Well, I knew there’d be some boring days at some times. And yes, in order to fully detail this rather epic road trip I’m going to write about them too.
Ah, the road. Well, the road in America. You can’t really get any idea of how big America is until you’ve got to travel from one state to another. And by travel I mean drive, or take the train or something like that. Flying is cheating. You need to actually SEE the journey.
I’ve been to America a fair few times before, though with my parents as a child. We did lots of driving back then between places. Sometimes we just didn’t have any idea where we were going – we’d know where we were arriving, and where we were departing from, and just wing it from there essentially.
In any case, to the trip at hand. Chicago to Sandusky, Sandusky of course being the home of Cedar Point – at the time the park with the largest concentration of roller coasters. In fact, I believe it still retains the title. The trip would take, according to Google, roughly about four or five hours on a toll road. We’ve got Bessie programmed as near as we can get her – she can’t actually find the address of the hotel. She knows the street but not the exact location. Never mind – when booking the hotel I checked it out on Google Earth and Streetview (God bless you Google!) so I know what it looks like, where it is and what’s next to it.
And off we go.
Now, we’re staying at a hotel in Chicago that’s near O’hare airport. As such, we’re in a good position for getting on the freeway and starting our journey. We set off at something like 9-ish in the morning. It’s a sunday so not too bad. On the way though we come across one of the many toll booths that are dotted around the place. Fair enough – we’d been anticipating them. In fact, we’ve paid at a handful already. But little did we know – until the lady at the booth told us – that we’d been paying twice!
The reason for this is that the car rental people didn’t tell us about the automatic toll thingy on the dashboard in the car. Well, they did and we told them we didn’t want it so they said they’d deactivate it. Turned out they didn’t. So, not only had we paid in cash as we were going through, but our automatic toll thingy had been registered by them too and they were taking the money out of our bank account. Which, also, is an extra fee. The lady told us how to deactivate it and we were off again.
And now for what few pictures are worthy of being shown.
Ages ago my sisters and I would go to America with my parents. As said, mostly it’d be here there and everywhere. But when we started going it was Florida. Now Florida is a nice state and does have a fair few good theme parks. But all we’d do is drive between the hotel and whatever park we were visiting that day. We did occasionally go further afield, mainly to the space centre.
But you still get people who just go to Florida and just to the parks. They drive from hotel to park, then back to hotel or wherever. Hell, we still do it (but we stay in villas). But these people think they’ve SEEN America.
They haven’t. Not even close.
Here in the UK we find it odd – well, I find it odd – when I come across people who’ve never been abroad. Who’ve never been on holiday outside of the UK. But in America hardly anyone goes abroad. I think it’s a recent statistic that says about 80% or something like that of Americans don’t own passports.
But they don’t need to. And I’ll explain a bit more later, but you’ve probably got a good understanding.
Needless to say, travelling in America, things are big. Very big. And quiet. Peaceful. There is barely any traffic on the roads that we’re using to be worried about. Admittedly we are using a toll road to cut down on time and people will be trying to save cash by not doing so. But the same trip in the UK would be frought with people driving like idiots, the occasional traffic jam and so on. Not here. Here we can enjoy the drive.
And enjoy the drive we do. Yeah, it’s still one of the more boring parts of the holiday but still enjoyable. We’ve got music playing (we’ve jacked an mp3 player into a spare port on the car’s radio), sweets from the UK by our side (we have to feed whoever’s driving from time to time) and a few bottles of drink. Keep checking Bessie every 20-odd minutes to make sure we’re going in the right direction (we’ve muted her for the moment as she keeps telling us to keep going). And we’re generally enjoying the scenery.
Food is needed – and some form of proper food, not the sweets we’ve got next to us. We’re about two thirds of the way through our journey when we stop off at one of the regular stops they’ve got. It’s a bit dingy, but still serviceable. Grab some cheap sandwiches and we’re on our way again.
Almost forgot to mention – the toll road system is quite efficient. As we’re travelling through a few states along this road we change toll roads a few times. However, you only need to do anything as you’re getting on or off the road. Rest of the time – keep on going. When you get on the toll road you pick up a ticket telling with the time and where you got on. When you get off, hand the ticket over and you’re charged accordingly. The prices are pretty cheap considering the distance you travel, and the tickets also let you know roughly where food stops are.
Anyways, we get into Sandusky. Now we had a bit of trouble actually choosing which hotel to stop in. In the end we chose one that’s close to the toll road and a bit of a distance from the city itself. This way we’d be further from Cedar Point, but also further from the hordes of families we assume there will be. A Super 8 motel just off the toll road was our choice.
As stated, Bessie didn’t know where it was. Fortunately I did. Just off the toll road, get onto the main road into Sandusky and it’s there on the left. Nice and easy location. Check in and get to the room. The room is fair enough – a bit grubby but it’ll do. It also has a back door so we can park the car around the back and unload straight into the room, rather than trecking through the hotel. We actually find that our multitude of ways in and out of a hotel throughout the holiday is quite amusing.
Since it’s about 2-ish we decide to go into the pool. Just out back, the pool is outdoors and an alright size. We unwind for a bit in there, chatting away until a man comes out and eventually gets talking to us.
I honesty can’t remember where he’s from – I think it was from Pittsburgh. Anyway, he, his wife and a few others were big dragster racing enthusiasts and had come over for a big drag racing competition that had just finished in Sandusky. They’d motorcycled over from Pittsburgh, which I think is a few hours. Two, I think he said, which isn’t bad.
The other places he’d been – he doesn’t like flying – included Florida, basically the other side of the states from his home town. Each time he’d bike it down, making a few stops on the way and enjoying the scenery.
And I guess that’s something about America – there’s always somewhere to go. You have such a multitude of great places that you can go. You’ve got some desert, mountains, trees and forests, giant lakes, beaches, tropical weather, places which get completely frozen in a winter wonderland… no wonder they don’t to abroad, as I said before, there’s no need to.
After a few ours (and chatting to this guy for an hour or so) we need some dinner. Fortunately, with coming to Ohio, we’re in Friendlys territory!
Friendlys is a restaurant chain on the eastern side of America. We’d first tried Friendlys in Florida in 2006 – the one on International Drive. We went there a fair few times when we next went to Florida in 2009. Now, we’ve planned various locations of Friendlys into Bessie in anticipation. There are none in Chicago – I believe Ohio is as westwards as they come.
Again, we’re in the idea place. Come out onto the main road and turn left from the hotel and, after a few minutes, you start hitting the main concentration of where hotels for Cedar Point are. And of course, in America, where there’s tourists there’s fast food as big signs for McDonalds (hate them), Burger King (I actually like them), Dennys (good), Wendys (love them) and various other chains appear. Taco Bell is one that I keep looking at but recent experiences have told me otherwise. Used to love them as a kid but more recently their food and my digestive system have not gotten along too well.
In any case, Friendlys is a sit-down restaurant. You go in, are seated, have menus and they’ll get your order and bring it over. And it’s got some decent stuff! Out of all the choices, I don’t think I ordered the same thing throughout the holiday.
It must be said though that vegetables are missing in America restaurants. If you want fruit or veg it seems you’ve got to find them yourselves.
Ice cream, however, isn’t – at least not at Friendlys.
We tended to go for $10 meals – a meal (such as shrimp and fries – and a pretty generous helping of both) and an ice cream (three scoops of whatever flavours – and there’s several – two toppings and a sauce) for $10. Add onto that a drink (which they’ll happily refill for you if they see it running low, free of charge) and you’ve got a nice meal for a decent price.
I think we were also considering going to the cinema – maybe we should have, I think there was a Wendys right next to it for Frosties – but decided against it. We needed all the sleep we could get, for the next day was our first of two days to the almighty Cedar Point!