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.