Toll Road of Dooooom

Toll Troll

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.


7 thoughts on “Toll Road of Dooooom

  1. Welcome to Chelsea, Michigan! I found your blog because I run a local website,, and have daily online searches for news and blogs related to the topic.

    How long have you been on the road to get here? My in-laws live on the east coast, and I’m always super annoyed at the tolls on the way out there as well. Luckily, my husband is used it and always has the requisite cash, but I’ll be curious to hear what happens with your 85 cent IOU. You can’t possibly be the first one?

    Hope you enjoy your stay here!

  2. Thanks for the good wish, Leslie. 🙂 We’ve been on the road for a week, but that’s because we’re taking it in small pieces and making lots of stops along the way. Normally, it would be a two-day drive from our home in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We made it often as kids.

    I’ll post an update when I find out what results from our efforts to post-pay these tolls.

  3. My best friend Angie and I were recently road-tripping through the Chicago/Indiana area during a blizzard (it’s a VERY long story including many canceled flights). The blizzard made visibility and merging lanes difficult and before we could do anything, we accidentally went through the toll booth without paying. The only information I could find on paying a missed Indiana toll was on your blog. I just wanted to check with you on a few things, if you don’t mind.
    1. It sounds like Indiana basically writes off any missed tolls, am I correct in assuming that we do not need to pay the toll if we were not able to pay it the first time?
    2. Did you receive a ticket from Indiana?
    3. Do you still have the contact information for the Indiana Tollway Customer Service Center?
    Thanks for putting the information out there for everyone!

  4. Hi Julie –

    Glad to hear a missed toll was the worst thing to come out of your blizzard driving experience. Here’s the best I can do to answer your questions:

    1. That is what the email I received from them makes it sound like, but I can’t guarantee it.
    2. No, I didn’t receive a ticket because I did send in my payment.
    3. The mailing address for the Indiana Toll people can be found here:
    For an email address, I used

    Good luck!

  5. Hey, way cool! And while I appreciate your vote of confidence, my poor blog doesn’t even get enough traffic to kill grass. 😉 But someday, ah! Someday…

    Thanks for the comment. 🙂

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