Journey….destination, a gentle breeze

                               DeTour Village, MI (pop 375)
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Three months of summer, at the end of a 40 mile cul-de-sac, with neither crime, pollution, nor traffic is inadequate preparation for a destination road trip. The agony of 600 miles through urban torture, Chicago, road rage-in-waiting, 60 y/o car, manual shift, no A/C, no cruise control, no power windows, no power steering, no cupholders, during late afternoon commuter traffic; a breeze in 85°F, top down.

Grew up here.   Left.   Never came back.

Still a Cub fan.

Once described by my own children, an assumed term of endearment,”the Direction God”, I have no GPS, no I-phone (by choice). An innate internal compass, the singular guide, has served me well.

I’ve left home without my dog-eared 2002 Rand-McNally Road Atlas.

Large print version.

On my own, I escape the IL tollways to drift through northern Illinois farm country, mostly county roads. Idyllic; corn on the left, soy beans to the right, 4-H, silos, holsteins, farmers struggling with commodity prices, I become thirsty.  Hershey® thirsty.

For a glass of chocolate milk.

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Passing through Harvard, IL, childhood home to my college roommate’s wife, her family tenant farmers, a lovely woman, Polly excelled as a pianist…lost her younger sister, one of the ‘five peppers’; to cancer.  Lung cancer.  She had never smoked.

We are all dealt a deck of cards.  Connie’s was missing the ace of hearts.

Day dreaming in the land of no wrong turns, at 40 mph, the roadster begins to message me, ‘yo, we’re crunching gravel’.
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**

So, I am lost.

Okay ?

Having found a farmer, roadside, to ask for directions…he admires my 300SL, I lust over his John Deere, S790. The combine has a capacity of 400 bushels vs. my trunk; one spare tire, two pcs. soft luggage and three cans of cold Heineken.

He’s using a hand held I-Mac testing the beanfield moisture levels, electronically. I offer an even trade, your 790 for my 300, he hesitates to check values on his phone, then ” Nope, no thanks, not without A/C ”
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He gave me precise directions to WI, then laughed, “you got no GPS, hell, my lawn tractor has one, and A/C !”

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S790   72 rows of soybeans bite the dust

I’ve reached my goal, the Abbey, an upscale, yet aging, resort. First stop, registration, where two lovely volunteers supply credentials in a large tote bag, which I had weighed ~ 22 lbs (10Kg). Contains name tag, route maps, trinkets, candy, souvenirs, a tiger-eye maple cutting board, and, heavy metal;  12″ dagger!

First thought, for attendees flying home, ‘could you bypass the body tickle TSA checkpoint ?’
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Wüsthof…translated to German, murder weapon ?

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Entry door nearest my room

And tote bags. We’re a nation of excess, measured by the number of  accumulated totes. I once attempted to dump ~ 25 of them, back door at the Goodwill, get my $200 deduction slip, and drive away with a grin. No dice.

Sorry, sir, “we don’t accept tote bags, take them to the landfill, but they’ll make you pay to dump.”

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                                                                                                                   OUT

 

I’m off to the opening salvo, a serial hugfest…let’s get acquainted hour. First stop, the open bar.

“Good evening, sir, what can I get you ?”

I’ll have a Cocoa Corona.

“I’m sorry, what was that ?”

Easy kid, ½ chocolate milk,  ½ Corona lager, & 3 drops of Tabasco®.

“We don’t have Corona, but we do have Coors Light”

Ok, make it a Cocoa Coors Light.

“Huh ?”

**********************

Fontana, WI, westernmost edge of Lake Geneva, a resort where medicaid and supplemental social security are a myth. Here, summer residents, the multi-generational wealth of Windy City moguls, have mastered leisure splendor.   Anyone above the poverty line is welcome for a ‘look-see’, however, for a long term stay, leave your credit score at the door.

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A small portion of the Wrigley compound, pieced together with Doublemint®, Spearmint®, Juicy Fruit® and the tears of a million Cub fans

This promises to be a fun-filled 96 hours.
↓ Day one, my new BFF, Katie, the ship’s stewardess ↓
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“Something wrong here, choppy, whoa, this lake is covered in water. Completely. I’d feel safer if you sat on my lap”

 

If you want to read about the drive home, maybe next year.
Bring a quart of chocolate milk.

 

**  courtesy DKPhotography, all rights reserved

©insightout2019

Call me…….Fred

−A cold morning, Saturday, 24Feb1973, Worthington, OH just north of Columbus, and the salesman, one Red Skinner, delivers.  Chocolate covered strawberries, helium filled balloon, singing telegram…none of the above.

It’s a car, a modest 4 door, entry level sedan, brand new, 4 cylinder diesel from dealer Ed Potter’s Mercedes Benz-Renault.  A surprise gift to one Frederick Ray, on his 50th birthday, special order from his wife, Dorothy (‘Dot’).

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Fred, a civil engineer/bridge builder/shade tree mechanic, admired German cars, and this beauty, in his favorite color, Db 430 Harvest Beige, was identical to the VW Beetle in their garage.  A ‘plain Jane’ to some, the Rays adored the match and vowed to save the 220D for special occasions.

220D 1973 msrp

As a childless couple, Fred enjoyed his garage time, the maintenance and care of the Benz was a passion, as he meticulously archived handwritten notes.   Noted too by a young neighborhood kid,  Jonathan Karnes, who visited often.  Fast friends, yes, but a metamorphic, surrogate grandfather/grandson bond emerged.

Dot’s odometer ended in 2003, mileage on the Benz, 26,576.  Rarely driven, Fred, too, passed away in 2013, age 90, mileage 27,003. The estate directed Jonathan inherit the car, although now grown, attending medical school, soon to be a 4/yr resident in orthopedic surgery, Morgantown, WV.  By necessity the car slumbered, as Jon, married, with small children, the chief resident accepted a post doctoral year in spinal surgery in Madison, WI.  The time had come to sever the umbilicus, an early 30’s physician with career and responsibility, surrounded by objects from Hasbro®, Fisher-Price®, and Tonka® in the crosshairs….the sedan needed a new home.  On 7April2019, the ignition keys and baton were passed to Insightout….mileage 27,571.

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1973-mercedes-benz-220d-3/

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The stunning simplicity, French designer, Paul Bracq’s exquisite lines promise to resonate with age.  The current overload of tech advancement, unnecessary drivel of rear camera video monitor, g.p.s., parking assist, power excess, gadgetry ad infinitum has drowned the sensual pleasure of the freedom to drive. Where did we  go astray. Mercedes provided Dot, the minimalist, with the following for Fred’s enjoyment:

  • automatic transmission, AM-FM radio
  • power steering, power 4 wheel disc brakes
  • electric windshield wipers and clock

Paul Bracq graced us, a 270° greenhouse view, through tinted windshield, peering over the graceful arc of the hood, squared off fenders to the three-pointed star, and Dot thankfully excluded:

  • power seats
  • power windows
  • power antenna
  • cruise control
  • keyless entry
  • air-conditioning
  • heated seats, bluetooth, tilt wheel, yada
  • granite countertops

Yes, 0 to 60 mph times mean little, and an easily achieved top speed of 83 mph is rarely necessary, and yet, a finely tuned 46 y/o gets 28 mpg.

Commentary during the internet auction alluded to the pouring of cold honey;

‘teaches both the driver, and all followers, patience’

‘fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow- and this is a SLOW car’

‘lethargic performance, like it was on a heavy dose of Valium’

‘you have to choose either “lively” or “relaxed”, this an example of the latter’

‘on an unincorporated country road, where it’s never hot, all day to kill, this could be the perfect car for you’

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Collectors are inclined to name cars, usually in the feminine tense, which is peculiar, as the vehicle does not have headaches, a menstrual cycle, nor succumb to fashion or footwear fads.  Hence the 220D is simply, Fred.  

Not Frederick, not the teutonic Fritz, just plain Fred.

In honor of both Mr. Ray, and Paul Bracq, I designed my own vanity plate…which says it all.

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©insightout2019

Special thanks to Jonathan Karnes MD, & his father Jim, for (a) providing personal details, and (b) their thoughtful stewardship for 6 years.

David Z. Kil, photographer, for the finest rear view ever conceived.

Cartoon, courtesy, Crown Media Holdings®, 2018

And lastly, to Fred Ray, whom I never knew, but whose spirit will always remain although, at time & ½, my mind cannot find the words of gratitude. For the best ride ever. Today’s mileage, turned, with zero digital assistance, 28,000.

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Techno-Classica or, “maid in germany”

International travel is grueling. Nine hours, middle seat cramped, New Jersey-to-Lisbon, adjacent to a 300 lb. lady, a municipal landfill-in-waiting, who oozed garlic with every belch. A prayer to the Saint of Cabin Decompression, to allow the blessed oxygen mask drop from the ceiling, is lost in the din of ‘cockpit announcements’, all in Portuguese.

The TSA checkpoint exam, 3 second x-ray, one minute pat-down with a frown, assures traveler security. Never mind the tickling sensation during the upward pat, serving as a reminder of an annual upcoming prostate exam. The officer has the humor quotient of a fruit fly, does not offer to Mirandize me, nor, next in line, breathalyze Madam Newark.

This prelude, a welcome and highly anticipated bucket list event, with 16 fellow enthusiasts, also recently fondled by strangers, to a week of classic German cars.

Ahhh, Germany, the land of long words…where geschirrruckgabetablette = café tray.

Personal privacy, (and HIIPA regulations) will not allow me to divulge any or all information, including, but not limited to; names of fellow travelers, social security numbers, gender, prior felony arrests, outstanding traffic warrants, or bank transfer codes.

All of which I gathered, surreptitiously in just seven days….except for two hoosier attendees;

  • In the despised category , “one on every tour”, the inconsiderate oversleeper who kept an entire bus delayed at the very first outing.
  • A lady who, gaining unwanted attention, tripped on a guardrail while attempting a closer view of Hitler’s very own, 770K Grosser. Although the open air limo was armor plated with bulletproof glass, her shin was not. She survived the encounter, after the loss of blood; an attractive shade of wine, and bruises of silver blue. Reminiscent of Indiana, 1966.

For seven days, an amorphous mass, we moved together, clear bubbles in a mountain stream of minnows doing what else….?….looking at used cars. Okay, expensive used cars, but others will provide details and photographic evidence.

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I found myself intrigued by the German people who, as you may know, speak a foreign language, nearly all wear black, and adhere to a national policy to smile less than twice weekly. The HQ receptionist at AMG, Claudia Barnickle, true to the code, when I requested a happy face. DSCN4706

Even this miniature fraulette, a five y/o fashion statement, awaiting the funicular ride to the scenic panorama of old Heidelberg who was whisked away, “Komm jetzt Süßer, der mann mag ein raubtiersein”, roughly, ‘come child, the man may be a predator’.

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At a critical juncture, our bus driving genius, Fabio, a chain smoking Italian, facilitating a more convenient drop off for his affluent passengers, elected to ignore this sign : keine Busse erlaubt. You know it; black circle, diagonal red stripe, aged Prevost shadow in the background.

Alas, this was not Fabio’s day. An attractive gendarme verbally scolded the diesel interloper, wrote a costly citation, and warned him of impending loss of manhood. My 1:06 minute, you-tube video of the encounter was confiscated as it required parental guidance for anyone under the age of eighty. Fabio, smoking an Italian Marlboro, gagged as if he was gargling fish hooks.

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The only remnant; photo/name badge of the arresting officer, Katrin Braun

An industrious Germany is reflected in its architecture; austere, lifeless, utilitarian, a mix of glass, steel, corrugated zinc siding……the personality of a section-8 Moscow housing complex. They do, however, make some beautiful cars, so why dress a courtyard with polished aluminum, dancing skateboarders ?  Four stories high ?

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The employment rate @ 97%, allows the unemployed to practice full-time graffiti art, which is everywhere. My suspicion, those 3% , at night, armed with Krylon® rattle cans in search of blank spaces, are working daytime for under-the-table cash in tattoo parlors.

And the maiden, you might ask…?… an attractive, on-duty nurse, seated in an aging MB ambulance in the Essen exhibition hall. She too, stoic, cool, non-talkative, had only a recorded voice. Lacking fluency in German, I was certain she wished to introduce me to her ride-flat sister, who was no doubt, inflatable.

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On the inskirts of Stuttgart we passed the “Oh Lord, Car Lot”, all used Mercedes. A curious name, unless you were alive in1970, and listened to the final recording of Janis Joplin, 3 days before her death.   Even though JJ drove a Porsche 356, her estate is likely receiving royalties from Daimler Benz.

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Guess the manufacturer’s paint code number ?

Do not be misled. We were treated as visiting royalty at every venue. The coffee was served in dainty cups, like those from a child’s dollhouse, and quite tasty, although refills were measured with an eyedropper ( sir, one dropperful or two ?) At the center of excellence the luncheon was exquisite. The dessert, marinated berries, spelt stones and mango sorbet, yet nearly unnoticed, and untouched, tiered silver trays with the most delicious chocolates. Ever.

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In contrast, a Techno parts vendor offered a version of pecan pie. Attractive, but 19 mm nuts fail to challenge French chocolates.

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A brief visit in the kitchen with the chef to compliment him on the chocolate selection, his whispered confession, ‘they are not German, but La Maison du Chocolat®, from Paris.’ Full disclosure; in an effort to gain weight, this visitor consumed at least three cognac, and three caramel toffee truffles. While no one was looking.

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If you questioned who was tardy to the bus, day one, please repeat this sentence, the only phrase learned all week; “Enschreitenblatten schalteniedlich verkehrsgesellschaft ? “

Loosely translated….”you don’t say ?”

 

©insightout2018