Thursday, August 18, 2016

American Heartland - Big City, Rural Farmland, Mighty Industry and More Corn

Monday, August 15 - Thursday, August 18, 2016
Michigan City, Indiana and Harrison Lake SP, Ohio

When I was planning this route I asked Bill "Am I nuts to want to drive through Chicago in the rig?" Naturally he said something brilliant and supportive like "Of course not! You should do what you feel like doing." 

So I (naturally) did just that!

Following I-90 is easy and there's lots to see <corn>, but not real exciting. Driving through Chicago changes that. The aforementioned brilliant and supportive navigator makes sure I'm in the correct lane so I don't have to rely on the last minute benevolence of commuters, who undoubtedly think we're on the wrong highway, to let me change lanes. Surprisingly there isn't another RV in sight :-)

Throw in the required construction, and the fact that we're in Chicago! and want to look at it while driving, and it's very exciting. 

Perhaps most interesting is the plane engulfed in flames at the end of the tarmac at Chicago O'Hare! It is completely black, and the flames are being extinguished by two fire companies. Holy! Oh, it looks like a training exercise :-/  Whew.

We're really here
That was fun! We're coming back to the city on Tuesday, but now we can say we had our home in Chicago too. 

What is much less fun is figuring out Toll Booths. It's the same highway, the booths should all be the same! Nooooo, every single one is different. 

The first one has an open lane that you can use if you have the EZPass, or pay later online. They should ALL have that lane. 

NONE of the rest have that lane. So far anyway, we have miles of toll roads to go.

The rest are a confusing combination of staffed booths accepting cash or credit card or EZPass or combinations of these - you have to read fast - and the un-staffed nightmares that don't tell you what you will be paying until you're committed and the lane is blocked with the bar thingy. 

The worst by far is the credit only lane with the machine that won't take my card, or the second or third card, until the umteenth attempt and some colorful verbalizing that I'm sure is the difference in its finally taking the @$!&* card......

So - Chicago driving, fun. Toll booths, not fun.

In spite all this, we make good time, and are set up in our site at Michigan City Campground before the anticipated storm starts. A blessing because it rains for hours. With recent flooding in Northern Illinois I'm particularly glad we're on a small hill, away from any rivers.

Bill braves the deluge to take Tessa outside. She fails to appreciate his sacrifice.

Not impressed with the weather
Tuesday morning the sun is out and we're on the road to Chicago. We take the back roads to see more of the area (totally unrelated to the toll booths on the Interstate...) After all the agriculture, the amount of industry here is mind boggling. We pass huge ship yards, railway yards, manufacturing plants - it's like a different world. 

We don't plan to tour Soldier Field, but we do want to see it, take some pics, say we've been there.

We don't however want to pay $22 to park! Sooo, we drive around it a couple times and get no pics because there is not a single place to stop nearby. 

The oldest of the NFL stadiums, Soldier Field is beautiful. And weird. The all-glass oval inside the 1920's concrete columns is quite the mish-mash of styles. It does look cool, just very different.

Chicago is a stunning city. It looks like I thought it would, and yet I'm completely surprised by its beauty - and its size. Los Angeles' skyline is a burg by comparison. 

And then there's the whole giant lake next

Big city, lots of people. Lots of cars. I didn't plan well for seeing anything of significance, and we definitely need several days to see everything we'd want to. At least we can have some deep dish pizza!

Two perfect pies
Jalapeno and black olive for Bill
Anchovy for me
Perquods Pizza is a local favorite and feels like I imagine Chicago should 
Is 2 inches a lot? It doesn't sound like a lot....
Fortunately the traffic wasn't like this yesterday.
On the way home we stop at Calument Fisheries for smoked shrimp and salmon. Unfortunately the website didn't say it was cash only so I pick up a small piece of smoked salmon. Which is delicious with cheese and crackers for dinner.

Wednesday we're back on the road. The Toll Gods have taken pity on me and instead of five booths, we pick up a ticket from the first one, and pay for it when we get off the highway 100 miles later. Much better!

One thing I really like on this route are the Travel Centers. Instead of rest areas with restrooms and a couple picnic tables, these stops on the freeway have a gas station, huge parking area, market, fast food stop, and usually a Starbucks. No hassle with finding each one, they're all right there together, with very easy access. They should be mandatory on all Interstates! Unlike toll booths.....

Mid-day we change time zones again, and enter our 15th state - Ohio! Where corn is still king.

Our GPS, Randy, leads us to one of the corn fields (thanks, we've seen it!) instead of the state park. Bill asks Gabby (Google maps on the phone) to take us the rest of the way. Which she does. Eventually Randy attempts to redeem herself by "re-calculating" onto the same route. Too late! We're following Gabby!!

Harrison Lake State Park is the most popular park in Ohio. It is beautifully maintained with the small man-made lake, 50 amp electric at each site, water spigots and dump station at the entrance, beach volleyball court, basketball court, soccer goals, swimming beach, disc golf course, kayak and canoe rentals, and a small dog beach. With all this available, it is still very quiet while we're here. 

Not unlike our previous stop, the rain comes soon after we park. In buckets! Looking out the windshield is like standing behind a waterfall. Fortunately it lasts about 30 minutes and the night passes without further precipitation. Tessa is much happier with this schedule.

Our view upon arrival
and then the heavens open up!
The same view in just minutes.
Small lakes form around us.
I chose a state park to put us back in nature again for a couple nights, and while the park is green and beautiful, it is an island of trees and water in the middle of corn fields. It sort of feels like we're in a terrarium. 

Thursday we take a short drive to see rural America. The humidity has been joined by increased bugs, and being outside is not enjoyable. We get gas in Fayette where a funeral home, insurance office, and auto parts store are the only other things open in the tiny town. The farmhouses and barns are lovely, and we enjoy the peacefulness of a life style that is completely foreign to us. 

And there's corn.

I fall in love with this old brick beauty

This design is over every window
Wonderful character
I don't go near the door. I've seen the movie.
Still holds equipment. Reminds me too much of Twister.
White clapboard farmhouses are all surrounded by large green lawns - everybody owns a riding mower. Or three.
Well maintained local cemetery
Unique headstone
We're told the corn is grown for fuel

I don't know how we could be dependent on foreign oil - this field times 400 million in five states!
Thursday afternoon the park is filling up with antique cars and tractors for the weekend show. We'll miss this one as we move further east to Amherst, Ohio, in the morning. But I believe there is one scheduled along with a steak fry at the park where we're going. 

Here's hoping we leave the muggy and buggy behind!


  1. Chicago! You are a ballsy woman, driving through there! Of course that's coming from a woman who does not pull her own trailer... ;-)

    It's funny how that big brick house looked very old, yet the fancy piece over the windows looked very fresh!

    Somehow I don't think you're leaving humidland any time soon...!

    1. I thought the same thing - those carved pieces looked almost new.

      I'm afraid you're right :-( about the humidity.

  2. Driving through Chicago is crazy!! We drove this the first time in that area. We have a nice scar just under our door as result of a toll booth. You are right about choosing a lane and every lane goes to a different road and there was construction and detours. It was CRAZY!! We didn't see the wider toll booth lane way on the right. Luckily, we didn't have more damage. Never again!

    You are too funny!!! There does appear to be enough corn to support the world. Don't forget those soybeans!! I think they plant those to break up the corn just for us!! Driving across Illinois and Indiana is so boring!!

    Now you understand why we like the west...humidity and bugs are not fun!! Even Tessa get it. I can tell she isn't happy by that look:)

    1. So sorry to bring up bad memories!! I'll keep my eyes open for the widest lanes. Oh yes, I totally get the love of the weather in the west!!

  3. "I've seen the movie." Cracked me up. I shared it with Dave. Cracked him up, too.

    1. :-)))) it was just that kind of house!!

  4. Congratulations on getting through Chicago in one piece! Check that one off the list!
    Love the photos from rural pretty and so glad you included the cemetery. When ever we have time, I love wandering through them to check out names and dates.

    1. Like old buildings, those old cemeteries have great stories to tell.

  5. Welcome to the Midwest ... I forgot how quiet it is living here in 'the tropics' of Southern Indiana until you mentioned it. Chicago, a great city and was happy to see you tried the deep dish pizza. I now have them mailed to me since I don't make the 4 hour trips as much as I use to. Looks like you experienced about everything that comes with Midwest living ... hot, humid, bugs, thunderstorms ... great job documenting your trip.

    1. We were talking tonight about how beautiful it is here, if we could handle the weather extremes!! Glad you're still coming along with us :-)

  6. Michael and I flew into Chicago on our way to DC.. While landing I thought we were in the wrong g place because the skyline looked just like Los Angeles. Lol.... Great pictures.. Poor Tesa... You probably could've put some shampoo on her and rinsed her with the rain... Great pictures.. Ya I wouldn't have gone in either.. That was a scary movie. ❤️❤️

    1. Several of the sky scrapers look a lot like L. A. - but there's soooo many more of them!! I had flown into O'Hare many years ago, but this my first time "in the city" itself. You have to come back :-)
      But I would have to have to gone outside too!!

  7. I laughed my way through this entire post...I must say, you are in remarkably good spirits given the heat, humidity, bugs, rain storms, toll booths, poorly behaved GPS, and all that corn. I want to visit Chicago—but not with our trailer in tow. You are a brave woman!! (I'm going back to reread this post because it's so darned funny.)

    1. It may have been my sick sense of humor kicking in to balance my frustration - but it was fun to write :-)))))

  8. Ah the state of my birth from which I left as soon as I could. Ohio in the summer is muggy and buggy but I understood that Hocking Hills and the state park on the lake were the two most popular parks. Glad you enjoyed yours. I love your sense of humor and boy are you gutsy to drive an RV through Chicago even if there were no tollbooths. I always tell google to forget anything with tolls. Can we meet at the nearest pizza place for ANCHOVY!! Yum! Seen any corn lately??

    1. I have to figure out how to program the GPS to avoid tolls and still get us around low bridges.... Yes ma'am! I think it's not pizza unless there's anchovies on it!!

  9. Your brave going right through! We went on the outskirts. I'm glad you didn't go near the door... or the corn. I've seen those movies too. They don't end well :-) Poor Tessa, I don't blame her. I hope you get some drier weather too. And less bugs!

    1. Yesterday there was a pre-school near one of the corn fields and I thought "who thought that was a good idea??" Cooler last night so we are hopeful.

  10. Hopefully the states get together someday and start using ONE toll transponder. Our Florida SunPass works in a couple of other states, but not in Illinois or Texas.

    The storms seem to be tracking through that area this year, Jodee. I know that when we drive down there from Northern Michigan, the air seems thicker.

    I'm waiting for a sci-fi thriller about the spaceship that landed on Soldier Field. If they can write one about Devils Tower, da home of da Bears should be easy. :)

    1. Hoping the current cold front keeps pushing south! They should make that movie - they wouldn't need to make a new prop because it's already there :-)

  11. Now I know you're crazy, wanting to drive through Chicago. I grew up outside the city and always hated, and still do, driving anywhere near there. But am glad I had field trips to the array of wonderful museums. The first 2 inches of snow isn't much, but it just never stops. I remember corn as far as the eye could see. And bugs and mugginess. Guess that's why I moved west.

    1. Not something I need to do again, but it was a different kind of adventure :-) I can't imagine living in this humidity every year, or you living near a big city. One thing I did love about living near L.A. the last several years was the proximity to great museums and theater.

  12. I agree, you're a brave woman to drive in such a busy city. I don't even like driving our car in San Francisco... I'd like to visit Chicago one day but perhaps we'll hire a taxi or shuttle or local college kid :-) Corn was everywhere on the drive from CA to MD when Jessica moved there. Although on that trip the mugginess wasn't too bad AND I did get to finally see my first firefly-they're cool :-))

    1. Fire flies are indeed very cool!! I hate driving in San Francisco too. The drive through Chicago was still on the Interstate, allow it's not like our nice wide freeways in CA. Not having the muggy would have made such a difference for this route.