Leaving Transit Behind: Into the Heart of the Heartland
I awoke and set to the streets with ratpag’s New Jersey correspondent – I feared this would be my last opportunity for unencumbered access to pedestrian pathways for some time. I was pleased to happen upon Chicago’s innovative paring of transit and over-the-top affordably-priced beer advertisements (notice the mountains on top of the bus stop):
ratpag thinks it would be interesting if this sort of in-your-face advertising were used for other beers, too.
Alas, it was time to depart Chicago and venture deep into the unknown of the true heartland – the heartland where no bus or commuter rail line would dare show its face. We loaded into the automobile and set off on Interstate 90 – hitting traffic with even more haste than the day earlier in New Jersey. The CTA would taunt us one last time as we neared the edge of town but we would press on:
Oh how nice it would have been to be aboard that train!
Our route found us traveling through work zones and speed traps until we reached Wisconsin. The roads opened and our speed increased as I settled into my cushioned seat and rested my eyes. The automobile was not uncomfortable but it wasn’t entirely comfortable, either. I was afforded reasonable seating space – space not completely unlike that in an Amtrak coach accommodation – but I grew displeased with my inability to get up and walk around.
We pulled into yet another fueling station – the fifth so far in just two days of travel – and I retreated deep into the interior of the convenience store to use the restroom and procure various provisions. This, too, was disconcerting: when traveling by rail, one may use the restroom as he pleases and not worry of remaining stationary or “falling behind schedule” to do so. I quickly returned to the auto so as to not postpone our departure any more than necessary.
Soon after returning to my seat I sifted through my convenience store purchases and selected a favorite travel companion: an alcoholic beverage. I enjoyed alcoholic beverages on travel as an acceptable way to sooth nerves which had become so frazzled from the chaos that typically accompanies travel. To my dismay, the New Jersey ratpag correspondent very harshly scolded me and insisted that I was an “idiot” and that I put away my alcoholic beverage at once.
“Surely you cannot be serious?” I asked as I enjoyed another sip.
“Put that away now or you’ll be walking. Are you trying to get us arrested?!”
“Arrested? For consuming alcohol while on travel? Why do you think airports and train stations sell alcohol? Why do you think airplanes and trains sells alcohol! There is only one way to travel and that is with your favored beverage by your side.”
He insisted one last time that I put my beverage away and so I relented. Our travel continued on and, as I was unable to consume any more alcohol, I remember its every cumbersome minute.
A stay at a nondescript Sioux Falls, South Dakota motel preceded our travels to another national park. My expectations were unclear after our stop at Cuyahoga Valley National Park just two days earlier but I kept an open mind as we entered the Badlands. We would finally be granted the privilege of walking upon our God-given feet for a distance greater than that from the auto to a restroom as we set upon one inspiring trail after another.
What it lacked in transit it more than made up in beauty. Roadways were ample – not necessarily excessive but, perhaps, improperly placed – but the natural sights overpowered any man made obstructions:
We departed and made way to one last sight for the day: Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Entry was free but parking $11 – a sort of congestion pricing that ratpag fully supports. The memorial was interesting. There was ample opportunity for walking, which ratpag appreciates, but something about the site made it seem all too apparent that something there had been made out of nothing (or little, as the location is one of natural beauty). It may not have been rail or transit, and it was only accessible by car, but it was something new and new things are often quite nice.
Does this mean that there are some benefits to car ownership?
Transportation Cost Calculator and NYC MetroCard Comparison:
Fuel: $302; Parking: $39; Tolls: $29 = Total: $370 = 3.304 New York City Monthly MetroCards