At the Oasis

I haven’t been on a true “vacation” since Wayne and I went to his Aunt Mary’s 90th birthday in April 2017. I haven’t been on a “vacation” where I didn’t have to simultaneously stress about losing freelance income in four years (I recently took a full-time job, so that particular stressor is gone at last). And although the itinerary of my trip to Chicago for the Type A Conference was a little end-loaded with stress because I arrived on Wednesday and didn’t present until Saturday (the day I left … sigh), it was still the most vacation-related period of time I have had in years.

Okay – stay with me here – Paula (city lover!) in Chicago (a particular fave) with a few chunks of time in which to explore and do city-specific things. So many options beckoned:

Going to the Art Institute of Chicago to view works by Malvina Hoffman (particularly tempting because I had a very small role in helping with the early stages of Didi Hoffman’s book about Malvina, Beautiful Bodies: The Adventures of Malvina Hoffman

An Architecture River Cruise

Urban kayaking (it was pretty nice weather on Thursday)

My beloved theatre (and trust me, if I had won the Hamilton lottery, I would be writing an entirely different blog post!)

Or any of the incredibly enticing things in my friend Molly’s book, 100 Things to do in Chicago Before You Die

The Oasis Beckoned

Instead, I took a field trip to the Hinsdale Oasis.

At the oasis

Perhaps some backstory is in order.

For a period of about six months, I had a part in helping put together a tolling industry newsletter.* One topic that was covered several times was the fact that Illinois’ tollway oases (structures that cross the tollway, allowing travelers going opposite directions to access snacks, leg-stretching time, restrooms and more) are going away, partially to make room for road expansions and partially for safety reasons.

The Illinois Tollway system began building oases in 1958, with the number eventually growing to seven. The Des Plaines Oasis was the first to be inactivated (in 2014). It did not go down without a fight and a significant amount of nostalgia, though.

It has its own Facebook page, Save the Illinois Tollway Oases. (The group’s name was modified to not be Des Plaines specific after it was torn down.)

And, seriously — there is trivia:

“On the Friday before Memorial Day weekend in 1979, an engine fell off a DC-10 that was taking off from O’Hare airport (American Airlines Flight 191). The plane crashed in a field about 1/4 mile from the DesPlaines Oasis, between Touhy Ave and the Tollway. The runway points almost directly toward the Oasis. The plane was headed for Los Angeles, and had a full load of fuel.” Via Panix.

“Two movies have scenes that were filmed at the oases. “The Blues Brothers” has a scene that takes place in the parking lot of the DesPlaines Oasis (with Carrie Fisher and the flamethrower). “Thief”, starring James Caan, has a scene that is supposed to take place in the dining room of the O’Hare Oasis (it was actually filmed in the hallway on the opposite side of the building, next to the windows).” Via Panix.

And my personal favorite: a guy apparently chained himself to the Des Plaines Oasis to protest its demolition, claiming he was conceived there.

Oh – and there used to be tchotchkes, such as plates:

At the oasis

And cigarette lighters:

At the oasis

The O’Hare Oasis is Next

The next Oasis to be facing change and demolition of the “over-the-road” part is the O’Hare Oasis. Its “bridge” was closed September 5 in preparation for the changes.

But Still, an Oasis instead of a Museum or the Theater?

Here’s the thing … every time I would read one of these stories to include it in the newsletter, I would think about my handful of trips to Chicago, and driving under the oases in a taxi or rental car, and wondering about what exactly happened up there.

(I know, I know — what “happens” is junk food, going to the restroom and stocking up on snacks, but it seemed like a big mystery from my perspective as someone else’s passenger, looking up.)

I swear this Dairy Queen Blizzard tasted better from the Hinsdale Oasis:

At the oasis

Revealing the symbols on this scratch-off ticket felt a little bit luckier:

At the oasis

Being able to get help with tolling issues (if I had had any, of course!) from a real bona fide human being instead of having to try to connect through a screen and a keyboard felt a little more … real.

At the oasis

Digging Deeper Matters

It has been a bit of a blessing and a curse throughout my career that I get so fascinated by the topics with which I work (because it is easy to lose sight of the big picture by focusing too intently on the minutiae). But trying to picture yourself in the shoes of the people living the things you write about matters, in my opinion (although please for the love of all things holy let’s exempt that whole conception story…).

It’s why I went to (and wrote about) a Farmers’ Roundtable when I had a role in an agricultural newsletter.* It made a difference to be seated five feet from the Congressman whose name I typed weekly. More importantly, it made a difference to hear farmers expand on the topics discussed in the newsletter, and to hear how their livelihoods were affected by policy changes.

And as to my curiosity about the oases, they touch on some sentiment about how travel has changed since my childhood. Oases once had sit-down restaurants.

Back in the day, when folks took Sunday drives, it was a destination point for suburbanites with a Fred Harvey sit-down restaurant. The Daily Herald

And who wouldn’t agree with Bob from Wisconsin that, “The bathroom is important”?

I think it’s somehow about yet another loss of an opportunity to slow down, along with a nod to the mesmerizing nature of travel (sorry this video is vertical – I blame Snapchat!).

Curiosity, Satisfied

I doubt I’ll pay another (cough cough amount not disclosed) amount of Uber fees to get to and from an Oasis again. But I don’t regret the choice for a minute. It’s a fortunate thing to like your work enough to do more than the minimum.

Now if there were only a “Broadway plays” newsletter!

At the oasis

I wrote this post in response to a Kat Bouska prompt: Write a blog post inspired by the word: change.

*This blog is purely my opinion; I don’t represent either organization.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Making a Difference Among Friends

Phew! I returned from the 5th Annual Shot at Life Champion Summit (this was my 3rd), with plans for a blog post overflowing with reflections, facts, and experiences.

BUT, it didn’t take long before it became apparent that maybe I should have spent about half an hour at some point in the prior months and gotten the flu shot I’ve been encouraging everyone else to get as part of the Give a Shot Get a Shot program.

Immunization Advocacy

At a Walgreens in Washington DC, checking out a Give a Shot Get a Shot display.

That’s why tonight’s post from the sick bed contains a few anecdotes and pictures, with the promise of a “bigger” post later!

I am so grateful that this summit gave me the opportunity to finally meet (and interview in front of the summit audience) Minda Dentler. She is a triathlete, polio survivor, and mom. I first learned about her when Charity Miles encouraged participants to vote for her when she was nominated for an ESPY. She may not have won the ESPY but she won my gratitude and admiration in the biggest of ways!

Immunization Advocacy

Even for a cause I love so dearly, such as making sure children worldwide have a chance at living to their 5th birthdays and not succumbing to vaccine-preventable diseases, I still find it difficult to speak up sometimes.

When I spotted Debbie Wasserman-Schultz conducting a press interview as we waited for our meeting with Rep. Alan Grayson, I faced a choice: leap in front of her path and give my elevator speech or leave it at telling my fellow champions “yeah, I remember her from her time in Florida, when Wayne (my husband) was a staff person in the legislature.”

I leapt. I gave the elevator speech. Her staff member now holds a packet full of Shot at Life material. Every leap holds the potential to make a difference.

Immunization Advocacy

My view as I tried to decide whether to leap or not.

Did you know food is not allowed in the US Capitol complex? EVEN if the food is Girl Scout Cookies you’ve been carrying around ALL DAY LONG to enjoy at the end of hours upon hours of advocacy. Although we dodged the cookie confiscation bullet one time when we entered the US Capitol complex, we weren’t so lucky at the end of the day when we entered the Capitol complex for a reception honoring Rep. Jim McDermott.

Security was having none of it.

I won’t go into our technique, but suffice it to say although we were instructed to put the cookies in the dumpster (really, is it even AMERICAN to put unopened boxes of Girl Scout cookies in a dumpster?), we, um, “found another home for them” and the cookie party later that evening was worth the hassle!

Let me tell you, these advocates are as creative and dogged about protecting children worldwide as they are about safeguarding Girl Scout cookies. The children of the world are in the best (and most fun, for what it’s worth!) hands!

Immunization Advocacy

And lastly, a travel lesson learned:

I had a companion on my Super Shuttle on the way from BWI to Washington, DC, who gave me a piece of advice about the return trip to BWI. She suggested that Uber would be more comfortable and roughly the same price as a Super Shuttle. That sounded good to me, so I didn’t make a return reservation.

I’m a bit of a freak about punctuality when traveling, so I ordered the Uber in plenty of time to make BWI prior to my flight. Imagine my surprise when Uber notified me that it was “surge pricing” time and it would cost a lot more to get to BWI than it would at non-surge pricing time. I called Super Shuttle, which said it was too late to hop on one of those. I was just on the verge of accepting the surge pricing (sigh….) when I got a notification from Uber that regular pricing was back in effect and I should request as quickly as possible. I did and all was good, but notes were taken for the future. Backup plans are good.

Cookies, Leaping, and Inspiration aside … why do we do this? Take the 1:38, less than two minutes, to watch this video and I’m pretty sure it will be clear.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.