Today was a two river day. We headed to Peoria this morning and after stopping at Wally World for some provisions, we crossed the Illinois River into Peoria. Caterpillar is the heart of the city with the headquarters and several plants in and around town. I have a little history with the Illinois River and this area. Way back when we lived in Schaumburg, IL, I did a lot of work on the upper Illinois River. I also spent some time in Pekin, IL a small town outside of Peoria. That was in the days when I was in the sewage sludge management business – spreading poop on farm fields. We had a contract to empty the sludge lagoons at the Pekin waste water treatment plant and haul it to local farms. Those were the days.
It seems like East Peoria and Peoria are target rich environments for roadside attractions. I found a custard stand that was shaped like a twist cone, a rooster with a top hat, a Quonset hut church, and a Uniroyal Gal – Vanna Whitewall. Vanna is rare as there are only a few of these left from when they were made back in the 60’s. I’ve seen one of the others (Nitro Girl) in Blackwood, NJ where she is selling nitrogen filled tires. Vanna has been in this spot in Peoria since 1968 changing from bikini to mini-skirt and blouse and back to bikini in 2006.
At Galesburg, IL we left the interstate and headed west on US 34. It's the most direct route to Nebraska. US 34 in Illinois goes from Berwyn, an inner western Chicago suburb to the Mississippi River at Burlington, Iowa. Galesburg is the largest city it passes through until it get to the Chicago suburbs. US 34 has been in Illinois since its inception in 1926. US 34 passes through four states and ultimately ends up in Granby, Colorado. We’ll be following it until it intersects with the Lincoln Highway in Nebraska.
Our second river of the day was the mighty Mississippi. We crossed at Burlington, IA on a new cable-stayed bridge that carries US 34 over the river. When we crossed last year further downstream near Cairo and St. Louis the water level was so low barges were having trouble navigating the channel because of the terrible drought that covered most of the mid-west farm belt. This is a far cry from that as the river is near flood stage with water covering some of the streets along the river and lapping at buildings on the river front. Barges are probably having trouble navigating the river this year because of low clearance at some of the older bridges. It’s been a much wetter spring and summer and you can really see it in the green fields of corn, hay and soy beans all over. The other big change was the temperature. Today it was in the mid- to upper 70’s with a nice breeze, a nice relief from the triple digit’s we experienced most of last summer as we traveled. US 34 across Iowa was designated as the 34th Infantry Division Memorial Highway in 1948, in honor of the unit that fought during World War II. Signs with the unit's "red bull" emblem are posted intermittently and I managed to get a slightly blurry picture of one as we drove by.
We went by Fairfield, IA, the home of the now defunct Parsons University. In the 60’s the school lowered admission requirements and Parsons became known as a school that gave students a second chance. Its nickname was “Flunkout U” and was featured in an article in Life. The college eventually lost its accreditation and by 1973 closed due to bankruptcy. It was purchased in 1974 by Maharishi University of Management, formerly known as Maharishi International University. Maharishi University was founded in 1973 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He developed Transcendental Meditation and was the leader and guru to the Beatles and other celebrities in the 1970’s. The main reason for stopping was to get a picture one of the 2 golden domes used for meditation. There’s one for men and one for women. The men’s dome is known as the "Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome of Pure Knowledge" and the ladies dome is the "Bagambhrini Golden Dome of Pure Knowledge". Buildings used for Yogic Flying and are known as "flying halls". Now you know everything you always wanted to know about Maharishi University of Management.
The last stop of the day was at Osceola, IA. The plan was to stay at the Lakeside Casino and RV Park unfortunately the information I had didn’t include an address or directions. When I got to Osceola, I could see the Casino, but couldn’t figure out how to get there. I finally called and got the directions to the park. We pulled in to a site overlooking a small pond and within walking distance of the casino. I strolled over for one of those casino buffets. It was a lot better than the meal we had at Will Rogers Downs KOA in Claremont, OK last year, but that’s not saying much. I was going to drop a few coins into the slots, but I didn’t have any cash (not an unusual condition) and didn’t like putting my debit car into one of those moveable ATM’s they have at the entrance. Just as well, I saved myself about $50. Time for bed.