Need an escape from COVID-19? Go for a drive
As the novelty of binge-TV, sourdough starters and cutting one's own hair wears off, a collective COVID-19-induced cabin fever is settling on the region.
Is there any escape from these four walls that doesn't involve a joyless walk in the cold spring rain?
"We get the top off the Jeep and turn the heat on," Lake Zurich's Diane Kowalski said, describing her COVID-19 getaway. "I call it wind therapy. There's nothing like the wind in your face to relax you. Forget about the crisis."
Kowalski, a retired nurse and teacher, and daughter Allison, a substitute teacher, "just drive ... singing at the top of our lungs," usually to Jimmy Buffett or country, Kowalski said.
Sometimes they'll cruise by the Blarney Island pub on Grass Lake to relive live concerts. Most often it's where the spirit takes them -- north on Route 12, hang a right and ... hello, Antioch. Or Lakemoor. "I'd never heard of it," Kowalski said.
The unexpected includes breezing past a farm field with freshly laid manure. "We take in nature's beauty, and know this will end some day," she said.
On the trail of Superman
On any given day, Tom Bowling will turn onto a highway out of Rosemont in his trusty 2014 Nissan Sentra, turn the sound up to 11 and crank Insane Clown Posse.
His destination "just depends on the day." Sometimes, it's speeding down an eerily uncrowded Kennedy Expressway to Chicago's Uptown neighborhood where Bowling grew up.
He's also motored to Smallville. Or rather, Yorkville and Plano, which doubled as the childhood home of Clark Kent in the "Man of Steel" flick.
Bowling was laid off because of COVID-19, but "you really can't just sit at home and sulk. You've got to live."
Into the unknown
Over in Crystal Lake, the baby's nap time is a signal for Morgan Burkle and daughter Eloise, 4, to steal away in their Nissan Rogue.
Bonding to music like the aptly named "Into the Unknown," from "Frozen II," Eloise navigates.
"I let her tell me which way to go," Burkle said. "Letting her pick right or left at every stop sign gives her some control back in her life right now, when we all feel helpless.
"We all feel cooped up, and whenever she's in an off mood, I say, 'Let's take a drive to nowhere.'"
Lake Geneva vacation
With schools closed, Megan Carranza's son, who has autism, desperately misses the routine.
So Carranza, of Elgin, is giving Logan, 7, driving lessons of a sort. Each day, the two hop in the minivan and go on an excursion. It could be Naperville, where she grew up, or as far as Lake Geneva.
Without school, "it's challenging for him," but driving "is calming and he enjoys being in the car," said Carranza, who has an "Adventures in Autism" podcast. "He loves water, so we'll go along the Fox River or drive to Crystal Lake."
As for maps, "I follow my nose," Carranza said.
Big Rock or bust
Brenda Gonzalez of Geneva and son Braeden, 15, are easy riders. Twice weekly, "we love to drive out west of Randall Road, shut off the GPS and turn down whatever roads look interesting -- the more rural, the better!" Gonzalez said.
"We've ended up in Big Rock, Virgil, Burlington, Hampshire ... wherever the road takes us. It's great bonding time for us. We've had some really good conversations in the car the past two months. It's our happy place."
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You should know
So, if we're in a Sunday drive renaissance, when did the phenomenon start? The accessibility of Model Ts in the 1920s and better state highways in the 1920s and 1930s made leisurely trips possible, said North Central College historian Ann Durkin Keating, who fondly remembers Sunday trips to the Milk Pail in East Dundee.
"I'd guess the heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s."
Do yourself a favor and avoid Busse Road/Route 83 south of Pratt Boulevard in Elk Grove Village Monday through May 24. The road is closing to allow repairs to the Chicago Junction Railway Crossing. Detours will be posted.
Fewer NCS trains
As ridership plummets, Metra is reducing trains on the North Central Service, Heritage Corridor and SouthWest Service temporarily. NCS riders can expect just one inbound train in the morning and one outbound in the afternoon rush hours. For information, go to metrarail.com.