Onward in our epic journey!
Yesterday we left Madison, Wisconsin for the most distant locale on our trip: Chelsea, Michigan. My father’s family has been here since shortly after they hopped off their respective German boats, though that’s been several generations ago. Our arrival brings the town’s population up to a round 4,400. (Oooooh.)
But to get here, we had to travel down around the tip of Lake Michigan, through Chicago, and back up again via Interstates 90 and 94. Much to our dismay, the interstates there are currently toll roads. I couldn’t tell you why – they certainly don’t seem to be in especially good shape.
The first toll stop we came to snuck up on us. No sign, just a spot where you could pull off and pay a toll – but only if you wanted to. We were already past it before we realized what it was. I’m sure there was a camera somewhere shooting a picture of our license plate so they could send us a ticket. Swell.
The second toll stop was easier to figure out; if you didn’t stop, you couldn’t continue traveling. Much more logical that way. We scraped the bottoms of our purses, wallets, and seat cushions to come up with the required $0.65 and thought to ourselves, “uh oh.”
We don’t carry cash anymore, as a general rule. Who needs cash, these days? Credit cards or checks make life so much easier. While I was in Europe, you could even use your bank card to buy pops out of machines, or newspapers from stands. It was wonderful.
And so we came to toll stop three. We pulled up, looking guilty and hopeless about our lack of cash. The woman in the booth just laughed, though, and told us we could pay online within 7 days. She gave us a little ticket with the toll stop info on it, and off we went.
Wonderful! think we. This just got a lot easier. We don’t need cash after all!
Well, that was Illinois. (Thank you, Illinois, for making tolls as un-yucky as possible.)
The Chicago Skyway had its own special toll. The troll in the toll booth there wasn’t nearly as happy to help us out, but did anyway. Turns out you can’t pay that toll online, you have to mail it in. Oh well. Toll plus stamp still isn’t so bad.
And then we arrived in Indiana. Up we roll to the first toll stop. “Hello, we’re sorry but we ran out of cash. Can you please give us the info so we can send in our payment?”
“No, we only take cash,” says the toll troll.
“I’m sorry, maybe you didn’t understand, but we don’t have any cash. Not any. Well, three cents, but I guess that isn’t enough. What are we supposed to do?”
The toll troll purses her lips and looks like we just spat on her wedding cake.
“I’ll need your license and registration,” she says in her most intimidating voice.
Ye gads! Are we being arrested for not having $0.85??
She takes our info and retreats to her booth where she clacks away at some machine for awhile, shortly reappearing with a ticket (her word – looked like a receipt to me) showing who we were and that we had failed to pay. It looked almost like the other forms we had received, but there was no information on it about how to pay.
“How do we pay this?” we asked.
“I don’t know. Most people pay cash like they’re supposed to,” she replies. “They’ll probably send you a bill.”
And thus, off of the toll road we went.
What a mess! If I hadn’t been set up by the wonderful system in Illinois, I might have expected it. We can’t be the only people who try to operate cashless, or Illinois would never have set such a lovely system up to start with. Do the people in Indiana know that they have a trap set like that? If my “bill” arrives with an amount due of more than $0.85, believe me, they will hear about it. I can be a toll troll too.