Vacation meets education during trip to Illinois

July 10, 2013 

Sunday’s 14-hour drive complete with holiday traffic jams and accidents caused me to question the wisdom of the trip, but with the benefit of a good night’s sleep, it seems to me a week’s visit to Illinois was a good one. Educational, too. Here’s some of what I learned.

Night driving is better for the passengers than the driver. Day driving isn’t good for anyone.

Spatial relationships take a backseat to nostalgia. I’d occasionally see a teenager at a restaurant or park and think it was a friend from high school, forgetting momentarily that the person in mind was about 30 years older than when I’d last seen them. Maybe they were children of the people I knew.

At the same time, I also thought I saw people I knew from Houston County. People really don’t look that much different from location to location.

My mom doesn’t go out of her way to help people. That is her way.

A trip to Bloomington-Normal always forces me to confront my conservative political leanings. There’s taxpayer money in a refurbished train station that services a stop along a North-South Amtrak route between Chicago and St. Louis. There’s taxpayer money in the “Corn Crib;” home of an independent league baseball team that averaged an attendance of about 3,000 fans during a six-game home stand. There’s taxpayer money in a revitalized “Uptown Normal,” including a round-about (which would look really great here at the corner of Davis Drive and Watson Boulevard.)

That noted, Bloomington-Normal property tax rates are roughly double what they are here. Apparently, it’s not enough. The state of Illinois announced a $6.1 billion deficit on the day I arrived.

One good thing about a trip to Illinois is the abundance of Illini shirts and hats. One bad thing about a trip to Illinois is the abundance of Iowa Hawkeye paraphernalia.

LeBron is better than Michael. He has to be, judging from the skill level of the rising sixth graders I saw playing in a tournament at Illinois Wesleyan.

When I was that age -- and Michael, too -- it was hard just to get the ball to the rim. Now kids are draining threes and hitting reverse layups.

The ready availability of facts via the Internet makes it hard to bluff your kids. Told my son the Montreal Expos were the best team in baseball before the 1981 MLB strike but missed out on the playoffs. Instead of accepting my word, he did a quick check of his phone and found out the Expos made the playoffs that year but lost to the Dodgers.

Oddly, in Illinois, folks refer to the game “cornhole” as “Bags.”

The need for advance planning on meet-ups and rendezvous has been all but eliminated by the cell phone.

There may soon be an artificial pancreas available to diabetes patients.

Interstate 24 is a beautiful stretch of road, especially in southern Illinois where there’s a dearth of billboards. Not the ideal place for the ABC sign game, however. The ABC sign game maintains the potential to occupy minds during a long drive, but WatchESPN on a smart phone works better, especially for the men’s Wimbledon finals.

Bloomington fireworks were nice enough, but nature’s light show Sunday evening along I-75 was awesome. And frightening.

It’s good to be home.

Contact Chris Deighan at

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