We were living in Arizona when we decided to move to Amsterdam. Our flight to Amsterdam left from Boston, so we had to drive clear ‘cross the United States in the space of a few days. This is the story of those few days.
After cannonball-running our way halfway across the continent, spending time right smack in the middle of the American map at my parents place in St. Louis felt like downright pampering.
There was no seedy hotel to check into, no wrangling of a basset hound into the hotel room behind the clerk’s back, and no heated internal debate over whether or not the glasses left near the sink had been washed in the toilet.
Hey, it happens, I saw it once on A Current Affair.
Nope, my Mom washes the glasses in the dishwasher and the next two nights became a blur of family time, sifting through storage, eating St. Louis-style pizza, and saying “goodbye until we Skype”.
Then, it was off to Ohio.
To say I am familiar with the strip of Interstate 70 between St. Louis and the Ohio state line would be what some, including me, would call an understatement. I have made this journey easily over 100 times due to the fact that I fruitlessly toiled and was technically considered a “student” at a university in Dayton off and on for a half a dozen years.
I know this trip like the back of the books I never opened.
How do you know you’re truly on your way? Well, you see the skyline of St. Louis and its Gateway Arch fade behind a mountainous Illinois landfill. Soon after, perched on a hill, you pass what used to be an old crusty hotel home to an under-21 nightclub called Excalibur. The dilapidated Days Inn has since been replaced, renovated, and turned into lofts (what building hasn’t?), but you still take a second to remember the time one of your friends did his best King Arthur impression by managing to pry a massive, seemingly immovable strip of wood away from Excalibur’s bar with his bare hands. You laugh when you recollect how he then decided to take this piece of timber with him on to the dance floor and swing it violently around his head before he was asked to vacate the premises.
First logical stop for a snack or gas? Well, that’s Effingham, Illinois, about 100 miles into the journey, or 45 minutes past the “Pocahontas Palace”, one of the prettiest prisons you’ll ever see in your life. You know you are in Effingham when you see the King-Kong sized crucifix (or world’s largest lowercase T) greet you on the right side of the road. If you’ve been sinning by speeding or not crossing your “t’s” up until this point, this is probably a good time to ask for forgiveness.
Halfway point? That’s Terre Haute, Indiana, home to Indiana St. University where Larry Bird played college ball and more chain restaurants and gas stations than you can chuck up a brick at.
Next up? The skyline and sports stadiums of Indianapolis followed quickly thereafter by a disturbing series of billboards for Tom Raper Recreational Vehicles. He refuses to be undersold or change his surname.
Home Stretch? Seeing the second great arch of your journey, this time a steel blue structure that gracefully stretches over the interstate as you enter the great state of Ohio. From here it’s straight on past your first Skyline Chili spotting and on in to Dayton in usually around 5 and 1/2 hours for the full trip. 6 and 1/2 hours on your clock though due to an irksome time zone change.
Rumors persist to this day though of a crazy group of kids in the summer of 1998 who shattered that record. The word is that these lunatics left Dayton around daybreak early on a summer Sunday and took expert advantage of a nearly empty highway to average 85-90 miles an hour the entire way back to St. Louis and complete the trip in approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes. “3:45 on the clock with the time zone change, though”, one is said to have bragged during the following years. I guess we’ll never know if it’s true, though.
We were now in Dayton, Ohio, and there was only one thing left to to: drive three more hours to Cleveland.