Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lessons Learned on a Solo Road Trip

I headed to the big city earlier this week - Chicago. If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.

Oops, sorry that's New York, isn't it?

I still think the line applies to Chicago, at least when it comes to navigating the city streets. Now, don't get me wrong. I know that driving in NYC, LA and London is probably crazier, but Chicago traffic isn't a Sunday drive in the country!

I've driven in Chicago many times before but there was one big difference this time. I was ALONE. So, I learned a few things during my drive and I want to share.

1.  A four-hour drive seems like an eight-hour drive when you are traveling during drive-time and don't care about the weather, traffic and news from cities you are just passing through. There was the Chicago traffic but even if I listened, I wouldn't know where they were talking about! I never wished for satellite radio more than during this drive. A stop at Meijer allowed me to pick up the newest Little Big Town CD and alleviate my boredom.

 2. A co-pilot is needed even if you have a navigation system. The car I was driving had a built in navigation system that got me exactly where I was going, but a co-pilot would have been so useful in having the correct change at toll booths, keeping an eye out for my exit and reassuring me that the navigation system was not lying to me. I also missed having someone to joke when I saw the billboard for Fair Oaks Farms (Have you been there? If not, go.) that said "Cheese. Grate Stuff." Isn't that a hoot?

3. You can blow right through toll booth (via the i-Pass lanes), honestly. I feel as if I need to explain myself here. At the second toll booth on the Illinois Tollway, ALL of the Cash lanes were green as I approached it. When I entered my chosen lane, the light turned RED! What's a girl to do? Continue forward and hope the toll collector (right term?) takes my money? Back up and choose another lane. I chose the latter. Thank goodness it wasn't rush hour! After telling this story to some folks at the conference I was attending, I learned a great tip. You have a 7-day grace period on unpaid tolls. Don't believe me? Check it out. Just pick the toll booths you missed, enter your credit card number and you are set.

4.  Blind spot alert systems are a great tool in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I normally drive a Corolla and it so doesn't have this feature (but it gets 35+ MPG, so I don't complain about lack of extras - much), but I was driving a Buick Lucerne that does have all the bells and whistles. The blind spot indicator saved me many times when I needed to change lanes quickly but also had to stay aware of what was happening in front, behind and to the other side of me.

5.  Northern Indiana is a test market when it comes to fast food. Now, this doesn't really have anything to do with a solo road trip, but I did learn it and really wanted 5 items on my list, so it's in. I love Coke Zero - it's Diet Coke masquarding as regular Coke. I really love a fountain Coke Zero and can tell you every restaurant in Central Indiana (and some gas stations) that offer my favorite drink. McDonald's isn't one of them. So imagine my surprise and utter delight when I pulled into the drive-thru in Crown Point or one of those cities in the Region (Side note: Mishawaka is NOT in the Region.) and Coke Zero was on the menu. I can only hope it tests well and becomes available everywhere!

Those are my lessons learned. I'm headed back to Chicago at the end of the month, but luckily next time I have company! I may still see if I can drive the Buick...

Smart and Trendy Moms


  1. You are super woman to try Chicago on your own! :)

  2. I agree with Jane! Took the kids there over spring break - we could not of been more hick - it was terrible - the kids were more excited to leave the city for a 8 hour drive to the middle of Iowa to look at a tractor!

  3. This post made me laugh! I think it's completely awesome that you did Chicago solo- you go girl!

  4. So funny! Great tips!

    Following you from Social Parade on Friday. Please stop on over and check me out!

    Happy Blogging!

  5. You are a very brave woman; I think you earned your Zero Coke with an extra little something to sooth your nerves! How is the LBT CD? Love them! Glad you made it safe, but have you made it back yet????? ;-)

  6. you are a brave tough chick. when we travel to NYC I leave my car at home.. I am to afraid to even try it. I can imagine that chicago would be the same. Atleast you got to see the pretty city. : )
    Happy weekend

  7. I SO HATE those toll booths!!!
    What is up with the toll booths in that city? Can they just tax all the tourists to pay for roads like everywhere else???
    Didn't know the tidbit about the grace period. That's one I can use on my infrequent visits up there!

  8. Gal has the 411 on the fountain drinks. I am so far off my no diet coke bandwagon I can't even see it anymore!

  9. I have to drive to Chicago by myself this week. It won't be my first venture into the city by myself, but thanks for the insight.

    As far as the region goes, I had never head of it until I got to Purdue ans someone told me I was from the region. Now I hear references to it all the time.

  10. You have great taste in music, I LOVE Little Big Town!! Aren't they the best? I also wish I could find restaurants that served caffeine-free Coke Zero. It would make me very happy!



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