Becoming a parent has changed a lot of things, including the time I have to take road trips. I’ve only taken one other trip since Austin was born. This trip allowed me to complete the counties I had left in Iowa. However, it was an overnight trip and was exhausting for both Victoria and me. Because of this, we concluded that we still aren’t ready for me to take additional overnight trips yet.
I fell 4 counties short of breaking 700 total counties on that last trip. With that, my 3-month paternity leave was about to end. I really wanted to reach this milestone before going back to work.
I first wanted to visit some more counties in Illinois since I thought they’d be the closest. I actually found the closest unvisited counties were in Northwest Indiana. Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and Stark counties were clustered close together. I would be able to visit all of them in about 10 hours total. This would be the most practical for a day trip.
I fed Austin and then checked the radar. It looked like I may be running into some turbulent weather.
Iowa Smokehouse had sent me a free gift pack, and I decided to save it for my next road trip. I knew I’d be eating well this trip!
While the radar showed rain, things were pretty clear in Wisconsin.
It was starting to cloud up a bit by the time I hit Illinois.
I noticed that gas was over $5 a gallon, or basically $1 a gallon more in Illinois than Wisconsin! So, I was happy I topped off my tank before I left, and I knew I’d have to be strategic about where I filled up next.
Besides $1 more for a gallon of gas, Illinois charges tolls. In many ways, it’s like literal highway robbery. It costs so much more in Illinois than Wisconsin to literally drive on the same interstate! One thing I will give Illinois is they have finally arrived in the 21st Century for tolling. They would snap your license plate and bill you later. This would allow you to keep driving without stopping. When I moved to Texas in 2014, I found out that’s how Texas did it. I guess this was one positive thing that happened on Illinois toll roads since this wasn’t the case in the past.
Traffic was thankfully pretty good, and I made good time to Indiana.
Shortly after, it started to rain.
The ground was definitely wet when I made it to the Lake County Courthouse. I actually chose the historical courthouse over the new one. The historical one looks so much better.
When I got in my car, I checked the radar again. Unfortunately, it was looking like more rain was to come.
My next stop was Porter County.
I was soon at LaPorte County.
The question is, “Would I make the last county before it started to pour?” I stopped at the Starke\LaPorte County line to grab a picture. It seemed like the clouds were starting to build.
I was able to make it to the Starke County Courthouse before it rained. I finally hit county number 700!
It did look like the storm was still brewing, and I’d drive through it on my way back to Wisconsin.
I realized I didn’t have enough gas to comfortably get back home.
Indiana surprised me with how high gas was there. It was around $4.79 a gallon. This was cheaper than the $5+ a gallon in Illinois, but not by much. I was able to find a gas station that had $4.59 gas.
I put in $10 (well, $10.01) in the tank and knew it would get me home to $4.19 a gallon gas.
It kept getting cloudier and cloudier. It was pouring by the time I hit Illinois, and traffic was moving slowly.
I was happy when I started seeing signs to get back to Wisconsin.
I was getting hungry, and I stopped at an Illinois travel plaza. I see this wouldn’t be a good place to sleep in my car.
I got 2 McChickens from McDonald’s. Despite billboards saying they were 2 for $3, these cost over $6. The Illinois Tollway strikes again!
The Illinois Tollway thanked me as I left. Not sure how to take this one…
I was back in Wisconsin soon enough.
I made it back to Belleville with 69 miles to empty!
While $4.19 is still expensive for a gallon of gas, I was happy. It was still much cheaper than where I had been. However, I still broke over $40 to fill my little Focus!
After the trip, I logged onto the Illinois Tollway website. Driving a round trip to Indiana only cost me $23.90!
The biggest thing from this trip was visiting 4 counties to get me to the 700 mark. This trip was less brutal for both Victoria and me than the last overnight trip, but still a little brutal. So, I may focus on local stuff for the time being. I know I will have to continue to be strategic with my gas stops and toll road usage in the future. Driving the Illinois Tollway definitely feels a bit like highway robbery. Yet, it does save a lot of time compared to taking the side roads. Then again, the side roads have a lot more adventure. I guess we’ll see what I come up with on a future trip.