04 August 2005

The Whirlwind Tour

The whirlwind tour…what a crazy drive. We got to Bighorn early, toured the monuments and left, it was still early. The plan was to drive to Rapid City, stay a few days, and see Mt. Rushmore and some of the other sites, then skip across the country stopping just for overnights at Sioux Falls, SD and La Crosse, WI then head to South Bend, IN and stay a couple of overnights there to see Notre Dame and catch up. From South Bend we were going to drive straight up to Niagara Falls, stay about a week, then drop into Pittsburgh to visit Bill’s friends and family and for him to show me his hometown. That was the plan….that is NOT AT ALL the way it happened.

We had to drive through the northeast corner of Wyoming to get to Rapid City. Along the highways there are scenic pullouts, what’s scenic about flatness…I don’t know…but they’re there. At every one of these scenic pullouts (right along the freeway) is a large dumpster. Right. Bill and I duped Wyoming as the dumpster state.

We arrived in Rapid City to decide that Rapid City is not a very pretty place to say the least; we were hoping that the RV Park would be nicer, despite the surrounding area, since they received incredibly high ratings. We got to the park and were disappointed, they had people crammed in like sardines and I honestly don’t think we would have been able to get our trailer out of the spot they had for us, even if we managed to cram it in there with the sides greased. The park was also a bit dirty and not at all what I was expecting based on the ratings it got. And this isn’t counting trying to find the damn place to begin with since they had all the roads torn up for construction and detours everywhere. We were both tired and cranky and to be met at your destination with the place we were met with didn’t help…AT ALL! So, we got our money back and left. On our way to the local KOA that we were going to stay at instead something snapped inside both of us and we decided to screw it all and hit the road. It was still fairly early in the day and let me tell you, driving across South Dakota in the daylight….is torture. My apologies to anyone who might be from there, but damn…there is NOTHING there, hundreds of miles of nothing. Although, it is home to our National Grasslands….I didn’t know we had National Grasslands. Bill pointed that out to me, to which I looked out my window and stated, “yep, that’s really grassy”. I took a picture of the nothingness with my phone (no clue how to get it off there to post here, or if that’s even possible) and sent it to Bill’s oldest son, he laughed hysterically and sent me back a picture taken from his phone…of him laughing right at me.

Dark had fallen by the time we got to Sioux Falls and Bill was so done with South Dakota that he decided to drive straight through it. Now, keep in mind, we had already been on the road for over 11 hours, only stopping to gas up, use the bathroom, and I think we might have eaten once, but I can’t remember. We stopped in Worthington, MN in a Wal-Mart parking lot, set down, got into bed…couldn’t sleep, too much wind that was causing noises that neither of us could sleep through. SSSOOOO, back up we got, back into the truck, back on the road! We finally put down again in Albert Lea, MN and slept for a couple hours, maybe 4. From Billings, MT to Albert Lea, MN is about 15+ hours when you are dragging a 7200 lb trailer and driving straight into high winds. So we slept a few hours, got up early (not on purpose, it just happened that way) and hit the road again. We might have had breakfast, but I really don’t remember, my brain is already starting to block some of this out.

We bailed across Minnesota in Wisconsin, across Wisconsin via Madison and headed straight into Chicago where this hellacious trip really started to get crappy. It took almost 4 hours to get through Chicago, paying tolls every four miles or so, in really crappy weather and traffic, pulling a 30’ travel trailer. Towards the south end of Chicago (about 3 hours into our trip through the city) we hit rain that was like having buckets tossed onto the windshield and wind that just as bad. As a side note, never the I-90 through Chicago, you pay a lot of tolls (we paid $20 to get through) and you get to see the toilet side of the city…nothing cool…at all from the 90. So we’re driving through hell (if it rains in hell…the drive through Chicago was it…but wait, it gets better) towards South Bend, IN. Since we had 4 hours to discuss our options and we were both working on less than 4 hours of sleep in what seemed like a year so far, those of you who know us, I’m sure you can figure out that the cab of the truck was not the happiest place on earth….nothing like Disneyland. Since emotions were high and patience was nonexistent, and were only 10 hours from Pennsylvania, and we were stuck in poopy weather, we decided to skip South Bend too and head straight for The Burgh. So, instead of paying more tolls to get into South Bend, we cut south and headed for Indianapolis. The ENTIRE drive was through some of the worst rain I’ve ever seen. We stopped in Gary, IN to actually sit down and eat and to gas up. The gas attendant told us about the weather that had just come through and I told him about the weather that we had just driven through in Chicago. We sat and had dinner, staring at each other like we were zombies, because that’s about where we were at that point. We had been on the road for almost 12 hours this day because of the 4-hour tour of the shitty side of Chicago. After dinner, got up, got back in the truck, and hit the road…again. We drove through to Indianapolis in the worst weather I’ve ever experienced, in the middle of night, pitch black, roaring winds, rain like you’re driving under water, 18-wheeler blowing past us knocking us all over the road with the trailer. I’m SO glad Bill was driving! We turned on the radio to find out that the towns we were driving through had their Tornado warning sirens sounding (not that we heard them over the wind), the only times we could see anything was when the lighting would light up the sky, about every 30 seconds or so. At one point we drove through a town that as we were listening to the emergency broadcast system another radio station we would flip to had people calling in to tell about doors being ripped off buildings and trees being uprooted and dumped in the streets, they would tell the radio DJ where they were calling from right about the time we would drive past a sign that read the same name…crazy. We drove past a Semi truck that had been flipped over like it was a toy and another one that had jack-knifed. Come to find out later that we had been traveling right between two storm systems that had potential to touch down. Bill stopped at one point tucking the truck and trailer along the side of the freeway under and underpass and we just watched the rain the nearby trees blowing sideways. He grabbed my had (which scared the crap out of me), I looked at him and asked if he was all right, and he chuckled because he was holding my hand to comfort ME, funny. Mostly it was surreal for me, I can’t say that I was really scared, but I’ve never been that tense before in my life. The guys on the radio said that it looked like the worst of the storm was past and heading into Ohio (oh, goody, so were we) but that it wasn’t odd for another system to start up and blow through a few hours later, and that Indianapolis seemed to be clear of all of it, they weren’t having any crappy weather, Bill and I looked at each other, got back on the road and hauled ass to Indianapolis.

Later on when Bill and I were talking about that storm he mentioned that during one of the lightening flashes he saw a drop cloud (what happens before it turns into a funnel cloud) and that he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to freak out and make him stop. I laughed at this and told him that I saw it too and didn’t tell him because I didn’t want him to stop thinking I was going to freak out. I wanted to get the $#$^%& out of there. I figured a moving target is harder to hit and I didn’t want to stop and wait for the damn thing to come to us. Besides, the radio said that Indianapolis was clear of that weather, and I didn’t want to waste any time getting there.

Indianapolis was indeed clear, and we caught the 70 from there into Ohio. Drove straight through Ohio and finally stopped in Washington County, PA at almost 5am, limped our tired, tense, worn-out asses into the trailer, hit the sack and again only slept for about 3-4 hours before getting back and being greeted by 90 weather and 1000% humidity. Slugged over the to Krispy Kream, bought a donut and coffee…tried to get right…failed, got back in the damn truck and drove to our the park we are currently staying in (which we love, it’s quiet and peaceful, and has high speed wireless internet).

All totaled we drove for about 36-40 hours in one 48 hour period stopping twice to sleep for between 3-4 hours each time. The news reported that the storms we drove through thoroughly beat up the area we were going to stay in. So after being chased across the country my Mother Nature, we are in PA, have been here since the 27th, and are staying for a while to catch our breath and enjoy Bill’s hometown.

I will post soon about the things we’ve done so far in PA.


PS – glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad we didn’t stop at the places we had planned.