It’s been really rainy the last couple of days: we spent the first rainy night in the middle of the tiny river town of Hamburg, IL (pop. 150) in a shelter in the town park. The hammocks worked great strung up along the shelter supports and we didn’t feel too much like vagrants, since we were invited guests of a lovely guy named Steve, who I had met while waiting for Mary to arrive, but I did think we resembled bats a little bit: big green bats hanging in our hammocks under the eaves.
Hamburg is on a sort of peninsula bounded by the Illinois River on one side and the Mississippi on the other: there are no bridges across the Mississippi except up north at Louisiana (the cool narrow bridge Susan commented on), and the Illinois is another barrier to easy travel, so the towns on the Illinois side feel quite different from the Missouri side. Hannibal, Louisiana, Clarksville, even though they’re pretty small towns, feel like they’re along the highway of the river, but the Illinois side feels much more rural. I’ve been re-reading Tom Sawyer, and Twain gives you the same feeling about Illinois vs. Missouri: it’s interesting how geography trumps development even when there are almost ten times as many people living in the US than in 1860. My guess is there aren’t a whole lot more people living in far western Illinois than there were when Samuel Clemens was hanging around these parts.
Last night, Mary and I drove down to Pere Marquette State Park, which has a really great lodge and cabins that were built by the CCC during the Depression. The greatroom of the lodge is a total wonder: I’d say it’s about 50 by 80 feet and four stories high, all built of huge wooden beams. Angie in the bar gave us a sampling of the local wines, and we hung out for a bit hoping for the rain to stop, but eventually headed out to the campsite in the rain and rigged up our hammocks in the trees.
It was great at first to be cocooned all cozy and dry in the hammock with the tarp right overhead tapping with raindrops, but as the night wore on my tarp slid down and I woke up around 5:30 in a clammy bath of cold wet sleeping bag and clothes and staggered to the car and changed into dry clothes and slept a bit more in the front seat. Mary hadn’t fared much better in her hammock, so we headed over to Jerseyville to the laundromat to dry everything out and then came back to the lodge because I wanted to spend the day hanging out in that great greatroom! So I’m writing this looking out at the still-rainy day and the Illinois River and hoping that the rain will let up and let us out on the river tomorrow.
We’re heading down to Alton tonight, to Bob and Wita, some friends I haven’t met yet. Bob’s grandfather and father and uncle all worked on building the lodge, how cool is that?!