Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Reflections on a road trip to Winnipeg

Last week we drove to the 'Peg for the marriage of a niece. The wedding was beautiful, as was the bride. We were very happy to be there. It was great to see family (from Ontario, Alberta, BC) and many friends.

We drove through the States taking the route, both back and forth, that goes through Chicago. Google Maps told me that is the quickest route. It's the four lane-interstate route, so not the prettiest. But then, we were not interested in spending much time viewing scenery. It took us 2 ½ days to get there and only 25 hours of near non-stop driving to get back.

Some impressions, in sequence, of the states we travelled through:

Michigan: Boring; rough highways; construction; much traffic.

Indiana: We only spent a few hours in this state. It's about the same as Michigan. The highway is a bit better.

Illinois: Advice—Try to avoid this state. Once one leaves Indiana, he enters the Greater Chicago area. It's all traffic and construction on the Interstate highways. The biggest beef is the number of tolls ones needs to pay to travel the I-90 through Illinois. They charge you to get on, to stay on, and to get off. You need exact change for the unmanned exits along the way. The Illinois portion of the highways cost us about an extra $10 in tolls, paid over about eight sites. What is it with these tolls? What are road and gasoline taxes for?

Wisconsin: It's a pleasure to leave Illinois and enter this state. At the south end it rolls a bit and is quite pretty. Further north one hits the cornfields. And I don't think there is a farmer in Wisconsin who has not rented out a cornfield for a bill-board. Many bill-boards choke the wonderful view.

Minnesota: Garrison Keillor country! Other than around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the highways are quiet. The fields are pretty. We were looking for Lake Wobegon.

North Dakota: Ah, beautiful. Prairie. Wide. Open. Spectacular sunsets. Laura Ingalls Wilder country. Also great highways with posted speeds of 75 MPH. I like North Dakota.

What's great about travelling this route to get to Winnipeg: It's the shortest route (by a few KM); highways mostly good; many splendid rest areas along the way; a great variety and abundance of restaurants and hotels. Except for in Michigan, the other drivers are quite courteous. "Cheap" gas—less than a buck a litre, and the loonie is on par with the greenback.

Other observation: HOV lanes seem to be unknown in the USA (at least the states we were in). Perhaps every American thinks he has a constitutional and inalienable right to commute to work solo unbothered by the quirks of any fellow commuter. :-)