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Author Topic: Phx to Chicago and back  (Read 1363 times)


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    • Illinois Highways Page
Phx to Chicago and back
« on: July 10, 2016, 11:23:12 PM »

Day 1: Phoenix to Gallup.
We left Phoenix about 1:00 PM, taking Loop 303 to I-17, north to I-40 into Gallup.
Nothing much to report, having taken this road dozens of times there is little to see that I havenít already seen. I-17 is a challenging road with curves, long stretches of heavy up and downhill grades. It needs a third lane in each direction all the way from Anthem to Flagstaff but will likely never see it.

Day 2 was Gallup to Tucumcari on I-40, they a little driving around Tuccumcari before we headed up US-54. We made it as far as Liberal KS.

Tuccumcari is almost a ghost town these days. What a pit! The last time I drove around it was about 10 years ago and there was at least a little life left, but now they might as well dig up the ramps from I-40 and bulldoze the place. No one would notice or care. All the decent motels have closed, as have the decent restaurants and gas stations.

US-54 in NM was pretty much the same as the last time I drove it some 30 years ago except the speed limit is higher.

In TX I noticed one of the side roads (RM 3296) marked as a Ranch Road, all others were signed as Farm Roads. I wondered if there is a difference or maybe a policy change that they missed or didn't get to yet. I asked in another thread and it was explained that it is pretty much up to the locals and what kind of area the road serves.

In NM, OK and KS as well as TX US-54 follows the old Rock Island, and I saw a lot more trains than I expected for a single track line. They have pulled all the lineside wires and replaced it with radio links (probably ATCS) and it looks better.

I met a friendly local cop doing speed enforcement in a small town in OK, let me off with a warning for 47/35.

We were too tired to do much when we arrived in Liberal. In the morning (Sunday) we stopped by the aviation museum and the Wizard of Oz place but both didn't open until 1PM so we left. I don't think we missed that much...

On Day 3 we took US-54 all the way across KS and made it to Nevada MO. We were going to go further but all the hotels in the Osage Beach area were booked so we made an early night of it. We had a pretty poor dinner at a local BBQ joint but the beer was cold.

We really enjoyed the road thru KS. US-54 followed the old Rock until Pratt and we saw a couple trains and some elevator switchers. Crossing the Cimarron River valley was spectacular. The railroad bridge was awesome, and would have made for a great picture if it hadn't been raining at the time. Even the wife was enjoying the trip.

We stopped in Wichita and had lunch with our niece, the town was a lot nicer than I remembered. We ate in a funky college dive near the state university campus and had a great burger. After that we got on the road again to Nevada, MO.

On Day 4 we stayed on US-54 to the end at I-72/US-36 north of Pittsfield IL. The traffic thru the Lake of the Ozarks area was heavy but not too bad. Having lived in the Chicago area all my life gives me some differing perspectives on traffic.

While not as interesting as Kansas (now that is a sentence I never thought I would write!) Missouri was pretty nice. It was a lot wetter than I am used to living now in Arizona and we had some fog to deal with. It was nice to have the windows open and AC off.

There were a lot more 54 related business names including a nice 54 drive-in theatre (for sale if anyone wants it) with a decent looking shield sign.

Almost got creamed by a van passing a truck on the bypass around Mexico. I was able to swerve off to the shoulder and used my 30 years of police pursuit driving experience to avoid a head-on. Scared the wits out of the wife but realized that my SUV is pretty nimble in a pinch.

Once we got on 72 in Illinois we just hightailed it to our destination in suburban Chicago. Been there, done that, got the website to prove it.

Return trip:

After spending the week with the kids and catching up with friends we headed back west.
On Return Day 1 we left from Naperdale on I-88 and took that west to I-80 at the Quads, then I-80 to I-29 near Council Bluffs, We then took I-29 north to US-30 at Mo Valley and headed west on 30. We drove to Kearney and hit the hotel.

I-88 was pretty smooth and quick. They must have resurfaced the stretch from Rochelle to Dixon in the last year as it did not have that washboard thing anymore.

I-80 was pretty quick across Iowa. I let the wife drive most of it and I napped thru it, been there, done thatÖ

US-30 is one of my favorite roads thru Nebraska, with the UP right there most of the way I can combine railfanning with roadgeekery and play radios by listening to the rail ops as well. Nothing really new along theway, we had done the same trip a little over a year ago. We stopped by the old Plectron factory in Overton, radio people will understand that. Looks like whomever was using it last year had closed down operations since then however.

We stopped by the Platte River Archway attraction for a bit. We were there a couple years ago and it hasnít changed. Not much mention of the US Highway System, that was a bit disappointing.

Day 2 was Kearney to Denver. We stayed on 30 except for a little construction detour onto I-80 for a few miles. We then took US-138 into Colorado and then US-6 into Brush where we picked up I-76 and took it into Denver.

There was a ďNE-138Ē Marker on US-138 near the construction zone at I-80, probably a contractor error. Besides that there hasnít been much change over the years anywhere on 138. I did notice that they seem to be obsessed with getting to Sidney. There must have been a dozen sideroads between Big Springs and Brush marked with Sidney as the destination. I guess there just isnít any place else to go north of thereÖ

At Julesburg we detoured over to the Colorado Info Center/Rest stop so the wife can get some brochures and I could grab a couple maps. On the way back to US-138 I tried to take my regular shortcut via Cedar St but it has been pulled up going across the tracks sometime in the last 10 years or so.

Coloradoís road conditions are pretty poor, at least as compared to NE, IL or AZ.

Our hotel was in Aurora so we took I-270 east to I-70 then to I-225. What a mess It took us over 2 hours from I-76/E-470 to Mississippi Av in the early afternoon. Between construction and a couple crashes the traffic sucked. What made it worse was the constant parade of idiots in BMWís passing everyone up on the shoulder. Eventually a dump truck ahead of me cut one off and forced the girl into the ditch. While I donít condone it it made me and a lot of others feel better.

Day 3 was mostly a tourism day. We went to downtown Denver to take the Mint tour, we took Chambers up to Colfax and then Colfax all the way in.  Colfax is US-40 and there were some pretty nice street signs with the old format shield on them.

Downtown Denver is kind of like downtown Peoria. Take away the Mint, state capital and the city buildings and it will disappear. It is kind of pretty but boring.

After the tour we hopped onto I-25 and made a beeline for Colorado Springs. Traffic was heavy but it was hard to keep up with traffic. Everyone was going a good 15 to 20 over the limit. I just set the cruise at what I felt comfortable with, stuck to the right lane and let everyone pass me up.

We got to Colorado Springs pretty quickly.  It seems to be pretty much the end of suburbia there, I am sure they like to consider themselves as their own town but sprawl seems to have caught up. We went to the Money Museum on the campus of Colorado College. The campus was absolutely gorgeous, it was worth the stop.  We then headed out to Pikeís Peak and took the road to the top and back.

Manitou Springs is one of the biggest hippie heavens around. I think the water is infused with cannabis as there was more dude-speak then I have ever heard in my life.

We stayed in a hotel near the airport that night and were awoken about midnight by a heavy hailstorm. I could hear the stones hitting the AC unit and looked out the window and could see hailstones larger than a golf ball. I knew my car was being pelted but there was nothing I could do except hope they didnít break any glass.  In the morning I found a couple dozen dents in the car but no broken glass. There were several cars in the parking lot with busted out windshields or moonroofs.
Day 4: Power trip home.
We decided that we were away from home long enough and the weather was gonna be bad all day so we hit I-25 and made a power trip back to Phoenix. We went thru Pueblo about 10 minutes prior to a huge deluge that closed the highway. They had to rescue people from submerged cars but when we went thru the water was only a foot deep and we had no problems. It was raining pretty hard as we drove thru but we were well south of there when the deluge hit. We pulled off on an exit in the middle of nowhere to wait it out and listened to the chaos to the north.

Once we hit New Mexico the weather cleared up and it was smooth sailing all the way home. We made it home by suppertime after we had driven 805 miles. I-25 and I-40 in New Mexico were smooth sailing and I-40 and I-17 in Arizona were fine.

Illinois Highways Page                                                          http://www.n9jig.com
CARMA: Chicago Area Radio Monitoring Association    http://www.carmachicago.com


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Re: Phx to Chicago and back
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2016, 10:00:35 PM »

Hey, I just drove from Colorado Springs to Phoenix with my dad yesterday. Instead of taking the interstate like we normally do, we took CO 115 to US 50 all the way to US 550, then from there we took CO 62 to CO 145 to CO 90 into Utah, then took US 191 south, then we detoured through Monument Valley, and then on to Phoenix. I remember those storms you mentioned. The one in the springs just missed me in Black Forest, but the lightning in the window sure kept me awake late into the night.
Come ride with me to the distant shore...

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Re: Phx to Chicago and back
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2016, 12:58:33 PM »

Sounds like a nice trip. I see that your user name is a ham call sign. I'm N1UIJ. Liked your status report on the Rock. Your run on I88 in IL is my former territory. I was an engineer for a an, but now work for a Canadian class 1 in NY.


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