Just after sunrise on a gray and miserable Saturday, I left my parents’ place in the suburbs of Chicago to collect three individuals from the city: AUTOMOBILE videographer Sandon Voelker, my brother, Jon, and his girlfriend, a lovely young lady whose legal name is Sunshine Lemontree. We were going to the Mama Tried Motorcycle Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an annual motorcycle invitational that brings together some of the most inventive home-built bikes in the country. We’ll fit right in with this rough-and-rowdy crowd, since we’re traveling in our Four Seasons 2015 Volvo V60 station wagon.
“This Volvo doesn’t have navigation?” asked Sandon. Fair, seeing how the 2015 Volvo V60 costs $40,825. “Why’s the engine sound like crap?” asked Jon. Also fair, seeing how the V60’s turbocharged four-cylinder is buzzy and metallic and sounds like a diesel in cold weather. “Seriously, can we stop to get coffee soon?” asked Sunshine. Also fair.
Milwaukee is 90 minutes due north of Chicago but with yours truly driving, we’d be there in an hour. The Volvo V60 must’ve weighed 4,200 pounds with all four of us on board, but the 240-hp wagon never hesitated to kick down from eighth gear and make remarkably quick passes when my right foot told it to do so. As we crossed the Wisconsin border, I set cruise control at a speed far too high for us achieve the EPA-estimated 37 highway mpg. An hour and change after leaving the Windy City, we arrived in Beer City.
I found a tight spot on the street a couple blocks from Mama Tried’s venue and tucked the Volvo away in one swing. It’s a big car, the Volvo, but it’s got great visibility, making it extremely easy to maneuver. We stumbled out of the car and headed toward the vacant industrial building that housed the show. Inside, men with big beards and neck tattoos were pounding Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boys for breakfast. To a soundtrack of Metallica and the Runaways, we wandered the show’s two floors and saw some 50 stunning bikes, from bobbers to choppers, from cafés to flat-track racers.
The Safe House
We regrouped around lunchtime, and Jon suggested we eat at a restaurant in downtown Milwaukee he’d read about. After several minutes of driving, Jon’s Google Maps app announced we’d arrived at the restaurant, Safe House. I didn’t see any restaurant but still grabbed the first spot I could, parking in one swing again. Sitting on the street, the salt-crusted 2015 Volvo V60, normally quite fashionable as far as wagons go, looked almost as sad and miserable as downtown Milwaukee.
We walked past a sign for “nude yoga” before turning down a cobblestone alley and heading toward a red door labeled “International Exports Ltd.” on it. “I think this is the place,” said Jon. Turns out Safe House is a spy-themed restaurant, complete with secret passages, a pun-laden menu, and waitresses who call you “agent” when they talk to you. It’s the worst. Everyone was relieved to climb back into the sanctuary of our Volvo and get the hell out of Milwaukee.
All three passengers closed their eyes, so I turned up Courtney Barnett’s music way up -- a must since the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 tires we got from Tire Rack howl on dry pavement -- and sank back into the Volvo’s incomparably comfortable driver’s seat.
The sleepy trio awoke just as we hit stop-and-go traffic outside of Chicago. As we crept toward the city, Sunshine asked, “So, is this a station wagon?” “Yes,” I replied. “Have you ever been in a station wagon?” “Yes,” she said, “my mom’s blue Ford Taurus station wagon. I’d sit in the back of it and try to get the attention of the drivers behind us. I loved it.” Station wagons -- the ever-classic family vehicle. And while our “family weekend trip” wouldn’t be fit for L.L. Bean, the 2015 Volvo V60 wagon did help me enjoy something I love with the people I love.
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