Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vacation Drive: Illinois and The End

Illinois is changing. It's going from yet more corn fields to suburban sprawl at a horrifying rate. No, I don't really like driving through corn fields, but it takes very little time to get from Rock Island on the western edge of the state to the "greater Chicago metropolitan area". About 6 seconds, I'd guess.

What isn't suburbia is still flat and boring, but it is the end goal of these trips. Family lives there, so we go there.

Illinois was home to the worst drivers of the trip, without a doubt. The freeways around Chicago might as well not have speed limits, since none of the locals follow them. 20 or 25 MPH over the limit seems just fine.

And in the 20 years since we moved away from this part of the planet it hasn't gotten any prettier. As mentioned above, the Chicagoland area has become one giant suburban unit - a huge shopping center - from near the Wisconsin boarder all the way down to Joliet. It may go farther south too, and I have no idea how far east it goes. What I know is the farm fields and wooded streets that used to exist are now all built up.

The farmers are (or were) selling out - and getting out - to let contractors build cookie-cutter tract homes by the thousands, and at least three new strip malls per square mile at a minimum. It's actually rather depressing.

One thing they get in the midwest that we don't get at home is lightning storms. True, we get some on occasion, and the most recent did set half of California on fire, but even that storm wasn't all that impressive as lightning goes. They get real lightning out there on the prairie. The kind you watch from your open garage as it advances, bolts hitting the ground all around you. I miss those, and lightning bugs, but I don't miss much else from the that part of the world.

Our path through Illinois along route 88 is about 190 miles long, ending at someone's parent's home - whose depends on the specific trip. Here we rest for a while before turning around and driving back in time to get someone to work - or other commitments - on time.

If you ever take this trip you'll probably have very different opinions about the sites and places along the way. Someone out there must like Nebraska or Salt Lake City, for example, even if we don't. I hope these descriptions have armed you for the drive. Bring a camera for the scenic spots. We forgot to do that this time and I wish we'd remembered.

We find we like this long drive in some ways. It's a few days in each other's company with nothing to do but sit in companionable silence or talk about whatever. We stop every two hours or so, change drivers, and walk the dogs. These little stops are about 15 minutes long each, and they slow us down a bit, but they - and the shared driving - also make it possible for us to go 15 or more hours a day and cover a lot of ground safely.

This time around we noted that traffic was way down. Even truck traffic was reduced. We generally do this trip in the winter - over the holidays - and we expected more traffic in the summer. It wasn't there, and we've seen I-80 carry more traffic in late December. I guess the economy is hitting people pretty hard so they're staying home.

And that's it for the trip description. Sorry, but I'm not to the point were I'm going to document family stuff on the net. For many reasons I think that would be silly.

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