TL; DR: We tell our mothers we love them and then drive from Springfield to Chicago where we take a sunset cruise, lose ourselves in deep dish pizza, relive our childhood dreams by re-enacting scenes from Batman, and drive at night in cars that don't want to be driven anymore.
Before kicking off our day's mega drive, we took care of pressing business:
And then it was wheels to the pavement. But after a few minutes of driving, I felt our car exiting the highway. I was surprised to find us pulling off so soon after finishing our finest fare breakfast (powdered eggs, short fleshy sausages that were more grizzled than the severed fingers you find floating in Halloween party punch -we ate them anyway- and cubed potato bites that you could season to taste with cubed ham, bacon bits, and grated cheese), and I assumed it was because the Turbo needed some mechanical love. It had been struggling to keep pace all morning.
"Are we getting off because of the Turbo?" I asked, glancing up from my note taking to address Michael. My throat was becoming raw and voice scratchy from having to shout to be heard for so many days straight.
"No," Michael yelled back. "We need to fix the Italian underpants."
Only moments earlier there'd been energetic banter over the airwaves but I wasn't paying attention to what was being said because there was no reason to. It's impossible for me to hear anything other than the car's rumbling engine and her exposed frame rattling when we're moving. So I was the last to realize that the scandalously small, men's nylon underpants decorated in proud Italian colours that we were supposed to ship home for Michael's brother from California (and so had given Priority Mail treatment), were falling off the Turbo (where we'd secured them after removing them from the Vanborghini's front grill).
If we failed to secure the wildly flapping crotch piece at that moment, we'd have to buy Michael's brother a new pair.
With the Italian underpants secured to Bones' single side mirror (the passenger side doesn't have one) instead of the Turbo's back break light, we continued on our way. Our second last Big Driving day passed relatively drama-free. We cruised along the hot hilly black ribbon of Route 66 for hours, taking a short break to visit Ted Drewe's frozen custard shop - a necessary stop along what had become an informal "Endangered Food" tour of all the unsustainable eats greater America has to offer.
We made it to the outskirts of Chicago relatively incident free but shortly after entering the city Michael and I began to feel sick to our stomachs (and not because of the food). While the towering Chicago cityscape and immense gothic buildings exuded a haunting splendour, the city's roads were far from splendid. The offensively frequent expansion joints in the asphalt of the road meant that every dozen meters we were bottoming out. We knew in our bones that soon something on Bones would break in a bad way.
We didn't know how bad until after we bump started her in the Trump Tower spiral parking lot at 11:30pm. (It was so late because we just couldn't resist spending a few hours sighing over the smouldering sun as it crept below the Chicago city skyline, setting the thousands of tiny glass panes that lined the tall sky scrapers ablaze with its searing light; nor could we resist losing our minds and ability to keep time over Chicago's best deep dish pizza.)
(And another because Taylor's just so dang good:)
After we managed to get Bones running again we realized that her headlights were really done-for this time. But Chicago is the closest city outside of Hollywood to being Gotham, and we weren't about to have our dreams of rolling in the tracks of superheroes dashed by an electrical fire or broken headlights (just think about what Bruce Wayne would have done in our position!). So even though our patience was thinning and stress was mounting and tempers were beginning to flare, we were determined to fly through Chicago's oil-and-grime stained concrete underbelly like The Batman himself.
While I found exploring Chicago's subterranean road network properly exhilarating, my mind was on other things.
Dinner time and sunset cruise conversation had been as spirited and nerve-wracking as Magnus' drive along Angeles Crest as we discussed what to expect crossing over the border. As a group, breaking rules and pushing boundaries is more like a cultivated hobby and point of pride than it is the exception. But none of us like the idea of putting someone else out, or getting into Trouble.
So when it comes to the border, and all other things suspiciously stiff and uniform, it's one boundary that makes our drivers uncomfortable to cross. What we're doing -importing a pitted, near-five-decade-old franken-Porsche that looks more like a torture chamber for road trippers than it does a long range vehicle of choice, alongside two classics that won't be imported even though we're all making the same journey- isn't a border guard's standard five-questions-and-then-you're-done, fare.
Forcing a three car length, complicated situation through the tight pores of the sticky membrane that divides our two countries made us all nervous. On top of that, as a rule, rule enforcers make rule breakers feel nervous. That combined with such low reserves, sore bodies, and unreliable vehicles, our nerves were beginning to fray.
They almost snapped completely in half when we finally exited Chicago at midnight to get to our final accommodations of the trip, because we had to take Bones back over all those ripples that amplified into tidal waves inside her chassis. By then her internal and external lights were off, and the electrical meltdown that had been smoking beneath her touchy headlight switch was cooling but still gave off the nauseating smell of burning forty-year-old chemical waste.
Like when Maple died in San Luis Obispo and we all had to band together and be creative in order to limp her to SGS Independent Porsche, we banded together and were creative about limping Bones through the treacherous inky night along the highway to the motel.
"This is fucking scary guys," Michael emoted into his walkie talkie while squinting at the black road ahead. "For real. D-Gall, could you go ahead of me and swerve a little when you see a pothole or bump?"
"10-4," Devon confirmed, voice tight. "I'll tap my breaks so you know something's coming."
"I'll pull up next to you Michael," Mike piped in, creeping up to the left of us with his beams on high so that we could borrow his light to see the road's surface. It went from being lost in shadow to barely-there grey. It wasn't perfect or much safer, but it would have to do.
"Thanks, boys," Michael said into the walkie. "And girl." And then he hooted, breaking down some of the mounting tension. "Let's bring 'em home!"
Taylor and I remained silent, not wanting to distract our drivers during the final high intensity push of our trip. But thankfully we didn't need to go very far. When we pulled into the motel parking lot just an hour outside of Chicago, Maple was releasing a thick plume of smoke into the air like she was trying to hide a bonfire beneath her engine cover, and Bones smelled awful. But the five of us were all tired smiles and silliness. When Michael crept up in Bones behind Mike, unbeknownst to Mike, and tapped the horn to alert him (frighten the crap out of him), the resulting laughter was giddy and frazzled but genuine.
"She's a ninja Porsche," Michael joked. "Can't even see me coming."
It was a dark joke, but Taylor and I laughed loudly because we all felt so damned lucky to be alive.
As we got our rooms Devon, who had become our de facto cartographer, calculated how much of a buffer we would need for the remainder of our journey (including border crossing) so that we could leave the motel in time. We needed to be in Kitchener by 7:00pm the following day because we had plans to meet up with Kitchener's incredibly supportive and adventurous Mayor, Barry Vrbanovic, and Kitchener's equally supportive and adventurous chief of police, Bryan Larkin. They both wanted to show their support of our mission by helping us organize an arrival party!
"We need to leave by 8:00am, so meet down here at 7:45?" Devon suggested.
It was already past 1:00am and I still had a blog post to write, but given how early we'd been waking up a 7:45am meet up felt like sleep-in luxury.
We rushed to our rooms (as quickly as our leaden legs would carry us) and as I finally lay down to sleep for just a few hours, I thought about how lucky we were. If Bones' electrical had been any less hardy then we would have... No point in dwelling on it, I told myself as I drifted off. But the brain does as the brain wants and my final thought of what had become an excruciatingly long day, was that even though fortune may favour the bold, Lady Luck is fickle; and we still had the biggest hurdle in front of us to overcome.