Other Places

The Recovering Baptist is in love, and who can blame her?  We Midwesterners are hard to resist.

Bridgett‘s talking bad covers.

–Speaking of bad covers, Coble‘s got some brilliant publishing industry ideas.

Meanwhile, here’s what I’m mulling over (which you Midwesterners will also find HILARIOUS [yes, so hilarious that I have to shout]): Mack is taking his family to the Dells on vacation!

Doesn’t that just make you want to give the whole family a squeeze and hand them a casserole?

But oh, the moaning and wailing and weeping about having to drive through Illinois.  Good lord, you’d think people had never been in a car in a flat state before.

So, I have this idea of putting together a little quiz for the kids to work on in the car in between bouts of making fun of my homeland.  But the thing is, these kids are smart, so I want it to be something interesting for them and pertaining to Illinois AND, here’s the tricky thing, something they can do while sitting in the car and just looking out the window or at a road map on occasion.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

1.  Much of the reason Illinois is so “boring” and flat is because glaciers extended far into the state during the last ice age.  Generally, the flat parts were under ice; the rolling hilly parts were not.  Just looking at the landscape as you head north, how far south do you think those glaciers came?

2.  Look out your window.  What are Illinois’ two biggest cash crops*?

3.  Based on the city and town names you see, what country would you guess the first European settlers came from?

4.  Name me five towns in Illinois you think may have been Native American villages at one time.

5.  Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.  He sent his daughter to Charleston to college.  What school did she attend?

6.  Right now you’re driving over one of the largest coal basins in the nation.  Just by looking on the road map, can you guess where you might find mines?

Okay, that’s what I’ve got so far.  I’m throwing it open to y’all if you have any ideas.

*Not counting that illegal cash crop.

15 thoughts on “Other Places

  1. The largest city in Illinois is named _____________, a name derived from the Potawatomi word “chicagou.” The name means “place where wild onions grow.” Locate it on a map. Why would Miami, Potawatomi, and French voyageurs like to congregate here in the summertime?

    Illinois has a wonderful network of rivers and early peoples used them to travel and trade. Imagine that you have a birchbark canoe. Using your finger, see if you can get from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi using only natural waterways. Can you get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River through Illinois, using only waterways? How many times did you need to portage (or go across land)? If you traveled by water only from Nashville, how close could you get to the Wisconsin Dells before you’d have to walk?

    The southern part of Illinois (the hilly region below Route 70) is known to local people as “Little Egypt.” It is culturally, geographically, and socially different from the rest of Illinois. Its mild climate and fertile soil attracted pro-slavery southern farmers in the early 19th century. They brought enslaved black workers with them. Though slavery was abolished (mostly) in Illinois in 1824, farmers in Little Egypt continued to try to hang onto their slaves and did so until 1845. Still, for about a hundred years, Little Egypt had a greater concentration of African-Americans than northern Illinois. How many place names can you find that are Middle Eastern in origin? How does the landscape differ from northern Illinois? What kinds of work do you think enslaved workers did? What kinds of routes might they have used to escape to Canada?

    If I had more time today, I could come up with a dozen. This is a really good idea.

  2. How many towns in the area you’re driving through are of European origin? How many of them are mispronounced?

  3. Discussion question: Is it any wonder that many of the major farmers of Illinois are fiercely supporting tariffs on Brazilian ethanol? discuss

  4. But the question that’s really on my mind is “Don’t they have mega-waterparks in Nashville?”

  5. And putt-putt courses? Surely to God you’ve got some monstrous putt-putt courses landscaped in a Pirates of the Caribbean theme…

    (Then again, I shouldn’t talk. We’re going to a family reunion in Myrtle Beach in a couple of weeks…)

  6. We have one half-assed water park in Nashville. Pros: five minutes from my house. Cons: five minutes from my house.

    That’s not why people go to the Dells,though. They go to see the “amazing” rock formations. Which pisses me off. Do you know how fantastically disappointing it is to be an eleven year old girl at the peak of her Star Wars fanaticism/mythology phase on a trip to this place? It’s hell. Because you load the family on to these boats which promise a journey past The Devil’s Head and The Unicorn In Repose or whatthehellever. And so the poor 11 year old is imagining these fantastic, larger-than-life sculptures of fantastical creatures. Sort of a Mt. Rushmore of hipster nerdery.

    No. They just look like rocks. Boo-hiss-boo.


    Illinois quiz questions:

    1. Why do all the drivers suck?
    2. What is that smell? (mostly useful if your Illinois journey takes you through Gary, Indiana.)
    3. Why do some people pronounce it “Illinoy” and others “Illinoys”?
    4. Why is Champagne/Urbana not nearly as fizzily interesting as its name implies?

  7. Please cite and explain the state law that exempts Motorcyclists from wearing helmets.

    I once saw and entire armada of cyclists stop at the state line and take them off. It looked like Easy Rider.

  8. I might have mentioned this before, and it’s not educational at all, but it is highly entertaning to make up funny names with the various towns and/or counties. Like: Cisco Bement, Oreana Moultrie, and Piatt DeWitt.

    1. The drivers only suck around Chicago. And some suburbs. No worse than most other places, as far I have experienced.
    2. The smell is probably pig shit. But we all like our bacon, don’t we? Cow shit is not hardly smelly at all. Believe me, I know.
    3. Nobody, but nobody, EVER pronounces it ‘Illinoys.’
    4. It is spelled ‘Champaign.’ You must not have been to the good places, as there is lots of fizzy fun stuff that goes on around here.

    Haha! The Dells! What is he thinking?

  9. The guide on our boat was some bored college student who was dressed as Hollywood might have envisioned a 19th century Winnebago and claimed the name Lance Little Eagle.

    Now I’m not saying that Mr. Little Eagle was not one hundred per cent genuine…because after all, American Indians have been known to cater to white fantasies and commodify racist images to get over in a racist society and hey, he probably had to pay for beer like every other college kid…but you know something? In retrospect, I think he was some idiot white guy.

    I really hope the Dells boats have stopped doing that. If not, I hope that Supermousey and Eggnog give their tour guide a big fat kick in his bogus-ass shins.

  10. Oooh ooh the mines? They were/are under Diamond/Coal City.

    My dad lives there, talk about one of the most depressing areas I’ve ever visited. I’m sure I can realistically only partially blame my father. I’ve visited three times over the last few years and I can honestly say my heart gets lighter as I head South.

  11. Yikes, just wandered in, saw all this. Bridgett, good lord, girl, they (the kids) don’t want homework.

    Kat, LOL. And yes, truly the nashville park is sucky. The Dells has all kinds of new, humungus, indoor/outdoor waterparks. We swim, we ride, we lay out in the July sun and we eat junk food. Thats vacation. Ok, we go see Tommy bartlett.

    More later. Thanks guys!

  12. Tell the kids to go to potty before you cross the IL state line, or they’ll have to hold it until they hit Wisconsin. Illinois may be good for a lot of things, but rest areas aren’t among them….

  13. Illinois drivers don’t suck. What are you talking about? And, drivers in and around Chicago are some of the easist to drive with, in my experience. Now, trying to merge in and around Nashville, that’s some hell of pain and fear. People in Illinois have good, mandatory for teens driver’s ed and thus all actually drive the same. It’s an aggressive style, yes; so foreigners sometimes get scared. But just speed up a little, use your turn signals, and go for it.

    I thought the name of the city explained the smell – it’s the stinky sweet onions growing wild everywhere.

    Mack, you could also go out of your way a little to go see the Ringling Brothers Museum – those old circus cars are cool. then there’s the House on the Rock too.

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