Attack of the Lake Villains from Lake Villa
When we woke, there was a breakfast to be had. Climbing out of the tent, we found the sky pearly white with thin, rolling clouds. On the picnic table in our site, neatly tied in a shopping bag, was left-overs from last night, along with some eggs we bought. We woke, stretched, and began preparing a breakfast of scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, mushrooms, biscuits, turkey bacon and sausage.
Coffee was percolating, and turkey bacon was sizzling when they sky grew suddenly dark. “Cook faster” we both said, and frantically prepared our food so we could throw it in one our enamel pots and carry it off to the car before it began raining. When we had rolled up our tent and slammed the door of the van shut, it poured.
We ate breakfast in the front seat of the van while watching the thunder and lightning, and listening to an obscure jazz channel low down on the dial. “I guess we’ll head toward Lake Villa. You know, because of the rain” Blythe said in understatement. We put aside our pot of biscuits, bacon, sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and eggs, and hit the road.
The news on the radio said storms were sweeping across all of Northern Illinois, which meant no comfortable camping for the coming night. Also, in a stroke of bad luck, the windshield wipers began beating against each other violently, before finally stopping altogether. At a truck stop, we downed some $1 juice and pondered our options, the rain still sheeting across the windows. AAA? Well, that kills our day. We’d have to crawl through a phone maze, then wait for a tow truck. Are there nearby auto repair places? Well, in Central Illinois, there are certainly repair shops, but the great spaces of the plains places them far apart.
The GPS showed one 7 miles down the highway. Keeping to the right of the yellow line, and watching intently for brake lights, we carefully navigated through a drenched windshield to the next town, where we found the repair shop closed for business. Fortunately, the news said that the storm was fast moving, and could be expected to blow on in an hour or so. Fine, we nodded to each other, we’ll wait it out. Parked behind a lonely gas station, we fished out our computer, and watched a James Bond movie for about 45 minutes until the rain had mostly subsided.
In another town over, we found a repair shop that was still operating. An energetic, young mechanic hopped right into our van and pulled it into the shop. A short time later, he told us that a bolt that attached the windshield wipers to their motor had come loose, and all he did was tighten it. We asked him what we could give him. “Five bucks?” We gave him $20 in our gratitude, and zipped away down the highway, happily wiping our windshield with ease.
Lake Villa is suburb of Chicago, containing mostly large commercial complexes and a Six Flags amusement park. In a place like this, it’s easy to find a cheap room. We found a spot that was cheaper than our apartment in New York, and quickly made ourselves at home. We had a little time to do some work on the computer before we had to make our way to Swing State for our show.
Swing State is primarily a tobacco outlet. It is a long, low, smoky room on the bottom floor of an old house. They don’t serve any booze, so its populated by mostly younger types. They sell coffee, tea, hookah, cigars, and the like. When we entered, an older man with a lot of energy came at us. “I’m Pops Behind The Beard!” he exclaimed. He did indeed have a great big bushy beard. He was also sporting an old rock t-shirt, and a utili-kilt. He was to be our Sound man for the evening, and gave us both big hugs in celebration.
There were about 5 other people populating a long bar, drinking exotic tea and sipping on enormous hookahs. We loaded in through a side door, and set up fast. The stage was roomy for such a small room, and the sound system seemed pretty current. They clearly appreciate being a music venue. Setting up with Pops was a breeze, so we sat at the bar and chatted with him for a while, with time to spare.
In our time at the bar, we met the owner, Ian, who gave us a wave and a grunt, obviously busy with assembling a number of new Ikea bar stools. Since the crowd didn’t seem to be growing at all, we started playing. We played a tight, clean set. The sound was good. No one cared much. One guy, who we later identified as Pops' son, Max, hooted and shouted, and came up to the stage to listen to a tune or two.
After our set, as we were breaking down, a few people came up to tell us how much they enjoyed the music, including John of John & The Jitters. Thank You. The next act popped up just as we were packing away. He shook our hands and apologized for missing our set. He then disappeared. We loaded out, and sat down with a pot of exotic tea (we would have had some hookah, but we were still chasing off that persistent cough).
When the next act took the stage, a few things became clear. First, this was a crowd of his old friends. He named off a number of people in the crowd, dedicated songs to people in the room, and generally felt like he could do anything he wanted. Second, he was VERY stoned. He forgot words, messed up guitar parts, and lost his stool… the one he was sitting on. Perhaps he should have waited until after his set. But hell, the room was enraptured, so what do I know? And he had some interesting tunes.
We snuck out right at the end of his set, eager to return to our comfortable room for some dinner (now familiar bacon, biscuits, peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage… no eggs left though) and some showers. In mere minutes we were clean, eating, and watching TV while we did computer work and lounged. The perfect end to a very long and strange day.
Tomorrow... Day Off, $3 wine