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We left a downtown Chicago parking structure at 4:11 p.m. Thursday.

We pulled into The Pantagraph parking lot a little after 12:30 a.m. Friday.

And no, I didn't take a wrong turn and go through Indianapolis.

Actually, with no traffic and good weather, that still would have been faster.

With apologies to Eugene O'Neill, here's a different version of a "Long Day's Journey into Night."

I had to go to Chicago for an Illinois Associated Press Editors Association board meeting.

We move our quarterly board meetings around, one in Chicago and then one in Central Illinois. The last time we met in Chicago, I talked Gary Sawyer - fellow board member and editor of our sister paper in Decatur - into taking the train.

It was a disaster. We were an hour late going up and even later coming back.

We should have driven.

This time we did.

Gary met me at The Pantagraph and we had an easy drive up Interstate 55 in one of the two new Mitsubishi Galants we recently bought to use as company cars.

The meeting took longer than expected, and we watched with concern as the snowfall got heavier out our 25th-floor window, high above the intersection of Madison Street and Wacker Drive.

We got back to the parking structure, brushed off a couple of inches of snow and got moving.

We had a choice - head to Lake Shore Drive, or go west and south on surface streets to catch Interstate 290, the Eisenhower Expressway.

I just had a feeling Lake Shore Drive was a bad idea.

It took almost an hour to get onto the Eisenhower, then another two hours out to the Tri-State Tollway.

We never went faster than 2 to 3 mph.

If you're doing the math at home, that's right, three hours to go from downtown to cross the Tri-State.

That's almost to the minute what the traffic reports on WBBM radio said while Gary and I were driving toward the Eisenhower.

We just couldn't believe it was true until we did our own test to see what a nasty snowstorm mixed with Chicago rush-hour traffic could do.

Traffic reports made Lake Shore Drive sound even worse.

So now it was a little after 7 p.m. - about the time I expected to sit down in Redbird Arena to watch the Illinois State University women's basketball team play.

Gary and I were wondering if we'd even get home.

We'd answer that when we finally got on I-55. We headed west on I-88, planning to take I-355 to I-55. Maybe it would take an hour.

Double that.

We finally pulled off I-55 at Exit 263 to get something to eat a little before 9:30 p.m.

We had not stopped or gotten out of the car for more than five hours.

We got back on I-55 and headed toward Bloomington-Normal at 10 to 20 mph. After all that time creeping through Chicago and its suburbs, it was like flying.

But we still had 100 miles to go, and if we couldn't speed up we'd have to find a hotel because we wouldn't get home until almost dawn.

We agreed to see what the roads were like south of I-80. It got better. Eventually we were able to sustain 40 mph. Sleeping in our own beds was possible.

And finally, somewhere between Chenoa and Lexington, I got the speedometer up to 60 mph.

Gary, though, still had to drive to Decatur.

I'm thankful we made it home safe, although I'm amazed we didn't bounce off another car or go down the side of the road.

We saw enough cars that did have such problems.

And thanks to all of you at our Mitsubishi plant who made that Galant. We had a nice ride in tough conditions.

Terry Greenberg is editor of The Pantagraph.Contact him at (309) 820-3230 or attgreenberg@pantagraph.com.

The Pantagraph/XXXXXX XXXXX

Crayon facts

w Made of paraffin wax, a petroleum product

w Take many years to biodegrade in landfills

w 2 billion crayons sold yearly

w About 100 used/broken crayons equal 1 pound

SOURCE: The Crayon Bin

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