Last week, I left Dubuque and went on a trip that took me to my aunt’s house in Tinley Park, Illinois to Princeton, Illinois, down to the St. Louis suburbs, then back home. The following is the first half of some notes from my ride that I wrote on my IPod as I drove, or things that I was thinking along the way.
The road from Dubuque to Chicago is at first a frustrating two-laner over hills and curves, made even more frustrating by early morning fog and traffic. At points, I’m going 40-45. I’m gleeful when the road splits into four lanes by Freeport, and I happen upon a farm to photograph. I fill up at the oasis on I-88, just as a bus with high schoolers comes in. Chicago freeway traffic is light.
I exit I-294 and take Cicero down to where my aunt and uncle live. I drove this route several times when I would come down from Milwaukee seven years ago, and there are many more empty store fronts now then there was then. Not the roughest neighborhood I’ve ever been in, but it’s bleak nonetheless. Tinley Park, where they actually live, is much better. Seeing the bus stops with movie ads to me, is the hallmark of city life.
On the way out of Chicago, I get off at Joliet, Illinois, and find a minor highway that runs north of I-80 about ten miles. I have a fleeting thought about taking I-55 instead, but its raining, and I’d like to drive on a road less crowded.
After photographing a group of sheds, I pull into a driveway to turn around and have to wait for two vehicles to pass. While I sit there, someone watches from the doorstep of the house, probably the person who owns the sheds. I worry about him approaching me or yelling at me, but he doesn’t do either.
Spend the night in Princeton, Illinois.
There are days when the road turns in unexpected ways, and today’s one of them. After a commitment is canceled, I take it as a sign to go to Collinsville, Illinois and visit the Issues, Etc. studio.
Take a break from driving in the rain. I’m in the middle of a forest preserve by Tiskilwa, Illinois, which appears to be nothing more than a collection of bushes. Found several abandoned buildings to photograph, an extended shoot of the Illinois River by Lacon.
Get coffee at a Starbucks in Peoria, Illinois, answer e-mails, then get soup at Culver’s. Head out on the interstate, but get pulled over by a cop for going 70 in a 55 MPH zone. While the cop takes two full games of IPod Moxie to write my ticket, I see two other people pulled over in front of me and it dawns on me: the state of Illinois is broke. They’ve become Wyoming.
Stop at the Lincoln home in Springfield, decide not to tour it since I remember some of it from our family vacation twenty years ago. I get my national parks passport stamped and wander among the buildings, listening to an audio tour on my phone. Take a vanity photo for my facebook page. Springfield is a rugged town; it has a “historic” downtown, but it still looks more worn down than it should. On the way out of town, I stop at Starbucks and download my e-mail in the parking lot.
Our lives are defined by our actions.
Stay at the Congressional Motel, a $45 a night shop for a room that smells like drugs were used in it. The WiFi doesn’t work, so I have to go to Panera Bread, which for some reason is called the St. Louis Bread Company. Come back and watch the sad coverage of the Junior Seau suicide and see Marcellus Wiley crying on ESPN. Heartbreaking.