So we didn't stop much. A rest area, a gas stop, and then in Davenport, IL, we decided it would be good to stop for a picnic lunch and let Jet out to play. The AAA maps aren't very good at detail in the cities, and the parks that show up are the huge, official parks, not the little play parks we were really looking for; however, with the map, we were less inclined to stop and ask the way we did two years ago. Instead we headed for a big patch of green that said "Rock Island". It turned out to be the Rock Island Arsenal.
There were two guard gates up front, and one of the guards was kind enough to tell us to go to the other gate if we wanted a playground. So we did, and with our passports we were able to sign in as guests and they gave us very clear instructions to a playground "past the big, retired guns". The guard was voluble and talked about really needing the rain in the area and that grain and soy futures were probably good to invest in. Nice guys, all in all. Quite different than in Cheyenne, where they won't let anyone on the grounds without a voucher by someone that works in the arsenal there. But there might be different things that they're guarding and the alert levels may well have been entirely different.
Yes, the London bombings hadn't happened, yet.
We drove out to the playground. There were covered picnic areas, with shade, so we unloaded our crackers and cheeses and fruit and drinks, and sat there, in the heat, and ate. Things were spoiling in the cooler, so we dumped most of the food in the trash after we were done with what we could eat. There was fresh water available from drinking fountains, so we got that into our water bottles and drank. Jet played in the sandboxes with his Hot Wheels cars, climbing a little, but mostly digging roads and burying his cars. Then we walked over to the guns.
The first thing was a Sherman tank with a huge hit on the side that had taken out the front cannon. The damage was painted with red to keep it from rusting, and all the portals were welded or caged shut so no one could get in, but there were stairs up to the upper turret area and plenty of fascination for the climb.
There were all kinds of mobile artillery there, including a monster Atomic Cannon that had a firing range of 7 miles. Wow. There's movies at this site of the thing in action.
The collection was sobering and quiet and almost beautiful in the heat of the summer afternoon. Families and several men came to just look and read and see.
Eventually, Jet was tired enough, so we got back into the car, and he watched a movie, used the potty when we stopped for gas, and then fell asleep. We headed across Illinois and touched Indiana and ended up in Michigan. At a gas stop we found a White Castle! Given that we were about to eat dinner, he went in and bought us each one hamburger, and that was enough for me. I enjoyed it immensely, the oniony, soft, meaty burger only three inches wide. I've been addicted to them since I was a little kid, living in Indiana and visiting Chicago and Indianapolis on long road trips. It was nice to have a fresh one rather than a frozen one, and I was glad I had it.
I was having diarrhea problems by now. Travel and I get it and nothing I do makes it go away but time, so eating what I wanted was just my way of coping, in some ways.
John headed north along Lake Michigan and we entered the Warren Dunes state park. Jet was still asleep when we got to the concessions stand and gift shop there, so we just pulled him from his seat and carried him with us as we looked for something to buy to cook for dinner. There wasn't anything. Jet wanted snow noodles. While we were at the concessions stand, by the lake and the dunes, I looked around and took a picture of a 40 foot dune and the shining silver sea that was the lake right there on the beach by the stand. It's the only real look at the lake we got while we were there.
The camp sites were all set back into the woods. There were really tall trees all around the camp sites, and the sites, themselves were set in a big circle with a single lane that crossed the center. The bathrooms were on that single lane, and all the site spoked out about it. We found a nice, level site across the street from the central area. Close enough to make it not too long a trip to the bathroom, but our site wasn't surrounded by filled sites the way most of the rest of the camp grounds were filled.
We drove to the camp site, set up, coated ourselves in DEET, and I cooked spaghetti noodles. We had some cheddar and some mizithra, so we shredded those on the noodles. Jet ate happily. We were less happy but we didn't have any spaghetti sauce or anything. It was food, though. And when we were done we walked around the site to the entrance, where a man had a tent and some Christmas lights and was all set up to sell firewood, a bundle for $3 and a starter for $1. We bought them, and the guy smiled at Jet and we walked back with our new treasure.
Along the way we all discovered fire flies! Yay! Slow moving and easy to catch, Jet happily chased them with his flashing sandals. He looked like a fire fly himself, flashing on and off, along with the bugs going on and off. He caught one for a bit, peered at it, and it flew away as he was looking. Hee.
We then setup the fire, and let it roar. Jet wanted to use the skewers to toast SOMETHING, and we hadn't bought either chocolate or marshmallows, but we had graham crackers and Triscuits. Jet loves Triscuits and he wanted to toast one of those on a skewer, so John carefully stuck a cracker, and Jet toasted it and then ate it. Yum. He really liked it. John said that that's what camping is, figuring out how to have fun and enjoy what you have while you're "away from it all".
I asked John, "Why am I here again?" I'm afraid I wasn't enjoying myself the way I ought to have been, and didn't appreciate the bugs, the primativeness, and being amid so many people to be away from all the conveniences of civilization.
John had the better idea It certainly is more pleasant to look at it that way and giggle about how pathetic our camping preparation was than to get upset about forgetting to get better food beforehand. We weren't hungry and the van was nice to sleep in, especially without the rain.