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1800 Miles in Under 40 Hours: It's exactly as fun as it sounds

Sunday, July 31, 2016

We were on the road by 9AM on Thursday, July 28, and we didn't get off the road until 12:30 AM on Saturday, July 30. Our only stops in that time were

  • A very quick stop at Roosevelt National Park to stand at an overlook of the Painted Canyons in North Dakota's Badlands.

  • A one-hour lunch break at a Cracker Barrel somewhere in North Dakota (delicious fried chicken, btw)
  • And stops every 325 miles or so for gas.

Aside from that Cracker Barrel lunch, Diane and Todd ate snacks while they drove and drank a lot of coffee. It was overcast on Thursday and rained on and off, and Diane and Todd were actually grateful for that. For the first time in weeks they didn't need sunglasses and the rain helped keep the road cool, which was good for the Big Rolling Crate. They had thought they were driving into a massive heatwave, but actually they were driving with the front that was breaking up the heatwave, and good thing since the Big Rolling Crate tends to overheat and effectively has no AC (because when the AC runs the engine runs hotter so you can't run the AC when it's hot out).

North Dakota was long but we made it to Minnesota and then Wisconsin. Diane was driving when we crossed the state lines and as it was nearly one in the morning, she drove back to the Walmart in Tomah, WI where we'd stayed on the drive out, thinking we'd get some shut eye. Todd, however, had other ideas. Diane got in the back with me, Todd got behind the wheel, got a coffee at McDonald's, and got back on the highway.

Unfortunately, with no co-pilot to navigate, Todd made a mistake that should have told him it was time to get some shut-eye: As he drove on I94 East, he saw signs for I90, which he knew we needed to take to get home, so he exited I94----and got on I90 West. And he didn't realize it until he'd gone 45 miles and had returned to the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. He hadn't realized that I94 East and I90 East actually run together for a while, and thus caused himself two extra hours of driving.

Diane was a nervous wreck in the back of the Big Rolling Crate, so she hardly got any sleep. Finally at 5AM when Todd stopped for gas, she got back up front to help him navigate because we were approaching Chicago.

At the Illinois border we returned to the miserable land of toll roads. Between Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, we paid nearly $60 in tolls. In a car, it would have been cheaper, but still! Out west there were no toll roads. They know about living free out there.

We passed Chicago around 7:30 (really enjoyed that morning rush hour traffic!) and once we were outside the city, Todd passed the job of driving on to Diane. And so they alternated through the day. Driving, driving, driving. Construction zone after construction zone. Here a little rain shower, here a spot of sun. Driving, driving, driving. It's so noisy in the Big Rolling Crate that they had to shout to talk to each other and I think we're all going deaf a little. We were all dirty, cranky, stiff, and eager to just be done with the blasted driving.

As we drove through Ohio, Todd surprised Diane again, this time by conceding that there was no way we could drive straight through to Worcester (let alone Maine). It was too far, the Big Rolling Crate needed a break (the check engine light started coming on intermittently back in Montana), and we all needed sleep. We had two choices:

  • Take I90 through NY state (and pay a million more tolls) and sleep in a Walmart parking lot somewhere
  • Take I80 through PA and sleep at Diane's mom's house.
 We knew Diane's mom, Mammam Dot, as I call her, would probably be with Dave at his lake house, which is one of my all-time favorite places to visit, and which isn't too far off I84. I hadn't had a good walk in days, let alone a chance to run free or swim, so Diane called her mom and made a plan.

Oh, Pennsylvania, you're endless and hilly like a Western state but at lower elevation and with lower speed limits but faster traffic. Out west, the speed limit was often 70, 75, or even 80, but it seemed like not that many people really drove at 80 mph and we didn't feel our slow place was a danger to us, but back east, the speed limit is generally 65 or even 55, but everyone is going 80 and our top speed of 55 feels like a real hazard.

Around mile mark 111, we crested the highest point on I80 east of the Mississippi at 2225 feet. You'll recall we crossed the highest point on all of I80 weeks ago in Wyoming, so it feels like we had the full experience of I80.

We finally, finally, finally make it to the lake at 12:30 in the morning. Mammam Dot had waited up for us and greeted us with hugs. In the morning, I got to swim and run around and eat goose and deer poop and it was so much fun. At noon, when Todd told me to get back in the Big Rolling Crate, I was absolutely brokenhearted. We didn't even get to spend 12 whole hours there! But that's life on the road, I guess.

The drive from PA to MA was uneventful and even Connecticut didn't cause us too many slow downs, but remember, our top speed means we don't get anywhere fast. We got to Worcester around 6 and I was so happy to see our house! And Taco! It was just the same as when we left!

But we didn't even stay a whole hour. Todd got his windsurfer and Diane got her car and it was back on the road. I went with Diane in her small red crate, which is quiet and fast and has delightful air conditioning, and, at long last, around 10:30, we arrived at our final destination, Harpswell, Maine.

Today Todd promised me we aren't driving anywhere at all. In fact, we're staying here an entire week. I went swimming in the salt water this morning and have already romped around the yard a lot. 

It's funny to take a vacation after a monthlong vacation, but road trips are kind of a lot of work and we are all exhausted and ready for relaxation. We're thinking of this as a transitional week to help us readjust to normal life without being too disappointed that our big adventure had ended. 

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