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Slow Boat to Chicago

September 07, 2004 | Category: Family, It's a Trip

".... it was like having a giant thudding vibrator strapped to our heads. The only relief would come on the open upward stretches, when the van simply buzzed around us"

This is the worst of the trip, the part we were awake for... Boston to Pennsylvania, the longest 580 miles. Ever.

Start time: 6AM, Sunday Morning
Route: Mass Pike - 134 miles
Time: 5 hours 15 minutes

Our alarms were set for 5:30AM and it was still dusky dark when we pulled out of my mom's driveway. We hit Dunkin Donuts (CD - "Can we get going already?") and then put our backs to the sunrise and hopped the highway towards the Mass Pike.

As soon as we hit 50 mph, the antique door that we had bought at New England Salvage and strapped to the roof rack started making a horrible noise; "thwacka thwacka THWACKATHWACKA!"

We pulled over and rearranged the door. Bear, almost asleep in the back, groaned.

20 more miles. 30 more minutes of "THWACKA thwacka THWACKA!"

Holy crap, we were barely to Worcester and we couldn't go over 50mph without rendering ourselves senseless with the noise. We stopped to readjust that ^(*&*$#@! door about a dozen times. We came thisclose to hucking it into a drainage ditch.

There are some serious hills on the Mass Pike. The road is forcibly wedged into rock cliffs, the striations from the dynamite blasts still visible. As the road narrowed, the 'thwacka' noise would increase - it was like having a giant thudding vibrator strapped to our heads. The only relief would come on the open upward stretches, when the van simply buzzed around us, quietly.

By Sturbridge, we were all bonkers. We pulled into the service center and had breakfast, got gas, and ran like banshees in circles. Bear's backseat nest was rearranged and his new Digimon DVD restarted. CD battled the door (again).

"Thwacka! ThwackThwackThwackTHWACKA!" for another hour as we gritted our teeth and made for the New York border.

New York
Hit the border on: Sunday Morning, 11:15AM
Route: NY State Thruway - 442 miles
Time: 11 hours 45 minutes

The first 125 miles of New York state passed in stupor. We were 3 numb bunnies, staring with glassy eyes at the miles of asphalt.

We'd passed through miles of construction, beautiful scenery, and glorious weather and never noticed a thing.

Thwacka. Thwacka.

By Utica, CD had passed back into anger and defiantly pulled off the thruway looking for a Target or something and some kind of solution.

What we found instead was a place called Big Lots. We'd never been to a Big Lots before. Oh. My. Stars. Have you ever been to a Big Lots? This is like a nice clean flea market.

We found a bunch of Rescue Heroes action figures and stuff for Bear's birthday! We found snacks! We found a bra! We found a cheap, streamlined boombox for Bear! We found a garden sprinkler thing! And best of all? We found a foam egg crate mattress liner!

All this, for like 5 bucks.

Out in the parking lot, CD and I pulled the %^#@@! door off the van roof, wrapped it in egg crate, and put it back on. We got back on the road.


Oh, the blessing this was. I can't begin to explain. Nirvana.

I stuck the cruise control on 72mph and we tried to make up some of our lost time.

The next 200 miles spun by in a blur. Other than some bathroom and gas breaks, we sailed into the sunset on wings.

In Buffalo, we asked the toll booth guy for directions to his favorite hot wings joint. He sent us to Duffs. Wowza. CD, who is a hot wings gourmand of the highest caliber, purred like a kitten. Bear and I played in the grass with his new action figures.

Then we decided, what the heck?! Let's go to Canada.

After about 15 minutes waiting about a mile from the border in traffic, we decided that Canada? Not so much.

We turned around and headed to Niagara Falls. We pulled into the park just about sunset.

The lookout tower over Niagara

It was a 3-hour detour, give or take. We were all physically exerted, fed, and awed by the time we clambered back into the car. The plan was to drive to Erie and spend the night at a hotel.

40 miles later, we pulled into the Angola rest area - which actually sits in the grassy thruway median, accessible via a walking bridge from either side of the highway.

We took over the family bathroom (I love family bathrooms) to wash up, brush teeth, change into soft clothes/pajamas, and whatnot. Then we made a family decision - we were feeling strong, it was only around 10 PM. Erie was about an hour or so away - but did we really need to stop? Why not just keep driving until we got tired?

So we picked up some coffee and juice, cleaned up the car some and rearranged Bear's nest back into optimal sleeping position. The cool night air was good for a few stretches.

50 miles to the the Pennsylvania border, 550 miles home, a full tank of gas, a sleeping (wait - what time is it here?) 3 year old, a cooler full of juice and snacks, and a quiet door strapped to the roof.

Hit it.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fabulous road trip. And I'm pretty impressed by how well the little one managed. Good for him!

I'm glad you are all home safely.

8:36:28 PM
Bella said...

Really enjoying reading about your trip!
6:00:09 AM
Jenny said...

Reading this post was just like being in the car with you. I'm glad you survived!
12:46:22 PM
Tammy said...

I've blogrolled your site, since it made me giggle insanely. Last summer we went from here (Yukon) to there (Nova Scotia) with a 1 year old, and I now deeply admire anyone who is brave enough to travel with someone under 3 feet tall. Love the pictures, too!
9:41:04 PM
Jim said...

Ah, no!!

You were one and a half miles from Elmo's, the absolute finest wings in Amherst. Duff's is okay but they subscribe to the "sauce swimmer" philosophy. But at least he sent you to a good spot, if not the absolute best possible. ;-)

Mmmm...Niagara Falls. Now I'm jealous.
8:31:57 AM

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