Vacations require hiccups. Trips you plan cannot and should never go as scheduled. If they do, you won't have as much fun, and you won't remember it as much as you'd prefer.
Mom and I went to Canada in 2006, and it was a wonderful trip. We visited Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, and I loved each place in many ways. Because it was a road trip, we had to drive there. From Lincoln, NE, that's no small task. The first three days were completely drive-days, though the first day we left after Mom finished work for the day. Hey, that's an extra day of vacation she can have later!
The first night, we stayed in the Quad Cities. We arrived there around midnight, and after a quick sleep, we left the next morning at 9 am sharp. The next night, we had reservations at a hotel in Buffalo, NY. There was much ground to cover in the next few hours.
Unfortunately, some of that ground involved Chicago. Now, I love Chicago more than just about anybody, and future "Stories from the Road" posts will detail just how much I adore this city. Regretfully, this would be the experience that would tarnish my Chicago image for years. In fact, it still remains a bit tainted by the stench of failure.
Mom and I have different stories as to how our Chicago excursion transpired, but it begins the same way. On Interstate 80, which crosses the south side of the city, there was a stretch covering about five miles that joins I-294. This is a problem for two reasons: extra traffic and toll booths. The extra traffic is OK, but on a weekday at around the noon hour, there is quite a bit of this extra traffic. The problem is exacerbated by the stop-and-go of toll-boothing. The result was an hour-plus delay on the interstate that we could ill-afford if we wanted to end up in Buffalo at a decent hour.
So, using my quick Rand McNally skills, I decided to exit on Harlem Avenue, which dives south to Lincoln Highway, or glorious US 30. The plan was working, as traffic was heavy but steadily flowing. We turned east on Lincoln Highway, and we crossed into Indiana. The traffic was very high, as many other interstate travelers had the same idea I had, apparently. Traffic lights were backed up for blocks. Unfortunately, there was one traffic light too many.
In the suburb of Dyer, IN, in front of a gas station several car-lengths away from a street light that had just turned green, we suddenly heard this loud bang followed by my car moving forward. I involuntarily hit the brakes hard, narrowly avoiding colliding with the vehicle in front of me. I remember the moment it happened. Mom was watching a DVD using a portable player that I had received as a gift. She was watching an Everwood episode entitled, "We Hold These Truths". I remember the scene because I could hear the dialogue through her headphones. I remember Mom gasping really loudly. And I...well, I said nothing.
I motioned for the vehicle behind me to pull into the gas station. He obliged and (fortunately) had insurance. He had no problem copping to the accident. His words were: "I saw the green light and not you." I remember Mom calling my insurance agent. Why didn't I? Well, because I was not capable of speaking for some reason. I remember the police officer stopping by. He asked some questions, and I could barely muster audible responses. I remember the officer said, "Good luck," as if suggesting that somehow I would not receive compensation. (Experience, I guess.) I remember seeing the damage. Two beautiful bruisers on each end of the rear of the vehicle. The luggage in the trunk was safe. The trunk could still close, amazingly.
As far as rear end accidents go, this one was about as minor as could be, despite the large dents on the vehicle. The bumper protected the trunk and prevented a very painfully long delay in the trip.
Of course, by the time all of the insurance calls, police interaction, and "thanks for nothings" were over, it was three hours later, and we were in Dyer, IN. It was a long way to Buffalo.
The car ride through Indiana and Ohio was quiet. Very quiet. Mom went on with her DVDs, and I was content to say nothing. We hadn't eaten...all day. I was not hungry. Mom was afraid to say anything. Finally, in Erie, PA, my stomach had had enough, and I couldn't bear being angry anymore. I asked Mom: "You hungry?" "Sure." Mom rarely answers positively to this question, so I took this as, "You're starving me!"
I think we ate at Applebee's. I've eaten there three times now. You can see Lake Erie from the restaurant. This time it was dark. It had been dark for a while. We loudly chomped down on our food. We spoke little, but then I finally said, "I'm going to laugh about this tomorrow." Mom laughed. Everything was fine. "This wouldn't have happened if you weren't so impatient." Actually, it wouldn't have happened if the man had paid attention. That did not seem like the time nor place to argue. We could do that in the car. Damaged, but still running.
The next day we saw Niagara Falls. You can imagine how much more we liked it because we had actually made it. See? That's why you need a hiccup every once in a while.