Wow, we're impressed that you made it this far with the riveting title like that! Our time in Illinois was a tad more exciting than watching corn grow, but we were there long enough to see some significant growth in the corn crops, and there happen to be a lot of corn crops in central Illinois! When we arrived, I’m pretty sure the corn was just sprouting (does corn sprout?), but by the time we left, there were some significant corn crops! Probably an indicator that we may have stayed a little too long!!
We stayed at Forrest W Bo Wood Campground, which is a Corp of Engineer campground (our favorite campgrounds) and is on Shelbyville Lake, by Sullivan, IL. The campground is surrounded by small towns, lots and lots of farms (and corn) and the lake. The lake is very nice…..and popular with the locals. Seemed everyone we met lived within an hour of the park. And while the area is not bustling with activities, the purpose of our visit was mainly to visit with family and do a little work. Greg had an install and I had some work right outside St. Louis. As a side note, Corp parks typically limit your stay to 14 days, but we were able to apply for an extension and stay another 14 days for a total of 28 days. The only catch was that we had to move to another part of the park, which was no big deal.
Our first couple weeks we mainly spent time doing family stuff—a couple of lunches and dinners with my aunt, and we also spent some time doing a little fixing up around grandma’s house and of course, visiting with grandma. My grandma, who, is 94, just moved into an apartment in an assisted living facility, but until recently, was living on her own. She is now is in the process of selling her house….and all her stuff. Kind of weird to see all the stuff she has accumulated over the years (which is a lot) and a great feeling for us to know that the process of getting rid of most of our stuff has already happened. And it also reinforced that we don’t miss our “stuff” one bit.
Greg doing a little painting...
We always try to find a “story” (or at least something to do) in the places we visit, but this stop was a little harder, without traveling too far, but we managed to eek out a few interesting sightseeing activities while we were there. After the majority of my usually successful methods of finding things to do failed, I resorted to RoadsideAmerica.com, which is a website/app dedicated to offbeat tourist attractions, and usually results in something interesting….this time no exception. It started off slow with a big ice cream stand in the shape of an ice cream cone, followed by a two story outhouse, then a three story, all brick, goat house. And who said there was nothing to do in Central Illinois!?!
The Twisty Treat in Mattoon, IL.
It's for sale in case anyone is interested in starting an ice-cream business.
The two-story outhouse in Gays, IL, 1872...perhaps an early day skycrapper? :-)
At one point, it was attached to a General Store,
but that was demolished. And with pride, the town made sure
the outhouse remained standing!!
The town is very proud of their one and only tourist attraction!
The Goat Tower of Baaa, in Findlay, IL.
Supposedly only one of only three goat towers in the world.
Thirty one feet tall and made of 5,000 bricks and 276 exterior spiral steps.
Such a beautiful tower, but we didn't see any goats climbing around.
And then it happened. We struck gold with offbeat tourist attractions! Everyone jokes about the big ball of twine, and no, we weren’t fortunate to run across that (it’s on our list though!!), but we did run across a town with something even cooler than the twine. The town? Casey, IL.
Casey, a small town with a big heart (their slogan, not mine) is a sleepy little town with a population of a little over 2500, and I would imagine, a town with not a whole lot of reasons for people to come visit. Until. Until someone in this town had a BIG idea ….and that idea? Build lots of BIG things. They even have a workshop that focuses on building just big things… a tourist attraction in its own rite. (Unfortunately we went on a Sunday and it was closed!) The town of Casey is home to the world’s largest mailbox, wind chime, rocking chair, golf tee, knitting needle, crochet hook, wooden clogs and pitch fork. Quite an accomplishment if you ask us!!
Worlds largest mailbox...and yes, you can actually mail a letter from it!!
5,743 cubic feet, weighing 20,000 lbs.
In order to receive the "World's Largest" designation,
the Yarn Studio had to crochet and knit a 10x10 square using each of the hooks/needles.
Unfortunately the store was closed, so we had to take a picture from the street.
The World's Largest Golf tee, weighing 6,659 pounds, constructed of yellow pine boards and held together by 60 gallons of glue and 120lbs of screws. Located at the Casey Country Club
They need to build a golf ball to sit on top of it!!
Worlds Largest Pitchfork measuring 60 feet in length and 1,940 pounds.
Located at Richards Farm in Casey.
The wind chime was Casey’s 1st World Largest record attraction, standing 56 feet tall.
This unique attraction is constructed with pipes and you can even chime the chimes!
Doesn't sound the greatest, but it does work!
At 46,200 pounds, the World’s largest rocking chair took two years to build.
It took ten people to rock the chair to set the record....because a rocking chair has to rock!
And this is where all the BIG things are made!!
The town also has other big things like a bird cage, pencil, ruler, etc….but not big enough to be the world’s largest! We have to give the town a lot of props as it created a reason for people to come for a visit!! It’s not only a small town with a big heart, it’s a small town with lots of big things!
The big pencil!!
And the birdcage!!
Oh, and BIG corn; how could we forget the corn!!
While not in Casey, America's largest cross was down the road in Effingham, IL
And also down the road, Martinsville is home to the Worlds Largest Horseshoe
Unfortunately, we didn't find out about the world's largest wooden shoes until a few days later, so no pictures of them. They are located in a newly opened candy store in case anyone is making a stop in Casey.
While I was doing some work outside St. Louis, I had an off day in between meetings, so Greg came down and we got to do a little exploring in the St. Louis area. Our first stop was Cahokia Mounds, which is home to the remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico. At one point, Cahokia was one of the greatest cities of the world and was larger than London was in AD 1250. The Mississippians who lived here were accomplished builders who erected a wide variety of structures from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that have maintained their grandeur for centuries.
They have a nice video, museum area and various mounds around the grounds. We also got to see an active dig in progress (from a distance). Wasn’t all that exciting, but imagine that it’s only exciting when or if they find something, which could result in long days of just digging dirt!!
These little huts were replicas of what was believed to house this large community.
Quite the hike to the top of the mounds.....
A view of one of the mounds from the side.
Pretty remarkable as these mounds were built by hand.
And the dig....we were too far away to see if/what they were finding.
We then grabbed lunch at Sweetie Pies, which is a soul food restaurant started by Robbie Montgomery, who was a back up singer for Ike and Tina Turner. I think at one time, the restaurant was featured on Oprah, and we all know if Oprah says it’s good, well, it has to be good….and Oprah did not disappoint! Basic soul food, served cafeteria style and reasonably priced. Best mac and cheese ever!!
Great lunch stop!
With a little time left in our day, we hit the Anheuser and Busch brewery tour. The tour is free, so price was definitely right, and included two beers, so quite the deal. The actual tour of the brewery was okay, lots of big vats and equipment but not a lot of action going on. The highlight was definitely the historical buildings, the Anheuser story, and of course, the Clydesdales!! The horses have a pretty sweet set up and their stables are nicer than a lot of houses I’ve been in. Oh, did I mention, the other highlight….free beer!?! They give you a small beer half way through, then at the end, you finish at the bar where you can choose from of all various beers they brew. Nice touch!!
Really nice complex where the tour starts...
Part of the Stables
Pretty fancy roof for a stable
And the Clydesdales!
One of many buildings....it's like its own little city!!
Greg hanging out at the beer wagon!!
Selfie camera at the brewery!
So after a nice (and quick) trip to St. Louis, and back in central Illinois, we were excited to find another 'new to us' activity in Decatur…and seeing as exciting activities are sometimes hard to find, we got our tickets early for this activity; we didn’t want to miss out!! Miss out on what you ask?!? Well, Roller Derby of course!!
We’d seen movies about roller derby'ing before, but had never been to a live, action-packed derby before!! We were so excited to go to the derby that we got VIP seats, which meant they were padded folding chairs floor side, as opposed to the non-padded bleacher seats elsewhere. Fancy!! The derby was in a gym in the civic center, and while we had expected old tires to line the track….sadly disappointed to find no tires but a taped out derby floor. We quickly studied up on the rules but it was a little confusing until you saw it all in action.
As you can tell from the crowd, we probably didn't need to rush to get our tickets!!
In case you were curious, roller derby teams are made up of five members each roller skating in the same direction around a track. Game play consists of a series of short match ups (jams) in which both teams designate a jammer who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to hinder the opposing jammer while assisting their own jammer—in effect, playing both offense and defense simultaneously. More important than the rules, each member has a really cool name like Roadrammer, Double Painbow, Sass Squash, etc.
And while we were expecting some good ol’ knock ‘em down brawls….they didn’t happen, but there was some good action nonetheless. The game started out pretty slow as the match ups were often really quick, but by the time the second half began, we were getting into it.
I can’t imagine how one would feel after a whole game of roller derby, but imagine getting up the next morning—regardless how great of shape you are in—would be tough! The local team -–the Prairie Punishers won--so that was nice and overall a fun experience!!
This was Hair Razor and she was a really good jammer!!
Some serious defense!!
Ain't no getting through this one!!
And the Punisher's were victorious!! With a team name like the Punishers, they should be!!
While not every stop can be the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, and a lot of fun in the journey is finding the fun, simple and unique things this to do in this great country....and sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find those things, but they are usually there!! And this stop, well, was no exception….we just had to dig a little deeper than normal, but we found some fun things to keep us entertained!! Plus, being able to spend time with family--priceless.
Grandma and us!!
Hobie was a little pissed that he missed the first family portrait, so we had to do a retake!!
Our next stop, the RV capital of the world, the Elkhart/Shipshewana Indiana area. Thanks for following along!!