We've been testing the waters for my road trips and how long I can be gone. In August, I made my first single-night overnight trip. That was a success. Also, we took a family trip to Texas. That also went well. Now, it was time for me a try a two-night overnight trip.
As you may already know, I'm trying to visit every county in the USA. I try to be as efficient as possible and will sometimes use Bill Cook’s “Optimal Tour for Extra Milers." Bill is a professor interested in the Traveling Salesman Problem. This problem is finding the most efficient route to visit a certain set of destinations without visiting the same destination twice. He figured out how to do this for every county seat in the Continental USA.
Photo Credit: Bill Cook (Posted on http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/tsp/county/index.html)
With a full-time job, family, house, and all the obligations of being an adult, I don't have a ton of time to travel. While I can't do the optimal tour in one trip, I can pick routes on it. So I decided I would visit Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio using one of the routes.
The one thing that sucks about going to Illinois and further east is the sheer amount of tolls. I still have my TxTag from when I lived in Texas. Unfortunately, the TxTag only works in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. So I decided to get an I-Pass from Illinois, so I'd be good for another 16 states.
As you can see, the transponder for the I-Pass is much bigger than my TxTag.
On the morning of this trip, I did my usual routine. I fed Austin. Then, after Victoria took Austin to daycare, I took Maya for her morning walk.
I then packed the car. Packing was much lighter for this trip than our family trip to Texas.
I hit the road but first stopped at Kwik Trip to top off the car and get some breakfast. Fish sandwiches were the special of the day.
My windshield has some bugs on it, and the car just needed a wash, so I did that and then started heading to Indiana.
I was soon on the interstate and then in Illinois.
I was happy I didn't have to worry about remembering to pay the tolls.
When I got close to the Indiana line, I ran into a big traffic jam. This is why I hate driving through Chicago. It seems I cannot escape traffic there.
After what seemed like forever, I finally made it to some open roads.
The GPS took me down some back route, so the only way I knew I was in Indiana was Google Maps telling me I was in Indiana.
I had another slowdown along the way. There was a lot of construction with very low speed limits.
Eventually, the construction ended, and I made it to my first courthouse in Indiana, Newton County.
It was open roads and cornfields on my way to Jasper County.
The harvest is in full swing, and I saw lots of farm equipment on the way to Pulaski County.
I encountered another tractor on the way to Fulton County.
Besides the harvest, the trees were starting to show signs of fall in Marshall County.
On the way to St. Joseph County, I stopped for gas and, hopefully, to use the restroom (to no avail).
As part of the optimal route I talked about before, I was going to zig-zag between states. I was soon in Michigan.
I swear the terrain seemed to change at the state line. It went from flat and open fields in Indiana to forest in Michigan.
After a little driving through the forest, I made it to Cass County.
I got in the car and was soon in Berrien County.
Being close to Lake Michigan, I had to wait for a drawbridge before making it to Van Buren County.
It was getting dark, and I was starting to think about places I'd try to sleep for the night. I noticed there were a lot of lakes, so I thought I'd find a good boat launch to sleep at.
I made it to Allegan County. This would be my last courthouse for the night.
I was hungry and was looking for something I could eat along the way. So I stopped at a gas station called Village Express.
This was another gas station weird about their bathrooms. You needed to key to go into it, despite it being inside.
I was surprised to see their selection of beef sticks. I was even more surprised seeing stuff from Wenzel's Farm, which is from my hometown of Marshfield, Wisconsin.
I picked up some local beef sticks, Wenzel's jerky, and a gallon of water.
I started driving towards my next county. I'll typically drive in the dark and then find a place to sleep near the next courthouse. This allows me to get going right away in the morning.
With a stroke of luck, there was actually a rest stop along the way. Rest stops are my preferred place to overnight in my car since they have decent amenities.
I set up my dehumidifier and fan and then fell asleep.
When I woke up in the morning, I saw many other people had the same idea.
I was only about 8 miles from Kalamazoo. McDonald's is one of my old reliable places for breakfast. They usually have good WIFI, and the food is cheap. I first went to a McDonald's by the courthouse. Unfortunately, it appeared closed, and I couldn't go inside. It also didn't have WiFi in the parking lot either.
To make matters worse, there were a few either mentally ill and/or drugged-out individuals walking around. One guy was screaming and talking to himself. I knew I needed to get away from the area. So I went to another McDonald's at 7 am. Despite the sign on the door saying their lobby was open at 5, the door was locked.
I at least saw WiFi in the parking lot, and the drive-thru appeared to be open. So I ordered breakfast and ate in my car.
I started to charge my devices and then went downtown to the Kalamazoo County Courthouse.
There must have been some car shows around the area because I saw a lot of classic vehicles driving around while I made my way to St. Joseph County.
Now it was time for me to get back to Indiana. Shortly after crossing the state line, I encountered an Amish buggy.
I then made it to the Elkhart County Courthouse.
Besides seeing classic cars on the roads, I noticed a lot of towns had festivals going on. That seemed to work well for me since there were porta potties out, which made it easier to go to the bathroom.
I eventually made it to Kosciusko County, which appeared to have a farmer's market happening.
Whitley County also had some sort of farmer's market going on.
I was back to flat nothingness on my way to Huntington County.
My next courthouse was Wells County.
I took a historical route on my way to Adams County.
Allen County felt like a big city, and its courthouse was more like a state capitol building.
I hit the freeway to get to DeKalb County.
Then the two lanes took me to Noble County.
One thing I noticed is the gas stations where I had traveled weren't as robust. I'm used to Kwik Trips or Casey's that have full hot cases and a bunch of other food. However, I did find Circle K seemed to be alright.
I made it to LaGrange County. It appeared there was a car show on the courthouse square.
US-20 on the way to Steuben County had a very idyllic Midwestern feel to it.
I hit the interstate and made it back to Michigan.
Before you know it, I was at Branch County.
More driving through the forests got me to Hillsdale County.
The terrain was a bit more open on the way to Lenawee County.
I ended up taking a bunch of back roads to Fulton County. The only reason I knew I was in Ohio was the road sign changed and indicated a new road.
It was open roads on my way to Henry County.
The sun was starting to set on my way to Williams County.
I tried to figure out if I could make another county before dark. But, unfortunately, it appeared I wouldn't be able to. I then thought of how many counties I could do the next day before going home. Since I was shooting to be home by noon to 2 pm, I found out I'd be able to do maybe 1-2 counties in the morning. I'd then have to head back right away for a 6-hour drive.
I decided to head home instead. I gassed up the car and bought some more water.
Since that gas station didn't have anything in the hot case (this seemed normal for gas stations around the area), I stopped at McDonald's.
I then hit I-90 to head back.
I was thinking about stopping at an Indiana travel plaza. Then I remembered how bad traffic was in Chicago. I figured I could drive through Chicago late at night and avoid traffic. I was wrong.
I grabbed a midnight snack at an Illinois travel plaza and then made it to the Wisconsin Welcome Center.
I grabbed my sleeping bag from the trunk and got ready to sleep. I set up my fan and started to doze off.
I heard a knock on my window. I've only had this happen one other time, like a decade ago, so I was a bit startled. I must have been in a daze, and either accidentally left my trunk open or bumped the trunk open button with my knee.
The guy knocking on the window let me know this. So I closed the trunk and thanked him. It did get a little sketchy when he started begging for gas money, but he did me a major favor, so I happily gave him some.
Later that night, I realized he did me an even bigger favor as a tiny little storm popped up, and it poured.
I only had an hour to drive to get home. So I hit the road and started driving.
Once I got off the interstate, I stopped at a Kwik Trip for breakfast. This Kwik Trip didn't have working pumps, yet there were a bunch of cars in the parking lot. This goes to show you the quality of gas stations near home and their food that I have become accustomed to.
The weather was nice, so I opened up all my windows to freshen up the car.
Before you know it, I was back in Belleville and at a Kwik Trip with working pumps.
I would say this trip was another success. It sounds like the first night, Austin slept well. The second night, he didn't sleep as well but still slept well enough. It was great to have made it as far as Ohio. The last time I was in Ohio was over a decade ago.-e