USA 49, 17th October 2006

I said I was about to enter Missouri. Actually I meant Illinois...............I also said the Walmart at Bloomfield was not listed. It is, but under West Bloomfield..........Usually I don't note these errors, I just quietly make the corrections when I copy my letters to my website but there you are.

I also forgot to mention the button museum at Muscatine. Before we had plastic buttons, there were pearl buttons. And a significant percentage were made there. At one time there were around 50 factories producing buttons. You take a freshwater clam, found in great numbers in the Mississippi, cook it to remove the almost inedible meat, then use the shell to make buttons.

But back to his morning.

I took a look at Snake Alley, Burlington, this is a very windy road running up the side of a hill. From the bottom.

And from the top.

I don't know why they couldn't run the road up the hill at an angle, without making all these bends, nor why they wanted to make a road up just here, the steepest part of the hill. Certainly, if they really did need a road here, then a wiggly road like this would be easier for a horse and cart than one that ran straight up.

I crossed to Illinois, drove down by the river, crossed the river again to Fort Madison, then back, paying the $1 toll.

I arrived at Nauvoo at around 11 am, to find that on Sundays the Mormons did not commence operations until 12.30. I explored a little, stopped to clean out the van, the vacuum cleaner Danny gave me years ago is still working well, I took lunch, then got to the visitor centre just after 12.30.

The Mormons, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, gathered here around 1840 only to be hounded out around 1846 when they made an exodus to Salt Lake City. Nauvoo today is a re creation of the village at the time the Mormons were here. There are missionaries in period dress demonstrating various aspects of life at the time. I found the whole thing rather eerie. They all want to give you a tour, they are almost insistent, most of the tours seem to essentially consist of a story of one early member of the church. Of course, the end objective of the whole thing is to gain converts. You didn't miss that I mentioned missionaries? The demonstrators are here on a mission, they have been guided here by their prophets, they come here for 6 months, a year,18 months. Most are seniors, since they have the time.

I was unhappy with the Canadian Indians museums because they had an agenda, here it is the same.

They still seem to be unpopular with some of the locals. I got a parking ticket for no apparently good reason. Or maybe it's a case of small town cop out to boost local funds. They won't get much of a boost from me though. Haven't heard of anyone being extradited to the US from France to pay a parking ticket.

I drove down towards Keokuk, crossed the Mississippi, and found the stern wheeler Verity with the river museum, that was OK. The volunteer on duty hastened back to his computer, he told me he was addicted to a particular for of card patience.

Back in Illinois I stopped in Carthage where Joseph Smith, the early prophet of the Mormons, was murdered while in prison. A missionary took me on a tour of the prison, which had been reconstructed by the Mormons. He told a fascinating tale. My interest must have shown, I was lucky to get away with my life. Could he send someone to call on me he asked, or this, or that. Finally he asked, could he give me the book of Mormon. I gave in and said yes. I've looked at it. It seems to be a book similar, but additional to, the bible. I don't know what I'll do with it. Doesn't seem right to just chuck it in the garbage. I guess I'll read bits of it first, to see if I can understand why they are so devoted. Maybe I'll leave it in the van for the next owner. Maybe prayer of the right sort will reduce the repair bills...........

Here's a statue. It will be Joseph Smith and his brother, who was also murdered.

I drove on to Macomb and parked at Walmart.

In the morning I saw a sign to the Dickson Mounds Museum and went. There were some nice displays.

There was a multimedia presentation, with acknowledgements to many native Indian narrators, there were 50 spotlights, 234 slides, all sorts of amazing sound and light displays. Wow!

It left me stone cold.

What a waste of money.

I looked at the Lincoln museum in, wait for it, yes, Lincoln. Small, but some original artefacts. Below is a piece of wood used as a gate latch.

Totally useless, except that Lincoln used it. Which made it rather more memorable than the home made broom display stand I photographed in North Dakota.

It was raining when I left and it didn't stop. I pulled into another Walmart, at Decatur, where it continued to rain heavily.

It is though very much warmer here than it has been the last few days. The only problem with the van heater, when it is cold in the morning, is that I have to get out bed to switch it on. By the time I have got dressed in bed, it's quite warm outside. Outside the bed that is, no way would I go outside the van without good reason.

It's still raining.

Best regards

David Barker

Travelling Illinois

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