On the Road Again
Posted by wendiwendy
It’s been a long time since Dave and I took a road trip. Usually we make at least one trip to Michigan each year, but when gas prices became astronomical we were hesitant to hit the road. It was one thing when gas was $1.99 a gallon, but at one point it was nearly $5/gallon here in Illinois. Crazy!
We realized, though, that we definitely never made a Michigan trip last year, at all, and really couldn’t remember when our last trip was. At this point we’re a little numb to the gas prices (when we left yesterday, we got a few gallons at a station near our house and it was $4.04 a gallon…we didn’t even blink an eye). So we made plans with Dave’s sister, Laurie, got up bright and early yesterday and then, as always, didn’t actually get on the road until 7:30 am.
Depending on which way we go, traffic conditions and how many times we stop, we usually can make it there in four to four and a half hours. We were heading to the tollway and the first entrance is always unmanned; you just toss your coins in the basket and go. This toll used to be about 20 cents (I swear it wasn’t that long ago!) but we couldn’t remember how much it was now. Dave was thinking 80 cents, which sounded about right to me, but I decided to check on my phone’s browser before we got there, since we weren’t exactly rolling in change at that point and you can’t toss dollar bills into the basket.
“Um…honey…that toll is $1.50 now!” I looked at Dave in shock. “I don’t think we have $1.50 in coins…do we?!” A quick glance confirmed that no, our coin situation was not that flush, so when we stopped for gas Dave went in to buy a lotto ticket (no, unfortunately we didn’t win) and got some change for the toll. Crisis averted.
We started driving and the first toll came up, and it was $2.50. We both started freaking out. “What?! This toll used to be 40 cents! What’s going on?!” We were like two old-timers reliving the good old days, but really, I swear it wasn’t that long ago that this toll was truly 40 cents. We begrudgingly paid and went on; the next toll was $1.90 which wasn’t quite as painful. We started joking about the fact that we were going to just bring $10 to cover tolls there and back, and it’s a good thing we went with $20 instead since we still had the Indiana Toll Road ahead of us. It made me think of when I was a teenager and I asked my dad for money to buy new jeans…and he handed me a $10 bill. Now I can see how he so quickly lost his frame of reference as far as what things cost. Sorry, Dad!
As we got to the last toll in this particular stretch, we could see the warning signs letting us know a toll booth was approaching…and that this toll was $3.80. Well, that just blew our minds. $3.80! For one toll! What was the world coming to?! (I’ll tell you what…it’s the tollway’s way of forcing people to buy an I-Pass, which we don’t have because we use the tollways once every two or three years, apparently.) As we had an animated discussion about this latest toll, Dave said, “Uh…what just happened? What happened to the toll booth?” I glanced up and saw that we were sailing through the section of the road that said ‘Open Road Tolling,’ leaving the toll booth quickly receding in our rearview mirror.
“Huh,” I mused, “I think we just blew through that toll. Now what?!” Luckily I saw a sign coming up that gave a website where you could go to pay an unpaid toll. I grabbed my Field Notes book and jotted it down, along with the amount of the toll. Pro Tip: If you do this as well, also note the time of day and the location of the toll booth. You’ll need those things when you pay the toll online. *deep sigh*
After we drove along for a while, we were in the middle of another good discussion when Dave said, “Hey…is that the exit for the Indiana Toll Road over there?” And sure enough, there it was, fading quickly in the distance to my right as we sailed on by. Dave shrugged. “Oh well, no biggie…we’ll take 12, it’s not much longer than the toll road, believe it or not.”
So we got on US Rt 12 and drove along, until we reached Niles, Michigan. (This is the area we want to move to, if we can ever sell our freaking house, for the love of God. Ahem.) It was 10:30 our time, but 11:30 Michigan time, and we’d been up since 5:30 so we were getting hungry. We figured we’d stop for a quick lunch and eat in the car so we could get right back on the road. (As a side note, when I pulled out my phone in Michigan, I noticed that it automatically switched to the new time zone. I don’t get out much, and I’m not a big cell phone user, so this may happen with all the phones now for all I know. In any case, I got a huge kick out of it. I’m easily entertained.)
We had stopped for gas not long before we stopped for lunch, since gas was 30 cents cheaper in Michigan (what’s up with that, Illinois?!) and our tank, at three-quarters full, was filled up more than I’d seen it in many months. We usually put in about $15-$20 at a time, and that gives us maybe a quarter of a tank if we’re lucky. I pointed it out to Dave, as we waited for our food to come to the window at the drive-through. “Look how high our gas gauge is! I can’t remember the last time I saw it that high. And hey, how come the temperature gauge is as high as the gas gauge?”
Sure enough, the temperature gauge was hovering just below the ominous red area next to the H. It’s normally below the mid-point between Cool and Hot. We got our food and got on the road, both watching the temperature gauge nervously. As we drove, it went back down to the normal position. Still though, every time we came to a stop, we’d watch that gauge. It was impossible to look away.
Stopping at a stop light wasn’t a big deal, but we got stopped at a train not much further down the road and at that point we watched the needle creep up again. Dave had noticed this happening back in April when he was working on the car (replacing the starter and, ultimately, replacing the battery which turned out to be the real culprit). At the time, he did some stuff with ground wires and (mumble mumble car stuff) and it seemed to be okay. This was the first time we noticed an issue with it again…of course, when we were on a long car trip!
I was reading the manual for the car, which mentioned something about a … fan belt, maybe? Some kind of belt, anyway. So Dave pulled over and checked that, and it was fine. We drove some more and he decided maybe the radiator was dirty, so we stopped at a self-serve car wash and he rinsed it off, then added both our bottles of water to the radiator. After that, the needle didn’t go too high but we couldn’t help but watch the gauge every time we came to a stop and the car was idling.
Because of all our stops, it ended up taking more like five and a half hours to get there. But it was so worth it! Time just flies when we visit, and I absolutely love visiting with my sister and brother in law, my nieces and nephews and their kids – our visits never last long enough for us! When it came time to head back home, Dave and I agreed that we can’t let so much time pass between visits. The gas was really not bad at all, and at least now we have a realistic expectation with the crazy tolls.
Speaking of which, on the way home we had the bright idea to just bypass the three most expensive tolls since I was already going to have to pay online for that first one from earlier in the day. I did jot down the amounts and the toll locations when we were coming home, but not the time we passed each toll booth. I just got done paying the tolls online and believe me, it would have been a faster process if I’d had all the right information!
In more positive road trip news, I brought along some CDs in case we wanted to listen to music. We generally don’t listen to the same music – Dave is a country boy and I’m an 80s/90s alternative girl. We do, however, both like ‘classic rock’ (I guess that’s the term) so I grabbed Hot Rocks by the Rolling Stones, Steve Miller Band’s greatest hits, and Dave had a compilation with Bob Seger, the Eagles, etc. Normally we don’t listen to music in the car because in order to hear the music well, we have to turn it up pretty loud…and then we can’t hear if we talk to each other. And obviously, we like to talk to each other!
Normally though, we spend the four (or so) hours going there doing nothing but talking. At night, we talk a lot for the first hour and then as it gets darker (and we get more tired) we drive in silence for longer stretches. So I broke out the CDs for those quiet stretches. This was the first time since I had Clear Voice added to my CIs last summer that we drove in the car with music playing. We had the volume up to where we could both hear well, and then Dave pointed out some deer on the side of the road. (And he told me to send them vibes so they would stay there, and not in front of us on the highway!) I realized I could hear him really well – his voice just came through nice and clear, and the music faded into the background while he was speaking. It was a fun way to cap off a great day!
About wendiwendyI'm a real-life bionic woman.
Posted on May 5, 2013, in Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss, Family, Humor and tagged Advanced Bionics, car trouble, Clear Voice, Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss, driving, hearing loss, Illinois toll roads, paying a missed toll online, road trip. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.