Thursday, September 22, 2016

Driving to Wichita – Day 5

Day 5, Sunday
Comfort Inn, Greenfield, Ind.

An enjoyable, less stressful day

I am on the road by 9:15 a.m. after editing one article and doing the regular morning routine. Patches of blue are peeking between feather-whisps of a mostly overcast sky. I make a quick stop at a Circle K for gas and am quickly on the interstate. Surprisingly, getting through Indianapolis isn’t too bad, not scary like the other big cities. I pass the stadium where the Indianapolis Colts play.

Traffic eases outside of the city. The driving isn’t bad except for the tedium and road conditions. The road surfaces are beat up like the hotel I spent last night in. Thump, thump, thump; whine, crunch, rumble, bloops – it can almost lull me to sleep until I hit a bigger bump. I amuse myself by trying to put words to the various noises. Often there isn’t anything that can describe the sounds.

Peaceful driving in Illinois
I cross into Illinois at 11 a.m. Illinois has a more peaceful feel, but there’s not much to see. Coming into Casey at Exit 129, there’s a sign announcing the World’s Largest Wind Chime. I don’t usually go in for these kinds of attractions, but I need a break, and I like wind chimes.

I drive into a quaint little town that is reminiscent of an old west town seen on movies. It’s Sunday and no one is around. A sign points left and I make the turn and up ahead is the end of the downtown area. My eye is immediately caught by a tall rocking chair on the left and I pull into a parking space in front of a shop/café. The wind chime is in a manicured area next to the shop.

The car temperature is 84 degrees. I open the car door and, oof, the humidity slams me in the face. Nearby is a sign that offers free trolley tours on Saturday. Too bad it’s a Sunday. I’m a day late. I grab the camera and start taking pictures then I cross the street for a closer view of the chair.

World's Largest Rocking Chair
(I read later online that this is also advertised as the largest chair in all of America at 56.5 feet and weighs 46,200 pounds! I see also there is a “battle” for world’s largest chairs with a map and info to visit other places in the U.S Casey, Ill., is home to eight Guinness World Records for largest things and touts itself as “A small town with a big heart.”) To see more about big things in Casey, visit:

My eyes are not only raised to the beauty of the humongous chair, I’m also taken with the garden area around the chair. I like how they’ve used small, smooth, rounded stones around all the plants. This gives me an idea for my own garden back home.

World's Largest Wind Chime
I go back across the street and explore the area around the wind chime. This, too, is 56 feet tall and the longest chime is 42 feet. Unfortunately, the café and gift shop are not open. I’m left to mosey around on my own. There is a pull cord at the wind chime to allow visitors to hear its sound. It doesn’t allow a big pull, just enough to get the deep, mellow resonance of the chimes. Nice!

There’s not much else to do with the stores closed. I head back to the interstate stopping long enough to photograph the big yardstick near the center of town. Half an hour of tedious driving later, I see a sign for a Ponderosa restaurant in Vandalia, Ill., and stop for a delicious steak lunch with salad bar. I seldom eat steak, but when I’m traveling, I crave it. I am very happy with the meal. I’m not brave when it comes to trying different foods. I prefer the familiar when I’m in unfamiliar places.

It's a big yardstick
I’m back on the interstate for a short time when I see a Comfort Inn sign at Exit 45. It’s about another hour to St. Louis, Mo. My goal is to do the Chain of Rocks Bridge from the Illinois side. I don’t need to be in Kansas City, Mo., until Thursday, so I have plenty of time. This might be a good quitting time for today. Tomorrow morning should be cooler and a better time for walking the bridge. If I stop now, I can chill out and take a break from driving. I’ve been really pushing myself the past few days to get west.

There’s an old farm on the opposite side of the highway with farm equipment on display. Have I said how I like farms? I turn onto the ramp and feel I’m in the middle of nowhere. The Comfort Inn is the opposite direction from the gas station and busy section. Just the way I like it. Across from the hotel is a sign about the American Farm Heritage Museum which must be that farm I saw from the interstate. As it’s early, I think about going there, but it’s so hot out. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. I pull up to the hotel.

The desk clerk says check-in isn’t until 3 p.m. and because this is a college town, they were full last night and the rooms are still being cleaned. (College town? Where? There’s nothing here – unless it’s about agriculture.) I ask about the Chain of Rocks Bridge, but she doesn’t know anything about it. She disappears to ask others. They don’t know, either. However, she does find out Room 314 is clean and available.

I thank her (and the others she spoke with about getting me in) for their effort and load my luggage onto a trolley and push it to the elevator and make my way down the hall. I fumble the door open and I’m surprised. This is a room I expect from Comfort Inn! It’s not elegant or fancy, not new or perfect, but it’s good, clean, and under $100.

I settle in, check messages, and decide to go for a swim. If I sit too long, I won’t go. The pool is similar in size and shape as last night’s pool, but it’s much cleaner and better maintained. The handrail extends to the bottom step. I totally enjoy the 15 minutes in the water swimming back and forth and doing other water exercises.

Refreshed, I return to the room, change into a lounging gown, and rearrange a few things before settling in the easy chair by the window. I put my feet up intending to read my book. It feels so good to relax and not feel pressured to do anything. The view out the window is of a farm with barn, pastures, fences, green vegetation. I love that -- no concrete, no highway, nor businesses in sight. And it’s quiet! I don’t do much reading and end up cat-napping. Purr-fect!

Later I post a few photos and one to the Photo-a-Day Facebook page. I watch a little TV bouncing between Food Network, HGTV, and the Travel Channel. I scour the atlas during commercials trying to find a different way home. There isn’t an easier way.

I crawl into the comfy bed at 9 p.m.

End of day overview: 
Average weather: hot and humid, gorgeous clouds; 79/93 degrees
Places visited:  World’s Largest in Casey, Ill.;  Rating: 4
Miles driven today: 227
Trip total: 1,153 miles
Hours driven: 3 ½ 
Hotel:  Comfort Inn, Greenville, Ill., Room 314;  Rating: 4
Meal: Ponderosa, Vandalia, Ill.;  Rating: 4

Gas cost: $11.99    Meals: $23.19    Hotel: $92.59   

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