Thankfully I slept deeply and well at the hotel, and woke refreshed enough to brave the arterial again to get take out breakfast from McDonalds. That's two times in less than 12 hours, girls! That should hold you for the next 2 years. From the looks on their faces above, obviously breakfast did not meet their expectations. The girls are used to fresh eggs and scratch-made pancakes at home, so the fast food pasteurized "liquid egg product" and hotcakes with Propylene Glycol Monoester and artificial flavor were too foreign to be palatable. On the otherhand, Grammy and I had two yummy oatmeals each, and I got a giant iced coffee.
A little after 10am a college intern with Enterprise rent-a-car picked me up and took me back to a local office up in Des Plaines, IL to sign paperwork. The Des Plaines location is one of many suburban Enterprise offices with a small inventory that mostly rent to locals through auto repair shops that need loaner cars for their customers. I saved $700.00 in taxes and fees on our 15 day rental by renting from a neighborhood Enterprise vs. the airport location. Here's an example of the insane amount of fees I would have been charged (per day of rental, so add 'em up!) if I'd rented at the airport:
CUSTOMER FACILITY CHARGE 8.00/DAY
CONCESSION RECOVERY FEE 11.10 PCT (16.99/DAY)
LESSOR TAX 2.75 USD/RNTL
AUTO RENTING OCCUPATION TAX 8.50/DAY
MPEA TAX 10.20/DAY
MASS TRANSIT TAX 1.70/DAY
CHICAGO TRANSACTION TAX 13.60/DAY
On top of this, the base rate for the same vehicle was an additional $52.00 PER DAY more expensive from the airport location! That's before all the fees! We're talking $113.39 daily total from the Des Plaines, IL location 3 miles from the airport, vs. a $214.77 daily total from the Enterprise location at O'Hare Airport. Of course that was just the price I was quoted. Once I applied my AAA discount and developed a rapport with the manager, the price decreased even more. Still painfully expensive though, but that's Chicago for you.
From the Enterprise location I drove back to the hotel and had us all checked out right on the dot at 11am.
I love Enterprise, but was disappointed that they gave me a vehicle with less than a half tank of gas (and instruction to return it with same), so within half an hour of hitting the road I steered us into a Costco to fill up at the gas station. I also bought a case of water for the back of the car (a travel essential) and some snacks for the road, as well as getting the girls something from the food court because it was almost lunch time. I bought a Quinoa salad to take to dinner at my Aunt's house that evening, but didn't have a way to keep it cool for the 3 hour drive, so I grabbed two plastic bags from the meat department, an empty cardboard box, and then filled up the bags with ice at the food court soda machine. I put the quinoa salad in the box with the ice bags and off we went. Free ice chest!
Instead of heading southeast toward the city on I-90 which we saw was at a standstill, or taking the tri-state tollway, we decided to continue on a nearby arterial going south. Although we made progress at 45 miles per hour, traffic lights interrupted us every mile or so. We made another stop at a Trader Joe's to use the toilets and stock up on some favorite foods, then gave up and headed to the tollway with coins in hand.
Miles of flat, wide highway stretched as far as we could see. At the place we turned off to head toward Kokomo, windfarms rose above the cornfields in all directions. The girls tried to count them, but there were just too many, and it was impossible to see where they began and where they ended.
We lost an hour during our drive, going from Central to Eastern time zone. 12 of Indiana's 92 counties follow Central time, and 80 follow Eastern, and there wasn't any signage along the highway about it, so I wasn't really sure when it happened. When we got to Kokomo I manually reset the car's clock and my "dumbphone," but my iPad reset itself.
My Aunt and Uncle still live in the same house they had built in the early 1960's, a comfortable rambler in a leafy subdivision of Kokomo, Indiana, which is a factory town about an hour North of Indianapolis.
In the photo above, at the left, is my uncle. He is 85 and has suffered a number of debilitating strokes, leaving him unable to speak. He's led a remarkable life, and has overcome much hardship. He was born in Serbia and witnessed his mother and sister die during the Nazi invasion, he and his father were shipped off to a Nazi labor camp and starved, then they made a daring escape to Italy, where he joined the Army fighting against the Nazis. After the war he was able to gain citizenship to the US along with his father, where they worked multiple jobs and focused on learning English. My Uncle set his sights on being a doctor, to save lives and bring healing to the world in honor of his mother and sister, and all the other innocents who lost their lives in WWII. It took nearly a decade of hard work, having arrived in the US without a dime or the ability to speak English, but he finally got through college and medical school. He did devote his life to helping others, made many sacrifices, and he and my aunt and cousins lived pretty frugally through the years, giving money to charities and those in need, instead of upgrading their lifestyle as so many do once they are comfortable financially.
Although my Uncle is a shadow of his former self due to the strokes, my aunt remains a spit-fire of energy. Here it is late at night, and she and Little K are gorging themselves on Chicago-style popcorn: cheddar cheese corn mixed with carmel corn. Meanwhile A is under the desk playing "Hospital Haste" on my iPad which I'd set up to charge for the night. It's been a long day and I'm tired... why is no one else ready to turn in?