Miles driven: 438.5
About five or six years ago I had stopped in my hometown on one of my road trips and was talking to my oldest nephew, who was around 11 at the time. He said he wanted to go on a road trip and I told him I would take him on one when his parents said he was old enough. Turns out the magic age was the summer after he turned 16, which seemed a very long time away at that point. I agreed without much hope that he would still want to go when he was that age.
But here we are! Happily Noah is one of the few who went from good kid to good teenager. Since he’s always been a nature lover, I figured long ago that we would hit some of those states that I have never been to in all my travels: Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and, if we got really daring, all the way to Idaho. This is the basic route I came up with:
My preparations for this trip have been a little different from previous ones, when I spent an extensive amount of time planning the route and a minuscule amount of time thinking about what stuff I would need to bring. Instead of just jumping in the car with Cecily and figuring she had any bases covered that I didn’t, I had to be the Responsible Aunt. I thought about everything I thought we would need and then I pretended to be my mother and thought about everything she would think we would need. I bought snacks, I bought sunscreen, I bought bug spray. Guys…I bought a first aid kit. Now that’s some extreme responsibility right there! Noah’s contribution turned out to be a boatload of fishing supplies and a bag of Swedish fish.
We set out for Day 1 around 8 a.m. and Noah took the first shift so that I would be the one doing the driving when we got near Chicago. As we were pulling out, he informed me that this would be the first time he had driven on the interstate since driver’s ed.
The five hour drive to Chicago went well, with Noah talking about the cool cars we drove by and the different kinds of fish he planned on catching and me trying to decide when would be the best time to spring on him my surprise plans for our evening. Before we left I told Noah we would be passing through Chicago on our way and asked him what he wanted to do there. Turns out he had absolutely no interest in the city. My favorite thing to do in a city is see a play or musical, so I decided to see what was playing. I was absolutely shocked by the perfection that I discovered.
You see, I now teach high school English in my hometown and somehow Noah ended up having me as a teacher this year. The very last unit we did was Macbeth and the whole time I was telling the kids that Shakespeare was meant to be seen and experienced, not just read. Noah tried to convince me that we should therefore just watch the movie version and skip all this reading nonsense, but I persisted in trying to make the words come alive.
So you can imagine my intense delight when I discovered that Macbeth was playing at the Chicago Shakespeare theater on the day we would be there.
Fast forward to halfway through Day 1 and I off-handedly mentioned that we might want to eat an early lunch because we were probably going to be eating an early dinner. “There’s one thing I want you to do with me in the city at 6:30” I said.
“Okay” he said just as off-handedly. And then there was a pause as he realized the trap he had just walked into. “…wait…what is it?”
As I told him his face took on a look of grim acceptance of the inevitable.
We received a fantastic welcome from our cousins who live near Chicago. We arrived to their home and feasted on delicious homemade Mexican food and enjoyed catching up and spending some time with one another.
Then Noah and I were off to the city. Before we left my cousin asked if we knew how to get back and I gave my staple answer: “I have a phone, I’ll be fine.” Fateful words. I forgot my phone charger at their house and after taking the scenic route down Lake Shore Drive on the way to the theater, I had 10% battery remaining. But while on a road trip I don’t really worry about stuff like navigating through Chicago at night without GPS until it’s happening so I just settled in to enjoy the show.
Noah asked me how long it was and when I said two and a half hours he gave me that classic smirk all the men in my family make and said “well looks like I’m about to have a two and a half hour nap!” I just smiled because I had just read (yes, I do read the entire program as soon as I sit down to any play) that the famous magician Teller was the co-director of the production and I knew we were in for quite a show.
We were not disappointed. People were disappearing on stage and even when we watched closely we still couldn’t tell how they did it. The witches were watching everything from above and creating a really eerie tone the whole time, along with Hecate who was the drummer hanging out a few dozen feet above the stage. Of course I loved every single second, but even Noah enjoyed it! At some point he stopped just humoring me and actually got into it, something he would not have been able to do if he hadn’t spent nine weeks learning about the story and the characters. So basically my life is complete.
After the show Noah had to keep reminding me that he can’t weave through a crowd like I can. He doesn’t like crowds because he’s bigger than everyone but he’s too nice to make use of that. His nature is just too full of the milk of human kindness (Macbeth reference for the win!).
So we left and began our own adventure: navigating through unfamiliar Chicago streets at night with a phone at 1%! I had taken screenshots of the directions so we started following the signs for the interstate we wanted and they took us weaving through the city. Then we got on the interstate without knowing just how long we should be on it. Every time I started to decide we had gone too far, up popped another sign or the next road that we needed. Every time Noah unlocked my phone to look at the next set of directions, I thought that would be the time that my phone was dead. Somehow we managed to navigate through several downtown streets, two interstates, and five suburban streets and find our way home without getting lost and with my phone battery still on 1%.
I went to bed feeling quite victorious.