Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Days Twenty-Seven - Twenty-Nine: Illinois & Indiana

Disclaimer: Some day this will be more than a chronology of whining. But for now, here is something since I have internet right now and am behind in my li'l storying. Mike said I should. If you don't like it, blame him; it always works for me.

My due date is September 3. In a couple short months, I will be the recipient of an inordinate amount of unsolicited advice. Put a hat on that baby. Take the hat off that baby. When they X, you should always Y. Wait til junior high! It's just around the corner. I know this is coming. So, allow me the honor of bestowing my own unsolicited parenting advice now. Here it is: You must learn to fight well with your partner in front of your children. You will think you are doing them a favor by never fighting in front of them. But then, circumstances will change.

You will find yourself in a van in week five of a cross-country trip.

With a cat in the back, 97 degrees and no air conditioning. 

Or you will find yourself in a booth at a restaurant somewhere you thought was Pennsylvania, but turns out to be Maryland, staring at yet another crap menu of deep fried cheese and no fruit where no one, believe me, will ask you whether you want the green salad or the fries with that, because the only option is potato chips, and where the kids on smoke break from the kitchen hanging out by the back door think it's really cool that you're on the road from California and you look at them, pimply and blowing smoke out their noses, their fingers probably stained yellow and wrinkly from washing potato chip grease off all those plates and you think, Yeah, you try it, asshole, you just try it. And you will not have the option of not fighting. There will be no option. And you will be stuck with each other. All of you. And you will have to live with this. So you better know how to do it.

Ah, but I'm getting way ahead of myself again.

Iowa stunk. Now, pay attention. I told you I found good food there and we even got our first “Howl” there.

Hard to say though if he really knew what the heck the bumper sticker was talking about or if he just felt like howling. (more on the bumper sticker another time...)

No, I mean stunk. Like hold your nose those cows are livin' too close together kind of stunk. Ew. So, despite my food triumphs there, despite the local morning show gardening advice segment playing on the TV above another charming hotel “breakfast” (“I have various weeds in my yard. What should I do?”), despite “Cow Appreciation Day” at the Iowa City Children's Museum, despite the fact that it was the first day in forever that the winds died down, despite the wifi at interstate rest stops and the maintenance man in the final one for I-80 that tip-toed around the building with Isaac to show him the baby ground squirrel, we left.

We crossed a by-now rather well-behaved Mississippi River into Illinois.

The Johnson-Sauk State Recreational Area had a lake, trees, a round barn (the devil hides in the corners), and 90 degree weather, 85 percent humidity... at 9:00 p.m.

We bailed. Repacked and drove 6 miles back on the road we came in on to the hotel. I wish I could share with you that it fell somewhere in the list of more amusingly named lodging options. We'd seen the Settle Inn. The Sleep Inn. And, of course, the AmericInn. Alas, it was only a Best Western.

There was a wedding party in town – though we were hard-pressed to figure out where the “town” was. We got the last available room. Small, barefooted little girls in white dresses scuttled around the hallways giggling. This would do fine. I needed sleep.

In the morning everyone checked out but us. I had convinced my husband that we needed a rest day. Let this be a lesson to you - this is what happens when you don't stay longer in the places that are cool. You end up having to hang out in other places.

At the restaurant in town the next day we could spot the other outsider easily. A blonde/grey-haired man in his fifties wearing a Lady GaGa shirt whom we suspected belonged to the Honda with the New York plates parked out front sat eating some of that yum salad bar fare I mentioned in the last post. It was the last day for the “Annawan Fun Days,” though it was announced to us that we'd pretty much missed it, but for the beer garden and the hacky sack contest. Sometimes you just can't win, eh?

The states were starting to come fast and furious for us now, baby. We dove into Indiana and it's 97 degree predicted temperatures.

80 East is a nightmare of construction and semis. It is easily 100 degrees on this highway. We are stopped dead in three narrow lanes of traffic. Emily is panting. We are all ready to join her. I begin to cry out of helplessness. Mike takes the next exit and we drive through random neighborhoods in the general direction of out.

Then, we are 6 miles from our exit. From all accounts, it will be a lovely place called Potato Creek State Park. There will be boat rentals for the lake, shade, a playground. Isaac is asleep, a rarity. He has not done at all the things I thought he would on this trip in the van—draw, create postcards, read, make up games. He has sat, asking how much longer; he has watched some DVDs.

Suddenly, there is a bang from the back of the van, a sound that feels like part of the engine must have exploded. We wobble to the shoulder and thank goodness there is one. The engine is still attached and functioning; it's a blown tire. Mike declines the prospect of lying in the right lane of 94East to change it, and so we need to call AAA or Geico. Oh what the hell, let them race. Mike is on his phone to Geico, while I call AAA. We are “premium” members. This against my better judgment. While it had been known to save us 7, even 8 whole bucks on hotel rooms on this voyage, I remain highly skeptical of these roadside heroes. You can read about my last preggo/AAA adventure here.

I speak to someone named Clark about where we are (eastbound, mile marker 33, approaching Michigan City, Indiana) and what he can do about it. He is tapping, typing, hemming and hawing. Finally: “I think you might be in a different part of Indiana than I can help you with.” Uh-huh. If only I were in a different part of Indiana, the part that was Ohio and less than ninety-f-ing-seven degrees! WTF??!??

“Let me transfer you. It will take two minutes.” Two minutes I will never have back.

Clark, Clark, Clark. You are no Superman. “How's Geico doing?” I call to Mike.

We are in relative shade, though the thistles are lashing my legs. We've brought Emily out with us in the carrier. Isaac is calmly inspecting wildflowers and leaves. 

“Thank you for calling AAA roadside service, how may I help you?” And I know immediately. This person knows nothing about my last call. I am starting over again. I rat out Clark and then grumpily start in again – the AAA number, the issue at hand, the location...

“And what might he have meant by a 'different' part of Indiana?? I mean y'all are somewhere random anyway. That was a crock!”

“I'm in Michigan, ma'am.”

“Exactly. That counts as random.”

“Make, model and year of your vehicle?”

“'81 VW Vanagon.”


“White. As opposed to all the other '81 VW Vanagons with blown out tires at mile marker 33 on I-94 East right now.”

An hour later our spare is in place. My hat off to the man who did in fact lie in the right lane of 94 East to change it for us. He, of course, has nothing to do with AAA. He's with the local tow company.

Way too long later we arrive at Potato Creek State Park and find the camping kiosk. “That'll be $17.34...(wha?)... $2.66 is your change.” Did we just pull up to the Wendy's drive through window when I wasn't looking?

I'm thinking tolls in Indiana must cost something like $4.09.


jaykaym said...

I've only driven cross-country once. With a crazy elderly lady at the wheel of her enormously giant 1960's Cadillac. We sped through the states so fast I couldn't keep track. I usually had my eyes closed in fear. Miraculously we only hit one traffic barrier and then traveled down the road with yellow flashing light from the barrier which had landed on the hood of the car announcing to everyone "Get out of the way!" I think that I was in shock most of the trip because I have so few memories of it.

You'll note that I have not done this a second time. But my son has done it twice, by himself. The highlight of the second trip was the "World's Largest Plastic Cow" just outside of Bismarck, N.D. He was so bored he made a special trip off the interstate to see it. He said it was "really big" but we never figured out why someone needed a big plastic cow. So much for North Dakota.

DeVona said...

I trust you are at your destination finally and busy making arrangements for the next chapter of your lives. Hope all survived the trek and have some positive memories! I miss crisscrossing the country in the backseat of my parents' car, daydreaming about my future! Forty years down the road, and here I am, remembering those long, boring trips, with wistful gratitude.

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