Eastward Ho! Road Trip to Chicago from Oregon

I wanted to wait to write about my long road trip to really reflect on the experience and convey something meaningful.  Daily updates were posted to my friends and family via Facebook even though many requests were made to blog about the experience.  A couple years ago I took a professional communication assessment that helped me identify how my communicate style.  And yes, it’s true that I need to process things before being able to communicate effectively and give a decent opinion.  This is true in my personal life as well.  So here goes…..
The road trip to Chicago.
My journey to Chicago really started four years ago when I began working for this little startup company that I have come to know as my “home.”  By the time I was hired the company had already had tremendous success for five years, despite the fact they passed on hiring me the year prior, but I don’t hold that against them.  In fact, it only helped me really understand my passion and desire to work for the little-startup-that-could by forcing me to work for an accounting/hoa company as well as a furniture store which were vastly different career paths.  But no, it was the dream that I wanted to peruse and after gentle coaxing from a friend, I applied for and obtained a job with my dream company.


Fast forward four years, three bosses, countless desk moves and a number of different promotions I have arrived in Chicago, IL area.  The trip itself overland took me 5 days, driving at least 6 hours each day.  My little dog and I drove in my Subaru WRX packed to the brim an average of 500 miles each day towards our final destination in a hope that we would arrive prior to nightfall.  We ended each night in a crappy hotel which was just good enough to spend the night at before doing it all over again the next day.
My brother and I taking pics at dinner before leaving Albany, OR.
After kissing the family goodbye the morning of Feb. 10th, I started the journey from Albany, Oregon which was also the only day I started driving after noon.  Just after nightfall, I pulled into the crappiest hotel of the whole experience in Boise, ID.  What I remember the most about that first day on the road was how familiar everything around me was without having the notion to acknowledge that all experiences from that night forward would be new territory.


Somewhere between Boise and Ogden
The next day I started out from Boise in the morning later than I hoped not realizing the time zone change.  This day I started listening to the book The Orange is the New Black which was oddly very relevant to visualize Piper Kermans’s new experience adjusting to prison life and comparing her story to what I could only anticipate as my new experience in Illinois.  Granted there were going to be a few major and obvious differences however the immediate adjustment to all normal habits is somewhat similar;  Questions like “How do I feed myself? How do I live?  Who do I talk to?” needed to be answered for both of us.  This day was the shortest drive of the whole trip at only 300 miles which put me in Ogden, UT right before night fall.  Coil and I got a walk in one of the biggest city parks where I quickly observed questionable pedestrians walking around nearby.  Each time one would walk past my car their pace slowed noticeably which encouraged me to hasten my pace to return back to my car and find refuge.  Later, a friend of mine compared Ogden to Compton but overall I felt sad that this little mountain town had seen an obvious decline from the slowing economy.  Large buildings that once contained prosperous businesses and bustling people were sitting vacant or worse, boarded up.
View from Three Island State Park in Glenns Ferry, ID looking at the Snake River
Leaving Utah
By the third day of my voyage I had over 700 miles under my belt and felt good about driving for hours upon hours. This day was about leaving Utah and getting into middle America, Wyoming.  Every 3 hours or so I would stop at a rest stop to let Coil out of his rather small car crate and stretch his legs.  This was a good reason to allow myself to stretch, walk around, pee and all the other good things that happen at rest stops.  Come to think of it, that’s about all that happened at rest stops but who’s keeping track?  I was fortunate to stop at a Starbucks each morning of my journey to obtain coffee and what I have come to know as “ham and cheese savory squares.”  If you haven’t had one, go buy one. It will change your world. I hadn’t had one until this trip and man did it hit the spot early in the morning when all you want to do is drive.  Thankfully, I also learned about Via instant coffees by Starbucks.  Through Wyoming and Nebraska Via was the only thing keeping me going during those mid-day yawns.  One Via in a bottle of water and Voilà instant awakeness.  The creepiest thing about the whole trip happened in Wyoming.  At first I thought the signs for Little America were nicely done, great photography, legible fonts, to the point, however by the 5th sign in 100 miles I felt very resentful that I was being badgered into stopping at this cult community and ultimately creeped out by the kids holding ice cream with a vacant expression in their eyes in front of an idyllic back drop.  I guess I’m not the only one who thought this since someone I spoke to afterward remembered having the same reaction to the creepy road signs. Thank goodness I had the signs to keep me awake and provide an emotional reaction otherwise I would have been with nothing to look at in Wyoming, the land of flat, flat territory.  Actually, that’s not true. The landscape throughout the trip was interesting since snow covered most the ground in the distances.
The last view of Utah’s beauty near the Wyoming border
Wyoming, I’m sure there are cowboys out there somewhere


The fourth day started from Cheyenne, WY which I cannot forget to mention included a hotel swap the night before.  I booked a hotel from Kayak.com that ended up being completely different than advertised.  The good people at Kayak promptly booked me in a new hotel and refunded my money.  Good people.  That morning I took a detour into downtown Cheyenne for my Starbucks. I was immediately impressed with their capital building.  Maybe it was because I hadn’t seen any truly beautiful architecture for a while but I’ll let you be the judge of that.  Images  courtesy of Google.  I also got to take a trip to the Sierra Trading Post outlet store!  This was a real treat.  The rest of the day was spent in Nebraska.  Not even 100 miles over the Nebraska border, I stopped to get gas and what do you know I was pulled over by a Nebraska State Trooper.  He of course was helpful to remind me that 6 miles over the speed limit was against the law and if I decided to ignore his written warning, “the power of technology” would let the entire state of Nebraska police know that I was issued the warning giving them no other decision but to write me a citation.  The best thing about the experience was showing him my insurance card from my phone.  Technology, got to love it!  Omaha, Nebraska couldn’t come quick enough and didn’t as I pulled into my hotel well after nightfall so, so tired.
Not so much…
The next morning, the fifth and final day of the trip, Valentine’s Day 2014, I was able to see that the town of Omaha was/is enormous!  It’s like a real city in the middle of nowhere as big as or maybe bigger than Portland, OR and easily larger than anything for hundreds of miles west or east on I-80.  Even so I was anxious to get on the road and therefore forgoing the opportunity to explore.  This morning I woke up in the Central time zone so was already getting a later start than anticipated.  I knew I would need to hustle to drive 500 miles to Chicago before nightfall. Right away as soon as I crossed over the Missouri River, which separates Nebraska and Iowa for all those geographically challenged out there like me, I was excited to know that Iowa didn’t smell at all like cow crap; Cow crap was the only thing Nebraska had to offer the day before.  To be honest, I can’t remember much else about Iowa.  That state was so flat with nothing around made an imprint on my memory. Maybe windmills?  I do know that as soon as I crossed the Mississippi river that divides Iowa from Illinois I didn’t see another rest stop all the way to Chicago.  Not only were there no rest stops but there were multiple $4 cash toll booths I had to stop and pay at in order to keep driving down the rest-stop-less road.  It didn’t make sense to me and still doesn’t.  I was just glad to make it to my final destination, in one piece, on schedule, near budget and close enough to sun down to allow me to see how to get to my hotel in Lake Forest, IL.


All in all the road trip took 5 days to drive across 7 states a total of 2300 miles and is only the beginning, not the end, of this story.  Keep coming back to my blog to hear about what happens next. Thirty Something Sarah is in Illinois!

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