Dwight Peck's personal website

A visit to the USA, summer 2014

More annual lakeside fun in the Northwoods

Midwestern road trip, part 1

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Due south from Wisconsin, we've deposited The Squirrel in the La Quinta Inn in Peru, Illinois, and here we are out the next day for a bracing hike in the Starved Rock State Park along the Illinois River. 13 September 2014.

We're on top of the original Starved Rock itself, observing one of the eight locks-and-dam systems on the river between the Illinois Waterway Canal near Lake Michigan and the river's exit into the Mississippi.

The traditional story of the name is that in the 1760s, after the Ottawa chief Pontiac was murdered by Illiniwek or Illinois Indians during a tribal council meeting, the Ottawa and Potawatomi avengers besieged a band of Illinois atop this 40-meter sandstone knob and starved them out literally.

Prior to that lamentable episode, evidently the explorer La Salle built a fort on Starved Rock in 1683, but it was abandoned some years later. We're leaving now and setting off on our walk.

That's Starved Rock per se. Now we're on the "Eagle Cliff Overlook". (Look at all those trees!!)

Determined infrastructural amenities for the visitors: the Eagle Cliff Overlook

The dam and locks from upriver

A popular meditation spot

We're progressing east along the River Trail, and we're not alone.

A large group of young people, in uniform and with backpacks, passes by marching in step and shouting "Left [pause] left [pause] left" until they're out of range. Preparing themselves for adulthood.

Sandstone bluffs above us -- within the park along the southern side of the river, there are 18 canyons like this one, all of them with potentially picturesque waterfalls; all of them dry at this time of year.

There are 13 miles (21 km) of trails within the park, many of which will not be hiked by us today. We're turning up onto the Bluff Trail to make a mid-sized loop.

And about 13 miles of vertical as well

Stay on the paths, please. Do not wander.

Bluff Trail and Campanula Trail scenes

Masses of trail infrastructure, all of it with that distinctive Depression-era public works look to it.

Wildcat Canyon, evidently

A bad time for a flash flood

A nearly Starved hiker

Hiking in the USA: lots of state parks everywhere; stay on the path please.

Come and Explore the Wilderness . . .

. . . where violators are subject to arrest.

The Starved Rock Lodge, with "72 luxury hotel rooms and 22 comfortable cabin rooms" -- the "Great Room is furnished with decorative rugs and art and centred around a massive stone fireplace". Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and refurbished since.

Cruise on the riverboat "Spirit of Peoria". But what IS the spirit of Peoria? How will we know it when we see it?

Starved Rock Lodge

After a nice hot dog, we descend a vertiginous stairway to the Visitors' Centre carpark and, at the crack of noon the next day, go to Kentucky.

Cincinnati, Ohio: the Museum of Natural History and Science

We're following the La Quinta Trail across the mid- to eastern United States. Clean, fairly inexpensive, horrible breakfasts, and they take pets. This is in Florence, Kentucky, just south of . . .

. . . downtown Cincinnati.

After an hour trying to navigate downtown Cincinnati, we gave up and hunted out the "Museum Centre" -- and well done: it's built into a beautiful early-1930s Art Deco railway station, the Union Terminal, "one of the iconic symbols of the city".
(Once on a visit to Bristol, we gave up on finding a parking place, and visited Cardiff.)

The Cincinnati Museum Centre has the Museum of Natural History and Science, which is why we're here, as well as a Cincinnati History Museum and library/archives, an "Omnimax" theatre for Imax films, and assorted other educational features and activities especially for kids.

The great hall is fabulous, but the sandwich was really expensive.

The central hall is more than 30 meters high, and the station was designed to process 17,000 passengers and more than 200 trains a day. That was before the Cult of Automobilisme swept the country.

Mosaic murals represent the history of the US on one side and of Cincinnati on the other, but . . .

. . . emphasize the role of specific local businesses and industries.

The Natural History Museum

The region is noted for its limestone caves, and the museum has recreated an elaborate one that you can squeeze through if you want to.

Here we go.

Squeeze through indeed

How fake stalactites and stalagmites are formed

Troglodytes lurking

This is a "walk through a glacier"

A recreation of the local Ice Age environment just south of the big ice sheets

A little bit realistickish

Exhibits filled with pathos . . .

. . . and bathos.

The Rookwood Tea Room, as it was when the terminal opened in 1933, with tile floor, walls, and partitions between the booths, created by an artist from the Rookwood Pottery company.

We also stayed for the Imax film "The Universe", which featured the Atacama Large Millimetre/ submillimetre Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile, but which, aside from swirling around in all directions with Imaxy nausea-inducing special tricks, had nothing we didn't know.

And that's what we'll see of Cincinnati on this trip (and likely, in this life). (I lived just up the river in Athens for five years, and have still never been here before.)

Before leaving Florence, Kentucky, in a rainstorm, we have time to wonder how this guy can hope to win his United States Senatorial election with a campaign slogan of "With Jews We Lose". (His name is Robert Ransdell; probably considered a dark horse candidate.)

As we leave the Cincinnati area, 16 September 2014, we're bound now for Pittsburgh, I'm not sure why.

After settling into our La Quinta Inn in a Pittsburgh suburb, we've discovered that we're out of cat food for The Squirrel. In a US pet food store -- where to start?

Happy Squirrel

That, as it turns out, is our view of Pittsburgh, 17 September. We're on our way to Scranton, tout de suite.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 3 November 2014.


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