Let's go south

Illinois -> Kentucky -> Tennessee - > Georgia - > Floryda

...from zero to 1186 miles.

We took off on early Thursday afternoon, we got to Florida on Sunday around noon, sleeping in 3 cheap motels on our way. Forecasts were trying to scare us off with flash floods and snow storms but (this time) we had luck. Atlanta didn't have luck getting 1 inch of snow which made it to the breaking news, alerts and all the kids were praying for the snow to make it through the night which would save them from school.

Route 66 doesn't exist - wrote Wojciech Orliński. If he was driving south from Plano, Illinois he could have just as well said "Route 47 doesn't exist". Before we made it to the interstate we were driving  almost 90 miles through the corn fields. Looks like Illinois doesn't have much more, only Chicago and corn fields. At least from our point of view. Kentucky looks pretty much the same.

On the interstates huge trucks are driving much faster than we are. One of them had 11 double sets of wheels, so 44 of them altogether. Nice bill to pay when it comes to changing tires. We also saw a truck pulling another truck which had one more truck attached. What's interesting is that as long as regular cars are pretty much obeying speed limits, exceeding maybe by 5-10 miles per hour, trucks are driving as fast as possible. We tried not to drive faster than 50-55 mph, depending on the road, where the limits where 55-70 mph. We are still beginners when it comes to driving with a trailer and also Eddie's tires should have retired some time ago. After we got used to towing the trailer we accelerated to 60 mph and we plan to keep it as our limit.

Mount Vernon, IL
We got to Mount Vernon, southern Illinois after 6 hours drive. Here in the US to get a gas, eat or find a motel you need to get off the highway. It is a bit annoying when you tow a trailer as you need to do this every 250 -300 mil (fuel consumption on the entire route to Florida was less than 11 miles per galon which is aorund 22 liters per 100 km). Driving and maneuvering in tiny, crowded towns is a challenge in the beginning. Than we got used to it, maybe because they all look exactly the same. Exit from the highway to the main road with two lanes in each direction, turning to plazas with McDonald's, Wal-mart (in a wealthier area) or Save a Lot (in poorer), Wendy's, Burger King, or - less often - China Buffet, laundromat, etc. popular business loops will additionally have a few gas stations and motels.

In Mount Vernon we picked Motel 6 - one of the most popular cheap chains in the US. We listened to Orlinski's recommendation and power of internet. It was not as cheap as we expected (less than 40 USD which turned out to be 63 USD after taxes), and unfortunately without breakfast. Room was clean, motel almost empty. Not an adventure at all.

Manchester, TN
Next morning we managed to take off quite early, but with shopping in Wal-mart and breakfast at Wendy's we didn't really start before noon. This day ended for us in Manchester, Tennessee. We had a plan for a minute to stay overnight in Mount Vernon, Tennessee and until Florida sleep only in other Mount Vernons, but it was too far. In Manchester we stayed (of course!) in Scottish Inn and it was so far the worst motel experience. It was really cold, heating didn't work, door wouldn't lock, shower was broken and continental breakfast turned out to be muffins and coffee. However the price with coupons (see "Tips and advice" section) was the lowest on our motel route - less than 40 USD after tax. 

Next stop was in Georgia. Very nice state, green woods, quite warm. Not so far north, close to Florida. Maybe we'll move here some day? As not much happen that day, few more observations. Roads - everywhere - so good that it's nice to drive. Traffic jam - one and not for too long, there is no problem crossing even big cities like Atlanta.

Atlanta, GA
Just one tiny thing. There's no problem crossing the towns, because there are more and more lanes on the highway. Usually there are 2 or, more often, 3. We're cool with that. We're driving on the right one, trucks are passing us by on the middle one, and the left one is occupied by even faster trucks. 4 or 5 lanes - we're still good. Sometimes you have to switch 2 or 3 lanes here or there, but we learn it fast. Eddie is well equipped as far as the hitch goes so it's quite stable, even during fast maneuvering. Comfort level gets low after lane 6 appears. 7 is not nice either as everyone changes from left to right and back and we have to do this sometimes too. 8 - so far that was the most we had - was not cool at all. Luckily it was just a few miles. The secret was to stick to more or less 3rd or 4th lane from left to survive. 

Ashburn, GA
In Georgia we stayed in Ashburn in Super 8. Second best when it comes to cheapest motel chains. This time we paid a bit over 40 USD after taxes. Room was clean, breakfast was good enough (probably it would've been better if we hadn't overslept). Out of motels it was the winner (Baymont O'Hare was of course better but it's a different category).

Eustis, FL
Our next stop was already in Florida. Our plan to leave Ashburn at dawn of course failed. We got to breakfast just before 9, we left motel just after 10. We stopped at two Welcome Centers, one was fake, 2 miles before the state line, the other was real. We left it with hands full of brochures, leaflets and coupons, which helped us find a cheap accomodation at the campgound in Eustis (120 USD per week with all hookups - water, dump, electricity and even basic cable tv). Our plan is not to stay anywhere more expensive.

Kids were perfect all the way. Kalina, like Kalina, either slept or smiled. Maciek talked all the time ond sang a lot (journey is sponsored by a word "why" and a song about a snowman). He was also quite an activity leader. He would tell us what to do: now boys are singing and mom is clapping her hands, or: dad doesn't sing, mom sings and I clap, and so on, and so on, for loooong hours.

Equipment (knock on the wood) is doing well too. Fuel consumption doesn't hurt that much if you remember that the best fuel 93, which we use cost around 3 PLN per liter, sometimes even less (which is almost twice cheaper than in Poland). The cost is more or less like a trip with daweoo lanos to Italy we went on couple years ago.

Eddie too takes it well. We were afraid of strong wind but only once or twice we really felt it. As we mentioned the additional equipment (sway control), which we bought together with our trailer probably makes a difference. Inside everything was in place except for one cabinet which despite our efforts kept opening, so we finally gave up and left it open, so it's now a shelf. Also we scrubbed the asphalt once - when the road goes down the trailer goes down and when the car goes up, then the back scrubs the road. We did it leaving one of the plazas along the road, but nothing serious happened. 

Sunday afternoon we checked in Eustis, Florida. Bit further north than we planned but warm and nice enough. And cheap. We will write more about our first days camping in a new entry.


Meet Eddie

Eddie is a creature of 100 faces:

He is also a very busy guy, works in the Russian Market under Palace of Culture in Warsaw (hard job, it was easier in the 90's):

He tried flying boeings, but gave it up after dreamliner:

Eddie decided to take 6 months off. Such vacation is a big deal so transformation was necesarry, pretty much like this:

And that's what he looks like right now:

Chicago, Illinois, 0 miles

O’Hare airport In 'Americans only' line all possible colors of skin. The line starts long before the one for aliens- maybe they gave citizenships to easily. Half of the line is wearing shorts even though it's freezing cold outside. Maybe they're coming back from The Carribbean. Later we notice that to the store they sometimes go in shorts too, no matter what's the weather. So maybw it's not only The Carribbean. We don't know yet if the lack of respect for the weather is local or goes outside Illinois too.

Immigration. Young guy asks how long we want to stay. Half a year. How come? We say we're on parental leave and we want to travel with a trailer around his beautiful country. They're quite expensive - he notices. We don't have high expectations. He says good luck and stamps our passports with a stamp we hoped for (six month minus one day).

Renting a car (Budget). Taught by experience from few different countries, more or less civilized, we expect half an hour of formalities. We're ready to go in less than 10 minutes. The only problem was that to get to the rental place you need to get on the bus which was not that easy with over 220 lbs of luggage, stroller, car seat and two kids. Luckily cousins are waiting for us at the airport. Praise the cousins! KIA Soul accepted the cargo with a light grunt. Miles&More pays for the first two day. After that it gets more painfull...

Hotel (Baymont O'Hare). Checking in I say our last name. Oh, you're from Poland - said shift supervisor in Polish. Name at the nametag sounded familiar. Paul from Tarnow attacked us with optimism. We had a friendly chat (I'm a fan of Legia, they're doing good, I used to see them play in Cracow - said Paul), and than gave us the key. Miles&More is still paying.

Jetleg. Republic after being awake for 24 hours, we reached our destination and fell asleep right away. It was 2  am local time. Maciek woke up two hours later. We pretended we didn't hear him and we just kept sleeping. Surprisingly it worked - the issue of changing the time zone was over. Kalina, 3 months old back than, didn't really notice anything. This time it was not that easy. On the first day Maciek woke up at 3. On the second and third at 4. And there was no way to ignore him. On the other hand he kept falling asleep at 5 pm and there was no way to wake him up. It wasn't until the day, we were supposed to  pick up the trailer early in the morning, that Maciek finally slept late. Kalina did notice the time zone change but she was much easier to ignore. Second child...

Shopping. Blind old lady in electric wheelchair. ID required when purchaising alcohol if you look under 40. We thought it was federal requirement, but later in 7Eleven it was under 30 (they still asked us, yuppi!). Department with RV accessories (including special toilet paper) in every Walmart. Our first shopping, on top of toilet paper contains hammer, WD40 and two locks for hitch. The size and the assortment of Walmart is a little bit overwhelming and gives a better idea of what Ulrich Beck had in mind when he wrote about risk society.

Taxes. Added afterwards. There's a price tag and there is a price to pay. It was painful especially when paying for a car rental, we found out that there's not only 20% of state tax but also another 20 of airport tax. Taxes are everywhere. We came in January so it's time to do the taxes for last year. Radio, TV, dressed up guys at the crossroads - everyone knows how to pay less. Taxes in US are an interesting topic, especially in popculture (see for example one of the episodes of 2 Broke Girls).

On the highway and not only around Chicago. Cold and windy but sunny. Hundreds of planes over our heads. All streets with Polish signs only. All streets with Spanish signs only. In our hotel at the reception desk works Ewelina (theres one more person except for her and Paul, but this time not from Poland). At information desk in DMV - Bożena. At the door of Ania’s Polish Deli there;s a sign that says "Se busca ayuda para la cocina".

Grand Cherokee. We bought a car from Stanley. From Stasiek actually. He said 5500, we said 4500, he said ok. When we paid he gave us back a hundred "for good luck". Stanley's car was probably 10th that we've seen over 3 days. Lucky us we had an expert on board. Michal (praise the cousins!) knows cars very well. Stanley's GC wasn't the love from the first sight as the mileage on it was 160 000. We've seen other cars with lower mileage but with prices that made us laugh. Stanley was selling his GC to buy a new Lexus. And we thought they had a crisis in the US...

Franek and Eddie. We bought a trailer from an American guy whose last name was Franek, from little town 40 miles from Chicago. He also gave us a little discount, we paid 3600 insteado of 4000. After all he is also almost Polish, his family comes from Karvina in Czech Republic. Very nice place. For over an hour Franek patiently taught us everything and told us to call him if we have any problems. We had lots of problems but we found a guy at our first camping that helped us out. It was a second trailer that we've seen. It took us some 4 hours, including driving to both places.

How are you? Everywhere we go people are nice. In the hotel, in stores, in restaurants, people come up, chat, asked about the kids, wish us good luck. Just like that. Makes a difference. Some even say we're a perfect family, like some older gentelman in Wendy's: son, daughter, mom and dad, not two moms like you see sometimes nowadays. They should make an ideal model out of us to show in Sevres.

Rental extension. We had no problems with hotel, Ewelina gave us "special price", which after taxes was still over 50 USD (not so bad as for O'Hare area anyway). With a car it was worse: the price we got over the phone was 46 USD, but after taxes and insurance it was over 80 USD per day...

DMV. It took us 4 days to buy both car and a trailer. Registration was the stressful part, but with some help from other cousin (praise the cousins!) it took us less than an hour and 325 USD. All we needed was a passport, envelope with an adress and title for both car and a trailer. If Stanley's car was registered in his name instead of his company it would be even cheaper. Unlike we've heard over the phone when we called from Poland we didn'd need insurance to register. We  bought pretty good insurance for car but we did not buy any for the trailer as we couldn't find any insurer that would do this. Maybe we'll do it elswhere.

Bye bye Chicago. We arrived on Saturday evening, Thursday morning we were ready to go. We planned to leave first thing in the morning but we got to Franek at 10. An hour later we started our journey!

Day One

"We don't have dreamliners here in Lufthansa". Have you ever sat on a plane that was aready delayed but was still waiting for some late comers? That's how we started our journey. But this time we were late ones, and surprisingly it wasn't even our fault. It was snowing in Munich. So bad, than our plane could not take off and come to Warsaw to pick us up. From the check-in they sent us to Lufthansa customer service hoping they'd find us another connection. What happened? Is it dreamliner? - we made a joke. We don't have dreamliners here in Lufthansa. It's snowing in Munich - said the lady from Lufthansa (if we had known then what we found out later we couldnhave asked: Is it 1 or 3 inches that you make such a big deal about it?). Anyway, the lady said we could stay in Poland one more day or spend a nit in Munich at carrier's cost if we don't catch our flight.

1939. Terrified by a thought of spending another nit at home, most probably unpacking and repacking our too many suitcases God knows which time, and encouraged by the possibility of seeing Munich we chose night at our German neibours. Thankfully, Lufthansa did great. Just like in 1939*. Just after we got off the plane there was a car waiting for us with a philosophein a driver's seat wi whom we had a little chat on the nature of time (does it depend only on our perception, or is it external, both in mikro - our plane - and makro - life perspective). Thus we made it to passport control and from there, through hallways marked 'authorised personnel only" and elevators operated with key we got on our plane.

So next time yiu seat on the plane waiting for some latecomers, instead of wishing all the worst to  laggard over coffee or duty free shopping or wretch locked in toilet, imagine us. Or fly with LOT and get a business class ticket, than you can wait drinking champaigne - as the loss of our national carrier is covered by our tax money, at least have a nice time**.

There's not much to write about our flight to Chicago, except for the fact, that Lufthansa mixed up something with our seats, fortunately some nice India citizens moved somewhere else so we could seat all together (and Kalina slept in a cot in front of us). Thank you to India for your nice gesture and Lufthansa please see footnote**.

*This blog is not entirely politically correct. For the lack of corectness the authors do not apologize and are not going to bear any responsibility. Even though that writing all the above they had funand did not whisper (as long aswhatever they were writing was funny and the kids were already asleep).

**All the entities interested in advertising through our blog are encoursged to contact us.