My 13-year old daughter and I are chillin' at the Signature Inn in Normal, Illinois. I can report that Normal is normal - bland, flat and juiced up with strip malls, fast food joints and lots of traffic. This is a place that has no sense of place. We stopped here to rest after our first day of a father-daughter vacation.
Amanda and I have concluded that we don't belong in Normal. I am listening to Amanda chatter at her laptop, which is playing an anime' DVD (in the original Japanese - she doesn't like the English translations). We had dinner at Bennigans, which was OK since they have cheesecake on the dessert menu. We cruised Illinois State University (which anchors the Bloomington/Normal "metroplex") and did not feel inspired. We are abnormal, so this is not our kinda place.
We did see some interesting stuff today. Outside of Joliet, on the road to Morris, we stopped at Lock 6 of the Illinois Michigan Canal. We had a nice hike and chatted with some fishermen that were hoping to catch a mess of crappies. The IM was completed in 1848 and operated until 1933. The folks that built it were immigrant workers - Irish, Chinese, probably some freed black folks. The 96-mile canal connected the Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers - this was a major reason why Chicago became such a great hub of commerce.
We also stopped in Pontiac, Illinois - a lovely village with a grand old courthouse and a dead downtown. The two restaurants we visited in Pontiac were both closed - for good - with "for sale" signs on the windows. The notice in the window of the "Pub and Grub" read "To our dear customers - thanks for 18 great years. Due to the poor economy and our poor health, we must close effective immediately." Just another small business tragedy in America....
We are heading to Springfield in the morning and will visit the brand new Lincoln museum. I am pumped about this!