USA 50, 21st October 2006

It rained heavily most of the night, but had stopped by morning. It's much warmer.

Well. It's actually several days since I wrote the line above - I've been too busy doing other things, so did not get anything written, and that information seems as new to me as it really is to you. So it had stopped raining? Hmmm. But what did I do then?

I've been studying maps and you'd never believe it. I went to a museum........

No. No I didn't. That was the day before. I'll have to try harder to keep up to date. It takes too long checking old stuff. A couple of friends who did similar tours got a year behind on their web sites. 3 days is too much for me. I'm not writing for posterity, only to tell you what I am up to.

So what I did was to drive past more never ending cornfields. I visited a Visitor Center in Mattoon and got stopped by the police in Marshall. They thought I hadn't signalled a left turn. They were intrigued to discover my driving licence was from Marshall Texas, and waved happily at me when I passed them later. The museum in Marshall was open by appointment only, and the Archer House, which was open every day, was also shut.

Ah. Time for a picture break. I don't remember where, but by the timestamp on the photo it was before I reached Mattoon.

I was making better progress than I anticipated, due to nothing much to see, so I phoned Dennis Biro. His wife Koreen told me that he was away at a funeral which is why he hadn't replied to my earlier email. I phoned from a Walmart just by Bloomington but I'd looked at a State Forest campsite just before, that seemed a better idea than Walmart so I retraced my steps a touch and booked in. It was only $5.

Next day while waiting for Dennis I looked at the museum. Perfectly OK except it was a bit minuscule considering the size of Bloomington, about 50,000 inhabitants. Part of the museum was a toy museum. They had a cardboard box in the display, explaining it was one of a child's favourite toys. I thought that a nice touch.

I set off on a scenic tour. First place, almost, to see was the Fairfax State Recreational Area. This is good news for the city of Vancouver. It took me about 10 minutes to drive around the recreational area, I went on every single road, driving slowly, and the entry fee was $7 per car. That makes Bloomington the biggest rip-off city of my trip and takes over from Vancouver. There wasn't even a swing bridge for the $7.

Locals pay $4. I wonder who had that brilliant idea to encourage out of state visitors by charging them more? Of course, if you are a local and fill your car with 18 kids for a day on the beach it's quite cheap. But for an out of state elderly gentleman travelling alone it's a rip-off. Total rip-off. It wasn't especially pretty either. So if you are in Bloomington don't go to the Fairfax Park. The rest of the drive was OK, prettier even than the park.

While en route I reversed up to look at a pond full of ducks and hit a letter box. No damage to the letter box, but I need more plastic rear light covers.

Dennis was finally back home, we chatted a while. After brunch next day we pretty well wasted the day talking - it was raining anyway - then we went out for a Chinese buffet dinner.

I left to continue my trip the next morning and travelled some beautiful roads.

I stopped temporarily in Nashville, the town was packed with visitors come to see he fall colours.

I reached the Madison Walmart to park for the night.

I must have been feeling withdrawal symptoms after no museums yesterday. Today I hit four. The rail museum and the county museums in Madison 15,000 population. Followed by the Schroder Saddletree Museum. This is the original workshop, restored, not a copy.

Then I went to the steamboat museum and the county museum at Vavay. Getting my fingers into action I realise that actually makes 5 museums today.

I haven't seen enough to generalise yet but so far it seems that the further east I go, the smaller the museums get compared to local population, also the museum staff are paid here, in the west they are staffed by an army of volunteers.

I watched a barge going through a lock and headed through beautiful up and down countryside to the Walmart at Frankfort, Kentucky.

Best regards

David Barker
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