Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Chitown Weekend, part 1

Saturday morning Lex and I had his first soccer game. Ouch. We drove back across town to catch Zoe's game. Ouch. Then we hit the highway for our road trip to Chicago, and everything turned around. The weather was great. The Ramones came on the radio right as we got on the highway, and then, once we got on I-57 (the alimentary canal of Illinois interstate highways) we listened to the History of the World Cup book on tape (combining our loves of history and soccer into one neat package).

I-57 between C-U and Chicago, if you haven't driven it, is about 2 hours of mind-numbing boredom. There are two kinds of scenery. You have your cornfields. And you have your bean fields. At this time of year, they are indistinguishable squares of dirt. I feel secure in stating this because, if you are a farmer who wishes to weigh in on the subtle differences, you probably aren't reading my blog.

Johnny had warned me about the construction on the Dan Ryan...

Let me digress, for those readers who are not from Illinois. Chicagoans love their interstate highways. They have names for them, like pets. All of them. Most are named after politicians great and small: The Kennedy, The Eisenhower, The Stevenson, The Dan Ryan, The Edens... but there are exceptions, like the Skyway. I think it started out as a scheme to confuse out of towners, but most Chicagoans that I've asked no longer have any idea what numbers go with what name either, so well done. Once you get them off the highway, their directions are fine, but until then, they might as well be speaking Swahili.

So... Johnny, construction, Dan Ryan, mapquest. Did I mention mapquest? Consider it mentioned. I hit mapquest to doublecheck the connections from I-57 to my exit to fill in the bit between "yeah, yeah, yeah, I drive here all the time" to "Oh yeah, street names, I should listen to this bit". On mapquest, they thoughtfully provide both the numbers and the names of the highways (or "expressways" in Chicagospeak, despite the fact that they often move more slowly than "roads" once enough people are actually using them...). I scrolled over to the highway. 90/94... Kennedy. Fabulous. Why was Johnny talking about the Dan Ryan? I'm coming in on the Kennedy.

I made great time, sailing up 57, changing to 94, and I was home free. I started seeing detour signs for Dan Ryan construction. Ha. Poor bastards. They ought to be driving on the Kennedy, like me. Then all forward motion sort of ground to a halt. The Dan Ryan? What the hell am I doing on the Dan Ryan? Stupid mapquest. I had Lex dig out the map and figure out how to use it to find out what highway we were actually on. Then I taught him how to fold a map. (First, find the crease that doesn't change from an up-crease to a down-crease. Fold there first. Now look for one that doesn't change after making that fold. Lather, rinse, repeat.)

The Dan Ryan and the Kennedy? Same highway. 90/94 is the Kennedy, but only north of the Loop. South of the loop, it's the Dan Ryan. No problem. I wasn't lost, just confused.

We made it through the bowels of the Interstate Highway system depite IDOT's best efforts to the contrary, onto the Kennedy and off it again, followed Johnny's directions, serendipitously found the only parking space on his street right at the corner, grabbed our stuff from the trunk, and sloped off toward the Casa del Yen to see Johnny and Adam and meet Kim and Mel.


BeckEye said...

Ever since I heard that Pearl Jam will be headlining Lollapalooza in Chicago this August, I've been hearing everyone talking about Chicago. Aarrrrrrghhhh! I hate that I probably won't be able to go.

lulu said...

The Edens is named after someone? Huh, who knew? They also call 90 something weird out past Woodfield, something about Elgin I think, although if I am going that far west I am usually in a plane.
I'm with you on all the names though, as a Northside kinda girl I'm not entirely sure which is the Ike and which is the Stevenson.

Writeprocrastinator said...

I've learned to trick Mapquest into giving me the information, via segments. If I ask for a straight "point A to point D" reference, they dump me off in certain areas where I think various chambers of commerce pay them to steer me towards. I have to type in from "point A, to point B, to point C, to point D."

When Procrastinator Junior had an academic competition a few weeks ago, they had us go through Pleasant Hill, when we could've gotten off at Concord. But then, we wouldn't have passed the two malls and the seven strip malls, along the way.

If I could've remembered the area, I would've saved myself the hassle of about ten traffic lights and sixteen minutes.

Natalie said...

Having never owned a car while living in Chicago the highway, or should I say expressway, names are very confusing to me. I learned a lot reading this.

deadspot said...

Sorry, Beckeye, there are a lot of Chicago bloggers in my little circle. I'll be in New York in the fall, though, so I'll be sure to have some New York content then.

Wiki says the Edens is named after "William Edens, a banker and major proponent of paved roads". Good thing, that. Can you imagine the delays if the Edens was a six-lane dirt expressway?

That's a good trick, wp. I almost used that when I was going down to Mattoon to avoid going through downtown Mattoon. And then I realized that the extra stoplight probably wouldn't slow me down that much.

Yay for learning! The catchphrase for the weekend was "Did you know that the Dan Ryan and the Kennedy are the same highway?"

I grew up listening to WLS back when it was a music station, so the names are familiar, but I have the opposite problem of people who live there. The numbers make sense to me, but the names don't mean anything.