29 June 2009

IL to ME Odyssey: Illinois

I figured I'd break down my observations on our car trip from Chicagoland to visit family in Northern Maine into a series of short posts of thoughts on our time in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and almost all of Maine.

For a bonus, on our way home we also added Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Distance Traveled: 30 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 3

• We started out the trip only about an hour behind a schedule we never intended to keep, but then my 5-year-old son D-, who had recently fallen at my parents' house and hit his head, said he had a headache.

Coming from a kid who is as oblivious to such concepts as can be, we figured we had to get his doctor's opinion on how we should handle this. She, of course, said we should bring him in to the emergency room to confirm he was okay.

Thankfully, they said he was fine, but this meant we were now leaving several hours behind schedule, and just in time to catch the beginning of rush hour in Chicago.

• Before we left the ER, the very nice doctor helpfully offered the kids popsicles for their trouble, which might sound wonderful until you remember we were just getting into the car. My 2-year-old daughter M-, to say nothing of her older brother, is so proficient at making messes that she has been known to somehow create a permanent stain on furniture with a single piece of popcorn placed directly in her mouth, while you stare at her chewing it.

• A combination of slow rush hour traffic and my children's desire to see me repeatedly bash my skull into unconsciousness against a car window had us stopping for a bathroom break about 10 miles from our house. Now, if you've been in gas station bathrooms before, you pretty much know what you're getting into each time, so the one side benefit is you can only be pleasantly surprised.

But this particular gas station we picked, from a choice of about 63 within a two-mile radius, happened to possess the exception to this rule. When I scouted ahead and asked the attendant about the facilities, he responded cryptically that, "it's kind of out of order... but you can use it if you don't mind."

Without having even the slightest picture in my mind of what I was agreeing to, I said that was fine, since the kids had to go and we were here. I didn't add that I absolutely had to know what he could have meant by "kind of out of order," regardless of my kids' willingness to endure it.

When I came back with the kids, he pointed me over to what (oddly) was left of the entry to a short hallway mostly blocked by a refrigerated display case, but he said we'd have to wait since someone else had just gone in.

When the man walked out a few minutes later, I didn't think he was nearly broken-up enough about the fact that, in his succinct words, "it splashed me in the face."

Given this setup, I was actually disappointed, rather than pleasantly surprised, to find that this toilet merely had no tank lid, a broken flush chain, minor staining, and absolutely no toilet paper. A roll of paper borrowed from the store shelf allowed me to impenetrably protect the kids from germs, and a simple lack of flushing avoided any unwanted toilet-water showers.

And like that, plus a few hearty foot swipes on the rug at the exit, we had notched the lowest marker on our road-trip bathroom ladder, meaning it was all looking up from there. I waved a thank you to the attendant on our way out, not envying him for the puddles he'd be standing in later when opening the enormous safe in the corner of the bathroom, and we headed back into our place in the rush hour conga line slowly carrying us out towards the open road.

Thankfully, not every state boasted anything as traumatic as this, so you won't be getting 10 individual posts after this one. I promise.


Mama Dawg said...

Awwww........but crappy bathrooms are just part of the charm of traveling with kids.

Mrs. B. Roth said...

Though I only have 33% of my children potty trained, we are usually able to travel From Northern Utah to Southern Idaho (a 2.5 hour trip) with no potty stops. Amazing, no?

Scarier than gas station bathrooms are the rest stops - do they have those in the more civilized areas of America? Randomly placed bathroom facilities in the middle of nowhere? I would never go in, yet alone send a child ...

Swirl Girl said...

What I did on my summer vacation, by Literal Dan's kids:

Learned how to wear a welders mask while peeing in a public potty.

Kori said...

That sounds like a palace compared to some!

Dr. Julie said...

That popcorn-stain skill is pretty impressive.

Irrational Dad said...

I doubt Indiana's going to get a post. I've lived here for a couple years and can attest to it's boringness.

And, if I PUBLIC toilet splashed me in the face, I'd come out shouting and crying for some bleach. SICK.

Father Knows (Travis) Best said...

So, I'm crossing Illinois off my list of "must-see states" right ... now.

unmitigated me said...

I'm thinkin' you should just wrap a diaper on each of the four of you and push for Jersey.