Staycation - late Summer 2009 travel blog

It’s been fun to play at local golf courses as we have explored the Mississippi and Illinois River Valleys. Each course has its own personality. The one in La Crosse had freight trains running through it; the one in Hampton was next to an apple orchard; and the one in Marseilles is surrounded by corn fields. No surprise there. They all have been cheap. With golf as with many other things in life, you get what you pay for. Fancy courses have tricky fairways punctuated with water hazards and sand traps. The grass is meticulously groomed and trees and tall grasses are planted in strategic places designed to bedevil those with poor skills. Even after we finally manage to get to the green, it gees and yaws like a storm tossed sea and no matter how straight the putt, the ball has a will of its own. A $10 course is perfect for us.

Ken phoned for a tee time here in Marseilles and was told that no tee time was necessary. So after the fog cleared this morning we just showed up. Only then were we told that a league was on the course and wouldn’t be done for another hour. So much for phoning ahead.

So we headed to Starved Rock State Park, one of the few state parks in Illinois that anyone has ever heard of. I have vivid memories reading about this park as a small child when I would pour over the pages of Life magazine, transitioning from looking at the great photographs to reading the accompanying text. Three women went to Starved Rock to go hiking and were murdered there by a local vagrant. The crime was horrifying enough to make it into the national news and Starved Rock was forever etched in my mind.

However, after all these years I can’t recall ever having been there. It has a lovely lodge; the interior reminded us of the massive log edifices national parks out west often have. At the trendy restaurant members of a bus tour were doing their best to live up to the all you can eat buffet. But when we walked and drove around the park itself, we weren’t impressed. Perhaps this park has made it big because of its proximity to metropolitan Chicago. After a hard week at work, a short drive to Utica and a weekend spent vegging on the patio of the lodge might be quite satisfying. But we were looking for great scenery - not here. We toured the campground. Nice enough and fully booked for the weekend, but it doesn’t hold a candle to our current spot overlooking the river.

So we drove back to the golf course to finish what we tried to start. It was mostly weeds, but they were trimmed short and the greens were vast. Usually when I hit the ball well, I identify a nearby tree or bush where it landed so I can find it again. Occasional traffic cones and stakes put in the ground by course personnel supplied the only orientation in the vast greenness here. Even so we lost a few balls. What’s new?

I am not temperamentally inclined to break a club over my knee and toss it into the water, but I can certainly understand the desire. It is inexplicable that one day I can use my pitching wedge to get the ball onto the green as intended and the next I leap frog over it from one side to another. What’s with that?

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