Monday, May 19, 2008

My Trip Timeline, with pictures behind the links!

An Abe Lincoln Look-A-Like Enjoys the Celtic Festival

So here's the timeline of my trip south, the videos will come later, so this is just a teaser. There are photos behind some of the links, so be sure to click. I'll be putting up all my photos at some point, but there's a LOT of them.

Friday, May 16, 2008
> Leave work and head to the airport to pick up my rental car. It took me 2 hours to get there, and I drove away with a 2008 Vibe, headed home, grabbed my bags, and headed out of town.
> Arrived in Springfield, Illinois, around 10:30 p.m. and promptly went to bed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008
> Got up at 8 a.m., headed off to Godfrey, Illinois, and happened to get lost on the way. I ended up in po-dunk Illinois where I pulled into a gas station. After getting the attendant's life story (something about rent and her landlord and the electric bill), I asked how to get where I was going. Everyone in the gas station promptly came over and offered their tips and advice. Eventually, a nice fellow in a Silver Chrysler offered to drive me the whole way there. So we hopped in our respective cars and I followed him for about a half-hour through the beautiful country and pure Americana into Godfrey where we stopped at a fruit stand and he sent me on my way. (Note: before the gas station incident, I drove through a small town where I stopped and purchased a fake poppy from a few Veterans selling them for $1 on the side of the road; the old men reminded me of my grandfather -- they, too, were WWII veterans; it made me sad.)
> Found my way (after a quick nosh) to my great-grandfather's old house, behind a restaurant as my mom and aunt had said. I took some photos, and moved on.

> After a brief bit of being lost (again), made my way to the Valhalla Memorial Park cemetery in Godfrey, where after picking up the directions/obit the office lady left me (she's on vacation now), I ended up in the vicinity of the plot. Since they're all flat, it took me about 10 minutes of walking around to locate the grave of my great-grandfather and his last wife, Edna (not my blood relative). It was a simple headstone. I sat down on the grass in the warm sunlight and talked a bit to the great-grandpa I'd never known. I analyzed his neighbors, placed my stones, took some photos, and left.
> From here I headed into Alton, where I was hoping to go to the cemetery some great-great-great something or other relatives are buried. The cemetery has no records of them, but some useful sources said they *are* buried there. I arrived at the cemetery in beautiful Alton, which is really hilly and from which, perched upon the brick-red cobblestone streets, you can see the river. But it would have taken days wandering around to find their stones, so I took some photos of the vast, historic cemetery and went on my way.
> I drove over to the tallest-man statue, which was pretty snazzy. I took some photos, read the information, and departed.
> From here I left Alton and headed over to the World's Largest Ketchup Bottle, which was actually pretty anti-climactic, but I took a photo and called my mom to gloat where I was. I sent a copy of a picture to a friend, as, well, it might have not been that exciting, but it was amusing.
> Headed off to a mall outside of St. Louis on the Illinois side where I partook in some delicious Chick-Fil-A -- the delicacy of my youth -- and sent some friends a note gloating about my meal, since, well, in Chicago we have no Chick-Fil-As. I bought a couple necklaces (including a hamsa one, which I'd been searching for) and then took off for the cemetery in St. Louis.
> My aunt's instructions were perfect to find the plot of the Weilbachers in the New (formerly Old) St. Marcus cemetery. There were more graves in the plot than I expected, including some people I'd never heard of. I called mom and she told me about her "aunt" Alma, though she can't be mom's Aunt. She must be a great-Aunt, or something. I took some photos, meandered around and checked out some of the graves (saw a Hitler one, actually), then took off.

Note: Having been done with my tasks a lot quicker than expected, I toiled with what to do with myself. So I left the area and headed back to Springfield, where I was staying, in hopes of finding something fun to do for the evening.

> On the way back to Springfield, I saw a sign off the road for a Mother Jones memorial, so I took off the highway into this small, small Union town and went to the Mother Jones memorial in this tiny little cemetery full of union workers out in the middle of nowhere.
> Back in Springfield, I drove around for a while, analyzing the map, and spotted a Drive-In movie theater, which absolutely thrilled me. I called mom to look up the theater and tell me the hours and everything. I decided that I would head back in the evening for the 9 p.m. showing of Iron Man; not because I wanted to see Iron Man, but because I wanted to BE in the drive-in since it was such a part of my childhood. To buy time, I went back into downtown in hopes of spotting some historic stuff.
> Unfortunately, everything was closed at 5 p.m., so I wandered over to where a Celtic festival was taking place. They usually have games and a fest, but the games were canceled because of some problems at the fairgrounds. Thus, I drank beer, watched live performances, and took lots and lots of photos and video. Around 7:45, I took off back to the drive-in to guarantee my place.
> At the Drive-In, I bought nachos and a large soda. I tuned my radio to the right station, and sat, excitedly, while the lot filled up and the sun set. The movie started, and it was probably the happiest day of my life. The Drive-In is a lost and taken-for-granted art.
> I went back to the hotel, watched some SNL, and crashed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008
> I got up at 8:45, knowing that nothing really opened until 10. I took my time, got some breakfast, and headed out.
> I arrived at the Lincoln Depot super early, right as the park's officer was getting there. It was about 9:30 and it opened at 10, but he let me in early (thanks!). I took some pictures, then headed over to the Old Capitol Art Fair, which started up at 10 a.m.

> I spent nearly 2 hours at the art fair, looking around, taking photos, noshing and watching a live band perform. I didn't want to leave, because I was so at peace, but I knew I needed to hit a few more spots before heading back to Chicago.
> I took off for the Lincoln Tomb at a local cemetery -- the second most visited in the U.S. after Arlington National. Unfortunately there was construction, so I couldn't rub the lucky nose, but I did get to see the new, old, and holding tombs for Lincoln and his kin.
> I wanted to hit the Museum of Funeral Customs, but it didn't open until 1, so I took off toward Shea's Gas Station museum, but it wasn't open either ... so I headed toward the 55 and north toward home.

Note: It took me about 2.5 hours to get home, but then I hit Chicago and there was traffic. I then went out to the mall off Touhy to pick up some tickets, but showed up 10 minutes late for Ticketmaster, and then hit more traffic on the highway out to O'Hare to return the car and arrived there with 10 minutes to spare. It then took me 2 hours to get home (whoo hoo Blue Line construction), at which time I discovered my apartment had no hot water (and none this morning either).

I just want to say that I'd kill to be back in Springfield right now. Things in the city are so complicated, so delayed, so irritating. The city reminded me a lot of Lincoln (where I spent my teen years and went to college), but I'll go into that with my reflective post, mmk?