- Where We Started: Chicago, Ill.
- Where We Ended: Erlanger, Ky.
- Miles Driven: 420 (17,980 total).
- New States: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky.
- States Still to Go: 12 (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
A good night's sleep in Chicago refreshed an exhausted FHMA crew, which then managed to knock four states off its list while zigzagging through the Midwest. But it wasn't a day without stress, as it was Fred's turn to make a complete ass of himself, though at least he was smart enough to choose a deserted park in Michigan -- and not Lake Shore Drive -- for his implosion.
After my boorish behavior Tuesday night, I decided sleep was the best medicine, so I crashed quickly when we got to our hotel room. I woke up feeling as refreshed as one can feel after nine weeks on the road. Joan got up early to walk the dogs, and as soon as that task was completed, everyone but me decided more shut-eye was needed.
Our original plan had been to get to Grand Rapids, Mich., on Tuesday night. Because we fell far short of that goal, we had to abandon our plan to go to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum there. Instead, we decided to hang close to Lake Michigan and check out some interesting parks alongside it. But the weather spoiled those plans, as the dark skies and steady rain that have been following us for most of the past week appeared again, dumping one of the bigger storms on us. So we scrapped our visit to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Porter, Ind. The weather had started to improve by the time we hit the Michigan state line, so we set the nav for Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Mich., only to find the beach closed because of flooding. Next, we tried Grand Mere State Park in Stevensville, Mich., but the only way to get to the water there was a one-mile hike that we didn't have time for. Increasingly frustrated, yet still determined to do something in Michigan, we finally found a small park next to North Lake in Stevensville. No one else was there, so we let the boys off leash. This worked fine for a few minutes, as Fred and Hank freely wandered the park, leaving their marks on Michigan. The humans wandered the park taking some photos.
Since we want to have pictures of the dogs in each of the 48 states we're visiting, we decided it was time to set up the canine photo op. Joan and I walked down to a small dock on the lake, and deeming it sufficient, called Fred and Hank to join us. Hank came immediately. Fred was nowhere to be found.
After calling Fred a half-dozen times, we finally saw him emerge from behind a picnic table with something in his mouth. Unfortunately, it was a bone of some kind. Fred does not let us take bones from him. He's pretty good at dropping most everything else, but if he's got a bone, we've got a problem. Nonetheless, we moved in to see if we could get him to drop it. As expected. Fred started that low rumble of a growl and bared his teeth at us, ready to snap if we got any closer. We didn't. After some debate, I suggested we just let him chew the bone until he was done, and not risk another ugly incident. While I felt much better mentally than I had Tuesday night, it was unlikely I would handle being bitten by my own dog particularly well. Joan made a few other attempts to talk Fred into surrendering the bone, but it wasn't going to happen. So we decided to do the photo shoot without Fred, and left to walk around the rest of the park while he chewed away.
Once we took our photos, we were ready to go. Fred was not. He was still working his way through the bone, though also keeping a close eye on where we were. After another attempt to get the bone back was unsuccessful, I decided to be mean. Joan, Hank and I got in the car and we left. OK, not really, we just drove away and hid behind a building for a little while to see how Fred reacted. As it turns out, the joke was on us. He noticed we were gone, but didn't seem to care. We finally came out from behind the building and pulled into the parking lot next to where Fred was chowing down. At this point, Fred had been working on this bone for damn near a half hour, and we really needed to leave. So, yet again, we tried to get Fred to surrender the bone. He continued to bare his teeth, though seemed confused that my response each time he bared his teeth was to laugh in his face.
I tried running at him to see if I could scare him away from the bone. That failed. A few other ideas also failed. Finally, Joan came up with a new plan. Armed with some treats and a poop bag, she approached Fred. She dropped a few treats near him, hoping to draw him far enough from the bone that she could grab it. We'd left Hank in the car so we could execute this complicated strategy, but Joan had left her passenger-side window open to talk to Fred from the car, and Hank decided he didn't want to miss this. So he leaped from the window of the car. That would have been fine, but then he started eating the treats Joan was putting down for Fred. Sigh.
But Joan is persistent, far more than I am. After many unsuccessful attempts with dog treats -- and having to listen to me telling her it wasn't going to work -- Joan abandoned the dog treats and dropped a black licorice Jujyfruit. Now we all know no humans eat black Jujyfruits -- which is why they were available for this use -- but Fred couldn't resist it. He sidled slowly away from the bone to get the candy, and in one fell swoop, Joan scooped up the bone with the poop bag, and the crisis was over. Fred, as always, immediately hung his head and came over seeking forgiveness. We weren't in a forgiving mood, so he was banished to the back seat for about 90 minutes. Any time he tried to sit on the arm rest or Joan's lap, he was sent into the back seat. Between snapping at a cute beagle on Tuesday, and being A-Hole Fred for a half hour on Wednesday, it's clear he's as tired as the rest of us.
The combination of the bad weather and the Incident at North Lake had dropped us even further behind schedule, and our plans to make it to Indianapolis before dark were now in danger. But thanks to some lead-foot driving, and a lack of pit stops, we managed to pull into the city just as night fell and thunderstorms began. But determined to get a beagle photo from Indiana, we headed for The President Benjamin Harrison Home. The one-time residence of our relatively obscure 23rd president, the home is now a museum chronicling Harrison's life. When we arrived, the wind was howling and it was starting to rain, but when we need a picture, neither rain nor wind nor semi-darkness can stop us.
The plaque in front of The President Benjamin Harrison Home in Indianapolis. By the way, if you think my characterization of Harrison as being obscure is unfair, ask yourself this: Would you need to put the word "president" in the name of the facility if it was honoring was Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR or Reagan? (Photo by Jim)
After dinner, we decided we could not afford to get any farther behind schedule in getting home, so we made a tough two-hour ride through torrential rain to reach the Cincinnati area. When we arrived, we all went right to sleep in order to prepare for a long Thursday in the car.
- It wasn't only Fred's attitude that afflicted us on Wednesday. His anal glands also spoke up again. During our drive to the Cincinnati area, he was sitting on Joan's lap checking out the scenery when that awful, di-stink-tive smell once again enveloped the car. Now, those of you who don't have dogs may not know what an anal discharge is, but surely you know it can't be good. Inside a closed car, this fluid creates a odor that is unbearable. Shortly after this offense was committed -- like about 10 seconds -- we stopped the car, and after I stuffed the compromised jeans as deep in the trunk as possible, Joan did a quick change in the car. Fred clearly needs another visit to the vet. And Joan's jeans need a visit to a sewage treatment plant.
- It's funny to see three Midwestern states trying to claim whatever part of Abraham Lincoln's legacy that they can. Illinois, of course, has it easiest, since Lincoln lived there most of his life, so its "Land of Lincoln" claim is accurate. But, on Wednesday, when we passed into Indiana, the state welcome sign touted it as "Lincoln's Boyhood Home." True, Lincoln lived in Indiana for 14 years. When we hit Kentucky, its state sign bragged about being "Lincoln's Birthplace." Yes, Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, Ky. in 1809. So there's nothing inaccurate about any of these claims, it was just funny to see everyone staking a Lincoln claim. We were surprised to see Ohio sit this out. I mean, somewhere between all these moves through the Midwest, Lincoln must have at least passed through Ohio, right? Then again, Ohio doesn't really need Lincoln. It actually is the state where the second-most presidents (seven) have been born. Virginia leads the way with eight. Who were these Ohio-born presidents, you ask? Oddly, all were elected between 1868 and 1920. They are Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Taft and Harding.
- As we were driving through Kokomo, Ind., we saw a sign proclaiming it "City of Firsts." That sounded odd to me, so I looked it up. If you believe what you read, the name does seem apt, since the following random collection of firsts apparently occurred there: the first test-drive of a an internal-combustion engine, the first pneumatic rubber tire, the first stainless steel tableware, the first Howitzer shell, the first canned tomato juice, the first push-button car radio, the first all-transistor car radio, the first Ponderosa Steakhouse and the first Starbucks outside of a metropolitan area. Kokomo was also the site last year of "The Kokomo Boom," an incident that has been of great interest to the UFO community.
- When we parked in downtown Chicago for lunch at Lou Malnati's, I discovered that my two-hour meter would only give me 29 minutes of time no matter how much money I put in. I was all prepared to roll the dice, or come out once and add money to the meter, but Joan had a better idea: "Why don't you call the number on the meter and report it broken?" My response was honest, but probably rude: "Who the hell calls to report broken meters?" Apparently, Joan does. She told me that, if you call in a broken meter, you're covered should you get a ticket. I have no idea whether that's true, but it seemed worth a shot. So Joan called it in, we ate a leisurely lunch and got no ticket. Now, it could well be the meter people just didn't come by, but I was impressed by Joan's effort. So an FHMA public service announcement: If you're in Chicago, don't park at meter number 240114 at the intersection of Wells and Grand.
- Odd little slice-of-life story: We stopped for gas in lovely Hammond, Ind. -- yes, the "lovely" was said with tongue firmly in cheek -- and as I was pumping the gas, a gaunt, unhealthy-looking young woman wandered up and asked if I had any change. She was probably about 20, and wearing a Purdue sweatshirt and shivering in the cold rain. I gave her some change, but honestly, not much. But Joan had seen the exchange and bought the woman some coffee and a donut inside the convenience store. When Joan came out, the woman was still there, asking each new arrival at the pumps for change. So Joan approached her and gave her the coffee and donut. The woman said "thank you," and then promptly walked over and hopped into a car sitting at the pump across from ours. In it was a guy on his cell phone. Somehow the fact that she had a car changed our perception of her. It may well be that they arrived at the gas station, realized they didn't have any money, and were begging just enough to get home. But it seemed strange. Joan wasn't sure whether their reaction to her charity was to laugh at her for being such a sucker or to curse her for giving them food instead of the money it cost to buy it. I told her there was a third option: That they were truly appreciative. But who knows?
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "The Tide Is High," by Blondie. In general, I think Blondie remains one of the real underappreciated bands of the punk era. While Blondie ran with the punk crowd, it was an experimental band, as you can tell by listening to this reggae-tinged song, the early rap tune "Rapture" and the disco classic "Heart of Glass." Did they make some bad stuff? You bet. But that'll happen when you're being experimental -- see Neil Young's rockabilly album -- and Blondie usually was.
- Here's the Day 11 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First Song of the Day: "Check It Out," by John Mellencamp.
Last Song of the Day: "Cocaine," by Eric Clapton.
- Best Songs: "Cinderella Man," by Rush; "Cinnamon Girl," by Neil Young; "Circumstances'," by Rush; "City of Dreams," by the Talking Heads; "City of New Orleans," by Arlo Guthrie; "Clocks," by Coldplay; "Closer to the Heart," by Rush; "Cocaine," by Eric Clapton.
- Pleasant Surprises: "Christmas in Rio," by Stanley Clarke; "The Cliffs of Sydney," by Tangerine Dream; "Cloudless," by Peter Gabriel.
- Guilty Pleasures: "The Closer I Get to You," by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "Choice in the Matter," by Aimee Mann; "Climbing Up the Walls," by Radiohead.
- Great Rediscoveries: "Christmas in Hollis," by Run-DMC; "Cliffs of Dover," by Eric Johnson; "Close to Me," by The Cure; "Cluster One," by Pink Floyd; "Coast to Coast," by the Scorpions.
- First Song of the Day: "Check It Out," by John Mellencamp.
- Lunch: Lou Malnati's Pizzeria, Chicago, Ill.: I've been to Lou Malnati's a few times for deep-dish pizza, and wanted Joan to get a taste. As always, I was happy with the tasty, cheesy pizza. Joan liked it, but since she's not a huge deep-dish fan, there was only so much joy this meal could bring her. Jim Nutrition Rating: 0 stars (out of 5). Mozzarella cheese sticks and a pepperoni pizza. I have no case for even a half=star. Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Mug 'N' Bun, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Mug 'N' Bun is the oldest drive-in in indianapolis, and you signal you're ready to order by turning on your car lights. We were lucky to get any food at all, since the restaurant had just decided to close early because of thunderstorms. But they were willing to serve us as long as it was to go. So Joan got a grilled cheese sandwich, onion rings and a chocolate milkshake. I got -- what else? -- a burger and fries. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5). Joan liked her grilled cheese and milkshake, but was disappointed by the onion rings, though the dogs seemed to like them fine. I was happy with my burger and fries, but it wasn't a meal that'll make our post-trip list of "bests." The fact the place was shutting down right as we arrived could not have helped.
- Baymont Inn & Suites Cincinnati Airport, Erlanger, Ky.: Even one day later, neither Joan nor I can remember much about this hotel. Part of that is because we're wiped out. Part of it is because it was such a perfectly average hotel experience. Nothing horrible, nothing great. The few shreds we can remember: The room didn't smell great. The woman at the front desk loved the dogs. It had a comfortable recliner. Everything else is fuzzy. One thing I know didn't happen: I didn't have a hissy fit in front of this hotel. Hotel rating: 3 stars (out of 5).
COMMENT OF THE DAY
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO