Thursday, June 12, 2014

So Hard To Say Goodbye

Holding On
I said good morning to Chicago at about 10am that Wednesday, and Adam was long gone to work. I’d had earplugs in so I hadn’t heard him get up and get ready for the day thankfully. I think it started about 4 hours earlier than mine haha.

My roommate, Daniel, had been looking for a third guy to live with us in Dallas, and had contacted me that Wednesday morning to ask if I wanted to talk to a new guy named Ryan he had in mind. I said that I’d trust his judgment on the matter, and we ended up having a great time with Ryan over the next six months, even though I didn’t meet him for another 3 weeks, after the trip was done.

This is the brilliance of looking back to the pictures from each day: I saw these ones from late morning that day, as I walked several long blocks from Adam’s apartment to a Caribou Coffee at the corner of Ontario and Kingsbury St:

I might have forgotten about going to that coffee shop if it weren’t for those photos jogging my memory! I stayed at Caribou a short while, planning my next few steps. The latte was good, but not exceptionally good.

I walked all the way back to Adam’s, and then a little further, for, you guessed it, another Chick-fil-A stop. I mean, it was a really good Chick-fil-A! The person serving me even remembered my first name from lunch the day before. That’s customer service, in a downtown with so many people walking in and out. The nuggets were even better than usual, and as I was sitting at the window, eating as the Duckies watched, I felt a strong urge…to not leave Chicago yet. Ah! But I had to stick to the schedule, for I was due in Cleveland later that night. At least I can say that I was loving the place so much that I was tempted to break the schedule.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
I walked back to Adam’s, lugged all my stuff down the stairs into the car, and got onto I-90/94 within a mile. I know I tried to make a big deal on playing music in a certain city about that city, but I hadn’t listened to any Chicago until I was leaving, ironically. It probably sounded something like this:


It did feel extra “right” to play songs by a band called Chicago while driving in said place. That “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” is a freaking ballad. Look Ma, no hands!

Don’t worry Ma, no Infinitis nor Matt McKinneys were harmed in the taking of those pictures. That was just my last attempt to etch the image of the skyline on my mind. Downtown began to fade into the background as I drove south on several freeways, heading for the Illinois Toll plaza by the Indiana border. There was enough traffic by the Loop that I then decided to describe the city’s traffic in the “brutal” category. There’s so many trains and even up to 4 express lanes on the bigger freeways in Chicago, but an area of 10 million people still manages to manufacture gridlock at most times of day. That made for a sloooowww exit from the city.

Travel Oasis
I got down to a travel oasis where I could obtain an I-pass, and in typical  me fashion, almost missed the exit for it and dove across three lanes to make it happen. Yeah it was an impressive maneuver. The I-pass works just like a tolltag in Texas, so I put $50 prepaid onto the card. Why did I get an I-pass when I was just minutes from leaving Illinois? Well, I’d learned that the I-pass works in every northeastern state where EZ Pass is accepted, which is every state up there except New Hampshire. The big caveat was that although the new pass would work immediately in Illinois, for some reason it wouldn’t activate for 48 hours if I left the state. Which I did, about 20 minutes later.

I got to a toll booth at the Indiana border, and ended up having to take a receipt rather than use my nifty new tag to breeze on through without stopping. Naturally, this enraged me, and I took off from that booth at full freaking throttle, taking off so hard that the Duckies sailed past me and flew into the back seats! Knowing that Erin would skin me alive for that, I used my straw from Starbucks (travel oasis) to retrieve both Duckies, because they were out of arms length. All this while going 70 down I-90 in Indiana. Looked like this:
Rats, maybe it was more like this:
Sorry for those of you (Grant Sheehan) who can't take a shaky camera, this video ain't for you!
Now, let's just say I wasn't missing much on the scenery front. My friend Taylor from Chicago has gone on several long, impassioned rants against Indiana, making it sound like a grotesque mess of highways, factories belching smoke and sleep-inducing bland greenish landscape. Admittedly, the fields and pastures and clumps of trees were kind of blah to look at, hence the lack of pictures. I didn’t have a miserable time driving there, just a place to get through really.

Leaving Indiana...Briefly
One thing I did to break up the monotony of Indiana was to leave it briefly, exiting I-90 to drive 3 miles to get some gas and drinks in Sturgis, Michigan, which was very green. I didn’t really need to leave Indiana, but I wanted to inflate my state count on the trip as much as possible, and hey I was right there at the Michigan border.

It got dark soon after I reentered Indiana, and soon I crossed into another vibrant state, Ohio! I saw nothing of Toledo as I passed it, except road signs. It was 230 miles from Sturgis to Eastlake, the suburb east of Cleveland that was my destination that night. Lots of good music, maybe a prayer, was all that happened along the way. And this:

7,000 miles of road trip already! It had been quite the liberating adventure, and there was still more than 2 weeks to go.

I chose a highway route to take me right by downtown Cleveland. I was very lucky in the low light to get a non-blurry picture like this:

See? Not all of the tall buildings have rotted and fallen over from neglect or anything. I really didn’t get a bad impression of the city while I was there, even though it tends to get a bad rap like Detroit does, but maybe 8/10ths bad rap instead of the full Detroit 10/10 bad rap.

Finally Reaching the Northern Home
It took a while to get from downtown, around a 90 degree angle right turn on an interstate highway, all the way out to Eastlake. It took a couple of passes around the neighborhood to locate the correct house in the dark too. Bri Northern is a good friend of Leah Erickson from the St. Paul area, and she and her mother were my hosts that night. I got in at 11pm, and they set me up in a room with a nice couch, which looked like, but thank God didn’t sound like, the laundry room from Dan In Real Life.

Naturally, Bri and Naomi (that’s Mrs. Northern to you) had to interview about my trip and what all I’d been up to. I don’t think I answered the questions very eloquently, I was pretty tired by then. After they went to bed, I uploaded some photos to Facebook, and turned out the lights, which is good night from Eastlake, Ohio!
Oh, and one last memory of Cleveland's recent history before next day's post:

I want pause here to thank all the readers who have stuck with me so far, it’s been a real pleasure writing this past year and a half about such a unique experience on the road! I plan on making some updates to the format and layout of the posts soon to better enhance your time spent on my site.

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