The Merrillville Gas Station story is urban legend in the Shaffer household and gains more popularity with each retelling. I think it’s the strong connection to the Griswold family vacations that gives the story its listening appeal.
When the boys were in their elementary/middle school years we traveled to Chicago frequently to visit my husband’s mother. My husband approached these trips with all the focus of a road rally contest. It was all about making good time. We (actually the boys and I) had a tradition to make traveling in the car easier on everyone. Every time we stopped, usually every three hours whether we needed a break or not, we would rotate seats. This meant that I only sat in the front seat for 1/3 of any trip. My husband always drove even though I offered to give him a break. Hmmm…wonder why!
On the Chicago road rally challenges we made one stop: the gas station in Merrillville, just before connecting to the toll road to Chicago. On the occasion of the infamous event the boys and I hopped out to use the restroom, ever mindful of the rally time. I left from the front seat and would return to the back when we resumed. Our younger son would ride shotgun. When I finished in the restroom I couldn’t turn off the faucet when I washed my hands, so I stopped at the counter to tell the gentleman about the problem. The boys headed to the car.When our younger son got in, my husband took off. Someone was in the front and he assumed all were in their proper places per road rally stop time regulations.Thanks to reminders from the boys, the road rally was put on hold while my husband turned the car around to go back for me.