My parents are in the middle of a move from the Chicago area to the middle of Texas. I’ve been here for more than twenty years, my kids all live here, and my sister recently moved down to get away from Chicago winters. They’re the last of the immediate family to live in the great white north, and they’ve been talking about retiring in Texas for a long time, so we weren’t too surprised by the announcement that they were moving. The surprising part was how quickly they made it happen after the announcement. I figured that they’d drag their heels and not move down until fall at the earliest. They’ll be done and moved into their new house in less than a week.
When they came down to look at houses I was asked if I would fly up and “help” my mother drive down. They hired a professional moving company, so no-one was driving a truck, but they have two cars and four dogs, and both of my parents were concerned about my mother’s ability to drive long distances. It seems she has been using her in-car navigation system just to go to the store and back.
Like a good son, I said “sure, why not”. Again, I thought I would have some time before they made the move. Then they called with “OK, the movers will be done loading the truck on the 24th of April.” I quickly booked a ticket for the morning of the 25th and prepared myself to make this trip.
When I left I thought that surely we must be splitting driving in mom’s car. My sister disagreed and thought that I would have to drive the whole way. Mom doesn’t like driving in traffic. I ended up driving down the whole way from O’Hare airport.
When I travel, I try to be flexible. Especially on a long drive like this. The end is the goal, but what happens if we hit bad weather, or I get tired early? My dad, on the other hand, is a planner. He has to know exactly where we’re stopping for the night ahead of time. So he had booked a hotel in advance, on the west side of Little Rock, AR. A distance of nearly 700 miles. Had I been driving solo, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Had we been able to leave the airport before 10am, this wouldn’t have been a problem either. No luck on either front.
Dad lead the way out of the Chicago area, and I followed him until after we made it to I-57. some of the highway interchanges through there are a little confusing and with mom as my navigator I didn’t want to take a chance that her navigation system (that hadn’t been updated in several years) was up to the task. Once on 57 I took the lead and set a brisk pace. Not the fastest cars on the road, but a close second.
I-57 through Illinois is really long, and really boring. We hit construction several times, which couldn’t be helped, then in southern Illinois we came up on some warning signs indicating a detour and “be prepared for stopped traffic”. So we got off the highway and took a detour through Carbondale, IL, to avoid all of the nonsense. When we got back to the highway there was no traffic at all coming from the north, so it must have been worthwhile.
Then we began to encounter some weather. At first it wasn’t bad, some wind and a little bit of rain, but nothing crazy. We made the transition from I-57 to I-55 without issue, and while my parents wanted to stop for an early dinner, I wanted to push on. I even used my dad’s old favorite from trips when I was a kid, “we’re burning daylight”.
I-55 was another story entirely. The weather turned for the much worse, with gale force winds and torrential rain slowing us to a crawl for much of the time. When the truckers began pulling off the road and stopping mom was all for following them. Had she been driving, she would surely have been looking for someplace to hide from the weather, but I pushed through it, with dad right on my rear bumper.
As the storm intensified and we slowed, traffic came to a near standstill and we began to see flashing lights and hear sirens. We got passed by several emergency vehicles on the shoulder and when traffic creeped forward we found out why. There were multiple big rigs tipped over on the center median. The rain slacked off just enough for us to see things, and get moved around them. Eventually making the dinner stop in West Memphis.
Since my dad had his ridiculous hotel reservations outside of Little Rock, there was no choice but to push on. We made the turn onto I-40 and headed west, only to find a bunch of road construction zones and more rain. This time were were driving straight into the wind, so it didn’t push us around all that much, but the rain combined with the glare of construction lights and narrowed lanes made for a stressful drive. We arrived at the hotel around 11pm.
The following morning I figured we’d hit the road early. Google Maps said it was just 7 hours, and had we left when I thought we would have made it before 3pm. Mom on the other hand was in no hurry, so we didn’t even get loaded up in the car before 9. Then we had to make a stop at the Texas welcome center for photos and free maps.
The rest of the drive went by at a good pace, again set by yours truly. Unfortunately the parents were already a little burnt out with the drive and wanted to stop frequently. Both for themselves and for the dogs, some of whom seemed a little stressed out by the trip. My 3pm goal, turned into 5pm, then 5:45, but we made it.
Of course along with way my mother shared with me that she had put off some vehicle maintenance and would need to get her car in for service once things settled down. That explained why I thought the brakes were spongy. And oh yeah, the airbag light in dad’s Lincoln is on and it’s under recall, so that will need to get done. Yeah. That’s it. Let’s put off these things when we’re going to DRIVE FOR 1300 MILES in two days!
Overall I hated driving mom’s car,and if I have a choice I won’t be doing it again. Aside from the spongy brakes, the tires were pretty worn, and not up to what I would have considered a long wet drive, and the driving position is much higher than it would appear from the outside.
I was thrilled to get back into my Mustang...