I really enjoyed my day driving from Chicago to Monroe, just south of Detroit Michigan. At least I did, once I got off the Freeway. It turns out that between Chicago and Monroe the I90 road, has at least 4 different toll plazas and payment places - all at different costs and all for no bloody reason. Why not just have one that you pay for how long you have driven on the road (They all use this method to figure out a cost anyway, but you end up paying four bills instead of just one).
|Just approaching Chicago|
|Another bloody Toll road!|
I got really annoyed when, after the third toll plaza a fourth one appeared just a mile or two later – so I pulled off the freeway as soon as I could and made my way eastwards on good old fashioned country roads, passing through little towns with strange names like ‘Kunkle’, until I reached the Indiana/Ohio border. It was then just a short drive till I reached Toledo, on the shores of Lake Erie.
Toledo looked like a really nice place when I arrived. I passed the Toledo Art museum and saw a load of cool art in the gardens, so I pulled around behind the museum and spent a good hour wandering around the outside looking at it all. My favourites were a bench in the shape of a polar bear and a huge oversized swing, made from steel girders and what appeared to be a massive tractor type tyre.
|Polar bear chair!!|
|The coolest sculpture!!|
It was also a school’s graduation, so there were loads of mums and dads taking photos of their kids who were all dressed up for their graduation party.
I continued into town and passed by the stadium that belongs to the Toledo Mud Hens – a 10,000 seat stadium that looks lovely. It has in fact been voted one of the best minor baseball stadiums, so I had to stop by and take a look myself. There were even preparations going on for a game later that evening as well as a statue of some kids sneaking a look through a hole in a fence.
|Toledo. City of the future? Yeah, in 1920!!|
After a look around that, I strolled along the river in downtown Toledo and was quite sad that the centre of town has almost nothing in it. There are just two small office blocks and a car park. It’s almost as if the town was built for some reason and then all the reason it was built had left. It’s a strange little town, but in a lovely location.
I drove north along the banks of Lake Erie northwards into Michigan and my overnight stop at a place called Monroe – The home of LazyBoy chairs! I didn’t see the lazy boy factory though as I spent my time looking around the little town centre. I did find a Vietnam memorial park , complete with Huey helicopter though, before I then found a bit of a wildlife sanctuary on the lakes edge and spent a lovely hour or so just enjoying the quiet peace and watching a few of the large water birds flying low over the calm waters of the lake. It’s a nice little town and I’m glad I didn’t bother driving further north to end up in Detroit, which by all accounts is a bit of a shit hole!
A great night’s sleep in a good motel was followed up by an early start at about 6am on Sunday. This is the longest driving day of this trip and I wanted to get on the road and have time to see around my destination in the afternoon. It turned out to be a great drive – again leaving the freeway I drove across flat farmland through loads of weird little towns and you can see why this part of the country is nicknamed ‘The Middle’. It’s because no matter where you are you are in the middle of nowhere.
My first real stop was in the city of Lincoln, where the only thing I wanted to see was the City Hall, which for no apparent reason has a telephone box on the roof!! Cool!!
|I have no idea why it on the roof!|
|More route 66!|
I continued driving south along part of the old route 66 and reached my actual destination by early afternoon – Springfield, Illinois. You may have heard of this town – No, it’s NOT the Springfield from The Simpsons, but the capital of Illinois and the place where Abrahams Tomb is. This was my first stop in the city and I took my time and took in the aura of the place. It’s an impressive mausoleum which houses the room, 10 feet under which the assassinated president’s body is buried in a lead coffin. The huge stone marking the spot is in a room surrounded by flags and with gold leaf ceiling. It’s a simple but great memorial to my favourite president and I really enjoyed my visit.
Later, I had a look around the impressive State Capitol building and its huge dome as well as finding a sculpture of a huge stag, made completely from chrome bumpers from old cars. It was getting really hot and so, knowing my hotel had a pool, I left Springfield and made it in time for a relaxing cool dip before mellowing out and an early night.
|Lincoln memorial (His nose is supposedly lucky and everyone rubs it)|
|Inside the memorial- Where Lincoln is buried|
|Springfield State Capitol Building|
|Weird but cool!|
The next day there were Tornado warnings reaching from Oklahoma up to St Louis. I was due to drive right across the middle of it! I decided to get off early as the weather gets worse as the day goes on, so the afternoon is usually the worst part. I got lucky and only saw one big storm on the way – wit the biggest lightning bolt I have ever seen – but no tornadoes. Although the sky was really dark at some points and I managed to take a photo of one particularly weird looking cloud. Luckily, though and seriously, I’m now glad that the storm and whatever it is carrying has passed by below Kansas City and it looks like I will not be seeing any Tornadoes. I would hate to get caught up in something like what has happened just outside Oklahoma City this afternoon.
|Normal but dark clouds|
|I never did find out what this cloud was!! Scary though - it was massive!|
I have two days in Kansas, staying at the Argosy Hotel, Casino and Spa – which thanks to Hotwire.com, is selling its very plush rooms cheaper than a 1 start dodgy motel. My room is fabulous – with a huge bed, walk in shower with two separate showerheads and a great view of the surrounding countryside. It’s a little bit of luxury that I fully deserve!!
|Posh room - cheap price!|