Saturday, May 24, 2014

To Anderson Lake, Illinois

 May 17

Hubs installed the brake controller last week, so today is the day to test it out and start the first leg of our westward trip.  We hitch up, pull out of my family's driveway and then make seven or eight loops around their neighborhood, trying to get a feel for the brake controller.  At about lap number six, a little girl on a bike shouts in an exasperated tone "Do you even know where you're going?"

Saying our goodbyes to family, we pull out for the last time and hit the open road.  Going directly west, we avoid any interstates and travel only on state roads.  Otis and Murray behave perfectly until we go through the first small town.  Otis yips and hollers, while Murray buzzes and whines in reply.  A quick spray with a bottle of water usually quiets them down, but they are soon soaked.  Murray eventually falls asleep while Otis maintains his pesty vigil.  

Passing through dozens of inconsequential towns, we finally make it out of Indiana.


…and then we enter Illinois.  

Somehow I thought Illinois would be beautiful, simply because it isn't Indiana.  I have seen the "visit Illinois" commercials that show stunning vistas, but now I feel gypped.  It is even flatter and more boring than Indiana.  It is more than just is a vacuum in which hills cannot exist.  

We go through the outskirts of a town that clearly had a tornado go through it maybe weeks or a month ago.  An enormous tree looks like it had the foliage munched off by a rabbit of unimaginable proportions.  Everything above the basement of a nearby house is gone.  A staircase leads to thin air.

We have our sights set on the Anderson Lake Conservation Area, and as the miles tick down the landscape starts to change.  Crossing the Illinois River is an unanticipated pleasure. 

 What a bridge!

I have no idea what to expect of our prospective camp.  All I know is that it is cheap ($8 primitive), next to water, and not a Walmart parking lot.  

I am stunned when we finally arrive.

A large, placid lake stretches out in front of us, and there is not a single soul in sight.  

It is nearing 5:30 local time and the lake and surrounding landscape are vibrant in the evening sun.  

The campground slopes down toward the lake, so none of the sites are level.  We find the most level spot, but need our big orange leveling legos to get things just right.  Sputnik passes the green bean test and I make dinner while Hubs sets up camp. After dinner, Hubs and I take a stroll down a dirt road that divides the lake in two, cutting through a small woods.  

I keep pinching myself as we walk back toward Sputnik.  

Can this really finally be happening?

We feel so blessed!

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