Thursday, December 06, 2007

God Bless America

Or at least the Midwest. Musing brought on by the first winter weather here in the Midwest, and a recent trip.

One of the things I do at work is manage a distance program, so students who want to earn an M.A. in library science can take UW-Madison courses on TV, at three sites in Illinois - the service centers of a large library system in Illinois, Prairie Area Library System, PALS.

I'd been to two of the service centers - Shorewood, down near Joliet, and Rockford which is between Madison & Chicago, so yesterday I drove down to the third, in Coal Valley, IL, pop. 3500. I usually get this old Norman Blake song running through my head after I say it - "... the last train from poor valley, takin' brown-haired Becky Richmond bound

You can go two ways - head for Rockford and then go South, on I-39; it's a few more miles, but all interstate, OR head towards the Mississippi from Madison, on US-151 South, and make a big left turn at the Dubuque. I went that way.
The 90 or so miles from Madison to Dubuque go really fast; the 60 miles or so from Dubuque down to Moline (through a very rural part of Iowa) are endless - I was never so happy to be back in Illinois.

I drove a UW-Madison fleet car, and when I was picking it up, thought I looked like such a winter Wisconsin girl - long skirt, clumpy boots, big parka, fleece mittens - but the car wasn't equally fitted out for WI winter - no snow scraper, and I never got the squirters to work. At the first place I stopped to clean the windshield, the squeegees were all frozen, so I bought Windex & paper towels. The 2nd time I got really smart, and just pulled into a rest stop, sprayed the windshield, and let the wipers do the work.

After my visit to Coal Valley, I was supposed to stay at a Country Inn by the Moline airport. I got checked in, and went to my room - shabby chic, 2 TVs, but only one worked, free wired Internet, kinda cold until I turned up the heat. I kept my parka on, and phoned home to let my sweetheart know I was safe, and felt almost like Frances McDormand in Fargo, huddling in my big coat in my hotel room.

I asked one of the librarians at Coal Valley where to go to eat - and he said, believe it or not, there's actually a really good Mexican place in the mall. So there I was at the South Park shopping mall in Moline IL, at 8:30 at night, two weeks before Christmas. On the same day that some kid in Omaha, Nebraska shot 9 people in a Von Maur department store, the anchor store in this mall, and the chain HQ in Davenport.

The Mexican place was really good - I had mole chicken enchiladas and a Negro Modelo - and there was even soccer in TV- the guy sweeping the floor and the guy wrapping silverware in napkins were watching Argentina v. Costa Rica and cursing in Spanish when Argentina scored.

When I was on my way out of the mall after dinner, I went past a framed poster store. The two largest posters at the very front of the store were Bret Favre and the Last Supper. I had to call John and let him know that even in this funny part of Illinois, or Iowa, or the Quad Cities, Bret Favre is still God.

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