I’m going to take a little time off next week. And, as usually happens right before a scheduled vacation, my mind drifts back to thoughts of just one place. That’s right, Interlochen, Michigan.
You see, Interlochen was my first trip that I had taken out of high school without my parents and other family members being involved. It was my first voyage away from home without any adult supervision.
“Why Interlochen, Michigan?” you may be asking yourself. Well, back in high school, I had a couple of buddies that I hung around with the majority of the time. We’ll call them Glenn and Dan. Dan was multi-talented in many areas of culture and the arts and had a particular affinity to music. (He could play the theme song to “Hogan’s Heroes” on his trombone like nobody I’ve ever heard before or since.) With this interest in music, he managed to get a summer job working at a band camp located in Interlochen, while Glenn and I stayed home, baled hay and shoveled manure.
Well, as a young man, you can only shovel so much before you start thinking that you need a break from it all. So Glenn and I decided that we would take a break from our busy lives and go visit Dan in the Wolverine State for a short weekend visit. We would get to see our friend and have a nice relaxing weekend away from the farm chores.
As we left the safety of our nice snug homes on that beautiful sunny Friday morning, both Glenn and I were filled with the youthful exuberance that the promise of world travel brings about. I imagine that we felt about the same way that Columbus or Magellan felt as they were about to leave port. Plus, Glenn’s mom made cookies! Chocolate chip cookies! Possibly with nuts!
Today, as I look up the directions to Interlochen on my computer, I see that it is listed as being 413 miles away, and one should expect the trip to take somewhere in the area of six hours and 21 minutes. I can tell you that 30 years ago, it was much, much farther away and took a whole lot longer than that. Especially when our mode of transpiration was an early-1970s, red Volkswagen Beetle.
Volkswagen Beetles aren’t really constructed for traveling long distances. What they lack in legroom, they more than make up for in engine noise. Additionally, these particular cars didn’t have the best radios, and Glenn’s was no different. To counter the lack of radio signal reception, Glenn had amassed a large amount of audio cassette tapes for his and the passengers’ listening pleasure.
Evidently, when we were packing the car, and in our haste to make sure that we had room for the cookies, one of us (for argument’s sake, we’ll say it was Glenn) inadvertently set the brown, Naugahyde-covered case containing his massive cassette tape collection outside of the vehicle. It didn’t make it back in.
So all we had to listen to for the next 413 miles was the one tape that happened to be in the cassette player when we left the driveway. To this very day, whenever I hear anything off of the album “Get Lucky” by Canadian rock super-group “Loverboy,” I tend to get a little twitchy.
By the time we hit the Indiana state line, we both knew every song on that cassette frontwards and backwards. Halfway through Michigan, I couldn’t take it any longer. Just as we were coming to the rousing chorus in “Working for the Weekend” for literally the umpteenth time, I glanced over at Glenn and noticed that he was getting ready to belt it out — again.
So to keep him from opening his mouth, I did all that I could think to do at the time … I offered him a cookie.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that it is totally against my nature to offer a cookie to anyone. I like cookies. But this situation was dire, and it was all that I could think to do. As he sat there chewing on the delicious morsel, with the oh-so-sweet crumbs covering his T-shirt, I knew that this was only going to be a temporary fix. There were only so many cookies.
But a miracle occurred! Somehow, I made the cookies last the rest of the trip. It was similar to the whole loaves and fishes thing in the Bible. Arriving at the music camp to the strains of “Lucky Ones,” I said a silent prayer of thanks for the cookies holding out. As we pulled into the parking spot by Dan’s cabin, we had finally reached our destination. It was then that we heard a loud clunk. And it wasn’t Loverboy.
For some reason, at the exact farthest distance we were from our nice comfortable homes, the clutch cable on that trusty old VW broke. There we were, 12 hours, 3,247 miles from home, with a broken car, and no cookies.
To make what’s turning into a long story less long, we spent much of the next day tracking down parts in nearby Traverse City and installing them without any proper tools. Actually, Glenn did all the fixing while I continuously licked the cookie plate.
By the time it was fixed, we had developed a bad taste for Michigan in general and band camps in particular. We decided it was time for us to head back. So we waved at Dan, backed out of the parking lot and headed out for our 32-hour, 11,416 mile trip back home. I don’t think that the radio knob was ever turned on.
Next week, I’m not going much of anywhere, and I’ll be spending some time out at Glenn’s workshop, and we’ll undoubtedly talk about that trip and what we remember from it. In other words, we’ll be shoveling some more manure.
You can contact Wallace at email@example.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.wordpress.com.