Sunday, February 20, 2022

Adventures in Dixon, Illinois, after Racine, Wisconsin

"Travel" was not a verb but a necessity. The work was not where my home was, thus, I drove to where the work was to be found, a courthouse an hour away, an office two hours away. Always, always, the goal has been to get back home as soon as I possibly could. This year the number of hours spent driving intensified and the amount of hours my children were at home diminished. I became, in a word, less attached. 

With everyone either at work or in school, I have begun to look around a little more, enjoy the journey. After all, I am out anyway. That was very profound, I must say.

This week's pleasures were contained within a single trip. It was Mid-Eastern Iowa to Racine, Wisconsin, round trip in a day. I was somewhat concerned, with my husband out of town for the week, I did not like to be three and a half hours from home for any amount of time, but I was due back by late afternoon.

The day's dawn was uneventful although not without travail. I woke at 4:30 and left home before six with only tea in my mug, the coffee had run out. No matter, I would find a gas station with coffee later, now it was time to make tracks. Not literally, luckily, it was not snowing today. Eventually, I found myself among trees instead of shorn corn fields...the woods of Wisconsin. The sight of a forest always brings me joy. 

My arrival in the sweet town of Racine on schedule to allow for a glance at the water. I parked haphazardly in the empty marina lot and jumped out to greet Lake Michigan. The banks were snow-covered and the waves were fierce. 


What a sight. I have not been successful in posting a video here, but I have one up on Instagram, if you would like to see and hear. Why was I alone in the world to greet such magnificence? It was not the temperature, surely, we were in the midst of a February thaw and it was 45 if it was a degree. Complacency, habit, work, who knows? I reveled in the view and headed to the courthouse a few blocks uptown. 

Little did I know the adventures the rest of the day held in store. How could I have?

Presenting briefly, the Racine County Courthouse, designed by architects Holabird and Root, built in 1930. The sculptures are signed Carl Milles, the first commissioned works by the Swedish sculpture in the United States. I love the bronze details on the elevator doors, very Art Deco, close-up below. 

Once my work completed, I dashed back down to the lakeside and took a short stroll. The wind had picked up and was blowing up a gale. My, but it is lovely here. Leaving any body of water behind; ocean, lake, inlet, tears small holes in the part of my soul attached to loved ones and seasides.

Turning away, only then did I calculate where I would need to stop to make the next part of the day work out. I had a hearing over Zoom to complete for another court. This was feasible in any quiet place with a reliable internet connection and privacy. I counted the miles and chose a likely candidate, Dixon, and called their public library. A nice lady informed me that they did not have rooms, as it was a very small town in the middle of Illinois, but she always directed people to call "the Loveland Center" if they needed to reserve a space. "The address is 513 West Second Street, here is the phone number." I dialed tentatively, wondering just whom it was I was calling. Another kind person picked up the phone, acted as though it were perfectly normal for people to call out of the blue looking for a room for an hour and told me to stop on by, he'd be there until four. 

I was on my way, only, I had exactly two hours and thirty-five minutes until I needed to be set up in front of a screen and connected to this meeting. The best route, according to my map, was 141 miles and would take one hour and thirty minutes. I looked at the clock on my car, subtracted ten minutes, don't judge, that's how I keep the clock in my little jalopy, looked at my GPS and zipped. No stops, no dawdling, no running out of gas. I had to drive. 

A non-stop drive this long may not seem like much to North Americans, accustomed to road trips that look like a pilgrimage in French or German terms, and yet to me, it was momentous, because until around 2016, I was perfectly incapable of driving for any amount of time without falling asleep at the wheel. I am talking about a half-hour mini-trip to a park a town away with a car full of kids. I would pinch myself, drink water, splash myself with water, jab acupuncture points guaranteed to recreate zombies from the dead...nothing worked. 

One day, I had to somehow convey my derriere to Des Moines for my first-ever interpreting conference, and only because I just happened to need to visit the capitol to take an ethics exam to be granted certified status post-Illinois-certification. Yes, we all know that Iowa has different standards than anywhere else one might interpret from English into French and back again. Just look at our state's flag (same colors, same order, same direction as France's) and capitol: Des Moines (of the monks). Only, driving the almost three hours terrified me beyond belief. That's how I ended up with a giant, pink, Coach handbag. It was my neighbor's idea, really. 

She heard me fretting about the drive and told me, "you could cut it in two parts, using the outlet mall as a mid-point stop with things to do." I had never been to the outlet mall. Ooooo, shopping alone?! Say no more. I am not a shopper by nature, however, this whole "outlet mall" held appeal for thrifty me. And alone? With no one expecting me to look at that or hurry up or find the nearest ladies' room right now. I could do this. I did. The bag? I needed one large enough for dictionaries and legal pads, water bottle AND thermos, and it was 80% off and 10% off on top of that, just think!

And never once since that day have I had a problem driving and remaining conscious. But this was going to be a stretch. I usually had pp stops and snack stops and yarn shop stops. Not today. I drove straight through, and I arrived at the Loveland Community House and Museum as planned, ten minutes before the hearing.

A gentleman greeted me as I entered what was a beautiful stone and blond brick building. "You Angela?' reached me from somewhere behind a glass windowed space. The interior was darkened, even compared with the grey of the sky outside, and my eyes took a moment to focus. "Yes, thank you..." even before I finished answering, a man had appeared at my elbow and a door was swept open to reveal a large drawing room holding a board table, chairs, and a most astonishing array of objects in every corner. The golden day bed with a lace doily at the head first catches the eye as you enter, still gleaming in any light at all. "Take your coat off and make yourself comfortable," he said as he closed the double doors behind him and left me to get to business. Wow. 

The internet worked just fine, the call was connected, taken, ended, and I still had a minute to discover the remainder of the interesting artifacts in the room and hallway, the rest of the museum was closed for the day. Look!

I was still home early enough to cook dinner for the kids. They did the dishes. My kind of day.

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