As I’m headed back home after enjoying yet another road trip, a particular lingering thought finally came out.
Yes, it’s really no fun to go on these trips alone.
The latest road trip, which revolved around a newspaper assignment, was into Chicago. I had to be at Gately Field in the South Side for a 3:45 p.m. kickoff. I wasn’t doing anything else that day, so I decided, what the heck, and make a day out of it.
Instead of taking the tollway, I chose a few side roads. I took Flagg Road from Dixon and meandered around the west side of Rochelle to get to Steward. From there, I took Perry Road to Kaneville, and then meandered through the west suburbs until I got to Irving Park Road in Itasca. I had time to kill, so I leisurely killed some time.
In Chicago, I took Irving Park to Sheffield, and headed south toward Wrigley Field. I figured the approaches elsewhere would be crowded, so I picked the quietest corner to drive by. I went down Sheffield and hung a right on Addison toward the famous marquee. When I got to the corner of Sheffield and Waveland, there was a FedEx truck in front of me. It went past the intersection full of Cubs fans just standing around, and then I made my way past the stop sign as if I was parting the Cubbie Blue Sea.
South of the stadium, a few miles away, was a place I had eaten at before, S&G, and I ate there again. Then I drove by Harry Caray’s Restaurant downtown to punctuate an inside joke between a co-worker and I. Then down to Gately Stadium to cover the football game.
I had originally planned to stay for the game that played after mine did, but since it went long, my article went long, and I wound up filing from a McDonalds on 95th and Wentworth. As I’m driving down 95th headed out of town I wondered what place there was to eat dinner, and the thought of Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook sounded appealing — since I had been there also.
I had no hurry to get home after dinner, so I meandered across Downers Grove (where I stopped at a Bentley dealership just to gawk at the cars), Lisle, Naperville, and Aurora to get back to Kaneville — and then on the same path home.
But not before a stop at the Steward Inn. It’s a small bar that looks like someone’s basement bar at 1 a.m. on a Saturday.
So that was my Chicago trip for November.
I have yet to see an ocean.
When I was editing my great aunt Lynn’s novel a few months back, she told me that seeing the ocean was something everyone should get to experience. She lives in Myrtle Beach, not too far from the Atlantic. The closest I’ve been to an ocean was Cooperstown, New York.
Other than that, I really don’t have any desire — immediate desire — to travel anywhere else. I’ve already been to a lot of places that I’ve always wanted to see, either with my family as a child, with my grandparents, by myself, or on the very rare occasion with a friend.
When it comes to places within 200 miles from here, you can cue up the Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
The first real trip I ever went on was to Brookfield Zoo when I was a baby. The first trip I can remember (age 4) going on was to the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, when I was being diagnosed for my Autism.
I’ve been to Great America, Sears Tower, Hancock Building, Comiskey Park, United Center, O’Hare, Lake Michigan, and a few other smaller places in Chicago while I was a kid.
I’ve been to Six Flags St. Louis, the Arch, and Busch Stadium on a family trip to St. Louis.
I’ve been to Lambeau Field and Wind Point Lighthouse in Wisconsin on family trips; as well as the Milwaukee Art Museum with my grandparents.
I’ve also been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the James Deal Museum, the Motown Museum, Windsor (Canada), and the Mall of America — all with my family.
I’ve driven along the entire path of Route 66 with my grandparents, and have been to many places to eat with them within a 100-mile radius. They lived in Tucson for the winter a few years ago, and I visited them down there. That was my first plane ride, and the furthest west I’ve gone (plus, I got to visit briefly with my uncle Randy while changing planes in Denver). For my 29th birthday dinner, we went to Milwaukee and ate at the Safe House, and toured the Miller Brewing Company.
The only one I went on with Danny was to Galena, and this was when he was experimenting with driving a car for the first time. We took the back roads into Galena, which was a lot of fun trying to get him around all of the hills and curves of it all.
Then there are the trips I went on by myself.
The first solo trip of note was my Hall of Fame trip to both Cooperstown (baseball) and Canton (football). I was about a week late on seeing the national soccer hall of fame, also in New York, but the museum had closed permanently. That same trip also had a brief stop at the Lucy & Desi Museum in Jamestown, NY.
The next big one of note was along the Mississippi River from Clinton to the headwaters in Lake Itasca, and back. I didn’t quite complete the trip on my way back, as it got dark at a certain point. The following year, I made it back to where I left off, camping at a Yogi Bear resort and visiting Wyalusing State Park.
The next big trip of note was a weird one. I planned on ringing in 2015 twice. There’s only one way to do that, and I went to a bar along the state line in Michigan to ring in 2015 in the Eastern Time Zone, and went across the state line to Michigan City, Indiana to ring in 2015 in the Central Time Zone. While at the state line in between celebrations, I made it a point to stand in two different years at the same time.
The year 2015 was a turbulent year for me, for reasons I have written about time and time again. However, to help ease the pain of it all, I took plenty of time to embark a couple of more trips.
One was to Tekamah, Nebraska, where part of my family is from; and made a short stop to the railroad yard in Council Bluffs.
A few months later, I went down to the St. Louis area for one of my many Illinois High School Glory Days-based road trips (trips I take around the state for closed high school research). I got to visit Alton, Granite City, Collinsville and Edwardsville. I also got to walk across the old Chain of Rocks Bridge once again (after doing so with my grandparents in a Route 66 trip), and thus touched Missouri.
A few months after that, I took Mike and Chris to a haunted house in the suburbs of Chicago. This was the first road trip I had taken them on, and as a family we had visited many haunted places in Chicagoland (including Resurrection Cemetery).
Last year, I made it to six different states (incl. Iowa and Wisconsin). This year has been much more quiet with the increased work load, but I had pockets of time where I made smaller trips.
This year saw me visit Troy Grove (and the World’s Largest Ham Sandwich), see a Bulls game with my friend Charlie, go on a Black Hawk War sightseeing trip, a IHSGD trip through the Southland area of Chicagoland, a journey along the Stagecoach Trail in NW Illinois, a stop at the Lincoln Heritage Museum in Lincoln, and my most recent trip to Chicago.
The first real road trip I went on with a friend was with Mema; we went to downtown Chicago and drove by Wrigley Field. I’ve also gone on a couple of mini trips with Spencer.
Again, cue up “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
Yeah, I’ve been to a lot of places near and far in the middle west during my 20s.
But that was my 20s. I’ve done my fair share of going out and exploring, and have these places in my mind for the future. I’ve done all that.
Once thing I’ve wanted to concentrate on into my 30s is to build a better social life. Be in some sort of circle of friends, have a girlfriend, build on these things and use all of the places I have visited as destinations for further memories.
Cutting back on the road trips seems like a loss of pride in my sense, but when considering everywhere I’ve gone so far, this isn’t too much of a blow. I’ve had my share of fun, and now is the part of my life where I have to get down to real personal business — and assure that I will have a more enjoyable life down the road.
My parents, grandparents, and my sixth-grade teacher (Mr. Weatherwax) have been the inspiration for my many travels. Of course, now is the time when I need to build things up in order to enjoy what my grandparents are doing now. I’m not saying no more road trips until I’m 65, but I’m starting to realize that there are more necessities in life that need working on as opposed to building a been-there, done-that travel portfolio.
I will continue to do some side exploring when I am on assignment for the newspaper during long trips, just like what I did this past weekend in Chicago. I’ve got a Cross Country State Final assignment in Peoria tomorrow, and I’m sure there will be something there, or along the way, that will pique my interest.