Monday, August 18, 2003

what we did on our holidays 1: headin' to the mother road

After years of daydreaming and months of obsession, the long-pondered roadtrip across the continent became reality Aug 3, 2003. The plan: in two weeks, drive down old Route 66 as far as Las Vegas (Los Angeles was too far), head north along US 93 into Canada, turn east at Banff, then take the Trans-Canada Highway back to Toronto. With my sister along for the ride, here is the story of that adventure...

Detroit/Ann Arbor/Irish Hills/Coldwater/Indiana/South Chicagoland/Joliet/Bloomington-Normal

The trip began with a gargantuan breakfast at Louie's, a sandwich nook on the east side of Detroit. I hadn't been there for a few years, since my father passed away. We went there for excellent bean soup and ham sandwiches. One thing that had changed was the decor - there were now booths. Our booth was barely large enough to hold the food we ordered. I ordered pastrami and eggs - the pastrami was piled high on a separate plate.

From there, we stopped in another of our usual hangouts, Ann Arbor. Arrived just as stores were starting to open. Dropped a pile of money at Encore Recordings, where compact discs go to die (their inventory is ridiculous - the front counter is buried in discs waiting to be processed, but at least they let people look through them). Went on a soul tear, picking up the likes of the Isley Brothers and Joe Simon, along with an album of ba-ad celebrity recordings (Hollywood Hi-Fi, featuring the immortal warblings of folks like Jayne Mansfield and Dennis Weaver). Also picked up several cookbooks at Borders, which required numerous reshufflings around the trunk over the trip.

From A2, we headed down US 12, through Michigan's tourist trap heaven, the Irish Hills. If mysterious hills or prehistoric forests are to your liking, this is your kind of place. Home to folks like these...

Sand Lake Volunteer Fire Department

None of the traps made us want to stop, so we carried on through Coldwater, then down to Indiana. Hopped on the Indiana Toll Road, passing the names of the places my mom goes to with her cousins every year (giant flea markets and craft shops). We flew along until we reached suburban Chicago, where every road we tried to go down was clogged—partly heavy traffic, partly local flooding. US 30 looked like a good alternate, but we ended up in one jam after another, passing dead shopping malls. Maybe we would have been better off to go into the Windy City (though we did pass through one sweet little town, Frankfort, on a stretch of the old Lincoln Highway).

Lincoln Highway Marker

By the time we hit Joliet, our stomachs growled. Hit a local eatery (something that began with a Amy!), where we snarfed down decent broiled fish dinners. Hopped onto I-55 (the modern day replacement for Route 66 in Illinois) and drove to Bloomington-Normal to find a hotel. We flipped through one of the handy hotel coupons books you can find along any major US highway. Settled on a Signature Inn, which was a nice place for $49 (fridge and microwave in the room), but proved to be the only place we stayed the entire trip that didn't have a pool!

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