Chicago on a Saturday

Original Post: April 23, 2016

Remember the feeling when you were a kid and Christmas day finally arrived?  It’s simultaneously amazing and disappointing.  The day is here, but all of the weeks of anticipation are gone…  There are tons of amazing new things to play with, loud family gathered around the dinner table, dozens of cookies and pies to choose from, but it’s all about to end in just a few short hours.  And even the radio stations are back to playing regular music 24/7 starting December 26th.  Plainly put, it’s depressing.

That’s kind of how I felt the morning of day 22 as we left the Badlands.  Knowing that it was just going to be a long day of steadily driving eastward, I made a point of not booking a hotel.  I was hoping to spend the night in Chicago and maybe do a little sight-seeing.

Wrong.  

Wrong on so many levels…  For the record, you cannot expect to show up in Chicago on a Saturday night in July and get a room without booking it long in advance.  After a full day of driving, phone call after phone call to numerous hotels proved this to us quite plainly.  And so, it was after 10 pm when we finally stopped for the night. 

In Valparaiso, Indiana. 

And that’s the drive from Chicago to Valparaiso, an hour and a half in traffic.

Because that was the first place we could actually find a hotel off the highway that had a room available.  It was a long drive and the only thing that I actually remember about Chicago was the dark and the traffic.  I took a single photo… (Not that I was traveling the country to take pictures of the nation’s cities, but still…)

So, after 13 1/2 hours of driving, we finally got some rest.

Day 23 wasn’t much different and as soon as we crossed the border into good old Pennsylvania, we were greeted by a steady, pouring rain.  Ah, just as we left it, I see…

One thing almost goes without saying, though.  While Pennsylvania was still as gray-skied as it had ever been, I had a new appreciation for how green it can be as well.  

I don’t know that I would have realized it or even appreciated it until I’d spent weeks in the southwest, but it’s true.  I remembered then that when we had stopped at a little shopping center outside of Bryce Canyon, we had been approached by a guy who noticed our Pennsylvania plates and couldn’t stop going on and on about how amazingly green and fresh everything was when he’d visited the state.  I was dumbstruck at the time, of course.  What could possibly be so amazing about Pennsylvania when you live near one of the most gorgeous places in the country, Bryce Canyon?

But I get it.  After being away for three weeks, it’s clear that Pennsylvania is just as beautiful as any other state.

Plus, my two kiddos are here and I couldn’t wait to get back to them.  Of all the sights we saw throughout our days traveling, coming back to their smiles was probably the greatest sight my eyes could ever see. 

The best part about this trip was that in the weeks and months since traveling, my kids have done nothing but ask about the trip.  They love to look at photos and the first thing they asked was if they could go with us next time.

And that concludes my tour of Chicago.

Next time?

Huh.  I hadn’t thought that far ahead… 

Well, now I guess I have a reason to plan for cross-country trip #2.  I’m not foolish enough to think that I’ve seen it all in one go.  Time to plan the next great adventure!

In the end, it came down to 167 hours, 35 minutes, and 54 seconds in the car as we drove 8,587.4 miles from our front door in eastern PA, around the country, and back again.  For the record, we’re still happily married and don’t plan on divorcing any time soon, although we do reminisce about this trip frequently and are ready to go again as soon as humanly possible.

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