Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 4: Madison, WI to Minneapolis, MN
Morning. Thursday was Biscuit Day at the Clarion Suites breakfast buffet, an "event" that had me more excited than it should have. I collected a few dough pucks and nibbled while answering email; then it was time to go. Usually, "time to go" + 15 minutes of Jenga in the rear compartment = "actual departure," but thanks to Li'l Ava's four-door-ness and real trunk, "time to go" = go.
The sky was nasty all the way down U.S. 12 to I-94, hanging low enough to touch. Good driving, though — those big boomy hills again, sleepy cows and soybeans and billboards for "adult" bakeries. Near Devil's Lake, I passed a bar nestled among its several vintage outdoor signs; its happy hour is from 9 to 10…AM. Dang: missed it by half an hour. I seriously considered screeching into the parking lot, bursting in through the front door, and strapping on a Mel-Gibson-strength "NNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" just to see what would happen. In the best-case scenario, the bartender would snort, "City trash crazy," and pour me a half-price pint, but I figured it's all farmers in there and it seems like they have enough stress in their lives without a big blonde Improv-Everywhering their darts game. It did remind me of a story my parents sometimes tell about an apartment they had in New York back in the day, I think in Yorkville; they'd walk to the subway together first thing and see the German pipe-fitters drinking beer after the night shift, one greasy overall strap undone, eating bright white boiled eggs with inky fingers.
It never did rain. Ava's a nice ride, good pep, and her AC hits the spot; we get along fine. I pulled into Minneapolis ahead of schedule but took a wrong turn in the downtown, into a completely deserted neighborhood. Where was everybody? What's with the tumbleweed and the weird curving str– oh, hi, Metrodome. Then I came to the hotel, and my room is huge, bigger than my Cobble Hill apartment. It's got a bedroom with a door, a full kitchen including dishwasher, and two TVs. I almost didn't want to leave when MG came to pick me up — the hotel also has a happy hour, free booze and snacks — but we had patio beers in mind, so away we went to Pracna.
I can't tell you how nice it felt to sit with other human beings who didn't have hotel name-tags on, or any association with the automotive industry, and shoot the shit. Joined by M. Giant and Reader J and her husband, we covered it all: Jersey politics, Dennis Haysbert, movie locations, the horrendous and prolonged parking job committed by a lady in spike heels while we watched. (Minutes later, her husband emerged and drove off to another street entirely, presumably — and correctly — due to shame.) We drank. We ate starchy snacks. Heaven on the Mississippi.
Next stop: St. Paul, in tomato attire.
Tags: Big Country Little Car Tour Campbell day drinkin' Dennis Haysbert friends institutional starch Li'l Ava M. Giant Mel Gibson