day at the wheel of an LBC since 1972!

It was already hot. Nokomis was unable to locate the non-existent air conditioning ducts. The eyeball vents in the dash just brought in more hot, humid air, so she was spending more of her time with her head out of the window. I wished that I could do the same, but I did have a cooling towel that helped a bit. We made another water stop in Williamsport, Indiana, and, although not necessary, I topped Polly’s tank as well.

I would like very much to say something nice about our Illinois transit. The best I can find to say is that Illinois was green…verdant. That was due to the wet Spring, of course, so the green was not that of healthy crops in farm fields. The fields were not doing as well as the roadside weeds; I am afraid that Illinois farmers will not have a great year.

Anyway, the road rolled on through little towns, each with their own Casey’s General Store, and many with either a Dollar General or a Family Dollar: Henning, Armstrong, Gifford, and finally Rantoul, the largest “city” that we would see until we arrived in Quincy, on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Heyworth, McLean, and Havana, where we stopped again for water and a dog walk. In Havana, we intersected US 24, having crossed Illinois on US 136. I would have thought that Garmin would leave us on US 24 into Quincy, but I was alerted to an upcoming right turn. We found ourselves on a county road thatjust did not feel right. I thought that I heard banjos.

Along the closest thing that I could find to a straight, I pulled to the right berm to consult my paper map. From the opposite direction came a red Ford pick up that slowed and stopped abreast of us. “You OK?”

“I think so. My GPS sent me down this road. I ‘m just checking a map.”

“Where you headed?”

“Quincy.”

“Yep…straight ahead. Stay on this road, and you’ll come to Broadway Street. That’s Quincy.”

“OK, thanks.” So, this was Garmin avoiding a highway again. I continued down the county road. It was the most scenic that I had driven all through the day, after all, and, sure enough, we came to a sign that announced that we were approaching Broadway Street.

By this time it was mid-afternoon and hot. Both Nokomis and I were tired. With respect, there had been no great road in Illinois on which to enjoy Polly to her best advantage. It was great to drive her and to become reacquainted with her controls and gauges, but there had been nothing other than prairie farmland to see from a straight, flat road continuing without differentiation from east to west. I knew, too, that the next day would be no better.

Looking back, our Illinois highlight came during the evening at the hotel. I took Nokomis out for her evening walk, and met several railroad workmen who were staying at the hotel while they worked to repair flood damage to the rail routes. They said that they had been working at pumping flood water for nearly three weeks, and that just that day, they had first seen the rails emerge from the flood. Imagine that; I had already crossed the Mississippi three times on this excursion, and had seen buildings two or more miles from the river flooded to above first floor level, but to pump water all day for three weeks before findingthe ground beneath is unimaginable.

The next morning was like leaving Indianapolis without the stoplights. Same routine, but I also pulled Polly from her parking spot, stopped, and looked to see if she had marked her territory with any fluid leaks. Nope. I began to wonder if the crew at Macy’s Garage had got something wrong. No leaks, seeps, or drips? Is Polly still a Triumph?

In the last eight years, I have driven through Missouri east to west and back several times. I knew that there would be no great roads. As on the day before, I did not deploy the GoPro, and that would soon prove to be a mistake that I will explain in time. The route on this day would be mostly on US 36 westbound to St. Joseph, then southwest on US 59 to Atchison, Kansas, then via Kansas 4 to Topeka. Of these, only the last segment, from Atchison to Topeka is anything like a proper roadster drive. I always enjoy this route. If you find yourself in this area, though, you should also drive Kansas 7, the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway from Atchison to Leavenworth.

First, though, we must cross the full width of Missouri. As said, I have done this several times, but, despite that, I do not claim to have much knowledge of the state. It is home to Harry Truman, Walt Disney, Omar Bradley, Jesse James, and my favorite, Samuel Clemens. A friend of mine, who has lived in Missouri, calls it the State of Misery.

US 36 is a four-lane that rolls as it approaches the waterways that it crosses, but is, for the most part, as flat and featureless as Illinois had been. In places, the old two lane road alternates between the west- and eastbound lanes, reminding me of a trip that I made years ago on that route. It was the happiest LBC journey of my life.

We made our fuel stop just across the Mississippi from Quincy, and another somewhere in the western part of the state before reaching St. Joseph. The second stop was also a lunch stop.

Nokomis usually eats a mixture of kibble and moist food at home. There is no good way to travel with her moist food, but I have found that Wendy’s serves a small hamburger that I can crumble into her kibble – hold the garden. We parked at the extreme end of the Wendy’s lot and enjoyed a lunch of sorts while sitting on the curb. The adjacent grassy area was helpful as well.

Polly’s a beaut. You’d never know it’s a Wendy’s parking lot.

By 15.00 hours, we were in Topeka once again after a brief stop in Atchison for a dash of fuel and a visit. Dinner for me was once again at Blind Tiger. Nokomis retired early. Polly was rained upon while parked at the hotel in Topeka. The shower was brief, light, and, because she was stationary, Polly collected no road grime or debris. We were lucky. I expected to dodge rain and storms all the way across the country but, to date, this is the only rain to fall on Polly.

In the next episode, we will cross Kansas. It is a big state east to west, and many people dislike their time there. I have been given a different impression. I hope to share it with you.

~~~~~~

The rant:

There is no such word as “irregardless.” That would be a double negative. The correct form is “regardless.” Period.

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