Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits

We started the day at the Rabbit Ranch a few miles away from the hotel in Staunton.  Some old cars, petrol pumps and other Americana for me, and many, many Rabbits for Jane.

Next stop was to Colinsville to see the Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower (the biggest Catsup bottle IN THE WORLD - apparently).  Another Big Thing  added to the list.

We headed towards St. Louis could see the arch as we got close to the bridge.  We didn't want to drive through downtown but the car had other ideas and we got stuck in loops of one-way streets and diversions.  FINALLY we broke free.

Passing through nice little towns like Caseyville we headed towards St. Louis.  We didn't want to drive through downtown 

Waking up in a car...

Not the most comfortable of nights with not a great deal of sleep and full of aches it got to about 4:30am and we figured we'd give up and go and find some breakfast and wait for the sun to come up.  A couple of minutes away we found .  It didn't open until 5am so we kicked about in the attached shop until 5am came round.

Jane had a big-arse pile of pancakes and maple syrup and I went for eggs, toast and a sausage (single).  The cafe was every bit as quiet as you'd imagine for the time of morning.  Just us and a couple of truckers.  One started chatting about he use to drive around 1,000 miles a day but he's cut back recently.  As we left he gave us complex instructions on how to get to where we were going next, though we had a GPS but didn't find a good point in the conversation to tell me.  A toot of the horn, a wave to the trucker and we disappeared off towards Funk's Grove as the daylight slowly started to appear.

When you see somewhere called Funk's Grove you head for it.  So we did.

Funk's Grove, Illinois, 18 September 2016

Funk's Grove, Illinois, 18 September 2016

Shrouded in the early mist of 6am or so we explored the abandoned town, then drove towards the church and walked around the graveyard.  There were a lot of graves, but pooled from a smallish set of surnames.  Many graves simply had a surname.  No first names, or even dates.

Off to Atlanta to find the second of three Big Men, the Muffler Man with the Hot Dog.  Surprisingly easy to find we snapped it and walked around the town on a quiet Sunday morning.  Pleasingly there was a launderette crossed with a second-hand book/record shop.  We weren't entirely sure who it was aimed at.

A little way up the road was a museum about Abraham Lincoln.  Closed, obviously.

A stop in the pretty town of Elkhart, then on to Springfield (not that one, another one) to find Lincoln's house.  He only owned one house and this was it.  

Presidential Houses are all fine but we had the third Big Man to find, and in Springfield we found him.  The Lauterbach Muffler Man!  Three for three.

Finally, finally... off to a hotel with a BED.  So nice to finally have one after (forty hours?) without.

...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.

Two days to go

We're all packed and suitcases are by the door ready for VERY early Saturday morning.  It's really just clothes, camera stuff and various gadgets.

We're not planning on booking anything in advance bar the first couple of hotels (and a Wigwam hotel a bit later in case it gets booked up).  The difficulty in booking the Wigwam Hotel is it'll be tricky to guess which day we may arrive so far in advance and don't want to find ourselves either rushing towards it or loitering around because we arrived too early.

Jane booked the first couple of hotels. The first, in Pontiac, was a mere £30 and looks every bit like that's more money than it deserves.  Which of course is great.  Staying in bad motels is part of the fun.  The second which, it has to be said, looks a great deal nicer is in Staunton.  That'll put us, I think, about 150 miles into the trip.

There are many, many ghost towns along the route and I've made a list of them so we can remember to stop along the way at a few.  

I've been re-reading one of Wim Wender's photography books for the inspiration of the type of photographs I'd like to come back with.  Here's a photo of his called "Sunday Salon".

Sunday Salon by Wim Wenders.

Sunday Salon by Wim Wenders.