The South of The North

Hillsdale Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 16 › view all entries

Miles Traveled: 373                         

Time on the Road: 6 hours

Tanks of Gas: 1.25

Roads Traveled: WI 23E, US 41S, US 45S, I-894E, I-94E, I-894, I-69N, US 12E

States Crossed: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan              

CD’s Listened to:   Everlast, R&B Mix CD that I “borrowed” from B-Rad in 2002 (still love me some track #2), Booher’s Pot Lunch 01.04.07 (re-appropriated w. permission from Jaxxxson), Personalities of The Pot, Maroon 5 and Scarface                               

The South of The North

The Drive

I had it figured out in my head that the drive back to civilization would be similar to going north into the desolation of Wisconsin, just in reverse.  However, my initial expectations couldn’t have been more off.  For some inexplicable reason the drive back to Chicago seemed to be slightly more amusing than my drive from Chicago.  It all started with a bong.  No, not a “bang.”  Yeah, that’s right, BONG is not a type-o.  Several years ago, at the true “birthing” of the web, there was an email that made its way around the globe in record time.  It was a compilation of numerous humorous photos of real highway and state signs.  One of the more memorable photos featured a college aged kid sporting a tie-dyed Grateful Dead t-shirt, a woven Rasta beanie, dreadlocks, Birkenstocks and a stoned expression plastered on his face standing in front of a brown exit ramp sign (brown sign = local attractions at the exit.)  I have finally come across the sign in question that reads, “Bong Recreation Area” and hence, the supposed humor in the picture. 

The exit for Bong Recreation Area on I-94 is also home to the following: “DairyLand Greyhound Dogtrack and Dragaway”  Now, I know what a “dragway” is and of course, what a “drag queen” is.  However, I am not exactly sure what a “dragaway” is, but ok.  There is a Lake Geneva at this exit as well.  Hence, I can now say that I have been to Lake Geneva, in Switzerland and Wisconsin and Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio.  If there is another Lake Geneva somewhere in the world, I am now on a mission to find it.  As a side note: while getting gas at the Bong exit I noticed a local diner’s billboard that read, “Come on in for Rasberrie Lemonade and Bowl of Our SPECTACULAR Chili.”  Let me state for the record that Raspberry has a “P” in it and ends in a “Y.”  Furthermore, as much as I love it when straight men use words like, “delicious” and “fabulous” to describe food, Chili, one of the ultimate manly foods, should NEVER be touted as “SPECTACULAR” and on top of that, no one should ever even suggest pairing a raspberry-flavored food item with chili.

      After crossing the Wisconsin-Illinois border (yes, Mom I did pick my feet up and “jump”) there was a bit of construction followed by a bit of intense danger.  For the first time in my life, I can say that I honestly felt that I was going to die in my car.  For about 15 miles, I steadily and cautiously watched an Escalade speed, swerve, brake, speed swerve and brake again while consuming all three lanes of south-east bound traffic on I-94.  In my experience, there could only have been three options as to what was actually occurring in the front seat of said Escalade.  Option #1 – The driver was suffering from an on again, off again attack of narcolepsy.  Option #2 – The driver had a passenger and was reaping the benefits of breaking at least one sex law in 23 of our 50 states.  Or Option #3 – The most likely cause…This guy was ABSOLUTELY SMASHED!   I narrowly escaped this incident unscathed.  The operator of the Escalade eventually came to a screeching halt in the far left lane and somehow, some way managed to cut across four lanes of traffic, put the Escalade in reverse in the right hand emergency parking area, backed up and got off the freeway, just as a police officer went flying by.  Absolutely amazing that no one was killed, including myself.  

While I am on this topic, I can say that for the most part, my friends and I are rather careful about not drinking and driving (uh, or drinking while driving, consider it a bit of chicken soup for the soul.)  We have been known to call sober people to pick us up, take a cab, public transportation or stumble our way home.  However, I can honestly state that the majority of people that I am acquainted with, myself included, have on occasion (or in some of my friend’s cases, on every occasion that someone hasn’t been able to wrestle the keys from their drunken fists and pull them out of their car by their long porn-like hair…ahem, not that this event has ever occurred in real life) had a bit to drink and stupidly driven ourselves home.  However, when most of us do this, we are less than 1 mile from home.  Although, this really doesn’t help considering that statistically speaking, most accidents (alcohol related or not) occur within 2 miles of the home.  Even so, we all seem to be champions when it comes to maneuvering through the blurry, life-sized obstacle dodge’em course usually consisting of a drive-thru food venue, a place to buy cigarettes and then to our respective homes.  We all make it home in one piece and 99% of the time without so much as a scratch on the bumper, yet alone a ticket or DUI.  So, I shall now share a few helpful hints should you ever decide to drink and drive.  WARNING: Professional drivers on a closed course.  Do not try this at home.   

1.   Always buckle up, turn on the headlights, adjust or change your musical selection and make sure that you have actually placed the key in the ignition and turned on the vehicle BEFORE you attempt to drive.

2.   Know your escape route(s) from the drinking establishment in question.

3.   Open all available windows.

4.   If your vehicle has a manual transmission – remember to shift!

5.   Chain-smoke.

6.   Close one eye if need be to see “straight” and/or stop double-vision.

7.   Cruise Control – Just like Ron-Co Rotiss-a-Mat, “Set it and forget it!”

8.   If driving on the freeway, use the far RIGHT lane ONLY.  This way you are only endangering two lanes of traffic at most.

9.   Blinker then Brake – it is alphabetical.

10. Always remember that threat of Johnny Law-Man is REAL.  You are NOT invincible.  In Ohio, you can earn a set of “party plates” for your vehicle if you are pulled over while driving an actual motor vehicle, a golf-cart, a riding lawn mower, a bicycle, a scooter or a skateboard. 

11. Most importantly, if you must drink and drive, drive someone else’s car.  You wouldn’t want to crash your own property would you?


The Town

            “Hillsdale.  It’s The People!” exclaims the welcome sign that is over-crowded with Kiwanis, Elks, 4-H and Rotary symbols.  This statement became the sarcastically toned slogan of my stay in the state that I have always referred to as, “The South of the North.”  Michigan truly is a Southern out of state experience in every sense.  This is the home of the Militia and the NRA.  The natives of Michigan are the masters of knowing when to use a bible and when to use a rifle.  But, either one will git-er-dun! 

Of course, I learned a bit about Hillsdale.  Such as, the fact that there are 13 churches of various Christian based sects inside the city limits and five more within a two-mile radius of the city limits.  Hence, by my calculations, that is more houses of worship per capita than the number of temples in Beachwood, Ohio.  This would explain the THREE different versions of the Bible stacked neatly on the nightstand of my hotel room.  Hillsdale is also home to “The World’s Most Popular Fair Since 1850!”  I had already figured out that I was in a bit of trouble when I saw the dry cleaner’s marquee, “Its Fair Time!  Do You Know Where Your Uniform Is?  Support our local 4-H at The Hillsdale County Fair!”  I neglected to realize the draw and importance of said fair.  On the first day of the fair, the entire town comes to a halt.  The town’s streets are shut down and taped off for a parade route causing a large amount of redirection, misdirection and detours.  Their local government, the post office and even schools are closed so that one and all may enjoy the grandeur of the opening ceremony and parade.  Coming from a suburban background and a public school that NEVER cancelled class, I am always baffled by random local holidays that cause school closings.  The last time I witnessed this was over 11 years ago in rural Pennsylvania.  They cancelled school on the first day of deer season because the entire population of the school would cut class to go a’huntin!  

 While in Hillsdale, I did feel the compulsion to find out what the big deal was with the fair.  My limited fair experience consisted of various music and ethnic heritage festivals (mostly they are over-publicized block parties with over-priced drinks and a large amount of over eating) and of course, my one trip to The Ohio State Fair.  At first, I didn’t really see what all of the fuss was over.  They had exhibitors, local bands, competitions for livestock and baked goods, rides, normal festival fried foods and then I happened upon the main attraction.  Please bear in mind that I am not a huge fan of motorsports in general.  I have attended the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte and still don’t understand the draw to the hillbilly merry-go-round that is NASCAR.  However, this is something that I have never witnessed in person.  Two words sums up my entire fair experience: Combine Derby!  What I knew of any demolition derby came from the annual ads on the radio while I was in college.  They were always the same husky male voice proclaiming, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday…at the Nutter Center!  Monster Truck EX-TRAV-A-GAN-ZA!  You’ll pay for the whole seat.  But, you’ll only need the EDGE!”  This was the most incredibly intense intentional destruction of personal property that I have ever been privy to watch.  Furthermore, I had a play-by-play or rather, crash-by-crash commentary from the two yokels behind me in the stands.   And, as if that wasn’t enough, I came away with two of the funniest quotes I have ever heard in any conversation.  I was only half-eavesdropping during their dialogue and I have no real clue what they were actually discussing (other than the crash-by-crash color commentating.)  So, here ya have it, pearls of wisdom from the Michigan-ers and more proof that Michigan really is a Southern state:

Quote # 1 – “I dunno what happened.  But, that old fool got assaulted like a drag queen at a tractor pull.”  I have to give kudos to anyone that dares to say, “drag queen” and “tractor pull” in the same sentence.

Quote # 2 – “There are two things you should never sell to a true friend.  A car or a slave. Cuz, if either one quits workin’ you’ll never hear the end of it.”  Again, no idea of the context that this statement was made, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t funny.

The Campus Experience

          While doing time in Michigan a student was tasered by law enforcement officers at Florida State University during an Al Gore rally.  I was completely astounded by what I witnessed on YouTube.  I decided to bring this moment of uncivil police action towards an act of civil disobedience to the attention of the sheltered students of Hillsdale College.  Most of them thought it was funny and none of them seemed to understand why this event disturbed me.  In my humble opinion, the student was a bit boisterous about his questioning of Mr. Gore.  However, he did not seem to pose a threat to Mr. Gore and furthermore, he was actually a Gore supporter.  All this student did was ask WHY he conceded so quickly during the 2004 election.  Al was ready to answer, but security flipped out, attempted to escort/drag him out of the auditorium and ended up tackling him to the floor, handcuffing him and then TASERING him after he was subdued and on the ground.  I am amazed at the hypocrisy of the media in this country.  Sure, you can say whatever you’d like, but just make sure you are out of the reach of someone with a taser gun.  Furthermore, we as a society can’t seem to figure out why my generation (in general) and the one beneath mine has an overall sense of apathy towards our government and complete lack of involvement in political action and/or change.  I feel that there are two real answers to this conundrum.  The first being that my generation does not have a commonality of “rage” or “outrage” as a cohesive group.  (We can barely organize a weekend trip as a group, yet alone a course of action.)  We have been challenged with numerous crises and organizations that need assistance through citizenship and volunteerism.  We have not had one main focal point and haven’t been faced with a reality that has threatened all of our daily lives.  The second and more subversive answer may be merely a reaction to being taught about the lies that this government pawned off on the public and the brutish reactions that occurred toward my parental’s generation for demonstrating and speaking out.  So, this incident may in fact have something to do with it as well.


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