The Dreaded Travel Day - Chicago

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May 5th 2018
Published: May 5th 2018
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Indiana Dunes State Park, Porter, IN

There was only one day in the whole trip that I was concerned about driving the big rig, and that was yesterday’s drive around Chicago - the nation’s third largest city. I feel I’m a pretty good driver - in fact, I’ve been driving about 50 years now and never been in an accident, (except once when I guy hit me from the rear because he couldn’t stop on ice, but I don’t think that counts.). But driving a big car with an even bigger trailer where your blind spots are pretty good size on both sides is a bit more challenging. And if you are hitting a big city where you don’t know your way and you have to navigate different highways, which usually means changing lanes, it can be a little intimidating. So I admit it - I was a little nervous about yesterday’s drive and even warned Joan that I would be more than my normal level of irritability.

It didn’t help that the trip plan had us arriving in this traffic mess late on a Friday afternoon. Oh, and just to stir the pot a

Campground at Indiana Dunes State Park
bit more, it turns out that this weekend is some kind of national camping weekend, and midwesterners, finally starting to emerge from winter hibernation, are just bursting to get outside. And the weather forecast is perfect for this weekend.

So throw all of that together and I was rather fit to be tied. However, being a slave to my trip plan, and unwilling to show any cowardice, I hitched up yesterday morning, found the route to Interstate 39 and we headed south first towards Madison, then down into Illinois. As an interstate, the speed is high, but the semi-trucks were still passing me all the time and the road was pretty bumpy (the deterioration of our infrastructure continues). But we just kept our heads down and plodded on down the road. Once we entered Illinois, we encountered our first ever toll road. Because my tiny little trailer has two axles, we get hit with a surcharge and we had to pay almost five dollars to travel a full 20 miles on the toll road.

Once we hit Cherry Point, though, the GPS had us continuing on the toll road southeast dead into Chicago metropolitan area. I suppose I could have done that, but I chickened out and, instead, opted for the longer, safer route directly south on Interstate 39. The wind was brutal and my mileage dropped to less than 7 miles per gallon, but I still think it was easier than heading through the metro.

At LaSalle we picked up Interstate 80 and headed due east. The wind let up somewhat and driving was a bit easier, for a good chunk of that stretch. We stopped at a roadside truck stop for gas and also picked up some frozen custard from Culver’s, a local fast food chain. Frozen custard is a Wisconsin treat, but it was good in Illinois too. Joan even got the girls a dish and they loved it as much as we did.

After about 230 miles, and with just 50 to go, we began to hit traffic. The highway expanded to three and then four lanes each way and cars and trucks merged on the highway from all directions. But my route wasn’t too complicated - I just had to stay on Interstate 80 until Interstate 94 diverged from it - which didn’t happen until Indiana - and then it was just a short hop over to a state road north to the shore of Lake Michigan. Wouldn’t you know it, of course, two miles before the Indiana state line there was another toll booth (Indianans must hate Illinois for that) and we had to fork over another couple of bucks.

So I only had one interchange to navigate and a big semi-truck saw me trying to change lanes, and opened up a path. In the end, the drive was really a piece of cake and my fears weren’t justified.

The State Park here is right on the shore of Lake Michigan, and in fact, the beach is a short walk away. I’m sure we will be visiting there. The campground has 140 campsites and they are 100% full this morning. But it is a beautiful setting and, so far at least, very quiet. Joan has been taking pictures, so I’ll try to get a couple for this post.

After setting up camp, we drove back into town for supplies and bought a frozen deep-dish pizza for dinner - one of the iconic Chicago foods. It was great, although calorific. I can’t wait to taste the real thing from a corner store in downtown Chicago.

We will be spending ample time in Chicago - in fact the next week is dedicated to the city. This morning we are going to ride our bicycles over to the train station to find out about transportation into the city. We were told that it was just an hour train ride from here to downtown which is the main reason we chose this campground. About as close to downtown as you can get and still be camping. Today will be more of a down-day as we regroup and plan the next week.


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