Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Great Expectations...........The Retirement Trip Has Begun

The Retirement Trip started on Sunday with a bridal shower and tea in North Canton, Ohio, followed by two nights in Warsaw, Indiana, visiting my stepdaughter's family. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and entertained the little ones with swimming, ice cream, and then a farewell dinner at The Hacienda, next door to our hotel.  Following breakfast at a bagel shop this morning, we were on our way to celebrate MY RETIREMENT ! (While all my former co-workers are teaching, I am on the road..............with no apologies! I earned it!)

We left Warsaw a bit before noon. We couldn't even get out of the parking lot of the bagel shop without stopping the car and rearranging things!  Not a good sign. We headed west on The Lincoln Highway, and that's what we stayed on for a very, very, very, very long time.

Our first stop was in Hobart, in the western part of Indiana at The Veterans Park, where I finished my chicken fajitas from The Hacienda, and Randy enjoyed drive-through food from a McDonald's.  The park was lovely with matching pillar monuments to honor all five branches of USA Military services.

Now, the Lincoln Highway, Rt. 30, is very charming in Indiana, but once into Illinois, and as it gets close to Chicago, it is constant stop lights and lots of traffic.   We purposely programmed Thelma* to take us south of Chicago so we wouldn't end up in traffic, but Chicago seems to have spread south a lot lately, and what used to be farmland is now suburbia.

We came within ten miles of my great-grandparent's home, The Garfield Farm Museum in LaFox, Illinois.  The countryside had changed so much with suburban growth that I was unaware how close we were until we had nearly passed the roads that would have taken us there.  Fortunately, The Garfield Farm is so finely etched into my mind as one of those places I can visit mentally at will, that there was no need to stop by today.   Next time.......And someday I will just put a copy of my journal from some of my trips there into this blog, so you can find out how wonderful it is, too! You can visit it online at www.garfieldfarm.org  until I get around to that.

There were some moments today when we found Illinois truly beautiful. When the windmills appeared on the horizon, we Ohioans who rarely see them on our own turf, again remarked on their enormity and their almost alien-like forms that change how we are used to seeing farmland. Huge and fluffy clouds floated above the drought-dried corn crops. Tired from riding,  camera at hand, I shot photos of the windmills, becoming my own version of Don Quixote, with a camera instead of a sword.

There comes a moment in any long car ride where someone says, "Are we there yet?" and even though this was only day ONE on the road, I uttered those words somewhere around Aurora, Illinois. We had passed at least a hundred Walmarts, forty-five Applebees, a zillion CVS stores, and even one brand new Wallgreens that was growing in the middle of four cornfields. (There might be a small amount of exaggeration, but this seemed fairly accurate at the time.) There is little diversity anymore in the shopping or dining adventures in travel, we find, unless we search and seek for them, and after several hours of the same old same old, it was time to squeak a bit.

We told Thelma that she knew who the real bosses were, muted her, and took Rt. 39 north.  We got off in Rochelle to check out motels.  Rochelle was a railroad hub in bygone days, but now is just a nice little town whose motels seem to be full.  After the full self-guided auto tour, we continued north to Rockford, Illinois, where we have made a nest at a Red Roof Inn, enjoyed a very large icy cold beer and shared a Buffalo Chicken Wrap with  fries at Big Al's Bar.  Big Al's has some really fine artwork around the top of the walls, depicting famous actors and stars.  Marilyn Monroe is dining up there with Clark Gable, and JFK is peeking from a curtain at her.  Lucille Ball was my favorite of all the figures. She looked like herself.  Dining with the stars created good dinner conversation with nearby patrons.

 There was a moment's hesitation when I asked Randy if we could order one sandwich and cut it in half instead of carrying huge amounts of extra food back to our motel, but he agreed to try this, which we now call the "Darrah Plan." (See the Westport Wedding post to meet the Darrahs.)  We had more than enough to eat, and will use this plan in the future!

Reservations have been made for tomorrow night's stay. It's a special place we've stayed before. We are finding that places we hold dear are worth going back for a second look.  Or a third.  Or more.

* Thelma is the name of our GPS unit.  My Buick Rendezvous is named Louise.

copyright: KP Gillenwater