Saturday, March 31, 2007

Chicago Trip, Day 6

Day 6 was my last day of training. As such, I figured that it was likely that we would be ending kind of early. In fact one of the guys in my class had a plane to catch and had to leave by 3, so we ended right around there and I headed off.

At the I-355 toll plaza, I used my I-PASS and it actually worked! I headed south on I-55. The only new county I picked up for quite awhile was Livingston (#92) - all the other ones I had already visited on my various trips. Around 4 or so, I was getting a bit hungry. I noted that I was passing the exit for Dwight, which I have heard from many sources is the tourism capital of Illinois, if not the world. Also, very conveniently, it had a coveted Arby's, so I pulled off and went to get some dinner. I got out (rather than using the drive-thru) and ordered my standard Beef and Cheddar value meal, with a vanilla shake. The girl at the cashier's station hit some buttons and came back with "$9.34". Wha-huh? I expressed some disbelief that this could be possibly right, but she was staunch in saying that yup, that was indeed right. The base combo meal was $5.99, and I did "value-size" it, and I would expect somewhat of an upcharge for getting a shake instead of a pop, but there was no way it was coming up 9 bucks. We went back and forth for awhile, and I didn't want to get too irate in order for my food to remain spit-free, but eventually she hit some more buttons and came back with $7-something. That still seemed a bit high, but I went with it.

I continued back on I-55 South for about 100 miles or so, passing the Bloomington-Normal metroplex until exiting the highway at US-136 west. I followed that west into Logan (#93), Mason (#94), and then, crossing over the Illinois River, Fulton (#95). Immediately after crossing the Illinois river, I turned back around into Mason County and headed south into Cass (#96). At Beardstown, I got on to US-67 West into Schuyler (#97) and then IL-103 to US-24, which got Brown (#98) and Adams (#99). A county road then took me north into Hancock (#100), which was of course my 100th county of the trip, as well as the 3rd straight county (and 8 out of 14 for the day) that shares a name with an Ohio county.

I was talking to Carolyn on the phone right now and she commented about how Illinois was a bunch of county-name stealers. Since of course Wikipedia has pages titled List of Ohio county name etymologies and List of Illinois county name etymologies, I thought I'd do a brief breakdown of all the counties that the 2 states share.
  • Adams - Ohio named for John Adams and Illinois for John Quincy.
  • Brown - both for Gen. Jacob Brown
  • Carroll - both for Charles Carroll of Carrolton
  • Champaign - in a truly craw-sticking moment, the Illinois Wikipedia page says "Named for Champaign County, Ohio" The nerve!!
  • Clark - both for George Rogers Clark
  • Clinton - Ohio for VP George Clinton, Illinois for NY Governor DeWitt Clinton
  • Crawford - Illinois for Sec. of War William Crawford, Ohio possibly for him or also for a different William Crawford
  • Fayette - both for the Marquis de la Fayette
  • Fulton - both for steamboat inventor Robert Fulton
  • Greene - both for Nathaniel Greene
  • Hamilton - both for Alexander Hamilton
  • Hancock - both for John Hancock
  • Hardin - Ohio named for John Hardin, who was killed by Indians. Illinois' page says it was named for Hardin County, Kentucky, which was named after Hardin. At least Ohio has some reason for it - he was killed in nearby Shelby County, OH.
  • Henry - both for Patrick Henry
  • Jackson - both for Andrew Jackson
  • Jefferson - both for Thomas Jefferson
  • Knox - both for Henry Knox
  • Lake - Ohio for Lake Erie, Illinois "for the many small lakes in and around the county" i.e. LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME
  • Lawrence - both for James Lawrence, best known for his cry "Don't give up the ship"
  • Logan - Ohio forGen. Benjamin Logan "who fought Indians there", Illinois for John Logan
  • Madison - both for James Madison
  • Marion - both for the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion
  • Mercer - both for Hugh Mercer
  • Monroe - both for James Monroe
  • Montgomery - both for Gen. Richard Montgomery
  • Morgan - both for Gen. Daniel Morgan
  • Perry - both for Commodore Perry, but this seems a little like county-stealing too, as the battle of Put-in-Bay, for which Com. Perry is famous, is AT LEAST IN OHIO.
  • Pike - both for Zebulon Pike
  • Putnam - both for Israel Putnam
  • Richland - Illinois "named for Richland County, Ohio" GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
  • Shelby - both for Isaac Shelby
  • Stark - both for John Stark
  • Union - Ohio - for the Union of 4 counties from which it was formed (Delaware, Franklin, Madison, and Logan). Illinois - for the federal union which was threatened by the Civil War
  • Warren - both for Joseph Warren
  • Washington - both for George Washington
  • Wayne - both for Mad Anthony Wayne
So a lot of these were just named for the same famous person. I can handle that, I mean it's not Illinois' fault that Ohio already had a Washington County. 30 states have a Washington County (and there is also a Washington Parish, Louisiana). But still, the county stealing of Champaign and Richland is pretty lame. Of course the Ohio reasons for those 2 counties ("For the French for "plain" as the land there was very flat" and "For the fertile soil there") are pretty lame too.

Also, when looking through the Illinois page, I have some definite questions about some of those etymologies listed. At least the Ohio one has actual sources from real books. For instance, let's take a look at Union County, Illinois, supposedly named "for the federal union which was threatened by the Civil War". On the surface, that sounds okay. Until you realize that it was formed in 1818!! I'm definitely going to have to call shenanigans on that one.

But anyways, back to the trip. I believe we left off in Hancock county. Oh, okay one more side-trip. Hancock is the site of many historical Mormon events, like Nauvoo and Carthage Jail. We've never been there, although we do want to go visit one day. So I'm talking to Carolyn about this and she starts talking about how if we go now she is going to pick up all these counties that I already have. So I made the vow that if I'm visiting Nauvoo, I'm going to loop south around through Kentucky and Missouri and Iowa, just to pick up some extra counties.

Back to the trip - IL-61 to US-136 to US-67 netted me McDonough (#101) and Warren (#102) and then 2 out and backs (on IL-116 and US-67) got me Henderson (#103) and Mercer (#104)

Then it was just a matter of US-34 to I-74 East to the Toccos where I was staying the night, with the final county of the evening being Knox (#105). As I was driving there, for the first time, I did start to wonder just what I was doing and why. Now, when I say for the first time, I mean the first time I wondered that. Pretty much every time I explain this obsession to other people, THEY wonder that.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chicago Trip, Day 5

First, I did a little review of my Illinois map, and before we get started, a little county housekeeping:

1. I did go through Woodford County (#75) back on Saturday, between McLean and Tazewell. Since I am NOT going back over 3 posts and renumbering the successive 36 counties, you can just kind of think of it as county 38.5. Doing that (the renumbering) reminds me of the annoyance whenever I would buy a new CD. I would have to go through my entire CD tower, moving them all up one spot, to correctly insert the new CD into its place in alphabetical order. Naturally it was worse the earlier in the alphabet the artist came. Curse you, 4 Non Blondes!!

2. It appears that although it is marked on my Illinois map, I had actually never been in Edgar County. I blame the mob-rule Illinois map. The white lines on the states are the Interstates, and it definitely looks like the white line for I-70 goes through Edgar County (right on the middle of the IL-IN border). I suppose you could blame me for not double checking (as I did with most of the counties), but isn't it always more fun to blame other people? Even people that have made one of the awesomest websites in the world?

Anyways, on to the show.

I got out of class a little after 4 and started out. And I got my first experience (this week anyways) of some tasty Chicago traffic. This was by design actually (that I hadn't run into it before). When planning my routes, I tried to take possible Chicago traffic into account. If there was a route that might run into traffic, I would flip it around so that I would hit the traffic-y areas on the way BACK, at say, midnight, when there was not likely to be any traffic. In today's case however, flipping it around would have made the traffic WORSE. I took I-88 East from Downers Grove, to I-294 South to I-80 West to I-57 South. In thinking about it in hindsight, it probably would have made sense to take I-355 South to I-55 and then cut over to I-80 to I-57. Even though it's probably about 25 miles longer, I think it would have been faster. As it was, I sat in traffic in I-294 for about an hour before it cleared up when I got to I-80.

On I-57 Southbound, I made my way into Kankakee County (#76). Not wanting to repeat the hunger of yesterday, when I spotted a sign for the elusive Arby's, I got off the highway and tried to smell my way to some juicy curly fries. Nope. I couldn't find the Arby's. I must have just missed it, since it appears to be right on the main road, and I apparently drove by it twice. So I went back south, into Iroquois (#77), Ford (#78), and Champaign (#79). In the lovely town of Rantoul, Illinois, I was finally able to get me some Arby's, which was nice. Mmmm curly fries. I even "value-sized" my meal.

Back on I-57, I soon entered Douglas (#80) and got off the highway at Exit 203, where I took IL 133 to US 45 into Coles (#81). After turning around and heading back, when I went to turn back on to IL 133 East, what did I find? TRAIN!!!! Apparently ILDOT has its act together. Back on I-57 northbound for a jaunt, getting off at US 36 West for a few miles picking up Piatt (#82). I knew that US 36 also served as the northern boundary for Moultrie county as well, but I was not sure where the line was. The problem is that westbound you are never actually IN Moultrie, so there would never be a welcome sign. Normally in situations like this, the counties come together at a 4-corners style intersection, so the one welcome sign kind of acts for both. In this case however, I had to kind of crane my head around to see the Douglas County sign. It wasn't actually that difficult, and Moultrie (#83) was mine.

Back heading east, I finally was able to cross off Edgar (#84) (for real this time!). Turning north at Chrisman, Illinois, I found that they were doing work on the US-150 bridge over the Little Vermillion River, so I had to stop and wait my turn to cross the 1-lane bridge. US-150 took me into Vermillion county, Illinois (#85) and then east on Mill Rd into Vermillion County, Indiana (#86).

On IN 234, I made a grievous error. My route said that I should get on IN 63 N and then onto I-74 East. By the time I got onto I-74, I realized that I was too far west. I got off the highway and pulled out the map and realized I had missed Parke county! The route I should have been following was IN 234 to US 41. So I turned around and back tracked - this cost me about 35 minutes of "pansy time", With a clear head the next morning, I should have continued on I-74 and went out and back on US 41 to get Parke - that would have been only about 25 minutes of pansy time. Oh well. Back on IN 234, I got Parke (#87) and Fountain (#88) and then went up 41 to I-74 east for an out and back to Montgomery (#89).

And then it was time for a long haul north on US-41 through Warren (#90) and Benton (#91) counties, and then I-65 into Chicago. I ended up getting back to the hotel at about 12:45 a.m. One thing that was just crazy (though of course it makes sense) is how long it took me to get to my hotel after I was already in what I considered "Chicago"

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Chicago Trip, Day 4

I got out of class early on Tuesday. There was a lab to finish things up, which I completed early, so I was on the road by about 3:30 and headed north. In other good news, Annoyance #3 from yesterday seems to not be a problem. I called the Illinois Toll people and apparently the change in DST (doing it 3 weeks earlier) has hosed all of their computers and the light systems. They said that they should have taken my car's license plate picture and they will match it up with my account and deduct it automatically. So that's nice

I headed north (west) on I-90 and into Wisconsin. It took me nearly an hour and a half (and 2 states!) before I got into my first new county, Dane (#54). I got off onto US 12, which serves as sort of a bypass loop for Madison, WI. A couple of interesting things from my time there. 1) At one point, I was simultaneously on 4 US highways at once (US 12, US 14, US 18 and US 151). 2) I crossed over some railroad tracks. Now, crossing railroad tracks is not a big deal in and of itself. But this was a limited-access divided highway! Imagine being on 71 or 275 or the Norwood Lateral and crossing over railroad tracks!?!? Now it did not appear that the tracks were actually in use - in fact I think they didn't even cross over the median, and I have to assume that there is a decent reason they haven't removed them, but still, it was odd. 3) It was about 5:30 or so, and I was getting hungry. I wanted some more Arby's, and saw some here in Madison, but didn't feel like stopping here, since I didn't want to get caught up in any rush-hour type traffic.

So I headed west on US 14 into western Washington. My passing on the copious amounts of Arby's in Madison would turn out to burn me, as the burgs of W WI had nary a fast food restaurant. I went through Iowa (#55) and crossed the Wisconsin River into Sauk (#56). Crossing the Wisconsin again on WI 133 put me into Richland (#57). WI 133 paralleled the river on the south side and a few miles in, I came across this:

I always love signs like this. There was actually a better one, indicating that I was in fact travelling simultaneously both north and south, but by the time I saw it, recognized its coolness, looked for my camera, found it, and turned it on, I had passed it. I then sat, with camera poised, looking for another reassurance marker, but this was the best I could do. That picture would be in Grant (#58), and shortly after I crossed the Wisconsin (again) back into Richland County. Some (nicely marked and nicely maintained!) county roads led me back to US 14 near Boaz, and I again headed west, into Vernon County (#59). Right after the Richland-Vernon border, I had marked on my maps 3 potential out and backs to get Crawford County. The first 2 were local roads, and since I wasn't sure the quality of the roads or the circumstances in which I'd be passing by, I also had marked out US 61 which I could use, though it was about 2-3 miles longer of a one-way journey. I passed on the first one (McKittrick Rd, no relation to the McKetrick supplicants, of course), but then took a gamble on County Road X.

As you can see, no problems there - Crawford (#60) was mine. I have been very impressed with the quality of the marked county roads in Wisconsin. You can also see that it's starting to rain. It would rain off and on for the next several hours. You can also see that it's still (a little) light out. I had realized that the day before - by travelling west, I would be extending my day slightly. This is something that I've thought about before, living on the very western edges of a timezone. A few examples - sunset yesterday in Cincinnati was 7:57 p.m, compared to 7:01 in Portland, Maine. The difference from Chicago and La Crosse, Wisconsin is about 15 minutes, which I guess isn't a whole lot....

Speaking of La Crosse, I continued on US 14 / 61 West into La Crosse County (#61). After passing a McDonalds in Viroqua, La Crosse seemed to have the full gamut of fast food restaurants, so I kept my eyes peeled for my coveted Arby's. No dice. Though actually there does appear to be an Arby's there - it's just not on the main road so I didn't see it. I did see just about everything else though.

After going through La Crosse, US 14 / 61 turned west and crossed over the Mighty Mississip' into Houston County, Minnesota (#62) and the Apple Capital of Minnesota, La Crescent. Did you know that La Crescent was the Apple Capital of Minnesota? Did you even know that you could grow apples in an area with winters as cold as Minnesota? Well, now you do.

Minnesota was one of 15 states I had never previously visited. I think the last time I picked up a new state was when I made Carolyn drive to North Carolina back in 1998. It's getting a lot harder to pick up new states. The closest "new" states for me to visit would be SC, NJ or DE, all of which are somewhere around 10 hours one way from home. For your eternal reference, the other 11 remaining states I need are AK, AR, HI, ID, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, SD and VT.

Conveniently, US 14 / 61 also crosses into Winona County (#63) before I said good-bye to Minnesota and headed back over Big Muddy on I-90 East back into 'Sconsin. I-90 was interesting. As I mentioned earlier, it had been raining off and on for awhile now, and here it started pouring VERY hard. Combined with the trucks on the road, it made things a little hairy for awhile. In any case, I soldiered on into Monroe (#64) and Juneau (#65). By now, I had reached the magical 9 p.m. hour so I could call home for free. Carolyn and I were talking, and she was Googling about to find me an Arby's nearby and lo, there was none. She kept saying "No man, it's Madison, you gotta go to Madison" Yes, that would be the same Madison where I actually was back at dinner time... So then I changed tacks and decided I would opt for a Wendy's. While she was looking for Wendy's, I saw a sign saying there was one at Exit 87, which was where I was getting off the highway anyways. Sometime around here we hung up so she could go to bed, and I was off on my own for the night.

I get off at Exit 87 on to WI 13. Well, actually, the exit snuck up on me and I flew right past it, and had to slam on the brakes and throw it in reverse. Luckily I didn't pass it by much and the highway was deserted, so that was not a problem and I crossed the Wisconsin River (again) into Columbia (#66) and entered into the city of Wisconsin Dells. I had heard of the place as a popular timeshare destination when I was looking into that, and it was in fact quite touristy.

Right away, I spotted Wendy's off to the right and made my way over there. Ooh suerie it was closed or shut down or in some other way not open for my Junior Bacon Cheeseburger needs. All my needs? Yes, all my needs. To rub salt in my wounds, as I looped around this frontage road back on to the main highway, I saw this:

Now that's just cruel. I didn't have a map with me, so I just had to keep going on WI 13. At one point I wasn't sure if I had crossed county lines without a sign, but kept going and before too long, I made my way into Adams (#67). I turned around at the first available driveway which was the aptly named "Wisconsin Dolls Gentlemen's Club. I didn't stop in... :-)

Back on the main drag, I stopped to get gas and picked up some Taco Bell. My designed route called for me to get back on to I-90 East and follow that back home, so that's what I did.

[Fade to black]


Click on the link if you don't get that.

When I was driving out west of Madison, I realized that the end of my route had me going back about 2 hours home through counties that I had already been to. It seemed like such a waste, when there were plenty of counties to the east that "needed" to be visited. It even looked like it wouldn't be that much out of the way. So, after a quick confirming call to Jim, I had a brief route mapped out.

I did get back on I-90 East, but when 90/94 split at Madison, instead of continuing on 90, I got on to I-94 towards Milwaukee. Getting off on WI 26 North, I went through Watertown into Dodge (#68). Had I been planning this at home, I could have figured out a quicker way to cut off some time, but on my physical map, the best I could do was take WI 16 East, north of town. And either I missed the county line marker or there wasn't one, but as expected, a look at the map now indicates definite Dodge-ness. WI 16 turned into a limited-access road as I entered Waukesha (#69), and then I took WI 190 East. About a mile in, my plan told me to take a left on WI 74 North, but when I got there, my only option was to the right on to WI 74 East. I was unsure as to whether or not this was going to take me where I wanted to go, so I continued straight and ended up turning left (north) on to CR YY / Pilgrim Road. This was slow going as it was city roads through the northwestern suburbs of Milwaukee - that would be Milwaukee (#70). I turned on to County Line Road, and did an out and back into Ozaukee (#71) and then Washington (#72). I went back and then got on to the highway of US 45 south and followed the highways back into Chicago, picking up Racine (#73) and Kenosha (#74) on the way back, leaving the total for the evening at 21 new counties (19 Wisconsin and 2 Minnesota).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chicago Trip, Day 3

I finished with my training a bit early - the instructor let us out at about 4:30. I had done some studying up at lunch about the IPass system for tolls here. One annoying fact about being an out-of-towner here in Chicagoland is that tolls are double if you are paying by cash (as opposed to through the automatic IPass system). So the first thing I did after class was bust down to the Illinois Toll Authority building and pick myself up an IPass. Luckily it's about 2 miles from the class location.
The people there were surly in a BMV-esque way. It was actually kind of funny. I felt kind of bad for this one lady that was dealing with me. She looked too young to have that kind of defeated attitude. I mean given it was 4:55 (they closed at 5) but I just felt like telling her "Don't let them get to you!"
Anyway, I set out on I-88, the Ronald Reagan E-W Tollway, westbound, for about 80 miles, picking up Kane (#44), DeKalb (#45), Ogle (#46), Lee (#47) and Whiteside (#48).
It was about 30 miles out on I-88 when I realized the first major annoyance of the day. The particular CD of my audiobook that I was listening to ran out. So I reached for the case to pull out the next one and... I had left it in my hotel room. After all the careful preparations ear-lie in the morning to ensure that I could leave straight from training, I was definitely annoyed. I guess there could have been more annoying things to forget (like my map book!) but still. So not only was it annoying to not have something to listen to as I roamed the Illinois countryside, I was (and am) actually very interested in finding out what was happening next. I actually listened to the disc again, even though I had already heard it, but after that I just channel surfed on the radio, listening to the fine radio stations of Dubuque, Iowa, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin and the like.
I got off of I-88 just west of the end of the tollway, going north on IL-40 through Rock Island and Sterling, crossing over the mighty Rock River. It was here that I got some dinner, scoring a beef and cheddar combo meal at Arby's. I had been looking forward to some Arby's but had not been able to find one at an appropriate meal-like time until now.
IL-40 took me into Carroll (#49), and just north of Milledgeville, I pulled my first audible of the trip. The route as designed had me continuing on IL-40 into Lanark. But as I looked at the road signs and the actual physical map I had gotten from AAA, it looked like IL-40, instead of heading north as I desired, went more northwesterly to Mount Carroll. It seemed like the road that I had marked as IL-40 actually turned into "Benson Road" when IL-40 turned left. So when I got to that intersection, I hoped that I was not going to be making a Gallia or CR 650 E-style blunder and continued straight. No problems - I got to Lanark and after a brief jog on US-52, continued north on IL-73 into Stephenson (#50).
Took that for about 20 miles to US-20 at which point I turned left to pick up Jo Daviess (#51). A few notes about Jo Daviess. #1 - I think it is definitely among the frontrunners for Illinois counties to substitute in a "NO! SLEEP! TIL PREBLE!"-type chant. Cmon, say it with me - "NO! SLEEP! TIL JO DAVIESS!!!". Plus it's actually in the corner of the state, so it kind of makes sense as a potential EFILC ending county. #2 - About 5 miles in, I passed the sign for "Welcome to Jo Daviess County" in big letters, followed by "Soil and Conservation District" in smaller type. At first glance, I thought I had reached the county line, only to realize that it was not the actual county line, which was about another mile down the road. I am not sure why the Soil and Conservation district borders don't line up with the ACTUAL county borders but I am going to ascribe it to the fact that apparently ILDOT, like its ODOT brethren, have a problem with me and my county goals. #3 - I am sure you are wondering who in the heck Jo Daviess is? As usual, Wikipedia does not disappoint. Turns out that although his last name was actually spelled Daveiss, it is uniformly spelled Daviess in the places named after him.
Back east on US-20 and north on IL-73, I shortly approached the Wisconsin border, where IL-73 turned into Green County Wisconsin (#52) County Road M. A brief observation on the different ways that different states name and number (and letter!) their roads. Some states (Kentucky and Virginia, I'm looking at you!) have TONS of state numbered roads. It seems like every little road from Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky to EAST Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky has its own state numbered designation. Other states are a little more conservative. In states like Ohio, it seems like there are virtually no county road designations (though I do remember an old exit sign on I-71 southbound at about mile marker 26 offering a mile marker for "Warren Co Rd 1", which I can only assume is either Fields Ertel road or Mason-Montgomery - said sign has now been covered over). From my days visiting my cousins in Wisconsin, I had remembered that Wisconsin was all about the lettered county roads. I continued on CR M for awhile, then took a left on to CR B, which I followed into Lafayette (#51) (nicely marked!). Back on CR B, I went until I saw a sign saying End CR B. Uhhhhhh. My route said nothing about this - just a turn onto WI 69 South. The end sign was at a 4-way intersection, so I could have gone straight, but I took a gamble and hung a right, and although there were no junction signs or anything like that, there was a WI 69 reassurance sign right away.
WI 69 turned into IL 26 at the border (back into Stephenson Co) and then I followed US 20 Eastbound into Winnebago (#52) and Boone (#53).
Which led to Annoyance #2. Somehow my I-Pass transponder is not working. So I gotta call and fix that before they send the cops after me to bust me for toll violations.
Total trip metrics were 289 miles, 12 (new) counties and about 5 hours - I pulled into my hotel a little before 10. Annoyingly (#3!) my night time minutes do not start until 9 pm CENTRAL time when I am here, so I can't call home (for free anyways) until 10 pm their time.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Chicago Trip, Day 2

Today was an off day, being Sunday. I had decided that I was going to do the whole keep the Sabbath Day holy and not drive around for more counties.

Still, I can't help it if there just HAPPEN to be new counties to visit on my way into Chicago. Those would be Marshall (#41) and Putnam (#43)

What happened to #42, you are certainly asking yourselves?

Well, Stark (#42) was just SO close, I was sure God wouldn't mind a little 1/2 mile out and back :-D

Also 6 counties on I-80 that I had previously been to

Chicago Trip, Day 1

Started out bright and early on Saturday morning. Actually I had packed most everything the night before but I loaded things off and set off to Enterprise. I got there about 15 minutes earlier. Oddly enough, just as I got there, 3 Enterprise employees showed up in cars. There was just something odd about their timing - kind of like a SWAT team operation or something. The manager (I guess?) told me that normally he would let me in early but they had a lot of stuff to take care of. They let me in around 9 and we spent some time filling out paperwork. He asked where I was going and I said Chicago. So as I'm reviewing the paperwork, one of the boxes says something like "States where the rental is valid" and it has OH, IN, IL. So I was like, I'll need to add Kentucky. And Wisconsin. And Missouri. And Minnesota. I told him "I'm taking a roundabout way to Chicago". After everything was signed and such, I was off in my VW Jetta at about 9:14. Oh, who am I kidding, I wrote it down, it was EXACTLY 9:14.

The first part of the trip was uneventful, at least route-wise. It was eventful from the standpoint of me trying to figure out how to work the car. Oh, okay the wipers are over there? Oh and the cruise is down here? And how do I pause the CD player?

One strange thing about the Jetta is that it apparently has a big key

I was not sure if this was a VW thing or if it was an Enterprise thing. You know how like when you go to the bathroom at a gas station how they give you the key with the giant thing attached to it so you don't lose / steal it? I thought maybe that was the deal with the rental car. It was not till the next day that Jim's cousin Kristina, upon learning I had a Jetta, coveted holding my key, told me that was just how it was, and showed me that if you pressed the little button the key will fold down into just a remote. Neat.

Anyways, I headed down 71 towards Louisville. This is the first time I can remember actually going into Louisville. Usually I get off north of town to go to the temple in Crestwood.

So the first novel thing of my route is heading north into Indiana on I-65 to pick up Clark County, IN (#1). I got off at the first exit (Exit 0). I did take a picture of me on this bridge (well a picture out the window of the car while I was on the bridge - I didn't actually stop the car, get out, stop another car, and have that person get out to take a picture of me on the bridge). Anyway the picture is not very exciting to look at. I looked for somewhere to get gas here but couldn't find anywhere readily accessible, so I just got back on I-65 and then I-64 West, where I crossed the Ohio River (again) into Floyd County, IN (#2)

Having crossed the Ohio River twice within a span of 10 minutes, that got me to wondering how many crossings of the Ohio River there are, and how many I had been on. I knew that the Wikipedia would not let me down, and of course there is an article entitled "List of crossings of the Ohio River" (of course there is). As it turns out, if you don't count rail crossings, ferries, the Purple People bridge, and other dumb things that only idiots would count, there are 57.

With the 2 I had just crossed (the JFK Memorial bridge and the Sherman Minton bridge) that brings my total up to:

That would be, in order from west to east:
  • The aforementioned Sherman Minton bridge and JFK Memorial bridges
  • The Brent Spence, Clay Wade Bailey, Taylor Southgate, Daniel Carter Beard, and Combs-Hehl bridges in Cincinnati. I don't think I've ever been on the Roebling or Caroll C Cropper bridges
  • William H Harsha bridge
  • US Grant bridge
  • The Simeon Willis bridge
  • The Silver Memorial bridge
  • Moundsville bridge
  • Interstate 470 bridge
  • Fort Henry bridge
  • Veterans Memorial bridge
So, counting the John James Audubon Bridge and the Shawneetown bridge that I would hit later on in the day and the Cairo Ohio River bridge that I am planning to hit in 2 weeks, that makes 18. Sounds like a worthy new obsession... :-)

Anyways, I continued westwards on I-64 across nearly the whole width of Indiana, Harrison, Crawford, Perry, Dubois, Spencer, Warrick, and Gibson (#3-9). There were 2 potential out and backs from my Indiana route that I could have done (to pick up Pike and Orange counties). But, since I didn't want to get to my destination too late, I didn't get them. Looking back, I wish I had. Oh well.

On to I-165 south towards Evansville for Vanderburgh (#10) and continuing on to US 41 The Pennyrile parkway into Henderson, Kentucky, immediately getting the county of the same name (#11) as well as Webster (#12) a few minutes later.

KY 56 eastbound snagged me McLean (#13) and Daviess (#14)

Don't worry - I took that picture after I had already crossed the county line and was turning around. After turning around, I stayed on KY 56 until I crossed the Ohio for the 4th and final time of the day into Shawneetown, Illinois - Union KY (#15) and Gallatin IL (#16)

Having been burned before, with these routes, I was trying to avoid county and local roads as much as possible. After crossing into Illinois, I came up on the first of two stretches where county roads just had to be done. This one went well, and I followed them into Hardin (#17) and Pope(#18). Do you detect the foreboding foreshadowing hanging in the air?

Back on main / state roads, I meandered through Shawnee (#19), back into Gallatin and then on to White (#20). Then I took a brief out and back on "County Road 300 N". Trying to overcome my Gallia county flashbacks, I soldiered on. While I'm not sure I would have enjoyed making this trip at night, in the daytime it wasn't that bad.

That be the border of Hamilton County, Illinois (#21). Hamilton, Hamilton... Killed by a bullet from Aaron Burr's gun...

After a brief detour on I-64 East crossing the Wabash River into Posey county, IN (#22), I continued my way north on IL 1, through Edwards (#23) and Wabash (#24). Then, just north of the booming metropolis of Keensburg, I made that fateful turn onto "County Road 700 E". The plan called for 13 miles on that road, then a jog on CR 11 and then continuing north onto E 640 N / CR 6.

It was going well at first. Then....

Ruh roh. Click on the picture if you can't see it, but it's a road closed sign. Annoyingly enough, the other direction I wanted to go at that intersection would have been right, but that too had a Road Closed sign. Since turning around is for wimps, I went left. As far as I can figure out, that intersection would be somewhere around here.

Unlike last time, the maps I had printed out and brought with me were not quite as detailed as I would have liked them to be. After turning left, I drove for awhile, then turned right on CR 500 E, drove on that for awhile, and then that road gave me a "Dead End", so I turned left (on to CR 1500), then right on CR 400. I was able to follow that up to CR 11, then into the hustle and bustle of Lancaster, where I was able to pick up CR 640 and get back on schedule. Various other county roads got me through Lawrence (#25), Crawford (#26), Jasper (#27) and Richland (#28) without any more trouble than I was going about 55 mph and couldn't stop to take a left before I passed one of the turns, so I had to stop and back up. Twice.

Estimating route times is not a very exact science, since it's so hard to know just from looking at Mapquest what kind of road it REALLY is going to be. Things that are marked the same online can range anywhere from a straight, flat road that you can easily go 65 on to a dirt or gravel road in the middle of nowhere. I had lost some time early on when I had to stop for gas. While not quite GOASIS-like, this particular station a) did not have functioning credit card readers and b) had pumps that dispensed gasoline at approximately 2 drops per hour. I was probably there for about 15 minutes or so. Oh, who am I kidding - I was there for 14 minutes, between 11:03 and 11:17 a.m. Anyway, I had been ahead of schedule for awhile, but these little road closed shenanigans set me back about 15 minutes.

But the rest of the trip was uneventful. One odd thing was on US 50 westbound through Clay (#29) and Marion (#30) counties. There were all these old bridges and road closed signs parallel to the actual US 50 road. I assume they were old sections of US 50, and I was interested to see that someone else had just about exactly the same thinking I did

An uneventful county road out and back snagged me Wayne (#31) and a little bit west of that I snapped the following picture.

That will only be funny to you if you a) know what street I live on and b) know what my basement looks like

Next was an out and back on I-57 for Jefferson (#32) and continuing on US 50 for Clinton (#33), upon which I doubled back on US 50 and it was US-51 time. I followed it north for about 150 miles, nearly all of which was 55 mph +, going through Shelby (#34), Christian (#35), Macon (#36), DeWitt (#37) and McLean (#38). Oh and Fayette too which I had already visited and therefore does not count. Then it was onto I-74 into Tazewell (#39) and Peoria (#40) where I arrived about an hour ahead of schedule. Okay, it was 1 hour and 16 minutes ahead of schedule.

Chicago Trip, Day 0

So I am being sent to Chicago for a week of training. Actually 2 (non-consecutive weeks). Actually as I write this I am already IN Chicago.

Naturally, my first thought upon finding out that I was going to Chicago for training was not "Cool, the chance to learn job applicable skills" or "Sure will miss my family while I'm gone" though both of those things are true. Rather, it was more along the lines of "Holy crap am I going to pick up some counties!"

It was decided we would drive up. Since the training is just more of a 9-5 thing, I figured that I could use my evenings (plus the trips to and fro) to score more counties. My original goal when trying to set things up was to hit every county in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. However, I have since pared things down (as Carolyn says, "The counties will still be there")

Originally it was going to be me and two other guys from work driving up. So I was trying to figure out how I could "umm borrow?" the car at nights. But then the one guy couldn't go up, and then the other guy's boss said they couldn't spend the money and then voila I was driving up all by myself!

So I spent a bit of time cooking up some routes for county, county, county madness! Stay tuned. Let's just say that my Illinois is preparing to look AWFUL blue.

Here is a before shot of my county map