And so we turned away from the lake and headed to the freeway in bright sunshine. Either side of the road the trees were tall and ghostly and the landscape flat and browned off by the winter. I cautiously pushed the GMC up to seventy and it seemed happy enough – if a bit louder – so I clicked on the cruise control and there we cruised, along an almost empty freeway watching the landscape flashing by but hardly changing. It was like a continuous loop of brown grass, skeletal trees and grubby icebergs of marooned snow. It was nice to talk and not worry about the road too much, though I could hardly take my eyes off all the gauges, half expecting one of them to either rise dramatically or dip, heralding some awful metallic grinding noise and the slow death of something important. But it didn’t happen. The old bus just cruised along.
We had lunch at the Willow Tree Restaurant in West Branch Michigan. We had been expecting some kind of roadhouse, but the Willow Tree was really quaite refained. Opening the doors we were greeted with the kind of music they used to play as you took your seats in the cinema; all tumbling strings and plunky pianos. our waitress though was the magnificent Sharon Z, who pronounced herself the “world’s greatest Anglophile” and could not have been nicer. She was probably in her fifties and positively crackled with energy, talking about all the places she wanted to visit and the things she was interested in. I wondered what she might have done if she hadn’t lived in West Branch, Michigan, but our lunch stop with hearty soup and bread, and a peanut cookie each for the car (!) was all the nicer for having met her.
Out, in, and back to the dial-a-scenery. Around Saginaw we suddenly started to pick up traffic heading into the rush hour, and there was the turnoff to Ann Arbor which was suddenly familiar from when we lived there. We cut through the town past our familiar landmarks – the coffee places, the old cinema and tiny Blimpy burger like a throwback to another era with its red and green neon. Tuning into Brooklyn Ave, there was Bill waving us into a spot right outside the house. Betty came out and of course we were staying for supper and no question of going to a hotel we were staying there – the beds were made up! Lovely. It was a smashing evening in the house that had been our home away from home.