My sister had her gallbladder removed last week. It’s not a major surgery as far as surgeries go but it is removing a fucking organ so it’s kind of a big deal. Anyways, she’s off work because UPS (Yes, she also works at UPS. My dad worked at UPS. My cousin worked at UPS. My wife worked at UPS.) doesn’t want her working a week after having an organ removed. As I won’t shut up about this week, I’m on vacation. She always visits us so why not return the favor and visit her for once?
Davenport, Iowa is exactly two hours away from Rockford. My family likes to take I-39 to I-80 but if you look at a map this takes you unnecessarily south from the straight line distance. It’s wasteful and the highway is boring. I plotted a new route that is both shorter distance-wise, the same time-wise, has no tolls, and is half winding country roads and half interstate. I might be blowing this out of proportion but this route — my route because I ‘invented’ it — is the perfect way to drive from Rockford to Davenport.
I present to you Illinois Route 2 to Dixon and then to Davenport via I-88. Circle the quad cities to the north via I-80 and you’re there. The optimal route.
About 20 minutes into the two-hour trip I was already pissed off. I hate driving. It’s boring. It takes too much attention but it’s not mind-challenging attention. It’s driving. You follow the lane. It’s just enough to keep you occupied but not enough to keep you entertained. Cruise control takes a bit of the bullshit out of driving but you still gotta follow those fucking lane lines! I imaged owning a Tesla and letting it drive you wherever you tell it to. I wouldn’t sleep but it would be nice to sit and think, enjoy the scenery and the music, and just exist without the distraction of having to constantly stay in your lane.
Illinois 2 is a beautiful road. It follows the Rock River southwest, and by following the river I mean it hugs it for major portions of the road. It’s windy, it’s wooded, and it’s picturesque. It’s a fun road to drive on. It’s not a mindless interstate filled with trucks and jackass drivers. It didn’t matter. Even 20 minutes of Il. Rte. 2 had me bored and this only became worse on the interstate.
60 mph is a good speed because it means you drive a mile every minute. It turns the road distance signs into time. 72 miles to Moline? 72 minutes: 1 hour 12 minutes. Sure we were going 75 mph, but the math is still close. 72 miles is nearly an hour. An hour on the flat, straight interstate surrounded by endless corn fields.
I remember my North Carolina friend and his recent trip back to Rockford. 15 hours, right? Something like that, it doesn’t matter. Once you’ve driven for 4 or 5 hours nothing really matters anymore. You’re zoned out and exist in some realm outside of everyone else. Just the road, traffic, and the sun slowly making its way across the sky. He drove this in a single shot and took four 15-minute naps when he stopped for gas. Fuck that. Fuck everything about that, it sounds awful. This is a scenario I image to be similar to hell. “Sit here tired and sleep deprived and follow the lane lines. For how long? For forever!” My North Carolina friend is apparently built differently than myself.
Music is nice and we listened to Green Day’s Dookie (one of the best albums of all time) and Insomniac. Even this wasn’t perfect as you gotta focus on the road and traffic! Music is best when you can listen to it without distractions; anyone who writes knows you can’t really listen to music without it turning into background noise. Even this minor pleasure was stolen from me as my Bluetooth thingy (it plugs into the 12 Volt outlet and broadcasts a radio signal to your car) kept fucking randomly cutting out. I eventually unplugged it and tossed it violently into the backseat when it cut out in the middle of London Calling.
The radio station was on some right-wing talk news channel when the Bluetooth shit out and I tried to listen to it for shits and giggles. Nope, it was infuriating. They were talking about aborted fetuses and how they’re used for scientific experiments and the condescending moral overtones to the whole thing made me uneasy. I vaguely understood how someone listening to that for a few hours each day would become radicalized and that was all the insight I needed to change the station. What did I change it to you might ask? Static. I listened to static because it was better than talk radio. After a few minutes my wife was sick of my radio static and found a proper radio station that was playing Somebody to Love by Queen. Thank God! I belted out the final verse or whatever and noted silently that Queen kinda sucks to listen to in the car. Freddy Mercury has such an intense and badass/beautiful/bombastic voice that you cannot sing along to their songs. You just can’t. It ruins the song. Queen forces you to sit there and listen to Freddy while you feel like shit at your own (lack of) singing abilities.
Green Day. Gun’s and Roses. Metallica. AC/DC. And so on. You know the deal.
My wife drove on the way back and being a passenger was nice for the first half hour, but then I was bored with that. Following those damn lane lines earlier was a pain, but at least it was something to do. As a passenger you just sit there and while it was nice to look around at the scenery we do live in Illinois; what the fuck is there to actually look at? It was also night so that didn’t help. I looked at the stars but as an astronomy nut I’m not too excited by stars anymore. I wanna see SpaceX satellites, the space station, galaxies and nebulae. I’ve seen the fucking big dipper plenty of times. Did you know the big dipper is next to the constellation/zodiac sign Leo? Yeah, after the car ride I was aware of it.
To wrap this all together, America is a huge country. If you look at our route from Davenport to Rockford you’ll notice it’s nothing compared to the country itself. It’s a tiny fragment of coast to coast. Two hours of mindless driving to go nowhere at all. California, Florida, Washington, so fucking far away. And it’s not even the entire US either, think of the entire planet; Earth is a big fucking place. 75 mph feels fast when you’re in a car but it is painfully slow.
I can’t help but think of the American pioneers covering the same land I was traveling, only they did it with wagons and horses. That had to be hell. What were they thinking? Or people that sailed across oceans on boats slightly bigger than our Honda Civic. What were they thinking? You also can’t forget the Native Americans and how they walked across the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago and populated both North and South America, all from walking. Sure they didn’t do this in a single lifetime and it was more of mass migration over centuries, but still they fucking walked the whole way. And here I am bitching about being stuck in a car for two hours complaining about how my Bluetooth thingy didn’t work right. I suppose it’s all about perspective. And these guys probably weren’t traveling for the sake of traveling, they were on an adventure with a greater purpose. And maybe adventures are more exciting than boring trips on an interstate. It’s not about the mileage and distance, it’s about the unknown. And driving cross-country in the US is not unknown at all. It’s mindless driving to places that people have already pioneered and built roads to. There is no adventure. I fucking hate driving.
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