...and so it begins.

Up by 4:30am for the taxi at 5:20am.  Jane checks, double-checks and triple-checks every conceivable thing that could be turned off and unplugged is.  At Heathrow a couple of hours before out 9:20am flight.

There was an announcement that if you have a Galaxy Seven it's best not to turn it on because - you know - fire.  Sucks to be you if you have one.

"Snakes on a plane" has nothing on "Babies on a plane."  I'd take snakes over babies every time.  EVERY TIME.  Lovely, lovely quiet snakes.

Some turbulence as we go close to Chicago but all-in-all a pretty uneventful flight and we landed at Chicago on time.  Whizzed through customs, hopped onto the shuttle bus to Alamo and picked up our little hire car (A "Sonic LT" - No, I've never heard of it either.  It may be a Chevrolet, but my interest in cars is too small to detected by modern science, so I could be wrong.)

Of the only two hotels we'd booked before we left the first was in Pontiac, a couple of hours drive away so we pointed the car in that direction with the idea we'd stop at the interesting towns along the way.  The first was Joliet with some fun old cars and an old ice cream shop where we bought a couple of frozen bananas (frozen bananas covered in a chocolate which you at off a stick like a lolly).

Then onward to Wilmington to look for the first of three Big Men statues.  Wilmington's was the Gemini Giant and suddenly there it was right in front of us (see Big Things for a photo).  One down, two to go.  The giant was next to the Launching Pad Restaurant which sadly closed back in 2010.  Back in the car and about five minutes up the road, still in Wilmington was Nelly's restaurant.  We pulled into the parking lot, went for a short explore of this end of the town then grabbed a bite to eat (yes, I had a burger). 

We stopped in a town called Braidwood as it had some fun models outside (Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Betty Boop and Elvis Presley - and round the corner the Blues Brothers).  We did a small divert to Dwight to take a photo of the water tower as Jane works with a Dwight and wanted to send him a photo.  Duly taken we sped on to Pontiac for the first hotel.  It was every bit of ropey as it looked in the pictures but sadly no one was in reception so we couldn't experience it in full force and went to look for a replacement.  This was were it all started to go a little wrong.  Due to parents coming to see their kids at Uni everywhere was booked.  Nothing.  I think we'd been awake for about twenty hours at this point, but it was recommended we try another thirty minutes drive to Bloomington.  Back in the car.  Nope, nothing available there either.  The nice kid behind the desk phoned round about ten other hotels and the closes we got was a smoking room for about $250 - which I think we'd have paid if it had been non-smoking.  As it approached twenty-three hours of being awake we gave in and tried to get some sleep in the car.  A couple of hours sleep and I was alert enough to drive another thirty minutes down to yet another town.  To cut a dull story shorter there weren't any free hotels there either there was a car show in town.  We parked up behind a McDonalds, pushed suitcases around to try and make more room and in a car park in McClean (population 830) we settled in for was likely to be an uncomfortable night.