US Road Trip Epilog: 3rd June 2005

The 3½ hour Amtrak ride to Springfield is uneventful and by midday I'm back in the multistorey car park and looking at my car. Loretta, it has to be said, is looking a tad sad. Not only is one of the back tires flat but the car is so covered in dust and dirt that it's difficult to see out of the windshield. This isn't just due to the storage - I left the car in a fairly grubby condition - but the open-air nature of the car park (which is obviously also used by birds) hasn't helped. I was going to take a photo but frankly I felt a bit ashamed of myself for leaving the old girl in such a place in such a state. Penance is pending.

Good news: After a few churns it starts. Bad news: Engaging Drive or Reverse produces no movement. I've been here before with the transmission - no movement means not enough fluid. Sure enough checking the level shows nothing on the dipstick, and there's a dried puddle of something under the car (with added baby bird feathers). When I try to inflate the back tire the foot-pump, which was always fairly rubbish, distorts one last time and seizes up at 15 PSI. I think I need an auto-parts store.

A few hours later - those places are always a long walk from the town centre - I'm back at the car with some transmission fluid, a funnel and a new foot-pump. After use of all three, which isn't easy given the lack of lighting in the car park, we're on the move. Not that smoothly, it has to be said, but on the move nonetheless. After surrendering my car park pass to the Illinois National Bank (who own the car park) it's time for a bit of a think.

By now I know Springfield and its motels fairly well, and I know what I need - an old-fashioned motel where you park your car outside your room that's also within walking distance of the centre of town. The only place that fits the bill is the Mansion View (they don't even have a proper website, let alone internet access) and by chance it's just around the corner from the car park. Decision made, and a few hundred yards later the car is parked outside my room.

Into town on foot and after a bit of searching I've bought a bucket, a sponge and some washing-up liquid. On the way back the activity I'd seen earlier on (during my walk to the auto-parts store) around the Old State Capitol building begins to make sense. The flat-bed rig has turned into a stage and there are stalls selling beers and burgers. I was determined to get back to my car but the quality of the music made me turn back. $5 later I'm in and basking in the late afternoon sun.

The band that caught my ear on the way past are called Second Harvest. As I walked by I thought the lead singer sounded a bit like Randy Travis, but that wasn't what dragged me back. It was the sound. There are only the three of them - the singer playing rhythm guitar, another guy playing slide (whilst standing up with the guitar just on a strap - which I haven't seen before) but best of all a third on the mandolin. I love the sound of the mandolin and I can't for the life of me remember ever seeing anyone play one live.

It's fantastic, and not a little surreal. When I left Chicago this morning not only did I not really believe that I'd have a running car again but I never would've thought I'd be sitting on a park bench in the centre of Springfield with the sun on my back and a cold beer in hand watching (and listening to - the sound quality is great) a really good band. I'm even more surprised because I imagined that Springfield, being the state capital and with all the new Lincoln exhibits, would be far too po-faced for bands on trailers with beers and burgers on hand.

The event is the Sojourner Truth Music Festival and there are very few people around. It's only one small blocked-off street but the staff seem to outnumber the customers by about 2:1. And there are maybe 30 staff. Still, I'm enjoying it. After Second Harvest are a blues band who are fairly good but I prefer blues in a small smoky club and not in the bright afternoon sun.

Time to pay my penance and return to the motel to clean my car. With 17½' by 6½' of metalwork you'd have though this would be difficult but, apart from the front section, it's actually quite easy. Still takes a fair few bucketfuls, mind.

Clean Riviera
Loretta the Riviera after a clean. Scrubs up well, doesn't she?

With the car looking a whole lot more respectable I take a breather then return to the music. The later bands are ok, though not as impressive as those earlier, but it doesn't really matter as I'm still amazed (and happy) that all this is going on in the centre of Springfield. I might even check the jobs vacant section of the local paper at some point though, of course, that could just be the beer talking.

US Road Trip Epilog: 4th June 2005 >