Road Crew

Monday, May 16, 2016

Highway robbery

I thought three straight days of driving to the next park would be pretty uneventful.  What could I possibly blog about when all I do is drive for hours on end by myself?  Alas, the road never ceases to give.
I am well aware that there are apps that tell you traffic and tolls and how to get there all at the same time but I have yet to have this work according to plan.  Most importantly, I actually need to have cell reception, which was non existent for long stretches on the prior trip leaving me following a blue dot on a grey grid.  Because of this, during my three week break a proper, non cell phone dependent, GPS system was on top of every list I made.  I responsibly Googled the difference between a TomTom and a Garmin, read the reviews which turned out to be from 2012 and went down to a large electronic store to see them in person.  That was where it all went wrong.  As I gazed at 8 different models, none of them corresponded with the models I had looked up on line.  The salesclerk came to my rescue telling me that the L2542 was exactly the same thing as the L61 but just a different year.  I doubted that since they were obviously two completely different models for the exact same price, an unlikely event.  He showed me another two models and repeated over and over that the only difference between them was that one was a glossy screen and the other a matte screen.  Again, I decided unlikely, given the $100 plus price difference between them.  Finally he showed me another but said they were all out of them.  At least this was his theory until we turned around to see the display case full of them.  I can only hope that this man had a purpose other than to know about GPS systems or else this may explain the financial difficulties of Big Box Store.  Frustrated, I left the store sans GPS unit and convinced myself that it was a long straight line across North Dakota.  What could possibly go wrong?
The mission today was to restock the camper and hit the road with the goal to get from Ft. Wayne, Indiana to Madison, Wisconsin.  This should be a straight forward six hour drive except for the fact that Chicago stands between these two cities and there is basically no way to avoid Chicago.  On close examination of the map, I think it is a requirement that one must pass through Chicago if choosing to pass through Illinois at all. Of course the traffic is bad there. 
The State of Illinois knows this as well.  Not only do they force you to go through Chicago, they also charge you for it.  Unless in an alley, every road had a toll.  As much as I zigged and zagged, I couldn’t escape them.  Inevitably I would have to roll up to one of the little booths were some bored attendant would lean out their window, see that I had a trailer and then offer up a charge.  $3.40. $2.55. $8.00.  I finally asked one of them if they were just making up numbers.  He laughed.  He actually thought I was being funny but seriously, how is one suppose to know how much change to have on arrival when it was different every time? I also asked one how to get off the damn thing.  She, too, just laughed.  I began to think that they were all high from the exhaust fumes. Perhaps they are friends with Big Box Store clerk and have reunions to laugh hysterically at helpless drivers.  In all it cost me over $30 just to drive across the state.  That comes to 25 cents per mile! I can only assume that their roads are paved with gold.

Needless to say, by the end I was furious.  Pete offered up that toll roads were common in the Northeast as if that was suppose to reassure me that getting swindled while doing nothing more than driving across a Midwestern state was somehow normal.  I am sure it is a matter of perspective.  Growing up, I lived 3.5 hours from the only interstate that bothered to pass through Montana.  So may you be driving a Tesla or a tractor, we shared it accordingly.  To me interstates are there to cover large distances efficiently. We do not build roads and then figure out how to deter people from using them, which strikes me as completely ass backwards.  The only tolls extracted from Montana are in the form of deer or elk waltzing across the road at a bad time, which could admittedly total a vehicle.  It is more of an all or nothing deal but when you live in the West that is the sort of lottery you play.   Sure you will probably get swindled by the sketchy looking car mechanic in the middle of nowhere but hopefully, you at least get to take home dinner.

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