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Roadside Finds: Casey, Illinois

World’s Largest Teeter Totter in Casey, Illinois

“Big Things In A Small Town”  That is Casey’ Illinois’ claim to fame, and the reason we stopped off on our way home from Wisconsin.  Scattered around the downtown area of this town of about 3,000 located just off I-70 between St. Louis and Indianapolis.  Casey only has one traffic light, and most everything is walking distance from the center of town.

World’s Largest Yardstick in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest antlers in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Barber Pole in Casey, Illinois

Casey holds eight Guinness records, including giants such as largest wind chime, golf driver, knitting needles, giant chair, giant mailbox, wooden clogs, rulers and giant bird cage, constructed by businessman Jim Bolin.

World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Bird Cage in Casey, Illinois
The Largest Knitting Needles and Crochet Hook are located in this shop in Casey, Illinois. It was closed on the day of our visit but they are visible through the window.

We didn’t visit all of the attractions, and unfortunately didn’t try the ice cream 🙁 but we did do a pretty reasonable job of visiting the sights.

World’s Largest Wooden Shoes in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Truck Key in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Bent Nail Puzzle in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Pencil in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Spinning Top in Casey, Illinois
Worlds Largest Bookworm at the Kline Memorial Library in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mouse Trap in Casey, Illinois

Hangin’ In While Hangin’ Out

Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania

My grandfather, a wise man who taught me a lot, always said that we should never complain about birthdays or haircuts.  He didn’t have much hair, so birthdays were a big deal. 😉  My brother and I have carried on the birthday tradition, although we both have much more hair than he did. 🙂

To steal a statistic from Monte – today is my 22,647th day on this planet.

Cupola on a barn near Greenford, Ohio

Celebrating doesn’t have to be a big deal, and this year is no exception.  I’m looking forward to a quiet afternoon with family – as quiet as an afternoon with a 4 1/2 year old can be! – and a nice easy dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, takeout from our favorite Italian restaurant.  With wine!

Hops plants growing in a field near Greenford, Ohio

Kathy and I have been watching the developments in other parts of our country and can’t help but wonder what the outlook for travel will be over the next few months and longer.  We just had a nice road trip to visit a number of our closest friends and family members and are privileged to have our closest family right here in Charlotte with us.

Sunset over Lake Erie from Avon Lake, Ohio

We look forward to our next adventure, but in the meantime we are thankful to have family, friends and memories to carry us through.

Intersection on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

Thoughts On Our Recent Travel Experience

Jimmy the Rooster at Mindy’s Cafe in Downtown Dover, Ohio

We’re back home after nearly two weeks of traveling, visiting family and friends in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with a slow meander home through rural Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia.  Several people asked us “how are things out in the world?”  We didn’t exactly see the world, but for the small part we did see I thought I would share a few thoughts for those who might be interested.

For us, we went to visit family and friends, and before we confirmed our plans we checked in with everyone we were planning to see to make sure they were comfortable with “outsiders.”  Everyone was OK with us coming (or too polite to say no!), so that solved our biggest concern.  Other than that, we found that generally being aware of the rules in each state and being prepared was relatively easy.

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

Like it or not, masks are a reality and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.  Just about every state these days has some kind of mask mandate, so being away is really no different than being at home.  The choices are (a) wear a mask, (b) don’t go to that place, or (c) go anyway and deal with whatever happens.  I didn’t see anyone turned away for not wearing a mask, despite some headlines I’ve read. Knowing that whether we decided to stay home or travel there wouldn’t be much difference, we decided it was worth it and would ultimately not be a big deal.

When we’re traveling on back roads, we rely on fast food restaurants and convenience stores for bathroom stops.  Probably the biggest challenge was knowing which fast food restaurants had their inside service and dining rooms open, and thus their restrooms.  But there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, as each restaurant chain or franchisee is evidently on their own to decide.  So there would be places where McDonald’s would be open but Hardees or Burger King would be closed.  A few of the convenience stores said there were no restrooms, but I think they were just being grumpy.  Most of the gas stations and convenience stores were business as usual.  Along the interstate highways and turnpikes, all facilities were open, although many of the food vendors were not.

Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

Our experience with restaurants was overall very good.  We found that the restaurants that offered good food and service before continued to do so.  Restaurants that struggled with service and quality before still struggled, assuming they were even open.  And the places that have always seemed to be dirty and indifferent were still that way.  We typically only stop at those places for their bathrooms anyway, so no biggie.  We made a point of being extra nice and generous with our tips, since the people who were working are still handicapped by capacity limits.

We stayed in chain motels with the exception of our stop in Wisconsin.  The hotel chains have stopped with their breakfast free-for-all, but all had coffee and some kind of pre-made grab-n-go food items.  Sometimes it was a paper sack with a granola bar, fruit and water, and sometimes it was pre-made and individually wrapped breakfast sandwiches, fruit, yogurt and pastries.  The hotel in Wisconsin had a full breakfast spread, which we enjoyed.  We don’t generally get excited about hotel breakfast bars anyway, so as long as we could stock up on coffee and tea we were OK.

Light fixture at Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel

Traffic on the highways seemed to be typical summertime heavy.  There did seem to be a lot of trucks on the road, but also plenty of cars hauling sunburned kids and luggage, both inside and outside (kids on the inside!).  This is Orange Barrel Season everywhere, and there seems to be plenty of highway improvement money being spent.  It was interesting to see a lot of bridge repair work going on, as we frequently came across one-lane sections of road where bridges were being repaired or replaced.  For the most part, the freeway travel was congestion free, with the exception of Chicago, which I think has people that have been stuck in traffic since the 80s.  We went far around Chicago but still encountered a few backups, primarily due to construction.

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

From Wisconsin to home we stayed completely on back roads, stopping in Jasper, IN and Bristol, VA.  It was slow going, but very relaxing.  We managed to see some interesting things along the way.  I’ll post some more about those highlights in the days to come.

What’s next?  We’d like to get out on the road again and get out West in August or September, but we need to keep an eye on what the various states are doing.  Right now, most of the New England states and the City of Chicago – and probably other places I’m not up to date on – are requiring mandatory quarantine of travelers from states that include North Carolina.  Other states are seeing surges in virus cases that may result in similar restrictions being imposed.  And we have no interest in airplanes or cruise ships any time soon.  So for now we’re going to bide our time, work on re-losing the few pounds we gained, and see what happens.  Possibly some day trips or short overnights within our state, possibly a return to the beach if we can do it reasonably.

Street light in Downtown Dover, Ohio

The world’s still out there and nature is still happening.  Soon it will be fall and then winter, and with any luck we’ll be back out there again soon!

Downtown Dover, Ohio

Hop on Hops

Hops plants growing in a field near Greenford, Ohio

The daughter and son-in-law of friends of ours in Columbiana, Ohio – in addition to being a occupational therapist and family physician, respectively – like to play around with farmer stuff.  They are currently growing hops in their front yard and have a bee hive in their back yard.  That’s way more ambition than I had, even when I was working!  I think they are hoping to brew beer from the hops, but I don’t know their plan for honey.  Maybe mead?  We’ll have to see.  We visited their place while they were off at work in order to check out the progress and to take a few photos.

Bee hive near Greenford, Ohio

Goin’ Fishing

Solitude – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

It may be a dicey time to try and get out to other parts of the country, but Kathy & I are fixin’ to get back on the road again.  We’ll be headed to Ohio and beyond for a few days.  So I’m going to end the post-a-day I’ve been doing and concentrate on taking photos and spending time with family and friends.  You may see an occasional postcard from time to time.

“Throw this one back “(as soon as I get a photo). Baby hammerhead shark

One thing I did do, for anyone who is interested, is post a gallery of photos from our recent trip to the beach: 2020-06 Hilton Head

Casting Call – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Timing is Everything

Sunset From The Patio

Monte commented on my last post about having been inside having dinner when a nice sunset was happening.  As it turned out, Friday’s sunset here was also pretty nice, but I missed it for the same reason.  I’ve often told non-photographers that many of the best landscape photos are taken when people are either eating or sleeping.  Of course, Kathy’s version of that saying is that a sunset is best observed through a glass.  Albeit not a glass in the form of a camera lens. 😉

I had my camera all ready to go on Saturday night but it turned out to be a colorless mass of gray clouds.  But I left everything out in the office to I would be ready last night.  When the first hint of pink started in the sky I went inside, grabbed my gear and headed to the patio.  But in the course of that 1-2 minute window the pink faded as fast as it started.  I did manage to salvage a bit of the last remaining hints of color as it faded.  First photo and last photo were about 12 minutes apart.

Sunset From The Patio

Transmission towers aren’t as nice a subject as palm trees, but they aren’t drift fences, either. 🙂

Sunset From The Patio

Roadside Finds – Murray Gin Mill

Murray Gin cotton mill on SR 3/Whetstone Road near North, South Carolina

Kathy & I like to joke that “no one turns a 5 hour drive into a 7- or 8-hour adventure like we do!  Even going to the beach we like to take back roads and explore what we find along the way.  For this recent trip to Hilton Head we decided to take a picnic lunch and stop at Barnwell State Park, located a few miles off our usual route through rural South Carolina.  The route to Barnwell took us down a road we hadn’t been on before, and we passed this mill along the way.  I didn’t stop, and kicked myself several times before we were too far away to turn around.  I promised myself that I would stop on the way back, and I did.

I haven’t looked too hard yet, but have not come up with any kind of history on this mill.  I did find some indication that the name “Murray” appears on a number of cotton mills in the area, but nothing so far that tells me more.  I’m guessing that the mill is no longer operational, but I’ve seen places that look worse than this still churning out product once a year.

And yes, there is actually a town called North in South Carolina! 🙂

Wide Angle Fun

I have always loved the look of a wide angle lens but feel like I struggle to come up with wide-angle photos that I love.  I forced myself to carry my 10-24 with me yesterday afternoon, expecting to find some long shadows in the afternoon.  I was not disappointed!  It’s especially hard (in my opinion) to use a super wide focal length without a tripod, because it is virtually impossible to get the framing I intended.  Some of these came out OK!

Drift fence shadows on the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Drift fence shadows on the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Drift fence and grass, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Somehow I never get tired of walking along the drift fences and catching the shadows of the fencing and the green grasses growing up through the sand.  I sometimes feel like I’ve done too much of this, but then I end up seeing something new and different and off I go.  More of the same but never the same…almost like snowflakes!

There may be a few minor technical flaws in this photo, but given the vagaries of wind and shifting frame to to image stabilization, I like how this turned out.  Loving the juxtaposition between the grasses and the fence with the shadows behind.