Road Trips : US Tour 1997 : Illinois/Wisconsin

Tuesday 9 September 1997

It was cloudy and rainy, so I skipped the top of the Arch and just sort of looked around downtown and along the remnants of Route 66 after taking the car in for a checkup. I also didn't venture back out last night, more from a lack of energy than a lack of "courage"...

Once out of St. Louis, I hit Route 66 in a major way. After a stop at a little roadside "welcome center" in Hamel, staffed by a very nice and talkative woman, I was on the way. Two things amazed me: the excellent route markers supplied by the state of Illinois, and the friendliness of the people in the establishments along the old road. Once they learned I was traveling 66, I was treated to stories, photos, and (loved this part) free stuff! Excellent drive.



The Ariston Cafe in Litchfield is a definite Route 66 must. The food was great, and the owners showed me books and pictures and introduced me to the German tourists at the other end of the counter who were also traveling "the road". Apparently, Route 66 tourism is big with Germans.



After a very long drive through the fertility of central Illinois, I finally arrived at Steven's house in Madison. Very nice guy, very nice town. And since the heat had finally let up by this point, very nice sleep. This was a welcome thing.

Madison is not an exciting place by any stretch of the imagination, but I found plenty to do there and had a great time. Especially compared to last year's visit, which was essentially a convenience store run during the Minneapolis trip.

Wednesday 10 September 1997



They call Madison "the Berkeley of the East", due to its leftist campus politics, etc. This was in fact the first city in the US to have a municipal gay rights ordinance on the books.

It's definitely an attractive place. The city surrounds an isthmus between two lakes. Thus, there is s a very pronounced east and west side, and travel between the two is sometimes difficult thanks to the bottleneck caused by locating downtown on the isthmus.



Given all this, it's interesting to see how strangely conservative the place appears on the surface. I saw much more "collegiate preppy" than "collegiate punk". I didn't really sample the gay scene here, being warned that most of the interesting nightlife options perished in the Hotel Washington fire a couple of years ago.

I did cruise the State Street campus strip a bit and also found a few thrift stores and an excellent used book store, Shakespeare's, where I scored an original 1964 New York World's Fair guidebook pretty cheap.

Definitely a nice enough place.

Thursday 11 September 1997

This morning, I hit the road early en route to Milwaukee (which kept my interest for about half an hour, I'm disappointed to say) and then Chicago, which is where I now sit, in a creepy mall in the suburb of Skokie, waiting for Joseph to get off work so I can dump my stuff and begin the next round of the tour.