I’ve driven the Chicago-Cleveland (or Cleveland-Chicago) route many times in the last years but still, once I get in the van and on the road, I settle down and enjoy the ride.  There’s always something new to see and plenty old favorites.  Join me for a very compressed, selective six hours.

I’ve taken to listening to books on CD, which I get mostly from the Naperville library’s clearance section for $1, although I’ve gotten some at Half Price Books for the princely sum of $2 each.  I keep a small, fat spiral-ringed notebook on the spot between the seats so I can jot down ideas for blog posts or reminders of things I need to do…if I can read the chicken scratches that result from writing with eyes on the road 98% of the time and while holding the steering wheel with the same hand as the notebook.

This trip, I’m listening to “Izzy and Lenore” by John Katz.  I appreciate that at the beginning he says no dogs died during the story, although it has some sad moments.  Mostly, though, it’s about the healing power of dogs and the way the two dogs in the title healed others and the author in very diverse ways.  I’m not quite finished with it when I get back, but don’t have much to go.

For the first hour, I’m mostly just getting out of the Chicago area and the part of Indiana that seems as if it’s Chicago, but once I’m on I-80, I’m back to farmland or wooded areas.  At one farm there are shaggy, winter-coated horses munching at a haystack and several small, grey donkeys doing what they do best–looking adorable.  A bit further on, the scene is repeated with belted cows sans donkeys.  Belted cattle are black with a large belt of white encircling their middles, a nice change from the usual Angus or Holsteins.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Red Hen Turf Farm is much less interesting in winter than in summer, when it looks like the giant green of a golf course.  A place the fascinates me every time I pass is the RV/MH Hall of Fame in near Elkhart, Indiana., http://www.rvmhhalloffame.org/.  You have to know that Elkhart’s main industries are related to RV’s, which means the area’s been suffering during this economy.  I wonder how many people visit this “landmark.”  I’ve never seen too many cars (or RV’s) there.

Winter allows me to spy all the bird and squirrel nests and my favorite activity, spotting hawks.  Hawks often perch on fence posts and if you look up (carefully if you’re driving), you can see them riding the wind as they search for food.  During one trip, a hawk came plummeting from the sky, changed direction barely above the ground and took off with a mouse or other small rodent in its claws.  I could almost hear the air sizzling from the directional change.  Hawks can change from casual to deadly in seconds.

After a bit, I fall into my driving zone, where I’m perfectly alert to traffic, but don’t realize how far I’ve come.  This trip I pretty much missed South Bend, even though when I thought back, I realized I’d seen the usual things there, including the one very fancy overpass.

I finally reach the Ohio border, which means that over half my drive still remains.  Less than an hour in, I come across a major accident site, fortunately on the opposite side of the highway.  A semi lies completely on its side on the highway with a flight-for-life helicopter sitting in the middle of the road and a plethora of emergency vehicles surrounding everything.  They’re off-loading the truck.  I notice piles of crates on the road.  In the field next to the accident, a camera has been set up and two people are there, probably for a news report.  Traffic is piled up for two miles or so, while the rest is being shunted off the interstate at the exit, headed no doubt for a long detour.  Better than sitting on the highway until the accident is cleared, though.  I’m glad it’s on the other side and I pray the driver’s safe, although the presence of the helicopter, something I’ve never seen at an accident site before, makes me wonder.  But why is it still there?  Have they even gotten him out? But there doesn’t seem to be and fatly clad in the their furry winter wool coats in one field.  I pass the barn that has its side covered with old gas station signs (Mobil, Gulf, Fleetwing and others.)  The apple orchards that stretch on both sides of the highway are starkly beautiful with their gnarled branches bare to the cold.  Won’t be long until they’re covered with blossoms…at least I hope so.  There’s a Japanese backhoe (not a backhoe, really, something a few steps larger), digging away in a construction area,  resembling either a dragon or dinosaur of some sort.  Once in awhile, snowflakes appear, drifting through the atmosphere like the sparkles that fall from flocked Christmas decorations every time you move them.  Then the snow’s gone and a small patch of robin’s-egg blue sky appears to the north.  A bit later, several holes in the cloud cover reveal a sky of turquoise, the clear blue that most people imagine all turquoise to be.  There are too many broken barns along the way.  In one place is our favorite country church, a small, neat brick church with a beautiful stained glass window filling most of one side and a small cemetery next door.  I’d love to explore the cemetery, something our younger daughters has always loved doing.  In some places we’ve seen markers going back to the Revolutionary War and a variety of stunning gravestones and mausoleums.

This trip I see one thing that brings tears to my eyes: the body of a large black dog lying on the berm, dead.  He looks perfectly peaceful, as if he were stretched out in front of a fire on a cold night.  I wonder who might be missing him and how he came to be lying there looking so unharmed.

Finally, I reach the southwest side of Cleveland, the familiar markers appearing.  I’m talking, hands-free, of course, to a friend.  The time flies by. I unpack while talking and once we’re done, it’s time for dinner and two weeks worth of mail.  One more week and I’ll be packing, loading, and driving back again.  I wonder what I’ll see then.

  1. Nice discrptions. I often felt I was riding with you.

  2. My mother loves taking long rides in the car. She has spoken of visiting my son in Oregon by riding in a car there and back. I usually look at her in horror as that is over 4,000 miles in the car! But a shorter trip would be fine. I have given some thought to driving to Mississippi this summer to visit some online friends. I think that is about 1300 miles round trip. I would simply take my time, perhaps 3 days each way. I can’t drive in the hard rain and don’t drive in the dark when I don’t know where I am. My GPS would be my best friend.
    If I do I will post about it.