||We successfully operated on the very Franke theory that all
emotions are better left unstated, and we all pretended that we didnt care where Day
15 took us, as long as it was somewhere toward Chicago. Still, in the back of our mind
from the beginning of the day was the idea that somehow, no matter how painful, or how
boring, or how much corn wed have to pass, we were going to make it to Chicago that
day. Except for Rachel. Rachel didnt want to drive that much, which is why we
avoided the topic of destination until mid-Iowa.
We headed out from Boulder leisurely in
the morning, took I-76 to I-80, and drove for hundreds and hundreds of miles. Sometimes we
saw teenagers on the road.
Rachel went back and forth between crawling around the floor of the van, whining about
how much distance existed between Boulder and our destination, which we refused to tell
her, and driving hundreds of miles an hour in an effort to get wherever we were going much
faster. She was genuinely bothered when cars didnt move out of our way, which of
course the stubborn Nebraska teenagers were reluctant to do. For those of you over 25 or
so, it has been proven that placing groups of teenagers near each other is like sticking
two magnets north ends together; there is a natural, inexplicable tension in the air
and both sides become defensive. So we and the other teenagers eyed each other
suspiciously for the majority of central Nebraska, until we ran out of gas and they
didnt, which gave us some separation.
Bakers average interstate speed was a good 20 mph lower than his frontage road
speed, which caused some of that good ol teenage tension between him and the rest of
the car, except Alex who is immune because she is 45 years old. Baker was incredibly sure
that there were police waiting specifically for him, so he followed speed laws religiously
and made us stop taking shots off the dashboard.
Alex, when driving, continued her normal pattern of not really paying attention to the
speedometer, assuming any speed matter would resolve itself. She also refused, for the
duration of the trip, to use side view mirrors, which meant that for the half hour before
switching lanes she would be turned about 150 degrees from forward, watching the road
I drove as I pleased, because I realized that as the writer of Day 15 I would be immune
to criticism. So we hit Omaha, which was our original destination, around 4:00 p.m. and
decided to keep going to Des Moines. We got there at 8:00, ate dinner and experienced
teenage friction with a group of locals skateboarding around the drive-thru hamburger
joint, and finally admitted out loud that we planned to go to Chicago. We drove over the
Mississippi on the way, and we do consider ourselves bicoastal, if you consider the
Mississippi a coast.
We pressed on eastward through Illinois, stopping at the Illinois welcome center to
switch drivers on a deserted country road. We entered Chicago from the south and would
have breathed a sigh of relief but construction on I-55 means that the highway is down to
"two" lanes, which together are one-and-a-half car widths. So we had some
frequent "truck-and-wall, truck-and-wall" incidents, but eventually we emerged
safely onto Lake Shore Drive, which we exited at Jackson to take our photograph in front
of the Art Institute at the beginning of Route 66. We parked on Adams (2:00 a.m. is one of
the six hours per day in which you may legally park there), crossed Michigan Avenue and
posed like tourists by the lions, which we realized were the first photographs we had
taken since we touched the ocean in Santa Monica.
Exhilarated by our late-night arrival into Chicago, we drove happily to my house,
unpacked nothing, threw ourselves a welcome-home party, ate a 4:00 a.m. snack at the
Wiener Circle, went outside at 5:10, got thousands of mosquito bites, went inside at 5:17
and fell asleep as the sun rose.