Day 4 (Monday, 1 April 2013): Lafayette, IN
Day mileage: 12ish
We woke on Monday morning with near-darkness outside the hotel, the barest suggestion of light on the horizon. As we ate breakfast, dressed ourselves, and prepared for the day ahead, the light grew outside. Looking out of the hotel window, I saw some bits of snow I hadn’t remembered seeing the day before – it looked like it might have snowed a bit overnight, which was vaguely concerning for our continued northerly journey, but it was only small patches. When we left at just about 7:30, for the 3 mile trip to Firestone over by the Tippecanoe Mall, it was more or less fully daylight; enough that we didn’t need headlights at least.
Arriving at Firestone we were greeted by an entirely too cheerful and awake worker called Bill, who tried to look up SJ in the Firestone system as she’d been to a Firestone before. They apparently key their records off phone number (which, I suppose, is better than the social security number used in so many other places), but SJ’s old mobile phone number had no information associated with it, and while they had three different records for her on her parents’ phone number – with a variety of different spellings – none of them had her Infiniti attached to them! SJ sent me out to the car to retrieve paperwork, as she remembered having a Firestone receipt in there, and on producing it we found out the correct number to use for her account was actually the phone number she had back in 2008 while staying in her apartment by LSUS. After that, Bill spent several minutes fixing the mess so that SJ’s name was correctly spelt and associated with the correct phone number, and there was only one of her in the system.
Then we came to explaining the problem with the car, giving its symptoms, the things we’d checked and that we’d ruled out the bulbs and the fuses and all we had left to check were the relays, and we weren’t equipped to do it – unless he could think of anything else. “Well, squirrels could have chewed the wires,” he said cheerfully. We were still deeply hoping that it wouldn’t be a wiring though, as that’d be a hilarious problem to fix…. but there are a lot of squirrels near where the car was being kept.
We handed over the keys, and went to sit in the waiting area, warm sun streaming through the large windows onto us. Bill went around setting things up for the day, turning on the TV in the waiting area, starting some coffee brewing. He offered some to us, but we both declined, and then he suggested a cup of tea, with milk and sugar, “like the English like.” We ended up having a fairly lengthy conversation with him about tea: it turns out he had a sort of surrogate grandmother when he was a kid. She was Swedish, and he’d spent a fair amount of time with her, and she used to make hot tea with milk and sugar and he fell in love with tea made that way. Bill also told SJ that he was shocked to learn that she came from Louisiana – we hadn’t told him the long story of the various places SJ grew up in – and that he thought she didn’t sound entirely American.
After a while Bill came over and told us that they’d brought the car in, reproduced the problem, and they were trying to find the relays for the headlights. “I can show them where the relays are,” SJ told him. “Oh, you can? Really?” he replied with some surprise, “okay, well, just go over there and tell those guys working on your car!” At this point we both went out into the garage to find three (yes, three) mechanics poking at the car, hood open, one looking at the fuse panel by the steering column, and the others looking at the easily-accessible fuses and relays box in the engine compartment, all with puzzled looks on their faces.
Striding towards them SJ threw back her shoulders, puffed out her chest, and loudly announced, “My headlight relays are,” pointing out the itinerant black box buried in its inconvenient location, “over here, in this box.” Despite their surprised looks, the mechanics gratefully accepted the information and said they’d get to work taking it out and testing it, so SJ and I returned to the waiting area. Damn, that felt good. It’s one of my favorite memories of the whole trip!
It didn’t take long to get the news that they’d pulled the relay, tested it, and concluded that it was indeed broken. Bill started calling people to try and track down a replacement part for it, and eventually called us over to tell us the news: he’d found a replacement, at an Infiniti dealer in Indianapolis who was willing to drive it up to Lafayette that day. Given that we’d explicitly avoided going to Indianapolis, we felt a little silly at this point, but even with the benefit of hindsight I think we’d still do the same thing again: the paddling pool shower and unhelpful clerks aside, our time in Lafayette was relaxed, filled with friendly people, and generally a good time. But, anyway, we told Bill to tell them to go ahead and bring it up – and we would try not to think too hard about how much our choice of city would end up costing. They said it’d be at the Firestone by 4pm, and in the car shortly after, so we gave Bill our current phone number in case they needed to get hold of us, and then phoned for a cab to take us back to the hotel. He told us that, as we were right next to a mall, there was a Barnes&Noble and a bunch of other places we could go, but as we told him: the hotel had a pool, and we intended to use it!
The cab company we phoned said that someone would be there for us in about 20 minutes. They lied, like lying things made entirely of lies and misinformation. SJ and I sat in the waiting area for a while, and an old lady who had brought her car in for an oil change was sat there doing some knitting. At one point she asked if there was anything she could do to help us, as her car would be done soon. Both SJ and I found very touching and generous, but we thanked her and said that no, we were just waiting on a taxi.
And we waited, and waited.
Two more phone calls, and an hour after the first call, the taxi finally arrived. Given that the hotel was only 2.9 miles from the Firestone we could probably have already walked back by that point, save for the lack of sidewalks along a chunk of the route, and the fact that it was still really cold outside; not the emphatically below-freezing cold it was when we brushed ice off the car before we left the hotel, but damned cold. The cabbie himself was actually a decent guy, and ended up earning a tip even though we were pissed when he first turned up. Among other things, he told us of a time he was stopped by a policeman for having a headlight out, during the day (the car had daylight running lights). The cop was actually going to ticket him until the cabbie pointed out that he was grateful the cop had told him the light was out, and he’d get it fixed, but all these other people were driving past without any lights on at all, what with it being daylight… “Yeah, I hadn’t really thought about that,” the cop apparently said. We concluded he must have needed more doughnuts.
We paid the cab driver, and got the details from him for arranging a timed pickup later to get us back to Firestone. At this point we checked at the desk about the shower, and were told – with some attitude – that it hadn’t been fixed, and all they could do was give us another room. At this point we decided we’d put up with that for a working shower, as we’d be there another night and didn’t want to have to go paddling again! It was only now that the clerk told us the alternative room was the adjoining one! If they’d told us that the night before, I think we probably would have moved then, but nothing so helpful. So we asked for a discount for the first night for the problem with the shower (this being standard practice in US hotels when the room isn’t up to snuff, particularly Six Continents hotels, which is a thing you know when you’ve been on that side of the desk for nearly a decade) – the clerk said he’d have to clear that with his boss – and got the second room key, went back to the room and opened the doors between the two adjoining rooms so that we could transfer our stuff between them more easily.
It was a really strange experience, as the rooms were almost identical, mirrored across the adjoining wall, made even more freaky by the fact that there were mirrors set into closet doors on opposite sides of the adjoining door, so we could see a mirrored, mirror copy of the room without our stuff in it at the same time as the room with our stuff in!
After moving everything through we set up the taxi pickup, and had some lunch as we were both hungry by this point. We also decided that, as Bill had been so very helpful and friendly, we’d bring him some of our tea as we had a bit more than we strictly needed for the whole trip. So we packed some of the precious bags into ziplock bags to bring with us as we prepared lunch. After we’d eaten and sorted laundry we got changed to go swimming, and SJ got more laundry going while we swam. The pool itself was on the second floor, not very large – perhaps only 15×20 feet, going from 3 feet to 4.6 feet deep – but it was big enough to swim circuits and mess around in (neither SJ or I are Serious Swimming is Serious Business swimmers, and prefer to enjoy relaxing and having fun rather than swimming precision ruler-straight lengths). The room the pool was in had wide windows along two sides and a skylight; it was a strange experience to float in the pool, watching clouds go over, with so much sunlight coming in; a stark contrast to the environment of Glossop Swimming Pool! That place is Victorian, so it has high ceilings. It’s two very tall stories, with a viewing balcony – instead of using that only when they have races for the swim club, they leave it accessible all the time, so there are always perverts watching you swim. It has large windows, but somehow stays mostly dark even on the sunniest days. Even better, we had to pool to ourselves, and we spent over an hour in there, broken occasionally when SJ went to tend to laundry.
Eventually SJ began to feel a bit sinus-headachy, so we went back to the room and SJ had some food, painkillers, and sudafed, and then a nap. I went to shower, had a snack, and generally just poked at email and relaxed for a while. We’d set the taxi pickup for 5pm, so eventually I woke SJ and we got ready to head down to the lobby for 5. Although we were actually a little early, I had a vague feeling that we should hurry a bit, although I couldn’t put my finger on why. When we got down to the lobby the taxi was waiting outside, the driver said he’d gotten there a little early and didn’t expect us to be down yet, but he was ready and we piled in to head back up to Firestone.
The cab driver this time was called Hutch, and he had a big, bright pink monkey called Starsky hanging from the rearview mirror. He said that, when people found out his name, they kept on asking him where Starsky was, so he got the monkey. He told us that it’s a good conversation starter, and it makes it easier for drunk people, or those without good memories, so they can ask the cab company to “send the guy with the monkey.” He tells children that the monkey has no name, and they should try to think of one, to keep them quieter too!
And then SJ and the driver started making fun of me about music.
SJ likes to listen to music as background in the car: it doesn’t have to be loud, but not having any music playing makes her feel extremely uncomfortable. Indeed, I prefer background music to be rather quiet – I’ve surprised no end of friends who didn’t even realize the radio was on until I said something like, “This is a good song!” and turned it up a bit. Loud music physically hurts, and yet I seem to run across only loud or no music these days, as though all the volume knobs in the world are broken. I’m convinced most of the world is dealing with some amount of hearing loss, and it makes me wonder how many misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and even wars are down to people not hearing properly what was said. The CD player and radio in the car has been broken for some time, and we haven’t had time to investigate what is wrong with it and how hard it’d be to fix, so I had put some music on my phone to play in the car. This worked, somewhat, except that I only put 40 tracks on it (in my vague defence, I don’t have any extra storage in my phone, so I was somewhat restricted by the space available) and tracks were repeating too frequently. Top 40 only – reminded me why I don’t listen to radio anymore! Thankfully I’d brought SJ’s entire 40GB music collection on the laptop, so the first night of the trip when we were in Grenada SJ put a load of it on her phone and we used that for music. But I was made fun of for it anyway.
When we got to Firestone we saw the car sat in the workshop, headlights on and steady. It looked like they were still working on it a bit, so we asked about it and asked where Bill was. Apparently he’d finished for the day already, and he wasn’t there, so we left the tea with the worker manning the desk (much to his confusion, until we explained it to him) for it to be passed to Bill later. He told us that they’d replaced the relay, were just doing a few final checks, and then the car would be ready. Shortly after, the mechanics drove the car out to the parking lot, and we forked over an arm and a leg to pay for the repair before driving the car back down to the hotel. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t take the limbs from the sacrificial goat this time. Persnickety mechanics. We had to use our own. 😉
By this point it was getting towards dinnertime, so we pulled out the map of restaurants we’d been given the night before, and decided to try one of the places that’d been closed then. It being Monday night instead of Easter Sunday night, we were hopeful. We worked out a vague loop covering some of the restaurants and set out to look for one that looked good.
First on our list of places to look at was a Mediterranean restaurant called Adelino’s Old World Kitchen, and after finally working out how to get in – the entryway looked like it was actually the way into a lawyer’s office, and very poorly signposted – we were asked whether we wanted to be seated in the front (in the bar area, basically), or farther back in the restaurant. Remembering how loud bars could get, we decided to sit towards the back, and we were led to a table over in a quiet corner area. The décor was nicely done, with lots of dark wood, Mediterranean-style bottles, urns, candles, and trailing vines arranged in tasteful patterns approved of by the Terrible Restaurant Gods, and a remarkable gold ceiling that we decided was probably not golf leaf, unless we were inadvertently dining in the local Mafia headquarters.
Our waiter was fabulous; he spent some time going through the menu without rushing or impatience, explaining the various dishes and the tapas-style part of the menu found between the appetisers and entrées. We ended up ordering several tapas dishes, a salad, and an entrée, and split the food between us, and it worked out to pretty much exactly the right amount for us in the end. The food was tasty, and overall we were very pleased – although looking at reviews of the restaurant since, it seems like we actually got pretty lucky, as they seem to have a mix of really good and really bad reviews.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and went back to the room with the plan to get everything prepared so that we could load up the car and leave as early as possible the next day. We had to get from Lafayette, Indiana to Lansing, Michigan as early as we could, as SJ’s brother Robb had arranged to take the day off work to meet up with us, and we were due to get to SJ’s Aunt Doris’ house near Flint, Michigan in the evening – we had a lot of ground to cover, and not much wiggle room.
So, we packed up as much as we could, ironed everything we needed to get ironed, and prepared everything for a speedy getaway. We had everything pretty much sorted by 8pm, and planned to head to bed around 10 to be up at 6:30am. We were about to go swimming again when the hotel’s wifi – which had been conspicuously broken so far – started working, and SJ wanted to catch up money, contact various people through Farcebook and so on. By the time she was done, it was getting late and we were tired, so no swimming – we just showered and slept. This grownup thing is overrated sometimes.