We returned from a road trip from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh last night. We went to Pittsburgh to attend the lovely wedding of Jason Hong, a friend of ours from Berkeley quizbowl, who is now a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. We stopped for the night outside Toledo on the way there and outside Milwaukee on the way back.
Random observations in roughly chronological order.
1. Every road in Chicago is under construction simultaneously, or so it seems.
2. Toll roads in Indiana and Ohio are maintained much better than toll roads in Illinois, and better than non-toll roads in their respective states (though overall, the roads in Indiana were in pretty good condition, one probably cannot attribute this to the new private owners)
3. Open road tolling in Illinois will, once fully implemented, improve the situation before construction, but the place is a mess in the interim. The Indiana and Ohio system (pay on entrance and exit) results in a lot less congestion than making every driver stop periodically and pay $0.80 (not $0.75 or $1.00, but $0.80 ... which requires at least four coins for those of us without fifty cent pieces ... why not $0.87 just to maximize annoyance and delay).
4. There are a lot of trucks on the intercity part of the interstate system, it seemed close to 50% of all traffic in places. There are a lot of trucks for Ashley Furniture especially. Who knew so much furniture was being purchased.
5. There are a lot of Harley-Davidson dealers in Wisconsin, yet not so many motorcyclists on the road.
6. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an interesting museum, if over-priced, but Cleveland runs the risk of that being its only claim to fame (much like Cooperstown). I'm glad we went but see no reason to return.
7. Pittsburgh is a surprisingly pleasant and interesting place. I have viscerally hated the place since the 1979 World Series (as every loyal Baltimorean is supposed to ), but the architecture and landscape of the city makes it very interesting. The churches are especially enormous, I suppose every industrialist during the city's prime tried to out-compete the others by making their own church larger than the last. Of course it is also very affordable, indicating demand for the place isn't very high, but the air was clean, and the image of it as an smoke-filled industrial town are clearly from the past not the present. Still a number of the buildings still bear the coal and dirt from a previous era, and could stand to be cleaned somehow. The triple-decker roads, where the top deck of the bridge goes into a tunnel once it crosses the river is a real trip.
8. Many restaurant chains remain regional. The advantage of going out of town is the opportunity to try restaurants you have no opportunity to partake of at home. Chain restaurants we like now that we had never tried before: Bob Evans and Culvers.
9. Columbus, Ohio, where we visited and were given the tour by my friend Benn Coifman is larger than I imagined, and a lot like Minneapolis-St. Paul (Big 10 university in state capital that is dominated by insurance industry). The population in town is over 700,000, (similar to the combined population of Minneapolis and St. Paul.) The topiary there is both surprising and, like so many works of art, an indication of people with too much time on their hands. I knew Benn was a Lego fan, but I think Benn has more Legos than the Lego store.
10. Milwaukee is also a particularly nice town, the neighborhoods near Lake Michigan on the north side of town are particularly attractive, and the housing stock seems in good condition ... better than where Richie Cunningham lived.