14/8/11 woke up in Arthur, Illinois

We had an ambitious plan, to get immerse into Amish community, since it seems very interesting, and even though I laugh at the whole no-techie attitude to life, I do not think it’s at all bad ( I wanted to take a pic outside of the sign welcoming you to town, sitting with my nose in the laptop, whilst on the phone, but I felt bad, when I read the sign: “Welcome to Arthur – you are stranger only once”). Unfortunately, due to the fact it was Sunday, they must all have been chilling or praying.

We drove past a few more horse carriages, and got out of town. The last thought came whilst thinking about a young dude in a food shop we saw earlier, buying snickers. I know, I know, they are not forbidden in the Amish household, however I associate it more with young, funky generation, than a house where you read a cookbook to bed and go to sleep at 8pm after a tiring day crocheting.
The young generation.. what do they actually think about it all? They live amongst kids with cameras and tv’s and skateboards. Are they jealous? Is being caught speeding whilst on the horse enough to keep their adrenaline high or do they need more stimulation? It’s must be like a Truman Show for all of them. They live in a happy bubble and suddenly the day comes when the reality hits you. I am boned. Cannot run, cannot hide. Or do they think we live in a backwards society? Chasing something unnamed, waiting for Godot, participating in a rat race? Hmm..

It was afternoon, so a quick lunch was required. We arrived at family run Ariston Cafe, a longtime Route 66 stopping-place in Litchfield, in business since 1924.
It was our first experience of the great hospitality on the road. Growing up in Europe, where people are not too open and definitely not too keen on talking to strangers, we do not really know how to react when approached by nice, friendly, polite people in America.
The couple who runs Ariston approached us and asked to sign a visitors book, offered to take some pictures of me, Shane and Leah behind the counter and asked us where we are heading. When they found out we are off to LA, the gentleman pulled out his business card and told us that in case of emergency, or if we need anything whilst we are there, not to hesitate to contact his friend. He gave us this guys address (again: without us asking for it), and at the back of the business card he wrote: “Treat them well. They are nice people”. It was super sweet. People do not do those little nice things anymore. Shame, as this simple gesture made my day.

Ariston Cafe, Litchfield

Ariston Cafe, Litchfield

We are out of Litchfield and on the way to Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, but I managed to squeeze in one more attraction. Well, it was attraction for me anyway.
As I am always a great supporter of strong, independent women, all shapes and sizes from all over the planet, I wanted to pay my respect to late Mother Jones, famous mining activist who died in 1930. Buried in Mt. Olive, she should be an ultimate inspiration to all the people moaning about how shit their life is. Born in Ireland, emigrated to Canada at the age of fourteen. She eventually opened a dress shop in Memphis on the eve of the Civil War.
There were two turning points in her life. The first, and most tragic one, was the loss of her husband George and their four children (all under the age of five) during a yellow fever epidemic. After her entire family succumbed to the disease, she returned to Chicago to begin another dressmaking business. Then, four years later, she lost her hard-earned home, shop and possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. Amazing woman, great inspiration. She committed her life to help others. In 1903 Jones organized children, who were working in mills and mines at the time, to participate in the “Children’s Crusade”, a march from Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Oyster Bay, New York, the home of President Theodore Roosevelt, with banners demanding “We want to go to School and not the mines!”. Mother Jones uttered words still invoked by union supporters more than a century later: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

After this rather moving stop, we carried on with the plan for the day. Rabbits..
The first thing we see when we finally arrive at the rabbit heaven is the Campbell’s “Humpin’ to Please” truck trailer, and loads more roadie stuff on display, but unfortunately no rabbits in sight as ..yup, they are shut on Sundays.

Rabbit Ranch, Staunton

Rabbit Ranch, Staunton

We carried on through Collinsville, called the Horseradish Capital of The World, the town holds a Horseradish Festival each Spring, but the most famous attraction in Collinsville is ..gigantic, 70ft tall water tower in the shape of a ketchup bottle. The largest in the world of course.

Just a short drive west from the ketchup town lies Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Not much is left from the ruins of six square – miles of prehistoric city, inhabited from AD 700 to 1400. There are several mounds here, with the largest being approximately 100ft high. Cahokia is considered the largest prehistoric society on this continent north of Mexico. It is definitely worth a visit, as the exhibits and displays are outstanding.
There were examples of toys used by Indian kids, consisting of strings , stones and bits of leather. Even though really simple, Leah has spent almost 45 min playing with them. Amazing for an Apple generation kid.



After the historic excursion, we hit the road again and basically “flew” through St.Louis. Well, it wall almost that simple. On the way out of town, we were hit by another car, whilst parked. I was not impressed, since I just dropped an M&M’s and was trying to find it, and the crash made it roll under the seat.. Grr.

I have never had any car crashes, but always imagined that if I do, the car is going to set on fire and explode, so even this time, I was trying to make sure, we are not in for too long. I looked through the mirror and saw an old Nissan Altima with basically trashed front. Shit. We’ve got 3 weeks of driving and no time for all this. Getting a replacement will take hours.. .

Turned out the Mitsubishi Endeavour was secretly a Hammer, and got only small scratches. It was different story with Shane and Leah, as both of them ended up with a whiplash.

I was ready to give the unlucky driver a piece of my mind, but she was so apologetic, even being a cold bitch that I am at times, I had no heart to shout at her. Also, she made us all laugh (after making Leah cry out of pure shock). She supplied me with the quote of the day, by saying: “This car has done that before”. Brilliant.
The police came, did what they do, and we were on our way.

Since it’s an adventure holiday, I was half hoping for a sneaky pic with the police dude, but he had no sense of humour what so ever, so I left it.

It was getting late, so we decided to crash somewhere before Springfield, and since there was no shortage of signs pointing to the Meramec Caverns, we decided (after the 50th sign pointing out to the exit), that it must be something interesting , and if we crash somewhere close, we can see them in the morning. And that’s what we did.