Saturday, July 09, 2005

Long-Winded Road Trip Report! Trip to Wisconsin for 9 days of Racing at SUPERWEEK!!

Pulling out of my driveway at 3 pm on Thursday, I decided that no plan was the best plan. The trip would be simple: drive, eat when I wanted, and sleep when I needed.

Admittedly, mid afternoon seems a strange time to leave on a 16-hour drive, but Ohio is much more enjoyable in darkness. Really, you don’t miss much by not seeing Ohio. Cleveland might even look better at night, and myriad stars burst from the clear sky through my open sunroof. The rest stops on the Ohio Tpk seem safer for sleeping, too, because there are so many others there doing exactly the same thing. Besides the fact that Burger King is the only pseudo-food establishment open at rest stops on the endless monotony of the New York Thruway after 8 pm, my plan to leave in the mid afternoon suited me perfectly. Armed with peanut butter and jelly, I battled through the night.

Around midnight somewhere in Ohio, I felt it was time to snooze for awhile. I pulled off the roadway to a rest stop with nothing but bathrooms, vending machines, and more than a dozen tractor trailers dormant and idling like snoring, sleeping beasts. Laying my pillow across my passenger seat, I pushed up my arm rest and curled up fetal-style in the front of my car, feet against the door and knees pinned under the steering wheel. I instantly fell into a fitful and nightmarish sleep. The idling of those huge engines infiltrated my lucid dreams, and I believed they were driving at my car, ramming it, intending to kill. I swear that when I was younger I saw this old movie about a crazed lunatic in a red tractor trailer relentlessly hunting down some poor guy in a brown 70s sedan. I relived that in my dream, with a psychotic driver out to kill me. I awoke at 1:15 with my heart pounding nervously, and decided it was time to move on.

I repeated my sleep attempts somewhere just west of Toledo around 3 am. This time I stopped at a travel plaza and slipped my car between the couple dozen other silent ones in the well-lit parking lot, and went in to brush my teeth. It’s a bit surreal, stepping out of a rest stop in the wee hours of the morning only to see a parking lot full of dark, resting cars, their drivers and passengers asleep inside. I made myself part of the scene, and slept soundly until 5 am.

I drove west as the sky behind lightened with the coming dawn. Somewhere a short way up ahead was Indiana, the self-proclaimed “Crossroads of America” as the state proudly touts on its welcome sign. I haven’t been to Indiana in a long time. Since Homecoming at IU in 2001 perhaps. The sun rise beckoned me home again as I crossed the border, and yes, I did feel like I was… “back home again, in Indiana.” There were deer in the fields along the side of the road, and fog blanketed the land. The sheer beauty of the scene startled me after battling through Ohio in the dark.

I can’t believe how unreliable I-90 is in this country. CTodd and I encountered this problem a couple of weeks ago in Albany when it took us an hour to LEAVE the town because they CLOSED I-90. (A host of well-intended people giving shoddy directions around the construction aggravated the problem, but that’s not for this story.) Already on this trip, construction in New York delayed me, construction in Cleveland had routed me off of 90 and onto another route for several miles, and now, just as I paid my toll at the end of the Indiana Toll Road and anxiously awaited seeing Chicago up ahead, the toll collector woman handed me my change and said almost non-chalently, “Oh, the road is closed ahead, there’s been a crash. [I’m really surprised she didn’t say “wreck” like most people in Indiana do.] You’ll have to either get off here [pointing to the exit immediately after the toll] or exit 23, which will take you to 94.” Huh? I-90 closed again?? Must’a been a helluva wreck.

I tried exit 23, which looked like the best choice, and I encountered traffic from morning commuters, as it was now around 8:30 am. The atlas showed a highway that would take me north and reconnect with 90 further ahead. Only, I must have missed the exit, because the exits signs posted road names, not route numbers, and the map only had route numbers. Who would have known the local road names instead? I should have continued west over the Illinois state line then gone north on 94 to 90, but exit 2 looked so tempting in the traffic… through Hammond then reconnected with 90… so it appeared. Thus began my misguided tour of Gary and East Chicago, Indiana.

If you haven’t seen Gary, don’t. Well, just don’t come with high hopes and money in your pocket. Maybe lock your doors. The former murder capital of our country has its problems. And it’s ugly industrial and run-down with a stench in the air. Probably a booming city in a century past, those days are gone. As I drove past the oil refineries, I saw mounted on a telephone pole a large photo of the high school girl’s softball team, nice-looking white-uniformed girls smiling proudly. Just beyond the pole, the black skeleton-like metal torches of the burning oil refineries polluted the clear blue sky. Maybe what’s so frighteningly ugly to me is hardly noticeable to those who have grown up and lived among it.

As I passed through East Chicago, I thought of my friend, Arturo, from college marching band. He told me of the mariachi band his family played in. Everything in the town was in Spanish. Everywhere was Mexican food, and I’ll bet it was all good! I wanted to stop and eat, but 9 am was a bit early for enchiladas.

I found the Chicago Skyway on the other side of East Chicago. I got on it and paid the toll, thrilled to leave my detour behind and see the Windy City just ahead. The spectacular view of Chicago from the skyway lit my anticipation. More road construction ahead, though, and I ended up missing the exit to Lake Shore Drive! I won’t mention how long I drove around in a run down-scary section of South Chicago, mapless, trying to find a road that would connect with Lake Shore Drive. Revival anyone? My road atlas only threw me farther off, but to shorten this long-winded story, I finally found it.

I have been to Chicago before, and experienced all the typical “tourist” activities: going to the top of the Sears Tower, Navy Pier, the Art Institute, the planetarium, eating at the original Pizzeria UNO, walking around and seeing the gardens and fountains, etc. (Although I didn’t get to and would really love to see the CSO!!) This time I parked my car along Lake Shore drive in one of the many free lots they have, mounted my bicycle, and rode along the awesome waterfront path with breathtaking views of the city. Yes, I drove all the way from Boston to Chicago and a bike ride was my first activity. Dork, I know. I rode down to Navy Pier and had some ice cream. Boy did I stick out like a sore thumb in my full Gearworks kit with my bike sitting in the sun on the pier. :)

The wind blew hard along the lake. I rode for almost 2 hours, and my legs felt good. While on the path, a rider rode past me in an Indiana U cycling jersey! An old striped one. I grinned from ear to ear. I also saw two other people about my age wearing Little 500 t-shirts, and I swear I recognized one of the guys. I wanted to talk to these people! While in Chicago, I also drove into the city and walked around and ate lunch (in regular clothes ;-), but no need to go on about that.

I continued on to Milwaukee around 3:30 (well, 2:30 I guess, time is one hour back), in crazy, ridiculous traffic. I think everyone leaves the city and heads north for the weekend. I will take Boston drivers any day to what I’ve experienced out here. NOBODY uses directional signals, and they cut right in front of you and everyone slams on their brakes. People are crazy lane-changers around here. Yikes. I hope they ride bikes safer…

So here I am in a suburb of Milwaukee, about 10 minutes from the city. It’s much like Delaware here, only greener. My host, Chris, is awesome, and has made every effort to make me feel totally at home. I was looking forward to meeting racers from other parts of the country, but they aren’t arriving until later next week. So I have my own bed and web access and a nice yard to relax in. Oh, one of the other racers staying here from San Diego I found out last night is none other than Bonnie Bourque, formerly from NEBC! Small world. :)

Well, I’ve got to get ready for today’s race! It’s a late afternoon start, 3:45 pm, so I’ve had plenty of time to relax this morning. I hope I find my mojo this afternoon!

1 comment:

CTodd said...


Good luck, Ace!