Tag Archives: Illinois

June 23-24: Not much the first day, more the second

Yesterday was pretty much a driving day. I had anticipated it only taking me a couple of hours from Decatur, Illinois, to Indianapolis, Indiana, and had called listee Kevin Kennedy (who is in rehab for some health problems) to arrange to come visit her yesterday afternoon. When I was still only on the outskirts of Indy at 3 pm, and still anticipating a grocery stop, plus rush-hour traffic, I called her back to rearrange things for this morning.

The drive across the rest of Illinois was flat and corny and soybeany, which was fine. Big skies, making me feel tiny again. But as soon as I crossed into Indiana, three things changed. First was relatively minor – Indiana needs to spend more money on their roads. Tooth-jarring is an exaggeration, but not by much. Second was even more minor – I lost an hour going from Central to Eastern time, which was another reason it took me longer than I expected to get to Indy (also, Indiana now observes DST, which it did not when I lived here in the late 80s and early 90s – I’m glad they came to their senses about that). The third was bizarre. No sooner than I crossed the state line, the landscape went from flat as a pancake to hilly — not just rolling, but hilly. It was like there was a reason for the state line to be there. Very strange.

Still, there wasn’t much to take photos of. As a matter of fact, I only took two photos yesterday, and here they are.

Right before the road got curvy.
Right before the road got curvy.
Hemerocallis fulva, or orange day lily. I saw literally thousands of these alongside the road in Illinois and Indiana. They're feral, not native. They come from Asia.
Hemerocallis fulva, or orange day lily. I saw literally thousands of these alongside the road in Illinois and Indiana. They’re feral, not native. They come from Asia.

Last night I spent my first night of the trip in a hostel. It’s called the Indy Hostel, and it’s on the north side of Indianapolis in an old craftsman style house. It was nice and clean and quiet. I like hostels, but there simply aren’t very many of them in the U.S., especially outside of big cities. I’m hoping to take advantage of more of them when I get to Canada (they have a lot more hostels up there).

This morning it was much easier to find where Kevin is doing her rehab than it should have been, and I even found a parking place right out front. We had a good hour’s chat (or at least I did, and I hope she did, too), which wasn’t quite as far ranging as the one I had with Jim the other day, but every bit as enjoyable. She also called me right after I left to let me know Lois had posted on the list that the new Penric novella is now available (I bought it this afternoon [g]).

Then I drove down into the hoots and hollers of southern Indiana. Not directly to Bloomington, because I wanted to stop at one of my favorite places when I lived here, McCormick’s Creek State Park. It’s Indiana’s first state park, and it, like the National Park Service, is celebrating its centennial this year.

It’s a beautiful little park, with a lodge (restaurant, rooms, and cabins, like a proper eastern state park) where I ate lunch – a delicious pork tenderloin sandwich (an Indiana specialty). It also happens to be where my second husband and I told my parents we were getting married, so that was kind of weird.

Then I drove the winding road into the park and wandered down through the dense green woods (I don’t know why I always think of evergreens as the forest and deciduous trees as the woods, but there you go) to the little canyon and waterfall. Southern Indiana and large chunks of Kentucky are karst country, similar to what I saw near Jasper Township in Jasper NP, Alberta, last year. That’s why Mammoth Cave and so many other caves are around here.

This is native. It's a species of hydrangea, and it was growing near the waterfall at McCormick's Creek.
This is native. It’s a species of hydrangea, and it was growing near the waterfall at McCormick’s Creek.
The waterfall at McCormick's Creek. Lots of people playing in the water below the falls. I'd have liked to do that, except I was worried about the footing. The last thing I need to do is hurt myself again.
The waterfall at McCormick’s Creek. Lots of people playing in the water below the falls. I’d have liked to do that, except I was worried about the footing. The last thing I need to do is hurt myself again.
The falls via zoom.
The falls via zoom.
I don't know what he is, but he's cool. He was near the falls.
I don’t know what he is, but he’s cool. He was near the falls.  ETA:  I am informed that this is some sort of damselfly.  Thanks, azurelunatic from DW!
The stairs going back up to the parking area, through the lovely woods.
The stairs going back up to the parking area, through the lovely woods.

It was cooler today (80 something instead of 90 something), especially in the shade, even if it was humid enough to need to drink the air instead of breathe it, so walking around in the woods was actually rather pleasant. And the waterfall is beautiful.

The park has a nice nature center, too, with a glass-walled room lined with bird feeders on the other side, so you can watch the birds in air-conditioned comfort [g].

A phlox! This one was near the nature center.
A phlox! This one was near the nature center.  I love the lavender and white combo, but then I love phlox just on general principles.
I'm not sure what kind of birds these are, but it was so much fun to watch them from inside. There were squirrels and chipmunks all over the ground eating fallen seeds, too.
I’m not sure what kind of birds these are, but it was so much fun to watch them from inside. There were squirrels and chipmunks all over the ground eating fallen seeds, too.  ETA:  I am told by my birder friend Katrina that they’re house finches.  It’s always good to know what I’m looking at [g].
I'm pretty sure the fellow on the left is a downy woodpecker (you can't see the red, but he had it), and the guy on the right is a goldfinch.
I’m pretty sure the fellow on the left is a downy woodpecker (you can’t see the red, but he had it), and the guy on the right is a goldfinch.

After I left McCormick’s Creek I drove on into Bloomington and did a little exploring around. I lived here for two separate years, once (1986-87) while my ex was in library school, and once (1991) while I was in library school. But I hadn’t been back since. I found some landmarks – the apartment where my ex and I used to live, way out in the country, and the bar where my friend Heidi from the library school library and I used to go to drink Long Island Iced Teas and Blue Hawaiians on the occasional Friday night and then weave our way back to the dorm [g].

And now I’m ensconced in a Motel 6 here for a couple of nights, because I have more that I want to do in Bloomington. It’s good to be here. This is the one place, where if someone put a gun to my head and said, “you have to move back to the Midwest,” I’d say, okay, send me to Bloomington. I have a lot of good memories here.

June 22: Lincoln, Lincoln, and more Lincoln

I spent today in Springfield, the state capital of Illinois, but, more importantly, the town most associated with Abraham Lincoln. After a rather peripatetic childhood, he settled in Springfield as a young adult, started his law practice, and met and married his wife. He lived in Springfield until he moved to Washington, DC, when he was elected president. And, of course, after he was assassinated, he was buried in Springfield.

Given the size of Springfield (116,500, a bit more than half the size of Tacoma), I spent way too much time lost [wry g]. Finding Lincoln’s Home NHS, then his tomb (which was more interesting than it sounds), then finding lunch, then the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. About the only time I didn’t end up driving in circles was when I finally headed out of town.

But it was still worth it. I loved the National Historic Site containing and surrounding his home. It was a little two square block 1850s Midwestern version of Williamsburg, complete with living history stuff. His house (the only one he ever owned) has guided tours, and several of the other buildings in the neighborhood are restored and filled with museum exhibits, too. The visitor center had a 3D map of Springfield as Lincoln would have seen it. I spent most of the morning there, going from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned building [g], and learning about Lincoln’s decades in that house.

Lincoln's house.  You can sorta see the Williamsburgy neighborhood.
Lincoln’s house. You can sorta see the Williamsburgy neighborhood.
The formal parlor in Lincoln's house.
The formal parlor in Lincoln’s house.
The informal parlor.  Look at that *carpet.*  Victorian is *not* my style.
The informal parlor. Look at that *carpet.* Victorian is *not* my style.
A laundress doing living history.
A laundress doing living history in the 90dF humidity.  

After that I went in search of Lincoln’s tomb, which is an impressive structure in a beautiful, rolling, tree-covered cemetery, open to the public. Yes, you actually go inside, where there’s a number of sculptures of the man, as well as the stone with his name on it (someone tried to steal his remains and hold them for ransom, believe it or not, and in the 1880s he was reburied in a concrete vault way beneath the headstone to keep that from happening again). Walking through the tomb was interesting, in a really disconcerting sort of way. Made me think of Egyptian pharoahs, for some reason.

The outside of Lincoln's tomb.
The outside of Lincoln’s tomb.  The nose on the bust is shiny because people touch it for luck, the way they do a similar construction in the museum inside the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Lincoln's headstone inside the tomb.
Lincoln’s headstone inside the tomb.

After I finally found lunch, I went in search of the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum downtown, and ended up parking in an underground parking garage with an entrance and exit so narrow I was afraid Merlin was going to lose his rearview mirrors. But he emerged intact, fortunately.

The Presidential Museum was a bit over the top. Seriously. It was still really interesting, but more Disneyesque than it probably should have been. It was divided into two sections, before his election as president and after. I liked the first part, about how he grew up and educated himself and became a lawyer and met Mary Todd and so forth. The second part, about his presidency and the war, and the part about the Emancipation Proclamation in particular (even though it really made me realize how much the makers of the movie Lincoln got it right) was all these disembodied heads projected onto glass walls, shouting and arguing at each other, and was just too much. And the recreation of the room where his body (in a closed casket, at least) lay in state in the Springfield Courthouse – sorry, that was just Wrong.

The lefthand side of the rotunda of the Lincoln Presidential Museum, leading into the exhibits about Lincoln's early days.
The lefthand side of the rotunda of the Lincoln Presidential Museum, leading into the exhibits about Lincoln’s early days.
Inside the early years exhibit.  See what I mean about kinda Disneyesque?
Inside the early years exhibit. See what I mean about kinda Disneyesque?  The figure of Lincoln sorta reminds me of Matt Smith as The Doctor.
Apparently Lincoln was an extremely indulgent papa.  This exhibit comes from a description that his law partner wrote about how Lincoln's kids would trash their office [g].
Apparently Lincoln was an extremely indulgent papa. This exhibit comes from a description that his law partner wrote about how Lincoln’s kids would trash their office [g].
The righthand side of the rotunda, obviously leading to the White House years exhibits.
The righthand side of the rotunda, obviously leading to the White House years exhibits.
Lincoln's cabinet arguing about the Emancipation Proclamation.  Unlike all of the mannequins, the guy on the far right is live, and an actor talking about it to visitors.
Lincoln’s cabinet arguing about the Emancipation Proclamation. Unlike all of the mannequins, the guy on the far right is live, and an actor talking about it to visitors.

But the museum was mostly well worth the time it took to find it, and I’m glad I went. That’s the only presidential museum I’ve ever been to (I’ve been to Mount Vernon and Monticello, but that’s not the same thing – they’re homes like the one I went to this morning), so it was a new experience.

This evening I’m in the small town of Decatur, Illinois, east of Springfield, on my way east to Indianapolis. I’m looking forward to meeting another listee, Kevin Kennedy, there. Then I’m going to head south for a bit, and probably do some serious wandering around Kentucky. There’s more in Kentucky that I wanted to see than I’d realized.

June 21: Sometimes you just have to stop and get things done

Happy first full day of summer! It sure still feels like it here. It got close to 100dF again, and it’s humid. It’s supposed to be stormy tomorrow as a cold front goes through, but “cold” is a seriously relative term. It might be closer to 90 than 100 tomorrow. Maybe.

Today was Merlin’s First Oil Change [g]. He hit 5000 miles yesterday, and while I tried to find a place to have it done after I left Jim’s house, I was out of luck. This morning I also had to do laundry. This is the first time I’ve hit the combo of need to do laundry/motel has no laundry facilities for guests, so I found a laundromat nearby and sat and read while my clothes got clean. Then I found a local equivalent of a Jiffy Lube, only to find out that they didn’t have any more oil (really!). They directed me to a Meineke, who said they couldn’t get me in until 1:30 pm (it was just before noon). So I went and got lunch, and by the time I got back, they were ready to take him in. An hour sooner than they’d predicted.

In the meantime, I ate my Subway sandwich in their waiting room, and chatted with the desk clerk and another customer, who asked me question after question about my trip and what I was doing. The upshot was that I ended up handing out a couple of my writerly business cards.

I’ve probably handed out at least thirty business cards since I left home. I strike up conversations with people, they’re curious, and well… The weird thing is, I think of myself as an extreme introvert, but I really take after my father about striking up conversations with strangers. Individual strangers, that is, and I couldn’t do more than one or two per day, but well… Merlin’s a great ice-breaker, too. He generates way more interest than I ever thought he would. It’s weird. But fun.

Anyway, after Merlin was done, I headed north, on I-55 for the first 20 miles or so, then on a highway (Illinois Route 4) that turned out to trace old Route 66. Some of the signs for it were kind of cool.

2

I *love* this one.
I *love* this one.

And I found another elegant courthouse with a really tall tower.

The courthouse in Carlinville, Illinois.  The town had a central square, but the courthouse wasn't there, just along the main drag.
The courthouse in Carlinville, Illinois. The town had a central square, but the courthouse wasn’t there, just along the main drag.

But most of the route, outside of a lot of charming small towns, was between what looked like hedges of corn [g]. Flatter than flat, and that kind of wide-open sky that makes me feel like some giant is going to step on me like a bug, just like in Kansas.

Corn hedges [g].
Corn hedges [g].
Anyway, tonight I’m in Springfield, the capital of Illinois, and Abraham Lincoln’s hometown. Tomorrow I’m going to visit his presidential museum and library, and his house, and maybe even his tomb.

Then it’s on east to Indianapolis in a day or two, where I’m going to stop and see another listee, Kevin Kennedy. After that, I’m going down to Bloomington, Indiana, and revisit where I went to graduate school. I haven’t been back there since I graduated in 1991.

June 20: The Arch! But no botanical garden, alas. And also a good friend.

It was 90dF when I climbed into Merlin at 10 am just west of St. Louis, and the humidity was oppressive. And by oppressive I mean I felt like I had a coating of boiling lead all over my body, weighing me down [wry g]. This kind of weather is why I don’t visit my mother in Texas between Easter and Halloween.

But I made the best of it. I drove into downtown St. Louis, and wound up doing a sort of “Big Ben Parliament” thing (the reference is to the movie National Lampoon’s European Vacation, BTW) trying to find it. I kept seeing it, but trying to get close enough to it to actually walk up to it was – challenging. I never did get directly under it, even walking, because they’ve got the ground underneath it torn up while they redo the Museum of Westward Expansion, which is underground there and won’t be open again until 2017. But, after accidentally crossing over into Illinois and back again, I did manage to get close and find a parking place right next to the Old Courthouse, which is right across the street from the park leading to the Arch.

It’s every bit as impressive as I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be copper-colored, but I think that’s because the only other time I’ve ever seen it was from Amtrak’s Texas Eagle on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, right at sunset (which was admittedly pretty cool), years and years ago. It’s not coppery, it’s silver-colored. It shimmers. And it looks like a tornado would blow it right over. I kept thinking, where are the guywires?

The Arch from the steps of the Old Courthouse.
The Arch from the steps of the Old Courthouse.
As close as I could get to the Arch without going up in it (not a chance -- I saw the thing you ride up in -- they had a mockup where they sold the tickets -- it made the Gemini capsule back in Kansas look ginormous.
As close as I could get to the Arch without going up in it (not a chance — I saw the thing you ride up in — they had a mockup where they sold the tickets — it made the Gemini capsule back in Kansas look ginormous).

The Old Courthouse across the street reminds me of the historic buildings in Boston and Philadelphia, dwarfed by the skyscrapers that surround them. This is where Dred Scott and his wife first sued for their freedom from slavery, and it was determined that they were not U.S. citizens, and so would not be freed.

One of the exhibits in the Old Courhouse, about the Oregon Trail.
One of the exhibits in the Old Courhouse, about the Oregon Trail.
Remnants of one of the earliest buildings in St. Louis, a fur trader's warehouse.
Remnants of one of the earliest buildings in St. Louis, a fur trader’s warehouse.
An interesting reflection of the Old Courthouse in one of the nearby skyscrapers.  The statue is of Dred Scott and his wife.
An interesting reflection of the Old Courthouse in one of the nearby skyscrapers. The statue is of Dred Scott and his wife.

There’s a nice museum inside the courthouse, mostly temporary, I gather, while the other museum is closed. It was interesting, but nothing I wasn’t already familiar with. The exhibits were well done, though.

After I staggered back to Merlin through the heat, I knew the Missouri Botanic Gardens were a no-go. After barely a block I was just miserable. So I decided to head on out of St. Louis. I was really disappointed about that. I probably would have stuck around if I’d known the weather would have cooled off in a day or two, but it’s supposed to be in the 90s the rest of this week, alas.

I crossed the Mississippi into Illinois on a bridge that looks like what the 21st Street bridge in Tacoma wants to be when it grows up, and saw a sign for the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Hoping for an air-conditioned visitor center, I took the offramp only to discover it’s closed on Mondays. But I did take a brief look around, and then called my Bujold listee friend Jim Parish, who lives in a small college town just northeast of St. Louis.

One of the mounds at Cahokia, which is the largest pre-Columbian ruin north of Mexico.  Including Mesa Verde, apparently.
One of the mounds at Cahokia, which is the largest pre-Columbian ruin north of Mexico. Including Mesa Verde, apparently.

I found his house just fine, and we went out to lunch. A long, lovely lunch, where we talked about everything from Bujold to family to history. I’m not really sure there was a subject we didn’t cover [g]. Jim’s the first person I’ve stopped to see on this trip, and it was so nice to see a friendly familiar face and talk with someone I’ve known (albeit mostly online) for years.

I didn’t leave until after 3:30, and I stopped at the local AAA office for my next round of maps and guidebooks (I ran out after Missouri), then headed out of town looking for a place to stay. Oh, and for a place to get Merlin’s oil changed for the first time.

I saw this while I was looking for a motel tonight.  I've never seen a water tower painted to look like a bottle of ketchup before...
I saw this while I was looking for a motel tonight. I’ve never seen a water tower painted to look like a bottle of ketchup before…

I found the former, but not the latter, so I’ll have to do that tomorrow. Merlin now officially has 5000 miles on him. I’ve driven a bit over 4000 miles since I left home.

I then dithered about whether to go southeast, to Paducah, Kentucky, home of a nationally-recognized quilt museum, or northeast to Springfield, Illinois, where there’s a bunch of interesting Lincoln stuff. I could double back and do both, but for now I’m headed to Springfield tomorrow. There’s supposed to be some storms coming through tonight. I’m glad I’m indoors.