The Great American Traffic Jam

Back to posting on September 5. If you can’t take Labor Day off, when can you?

One more thing about the Great American Solar Eclipse. It was followed by the Great American Traffic Jam. Or, to hark back to an increasingly distant bit of history, the Mother of All Traffic Jams.

We left Paducah, Kentucky, at about 2 p.m. on August 21. It took us about 12 hours to get home. Twice as long as under normal conditions.

Since not a lot of people jammed into Paducah to see the eclipse, I-24 north from the town wasn’t bad at all. Even I-57 wasn’t too crowded at first, until around Marion, Illinois. Then traffic stopped dead.

So much so that I could take a picture of the road ahead, at my leisure, while in the driver’s seat. No one was moving.
Traffic Jam August 21, 2017A lot of people had gone to Carbondale, west of Marion, to see the eclipse. The road from Carbondale, Illinois 13, meets I-57 at Marion. Google Traffic showed red and worse for miles and miles north of there.

After a long time of not moving at all, punctuated by exciting periods of slowly crawling along, we were able to get off I-57 and take to smaller roads, such as Illinois 1 and 130 and others. We should have done that from the get-go, but I mistakenly thought traffic would only be heavy on I-57, not molasses.

The alternate routes didn’t entirely get us away from traffic, and at times we encountered slowdowns, such as when hit by a lot of rain. That was the weather system that clouded over the partial eclipse in the Chicago area, and which would have obscured totality for us had it arrived further south a day earlier. Sometimes you, and thousands of others, get lucky.

Our onboard navigation system wasn’t a lot of use. No matter where you were, or what the traffic conditions were, its suggestions to get home amounted to get on the nearest Interstate. If it were programmed to nag, it would have said, “Why aren’t you on the Interstate? You know that’s the best way to go. Get on the Interstate!” Robert Moses isn’t dead.

My old friend Tom was in Madisonville, Tenn., for the eclipse, reporting flawless weather for the event, as seen from Kefauver Park (as in, Estes). He also said getting back to Atlanta involved sticky traffic and a succession of small roads.

Enough about the traffic. It was merely an unpleasant coda to an otherwise remarkable experience. When we finally got home, exhausted, I asked a rhetorical question: Was it worth it? Was it ever.

More Vincennes

At Grouseland in Vincennes, during the tour, our guide pointed out a sizable crack in the wall of one of the upstairs bedrooms. She said that was the only damage to the interior walls that the long-time modern owners of the property, the Daughters of the American Revolution, decided not to repair. That’s because the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes make the crack. That crack might be the only visible relic anywhere of that long-ago event. Historic damage preservation, you might call it.

Outside of the Harrison mansion are a few memorials, one of which is homely indeed.
Two blocks south of this marker on March 6, 1814, was born Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Capt. and Mrs. Zachary Taylor.

Miss Taylor married Lieut. Jefferson Davis at Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1835 and died in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, on September 15 of that same year.

Zachary Taylor subsequently became the twelfth President of the United States, and Jefferson Davis the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy 1964

A Confederate memorial, sort of, but somehow I doubt that memorial revisionists are going to be flustered by it.

Grouseland has a small gift shop. You can buy William Henry Harrison Pez dispensers there. I did.

William Henry Harrison PezWHH Pez is now going to keep company with my Franklin Pierce bobblehead.

At the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park gift shop, you can buy a flag I’ve never seen anywhere else: the George Rogers Clark Flag. I got one of those, too.
George Rogers Clark FlagThe Clark flag is now going to keep company with my Come And Take It flag that flies on our deck during the warm months.

Apparently Clark’s men didn’t carry the flag at the Battle of Vincennes, but it was around — a previous American commander at Sackville, before the British took the fort, might have used it. Clark got his name attached to it anyway. Also, it isn’t clear why red and green were its colors. Never mind, all that mystery adds interest. It’s distinctive, and you can find it displayed with more conventional flags at the National Historical Park.
George Rogers Clark Memorial flagsVisible from the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is the Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash (US 50), the border at that place between Indiana and Illinois. An elegant bridge.
Lincoln Memorial Bridge, Vincennes, IndianaThis was where a young Abraham Lincoln (age 21) and his family is thought to have crossed into Illinois for the first time in 1830. On the Illinois side of the river, that event is marked with a memorial.
Lincoln at 21 memorial, entering IllinoisProbably the Lincolns crossed the river on a ferry. Crossed the river, checked out the memorial, and then when on their way. I admit, that sounds like a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, but it’s something I thought of while looking at the memorial.

Lincoln crossing into Illinois memorial

Officially, it’s the Lincoln Trail State Memorial, designed by Nellie Verne Walker and erected in 1938.

One more thing in Vincennes: a small museum to a native son. Anyone younger than me (roughly) might have a hard time identifying him.
Red Skelton mural, VincennesThe museum was closed on Sunday, and we didn’t have time for it anyway, but I did tell the girls that Red Skelton was an old vaudevillian, long before my time. I remember him on television, which was essentially televised vaudeville in his case. Who in our time would do comedy that included “The Silent Spot”?

Tempus Fugit, Raggedy Ann

Has it been 10 years since we visited Arcola and Arthur, Illinois, twin hubs of the state’s Amish community? More or less. I posted a lot about that short trip, including the nearby Lincoln family sites, on May 30 and 31 and June 1, 4, 5 and 7, 2007.

Got a surprising amount of comments on the postings — more than zero — offering corrections for mistakes I’d made. Guess people care deeply about the details of Arcola and Arthur.

I think no photography was allowed in the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum in Arcola, since this is the only other picture I have of it, besides one posted in ’07.

Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum, Arcola, 2007

Or maybe I wasn’t quite out of the habit of taking only a few shots at a time, as I did when I used a film camera, even though I was using a digital camera by this time. Or the camera didn’t have a lot of memory. My current SD card has a vast expanse: 64 GB.

It didn’t take too much digging around to find out that about two years later, the museum closed. Of course the economy was awful in 2009, but I suspect the deeper problem was that Ann and Andy’s time had passed.

Everyone’s time always passes. Here’s another image from about 10 years ago.

DSCN0889_2

I had no interest in a birthday cake with personalized writing on it, so I just picked one from the shelf at Costco. It happened to have balloons. This year I had a chocolate cake like this one: the Union Pacific steam locomotive of cakes. We ate it the old-fashioned way, without making an image of it.

GTT 2017

This month Lilly and I visited Texas for a couple of weeks, beginning when I picked her up on May 12 in Champaign, at the end of her exams at UIUC, and ending with our return to metro Chicago on May 26. Unlike last summer, we mostly took direct routes, there and back. All together, we drove just a shade over 2611 miles through only four states, but ranging from about 42 degrees North to 29 degrees North.

Mostly we spent time with family: her grandmother and uncles and cousins, in San Antonio and Dallas, most of whom she hasn’t seen recently. She also met little cousin Neil for the first time.

From Champaign, we headed to Effingham, where we passed the giant cross, visible from the highway, but did not stop for it, and then headed west to St. Louis. By evening, we’d made it to Lebanon, Mo., and the Munger Moss Motel, which has had a few more neon burnouts since Ann and I stopped there last year.

Munger Moss sign 2017The second day, we went to Dallas by way of Springfield, Mo., where we stopped to stroll in the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, a part of the Springfield Botanical Gardens. Later that day, we stopped in Muskogee, Okla., and took a look at the USS Batfish, a WWII-vintage submarine incongruously perched on land and functioning as a museum.

On Sunday, May 14, we proceeded to San Antonio, with my brother Jay joining us. We stopped for a delightful lunch in Austin with Tom Jones that afternoon at Trudy’s, a local brand. Tom was already an old friend of mine when I was Lilly’s age.

Circumstances forced us to scrub our plans to drive to Big Bend National Park for a long weekend beginning on the 18th. While in San Antonio, Lilly went to North Star Mall one day by Uber, and on another day Jay and Lilly and my nephew Dees went to the Witte Museum and then the Sunken Gardens (formally, the Japanese Tea Garden). On Saturday, May 20, we to returned to Jay’s house Dallas via U.S. 281 until north of Austin, picking up I-35 near Killeen, because there’s no reason to go through Austin unless you’re going to Austin.

In West, Texas, — which is in Central Texas — we bought some kolaches at the Little Czech Bakery, which is next to the Czech Stop. Been there a number of times since I wrote this.
Czech Stop, West, Texas 2017The line wasn’t quite as long as usual. Good thing.
Czech Stop, West, Texas 2017Czech Stop, West, Texas 2017One day in Dallas we visited the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, as lovely a garden as I’ve seen in quite a while. Despite its location on White Rock Lake, close to Jay’s house, I’d never been. Another day I dropped Lilly off at North Park Mall, known for its collection of artwork, and visited the next-door Sparkman-Hillcrest Cemetery, or in full, the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. A first-rate bit of landscaping.

We headed back for home beginning on May 25, driving from Dallas back to the Munger Moss for one more night (getting room 67; the first time we got 66). The next day we passed through St. Louis en route to the Chicago area and home.

On the last leg of the trip I was determined to stop a few places. First, we saw the abandoned Gasconade River Bridge, which counts as a Route 66 sight, though it could have been along any old road and still be just as fine. In St. Louis we visited the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, one of my favorite churches in North America, and then the wooded, hilly Bellefontaine Cemetery north of downtown, which is in the same league as Green-Wood in Brooklyn or Woodland in Dayton. First rate, that is.

Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park ’17

On Saturday we visited Governors State University in exurban Chicago — way down south in the Will County burg of University Park, Ill. — for a look at its expansive sculpture park, which mostly features large-scale metal works. Its formal name is the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. I visited the place in 2002 and posted about some years later.

“Formally established by the Governors State University Board of Trustees in 1978, the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park was named for Nathan Manilow, a visionary developer who, along with Carrol Sweet and Philip Klutznick, formed American Community Builders at the conclusion of World War II,” says the GSU web site. “They planned and built the neighboring Village of Park Forest for returning GIs. The history of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park predates GSU in that sculptor Mark diSuvero spent the summers of 1968 and 1969 living and building sculpture on the land that was to become the university.

“1968-69 – Lewis Manilow, son of Nathan Manilow, loans the use of a house on the future campus of GSU to sculptor Mark diSuvero. DiSuvero spends two summers creating sculpture. His presence attracts other artists: John Chamberlain, Richard Hunt, John Henry, Charles Ginnever and Jerry Peart, among others, to the area. DiSuvero creates at least three sculptures: ‘Yes! for Lady Day,’ ‘Prairie Chimes’ and ‘The Mohican.’ ”

After nearly 15 years, I figured it was time to go again. Turns out that sculptures have been added since then. Many of those we saw had not only been added since then, but created since then. Such as “Windwaves” by Yvonne Domenge from 2010.

"Windwaves" by Yvonne Domenge“Oscar’s Inclination” by Michael Dunbar dates from 2004.

"Oscar's Inclination" by Michael Dunbar "Oscar's Inclination" by Michael Dunbar

Beyond “Oscar’s Inclination” was “Falling Meteor” by Jerry Peart, which I’m pretty such was here in 2002. It was created in 1975.
"Falling Meteor" by Jerry PeartThis was one of the smaller works that we saw, “Meeting Ends” by Chakaia Booker, from 2005.
"Meeting Ends" by Chakaia BookerMade of rubber tires and stainless steel. An artwork for us, but also a nesting site for birds.
"Meeting Ends" by Chakaia BookerGSU has a lot of land: 750 acres, which is plenty of room to keep large metal sculptures. Beyond the pieces that are near the school’s buildings, you need to walk along mowed pathways, sometimes soggy considering the recent rains, to see other works.
Governors State UniversityA couple of favorites from last time: “Phoenix” by Edvins Strautmanis, one of the vintage 1968 works, and off in the background, “Flying Saucer” by Jene Highstein, 1977. “Phoenix” looks like it’s been refurbished.
"Phoenix" by Edvins StrautmanisAnd “Icarus” by Charles Ginnever, another early one: 1975.

"Icarus" by Charles GinneverThe director and curator of the park in recent years has been Geoffrey Bates, who just retired. More about him and the park is here.

Pettit Memorial Chapel

Belvidere, town of about 25,000 and seat of Boone County, Ill., is east of Rockford, but not very far, so it’s part of the Rockford MSA. Rather than take the Interstate all the way back from Rockford, we drove on US BUS 20 for a while, then US 20. That route takes you near Belvidere Cemetery, home of the Pettit Memorial Chapel.

Pettit Memorial ChapelThe chapel counts as minor Wright, vintage 1906 (pre-running off with a client’s wife, in other words, and pre-ax murders at Taliesin). The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust says that “the Pettit Memorial Chapel is a small structure on the grounds of Belvidere Cemetery… Emma Glasner Pettit, the sister of William A. Glasner, for whom Wright designed a home Glencoe in 1905, commissioned the chapel in honor of her deceased husband, William H. Pettit.

“The chapel consists of a long narrow porch and an adjoining, rectangular room for memorial services. Raised above ground level, the chapel is accessed via a staircase at the front of the porch, or a set of angled staircases that flank the meeting room at the rear of the porch. Just as he did in his residential designs, Wright included a centrally located fireplace with a broad chimney that emerges from a low-hipped roof.”

We went onto the porch.
Pettit Memorial ChapelThen we went around back. The rectangular room — marked by green window trim — was locked.
Pettit Memorial ChapelThe cemetery looked fairly nice, but we didn’t take any time for a closer look. This is a view from the chapel.
Belvidere CemeteryWe didn’t see William Pettit’s stone. According to the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (by an Oak Park architect named Thomas A. Heinz), “Dr. Pettit had the largest practice in northern Iowa, and most of the state mourned his sudden passing in 1899… After proper deliberation as to a suitable memorial, it was decided to build a chapel in Belvidere, his hometown…”

Also in the nomination form: “[The chapel]… is the only structure of its kind in the oevre of [Wright’s] work, the only memorial or cemetery structure ever built.”

The Rockford Art Museum

The Riverfront Museum Campus in Rockford is, true to its name, next to the Rock River in that northern Illinois city, though the entrance to the complex actually faces a parking lot.

Riverfront Museum Campus, RockfordThere are a handful of outdoor sculptures on the campus. Here’s one — “The Juggler,” by David J. Foster (2010) — that would be fun to have in the back yard. Except for maintenance costs and all the unwanted attention it would attract, especially at first.
Riverfront Museum Campus, RockfordThe campus, which opened in the early 1990s, includes the Discovery Center Museum, Northern Public Radio, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford Dance Company and some part of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, though that group performs at the ornate Coronado Theater. I’m pretty sure that the Discovery Center, which is a children’s museum, hasn’t been there that long, but relocated in more recent years. I remember taking the kids there more than 10 years ago, and while I couldn’t say exactly where we went, it wasn’t near the river.

This time we came to visit the Rockford Art Museum. Its four rooms, two upstairs, two downstairs, maintain a spare aesthetic.
Rockford Museum of Art 2017The museum has some interesting items. That’s all I ask of most museums. Here’s a detail of “Indigo Deux” by Ed Paschke (1988).

Rockford Museum of ArtAnother detail, this one of “Millennium 16/The Launderer” by Steven Hudson (1993).

Rockford Museum of Art

“Condor” by Les Sandelman (1987).
Rockford Museum of ArtAnd “Not Knot #18” by Jackie Kazarian (1991).
Rockford Museum of ArtAll in all, a small but good museum. Worth the relatively short drive to Rockford, as are the Nicholas ConservatoryKlehm Arboretum and Anderson Japanese Gardens.

Before we visited the museum, we ate a tasty lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Rockford. We were sitting at a large table in the back because all the smaller tables were full, and some other patrons were sitting at the table as well. One of them, a young woman who introduced herself as Sally, asked whether we’d eaten there before. No, this is our first time. We’re from out of town.

She said she was from Rockford, and seemed a little surprised that anyone would come to town just for a visit. I assured here that we turn up once a year or so, in this case to see the museum. I’m all for visiting large art museums with sprawling collections — be they in Brooklyn or Arkansas or far-off Russia — but smaller art museums are generally worth a look as well. Smaller cities are, too.

A Poster, A Sign & A Lot of Bumper Stickers

Persistent rain starting last night and on through most of today. Mud season has started. But it also looks like the grass is greening.

Spotted on a telephone pole on Randolph St. on the near West Side of Chicago late last week. Looks like someone added the toothbrush mustache.

anti-Trump poster March 2017Spotted in Itasca, Ill., also last week, sometime after the presumed wedding. Glad that “Bubba” isn’t dead as a name.

Itasca Baptist Church 2017Spotted at a rest stop on I-57 between Champaign and Chicago.

Been There Bumper Stickers 2017I can’t quite make out all of the stickers, and there are more on the non-visible side of the van, but included in the destinations are the Kennedy Space Center, California, Nevada, Laughlin, NV, Key West, Roswell, NM, Wyoming, Mackinac Island (two), Naples, FL, Ventura, CA, Texas, the UP (more than one, including the 906 sticker), North Dakota, Piggly Wiggly, the Full Throttle Saloon (Sturgis), Route 66, Mississippi, Montana, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and a sticker that says, “There’s a place for all God’s creatures. Right next to the mashed potatoes.”

Alma Mater, UIUC

I took Lilly back to school on Sunday. I didn’t do quite as much of a walkabout on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus as I did in January, but I was determined to pause on the way out to see one thing: Alma Mater, a sculpture by Chicago’s own Lorado Taft.

Alma Mater UIUCAccording to UIHistories Project by Kalev Leetaru, “Unveiled on Alumni Day, June 11, 1929, the statue depicts ‘a benign and majestic woman in scholastic robes, who rises from her throne and advances a step with outstretched arms, a gesture of generously greeting her children.’ Behind her stand the twin figures of Labor and Learning, joining hands in a bronze incarnation of the University’s motto.”

This is Labor. The muscular man in the work duds.
Alma Mater UIUCLearning, in Classical garb. It would be more interesting if the costuming were reversed, since labor involves learning and learning involves labor, but never mind.
Alma Mater UIUC

Older pictures of the statue depict a green patina, acquired over time. During the 2010s restoration of the sculpture, that was stripped away, so presumably it now looks a lot like it did when new.

“Conceived in 1922, Alma Mater was cast in 1929 by the American Art Bronze Foundry and paid for by donations by the Alumni Fund and the classes of 1923-1929,” notes Leetaru. “It was crafted by Taft as ‘his gift to the University in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation.’ Alma Mater rests on a granite pedestal conceived by Charles Platt.

“The statue was originally placed directly behind the Auditorium, and at night spotlights cast twin shadows of Labor and Learning onto the rear wall of the Auditorium, making them truly larger than life. On August 22, 1962, the Alumni Association moved the sculpture to its present location in front of Altgeld.”

Altgeld being Altgeld Hall, named after the Illinois governor. There’s a bell in that tower, and I took this picture as it was ringing 4 o’clock on Sunday.

building behind Alma Mater UIUC“Completed in 1897, Altgeld Hall, originally known as the Library Building, was designed by Nathan Ricker and James McLaren White…” writes Leetaru. “From 1955 to the present, the Department of Mathematics and the Mathematics Library have called the building home.

“The building is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture and the external stonework is pink limestone. The original pink hue may still be seen in the interior of the East entrance.”

My Own kWh

More wind today. Enough so that the blue recycle bin, which usually rests inert on the deck, took a new position against the back yard fence in the morning.

ComEd sent me another of its non-bill mailings recently, to tell me how I stand vis-à-vis “efficient neighbors” and “average neighbors,” for the period December 22 to January 25. Efficient and average in terms of electricity usage, that is, not (say) snow removal or vacuum cleaning of interior carpets.

We used 560 kWh over that period, and thus 1 percent for more electricity than efficient neighbors. Guess that’s good. A smidgen less coal burned somewhere, a few fewer atoms split. “Efficient neighbors are the 20% who use the least amount of electricity” among 100 houses in a one-mile radius or so, according to the utility.

In the fine print, the letter says, “This program is funded by ComEd customers in compliance with Illinois law.” Hm. Not an unfunded mandate as far as ComEd is concerned, then. The company gets to charge its customers to tell them how efficient they are. That would be OK if I got a discount for efficiency, a few tenths of a cent per kWh, say, but I don’t think that’s in the offing unless I’m an industrial user.