Sunday, October 9, 2016

Righting a Wrong, APBA Basketball Style

Sometimes, it takes a long while to right a wrong.

This one took more than a quarter of a century.

And while it may seem insignificant to some, the wrong that was done to me back then continued to build on me, festering and making me upset whenever I thought about it over the years. The longer it went uncorrected, the more it pained me when I remembered it.

On New Year's Eve 1989, I left a doomed relationship, moved to another town and began a new life. I won't get into details about why this union was not good other than to say it had all the making that, if we had continued, the next time anyone saw me would be when I was a victim profiled on NBC's Dateline mystery program.

So, I left her, saving my dignity, my sanity and possibly my life.

A few weeks later I tried to get some of my stuff back. I had left a small stereo and some records at her place, along with some books and magazines. I got them back.

But I also had a set of 1985-86 APBA basketball cards there that I replayed that NBA season with. A majority of people familiar with the game would have left them at the girl's home, rationalizing that giving the card set to an ex would be vengeful and almost inhumane.

Alas, most people hate APBA's basketball game. It was a plodding contest that took hours to play a single game. Whenever you made a lineup change and brought in a bench player for a team, you had to stop and figure out math problems to set up templates for the team's fouls, rebounds, assists and scoring for the newest lineup. Make a change again, figure out a completely new template.

Even the game's instructions noted the slow play. It suggested a player use both hands to roll two sets of dice at a time to speed up play. Perhaps Kali, the mythological Hindu goddess of time with her four arms, could knock out a game in an hour or so. For the rest of us, the game took much longer.

There was even a version that shortened play. A player eliminated dice rolls for passing the ball among player and instead just tossed the die to determine who shot the ball. The instructions almost apologetically offered that option for which I embraced. Using the quicker style of play, I could finish a game in about two hours, provided I made few lineup substitutions.

Still, I loved that game. I got into the APBA gaming hobby with the football contest in 1977. A year later, I began playing the basketball game, and it was a mainstay with me for two decades. It was with me during the angst of high school and again when I got my first newspaper job in the northeast corner of Arkansas. I'd come home after a long day at the paper, sit in my sparse rent house and roll games on the floor late into the night.

The game was there for me as a crutch when my father passed away in 1987, giving me a distraction from the loss.

I bought the 1985-86 ABPA basketball season at the highlight of my fan mania for the NBA. A year earlier, I drove to Kansas City to watch the Kings' basketball team host the Boston Celtics in their last year in Missouri. I was hooked. The following year, the Kings moved to Sacramento.

It was Michael Jordan's second year in the NBA during the 1985-86 season. Larry Bird, Dominque Wilkins, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were stars in the league. It was a great time to be a basketball fan and that APBA game helped convey the fandom for me.

So, when I left the awful girl, I got most of my stuff. But I didn't get the set of 1985-86 APBA basketball cards. She did not return them to me. It may have been an oversight, but I tend to think it was more out of spite. She knew I loved that game.

Since then, I bought a few other basketball seasons. But I got into APBA's hockey and baseball games and the basketball game took a back seat for years.

I still wondered about that 1985-86 season, however, and when I thought about it, I became upset. What kind of person would withhold something that meant so much to someone?

Then, recently, my Illinois girl whom I've often written about here, gave me a package for our one-year anniversary for meeting each other. I opened it slowly and … it was the set of 1985-86 APBA basketball cards. I told her about the loss of those cards once and she remembered!  She tracked a set down and I was stunned.

Again, some cynics of the game would say that any girl who gives her guy a set of the basketball game cards probably isn't that into the relationship. I say that my Illinois girl righted a wrong. After 27 years, I was holding perhaps my favorite season in my hands again.

Since getting the cards, I've taken them out of the envelopes and made lineup changes on index cards. I fully intend to play some games. I won't complete a full season replay; I won't live that long. But I will be able to recapture a great feeling of youthfulness with that season, watching to see how many points Bird can put up on the hated 76ers and Moses Malone; how many rebounds the Twin Towers of Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson can grab for Houston and just how bad the Knicks really were that season.

There are always wrongs in life. Live long enough and you'll see plenty. But there are times when some can be corrected. This was one of them.

Monday, September 26, 2016

How a Decision Affects: A Year Later

This one is about how a simple decision, a mere choice, an action, can change the direction of your life and set you on totally different path.

It's the old drawn out series of connections: “If a butterfly flaps his wings in the Amazon jungle and scares a bird that drops a nut that hits someone in the head who jumps and avoids a poisonous snake...” That sort of thing.

A year ago today, I put down the APBA dice and set aside the 1991 baseball replay game I had started about a month earlier, filled the car's gas tank and before the sun even rose, embarked on the 554-mile trek to northern Illinois to meet a girl I had only spoken to by telephone for the previous month. We had talked about her putting her home on the market and I offered to help her prepare the house for sale by raking her yard, cleaning up the outside, doing whatever was needed.

There was no real intent by me other than to help someone I cared about. Romance? Are you kidding? My confidence level in that sort of thing always had me asking potential dates if they wanted to be my next ex-girlfriend.

She could use the assistance and I needed to get out. That was pretty much the entire motive. Since my wife passed away in 2006, all I had done on my own before was make a few jaunts to St. Louis some four hours away to watch Blues' and Cardinals' games. It was time for a change.

So, I made the decision. I offered.

Obviously, it was weird. A guy suggesting he drive that far just to “help” had all the markings of some episode of Dateline NBC. Reporter Keith Morrison would open the show about mysterious murders by stepping through my Illinois girl's neighborhood, “He was a nice guy who wanted to help,” Morrison would say. “... Or was he?”

But she made her own decision after some brief thought and she accepted, and I headed north.

I arrived in her town shortly after 3:30 p.m., registered with the hotel and called her. She was still getting ready and was a tad late. I watched the end of the Florida-Tennessee football game and waited.

At 5 p.m., she was still getting ready.

At 5:45 p.m., she called and said she was fixing her hair and I could come over in 10 minutes.

At 5:50 p.m., I waited in her driveway for her to come out.

At 6:03 p.m., she came out and I was promptly smitten.

We drove to Wal-Mart and bought toilet seats for her home on our “date.” Despite that blissful first venture, I first felt she didn't like me that much and that I was pretty weird. (Actually, I was weird. I was pretty exhausted from the drive, extremely nervous like a junior high school kid on the first date, way out of practice for even commencing with small talk with a woman and totally out of my league in class. I had about as much chance impressing her as I had of winning a Pulitzer Prize at the newspaper where I worked). I thought I'd clean her yard the next day and then head home, defeated but at least having the chance to have seen Lake Michigan.

But then, I made another decision. I didn't give up. At least I'd have a friend, I thought. And I soldiered on. I decided to stay for the entire five days I had booked the hotel.

The decision worked. After our Wal-Mart venture, we ate at a Cracker Barrel and then she showed me around her town. The following day we went to church and the lake and then watched for a lunar eclipse that night. It was cloudy and we never saw the moon disappear, but I did see love begin to appear slowly.

During the next 10 months, I drove up there 16 times. She sold her house, we moved her stuff out, I hauled her cats down here in May and on June 7, she and her dog moved in with me.

It's been tough at times. The first night we were together, ants invaded the dining room and kitchen, doing a conga line from a patio door to the bowls of cat food. A week later, my air conditioning unit went out which is not a good thing in the steamy climes of Arkansas. Last month, I got sick and ended up in the emergency room with a massive renal infection. Doctors took a CT scan to see if my kidney was trying to crawl out of my body and they pumped morphine in me because of the pain. The bill for that li'l folly is going to be fun.

But it's also been great. We watch Cubs' games on television a lot. We've binge-watched the game show Family Feud and Naked and Afraid to the point of tired hilarity. We play a Trivial Pursuit game we found at a flea market. We cook dinner together and we make bets on where her dog will poop when we walk him around the neighborhood each night. This is my life now.

I still find time to roll the APBA games, albeit at a much, much slower pace.

A year ago, other than noise from the television or the occasional blast of music on my stereo, I had lived in silence for more than 10 years.

Tonight, one of the cats is in heat and yowling like a banshee on crack. The second cat is chasing the first cat around the house. The dog wants to go for his nightly walk and the washing machine is chugging like it does on most days. There is noise in my home now. Blissful noise that signifies I actually have a life. A year ago, I was resigned to the fact I would be alone.

Tonight, I realize how one minute decision, one sudden thought, can change everything and make everything better.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Finding Time for a String of Games

Despite the changes in my life and the lack of as much free time as I once had, I still manage to roll a few games in my 1991 APBA baseball season replay. I used to average four to five games a day played. Now, I'm lucky to toss five games a week. (And, now, I average a blog posting only about once a month.)

But I'm not complaining. It's been three months since my Illinois girl moved down here with me and my life has been enhanced greatly. I mean, the APBA game is great, but my new lifestyle has been amazing.

Still, though, I find time to play the game every so often and last week a run of games I rolled showed me yet again, as it has many times, why the APBA game is so good and why it remains a staple in most of us game players' lives from childhood through our adult years. It's the only game I've found that continues to do that.

I opened the string of games with Detroit traveling to Minnesota. I lived in Minnesota and have been a Twins fan since I was about seven years old. I saw Kirby Puckett and Dan Gladden and Kent Hrbek play in Minneapolis and in the 1987 World Series in St. Louis. Their 1991 World Series victory over Atlanta is the reason why I am replaying the 1991 season now.

In the game against the Tigers, Mickey Tettleton hit two home runs and drove in six runs, pacing Detroit to a 9-5 win. The loss dropped the Twins to 18-13 and a game behind American League West leader Seattle. Minnesota is 3-9 in its last 12 games as well, giving me a bit of a panic feeling and, have I been playing the four- to five-game pace each day, I'd be feeling it more, I'm sure. When you immerse yourself into seasons like I had, you begin to feel their intensity more.

I followed that game with a quick 1-0 win by the New York Yankees over Oakland. Yankees' pitcher Tim Leary gave up only four hits and struck out 10 in the victory.

Montreal continued to lose, dropping yet another game against San Diego and falling to 5-25. Fred McGriff hit a home run for the Padres.

Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd struck out 11 for Texas as he defeated Boston, 7-5, and Rafael Palmeiro, probably stocked up on steroids, hit a three-run home run for the Rangers.

Danny Tartabull hit his eighth home run of the season to lead Kansas City over Milwaukee, 4-0. Hal McRae added a two-run shot for the Royals.

And it was a bad night to be a catcher in Cleveland on May 12, 1991, in my replay. Ron Tingley struck out five times in six at bats for the Angels in their 12-inning win over Cleveland. Meanwhile, Indians catcher Joel Skinner K'd three times in four at bats.

Kal Daniels hit two home runs for Los Angeles and the Dodgers improved to 16-13 after their 5-3 win over Philadelphia. Bob Ojeda is now 5-0 for the Dodgers.

And finally, the New York Mets —  vast over-achievers so far in this replay with a 17-12 season record — pounded San Francisco, 10-0. Dwight “Doc” Gooden recorded a complete game and every Met in the starting lineup either scored a run or drove one in, including Vince Coleman. I invoked his name only because somewhere in my possessions I have a photograph I shot of Coleman giving me an international finger sign. I got a press pass to see a double header against Atlanta in St. Louis in 1989 and I was able to go onto the field of the old Busch Stadium during batting practice. I shot several photographs of Braves' outfielder Dale Murphy for the daughter of a friend where I worked. I spotted Coleman in a tunnel leading from the Cardinals' dugout where scores of bats were stored in a rack. Coleman was selecting a bat but noticed me shooting his photograph. He promptly raised his middle finger, ruining my pictures and being, well, being himself. Remember, this is the guy who threw the firecracker at fans in Los Angeles in 1993 and injured three children.

The games I managed to fit in last week brought back a lot of memories. It was fun seeing the names of those players I had watched 25 years ago, including Coleman's. The games took on meaning once again and, although it will take me a long, long time to complete this replay, I was able to briefly get that feeling again of the personality of the teams and the progression of the season. Usually, because I had no real life, I could complete a full-season replay in about a year and a half. This time, at the rate I'm on, it'll take five years to finish the 1991 season.

But every so often, I'll find time to get out the dice and cards, toss a few games and get back into the magic that APBA had on us even as youngsters.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rolling Games With Someone

Other than a brief time when I let a friend stay at my home while he recuperated from a rough divorce, I've played the APBA replay baseball games alone in the stillness of my own solitude for the past 10 years since my wife passed away.

At times, I may have played music in the background, or left a ball game on the television set while tossing the games, but for the most part the games were done in relative quiet. Other than the noise of the tumbling dice of the game on the rubber mouse pad I use to roll the die, there was mostly silence.

All that has changed and it gives some excuse as to why I've not written anything here in the past four months, and why I've not really fully delved into the 1991 baseball replay I began a year ago.

Frequent readers know about my Illinois girl — the girl I met in northern Illinois last September who changed my world and brought my heart back to life. I spent the ensuing nine months traveling to see her. There wasn't a lot of time to roll games or to update the replay when I was constantly on the road making the 554-mile trip to her home. I used up my vacation days at work by mid-year and on a few occasions actually drove up there on a Saturday and returned late Sunday. It was a 17-hour round trip to see her for about 20 hours then. Such is love.

I made the trip up there 16 times. On the 15th trip back, I learned what true love was, too. It's not the hand-holding in the park, starry-eyed gazes at each other, sharing food and giggling romantic montage while some upbeat Monkees' song plays in the background.

No, I learned the real meaning of love at 10:45 p.m in Effingham, Ill., on May 29. I was heading back home with my Illinois girl's two cats in carrying cases in my back seat. I brought them with me to help her out; she was in the process of selling her home and we felt they didn't need to be part of the chaos of moving.

They had dumped over their water bowls and cat litter boxes, making a thick muddy paste. The smell of cat pee, scented litter and Fear (both theirs and mine) sweltered in the car. Their yowls were loud enough to drown out my own. I looked in the back seat to calm the cats and I saw one's paw reaching out of her cage, clawing at the other cage in an attempt, it appeared, to free her brother cat. I still had more than four hours left to drive. I offered a prayer to the huge cross that serves as a tourist stop alongside I-57 at Effingham for peace and serenity among cats and drove on.

Other than the time with my cat passengers, I made the trip home alone 15 times. On the 16th trip back, I didn't travel alone. My Illinois girl came with me. She sold her house, packed her things, loaded the dog in the car, hopped in and and moved south.

I went from being totally alone to having a person, a dog, two cats, shoes and clothes galore, makeup all over the bathroom, healthy food in the refrigerator and noise. Blissful noise. And I've spent a lot of time learning how to care for someone again.

So, there's not been much time for APBA games as we adjust to life together. We walk the dog each night in the neighborhood, go to Wal-Mart and the grocery store often. We've joined a gym and watch movies and television (Some day I'll tell you about our binge watching of the Discovery Channel's “Naked and Afraid” program — that odd “reality” show where people drop their pants and live in some Amazon jungle for 21 days eating grubs and building things out of sticks).

But I did find time to roll a few games. And once, my Illinois girl who I will hence refer to her by name since she is now in Arkansas, actually rolled part of a game with me. It was a contest between Kansas City and Detroit in the 1991 replay I'm on.

I showed Holly how the game worked and explained in part my obsession of the APBA games for the past 39 years. Terry Shumpert was at bat for the Royals with one out in the bottom of the ninth. The Tigers were winning.

She tossed the dice on the mouse pad and the result was a “24” on Shumpert's card. The second basemen grounded into a double play, ending the game.

I'm still playing some games. The 1991 season replay is on the slowest pace I've ever done. But it's okay. The game has always been part of my life, regardless of where I was or who I was with. This time, it fits in between two cats, a dog and lots of love.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Game Never Really Leaves Us

Sometimes you leave the game.

But the game never really leaves you.

On Aug. 16, I began rolling my 1991 baseball season replay with the APBA dice and cards game. A week later, I made the phone call to my Illinois girl that changed a lot of things. I've written about all that here before. The point is, the game took a back seat to life; since September, I've made the 554-mile trip to her northern Illinois town 11 times. I'm headed there again tomorrow and will probably go there each weekend in May. It doesn't leave much time for replaying the games.

In the seven months and a day since making the call, I've played 297 games in that 1991 replay for an average of about 1.3 games a day. I used to play four to five games a day in previous replays. At this rate of just over a game a day, I'll finish the 1991 season in about four and a half years. And, as evidenced by this blog, I've not had much time to even write. This is the first posting in over a month.

That's okay. Obviously, I'd much rather be with my Illinois girl than rolling games all day.

The APBA game works that way. It waits for us to have a life and then welcomes us back when we return, either for a brief visit or for the respite we need when life changes yet again. I think that's what draws us to this game.

Most of us became acquainted with the game as youngsters. It replaced the more “childish” games that included spinners or playing cards or, in the case of the newer generations, the video sports games — I'm not talking about those games now that look like you're watching the action on television, but those old Mattel electronic handheld sports games that beeped and booped while we pushed buttons. The move to the APBA game, which features a more statistically-based concept using cards that replicate players' seasons and dice, was a step closer to adulthood.

So, we played those games, rolling dice late into the night, recording games and recreating seasons. But life stepped in and we put the game aside. Maybe it was a girl in high school, maybe it was college, maybe a job. Most of us, I dare to venture, took a break from the game for some time.

But those of us who came back later understood the concept of the game and its lasting.

And now, after playing the games at a rapid pace for years, life has come to me.

And I only roll 1.3 games a day on average, and that's only because I may toss four to five games at a time when I find myself at the table with the cards in front of me.

But on occasion, we find ourselves back at the table and we realize why the game never leaves us. The other day I sat at the table and played several games of my 1991 replay in a row and found that magic again. I got back momentarily in the groove of the season, remembering the players and how the teams are faring in this replay.

For example, Lloyd Moseby of the Detroit Tigers struck out each of the six times he was at bat against Kansas City. The Royals won the game, 10-8, and are challenging the Twins for first place in the American League West Division.

Montreal continued to lose, dropping a contest to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-2, after taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Marquis Grissom, the second batter of the Expos' frame, clouted a two-run home run.

Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh in the tenth inning when Chris Sabo hit a game-winning single and drove in Paul O'Neill. Names from the past. Names we remember watching when we were younger.

Life came back. Work beckoned and I've spent a lot of time on the phone with my Illinois girl. And, early tomorrow, before the sun even wakes, I'm off on my journey again to her town for a few days. The game will remain here, waiting as it always does for life to slow down and then the games will roll on again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

1991 Season Update - April 30, 1991

After seven months of replaying the 1991 season with the APBA baseball game, I've finally finished the games scheduled that year for the month of April. At this rate, I should finish the replay in about four years — the slowest I've ever completed one.

However, I have a good excuse for the slower pace. I began this replay on Aug. 16. A week later, I called a woman for the first time who I now call my Illinois girl and I have fallen hard for her. I've written about all that here before; frequent readers know the story.

All that to say it's hard replaying games when you're traveling. I've made the 554-mile trip to north of Chicago and then back to Arkansas eight times since Sept. 25 to visit my Illinois girl, and I'm headed there again at the end of the week. For years, I never used all my allotted days at the newspaper where I work. Now I covet them and use them strategically so to visit her whenever I can.

Such is long-distance love.

Still, I've been able to average rolling about 1.3 games a day since I began the season. And it's been good so far. Each of the actual divisional winners of 1991 are in first place as I enter games for May 1. Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Toronto each lead their respective divisions.

There have been some surprises. Minnesota, my favorite team because I grew up in the state, is a fun team to play games with. Kent Hrbek leads the American League with 8 home runs so far.

On the inverse, Montreal continues to be horrible. They've won one game out of the 20 they've played during April. They trail the Pirates by 14 games already.

Here are the standings as of April 30, 1991.

East          W     L  GB
Toronto    14    7     -
Detroit       9   10    4
Milwaukee 9   10   4
Boston        8   10  4.5
Cleveland   6   11   6
New York   6   11   6
Baltimore   5   12   7

West          W    L   GB
Minnesota  15    5    -
Kansas City 14   5  .5
Seattle         14   7   1.5
Texas           9     7   4
Chicago       9     8   4.5
California    7     13  8
Oakland       6    14   9

East            W   L   GB
Pittsburgh    15   5    -
St. Louis      14  7   1.5
Chicago       11 10  4.5
Phil'phia      11 10  4.5
New York   10  10   5
Montreal       1  19  14

West           W      L   GB
Atlanta         13    5     -
Los Angeles 12   8     2
San Diego     11  10    3.5
Cincinnati      9   10    4.5
Houston         7    13   7
S. Francisco   6    14   8

The Twins are dominating with Hrbek's 8 home runs. Jack Morris is 5-0 as a starter for Minnesota and Scott Erickson is 4-0. Jeff Montgomery leads the league with eight saves for the Kansas City Royals

In the National League, New York Mets' third baseman Howard Johnson's nine homers are tops and Matt Williams has eight home runs for the Giants. The Cardinals' Bob Tewksbury is 5-0 and has paced the surprising St. Louis team.

So, the first month is over. May games are up next and it will take a long while to finish the month, I'm sure. Those trips to visit my Illinois girl take time, but it's well worth it. And the APBA game, like it always has, will wait for me to come back.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The 294 Takes A Toll

There is a controlled chaos on the Tri-State Tollway, the 78-mile toll road that wraps around the western side of Chicago.

Cars and trucks vie for position, often barreling along at an 80-mph clip, zipping between each other, doing two- or three-lane shifts and being motorized versions of angst and anger. Drivers swoop among lanes, doing a dance of mayhem to get ahead of the slower cars ahead of them, to make their exits or to reach the cash lanes of the three toll stops.

More than 1.4 million motorists dare the stretch each day, according to the Illinois State Highway Authority.

I've been on the tollway, or “the 294” as some locals call it, 12 times now. It's the last leg of my journey to visit my Illinois girl whom I've written about here a lot lately. After a lengthy 7.5 hours on the road that leads to the entrance of the 294 off of Interstate 57, it wakes me up. You have to be alert to navigate the 294. And, on the inverse, the first stretch of my return trip is on the tollway and it keeps the sadness of parting with her at bay for about an hour. The sorrow of leaving her hits hard when I see the large green highway sign indicating the exit for I-57 and Memphis is a quarter mile ahead and the frenzied pace of the tollroad is over.

I'm not a veteran of the 294 and I've not driven the entirety of it. It begins at Interstate 80, some three miles south of where I join it. And it ends at the Wisconsin line after becoming I-94. I exit about 10 miles south of its conclusion. Despite its name, the Tri-State does not cross into Indiana or Wisconsin.

l don't have the battle scars of those locals who use the toll road each day — the dented fenders, the refillable prescriptions for xanax or the handful of gun misdemeanors in Illinois district courts. But since I've logged more than 750 miles on the thing so far, I feel compelled to discuss it.

I've driven the 294 in sunny weather and at night. During sleet, snow and rain. I was on it during the Groundhog Day Thunderstorm on Feb. 2 this year that knocked out power at the Waukegan police station and made the Chicago news that night. On that same run, a tractor-trailer rig caught on fire in the southbound near where 94 becomes the 294. Traffic backed up for an hour in heavy rain. At least the truck driver had the decency to pull over into the emergency lane before the cab of his vehicle totally burned. I can see the 294 drivers, though, as they pass by: “Pull off the road, why don'tcha,” they'd snarl as they zip by.

It's a far cry from the roads we have in Arkansas. Sure, we have concrete, but I don't know of anywhere in the state more than three lanes of road exist. The 294 has a minimum of four lanes and at times, near the O'Hare Airport and the Willow Lane exit, for example, there are six lanes. Cars swirl around, looking like the hovering dances of hummingbirds at feeders. The last time I was on it on Monday, I saw two trucks move from Lane 3 to Lane 2 while a car switched from 2 to 3, threading between the two trucks. It was death defying and a daring display of driving deft.

For those uninitiated with the tollway, you can simulate the experience. Sit in your car and imagine passing 30 orange Schneider trucks on the right and left, and clench your butt so tight you could break 10-penny nails. Constantly check your rear view and side mirrors, Twist your head back and forth like a maniacal ventriloquist doll and still doubt any moves you may want to make. But don't hesitate. Hesitate and you're a goner, stuck behind some ol' truck creeping along only at about 55 mph.

The cash lanes are also a pain to contend with. There are three toll stops along the stretch, each offering either the I-pass lane that allows motorists to buy their way around the booths or the traditional toll booths. Drivers have to pull off the 294 to the right, drive down a 100-yard wide concrete apron and chose a booth lane to pay the $1.50 to continue. If you're trapped in the outside lanes when the cash exit approaches, you must maneuver to the right. (I later learned after making such a maneuver to make the cash lane that had I missed a payment, I could later pay on line. This was after I nearly cut off a semi and made a Lane 3 to 1 shift quickly, yet smoothly.) The toll booth operator raises the gate and the driver is off, immediately revving up to 70 mph or so to gain the proper speed to access the 294 again. It's akin to a pit stop during the Indianapolis 500.

So, it's controlled and chaotic. I've done it a dozen times now and I'm sure I'll do it dozens of more times. Even the hotel where I stay when visiting my Illinois girl sits beside I-94. The whine of the tires is endless and at times, while in my room, I can hear the road beckoning for me to get back on it and negotiate the lane changes, the tolls and the insane drivers.