Advice for Tollways…

So, yesterday was the day of our heading to Chicago’s Orchard Field to do a bit of passenger unloading, and along the way, a couple of lessons were learnt along the way.

Always have change in your car

So, uh, yeah, Tollways tend to have unattended booths at on- and off-ramps. They also have attended mainline booths where you give a human being the money. It used to be that they had unattended lanes on the mainline booths, but those have gone the way of the dodo in deference to Open Road Tolling – where users of the major electronic tolling systems – Illinois’ iPass and the east coast’s ezPass can just go through at full speed.

Just to show you how things have changed, here are a couple of pictures of toll plazas – the first was taken in 2005, and the second was taken yesterday – this is the same plaza, but going in opposite directions – 2005 is from southbound and yesterday’s is from northbound.

Old toll plaza on Illinois Tollway New toll plaza on Illinois Tollway

Anyway, we didn’t have an issue with this plaza as we gave the attendant the $1.50 toll – but made a slight mistake in giving it to them as a dollar and two quarters. I had looked at the toll schedule and made a big mistake in assuming that it would be an attended plaza, only to get to the exit to see that it says “EXACT CHANGE ONLY” – my exact words then were “oh shit” because I realized we didn’t have the 80¢ in change – we only had 50¢ in change with us. Between three people.

After a bit of panicking, the decision was made to then skip the toll and sort it out later (I have the receipt from my sorting out the 80¢ at 1:05 PM yesterday). Thankfully, they allow you to pay a missed toll online if it was an accidental miss for cases like this, and they didn’t even charge administration fees or penalties for making good on the situation. I have to admire the Illinois State Toll Highway Administration for that (also the rebuilt section of the tollway is awesome, with freshened lanes and everything, plus the oases are vastly improved over the dark, dank places they were back in the early 90s). 🙂

Now, there is plenty of change in the car; only finding a place to store it is a bit of an issue (it’s currently in the area for the cigarette lighter).

If you are going to lose something, make sure it’s cheap

Now, I know that you are thinking that I went and lost something totally important like my wallet or my camera – I didn’t lose those items. However, I did lose something I’d been using every day for a few months now. My pedometer is probably sitting either in an office or still on the bathroom floor at Orchard Field. Yes, I had been wearing it to keep track of how much walking I was doing in the airport, but when I got out of the toilets, it wasn’t on my waist anymore.

I was going to go back for it, but I was asked if it was terribly expensive – I said it was like $2 when I got it, and the response was to just let it go and get a new one. So, on my way back home, I stopped off at a Wal-Mart and picked up a new one – it was $4.88 and is actually much easier to read than the old one, and it has this goal tracking function on it; I haven’t explored too much on that.

Not stopping saves a lot of time

Yes, I know the rule about taking a break every couple of hours of driving, but for the most part, I didn’t drive and the driver we had wasn’t going to let me drive on the Illinois roads (I was even saying that if I drove from picking them up, we’d swap drivers at the first exit after the state border; I didn’t want to drive in Illinois myself). We left quite early – before it was light as a matter of fact – stopped at the bakery to pick up some doughnuts for road food, and went on our way to pick up the driver.

The reason we left so early was that being the Friday morning before Christmas, it was bound to be nutso on the roads – as it turned out, there was hardly any traffic going the same direction, but there was plenty of it going the other way – both in the city here (in a normal congested area), and on the tollway. Even the construction on the tollway didn’t slow traffic down.

Now, with the improved oases, this actually makes you want to stop there and take a break – they have all the amenities – everything from gas to Chinese takeaway to Starbucks and even Auntie Annie’s Pretzels. It used to be they just had Wendy’s and Baskin Robbins ice cream; now it’s a modern stopping point for people to take a break from the road. As part of the travel time, I think we kind of figured in a stop at the oasis for a break, but we didn’t stop, so wound up at the airport a full three hours before the flight was scheduled to take off (they didn’t leave until almost 2 hours after scheduled and first arrived at the gate after sitting for an hour on the tarmac at the destination airport).

All said, even with my stopping at Wal-Mart on the way back, I got home by 1pm, having heard Metallica, Nirvana and The Smiths on the radio – in fact, the first CD I’ve burnt for the road has just Metallica on it. 😉

One last lesson…

This is one that about 99.99999% of y’all won’t care about, but I had noticed that there’s been mentions of this happening in other places, and I was somewhat surprised at seeing it on the Tollway.

There is a new road font out there called Clearview; it’s designed to be more visible than the old font, and I have to say that I like Clearview – it stands out and is quite easy to read. If you want more information on it, there was an article in the New York Times a couple of months ago, and if you want to see a lot more signs with Clearview on them, check out the AAroads.com blog – just know that some of the folks there don’t like it very much…

As for my experience with it, the first sign I saw with it was one advising that if there was congestion to go to another exit, then I saw that there were exit signs further south that used the font. Here is a sample of that –

Clearview on I-294

Yeah, I’m a roadgeek, so? 😉