Sunday, March 25, 2007

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.

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