The cold air burned my nose and throat with each breath. My mouth was dry and I had that familiar ringing in my head. Upon waking I quickly sat up and surveyed my surroundings. I was completely disoriented not knowing where I was or how I got there until I saw the yellow VW through the trees near the road. "Where the fuck was Tom?", I thought as I stood up out of my sleeping bag. He had fallen asleep next to me on the tent we were to drunk and tired to set up, so we used it to cushion our crash site. I took a few step toward the car, were I figured he was still sleeping, but was startled to hear him trouncing through the woods behind me. "Sully you have to check this out". Not ten feet from where we crashed out was a steep drop off down to Lake Huron. While I was sleeping Tom had hiked down to the lake shore and checked out the scene. "Holy Shit, we could've killed ourselves if we took three more steps" I said. "Come on, lets go down to the Lake. This is awesome!" I wasn't excited, just cold, hungry and grateful that my laziness the night before may have saved our lives. "You can go back down, but I'm going to the car. I'm fucking freezing my balls off." Tom dismissed my irritability and went back down to the lake.
I went to the car and started it up, cranking the heat as high as it would go. I turned on the radio and cruised the dial. The only familiar artists I came across were Rush and April Wine. Canadian music sucks, I decided, as I sat in the bug shivering and hung over. We were in Sarnia, Ontario, just north of Detroit. We would try to make it to the mighty Mississippi by nightfall, but if Tom didn't get his ass up from the lake soon we would be lucky to make Chicago. Tom showed up wet from a frigid dip in the lake. "That was great, we've got to dip in Lake Michigan, then in the Mississippi so we hit all three in the same day!". I feigned excitement as I just wanted him to get a move on, so we could get some coffee and a bite to eat.
We drove south to Detroit listening to shitty Canadian pop music. We went back into the US and got some decent good old fashioned American music on the radio. Mick Jagger had just come out with his solo debut and the single "Just Another Night" was in heavy rotation. As we drove into Detroit Huey Lewis was belting out "Do You Believe In Love" while we surveyed the squalor. Detroit was dirty and dingy, at least from the highway. There were at least a dozen abandoned cars on the road on our ride through the city limits. The "Motor City", how ironic.
Our next target was Chicago. We drove with the windows down as the weather was sunny and warm, in the seventies. Our route took us along the southern edge of Lake Michigan, so according to plan we got off the highway near Michigan City and found a place to take a dip. We parked in a lot adjacent to a sandy beach. Surprising to me there were waves coming into the shoreline. Tom stripped down to his shorts and ran for the water. I did the same with less zeal. The water paralyzed me and I lost my breath momentarily. I ran back out onto the beach while Tom swam around unfazed by the chill. "That water is about 45 degrees" an elderly onlooker espoused, amused by our youthful stupidity. "Yeah" is all I could get out as I wondered how far up into my body my balls had retreated.
We got back in the car and popped open some Exports in celebration of our accomplishment. We drank our way through Chicago and across Illinois to Dubuque , Iowa. There we found a campground on the banks of the Mississippi River just as Tom envisioned. To fulfil our Manifest Destiny we waded in the muddy water. Tom thought it was a good idea to sleep the same way we did the night before, under the stars, so we didn't bother to set up the tent. Dubuque is located where Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa converge so we drove over the river to East Dubuque, Illinois, north a mile or two into Wisconsin and back over the river into Dubuque, Iowa. Three states in ten minutes. No big deal. I've done that dozens of times between Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire and much drunker than I was now. It was another starry night as I snuggled down into my sleeping bag. I listened to the waters of the Mississippi lapping the river bank as I drifted off. I was far from home and getting farther.