There are approximately 2,038 road miles between Placerville and Chicago. When you factor in four miles needed to locate the historical Wyoming Frontier Prison at Rawlins, Wyo., five miles searching for an Outback Steakhouse in Cheyenne, and two extra miles including an illegal u-turn at Gallally, Neb. (missed the exit for the motel), the total distance driven last week was 2,049 miles.
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The purpose of this cross-country solo excursion was to return my daughter’s car to her. She’s been without personal transportation in the Windy City since attending and recently finishing grad school. Public transportation was sufficient and less expensive. Now, she has a full-time job (thank you God) and needs her wheels back.
A card discovered in my luggage upon returning home read: “Thank you for taking the time (and patience) to drive my car to Chicago and for spending time with me. Not every dad would do what you did, and I just want you to know that I appreciate all that you do for me, especially your support.”
She may have something there. Two and half days listening to the radio and playing Candy Crush on my iPhone to pass the time was rather monotonous. If not for the diversions, one could easily be driven to insanity or off the road in the case of the latter.
I discovered small communities along the way like Winnemucca, Nev. featuring a hearty steak and egg dinner for only $6.80 (including tax). And then there was Rawlins, its only claim to fame, the Wyoming Frontier Prison. What the heck, I needed gas anyway.
There was a foul odor as I drove through the Cornhusker state. It was dark so I couldn’t identify the source. After spending a night in Ogallala, Neb. (try saying that three times in a row), I enjoyed a quick breakfast and read a copy of the local newspaper, The North Platte Telegraph. It provided greater insight to the area including this headline: “Hog virus devastating — piglets’ deaths cut into pork supplies.” That might explain the smell wafting along Interstate 80.
I knew I was close to my final destination when the highway sign read “Welcome to Iowa — Gateway to Illinois.” Or was that the sign for the Mississippi River? After 14 hours in a car, all highway signs become a blur.
The new home for the vehicle I was commandeering was 918 Winona Street, Chicago. Free on-street parking in the city is difficult to find. According to my daughter, it’s not unusual to see cars parked in the same spaces for weeks if the owner doesn’t need to move it. After scouring her neighborhood for 20 minutes the night of my arrival, I finally opted to pay six bucks for 12 hours in a pay lot three blocks from the apartment.
Concern the car would still be there in the morning was replaced with concern over walking to my daughter’s apartment at 1:30 a.m. in 23 degree weather. The last time Chicago experienced a March this cold, Dwight Eisenhower was president.
“We need to register the car and get my new plates at the DMV,” my daughter announced two days later.
This could only mean one thing. We would need to give up our parking space.
“Is it too far to walk?” I asked.
“It’s about a 30-minute drive from here,” she replied.
Returning from that memorable father/daughter experience found ourselves trolling the neighborhood again for another available parking space. It was then I would witness not one, but two miracles. We located a parking space and my daughter successfully parallel parked her car.
“Let me see how much space there is behind you,” I said, flinging the car door open while trying to mask the anxiety in my voice.
Parallel parking on her first attempt may have been a fluke, or perhaps she really is a good city driver. At least that’s what I hoped when I read over the insurance policy now in her name. Mission accomplished with the successful transfer of the car, title and ceremonial license plate swap.
“Have you driven the car?” I asked during a recent telephone call.
“Not yet,” she replied. “I don’t want to give up the parking space.”
I’ll save the thank-you card as a keepsake of our time together — both inside and out of the car.
Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Wednesday.