A day of crossings brings us to the dividing line between East and West - Thursday, July 30
Today we left our campground in Crawfordsville, Indiana and 305 miles later we arrived at the east bank of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is a psychological, as well as the physical dividing line between east and west, and it’s good to stand at it’s shores again.
To get here we crossed, in chronological order, the following landmarks:
the Wabash River,
the Indiana/Illinois State Line
the line that separates the Eastern Daylight Time Zone from the Central Daylight Time Zone
historic Route 66
the Rock River
and the Illinois River.
Despite all these historic landmarks, the highlight of the day was a pizzeria in Lacon (LAY’-con), Illinois called Pizza Peel. Pizza Peel is a clean and attractive restaurant located in a basement on Lacon’s main drag, and their Mediterranean Pizza may be the best pizza we've ever had. Fresh tomatoes and garlic, olive oil on green and black olives, and the perfect mixture of Mozzarella and Feta cheese sprinkled over the top. A meal ‘To Die for!’
Fortunately we didn’t die because then we would have missed out on their Chocolate Calzone, a dessert we had to try, and a dessert we would now drive 500 miles out of our way to try again. Next time you’re in Illinois forget Chicago, forget Peoria, forget Springfield. Go to Lacon and tell them Dimitri and Madolyn sent you. That will get you a great lunch for under thirty bucks and we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
We camped for the night on the east bank of the Mississippi River. Three miles across the water we can see the Iowa shore. The river is wide and shallow here, so they keep a nine foot deep channel dredged out on the west side to accommodate the barges. Farther south the river dredges itself, and there are places where it is 200 feet deep.
For several centuries the best engineering minds in the country have grappled with how to tame this body of water. We have shored up it’s banks with dykes and levees. We have built dams and locks to get around it’s obstacles. We have blasted and bulldozed it’s natural barriers to change it’s course. We did all these things in good weather of course, and as long as the weather stayed good we got fooled into thinking that we’d finally won the battle. Then it rained.
When the rains come the river stirs. As the rains keep coming the Mississippi wakes up. It opens it’s eyes and it flexes it’s muscle - and a wide awake Mississippi is a scary thing!
As the rains continue the crest rises, and as the crest rises man and machine become meaningless. Then it’s only a matter of time until the river loses patience and with a mighty roar it overflows our dams, wipes away our levees, and goes back to taking any course it damn well pleases.
I like that about the Mississippi. I hope the river never loses it’s power to confound man with a reality check every once in a while. Tomorrow we cross the Mississippi, and then we’ll be back in our beloved west.
The west - a place where the tallest, the widest and the deepest really are the tallest, the widest and the deepest - and they no longer have to qualify their claims by adding the words ‘east of the Mississippi’.