"Ole buddy, there's a big ole Smokey in the weeds takin' pictures at Mile 87. You copy?"
"Ten-four, ole buddy. And there goes another Smokey goin' west, a County Mountie. They are out there!"
"That's a four. What'd you say your handle was?"
"You got the Powerful Polack here."
"Preachin' Padre here. That's the handle, good buddy. Drivin' a fourwheeler outta Council Bluffs headin' to Rock Island."
"You a preacher, good buddy?"
"A big affirmative on that. My flock calls me the Channel 19 Preacher."
The Johnson CB on the floor under my feet crackled and whined, and I knew that at last I was within touching and smelling distance of the great American heartland. A fundamentalist preacher on CB, warning the good buddies that the Smokeys were out. Was he pro-sin or just anti-Smokey? Only in America could there be over 10 million voices on the air night and day, warning each other of the stealthy approach of law and order. As I rolled along in the sunshine, my mind went back through what seemed like centuries to the day that this wild trip had begun.
For the first half-hour or so I felt like one of those guys who used to show up on The Ed Sullivan Show on a slow week you remember, the guy who rode that tall, one-wheeled bicycle with a seat 25 feet off the stage while crowds of star spangled dachshunds jumped through hoops far below. As luck would have it,
my first 15 minutes riding on this high, nervous perch were in the madness of rush-hour Detroit, threading my way along a road under construction with a five-foot drop-off protected by rickety sawhorses on my right, a half-lane to negotiate in and streams of star-spangled Chevys coming at me in the oncoming left lane. I looked down over the sea of car tops surrounding me and, through gritted teeth, wondered briefly who the hell would drive a thing like this voluntarily and have the cojones to call it pleasure?
There are some vehicles that you fall in love with instantly, the way some girls get you. It's only later that you begin to pay the price. For example, I once owned a Riley 2.5-liter saloon-midnight blue, dark red leather, elegant sleek lines. It turned out to be the worst mistake I ever made in my life. The damn thing stripped me like a peeled grape.
There are vehicles, however, that not only don't impress on first meeting; they vaguely repel a man of sensibility. But then they grow on you sneakily, in many subtle ways, and finally take over where the Maseratis and Rileys have failed.
I kept glancing nervously at the vast side-view mirror, which was about the size of your average barn door. Mostly, I could see the side of the monster I was piloting, and it seemed to fade off into the distance behind me. Occasionally I'd catch a glimpse of the awe-struck face of some tiny driver far below peering up at me. I pulled up to a stop light and, by God, I was actually sitting on a level with the light itself.
Eventually, the old human-adaptability factor took over, and I became innured to the scurryings of the tiny automobiles far below me, the same way that a dirigible pilot eventually ignores the Cessnas and Cherokees of his world.
So there I was, sitting in a squeaky new GMC Palm Beach motor home. I'd already named it the Jolly Green Giant. Acres of tinted thermal glass encased me. Loaded with gas (a very temporary condition), a full tank of fresh drinking water and a refrigerator filled with beer and frozen pizza. With Leigh, my resourceful traveling companion perched high in the right-hand sea~. we bravely headed out into the heartland. Why a Palm Beach GMC motor home? Well, our forefathers had headed into the wilderness
in Conestoga wagons, the luxury camper of its day. It somehow seemed fitting in this bicentennial year
to see America through the thermal glass of the ultimate covered wagon? Not only that, but we'd decided to travel through parts of America that are not much written about, rarely seen on TV, and even less often used in movie settings. Has Baratta ever chased a fleeing ex-con over the Mackinac Bridge? Has Rhoda ever had a hamburger at the A&W in Rhinelander, Wisconsin? Has Archie Bunker spent much time in a drenching rain south of Bemidji, Minnesota?
By the time Leigh and I were out on Interstate 75 heading north to Bay City, Michigan, we both knew that the trip was going to be a winner. I-75 splits the gut of Michigan like a Swiss army knife cleaning a lake perch. It shoots north out of Detroit (accent on the De) and goes straight up to the very point where the Great Lakes - Michigan, Superior, Huron - converge at the very edge of the Great North Woods. Almost as soon as you shake the northern suburbs of Detroit, you begin to sense the approaching presence, dark and chilling, of the North. Indian names are everywhere, names with a rolling tom-tom beat: Saginaw, Mackinac, Escanaba.
Since we had gotten a late start from Detroit, not long after we got out on I-75 Leigh began leafing through the Rand McNally Campground Guide, which is as much a necessity for a driver of a GMC motor home as a King James Bible is to a Baptist missionary~ About 10 years ago, the Guide was perhaps a quarter of an inch thick and cost a buck and a half. Today it's roughly six times thicker and prices in at around eight bucks at a discount store. Considering what it can do for you, however, it is worth the price. It's filled with pertinent data on most of the available campgrounds, including the daily bite, whether they supply electrical power and whether or not they have trailer sanitation services.
As Leigh decided on a campground, I concentrated on getting the feel of the GMC. I suppose if you're into vans or larger trucks, there wouldn't be much to it, but I was transitioning from a long series of two-seater sports vehicles. Most of my private mileage is put on a Morgan drophead or a 240-Z, vehicles about as alien to the motor home as a P-51 is to the late Howard Hughes's Spruce Goose. You just don't make quick moves in a GMC motor home. It's a front-wheel-drive six-wheeler and basically a stretched Toronado. For its size and bulk, it hangs in on the curves. And in steady, over-the-road, mileage-eating cruising, it rolls along like some futuristic air-conditioned land yacht. It is so quiet that after a while on the Interstate I had the eerie sensation that the landscape was floating by while I was sitting still, as though the whole world was one of those projection cycloramas they use to provide "moving" backgrounds in car-interior shots in the movies.
The interiors are done in a kind of Ramada Inn/Playboy Club/Tammy Wynette-On-The-Road opulence. Carpets so lush you sink up to your ankles. In fact, a GMC motor home -is real.ly a condominium on wheels, with prices to match. This is not a weekend vehicle, unless you're King Farouk or your life is an endless weekend. It represents heavy sugar, and God only knows how Allstate would take it if you wrapped one up.
Outside, night was coming on, grey and thin. Hilly country with scratchy looking grape vines crawling in and out of the valleys. A few flapping, hand-lettered signs: Cherry Cider, Hooked Rugs For Sale, Pinconning Cheese. (Ah, yes, Pinconning Cheese-one of the great unsung delicacies of the North Country. Delicate, pale-gold in color, lightly sharp, a cheese that makes Pabst Blue Ribbon go down like champagne.)
A Greyhound express rocked by, and I caught a brief flash in my side mirror of his route sign: Traverse City. He disappeared in the gloom ahead, his bright taillights glinting through the mist.
"Hey, GMC motor home, you got your ears on, old buddy?" The twangy, high pitched voice yanked me out of the mooney reverie that's so easy to fall into while rolling along in a floating palace.
I grabbed the mike. "I hear you, ole buddy. What's your 20?"
"Uh ... I'm southbound on 75. I just passed you. What's your handle? This here is Wind Chimes you're talkin' to. Come on."
"You got the one Palm Beach. Are you in that .brown four-wheeler that just went by?"
"That's a four. How do you like that thing you're driving?"
"Well, Wind Chimes, it's like I died and went to Heaven. If you gotta go, this is one way to go. Come on, ole buddy."
There is something about the inane fatuousness of CB dialogue that deeply embarasses me. It has all the spurious slap-on-the-back, Christ-Almighty-we're-just-a-bunch-of-good-ole-boys-knockin'-down-a-few-beers joviality that goes over big in bowling alleys and sales meetings of guys who peddle vacuum cleaners. It's like giving the Willy Lomans of the world a bullhorn to blat away at each other in fake friendship. Most of the guys who are great pals on Channel 19 would instantly loathe each other if they ever met in person. There have already been several gory CB murders where just that occurred, and more than a few cases where one ole buddy picked up another ole buddy's wife on the old Chicken Band and shortly thereafter, the .357 Magnums went rooty-toot.
"It sure as hell ain't no Winnebago. How's she on gas?"
"Well, it's hard to figure, ole buddy. Let's put it this way. It laps up the stuff real good. But like the fellow says, if you worry about the price of gas, you shouldn't own one. This is Palm Beach. We're gone." I heard a faint hetrodyne whistle qn the channel, and wind Chimes faded out of my life forever.
Leigh was sprawled out in the navigator's seat, with enough space between us to drive a Toyota pickup through without scraping fenders. She was poring over • her camp guide. "How about the Bay City State Park? It shouldn't be too far ahead."
"Oh yeah? Is it in town?"
"Now how could a state park be in town? It's about five miles north on Highway 247."
Rain was beginning to slash across the vast windshield. I flipped on the wipe rs. "Well, we better get anchored somewhere quick, before it gets completely dark. And it looks like • a hell of a rain is coming on."
About 20 minutes later we inched our way along the narrow road that led into the park, which certainly doesn't advertise itself with big signs and yellow arrows. It was impressive, even in the driving rain and the last hint of daylight. It has the appearance of a place just hacked out of the woods without that picky, manicured look that you get in so many parks. We were practically alone in the vast acreage. Here and there a couple of campers, tightly buttoned up in the rain, squatted in the dark. Three or four guys wearing ponchos stood in the rain drinking beer alongside a curious conveyance that looked like it was made out of five-gallon oil cans hammered together from some plans in a 1935 Popular Mechanics. They looked up enigmatically as the palatial Palm Beach rumbled by with all the grace of a Rolls-Royce pulling in to the Burger King.
Immediately, disaster struck. Backing in a rain-soaked slightly rutted campsite, the GMC got stuck. Carefully, I shifted into• Forward Lo. Way back, far behind me, I heard the faint sloshing of muddy water. I was learning my first lesson. It is easy to find yourself stuck on the most ,innocent of surfaces in a GMC motor home. Leigh leaped out of the side door with the flashlight and began shouting instructions which floated up to me out of the dark void. I made a couple of feeble tries and knew it was no use. "Son of a bitch!" I yelled at no one in particular.
The rain pelted down like the business end of a waterfall. Leigh appeared beside my side window, her face streaked with clay, her yellow rubber poncho spotted with sodden leaves.
"I'll run around the back and give it a push," she squeaked, her voice almost drowned in the downpour. I laid my head down on the padded steering wheel. I just couldn't help laughing. The idea of little Leigh, who barely tops five feet and is outweighed by your average Aqueduct jockey, pushing the immense GMC behemoth out of the mud just got to me. There are times when you're just so mad that you can't help laughing.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, one of the beer-drinkers appeared, a tall, thin guy wearing Army fatigues and a green raincoat. "You gotta be careful with them things," one said. "They stick real easy. I'll give you a tow." I hadn't even known they were watching us, since we were a good 500 yards or so away from their campsite. He came back with his ton-and-a-half Ford pickup, threw a chain around the heavy frame of the GMC and just like that we were out and clear. A vast relief flooded through me. It just ain't fun getting stuck the first night out. He refused a beer and drove off . silently in the dark. Another lesson: Guys help each other in camp grounds in the dark in the Michigan woods.
I finally found a flat, dry site, eased her in safely and hooked up the electric power cable. We were all set and buttoned up for our first evening meal in the Green Giant.
Leigh poured a couple of Buds, and we relaxed while the rain pounded on the roof and pepperoni pizza sizzled in the oven. It was one of those golden moments; the rain and the pitch darkness made it just right.
The next morning after coffee and an English muffin, we edged out of the camp with great rays of golden morning sun slashing through the trees and drying up the puddles. Again out on 1-75, we bore north. The air seemed to be getting more crystal sharp with every mile. Big, shifty Michigan crows strutted in the fields. The traffic was noticeably lighter. A big silver refrigerated milk tanker rumbled by. We talked briefly on Channel 19. His handle was Elmer the Bull.
Along about now I began to appreciate one of the great little unsung refinements of the modern vehicle: the cruise control. I just set her at 55, and we rolled along as smoothly and effortlessly as if there were rails under us. Outside the air was noticeably nippier than it had been a couple of hundred miles south. The trees were getting squattier and meaner looking, and the barns were beginning to lean in the direction away from the winter winds that make this part of the country one of the best places not to be in January. Michigan sends more tourists to Florida than any other state in the union, and for good reason.
"Take a look at the gauge," I said. "It's pushing empty again." Leigh found us on her map. "There's probably a gas station in Standish. It's about nine miles up the line. Do you think we can make
it?" She looked out at a passing buzzard that was zeroing in on a ground weasel.
Standish turned out to be one of those classic American towns, so familiar to all of us that they're a kind of racial memory: a bald-looking Main Street with a few barnlike buildings, a furniture• store, an IGA store, a Chevy agency and, of course, a gas station. I eased the G MC up to the pump.
"How much she hold?" the narrow. faced Michigander asked, squinting up at me as his Adam's apple bobbed over his patent-leather bow tie.
"Just keep pumping. When it hits 10,000 gallons, let me know, and we'll figure out where to go from there."
He laughed as the pump ticked merrily on with the steady beat of an Olympic marathon runner. You get used to that relentless bong-bong- bong-bong after you drive one of these moving palaces any distance at all.
After refueling, we parked the vehicle with its generator still purring in order to keep the ice cubes solid and the beer cold and wandered down Main Street. Everybody in town seemed to be wearing plaid lumber jackets and baseball caps. To celebrate Standish, Leigh bought a 75th anniversary Shell Oil sweatshirt, which made a lot of sense since the station seemed to be the social center of Standish, what with crowds of natives squatting around the adjoining lunch-room, eating doughnuts and drinking strong gas-station coffee. They looked totally content, and it was obvious there was no place in the world they would rather be than in Standish, Michigan. We picked up some hamburger buns and a few other necessities at the IGA and got back out on the road. Funny thing about Standish-of all the places we hit in the next couple of weeks, I remember it clearest of all.
Back out on I-75, we headed straight north through the town of Houghton Lake, which looked like it was devoted exclusively to the peddling of Indian souvenirs. My favorite moccasin dispensary had a big sign, visible for miles: Buy Your Real Indian Souvenirs From a Genuine Chippewa Indian. I suspect that the genuine Chippewa also had a genuine IBM cash register and no doubt souvenir postcards with a picture of him standing beside it, proudly operating the sales-total button. I'm sorry now that we didn't stop and pick up a tomahawk.
One of the most mysterious things about this country of upper Michigan is that is has really not been discovered nationally. Curiously, the American vacationist, the Winnebago set, eternally wandering over the landscape in search of someplace new, seems to have completely by-passed this lovely corner of America. Sure, a lot of Midwesterners for the most part get up there, but it's still surprisingly unspoiled. They still sell long bamboo fishing poles at the hardware stores, and the smallmouth lie under the lilly pads waiting for a careless frog to make a false move.
About five o'clock we approached Mackinaw City, which lies on the shores of the legendary Straits of Mackinac. The Straits of Mackinac are that dramatic spot on the globe where the greatest fresh water seas in the world all come together. The straits must have completely dazzled the first European explorers who saw them. They are absolutely sensational.
Mackinaw City is not a city; it's hardly more than a medium-small village, but it sure as hell has style. Low and squat against the winter winds which come screaming down out of the Arctic, Mackinaw City inevitably had to give its name to the Mackinaw jacket designed for long, cold, mean winters. Low cement block restaurants a few hundred yards from the water advertise not sea food but "fish dinners." If you've never had a Great Lakes fish dinner, you have no idea what fresh water fish can be like. Perch, Lake Trout or Walleye along with a few crisp trench fries and all washed down with Pabst, is enough reason alone for the trip.
I pulled the GMC into a gas station to ask somebody where the best place to stay would be. "Well, there's a lot of good camps around here, but. my own favorite is Mackinaw Campground, four miles down the road, right on the shore." My God, was he right. The Mackinaw Campground had to be one of the great campgrounds in the world, lying right on the turbulent waters of the strait. It is carved out of the tall Northern forest. Since it was early in the season, we had our pick of sites. I wound up with the huge picture window 6f the Palm Beach not more than 15 feet from the rocky shore, looking out toward the far shore to the north. At $3.50 for the night, it was one of the great values of all time.
We went down to the shore and sat on a rock and sipped our martinis as the steak quietly broiled away on the barbeque that came with every site. Leigh looked dreamily out over the icy water. "You know, this is turning out a lot better than I thought it would,'' she said. There was a slight pause, and she went on: "I've got to confess something. I really like the Green Giant. Now, I know I should put it down, being hip and all that, but I really dig this thing."
I knew just how she felt. Let's face it, you're not supposed to approve of things like Big Macs, Best Western motels, Dairy Queens and TV re-runs of Cannon, not to mention Yankee Doodles, Fruit Loops and Devil Dogs. And I guess you'd have to put GMC motor homes on that list. In all truth, Ma and Pa America, the Reader's Digest crowd, the Lawrence Welk and Norman Rockwell fans, hold as their greatest ambition the ownership of precisely what we were driving. Could it be that they are right?
"Yeah, well, I suppose it does have its points." I sneered in my best Village Voice accent, "but for God sakes, don't let this get back to Brock Yates."
Leigh snorted. "Brock can stick it up his nose." Leigh has always found machismo even funnier than Hee-Haw. There are some girls you just can't fool.
"Yep, do you realize we've got the world by the absolute ass?" The martini, the crisp air, the sizzling steak, the gentle waves lapping the smooth rocks, had made me fulsome and poetic.
The next morning I really had to fight the great temptation to just stay right here and forget the whole damn trip. Leigh, on the other hand, suggested taking off for Mexico and absconding with the Green Giant. But reason and the law finally prevailed. We headed out over the magnificent, truly awesome Mackinac Bridge. Bridges, by definition, are exciting, but there are some that are far more exciting than others and become immense works of art: the George Washington Bridge, the Brooklyn, the Chesapeake Bay, the Golden Gate and a few others. They are all spectacular, but a few are truly beautiful. The Mackinac Bridge is one of those. Graceful and airy, it soars high out over the sunflecked choppy waters of the strait, connecting the Lower Peninsula of Michigan with the Upper Peninsula, which is called the "U.P." by the natives.
The U.P. is a long, narrow chunk of wilderness with the northern end of Lake Michigan on the one side and Lake Superior on the other. It has a few big towns like Marquette and Escanaba, but for the most part it is a primitive chunk of land dotted with thousands of lakes and crossed by many rivers filled with trout.This is the country of Hemingway's Big Two-Hearted River which runs into Lake Superior through Luce County. If you take I-75 on north a few miles, you hit Sault Ste. Marie and Whitefish Bay, and you're in Canada. We turned left on Highway 2, which heads west along the entire breadth of the U.P. It's a great little windswept concrete road that rolls along the shore of Lake Michigan, right on the water.
We rolled west through Manistique, Nahmah Junction, Rapid River and other great centers of civilization and soon arrived in Wisconsin.
Northern Wisconsin has a distinct brooding quality, a kind of dark, sullen, wildness: At one time, legendary bad guys like Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson came up here with their molls from Chicago to spend a few weeks on vacation between bank jobs. It was here that Dillinger and •his motley crowd shot it out with G-man Melvin Purvis in one of the near-mythic events of gangsterdom. It has entered the folklore of the Wisconsin natives, and there are still thousands of aging codgers who swear that they saw Dillinger and his mob roar into the night, tommy guns blazing. That must have been one of the most widely-witnessed gunfights, judging from the number of guys who claim they saw it. If you know the right people, it is possible to buy an actual .38 slug guaranteed to have been fired by Dillinger himself. From the number of Dillinger slugs floating around, he must have fired off at least 50,000 rounds making good his escape. They make nice key rings, and so what if Dillinger didn't actually shoot it off? It's kind of fun to think that he did.
We drifted down through the Wisconsin farmland, through Rhinelander and Wausau and then headed west toward the Minnesota border. We crossed into Minnesota over the bridge on the St. Croix River. Off to our right you could see the towers of Minneapolis/St. Paul. It's kind of odd to see big signs plugging the Minnesota Twins and signboards with Fran Tarkenton throwing a pass and recommending a local insurance company. I really expected to see a memorial arch stating You Are Now in Mary Tyler Moore Country.
Minnesota is one of the truly beautiful states of the nation. We just rolled along, heading west and south, through places like New Prague and Shakopee on Route 169. The soil in this part of Minnesota is so black you can't believe it even while you're looking at it. Le.igh, gazing at a particularly lush farm off to our right, summed it up with: "That's real eatin' dirt." It was and is. Some of the most expensive acreage in the world lies just south and west of Minneapolis.
Just out of New Prague, which skirts the Minnesota River, we were rolling nicely up a hill when suddenly, up ahead, a vast figure, tall and Olympian, stood outlined against the Minnesota sky. "What the hell is that?" I barked.
The giant loomed higher and higher as we drew closer. I hit the crest of the hill, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. "Good God!" Leigh yelled, "it's the Jolly •Green Giant! The real Jolly Green Giant!" She banged her fist on the dashboard. "Would you look at that. Just like in the commercial!"
Now, I know you aren't going to believe this, but there really is a Jolly Green Giant. At his feet, the i inscription reads: Le Sueur, Minnesota: The Valley of The Jolly Green Giant. And there far below us, we could see the valley itself: rolling, lush, green hills sparkling rivers with what looked like tiny elves toiling in the green-pea gardens and harvesting succotash. I even imagined I could hear a distant spectral "Ho, ho, ho" and maybe even see a great hand coming down out of the sky with a package of frozen, stuffed peppers.
It had never occurred to me that there was a Valley of the Jolly Green Giant. I figured that was just a commercial. Do you suppose there really might be Marlboro Country somewhere, where lean cowboys ride lonely trails, smoke eight packs a day, never cough and drink their coffee out of tin cans around campfires? Don't laugh. If there's a Valley of the Jolly Green Giant,. anything is possible.
With renewed determination, we headed west toward Marlboro Country. South Dakota, to me, has always been the beginning of the West. South Dakotans themselves, however, are split on the issue. Some like to feel that they're part of the Upper Midwest; others, the more romantic, go around saying things like "gol durn it" and "Consarn that mean critter". But suddenly and dramatically we were out of Green Giant country just about the time we hit Pipestone, Minnesota, a few miles from the South Dakota border. Detroit seemed millions of miles away, and part of some other life. Tumbleweeds skittered across the road ahead of us, and great herds of Angus cattle lazily chewed grass along the flat, muddy rivers.
"Hey, there's a place marked on the map here called Pipestone National Monument," Leigh said. "It's only a few miles off the road. What do you say we . take a look at it?"
"Yeah, I suppose so. If you want to." I wasn't particularly excited because I've never been one to go to "national monuments." This was one time I freely admit that I was totally wrong. Pipestone National Monument is obviously not very well-known, but it is a poignant, beautiful, serenely lovely place. During the days of the Indian, long before the white man came to this country, the tribes had made a shrine of Pipestone. All the tribes, tribes that normally warred, came here as a kind of universal religious sacred ground. They believed that the souls of all departed Indians were enshrined in the red soft-stone deposits that lie near the surface of the ground. It was from this stone that they carved their ceremonial pipe bowls.
We walked over the ground and were glad we came. It's a beautiful, restful, reverent place. You can almost see the herds of buffalo on the distant hills. It's the one place I visited anywhere in thecountry that the feel of the long-departed tribes of Indians really comes to life. If you get a chance, you really should stop by here.
We got back out on the road, and the trip had taken a curious new turn for both of us. When you begin wandering over the road with no real destination, after a few days you fall into an entirely different rhythm of life, a slow beat controlled mostly by the elements: daylight and darkness, landscape and water, cold and heat. No one in the world knows where you are. No one can get you on the phone. There is no mail. The news, John Chancellor and all that, fades from your mind. We just drifted along in the Jolly Green Giant, with no more direction than an errant caterpillar.
We finally made Sioux Falls, a stark, bare town perched on the prairie. The wind was blowing hard and the sun was bright and sharp as we rolled along Route 29. Sioux Falls has one of the most beautiful little zoos I've ever seen, the kind of zoo that even people who hate zoos would love. Buffalo and red deer and rattlesnakes-the animals of the prairie in a sun-drenched oasis.
"I can't leave Sioux Falls without a pair of cowboy boots." Leave it to Leigh. We found a store full of red-faced, potbellied plainsmen buying boots. Leigh picked out a gorgeous pair of hand sewn, flame-stitched show boots which have since made her the envy of all of Greenwich Village.
Sioux falls was the farthest west we had decided we were going on our great loop of the Lakes. That night, after a South Dakota steak, we turned east, heading for Iowa. Drive through Iowa, and it's hard to believe that there is hunger anywhere in the world . .The highways, like' Route 80, that split the state east and west, are fantastic, and the Jolly Green Giant was made for this kind of travel. I just set the cruise control at 55 and let her drive herself all the way to the Mississippi.
"You know, this trip was a lot different than I thought it was going to be in the beginning," Leigh said softly as we crossed the mighty river. I found myself nodding in agreement.
We skirted Chicago and within sight of the Gary steel mills saw our first deer. Maybe they escaped from somebody's zoo, but there they were, leaping across the road within the Gary city limits. Minutes later we were back in the state of Michigan and heading north again toward Detroit, the birthplace of our motor home. By now, we were so used to vast distances that the trip from the Michigan line to Detroit seemed like going down the street to the Safeway for a six-pack. In one of these GMC creations, you tend to forget distances. You're only reminded how far you've gone when you get your monthly bill from Exxon.
We turned our old friend in to the dealer who had seen us off a couple of weeks before. The Green Giant was covered with a thick film of yellow prairie dust, mud of the Upper Peninsula, the soil of the Wisconsin woods., all streaked by the rains of Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Indiana. It looked kind of mean, ready for anything. Big Al, the dealer, said, "Looks like you had yourself a trip." And all I could say was, "Yep, we sure did."