The Adventure: Day 14

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Going to bed early last night helped (as did changing from Eastern to Central time). We woke before 7 AM, and were ready for breakfast when the hotel served it at 7:30. We checked out, hooked up, and hit the road at 8:45 AM.

IMG_2458Our destination was Austin, Minnesota, home of the SPAM Museum. So we could visit Monday morning before we head to Morgan, MN, home of the Farm Fest, to deliver the RALICares Trailer to its next venue.

I know. We were in Springfield, Illinois. Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln for 18 hours and couldn’t fit in a museum or historically significant site. (Although we ate a Horseshoe!) But we made it a point to be in Austin with time to visit the museum that pays homage to pickled/preserved/processed meat products. Believe me, I’m shaking my head in disbelief too.

Anyway … the journey started off easier. There was no cross wind, so we stayed in our lane without much effort.

Illinois is full of corn and soybeans and it’s green and beautiful.

After a few hours, we moved into Iowa.

Iowa is full of corn and soybeans and it’s green and beautiful.

I downloaded a Love’s Travel Center App and a Pilot/Flying J App so we could find gas IMG_2460easily on the road. We stopped for gas at a Flying J that had a Denny’s attached so we had lunch there. We’ve done enough road trips that we know when we need to take a break. We can’t do ten hour days without getting cranky with each other.

After lunch we changed from a generally northerly direction to a generally westerly direction. And the winds picked up. And staying in our own lane got progressively more challenging. I didn’t think of it until it was too late, but I will be taking pictures and video of Dave wrestling with the steering wheel to keep us going straight and in our own lane.

We crossed the Illinois River and the Mississippi River. We crossed several other rivers, many creeks and lakes. There are fewer animals/livestock than we’d expected. We’ve seen a few horses. One or two herds of cows. A few sheep. But honestly, I think I see more livestock between our house in Madera Ranchos and Fresno than I’ve seen here in the last week in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota combined. And I’m not exaggerating.

IMG_2463Last night, Dave looked at my Google maps app route to Austin and decreed it unacceptable. The last hour or so appeared to be on a county highway. He decided he’d rather take a longer route and stick to state highways/freeways. Which is fine. After our experience last Sunday, I get it. 

But … today, as we drove, I continually cross-checked our route with Google maps and the CoPilot app, comparing the times, making sure we were okay with the length and weight of the trailer. And the biggest factor, to me … David’s favored state highway route added an hour to our day. And it was a more westerly route. We’d been fighting those cross-winds for a couple of hours already and we were both exhausted. He felt like he’d been arm-wrestling Lurch and I was the nervous passenger, afraid we were about to be blown off the road and only maimed, not immediately killed. (I’d rather go quickly, not linger.)

I brought up the two different routes on my phone, pointed out the differences to the driver. One was shorter and more northerly (meaning less cross winds). He agreed to IMG_2464change his previously decided route. Whew.

It worked out perfectly. The Google suggested route was definitely more rural, county highway-ish, but it was beautifully scenic, very little wind, and so much easier than the longer route someone wanted to take.

We arrived at our Austin hotel as rain started to fall. We got inside and check in before it turned into a full tornado warning. We ate our leftovers from last night and from lunch, then Dave turned on the television. Yep. A tornado warning for real. He went to the front desk, confessed to being a Californian. “We know what to do in an earthquake. What do we do in a tornado?” The front desk clerk did a good job hiding her grin, but basically said, “You’ll feel it coming. Just go into the center hallway and hunker down. But we don’t expect anything.” Sure. Until you do.

We’re in for the night. The SPAM Museum opens at 9 AM. I guess we’ll be there. Then we’ll head to the venue for the Farm Fest, in Morgan, MN to deliver the trailer. It’s a little over two hours away.

Then Dave and I go on to Minneapolis. We’ll fly home in the next day or two. We’ll be home for a week or so (for a previously scheduled vacation). We’ll be back with the RALICares trailer in Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair on August 9th.

Hmmm … Fair Fare …

Apparently the regional food of Iowa is a Maid Rite sandwich. We’ll definitely look up that one!

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The Adventure: Day 13

Saturday, July 27, 2019

We left Indy about 9:30, a little later than we’d planned, but I wanted to take our time loading up, making sure we didn’t forget anything, and had our bearings. We said a sad farewell to the Holiday Inn Express – Westfield staff. TJ at the front desk, Kym and Leslie in the dining room. They were great and helpful and kind and gracious.

We stopped to fuel up after about half an hour, at a gas station we’d visited last Saturday,

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Illinois

near the truck wash and Steak ‘n Shake. Then we were officially on new and unproven roads.

Pulling this huge trailer is no joke. It’s a giant wind sail. Every gust pulls or pushes us. Trucks that pass us create a draw that feels like an earthquake shaking us.

After an hour and a half, we entered Illinois and gained an hour as we went from Eastern time to Central. The trailer seemed to be swaying a lot so we pulled over at a rest stop (staffed with real people for giving information) and David made a call to an acquaintance for some advice. He left a message and I searched for a hotel on the outskirts of Springfield. I called to be sure they could accommodate the trailer. Then we continued on. 

I passed the time by posting this morning’s entry about yesterday, reading a little, looking at the new scenery, and making sure David didn’t miss any freeway navigation changes.

We needed gas shortly after we passed the last Pilot Travel stop. Of course. I didn’t realize we were that close to empty, until the low fuel warning popped up on the navigation screen. Dave didn’t realize how quickly the truck sucked up fuel, either, since this was our first long distance trip with the trailer.

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Rolls of hay

We still had 50 miles of fuel, and we were about 30 miles from our destination in Springfield, so we were fine, but Dave said to go ahead and find a gas station.

Which I did, in Mechanicsville, about 2 miles off the freeway. I cross-checked the route with our CoPilot app (of course! Lesson learned!) and looked at the gas station from a satellite view. I was pretty sure we could pull in, but not 100%.

We found it and it was close, but we were able to pull in and through. It had high roofs over the pumps, so we were okay. But they didn’t have “Premium,” which the truck needs, so we ended up getting only $10 of gas. We also bought beef jerky for our lunch, and headed back to the freeway.

We planned to find our hotel, drop off the trailer, and go to a Lincoln museum. We found the hotel, which was next to a Tractor Supply Company. Dave went in to ask the manager if we could park there. He brought her out a minute later and introduced me to Kimberly. Her son is an addict and she was very interested in the trailer. We opened it up and while Dave unhooked (she gave enthusiastic permission for us to park there), I showed her the highlights in the trailer. She got a little teary a few times as she recognized and remembered some of the things I pointed out as “red flag indicators.”

While Dave was unhooking, a part of the winch (?? I think that’s what it’s called??) that is used to raise and lower the trailer as it’s hooked and unhooked from the truck, broke. It had broken partway on Thursday, at the farmer’s market, but it broke the rest of the way today. We looked at the TSC store, but they didn’t have a replacement. The part that broke is what made it possible for Dave to use an impact drill to raise and lower the trailer quickly and easily. Luckily (??), we still had the original part for raising and lowering the trailer manually. So he put that part back on. But by then, it was nearly 4:00. Too late to do any sight seeing or museum visiting. We went ahead and checked in.

And I was out of steam. Remember, beef jerky for lunch? It caught up with me. We checked in, went to our room and it was hot in there. The AC wouldn’t come on. So back to the front desk to get a different room.

We finally got a cool room, got our bags in, and collapsed. I did a bit of Googling on “Illinois regional cuisine.” And discovered that a Springfield specialty is the Horseshoe. I found two nearby places that had it on their menus. One was called the Trade Winds Pub

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The Trade Winds–good thing a review said to ignore the outside appearance!

& Eatery. The other was the Engrained Brew Pub. David asked the front desk staff for a recommendation. They hadn’t heard of either one at first. They thought for a minute, then one guy said, “Oh, yeah, that’s a bar!” referring to the Trade Winds, about 3/4s of a mile away.

We headed there, to the Trade Winds first, since it was close, thinking to check it out, then go to Engrained if the Trade Winds didn’t make the cut. We followed my trusty Google Maps and found a deserted-looking hut in the middle of a dusty parking lot. With trepidation, we headed in. One of the reviews I’d seen said, “Don’t be put off by the exterior.” Good thing I’d read that.

Inside it was definitely a bar. Some would call it a dive bar. But it looked clean and the staff was friendly and quick. We didn’t even look at a menu, just asked about the Horseshoe.

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Basically it’s a piece (or two) of Texas toast, with meat, topped with french fries, topped with cheese sauce. The original has hamburger. Now they offer a choice of meats. The waiter said their most popular is the breaded pork tenderloin so that’s what we ordered. He said, “It’s big,” so we knew to order just one and share it.

Big is an understatement. We both ate until we were full, brought some back to the hotel (I think Dave’s planning to have it for breakfast), and we still left quite a bit behind.

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The Horseshoe, after we were both full!

We waddled to the truck, then made it back to the hotel. It’s early to bed for us. Our plan is to hit the road again early tomorrow. Our destination is Austin, Minnesota. It’s six hours and twenty minutes away. Today’s journey was not quite three and a half. So we’re adding another three hours to tomorrow.

No Mr. Lincoln for us. No Springfield sights.

But … we’re scheduled to be back in Illinois in late September/early October. So I know where I want to go! And maybe what to eat.