I-55 to Troy, IL (Jan 31 2014)


The day begins with watching the Weather Channel and looking out the window.

It is still snowing but the farther we get from Bloomington/Normal, the better it gets. Sort of.

The land is flat and quiet. Like life has been sucked out. There are buildings and vehicles but aside from the traffic on the highway, no sign of life. Is everyone in Mexico? They should be.

Lunch is at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. They are everywhere in this part of the country. The outside has an old-timey theme but that does not prepare you for what awaits inside. It’s a colorful emporium of souvenirs, USA style. Kitschy knickknacks, bright bejeweled clothing, sauces, preserves, candies…and behind all of it, a roadside restaurant with a real fire blazing in its fireplace.

Poor Sprockets (as I’ve started calling the Sprinter RV) is cold and dirty. Isn’t snow supposed to be clean? Not road snow. Because they salt the roads out here, there’s also salt all over Sprockets.

On the highway, the snow is super dry and drifts of it swirl on the road right in front of us. It is Very Trippy. “It feels like we’re driving on water without waves,” laughs Big Dog. I feel like we’re traveling on ‘shrooms.

We’re headed to Troy, Illinois. I like the sound of it and keep repeating it in my mind. “Troy-Illy-Noy, Troy-Illy-Noy…”

Big Dog’s friend from fifth or sixth grade lives near there and they haven’t seen each other since Big Dog visited once on his way to his grandparents’ place in Kentucky, so…wow, can it be 50 years?

A bit before Troy, we take Route 66 for a while. Everything is so still, so quiet. Not much life out there except for a few miserable looking cows. PETA hates the California Milk Board ads about the Happy California Cows but I can’t imagine the cows here are very happy at all. Actually, some of them look very mean and very angry. They could trounce a herd of peace-and-love California Cows any day.

Troy turns out to be another road stop and one with all the regular road stop amenities – like a Motel 6. (This is becoming the Motel 6 Tour. It’s too cold to sleep inside Sprokets.) This Motel 6 is the funkiest one we’ve seen and run by Indians (from India.) It looks like they had bought an older motel and turned it into a “Motel 6.” Even the sign looks different – like this is a fake Motel 6. If it hadn’t been listed in the Motel 6 Guide, you’d have a hard time believing they were really part of the franchise.

The snow has stopped and it is just cold and dry. Is this what Manchuria was like when my father grew up there?

Big Dog’s friend, T comes over with his wife, D and we go to a dive bar next door. It smells like stale smoke and is one of those places I’d be scared to go into alone. T and D are fun and funny and we can’t stop smiling at their Very Midwestern Accent. I love the way they sound and how it reminds you of the characters in Fargo. D is uncannily like Bette Midler. It makes me feel like we are having a fun night out with the Divine Miss M!

So, where do we wind up for dinner? Another Cracker Barrel!!! Jam packed with a Friday night crowd.


Author: ontheroadwithsprockets

I've been traveling since I was born -- the first big trip was before I was two, across the Pacific, from my native Japan to Los Angeles on a cargo ship. There have been many journeys since then, through many continents and cultures.

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