Monday, July 23, 2012

Forget the bridge to Canada, let's build a bridge to Wisconsin.

For those that don't follow Michigan politics, the title is a reference to a recent hubbub in the state.  The Govenor has approved the building of a second bridge into Canada from Detroit.  Many people are up in arms about this.  I don't have a dog in this fight and this isn't a political blog.  But my point is if the governor wants to try a bridge with a little less political unrest...

Governor Snyder : you need to build a bridge to Wisconsin.
You may be reading this and saying "Isn't there one of those already?"

Yeah, yeah, sure, but it's way up in the UP (upper peninsula for those not Mid-west native).  What I'm proposing is a southern bridge (see orange line) to bypass Chicago.

[If you are from Chicago, I am about to write an entire post that is very unflattering to your homeland.  I'd say I'm sorry, but you've driven through it, you have to know it's not all sunshine and unicorn farts.]

Thursday last week I drove out to Green Bay to do a tasting for our second reception.  Driving from Kalamazoo to Geebs is a 6+ hour drive.  The plus signifies whatever ass-hattery Chicago decides to throw your way.  Usually plenty of road rage in my case.

That little loop down and around the tip of Lake Michigan got all the more infuriating when, starting my return trip on Friday, I got to spend a good hour listening to WGRD radio.   That's right.  I listened to a Grand Rapids MICHIGAN radio station, clear as day, for a good hour of my drive through WISCONSIN.  If Waukesha and western Michigan are so close that I can listen to Kalamazoo radio while munching on fresh-out-the-cow cheese, I contend that there really shouldn't be a six hour drive separating the two.  But darned if that six hours didn't give me plenty of time to mind-write this post.

First things first, let's talk about Chicago.  I'm fairly convinced that the actual city is about the size of a postage stamp, but the rest of the state has learned that no one pays any mind to anything else in Illinois, so they all say they're from a "suburb" of the Windy City.  Add all those into the mix and that postage stamp expands to take up the roughly same amount of space as the entire surface of the moon.  And every square inch of that is clogged with traffic, construction, tolls up the wazoo, and people who clearly had a unit in drivers ed on how to lack any human decency whatsoever.

I don't know why Chicago has any posted speed limits.  No one pays any attention to them.  In fact, it was only because I knew I was going to write this post that I bothered to verify their existence when I drove through (they're there, but they're still a joke).  There are but two speeds in Chicago:  "Break-neck" and "Amoebas evolve faster than this."  And you know which zone you're in based on whether the other cars around you are moving.

Construction zones are never great, no matter where they are.  But sometimes you'll see people working in a construction zone, and then you can be all "oh, well, they're just trying to make the world roads a better place."  Unless you're in Chicago, a city which during the summer is always at least 67% under construction.  I have never seen a single construction worker actually constructing things while driving through the city.  But I have spent 2 hours playing red-light green-light in bumper to bumper traffic because there's only one lane open which is actually the shoulder of the road, so every time you green-light you get to listen to the rumble strip you've been forced to drive on top of for 30 miles.

Seeing people working in the construction zones might also ease my mind about all the tolls I pass on my way through.  WHERE IS ALL THAT MONEY GOING if no one is ever working on the roads!?  It couldn't possibly be construction worker paychecks or construction supplies.  My best guess is that it gets split 50-50 between building more toll booths and keeping some crazy, toothless man up to his gills in those orange construction barrels, which he distributes willy-nilly throughout the city based upon what the voices in his head tell him would make the prettiest pattern.

I wouldn't even mind how many tolls there were, if it wasn't that every toll costs a couple bucks.  Seriously?  I would totally get it if I was spending any time in the city or the state itself, but I am just passing through, and I can never manage that for less than fifteen dollars in quarters.  Even then it's not just that Chicago is robbing me of my money; do you know how many gum balls or little glitter temporary tattoos, or claw machine games I could purchase with all those quarters!?
Now we'll never know.  THANKS, Chicago.
Lastly there's the other drivers.  I'll be the first person to tell you that I have many wonderful people in my life who I consider "Friendly Illinois Brethren."  But let's be real, that's not what Wisconsinites really mean when they say FIB and we all know it.  I have to believe that not every person from Illinois is an asshole on the road, but without a doubt there are enough of them to ruin the reputation for everyone else.
  • They beep at you to go faster when there is a car 6 feet in front of you.  (apparently I will just magically drive through that truck then?  okay great.)  
  • They refuse to give you a safe amount of space to change lanes... or refuse to let you change lanes altogether.  Screw your exit coming up, they have better things to do than acknowledge they aren't the only person on the road.  
  • FIBs change lanes in front of you, while both cars are going 75+ MPH, with less than two feet of space between your vehicle and theirs, and then immediately slow down  All while you slam on your breaks, scream an obscenity, and pray that the dude in the car behind yours doesn't rear-end you.
  • Worst of all?  When you see a "Right Lane Ends 2 Miles" sign, every other person will merge left at the first safe opportunity.  A FIB waits until the lane has ceased to exist and then will drive another half a mile on the shoulder of the roads, beeping and flipping people off for not letting them into the bumper to bumper bottle-necked traffic.  Here's a pro-tip: the bottle-necking wouldn't be half as horrible if we didn't all have to stop the one open lane of traffic to let a FIB in now.
I can't even tell you how many tiny fits I have thrown in my car driving through this stupid city.

Now, let's not be cruel (er... more cruel).  Chicago is a fun place to visit.  I just no longer believe you should be forced to drive through it if you're not planning on stopping there.

So naturally, we'll need a new bridge.  Imagine how great that would be for Michigan AND Wisconsin tourism!  I could pick Michigan cherries and buy fresh Wisconsin cheese curds in the same day and STILL have time left over to catch a movie.  And you could even put a toll booth at the entrance to the bridge.  Just one on each end.  But that one could truly be "expensive" and as long as you accept debit cards instead of quarters people would still pay it in order to forgo Chicago. I would honestly pay 35 bucks without blinking an eye to drive across the lake instead of putting up with FIBs.  Probably more.  Think of all the revenue and jobs that would bring the state.

And the best part by far?  With Wisconsin starting a tourism campaign to match Michigan's regarding how the state is also shaped like a mitten*,  Michigan and Wisconsin with a bridge joining the two could TOTALLY be like a pair of those awesome mittens you had as a kid that threaded through your sleeves so you didn't loose them.

Clearly this is a win-win-win for everybody involved.

Do you live in the midwest? 
Tell the truth, how much would you happily pay to use a bridge 
that let you skip all of Chicago's stupid roads?

*If you are from Michigan and you are thinking about hitting that comment button to tell me how Wisconsin totally doesn't look like a mitten, let me politely stop you right there.
When I was growing up, Miss Wisconsin came to my classroom and taught us WIsconsin geography by having us all hold up our hands.  I come from the crux of the palm and the thumb, Green Bay.  The thumb, for those of you who don't see it, represents Door County, a tourist trap if ever there was one. 
In my opinion, it looks much more like a mitten than Michigan does.  To fit a hand in a Michigan mitten,it would have to have a super mutant thumb, like Megan Fox.  But you know what?  If it helps you explain to people where you're from within the state, more power to you.  And know what else?  Most people have two hands - why can't the nation follow suit (The UP doesn't count - there is no way anyone could ever convince me that looks anything like a hand.  Admit it to yourself and move on.)

well, maybe a hand after a horrible shop accident...  yeah still no.


Kate Y said...

I fully support your movement and will gladly sign any petition that comes my way regarding it! :)

Rikki said...

I am laughing hysterically at my desk as I drive through Chicago far too often and have to agree with all of the above. It's ridiculous. Especially the speed limit thing. If the speed limit is 55, why I am being glared at if I'm going 70 in the right hand lane just I don't get rear-ended?! Ugh...

Jilly said...

Door County may be a tourist trap. It would still be pure, clean and innocent if all of the FIB's didn't go up there all summer... though FIB trapping is a REALLY fun game :)

Kp said...

Oh I have no issue with DC being a tourist trap, and in fact, I am more than happy to be trapped in it for extended amounts of time. Just clarifying for the audience.

I feel like most of this post was a parody of the Family Guy episode about Leafers.

Queen Holly the Magnificent said...

Your idea of the hobo with voices in his head placing the neon barrels was hilarious. I feel like that every time I go to Pittsburgh.