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Road Kill

July 15, 2014
Chicago, a mere 853.6 miles from home!

Chicago: a mere 853.8 miles from home!

If you want to drive the length of Route 66, it’s important to understand that you first need to get to Route 66. If you live in Chicago this is rather easy. However, if you live in New York, as I do, it’s a little more complicated.

The Hamster and I already drove from New York to Chicago on our first road trip. It took us 9 days and we stopped off at all sorts of places along the way. To avoid repeating ourselves, my original plan for this trip was to take a more northern route, getting to Chicago via Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Detroit. But the original plan is always much more ambitious than reality permits, and once we start comparing the rough itinerary to an actual calendar, the trip always gets pared back significantly. (If you think we’ve done and seen a lot on our trips, you should see all the stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor!)

Anyway, we ultimately decided to ax Canada and jump straight into Route 66 by driving straight to Chicago on Day 1. It’s a roughly 13-hour drive, which is a gargantuan amount of driving to do in one day. But once, 12 years ago, I drove straight home from Chicago with two other guys, and it wasn’t bad. Of course, both those other guys shared the driving with me, which is a factor I must have forgotten when planning today.

For some reason my biggest concern was not driving 840 miles in one day but having enough to talk about in the car.

The Hamster and I left home at around 7:30 Monday morning. We fought traffic and rain for an hour to get to New Jersey, and then we got onto I-80 West, where literally stayed for the rest of the day. You never realize just how wide Pennsylvania is until you drive straight through it from one end to the other. Our reward for finally finishing off Pennsylvania hours and hours later was the privilege of then driving across Ohio, and then Indiana.

We stopped three times to fill up the tank. We stopped seven times to empty the tank.

Actually, Ohio really was a reward in two important ways: 70-mph speed limits, and the first sunshine we’d seen all day. We even put the top down for an hour or so in between rest areas. But the real reward was waiting for us when we finally arrived in Chicago (more than 14 hours after we left home): dinner at Milt’s, a BBQ place that my wife has been raving about nonstop for the past year or so. Milt’s did not disappoint. When we got there were were sore just about everywhere and completely spent. We didn’t even have the energy to talk to each other anymore. But we still mustered up the strength to devour half the menu. We especially enjoyed the fried okra, but really, there was nothing we didn’t like.

This was far from the most exciting day we’ve spent together (my Foursquare check-ins for the day are exclusively rest areas), but it turned out pretty enjoyable. I brought along The Book of Questions, and we went through the first 30, agreeing on our answers to almost every one. We sang along to my iPod playlist. We spied license plates from 33 states. We talked about the parts of the trip we’re most looking forward to. (Mine: the Four Corners, the national parks, and the live cattle auction we’re planning to see in Oklahoma City. Sam’s: the Four Corners, Los Angeles, and the alpaca farm we’re planning to see in Arizona.) We had deep conversations about anti-Semitism, about girls, about our relationship. And we had not-so deep conversations about houses in the middle of nowhere, farm sprinkler systems, and Sam’s new-found belief that “if life gives you lemons, it needs to also give you water and sugar, or else your lemonade will suck.” We realized that we forgot to pack a laundry bag and Sam’s National Parks Passport, and we solved both of those problems by buying a new laundry bag at one of our bathroom stops and by having Sarah mail the passport to the hotel we’ll be staying in this coming Friday night. And there was this:

Lord of the Onion Rings

Lord of the Onion Rings

Hey, you try spending 14 hours in a car and see if you don’t come out with crunchy snacks attached to your fingers.

This day was logistically prudent but exhausting. But you know what they say: when life gives you lemons, and water, and sugar …

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