So I googled “guide to Interstate 80 attractions” and got this site. “Stellar,” eh? I’ll be the judge of that, Mr. Chicago Sun-Times.
First warning sign: the article starts out, “it is unlikely to be mistaken for a scenic route.” Oh dear. Well, let’s see… WAIT – it costs money to see this guide!? Now hold on – I am NOT going to pay any money, much less $7.95, to read something that is written like this: “Uncle Otto ('auto,' get it?) is the fictional tour guide for this westward journey - and the apparent alter ego of Parks, who heads Travel Guide Publications, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.” NO. WAY.
Next google link: an entire web site dedicated to interstates! Ike would be so proud.
So it starts off with a cool graphic:
Right off the bat I can tell this site isn’t gonna stoop to “Uncle Otto (‘auto,’ get it?)” bullshit, thankfully. Nope, the prose is going to be very dry and information-packed: “Interstate 80 is a major transcontinental corridor connecting California and New York City. From the city of San Francisco to a few miles west of the Hudson River in northern New Jersey, Interstate 80 traverses various terrain and states. Its highest point is located at Sherman Hill Summit in Wyoming between Laramie and Cheyenne at an elevation of 8640 feet. The highest point of Interstate 80 east of the Mississippi is near Milepost 111 in Pennsylvania.”
What? . . . Okay. I’m awake.
I’ve actually passed this sign:
The first low point of my research (besides Uncle Otto): the total distance to San Francisco is about 2800 miles, give or take a few due the fact that we’re not going to SF but instead to Rohnert Park. Oy. The longest road trip I’ve ever taken was State College PA to Fort Worth TX, all done in about 35 hours. That was about 1400 miles. This trip will be TWICE that. Wow.
On the bright side, I’ll have Niblet, Matty, and our interesting friend Matt Rupert with me. So there's that.
Okay. So... Ohio. First, the link at the interstate-guide site doesn’t work, so I’m switching to this one. “Mile by mile” – man, doesn’t that already make the trip seem even longer?
Holy crap, this site is so anal-retentive that it actually DOES go mile by mile, exit by exit, with summaries like this for Exit 2:
Junction State Route #49, Access to U.S. Highway #20, Windwood Hollow Golf Course, Community of Berlin, Ohio. South access via State Route #49 to communities of Edon, Ohio - Blakeslee, Ohio - Edgerton, Ohio - Hicksville, Ohio. North to Columbia, Ohio - Nettle Lake, Ohio.
Wow, that’s some excitement there. Okay—I won’t bore you with all that. Let me just skim the list here and see if there’s ANYTHING that stands out….
...campground features showers, flush toilets, a dump station... – oh dear.
...Fort Imagination at Woodlands Park... – something tells me that this place just isn’t as imaginative (or fun) as it sounds.
Exit 110: State Highway #4, Portland Road, Harris Road, Parker Town, Ohio. North to City of Sandusky, Ohio-Port Clinton, Ohio - North access to Erie Sand Barrens S.N.P. South access to communities of Reedtown, Ohio - Attica, Ohio - South to Historic Lyme Village - Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum. – hmmm. Might be some birding opportunities at Erie Sand Barrens SNP! Will have to check this out.
Exit 135: North access to Amherst, Ohio - Vermilion, Ohio - Lorain, Ohio. – Lorain, OH: birthplace of Toni Morrison, the greatest living American writer. Wow. But it’s kinda out of the way. We'll see. It might be worth it to take a photo with a sign like "Welcome to Lorain, birthplace of the greatest living American writer Toni Morrison!" because I'm sure they have such a sign. Why wouldn't they?
Exit 228A: North access to Mosquito Lake State Park Campground. Who would go to a “mosquito” lake?
So I’m guessing that tourism will not be a big player in Ohio. Still, we could stop for the night there, perhaps in a hotel near this Erie Sand Barrens place. Mileage from State College to Erie Sand Barrens SNP: about 300; that means it’s only about five hours’ drive time from here, which doesn’t really make much of a full day of driving. And a google search of this Erie Sand Barrens SNP turns up a whole lotta nothing. Let me hear from ya, Ohio: is Erie Sand Barrens SNP a dump? A cool place? Worth a stop? Full of birds?
If there’s nothing in Ohio, we may need just need to keep going and consider stopping in Indiana for our first night. Which leads me to sing at the top of my hoarse little voice:
Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana
Let me say it once again!
Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana,
That’s the town that knew me when!
God, I love The Music Man.
Okay—Indiana. Back to the mile by mile site: (look alive, people!)
Exit 1: United States Highway #41, Calumet Shopping Center, Community of Munster, Indiana, Community of Maynard, Indiana, Riverside Park, Market Square, Munster Community Park.
Who knew the Munsters were from Indiana? And that so much stuff was named after them?
Exit 3: Kennedy Avenue, Dowling Park, Homestead Park, Optimist Park, Community of Highland, Indiana. Franklin Avenue, Highland Chamber of Commerce, Highland Library, Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve. -- OOOH Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve! That’s got prairie chickens written all over it, and I really want to see some prairie chickens! Will need to do more research on this as well.
Exit 10B: … Community of Gary, Indiana. If you’d like to have a logical explanation
How I came upon this elegant syncopation,
I can say without a moment of hesitation,
There is just one place that can light my face!
I love that bit!
Exit 15B: United States Highway #6, State Highway #51, Calumet Prairie Nature Preserve, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Interstate Highway #90, Mock Park. WHOA More prairies and lakeshores! This just might be the place to stop.
Okay—mileage from State College to Gary Indiana, the town that knew me when: 554 miles, an estimated 8 hours and 50 minutes of driving. Holy hand grenade.
Well, if we drove about nine hours, we could stop in Gary (too exhausted to sing at this point) and do the prairie birding stuff in the morning. Because yeah—after driving nine hours, what I REALLY want to do is WAKE UP EARLY.
Don’t look now, but there might be a flaw in this plan. Comments?