July 20, 1999 - Day 41 - Momence, Illinois to Rochester, Indiana

84.9 miles - 15.1 mph average speed, 2707 total miles, max speed 271.5 mph (if I recall the day, I think this might be a computer malfunction)

19 roadkill

    Before I begin today's journal, I want to acknowledge two more people who played important roles in helping out with the 'arrival party' last Wednesday. First, my stepdaughter, Michelle VanAcker, who gave up her day to help drive and man the cellphone. Thanks, Michelle! And second, Lon Oury, who is responsible for most of the pictures on the website for the 14th, particularly those with me in them.     We'll get back to getting me on the right side of the camera lens now.

    I also want to acknowledge my student web sites in counties of the last two days that I've been through.
    DuPage County, Illinois was done by Paul M.     Will County didn't get done.
    Kankakee County was done by Courtney Taft, of Roadkill Regional fame. It's excellent. I strongly recommend the Potowatomie Indian link on her page, particularly for those of us who live in northeast Illinois. It's an excellent link, and I plan on using it in my U.S. History classes. Thanks, Courtney.
    Newton County, Indiana was done by Wajiha A. She did an excellent job on a county with very little information.
    Jasper County, Indiana was done by Ellyn B. It's one of the best websites of the year. If you want to see what I had in mind with these student web sites, check hers out. Great job, Ellyn.
    Pulaski County, Indiana was done by Matt B. It has a picture of the county courthouse in Winnemac. I ate dinner at a restaurant right across the street from that courthouse this evening.
    Fulton County, Indiana was done by Giles B. It features Rochester, the town I'm staying in tonight. Fulton County has a round barn festival. I find that interesting in light of my seeing the round barn in Manhattan, Illinois yesterday.

    One news note: 30 years ago today, a human being put his foot down on the surface of the moon for the first time in history. I was in Boston, Massachusetts for that event. Within 24 hours of that momentous event, the headlines were shared by a major story of national interest. Do you remember what it was? (See bottom of page for answer)

Tractor on a Tower
Only in America?
    What I want to know is, is this kind of thing uniquely American? Are we the only people who have time to spare for whimsical humor? I love everything about this... thing. It's east of Momence, just before the state line.

Center Pivot
Center Pivot??
    Ok, Ivan, my Nebraska friend, here we are in eastern Illinois. Why are we doing center pivot irrigation? I have seen these units all the way across Indiana to where I am tonight. Not every field, but many of them. I saw none in Iowa or Illinois prior to these.

State Line Gin
Indiana State Line
    This is a clue about what's to come in Indiana. Indiana was the first state to not have an official welcoming sign - this was the best I could do. (I noticed when I looked back that Illinois did have its sign in place.)
    This evokes memories of Al Capone for me. Al owned a roadhouse right on the state line right down here somewhere. It could be on this highway, I'm not sure. He used it as a get-away place and chose Indiana because things were "looser" here than in Illinois.
    (Between his place down here and his several places in northern Wisconsin, it shows that Al was one of the first big-time criminals to understand the importance of the automobile to his business. Transportation was a very big part of his whole operation, and he was 'state of the art'.)

Sun Aura
Nudist, excuse me, "Naturist" Colony
    While I was thinking about Al and how Indiana was 'looser' than Illinois, I came across the Sun Aura club just a few miles inside the Indiana line.

Ponderosa Sun Club
Another one
And about half a mile farther, the Ponderosa Sun Club. They invited campers - tempting, but I had miles to go.

Indiana Accident
Indiana starts to go bad
    Then right where my road crosses I-65, I saw the aftermath of a pretty bad accident. I'm not sure of the details, but the tanker truck on the right (which had passed me a mile or so back), had plowed into the back of that white pickup truck, which was now about 6 feet long. There were two vans in front of the pickup truck that were also rear-ended. I don't know who did what first.

    And northern Indiana just started going sour on me.
    Maybe it was my mood to begin with. I was very melancholy all day today. I miss Lois and the girls. Am I allowed to have ambivalent feelings about this trip? The truth is, I'm out here on the road leaving all kinds of business at home unattended to, not the least of which are fatherhood and husbandhood.
    The humidity was unbelievable today. It finally poured rain around 5:00 (my first REAL rain of the trip) and I think that was the driest I was all day. You could feel yourself contracting rain forest skin rashes in unmentionable places. Yeeccchhhh! I didn't 'sweat' today, I 'greased'.
    Maybe it was the daylong headwind which made it feel like I was climbing uphill all day while traversing flat Indiana.
    Maybe it's because I never got in sync today. No rhythm. The legs never felt strong.

    Maybe it's the Capone legacy, the legacy of a 'looser' place, but the people here, mostly the young men, remind me of the description Robert Kaplan uses to describe the lawless young men of sub-Saharan West Africa. He calls them "skinhead warriors and juju cossacks". (The full text of his article, "The Coming Anarchy" can be found in the favorite links section of my Biography page. Strongly recommended reading.)
    When I stopped for something to drink, I read the local paper. One story - teen vandals cut down twelve trees in front of the local high school. Another story - a 16-year-old girl died of a heroin overdose. Her dad was sure she was clean after finding marijuana on her a year ago. Another story - Rottweilers attacked a local man on his bike who was training for the Alcatraz Great Escape triathlon. Another story - a local man jumped out of a car and ran away after a routine traffic stop. There were two outstanding warrants for his arrest. He's somewhere out here in the woods.
    A flyer on the wall offers a $1000 reward for information on who might be stealing building materials from a construction site.
    There are more unkempt farms, dead trees in barnyards, rusting farm machinery, muddy barnyards per mile than any other state I've been in.
    Tonight at dinner, I ate at the bar so I could watch TV. Mistake. On TV? Jerry Springer. But they changed it... to stock car racing from Talladega (Dale Earnhardt won!!!!). The guy next to me started telling me how his best friend was mad at him because he had taken the best friend's girlfriend (and I'm NOT making this up) to the dump with him. He said he'd never want her anyway because who needs a 25-year-old woman with four kids. I didn't have any real solid advice for him, but I've spent a lot of time this evening thinking about those kids and their future.

    I've seen dozens and dozens of these across America. I always want to know more about the story. I always wonder what part alcohol or drugs played, if any. Do the crosses indicate some degree of guilt by those who placed them, a statement saying, "I could have maybe prevented this"?

    This melancholy day ends at the Comfort Inn of Rochester. I'm clean and DRY for the first time today. With a hundred mile day tomorrow, I may make it to Ohio. We'll see how the humidity, headwind, the legs and the mental state are.

    I'd like to close on a positive note: It is a new goal of mine to get a message on our Route 99 Message Board from World Cup Champion Michelle Akers before the Route 99 Express gets to Plymouth Rock. The Cup is over now. I'm sure she's just relaxing at home with a diet soda now. Nothing to do but surf the net. Wouldn't that just be the coolest thing?
    I spoke with her former teammate, Chris Tomek, to see if she could work some magic. We'll see. Hey Tomek, I don't want some cheap token statement from her now. Don't do that ("Uh, yeah, Michelle, he's got a big crush on you. Just say 'Bob, great trip' or some crap like that and he'll leave us both alone.") Ok, actually I would take that, but it would be cooler if she saw the site and said something real to everybody at DGN.
    By the way, I have her web site linked on my favorite links page. If you've never seen her page, I think you'll quickly see why I think she's so very unusual.

OK. Answer to the question: On the evening of the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon 30 years ago today, Ted Kennedy made a wrong turn on a back road on Chappaquiddick Island, Mary Jo Kopechne lost her life, and the Kennedy name was in the headlines for weeks afterward. Spooky.

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