i had two huge days of driving on this trip, and this was the first. it was also the first day that karen and i had our first major understanding. (karen, for those of you who've never ridden with me and jerry, is the name given to the voice of my gps, while jerry is the name of my car. she is karen because she is a wild cougar who senses fear, and he is jerry because he completes me, and if you think naming your cars is retarded, don't apologize to me, apologize to your poor, underapreciated automobile.)
karen wanted me to stay on 80 through indiana, probably to avoid driving through chicago proper (or in order to see a cross burning-- ok, last klan joke, at least for this week), leading me back just in time to enter the $.80 thunderdome relay race that is 90 outside of chicago. nobody warned me about this. in fact, i'd say warning is one thing you don't associate with this particular stretch of road. or speed limits. or logic.
basically, the rules are thus: the speed limit is 55 (altho everyone is going a good 20 miles faster), there are tolls at seemingly random intervals (most are $.80, some are $1.20, all are really easy to get exact change for when trying your best not to get rear ended by some angry commuter who hates your guts for going a mere 70), and if you don't have easypass, which i don't, because tolls are nonexistent the west side of the mississip', you can only pay for said tolls in the far right lane. and if you're not in an suv, which i'm not, but surrounded by suvs, which i pretty much always am (or trucks, or busses, or doublewides en route to a new locale...it reminded me of high school, when all my friends were over 6 feet tall), sometimes you never see a single warning of the oncoming lane-pocolypse and have to jam out to the right lane in less than a jiff.
i saw signs saying you could pay your toll later online, but c'mon. if i did have internet at the best quality la quinta suites or wherever that night, would i remember the url for toll payment? and if i didn't, would i have to avoid chicago as a traffic fugitive? not that i'm ever going to drive that stretch again-- EVER-- but still. and have you ever accidentally driven through ez pass without an actual pass? i did on my way onto the ny state thruway once-- i had to pull over, get out of my car, and WALK to a booth for a card. across several lanes of traffic. there are certain places in this this world where you can't even imagine getting out of your car-- in a car wash, at safari adventure in the emu exhibit, on the streets of north tonawanda, new york-- and for me, toll booths is one of them. it was like going through the looking glass, and the very embarasing looking glass at that.
the only good thing about the chicago stretch of 90 is that instead of calling it a travel center/rest stop/fast food pagoda, they call it an "oasis." yes, a shimmering vision of overpriced gas, autoflush toilets, and sabarro. don't let it be a dream!
after that, wisconsin was sort of a blur, although i did appreciate passing at least three billboards that just said CHEESE. no brand, no variety, no context. just CHEESE. it would be like driving on 128 in boston and seeing billboards for "CHOWDER", or being on the BQE and seeing "BAGELS", or driving on 90 in eastern washington and seeing "METH" (more on that later). i also liked passing cornfields and actually being able to smell the corn. were i in new hampshire, and i'm quite aware that i'm not, this would be the time of year for fresh corn from the local farm stand, which means having to shuck on the back porch before dinner, and getting chided for not doing a good enough job with the silk, and retorting that if you want it done right, do it yourself, and then telling each other to go fuck ourselves, and then storming out. it's a magical time of year, really. sigh.
when i crossed the missisippi into minnesota, it was also magical, not just because it's beautiful, but because that was the spot when cops officially disappeared. the construction thinned out, but staties (and all other form of local motorized authority) vanished completely. until oregon. and the speed limit went up to 70 or 75. it was pretty fucking glorious. that it smelled nice was just icing on the cake.
since i spent most of the time on this day driving/crossing 4 lanes at once to give the chicago transit authority their precious $.80, i'm a little thin on pictures here, but i did see something of note when stopping for gas somewhere in MN near the SD border. i blindly followed the exit's promise of the image of a gas pump, but when i got to the bottom of the ramp, i had two choices for procuring my gas, and they were right next to each other. and when i say right next to each other, i mean they shared a parking lot. and they were as follows:
i realize that kum&go is a chain in that part of the world, but the proximity of this particular kum&go to it's local rival, the little guy, made the spot seem like a real travel destination for gas, microwavable food, and feelings of sexual inadequacy. at least if you're a dude. for me, it was a place to get denied food at the little guy (the "kitchen was closed"-- so for the sandwich, you need to cook the processed turkey?) and buy a sturgis bike rally kerchief at the kum&go for my friend eilene in nh, since she probably already has every piece of weirs bike week merch ever created.
and it was really amazing, because the girl working at the kum&go had dyed black hair, multiple face rings/a tacklebox visage, some really bad tattoos (the ace of spades! grr!), and she couldn't have been more friendly and cheerful. it was like there was a fargo dvd where her voicebox had been. i hope the kum&go uses it's superior manpower to jizz all over the little guy. and at least it will be quick.
when i finally got to SD, i was starting to lose it, so i decided to look for a place to stay. i called home, and with the help of google maps, my father surmised the best place to stop with the most hotels would be mitchell. so, to keep myself awake in the last 15 miles before mitchell (and to keep my father awake in his few precious hours before working a 12 hour day), i told him about how the name mitchell always makes me think of mystery science theater (hi, comi-con), when they did the movie mitchell, and how it had the lamest theme song (m-m-m-m-mitchell!), and how i didn't really want to stop too much in south dakota, and how everybody stops at the corn palace at some point on their way across 90 and i wasn't sure where it was but i'd seen so many pictures of it from friends who'd gone and thought it was so wacky that at this point i kind of hated it and didn't give a shit. and fyi, the corn palace is a giant building covered in (if not made out of) corn. there's just a lot of corn. tada.
my dad was like, nobody's going to make you go to the corn palace, can i please get some sleep, so i got my late night chicken selects (day 2, if you're keeping track!) and snuck my dog into a best western. i didn't sleep much, so when i spotted this on my way out of town the next morning, you can imagine the confusion.
m-m-m-m-mitchell! once again, being around shucked corn made me want to tell someone to go fuck themselves. magic, indeed.
next: SD pt.2, WY, MT