We’re home

Bobbi stands by the Bryan OH sign. (Our son is named Bryan.)We are back from our trip to Minnesota. We had a great time and extended the trip a couple of days.

We didn’t try to make the whole trip home in one leg, so we went as far as the Indiana-Ohio border and found a hotel room there. We decided to stop in Cleveland on the second leg of the trip and visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bobbi had never been there. I have been there twice, yet had never really seen it as well as I wanted to either. Both times there had been as part of the FIRST Robotics regional competitions we went to. There were team socials at the Hall, but never enough time to see it all at a leisurely pace.

So we went to see it all. There were some new exhibits as well like the Doors and Clash displays on the upper floors. They were really good and I enjoyed them. Bobbi didn’t see them because the wide open spaces and all that glass gave her the heebie jeebies and she wouldn’t go up that high!

At the limit of her ascendance at the fourth floor, was a new exhibit I really enjoyed: a display devoted to the role of Bob Heil in making the modern sound equipment for rock bands. (Warning! Ham Radio tie-in!) Before Bob came up with his designs of mixers, amplifiers, and speakers customized for use in music presentation, what they were using was glorified PA systems.

Of course, this was of interest to me, not just on that level, but because Bob Heil is a well-known Ham Radio operator, K9EID. I have met Bob on several occasions at hamfests. His current line of microphones are legendary in both Ham Radio and Podcasting circles. If you’ve seen David Letterman on TV, the microphone on his desk that he taps with his pencil is a Heil microphone.

But it goes back further than that. Back in the late 70’s or early 80’s, Bob published an article on converting surplus CB circuit boards to 10-meter FM Ham rigs. He had a bunch of the boards he picked up and sold them to other hams. I was one of the people who bought one of them and made the 10M FM rig from it. I also have a beginners handbook he wrote.

So, besides my interest in the sound reinforcement equipment he pioneered, I was thrilled to see an exhibit devoted to someone I actually had met in person, even if it wasn’t a musician!

The rest of the trip was pretty routine. We learned some things about our great country as we travelled through it:

Minnesota was great. St. Paul was a beautiful city and I found it easy to find my way around once I learned some main streets. I never saw a bad section of town, it was all clean and safe-looking.

Wisconsin was pretty too. Some great looking land and resorts. We drove by the biggest water park we ever saw in the Wisconsin Dells area. The drivers in WI are good too. They always moved to the right and let you pass. (Unlike New York. “I’m going the speed limit. You have no reason to go faster than me.” seems to be the motto here.)

Illinois was a relatively brief journey through the northern part of the state. We saw a building on fire as we drove by in the suburbs of Chicago. That was cool. But the traffic was horrendous. The toll roads seem to be designed for maximum inconvenience. They don’t just give you a ticket and charge when you get off. They have toll booths every so often and more at the exit ramps. They seem to want to nickel and dime you to death with tolls. A dollar here, 80 cents there, 30 cents at an exit ramp. They accept Speed Pass (which I don’t have) but it doesn’t seem to help when traffic is heavy. I sat in line in stopped and crawling traffic for 45 minutes (and probably less than 10 miles) wondering what the holdup was. All it was is the toll booths at peak traffic.

Illinois also has some rest areas (they call them oases) that look like some kind of crystal cathedral. They are on both sides of the road, so you can pull in from either direction, but the amenities – other than gas – are in a glass-enclosed building that spans the road like a bridge. We didn’t stop at one, but I’ve been told that a certain one, or maybe more than one is a haven for unscrupulous people. Bad enough you get ripped off by the prices as you are a captive customer once you are there, but to have muggers and pickpockets harbored there is a shame. We didn’t stop, we kept on going.

Indiana was better. It looked about the same as Illinois, but the traffic was better. Maybe it was because it was later. Maybe it was because they don’t have the insane toll system. I had been in Indiana before, to Indianapolis, further south, but it seemed about the same. I like some things about Indiana. They seem to be a pretty prosperous state with a lot of vibrant businesses. It does go from urban to rural very fast, but both are nice.

Of course Ohio is familiar territory. Even so, somehow, we missed following route 90 when it split off from Route 80 and we almost went by Cleveland. But we caught it just in time an followed route 77 north to the 90 near the Rock Hall. The Ohio Turnpike thankfully uses tickets like the Thruway in NY. You just sail along and don’t worry about toll booths until you get off. I do wish they would put the tolls on the ticket so you know how much money to get out before you get to the booth. I had to give them the ticket and wait to be told how much it cost. It would save a lot of time.

But we got the the Hall easily. It was right where it was last time 🙂 and getting home from there was a piece of cake.

Pennsylvania seems to have perpetual construction on the route 90 corridor. We went through three or four sections. But it’s a short drive through the Erie panhandle to NY. Around Erie PA is one of my favorite places to stop for gas and meals. There are several exits with an abundance of restaurants and gas stations. PA had the cheapest gas, with Ohio second and Wisconsin and Minnesota next. Illinois and Indiana were more expensive than New York. We were able to drive on through them without stopping.

We made it all the way home with 3/4 of a tank of cheap Pennsylvania gas left in the tank. Not bad. I think the return trip was much easier than going out, despite the heavy traffic at times. If there is a way to avoid the tolls and traffic around Chicago, that’d be my only change.

Posted in Family, Ham Radio, Music, Rants, Raves
One comment on “We’re home
  1. Fran Kane says:

    Hi Al: I enjoyed your description of travel through these states which we have passed through numerous times now. Chicago is a bete noir, unless you really want to go there. Actually, driving straight through can be a piece of cake especially on Sunday morning!

    We’ve used every route possible I think from DC to MSP and back. Sometimes we go west on I-70 through mid-Ohio and Indiana. No tolls there, but it’s slower. Also more picturesgue. You can go on to Rockford Ill and avoid Chicago. You can also go on to DesMoines or some intermediate point before heading north to MSP. Longer, but can be more interesting (especially if you’re on a family history trip).

    This last time we had gone north in Minn from MSP and were coming back to LP so we took the route through Duluth, Washburn Wisc (family history again), and the upper peninsula of Michigan before going south to Port Huron and crossing southern Ontario. Michigan is MUCH BIGGER than I thought. It was a good trip though–no tolls again, inexpensive motels and restaurants and good food. Leaving the US was a snap–getting back in took a bit of time. I was not very comfortable waiting for customs while sitting on the Rainbow Bridge, after what had happened two weeks earlier in Minneapolis, but it held up beautifully.

    Thanks for the pictures!!!

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