Much time has passed, and the day has finally come to depart the little Carlisle house in the Yooper woods. After an early wake-up call to finish the stuffing of the truck (even got the rocking chair to fit!), we said our goodbyes to Suzanne's mom, buckled in, and rolled out on M-28 toward US 45 and points south.
We turned east on US 2 at Watersmeet (home of the mighty Nimrods - did we mention that earlier?) and at Iron River headed down toward Wisconsin, where a combination of quiet 2-lane roads unlocked some enjoyable driving. A layover in Laona at the local cafe/drive in resulted in a great down-home lunch, and then a wobble through Wabeno to say hi to Larry the Logroller, that town's contribution to the fine art of giant oddball statuary.
We zigged and zagged down route 32 through the picturesque lakeside towns of the Wisconsin woods, finally popping out onto high-speed highways near Green Bay. As we wanted to make it to Chicago in time to find a parking place, things went quickly from this point on as we zipped south on I-43 near the Lake Michigan shore, punctuated with a brief stop at Manitowoc for fuel and leg extension. Then down to and thru the rebuilding of the Milwaukee freeways and almost to the Illinois line, where our took our final break at the Mars Cheese Castle to snag some chewy curds.
We had been told that US 41 would make a fine alternate route into Chicagoland instead of the bustling Tri-State Tollway, and so we exited onto the old highway and made good time (for a time) down past Waukegan and the north shore. However, closer to town, all alternate routes were cluttered and congested as we crept along dealing with the legendary Chicago traffic - and Chicago drivers (hey! watch it, buddy!) We finally made to Chateau LaPlante in the Lincoln Square neighborhood on the North Side, found an on-street parking spot big enough for Truckasaurus (after a few tries to fit into a few too-small spots), and settled in to enjoy a picture-perfect Chicago evening.
We woke up, got ready, and headed out across Lincoln Square to the Brown Line 'El' train for our chrazy Chi-town adventure. The weather was extraordinarily cooperative, with cool dry breezes in the low 70s. The Brown Line rumbled us over the neighborhoods of the North Side down to da Loop, where we looped around and disembarked at Randolph for some big-city fun.
We were a bit hungry, so we headed north up Michigan Avenue to a hot dog joint Richard remembered from a previous visit. However, time stands still for no joint of dogs, and we found that the space had transmogrified into a popcorn & ice cream shop, bereft of dogs of any type. So, we wandered on up to Wacker and lunched instead at a corner Corner Bakery.
After munchin', we hopped down the stairs to the Chicago River to walk along the waterfront and enjoy the tree-lined view and watch the boats go by for a while. Then back up one flight to wander the labyrinth of Lower Wacker Drive for a while, and after some poking around we popped out at Millennium Park, a brand-new addition to the Chicago landscape. Here we viewed architectural wonders such as the bandshell facing the great lawn, the wading pool with giant mosaic faces that periodically spit out cooling water jets on the crowds below, and other exhibits such a very interesting display on how the Chicago area has changed through the years. We also visited the Chicago BikeStation on the grounds, where locals and tourists can store or rent their two-wheelers, and even spotted an old-fashioned Good Humor truck parked on the street nearby, who vended to us some yummy and refreshing frozen treats.
All this time, we couldn't help but notice the monolith of Sears Tower looming over the already-impressive skyline. Since the weather was so nice and the visibility was so great, we thought the skydeck way up on the tippy top of the tower would be a great place to spend the late afternoon. Alas, when we got over there, we found that many many many other folks had the same idea, and we chose not to endure the 1+ hour projected wait for the uplevator, and instead jumped on the El to roll on back to Lincoln Square and our friends' place.
All that walking and wandering had us hankering for some good food, so our hosts scooted us over to the Fireside Restaurant (hard to find, hard to forget) in the shadows of the rail tracks and cemetery, where we savored some classic Chicago cooking and reminisced about all our fun so far.
After a bit of rest from yesterday's fun, it was time to hit the road again, and after thanking our hosts and saying farewell, off we Chica-go. First stop was a only a few miles up Milwaukee Ave at Superdawg, a legendary den of frankfurter feasting. Easily recognizable by the festive neon exterior and big ol' winking wieners gracing the roof, Superdawg still serves up carhop-delivered food that is indeed fun and filling. After feeding on da franks, we turned eastward to Lake Shore Drive and rolled past the Sunday crowds filling the Lake Michigan shoreline as we headed toward the South Side and more adventures. We drove down Stony Island Ave through the heart of the South Side, swerving past the many vendors plying their interesting wares as they stood between the lanes of stop-and-go traffic.
Then onto US 20 and eastward over the Chicago city limits into Indiana, where we steered through the near-deserted downtown of Gary, the less-than-lively landscape brightened up a bit by the crowd enjoying the baseball game at the RailCats stadium. City finally gave way to countryside as we continued eastward on highway 20, and not long after we were looping the Golden Dome of Notre Dame in South Bend, with "Touchdown Jesus" seemingly granting us some blessing as we passed below. Then onto the bypass to points east and around Elkhart, and back onto quiet 2-lane roads, interrupted only by the occasional maneuver around the many horse-drawn Amish buggies clopping along US 20's shoulders.
Early evening meant a stop for provisions at Miller's grocery in LaGrange, and then a short drive east found us looping around the town square of Angola, with movie houses, stores, offices, and restaurants surrounding the Civil War heroes' monument punctuating the center. We pulled Truckasaurus into a corner of the square and relaxed with dinner and dessert at Jitterbug's, the local sandwich and ice cream parlor. All three of us sat back and watched the traffic circle the square in the cool night air, and then merged back into the flow and to the Redwood Lodge for a good night's sleep.
Our morning began with a drive eastward into Ohio on US 20, enjoying the light traffic and greenery scenery. Rather uneventful drive until the outskirts of Toledo, where our planned route around the congestion of downtown resulted in a need to do a bit of creative detouring, as the alternate route suffered from the minor problem of being a bit, um, closed. Finally made it to the east side of town and back onto US 20, where the traffic was busier and the road construction was more constructive. We pulled off for a burger and malt break at the Xtreme Creme in Woodville, and then pressed on eastward across the expanses and through the small towns of northern Ohio.
We stayed awake in Wakeman as we picked up some Sunoco fuel, but a look at the watch as we approached the Cleveland area led to an executive decision to run 'round the city on 480 & 271 to avoid the afternoon rush, and that worked well - at least for the most part ('cept for the slow going near Painesville, but we'll ignore that). Got back on 20 and cruised east to Geneva, where an unexpected road closure sent us out to the slow but scenic streets of the Lake Erie shoreline. We were sorely tempted to tarry for a while to enjoy the mini-golf and other diversions of the Erie shore, but time was short and we needed to keep moving, and so that particular fun must wait for another day.
We forked through Ashtabula and on into the Pennsylvania panhandle as the truck rolled 204,000 on the odometer, and eventually entered Erie. This city offered a variety of lodging establishments, but the one that caught our eye was the behind the classic neon sign of the Maple Motel. This motel uses a slightly unorthodox "self-service" method of check-in - ya move into an empty room, get settled down, and then a few hours later the proprietors stop by to say hi and collect the cash. It's a bit different, but it works, and it resulted in a spacious room at a very reasonable price, and a nice place to spend an evening.
Tried to get an early start today, but with everything going on we felt lucky just to get packed up and out of the Maple Motel before check-out time. The drive through Erie was slightly exasperating, as the endless sequence of seemingly randomly timed traffic signals thwarted our progress eastward. Relieved to be beyond the looney lights of PA, we stayed on US 20 and rolled onward over the western border of New York, passing the rolling fields of ripening grapes that grow out here in Chautauqua country. After a final stop for fuel at the Seneca gas station (just hold your breath when going inside - the air's a bit thick with smoke), we spotted the skyline of Buffalo on the horizon, and were happy to have reached the turnaround point of our journey. We rolled into the driveway of the Hyatt, got much of the contents of the truck emptied into the room, and Richard headed down to the conference area to join the AASHTO Traffic Engineering meeting in progress while Suzanne and Duncan stretched out and freshened up.
The evening's activities consisted of a very enjoyable trip to the US side of mighty Niagara Falls, arranged by the folks at ARTBA for the meeting attendees. A catered dinner at the Top of the Falls restaurant sated our appetites, while Duncan's happy antics provided no end of entertainment for everyone involved. A sunset stroll down to the very edge of Horseshoe and American Falls made for a nice after-dinner activity, and then a bus ride back over the bridges to Buffalo to prepare for the toil to come.
Richard spent most of the day trapped in NCUTCD meetings. Little needs to be said about these, except that "important things were discussed" and that many electrons were sacrificed for the sake of development of useful traffic control proposals.
Suzanne and Duncan, for their part, lurked in the room at the Hyatt Regency for most of the day, coming out for a while accompanied by a friend to cruise Chippewa Street near the hotel, chomp on nachos, and enjoy the street life of this interesting city.
After the first part of the meetings ended about seven PM or so, all of us joined the Bicycle Technical Committee gang for a nice dinner out. The dining place selected, the Buffalo Chop House, is recognized as the very best restaurant in all of Buffalo, and so our group made our way around the unique bison-themed decor to our private room in anticipation of our dining experience. However, when presented with the a la carte menu selections, we realized that the prices at this establishment were just as breathtaking as the high ceilings, decor, and service. Richard felt a bit better when after finishing about 1/3 of his 32 oz prime rib (and carefully saving the rest for later, of course), that the price of that exquisite thick chunk of prime wet-aged moo displayed before him was actually not so bad on a per-ounce basis as compared to the less-swank cow cuts we typically chow down on - even if the initial financial hit was a bit steep. Suzanne's slab 'o salmon was just as first-rate, and also promised some excellent leftover opportunities in later days.
After dinner, only one problem presented itself - the committee still needed to finish some proposals by early tomorrow morning, and the dinner experience had chewed up many precious hours. And so it was that Suz & Dunc went nitey-nite up in the room, while Richard mustered the BTC gang for a little more nose-grinding, with reasonably satisfactory results being achieved by about 1 AM by the dog-tired BTC dudes (and yes, one dudette from another committee, but that's OK - we like Maggie. ;)
Richard again spent most of this day engaged in NCUTCD business. Much was allegedly accomplished, including the development of no less than seven different proposals to tweak the MUTCD to make it better for bicyclists and other road users.
Meanwhile, Suzanne and Duncan explored Buffalo's downtown, visiting the shops of Main Street during the day.
Later, we were invited to join a select group for a dinner at Chef's, a renowned Italian eatery just east of downtown. We did our part for enhanced transportation opportunities by filling Truckasaurus to its full legal passenger capacity and driving over to join the group. The Italian cuisine served up at Chef's was very good (and affordable), and the conversation was happy as we recovered from another day of meetings and motions. Then time to fill all the available seats again as we steered around the crowds leaving the free downtown concerts, and then back to the Hyatt for a bit of rest to prepare for the final day of committee commotion.
The morning began with the final NCUTCD general session of the summer meeting, at which Richard recommended the adoption of a new shared lane marking symbol to encourage improved bicycle interaction with other traffic on urban streets. Although the majority of the National Committee concurred with the proposal, it didn't quite get the necessary 2/3 vote needed for full NCUTCD blessing.
To recover from this setback, once the meeting ended Richard rounded up Dunc, Suz, and some of his BTC buddies, loaded Truckasaurus again to its full seating capacity, and drove out to Orchard Park to visit the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum. Astute readers will remember that we visited here previously on our Big 2001 Road Trip, and our second visit this day was just as fun as our first - or even more fun, due to the additional associates attending (and Duncan too!) We toured the many cycle-related exhibits and viewed the history of the bicycle as expertly presented by Carl Burgwardt, the proprietor of the museum. We saw quite of bit of League of American Wheelmen memorabilia and history, and given that 2005 is the 125th anniversary of that organization (the one Richard represents on NCUTCD, by the way), it was appropriate and appreciated.
After the last bicycle-related souvenir obtained from the well-stocked museum gift shop was stowed, we headed up the road a bit to have a late lunch at Taffy's Red Hots, a suburban Buffalo landmark for over 60 years. The hot dogs were well-behaved as we consumed them while sitting in the comfy wooden rocker gliders that serve as seating around Taffy's white walls, red roof, and bright neon. Then back in the truck for the return to the Hyatt, disgorge our passengers, head upstairs, and wonder just how the heck we were going to pack all our stuff up and prepare for one final week and a half of road rambling.
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Latest Historical Revisionism 04 July 2005Scripting: Richard C. Moeur