Saturday, November 04, 2006

Last full day in the U.S.

If you are reading this blog for the first time, you might be surprised to find yourself reading not about France but about the United States. I've been on an East Coast tour for a month now, traveling from Upstate New York down to North Carolina and Alabama, and ending up in Illinois. I fly back to Paris from Chicago tomorrow, and I plan to resume posting topics about life in France's Loire Valley later in the week.

Meanwhile, I've been in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, area for a couple of days, staying with friends. I spent five years here in the 1970s, when I was in graduate school. I have a lot of nostalgia for the University of Illinois, but it certainly has changed. I hardly recognize the campus, with the exception of its old core, the main quadrangle.

The old Greyhound bus station in Evansville, Indiana

I'm thinking about transit these days, in anticipation of our flight back to France. On the way from Kentucky to Illinois, I drove through Evansville, Indiana, just because I had never been there before. The old Greyhound bus station was the most interesting thing I saw there.

I crossed into Illinois at Mount Carmel, where an old friend grew up. She lived in Paris back in the 1970s, when I did. Then I took a detour off the main highway, just to see the sights. I ended up on very narrow roads and got stuck behind a school bus that was dropping off children in the Illinois equivalent of a village.

Stuck behind a school bus in southern Illinois

The bus stopped in front of at least 5 houses — trailers, actually — and at each one or more kids got off. The houses were just a few hundred feet apart, but rather than let them all off at a single stop and leave them to walk to their respective houses, the bus made all those stops. I was stuck, because it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus in the U.S.

The shadow of our Chevy Impala on an Illinois field

Later, Walt snapped a picture of the shadow of our car against a typical Illinois landscape as we drove north. The sun was going down.

The quadrangle at the University of Illinois on a nice fall day

Yesterday, we walked around the Illinois campus. The sun was out and the weather had warmed up enough to make walking outside pleasant.

The College of Agriculture building on the quad at Champaign-Urbana

Today, we had lunch in an old student hangout on campus called the White Horse Inn. As we left the place after enjoying a nostalgic hamburger with cole slaw and fries, we noticed some students on the 5th-floor balcony of their apartment across the street. Today the Illinois-Ohio State football game was being played on campus, and a lot of students were partying (evidently). These particular guys were rowdy. When they saw us, one of them yelled: "You guys are too old. Get the f*** out of here!"

I guess my University of Illinois days really are over. I might as well go on back to France.

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