Day 21: Madison, WI. 5,399.5 km.
There's no way to deny it: we're definitely on our way home now. In an approximate mirror image of our day 3 (!) itinerary, we drove from Strathroy into the US, went through Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, and ended the day in a nice suite in Madison, Wisconsin.
We've mastered the art of taking our time to get places, though. We left Strathroy around 8:30, and finished the “7.5 hour” drive about twelve hours later.
We got started a little later than planned, partly because we were visiting with Kelly and Lars, and partly because I had to shovel out the snowbank that the plow left behind our car. First order of business was a proper Ontario breakfast from Tim Horton's, and then, onto the highway! The heavy snow from yesterday had stopped, but soon after we started driving, it started again. So it was slow going to the border…around 70-80 km/h most of the time. On the 70 km drive to the border, we saw five cars in the ditch — four of which were recent enough that people were still with them. The roads were definitely a bit slippery, but we stuck (mostly) to the slow lane and didn't hurry.
Getting across the border into the US was no problem (though the border guard looked into our very full back seat and asked “So…are you guys moving?), and we immediately headed for the first stop of the day: another trip to Hobby Lobby. Ali was inspired by Erica's six-hour (I think?) marathon and wanted another kick at the can :-). It was a good idea, though, because after we finished wandering around (and bought a few small things) and got back to our car, the snow had stopped! Yay!
After that, the roads started to dry up, and before too long they were fairly dry. The temperature dropped, too, from about -2 °C in Strathroy to around -8 °C, so the remaining flurries that we hit during the day didn't make nearly as much of a slushy mess of the roads.
Our third stop was for gas, lunch, and a visit to another craft/hobby store, Jo Ann's Fabrics. We stopped in Kalamazoo, because that was when we needed gas, and we were hungry, and it seemed big enough to have a Jo Ann's, and Darryl liked the name. Unfortunately the city turned out to be a bit dingy, and our lunch was at the sketchiest McDonald's I've ever been to (we didn't even really want McDonald's for lunch, but we needed wifi to look up the store and we knew McDonald's always has it). Jo Ann's, in the end, was also a bit underwhelming…not nearly the selection (or attractiveness) of Hobby Lobby, and not particularly good prices either.
Oh well, it wasn't far out of our way, and we got back on the interstate. And then Ali realized that the various stops and delays and the time change meant that instead of getting to Chicago in early afternoon (as we had hoped), we'd be hitting it bang in the middle of rush hour! Whoops! But there was nothing to do but plunge on and hope that the toll roads we had decided to take would be less busy than the route we had taken on the trip east.
That…sort of worked out. The toll roads were still very busy, but there were way fewer entrances and exits, so traffic flowed quite well most of the time. We didn't have an “I-Pass” for automatic toll payment, so we had to pull out a few times to pay with cash (total cost, $10.90, in six stops). And then, after we passed Chicago, we found out that some of the exits from the tollroute don't accept cash! Since exits from the tollroute are few and far between, we would have been in a bit of trouble if we needed one of those exits, but happily, we just drove along the highway, passed through a final, normal, cash-accepting tollbooth, entered Wisconsin and it turned into a normal highway, no tolls required.
By then it was getting late, and we were hungry, but we were also looking forward to just getting to our hotel and not driving any farther, so we decided to suck it up and go nonstop to Madison. After we found our hotel, we ordered supper at a nearby Pizza Hut, checked into our hotel, and then I picked up our food and we ate at the coffee table in our suite (which even has a balcony!).
And now, we're beat. Good night, everyone…tomorrow's a much shorter drive!
Day 3: Strathroy, ON. 2,109.1 km.
We slept in this morning, ate a great big breakfast at our hotel (eggs, toast, tea, coffee, chocolate milk, orange juice, donuts, yoghurt), and wandered outside at around 9:30 AM to brave the wintry Indiana weather:
It was beautiful again today — we hit temperatures of around 7° C again, and the roads were, once again, clean and dry. It feels like spring here: the snow is melting, we're not wearing jackets, and the grass is even green in places! The snow tires we put on our car before leaving haven't had a chance to make a difference for us, but we aren't complaining! Especially since we hear Manitoba was hit by snow and cold!
We made an early stop in Michigan City, Indiana to visit a Hobby Lobby store — an American chain that Ali was interested in. It was huge, and full of tempting things:
Of course we bought some stuff: Ali got crochet and sewing supplied, and I got origami and papercraft supplies. Then we hit the road and headed to Michigan. We stopped more often today than on the previous days…first at the Hobby Lobby, then at a rest stop near Lansing, MI to stretch our legs:
Then we stopped at another rest stop, between Lansing and Portland, so I could check the map they had posted and confirm that, yes, we were on the wrong interstate :-(.
It was our only navigational error of the trip, and it happened because our directions said we needed I-69 North, and the exit sign was for I-69 East. We realized the mistake pretty quickly and turned around at the next exit (Portland, MI, where we also got gas), and it only cost us 15-20 minutes or so.
After that, we cruised for the border! Canada, yay!
We pulled up to Trevor & Kelly's place in Strathroy around 6:00, having lost an hour early in the morning due to the time change, where we had supper, delivered various packages from Winnipeg, and visited with Trevor, Kelly, Owen, Arlene, and of course Lars, who loved the belated Christmas gifts.
And now we're heading to bed! Tomorrow we should be going to sleep in the same city that we wake up in, which will be nice!
Day 2: Gary, IN. 1,520.3 km
Today was possibly the biggest drive we'll do on this trip. (We haven't planned the drive home yet so I don't know for sure.)
We had a small breakfast in our hotel, left Alexandria at around 8:30 in the morning, and drove until we got to our hotel in Gary, Indiana, passing through Wisconsin and Illinois along the way. We stopped for gas in Minneapolis, had a sit-down lunch in Tomah, WI, and stopped for gas again in Durand, WI, ending up at our hotel pretty much twelve hours after we left the previous one.
I drove the whole way, to my own surprise. The one time I was getting tired was around lunch, and Ali was tired too, but after our lunch stop (probably around 45 minutes), I was more awake and good to go again,
Once again the weather was on our side: mostly dry roads, and no rain or snow. It would have been rain, actually, since it was above freezing the whole way — our high temperature today was 6° C!
Traffic, on the other hand, was not quite as nice as yesterday. We hit morning rush hour in Minneapolis and afternoon rush hour in Milwaukee (I just can't get away from that place, it seems!). But that meant we went through Chicago well after rush hour, and with up to seven lanes on the freeway, we were glad of that! And we had a fantastic view of the Chicago night skyline as we approached. (Also a good view of all the planes approaching/leaving/circling O'Hare!)
The only reason that traffic was a concern at all was that, starting in Wisconsin, we noticed drivers being VERY aggressive with their lane changes after passing on the interstate. I would be driving along with the cruise control on in the right-hand lane, someone would come up behind and pass me, and then pull RIGHT back in front of me as soon as they passed, often leaving less than a car-length between us! Slightly unnerving at 65-70 mph! And then, after we were used to that, we got to Chicago, where people seem to merge on the assumption that other cars will just get out of the way for them.
Oh well…we were startled a couple times but it was once again a pretty uneventful drive. We had a small supper in our hotel room, and we expect a shorter drive tomorrow morning. And we're glad we're on the east side of Chicago and won't be driving through morning traffic there!
My favourite local attraction that we drove past: in Wisconsin, the “Deke Slayton Astronaut And Bicycle Museum”. And I couldn't help but think of Pamela when we saw a billboard for a scrubs warehouse store!