A few weeks ago, before the howling wind and rain hit and before I ended up working 11 hours on Halloween night, I had the brilliant idea to get the heck out of Dodge for the day. I have fond memories of harvest season activities back home, especially the Columbus Day fair in Sandwich, NH, so I decided to find something similar to do on Columbus Day this year. I left early in the morning, driving through foliage at the absolute peak of reds and golds. Lakeshore Drive on a fall morning is amazing - like something out of a movie or a painting. It was enough to make me forget the ugly reality of living in this city for a while. Northwestern Indiana, by contrast, is the armpit of the entire midwest. There's a reason the skyway bridge extracts a $5 toll each way but people keep using it. Metaphorically fast forwarding over the sprawl like a Gibson protagonist, I found myself on US-6 in the countryside. I had almost forgotten US-6 even existed this far west - I more normally associate it with memories of vacations on Cape Cod, or cutting across Connecticut twenty years ago in a rusted out Hyundai. The memories made me smile more than the actual sights along the road, which was just generic Indiana - dull and white bread to the nth degree. I took one last turn and found myself where I'd been aiming for since morning: County Line Orchard. I took a few pictures, but they're all fuzzy crap compared to the ones on the website. My next phone will have a much better camera.
It seems like half the population of Cook County had the same idea to get out of the city that day - there were enough other cars in the grassy parking field with Illinois plates that I found another black Camaro of similar vintage. What are the odds?
I spent hours wandering around the orchard, picking apples, listening to bluegrass music, and listening to the wind in the trees and absence of engine noise other than a couple of tractors towing the lazier tourists around the fields. Of course there was a corn maze - what's a plot of land in Indiana without corn? - but there a few too many teenage couples seeking isolated spots for it to be really enjoyable. The clouds overhead thickened and spilled a few drops of rain, so I made a tactical retreat back to the gift shop and picked up a pumpkin to leave outside for Halloween.
As I worked my way back towards Illinois, the clouds thinned, until I was south of Chicago and the sky was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel - a clear, sharp, unmarred blue. I opened the windows and sunroof and cut across to US-41 (which becomes Lakeshore Drive) a bit early. As I passed through the projects on the south side, I learned a lesson that photographers have learned sicne the first days of color film: a clear autumn afternoon with fall foliage can make even a bullet-scarred, impoverished hellhole like the south side seem like paradise. As I approached downtown, the sunlight shining on the skyscrapers seemed to welcome me back home, if only for a little while.
(To anyone who caught the Babylon 5 reference, no Vorlons or Pak'ma'ra were involved in the telling of this story).