Our tenth stop on GOAT Tour 2021 was D&W Lake Camping & RV Park in Champaign, Illinois for four nights. Which means the second new state on the trip and a new sticker on the map of the United States on the side of the motor home! We booked four nights not because there was so much we wanted to do in the area but because before we left, we decided to slow down and not always be on the go every other day. You do need a day here and there to shop, clean, reorganize the car and coach, do laundry, and do nothing but rest and relax.
The park has well spaced gravel sites with a picnic table and a fire ring. There are a few amenities like a basketball court, playground, clean showers/rest rooms, but the “laundry” not so clean. They describe the park as “Located near all amenities in the Champaign area.” It is all about relaxing around the lake with a good book, although you do have to listen to the tires singing on nearby I-57. Our ratings: Kathryn 4, Paul 4, out of 10. Mostly based on the lake view.
What a difference driving in Illinois. Straight roads in numerical sequence. You can see for miles and miles ahead. Very different from Pennsylvania where you can’t see around the next corner or over the next hill. You haven’t lived until you have been crop dusted! It happened to us twice in one day, once by fixed wing plane and once by helicopter. The good thing about this is, the Honda Fit will not get leaf rot or infested by Beatles. These are gifted pilots who fly feet above the corn, then shoot straight up to make a u-turn, and return to just feet above the field again for their next pass.
Before we decided to travel full time, we met with our friends Kathy and Billy who have been doing this for quite some time, to learn some travel tips. One of the things they told us was, “You will discover some great places you would not drive to see but are a pleasant surprise once you are there!” Arthur, Illinois is just that place. Arthur is a one mile square community, home of the states’s largest Amish population of over 4,000. We liked it so much we went back twice. On the first trip we took the self guided CD tour that described the Amish customs, traditions, and heritage in great detail, besides what we were seeing “on the left or on the right.” We learned all about their choice to live humbly and simply, dedicated to following with traditional customs. Amish people do not use electricity or operate automobiles and modern farm machinery. Instead, they travel by horse drawn buggy, use propane to fuel their light fixtures and heat their ovens, and farm using teams of horses. Their dedication to this traditional life style is most impressive!
On the second trip, we went to Green Meadows Farms, where we met the owner Merrill for our personal Amish Buggy Ride. He epitomizes the Amish description above, a man of very few words. As our ride progressed, he answered all our questions about the Amish lifestyle, realizing we only wanted to learn more about their traditions. Kathryn has decided she wished she lived in this era, if only when we were much younger. It wouldn’t bother her at all, rearing seven children, doing all the cooking, cleaning, washing loads of laundry by hand every day, and making and mending all the clothes. Am I the only one who sees the irony of this experience? A humble, gentle, man, driving a horse and buggy, for people who are travelling the United States in a motorized home?!
Thanks to Atlas Obscura, we also discovered The Original Burger King in nearby Mattoon, Illinois. Google Burger King Mattoon for the complete story but the short version is this: In 1952 Gene Hoots purchased the Frigid Queen ice cream stand from his uncle. In 1954 he added burgers and changed the name to Burger King, and wisely trademarked the name. Years later the multinational fast food chain, based in Miami, that sells The Whopper, reached Illinois. In 1968 Mr. Hoots brought a suit against the corporate giant arguing that his state registered trademark gave him exclusive rights to the name in the State of Illinois. They offered him $10,000 which he thought was an insult. In the end, his one location has the exclusive rights to his market area of a twenty mile radius of 1500 Charleston Ave Mattoon, Illinois. Score one for the little guy!
Having discovered all of this, you KNOW we had to go there to see it for ourselves and eat the next entry in the best hamburger on the trip contest. It was all right. Better than the Whaam Burger in Flagler Beach but not quite as exquisite as the Mushroom, Onion, and Blue in Ocean City. A solid second place, so far. But this after all a hamburger stand. Truth be told, the fries at the Original Burger King are the best!
For all the photos of this stop, check out the Post Cards 2021 Page on the home page. On to Mt Pleasant, Iowa.