Three Sleep was a breeze compared to a night in Winter Storm Achilles. I exit I-80 an hour after crossing the Mississippi into Illinois. There, on a hill, surrounded by golden light and emanating the sound of a host of angels, was my La Quinta. I first loved this hotel chain because they are dog friendly. It also appeals because of the good, healthy breakfast, the pool/spa, and workout room. Tonight is 5K cross train and tomorrow is 5K wog day so I am set.
I decided to check emails and relax. The first email is from a website that sends out weekly recipes. The title is Mashed Potatoes Done Right. How did they know? Who tattled on me? I feel a deep sense of guilt about the instants ; )
Next, I need to choose a restaurant for dinner. IHOP, Jalapenos Mexican, and Red Lobster are right across the parking lot. This choice –where I participate in my favorite activity of eating—is always guided by who has the more healthy choices. When traveling I always love the whole grain, fit and healthy menu at IHOP. Mexican food sounds too salty and filling. Red Lobster is the poster child for artery-clogging, diabetes-inducing American food.
So, of course I chose Red Lobster. They are also the most likely to have a decent glass of wine. And, since I have been traveling for 3+ days and existing on protein bars, egg white sandwiches and instant mashed potatoes, I am ready for a treat.
I am appalled when I find out they have a healthier Lite House menu. I am forced to order a Bar Harbor Salad with salmon. The wine is ok. The biscuits are fabulous.
Next, the hotel pool. I do breast-stroke and side stroke for about 20 mins. Not my best effort, but an effort. Then, the hot tub. Ahhhh. I can’t believe that it was only last night when I was in the middle of a storm and holed up at a Flying J, sleeping next to a bag of stinky laundry and fighting my dog for a sleeping bag.
In the morning, I wog 2 miles on the hotel treadmill, pack up and head out. I stop for camping groceries. In the yogurt section I am certain that I died and went to heaven in the night. There, again gleaming and emanating the sound of a host of angels, is container after container of Chobani vanilla chocolate chip yogurt. Chocolate and yogurt. I worry not about the paradox there; I just grab the biggest container and smile at my good luck.
Back onto I-80. In case you are eagerly awaiting my next set of rhyming place names, this is not going to be a pee and flee kind of humor day. Today I renew the Alphabet Game. Did you every play this while traveling as a kid? You have to find a sign, license plate or something with every letter in the alphabet, in order. That means starting with the letter A, finding Applebee’s on a sign, then looking for something with a B (the one in Applebee’s doesn’t’ count, which I only tell you because my friend Tom, were he here, would ask that very question).
I left the Alphabet game yesterday at the letter J. I couldn’t find a J anywhere in Iowa. Odd that I didn’t just turn on my computer and go to Jane’s Journals. Anyway, this morning I score big, when I drive by a sign that says Joliet Junior College.
That takes me to the letter K, another difficult hunt. I decide to cheat on this one, because the world is littered with K’s thanks to Kim K and her Klan: Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kanye and now Kimye, the rapidly growing Kim-Kanye fetus.
L, M, N, O, P go by quickly. At Q I wonder, where is a Quiznos when you need one? Then I see another La Quinta. I see a sign that I am entering Cook County, and I am very glad to have my Ps and Qs in order before entering such an infamous place. According to Wikipedia:
Cook County is a county in the U.S. state of Illinois, with its county seat in Chicago. It is the second most populous county in the US after Los Angeles County, California. The county has 5,231,351 residents, which is 40.6 percent of all Illinois residents. Cook County’s population is larger than that of 29 individual U.S. states and the combined populations of the seven smallest states. There are over 130 incorporated municipalities in Cook County, the largest of which is Chicago, which makes up approximately 54% of the population of the county. That part of the county which lies outside of the Chicago city limits is divided into 30 townships. Geographically the county is the fifth largest in Illinois by land area and shares the state’s Lake Michigan shoreline with Lake County. Cook County is mainly urban and very densely populated, containing most of the City of Chicago and many suburbs. It is surrounded by the five collar counties.
Cook County has a bit of a darker side too: Mayor John Daley and all his political influence. While he escaped prosecution, many in his administration served time for corruption. However, his most serious crime, as reported in Wikipedia:
Daley, who never lost his blue-collar Chicago accent, was known for often mangling his syntax and other verbal gaffes. Daley made one of his most memorable verbal missteps in 1968, while defending what the news media reported as police misconduct during that year’s violent Democratic Convention. “Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all– the policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
I get stuck again at the letter W. Then I see a sign that reads Tollway ahead. I get my W but more than that, my little heart jumps for joy. I am a mile from the land of Turnpikes, a Midwestern icon of 50s travel. Perhaps you remember the magical world of turnpikes and oasis, the islands where you can turn off and get some nummies.
Were they Stuckeys, where you could get things made with pecans? Need some help here! According to Stuckeys web site:
Since the 1930’s, generations of Americans have known and loved Stuckey’s as a venerable roadside tradition. Now, in addition to visiting us on your next car trip, you can shop with us right here on the information highway.
I see that today, the Oasis are a muck and mire of McDonalds, Hardees and other McRat and Fat establishments. Still, I stop two or three times to walk Tango and get another Starbucks Mocha Chip Frappuccino Light (MCFL). It is past noon Eastern Time and I don’t drink caffeine after noon or I will toss and turn all night. However, it is only 10 AM Wyoming time…so I go for another MCFL. Hey, I am making up the rules here.
So, I have cheated on the letter K and finagled around with time zones so I can gorge on MCFL. I decide to behave the rest of the day. Soon, I enter the land of Hoosiers. I am so relieved when I see a sign that says I am in a Helpful Hoosier Zone. I try to think of something funny to write about that, but decide it is funny enough on its own.
Instead, I try to think of famous Hoosiers. The only one I can eke out of my memory banks is author Kurt Vonnegut. It turns out I do not have to stress my memory because each Oasis is named after a famous Hoosier. The only name I recognize is Knute Rockne.
When I reach the promised land of Ohio, I text a junior high/high school friend ….what is high in the middle and round on both ends? He gets it.
Why is Ohio tilting in this map?? Does this reflect it’s political leanings the last few elections?
Back to the guy I texted. Now, this guy wasn’t just any friend. He was also our paper boy for many years. He found me on Facebook a few years ago. I traveled to AZ to visit with him and another friend from that era. He told me that once, when we were in Junior High school and he was collecting for the paper, I came to the door in a bikini. I have no recollection of this event, but I defer to him…it is, after all the kind of thing that would be emblazoned on a pubescent male memory. I guess I started my career as a flirt early.
Well, moving things along, I get to the day’s destination—a ferry terminal on Lake Erie. I plan to spend Four, Five, and Six Sleeps at a lovely little island out there in the Lake. I just miss the last ferry, so have to wait 55 minutes. Finally the ferry pulls up, releases its other passengers and cars, and I drive aboard.
Waiting for the Ferry
View While Waiting for the Ferry