The Hansom Cab Clock Club Hits The Road!
My neighbor, the Rascally Lascar, and my companion, the good Carter, are both people who enjoy the value of one’s own home. A secure haven against the outside world, a place of calm and simple pleasures, a world of one’s own making. And while I have it in me to enjoy that easy environment, there is always something in me that can’t say “no” to the call of adventure. And in Keefauver’s world, one of those calls always comes from my friend Hobbs, the Maniac Collector whom I share this site with.
This weekend found the intrepid Hobbs headquartered near Midway Airport in the Chicago suburb of Cicero. And while Chicago has never been in my comfort zone (anything past the Des Plaines exit feeling somewhat like entering a place as foreign as Eastern Europe to my simple downstate heart), I answered the call and drove up on Saturday morning, with no solid idea of what my friend intended for us on our latest adventure.
When I got to Hobbs’s lodgings, I discovered that we were not to be alone on whatever expedition he had planned. He introduced me to Philip Cunningham, an enthusiastic young native guide and fellow alumnus of the Double-Barrelled Tiger Cubs of Champaign-Urbana. (“Young” being by relative Sherlockian standards – he’s in his forties.) Philip volunteered to drive us and sealed his Sherlockian credentials by introducing us to his hansom cab clock, seat-belted into the back seat of his van.
Somehow, in the strange inner workings of Sherlock Peoria, we had actually gathered the first field trip of Hansom Cab Clock Club members (three being a quorum, I suppose) to go photograph one of Don Hobbs’s prized “Sign of the 4” state highway markers. I suggested to Don that he form a society of those people who had traveled with him on any of his assorted highway marker outings. It only seemed prudent, I realized later, as the Hansom Cab Clock Club’s purposes lay elsewhere, and I would hate for us to come to cross purposes, should The National Hansom Cab Clock Club Museum turn up in the opposite direction of Highway 4 in some future trip!
By now, the new visitors to Sherlock Peoria are apt to be asking themselves, “What does all this have to do with Sherlock Holmes?” Here’s the quick version: Hansom Cab = Sherlock Holmes’s vehicle of choice. Highway 4 sign = “The Sign of the Four,” the second Holmes novel. The long version runs more like this: there is very little in this world of ours that doesn’t have something to do with Sherlock Holmes if you look hard enough. And we Sherlockians like to celebrate the Sherlock-ness of all things.
Anyway, off we rolled with Philip as our genial driver, bound into the wilds of Northern Indiana to find the Indiana Highway 4 for Don’s ever-growing collection. After an hour of delightful road conversation and discovering that our new friend was a solid Sherlockian and entertaining fellow, we found ourselves in La Porte, Indiana at a junction that declared itself to be the end of Highway 4.
It seemed like picture time to me. But Don, having become a connoisseur and artist in the ways of highway sign photography, held out for a better sign. On we drove, out of La Porte and on to Fish Lake, about ten miles away. We must have passed three or four more Highway 4 signs, and I was starting to feel like I was waiting on Goldilocks to pick her porridge bowl. But I tried to still my inner crank as much as possible (Must we all get crankier with age? I seem to be battling it more every day!), and soon my friend had found a shot that met his basic criteria.
We drove back into La Porte for a round of celebratory antiquing and lunch. I was the most successful in our shopping, finding a nice little edition of Winwood Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man that I hadn’t seen before for $1.50 and a still-in-its-shrinkwrap Sleuth game from the seventies for $4. We also saw an unpainted Sherlock Holmes bar statue that hadn’t been priced and a gorgeous ceramic hansom cab bar statue for Old Tyme Lager that was $200 – a price too steep to be starting a new hansom cab club with!
We had lunch at King Gyros, a place recommended by the antique store owner, which served some great gyros and fries combos (we hesitated on ribs so early in the day, but they smelled great). Then it was back to Don’s lodgings in Cicero. He and Philip had to clean up for the Hugo’s Companions dinner that evening. They asked, of course, why I wasn’t sticking around for it, but as I mentioned earlier, Chicago and me, we’ve just never found our happy place.
As I headed down I-55 and passed the Des Plaines exit, the plowed earth, spring greenery, and wide-open skies opened up before me and I knew I was back on home turf. Sure, the day’s events might have not been much of an adventure to an extreme sports enthusiast, a explorer of other continents, or even a resident of 221B Baker Street who chronicles his room-mates exploits as a hobby. But to a Central Illinois Sherlockian who might otherwise be mowing his lawn or playing World of Warcraft on the computer, it wasn’t half bad.
Your humble correspondent,