Third in a series of naming a blog post with a state name, and this is also the third Midwest state I have blogged about. Coincidence? I shall let you, the reader, draw your own conclusion.
Illinois. Land of Lincoln. Land of corn. Yeah, I am going to start out another blog post complaining about corn. I just don’t get it. Why so much damn corn? The good news is that once I approached Chicagoland the corn disappeared. To be replaced by suburbia. But I am getting ahead of myself.
After leaving the craziness of Iowa behind my friend Kathy and I made a beeline to her friend’s farm in Galesburg, Illinois. Guess what they grow on said farm? You get a gold star if you said corn. You get two gold stars if you said both corn and soybeans. Of course what else would they farm? This is the Midwest after all.
Galesburg is the home of Knox College which might mean something to those of you that pay attention to this kind of stuff. I had no clue about this – just one of the things I am clueless about in life…
As previously mentioned, Galesburg is also the location of said farm, all 1800 or so acres of it. Yeah, that is a lot of corn and soybeans, and this is just one of many, many, many farms in the Midwest.
It was great to get to meet Kathy’s friends and spend some chill time on the farm. Even got a chance to run through the corn (OK, maybe not run cause corn is kinda sharp – the plant that is). And had a Midwest farm meal to die for. Yummy!
Kathy met this family in Belize of all places and made a great connection with them. This was her first time visiting their home, so I was honored to be brought along for the occasion. We both had a blast, but it was time to move on further east.
Our final destination was Chicago by the end of the week as Kathy had a plane to catch to get her back home, but we weren’t in any hurry. In case y’all have never looked at a map, Illinois isn’t exactly a wide state, so it doesn’t take long to get to Chicago. Texas is a wide state. Illinois isn’t. Bet you never thought you would get so many geography lessons reading this blog, did you? That’s two in two posts. Stick around and you might learn something since I know you slept through geography class in grammar school. Yeah you in the back, I am pointing at you!
Starved Rock State Park – Utica, IL
On the recommendation of Kathy’s farmer friends we headed towards Starved Rock State Park for a couple of nights. Situated on the Illinois River, this park looks great on paper as it has a lot of hiking trails for a couple of nature lovers to get out and explore. However things weren’t so rosy when we arrived.
The campground itself was great. We were able to get a fairly isolated site in the wooded section that provided a great place to hang out and relax for a couple of days. It is the other section of the park that I have issues with. Like I said, the park looked great on paper. What I failed to do was look at the actual website before heading that way. Had I done so I would have noticed that about 95% of the trails are closed due to storm and flood damage. Frack! That wasn’t something we were planning on, but by the time we figured this out we were committed.
We did hike the only open trails in the park. Of course this is where everyone else was. It is amazing how crowded the trails were considering this park isn’t exactly near any great metropolis. Or any city of any size.
We may have attempted to hike the closed sections. We may have run into another couple that was standing by the trail closed sign and we may have said we would do it if they did it. We may have let them go ahead of us because we really didn’t want the extra company. The other couple may have been intercepted by a park ranger who was writing them a ticket when I may have seen this from a distance. We may have turned around and hightailed it back to the open trail. This is all hypothetical of course, since it is illegal to hike on closed trails and I follow every law to the letter. Yup, sure do!
Since we rapidly ran out of things to do in the park, and neither Kathy or I are big fans of hanging out with large groups, especially when the groups contain lots of kids, we had to figure out what to do. So off to town we went. Utica, IL is a small town with a population of less than 1400, which is the size of a town I am getting very familiar with on my journey. Hell, when I am in a town of 5000 I get excited and don’t know what to do with myself. Imagine what happened when I hit Chicago, but I am getting ahead of myself again.
Anyhow, we ended up finding a great little cafe in Utica that served a damn fine chocolate desert thingy which only made me hungry, so we then had a Quiche Lorraine which was probably the best quiche I have had outside of what my mom has made. Kathy agreed, except for the part of my mom’s quiche because she hasn’t even met my mom, never less eaten her quiche. Bottom line is we both were very pleasantly surprised at the food we found in Utica. Trust me, this is a good thing as more frequently one leaves disappointed.
Then there is the little game of checkers that ensued while we enjoyed our fine food. There is some debate about who was the checker champion. Personally I think that the winner is generally the person that kicks ass on all three games, but Kathy seems to think otherwise. I think a rematch is in order!
Note: Sorry, no pics of Starved Rock State Park. I guess I was so unimpressed with the closures that I failed to take pictures.
Blackwell Forest Preserve – Warrenville, IL
One can only have so much fun in a town of 1400, and Kathy had a flight to catch, so we headed to the closest campground I could find to Chicago – Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, Illinois. This got us well into the Chicago metro area, but Midway Airport was still a good 45 minute drive. The funny thing about big cities is that they tend not to offer great camping opportunities close into the things. At least not that I am aware of. So distance is a small sacrifice if one wants to be close to the action. Oh, and there were no corn fields to be seen anywhere. Nice!
Blackwell’s campground is only open Thursday through Saturday nights, which is one of the reasons why we spent two nights at Starved Rock. We simply couldn’t come in earlier if we wanted to. Since we arrived on Thursday afternoon we didn’t really have anytime to explore Chicago together as Kathy flight was first thing Friday morning. Another time…
So for our last night together we went into downtown Napierville and hit up a Chicago style pizza restaurant that actually was quite pleasant. As was downtown Napierville – not bad for a suburban downtown.
Kathy was off on her flight back home early Friday and I was on my own for the first time in a little bit. Or was I? Actually I had a co-worker to visit in Chicago…