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Madison County, IA

This is "Bridges of Madison County" country. Failing to find a convenient place to park overnight, I took a page from George & Tioga's book and just took a random turn off I-80 to find a quiet spot. We queried the Garmin GPS for a local park and it came up with a County Park just five miles away. A dark bumpy ride down dusty gravel roads later, we pulled into a beautiful and private county park where no one else is, and the nearest house is a couple of cornfields away.

What a reward! The night is balmy, the moon is full, there are no bugs and the forest is filled with interesting night creatures calling to each other. We are utterly alone. I can't even see a house or combine running from here. (They are harvesting corn all night long at some of the farms.)

That's just the sort of day it's been. Let me back up to this morning. After Emma woke up, we met our Airstream neighbors at the Cracker Barrel, and they turned out to be faithful subscribers to Airstream Life. They had also just finished the Golden Caravan through Eastern Canada in the company of our last host, Dr. C -- a funny coincidence.

Driving through western Illinois and Iowa on I-80 is an unremarkable experience, but we started off right, with a visit to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL. This is a great hiking park, with terrific canyons and views of the Illinois River everywhere. Highly recommended.

Starved Rock SP.jpg

This weekend was a scheduled foliage event, so the park was mobbed and the campground was full, but since Emma had a cold we only wanted to stay long enough to hike a couple of miles and fill our water tank. We'll have to go again sometime and hike the other 11 miles of trails!

The only remarkable thing about driving I-80 is the unusually low price for 89 octane ("Plus") fuel. They put 10% Ethanol in that blend, and the Ethanol is subsidized, with the result that you can buy 89 octane for ten cents less than 87 octane. Some gas stations don't even bother with 87 -- why buy it? The price for 89 octane was just $2.35 per gallon, the cheapest we've seen since we left home.

So here we are, alone in a gorgeous spot, with all the comforts of home, and everyone is happy. Emma is watching classic Popeye cartoons on DVD, I'm catching up on email & blog, and Eleanor is puttering around. We'll have a nice night and try to go see a Frank Lloyd Wright house tomorrow.

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