Crossing the Mississippi River from Davenport, IA to Moline, IL meant that we had crossed one of the 1st landmarks that meant that we were truly eastern bound. We were spending the night tonight at the Rock Island, IL KOA. As it was already a bit later on in the day (we had driven from Des Moines, IA) we just took a short drive through both Moline and Rock Island. Both downtowns looked as if better days had passed by. You could tell that at one point the buildings had been beautiful but after what looked like years of neglect, time and weather had taken their toll. Oh well, we thought, at least we looked. We then headed to the campground for the night.
Cruising East on I-74
The next morning, we woke up eager to continue our drive eastward. We were in a bit of a time crunch as we were going to be meeting up with Julie’s parents at her cousin’s house in Indianapolis, IN the next day. That meant that we only had one day to explore the north central part of the prairie state.
Our route today would take us from Rock Island then going east on I-74 to Peoria, Bloomington and finally to our resting point tonight in the town of Champaign. It was a beautiful day as we hit the road. The sun was shining, birds chirping and massive farm vehicles slowly crawling around the farmers fields that we passed. Unlike the massive fields that we had seen the last few days in Nebraska & Iowa; here in Illinois things were a bit greener with a little bit of forest here and there.
We were making pretty good time as we passed by Peoria and Bloomington. As it was almost lunch time Julie started to look at good stopping points. For lunch we usually look for a small town, a park or some other business that we can park at that might have something interesting to look at. To my surprise she came up with a winery! I guess thinking about it, why wouldn’t there be a winery in central Illinois. They are growing corn, soybeans, lettuce and 100 other varieties of crops, so why not grapes?
The winery that she found was Kickapoo Creek Winery. We arrived around noon to find a packed parking lot. After eating lunch in the van, we headed in. To our surprise the tasting room/restaurant was almost empty. We asked where all the people were as we didn’t see many and were told that there was a memorial service going on in their banquet hall. Interestingly enough a few minutes later a bridal party walked in and asked where they could go set up and start to get ready. Julie and I thought “this is the circle of life at this winery today”. After talking with the bartender and some of the bridal party for a bit we split a wine tasting. Overall, we thought that the wine was excellent. Once we were done, we hopped back into the van and continued our way east.
We drove until we reached our final destination for the day, the city of Champaign. After finding parking we started to walk around the downtown area. We were a bit weirded out at first because almost everyone that we saw or walked past us was wearing the color orange. It took us a little while to figure out what was going on but then we finally realized it…we were in a college town and there was a football game going on. Champaign doesn’t play host to the main campus but one of the larger satellite campuses of the University of Illinois system. Everyone here was rooting their team on! We are not sure if they won but after we figured it out it was pretty neat to see almost every person wearing orange.
Champaign turned out to be on the smaller side, but it did have a nice downtown. Streets were clean with fresh flowers in planters everywhere. None of the storefronts were empty and there were people walking around everywhere.
As we were a bit thirsty, we started to look around for a pub that wasn’t packed full and found The Blind Pig Brewery. Walking in it looked like the place had been imported from England. After sitting down we asked the bartender and found out that yes…..most of the bar and the wood working inside the bar was actually imported from England. After sitting down the guy next to us started to talk with us as he noticed Julie’s Tampa Bay Lightning hockey shirt. It turned out that his name was Troy and he was from Tampa. He had been taking a graduate program online through the University of Illinois and they had flown everyone in the program to the campus for a football game and their graduation from the program. This was pretty cool. Julie and I split a flight here as we talked with Troy. The beer was awesome at the Blind Pig and we ordered a few growlers to go. We said goodbye and safe flight to Troy as we headed back to Bubbles.
That evening we camped at a small family owned campground. The area where our camping spot was turned out to be smushed between two huge fields of corn. How appropriate we thought, if you are in the middle of the breadbasket of America and your camping, wouldn’t you want to be right next to a farmer’s field. That night we had one of the best sunsets that we had seen in a long time. We watched the sun as it turned bright orange and purple as it disappeared below the corn. It was a perfect ending to a great day.
Next up….Family time in Indianapolis!