US Road Trip 2013: Day 3: Going Straight There

Day 3 (Sunday, 31 March 2013): Vienna, IL to Lafayette, IN

Day mileage: 332

Going Straight There …


We woke early on Sunday, got ourselves breakfast – SJ actually managed to get something from the continental breakfast, while I contented myself with well-travelled cereal – and then went to work trying to identify the issue with the headlights. Now, a sane and sensible person, when looking for the headlight relay would look in the nice and easily accessible fuses and relays box in the engine compartment, right next to the battery. Despite not being a sane and sensible person, that’s where I went to look first anyway.

Guess what? There’s no relay for the headlights in there!

By a forbidden and arcane invocation of the mad demon god that bubbles and blasphemes beyond the walls of time and space, I managed to coax enough signal to consult the internet oracle again. From some rather cryptical and mostly unhelpful comments on Infiniti-owners’ forums, I found that there is actually a Super Secret Special Relay Box for the headlights, buried in the engine compartment on the driver’s side, up against the firewall, next to the throttle control for the cruise control system.

While we tried to track down this mystical box of wonder in the tight confines of the engine compartment, we phoned up SJ’s dad to see if he could help. As it turned out, he has a maintenance manual for the car, so with his help over the phone we managed to locate the black box in question. Between him and more internet searching, we managed to work out what we would need to do to get to the relay box, and it involved taking out several bits and pieces to get to it, including part of the throttle control… at which point my “Yeeeah, nope” alarm goes off. Mine, as well, despite my confidence in working on cars.

We decided that we were quite emphatically not equipped for such shenanigans: we had only an emergency toolkit, a rough outline of what was needed, and several thousand miles of road left to travel that we’d actually like to not have potentially screwed up headlights and cruise control for, so we decided that we needed to take the car to a Firestone (SJ’s car shop chain of choice). Thankfully this was just headlights, the rest of the car worked fine, so we decided to carry on north and, while on the interstate (which generally had better signal…), I would track down Firestone locations that might work along our route.

We started loading the car to head off, after repacking everything in preparation for Car Tetris. In the light of day, we noticed that the window for the hotel room would actually open all the way, and it had no screen, so we were able to load the car by simply passing things through the window rather than dragging everything down and out through the lobby and back up to the car (whenever possible we try to park the car within view of the window when staying in hotels, for peace of mind and to be able to keep an eye on it). We managed to get the car loaded and ready almost as quickly and easily as we could have with external corridors thanks to those windows!

A tank breeding farm near Vienna, IL. Quite a big litter this year.

A tank breeding farm near Vienna, IL. Quite a big litter this year.

The plan for the road trip up to this point had been to go north through Illinois and Wisconsin, across the upper peninsula of Michigan, and then down to visit SJ’s relatives in Davison and Lansing. With this in mind the best match I could find for our route was a Firestone in Decatur, south-west of Champaign. So, on we went, through the flat fields of Illinois, through gloriously sunny weather – a drastic change from the previous day! – and made pretty decent time. Just after Effingham we stopped at the Green Creek Rest Area for lunch, dining at a picnic table in the sun. Despite the sun, it was rather windy, and cold with it, especially after the comfortable warmth down in Louisiana only two days earlier. The trees had only just started putting out leaves, while when we’d left the south the flowers were starting to bloom; the difference was pretty amazing really.

At Tuscola we left I-57, turning onto US-36 west. We could have gone north to Champaign, and then southwest to Decatur, but SJ was tired of looking at interstate, and I told her that US-36 “would take us straight there.” When I said that, I had no idea that it would take us straight there: that road was the flattest, straightest road I have ever been on on my life. You could have use the white line as a straightedge. We could have lashed the steering wheel and built a house of cards between us on the console. Straight. Flat.

We were a few miles down the road, making decent time – it was about 2pm around this point – and SJ was hoping to get the car to Firestone that afternoon so they could look at it, when we passed billboard after billboard for tourist attraction. Alas, this one, that one, and that one too, all closed on Sundays. Wait … it actually hit us…

It was Sunday. Firestone was probably closed on Sunday (having checked since then, yes it was).

Worse, it’s Easter Sunday. Firestone was definitely closed on Easter Sunday. It’d totally slipped our minds that it was Easter. Once I’d managed to book the plane tickets avoiding the price gouging of the Easter break as best I could, with our other constraints, Easter just vanished from my awareness – and Chris’ too, it seems. We don’t generally do much for it, but we usually are vaguely aware of it. Oops.

Well, poot. Perhaps even dang (we might, perhaps, have used slightly stronger words that those, dear reader, but I shall refrain from assaulting your delicate sensibilities.) (Anymore than he already has.)

So, we pulled over and tried to decide what to do. We now knew we’d have some layover time waiting for the headlights to be fixed, and arrangements to meet up with SJ’s brother in Michigan had reached the point where changing the day would have been difficult, so we decided to abandon the idea of going over the upper peninsula and instead we would head east through Indiana and then up into Michigan. With this change of plan, SJ turned us around and we headed back through Tuscola, stopping briefly at an IGA supermarket which was remarkably open, and then back onto I-57 north to Champaign.

Up and around Champaign we went, switching to I-74 East, stopped briefly for gas, and then headed east towards Indiana. As we drove, I searched for places with Firestones near hotels with guest laundry, as we were desperately in need of doing laundry at this point. I found what looked like 200 Firestones around Indianapolis (okay, so there’s actually only 23 in Indiana, but literally 65% of those are in Indianapolis), but we generally try to avoid big cities for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that big city traffic – and big city drivers in particular – tend to be insane. The best alternative option I found was a Holiday Inn in the city centre of Lafayette, Indiana: it had a free guest laundry, an indoor pool, a Firestone nearby (3 miles away, in the Tippecanoe Mall), and we worked out that we could get there before nightfall.

We left I-74 at Crawfordsville, racing the setting sun as we switched to US-231 north, straight to Lafayette. We got into Lafayette just after sunset, got checked in, and carted all our stuff into the hotel room – on a luggage cart, this time, and the hotel had an actual elevator! The blissful luxury! The guest laundry was one washer and dryer, but the hotel was almost deserted so both were available to use, and we got one load of laundry going while SJ went to shower. While she was showering she discovered that the drain was mostly blocked and backed up rapidly, and she was in ankle-deep water half way through her shower – even Limited Inn of Arseend Nowhere had showers that worked properly!

We’d checked the menu for the restaurant attached to the hotel, and decided it looked decent so we’d eat there, so on the way down after SJ finished her shower we stopped at the front desk to tell them the shower wasn’t draining. The clerk said he’d get the maintenance man to have a look at it, and then we asked him where the entrance to the restaurant was. “It’s closed for Easter,” he tells us. Great, just what we wanted! We asked him which places might be open nearby, after all we were right in the centre of Lafayette, so there should be something… right? He pulled out a map with restaurants marked on it, and he circled a few on it that he thought would be open on Easter, and we headed out into the distinctly chilly evening to look for somewhere to eat. We’d passed a load of eateries on the way into Lafayette, but it was dark now so we couldn’t drive back to them (it’s only much later that I realised we might have been able to order delivery…), so searching on foot was the only option.

Finding dinner was further complicated by the fact that we’d crossed from central time to eastern time, so it was actually an hour later than we initially thought. Perhaps more places might have been open earlier, but as we wandered around looking for the places marked on the map – thankfully central Lafayette is a simple grid system, so it’s not like it was hard to get around – we found closed eatery after closed eatery. Eventually we found one place open, a restaurant and bar that was incredibly noisy and packed, but by this point I had a splitting headache so we went on to try and find other places. The next two were closed, but across the street there was another open place, another restaurant-bar which we tried out of desperation, but the menu looked like grease rolled in grease and then deep fried in grease, and the noise was incredible. In the end we decided to just go back to the hotel room and eat some of our breakfast and lunch supplies – it might not be hot, but it would be food, and quiet.

When we got back to the room, I started pulling out food and SJ went to check whether the shower worked properly now. It didn’t, as near as we could tell nobody had even come in while we were out, and all the clerk would offer was a room change as the maintenance man had gone. We didn’t want to have to move everything – even though we were trying to travel as light as we could, we still had a lot of stuff and had already unpacked – so we decided to just cope with it for that night, and the clerk told us that he’d send someone up to look at it the next day. As we ate, we decided that when checking into a hotel – any hotel – from now on, we would go over a room before bringing stuff in, checking it over for both cleanliness and to make sure that all the fixtures, fittings, and other contents were clean, worked properly, and generally acceptable to avoid this problem as much as possible in future.

We wanted to get up as early as we could the next day, to get to Firestone when they opened and be first in line to be seen, but I looked up the local sunrise times – as we didn’t want to be driving to Firestone in the dark with dodgy headlights – and found that, while Firestone opened at 7am, sunrise wasn’t until 7:30. So we decided to set the alarm for 6:30am so that we could get breakfast, get ourselves together, and head over for between 7:30 and 8am, and hope to be seen as soon as possible.

After showering in the paddling pool – I mean, the shower – we got into bed about 11:30pm.

4 thoughts on “US Road Trip 2013: Day 3: Going Straight There

  1. “tank breeding” HA HA HA HA ROFL
    When I said that, I had no idea that it would take us straight there: that road was the flattest, straightest road I have ever been on on my life. — SOOOOO FUNNY!

    What a fiasco. WOW! It was a day to remember.
    I LOVE your stories. Chris you could be a story writer!! Keep ‘um comin’.

    • Nah, I’m generally pretty weak when it comes to finer plot details. I can write short pieces, or plan out complicated overarching plots, but I always end up bogged down in finer details.

      This sort of thing is much easier to do: real life provided the plot, I just write about what happened…

    • Hey ho, the swimming was good – still remember having that pool all to ourselves. It was also good to have a down day about then, to be honest. Our next trip will be structured far differently, we’ve decided!

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