My continuing trip through downstate Illinois…
A night journey adjacent to the river ends at Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois, just north of St. Louis.
These lodges were built in the 1930’s at the height of the depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). You can’t find a more comfortable or a more solid structure anywhere. Here is my supper, a glass of Australian Yellowtail Shiraz (“ripe cherries, strawberries, and vanilla aromas”), it sounds sweet, but the waitress assures me it’s supposed to be dry, and it is. I can only taste the cherries, but “earthy”, not sweet cherries. To go with it (vegetarians, close your eyes) I order a pulled pork sandwich. For some reason these most excellent sandwiches are only available south of I-80, southern Illinois being part of The South in many ways. My inlaws used to make this at Christmas–it was roasted in a Weber grill covered, then served in a hamburger bun with barbecue sauce.
[A group passes through the lodge as I sit here blogging, connected to the free wifi. I hear someone describe their experiences building the lodge years ago. They were charged $2 a day for room and board and were paid $3.50 an hour. She says it was all very exciting and they had the time of their lives.]
In the center of the main room is a lifesize chess board. Some of the people I saw at dinner play for a while.
Adjacent to the lodge are cabins which I am told go for $125-130 a night, also a campground with tent spaces and a shower. This morning I see frost on the ground and realize I have grossly underestimated the nighttime temperatures for the season, and that tonight I will be sleeping in my own bed. In addition the fuse on the cigarette lighter I was using to charge my cellphone has blown, taking out the radio as well. The only thing I have to listen to (besides the mp3 player, which I can’t do while driving) is the cassette player, which still works, and a Berlitz Arabic tape I bought at a used bookstore in Carbondale. My camera as well is acting up, the batteries only able to take a dozen or so pictures after being completely recharged last night. Time to return to civilization. On the return trip I will cross by ferry into Calhoun county and enjoy a nice afternoon drive back north though river country.