Right now, I am sitting in the dark at around 7 am in a Motel 6 just outside of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. I hear the sounds of the people in the room next door getting ready for the day: hairdryers, keys clanging, doors banging, cars starting up. There is even the ding dong ring of the lobby door which is right underneath us. I am trying to get myself to go get a cup off the free coffee served from 7 to 10 am, but am feeling that weird kind of inertia I always do when faced with situations I am not sure about. First I have to get dressed, go downstairs and face people and figure out how to get my coffee and back to my room so I can finish this blog post.
The girls are still sleeping (that is why I am in the dark) and Jeremy has gone to the mechanic. Yep. The mechanic. It seems our trust in our old Toyota Camry might have been a tad unfounded. It started around Louisville when our air conditioning started smoking. We turned it off, thinking that would be the end of it, but the thermostat in the car kept creeping steadily higher, until it rested in the red zone. We pulled over at the next available exit – Elizabethtown. We needed to do some groceries and thought the car just needed to cool down, so we thought we could kill two birds with one stone.
Not so. After a brief stint at the middle mark, the little arrow jumped back like it was on a spring to the red zone. We turned right around and tried to find a mechanic.Unfortunately, it was already six o’clock and everybody was closing. We did find a garage who told us they opened at 7 am in the morning so we took our poor beastie of a car slowly back up the road and to the motel 6.
To add insult to injury, Elizabethtown happens to be located in a “moist” county, which means they only serve alcohol in restaurants. You cannot purchase it. So no well-deserved beer for us after this little incident.
Surprisingly though, we are not very stressed out about it. The worst part was that we lost our hotel reservation in Nashville and paid 64 bucks for a room we never stayed in. Jeremy is at the mechanic’s right now, and hopefully they can fix it. If they can’t today, we’ll stay another day in Elizabethtown. If they can, hopefully we can try Nashville again. If it isn’t fixable at all, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Okay. I just went down to get coffee. They didn’t have any cream, just non-dairy creamer that came in a package not unlike those moist towelettes given in certain restaurants. The coffee is black and tastes like the styrofoam cup it comes in. I might have to venture farther afield, to the gas station right behind us.
But enough about my coffee woes. So far, we’ve been to 4 places (not counting this lovely little nook in the world, close to the Maker’s Mark distillery and Fort Knox.)
We stayed with our friend Dustin, who lives in a one bedroom apartment in the Annex. The night we arrived, we set out for this El Salvadoran place in the heart of Korea town, got some delicious food and ate it in a park, which to my kids’ eternal delight, actually had a merry-go-round. For some reason, merry-go-rounds are a rarity in the safety-obsessed parks of today. By the time we got back home, it was 10 o’clock at night and we all fell asleep quickly.
The next day, I went for a run around Casa Loma, which I had never seen before. The area was full of houses that looked liked they might fly away, they had so many wings. I found a little path neat the St. Clair subway stop and ended up on a path that wound through a ravine and several watersheds. I love that. City, city city and then suddenly…NATURE!
We wanted to to go see the ROM and the Terra Cotta Soldiers so we headed to the Royal Ontario Museum. For all of you that live in Montreal, we learned a very important thing: if you are a member of the Musée des Beaux Arts you get free general admission to the ROM and a few other museums in Canada. I sure wish they had told us this last time we visited the Rom about a year a go where we were suckered into buying a family pass with my sister. Still, good news is good news and I’m glad we figured this out. So only twenty bucks later (general admission did not cover the Terracotta soldiers exhibition) we were in.
The exhibit, per ROM style, was fabulous and I learned a lot about the first emperor of China, the megalomaniac who was responsible for the Great wall of China, etc. If you have a chance to go see it, do. It is spectacular.
We left Toronto at around 3 pm and headed towards Windsor and…
Ahh Detroit. The last time I passed through this city, this dried bone of industry, this living ghost town, was 13 years ago. And nothing has changed. It is a strange, dying place. I am sorry for all those who live there, but it is hard to see it any other way. The neighborhood where Jeremy’s sister and her husband own a house is full of vacant lots and boarded up houses. Even their house looks ramshackle, after nine years of being away. The trees and weeds and plants are encroaching on everything and there are hardly any people about.
The back of their house looks onto the old train station a couple blocks away. It is a perfect example of the urban decay found in Detroit. This building has been abandoned since 1988, that is, for 22 years. It is a grand old dame of a station, constructed at the same time and by the same people who designed Grand Central Station. It is shocking to see its broken windows, the trees growing on its roof, the graffiti that covers it. Maybe most disturbing is that Detroit feels like a cautionary tale for the rest of us. Once a booming metropolis, the hub of industry, it is now too big to sustain. All the industries have moved on either to cheaper labour forces or to the suburbs. It is like a dying star collapsing into itself. With the way things are going – oil spill in the Gulf, the part we play in global warming, the recession, it is hard not to feel anxious about our own cities going the same way.
But enough of that. One thing they do have though is BBQ. We arrived at about 7:30 pm, using the Ambassador bridge, as their house is very close to it in Corktown, and almost immediately walked to Slow’s, a BBq restaurant near their house. The only thing I have to say about this was that one meal fed us for a few days.
July 4th was the next day and we spent most of it as most Detroiters do, driving around. We went to a couple of Value Worlds (Detroit’s version of Value Village) and drove ridiculous amounts of time to get to a grocery store. We also visited Heidelberg Street, an ongoing community art project attempting to draw attention to the poverty and urban decay of the city as well as rally the remaining residents with a sense of community and voice. In the 13 years since I had last seen it, it has gotten more focused, less like big piles of junk.
We arrived home at about 4:30 and hunkered down for the day. Just before bed, the kids did participate in the festivities by lighting some sparklers. Because how is the best way to celebrate a holiday? By lighting things on fire of course.
UPDATE CAR: Mechanic didn’t arrive until 7:40 and is looking at it now. Not much of an update…
UPDATE CAR AND COFFEE: New radiator needed. 418$ and will be ready in 1hr and a half. Went to get some coffee at the BP (yes, that BP) and they still didn’t have real milk -just this #$%%$#ing non-dairy creamer. What does Elizabethtown have against dairy? Had to actually buy a pint of milk. The last time I bought a pint (okay, the only times I ever bought a pint was beer).
Stay tuned for Travel Journal Entry #2: Grand Rapids and Indianapolis (+ car woes concluded hopefully…)