Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Road Trip, Part IV

We concluded our big road trip from Vegas to Ann Arbor, Mich., by waking up amid the Springfield cornfields. Again, there's a Flickr slideshow player at the end of this post or you can watch it here.

As Amy and the dogs relaxed at the hotel on Thursday, I headed to the splendorous Illinois Capitol, where I ended up on a tour given by a fellow who could not have been less interested in giving a tour.  When I asked if there was any way to get to the top of the dome, as I had the day before in Missouri, he claimed asbestos and bird poop prevented such things from happening. It didn't sound very credible to me.

He also seemed not to notice that of the three of us on his tour, two wore hearing aids. When he was asked him to repeat himself, he seemed absolutely aggravated by the chore and frequently dumbed down what he had said before. It wasn't that we were stupid, sir, we just didn't hear you because you muttered and didn't wish to be there.

That said, the Springfield capitol is very impressive and extremely historic. But a few things struck me. First, the Abe Lincoln obsession is totally understandable, but there are other U.S. presidents with significant Illinois ties such as Ronald Reagan (born in Dixon, Ill.) and Barack Obama, the former state senator. I had to ask when we were in the Senate chamber where Obama sat. Roughly, it was here:

Third one from right was Obama's

That was a seat in the back, denoting how junior a member of the body he was. That furniture was not used by him as the prior stuff was replaced a few years ago. His old desk was destroyed. "We didn't know he'd become president," the guide wryly remarked.

And I think that's my takeaway from Illinois, that that building and that whole scene is yet another reminder of just how totally unlikely it was that this guy was ever going to become president, let alone within the decade. He was one of so many legislators, and he served in a building that is a monument to so many incredible historic figures. It doesn't matter what you think of Obama; his path to this office is just extraordinary and almost without precedent in American politics.

Illinois is also known for having several recently convicted governors. I wondered how they'd play that here, but they just put up their portraits nonetheless, as seen by the one here of ex-Gov. George Ryan

Govs. Ryan & Edgar portraits at IL Capitol

The guide said "the controversial Gov. Rod Blagojevich's portrait will be here someday, too." OK, then.

I'm often asked what's the difference between one and another capitol, and they do blend together. But stopping in on those in Illinois and Indiana on the same day really hit home the differences. Illinois was gorgeous and artistic, a monument to the affairs of the public and our way of life. Indiana? Meh.

The Springfield dome was amazing, Indianapolis' perfunctory:

IL Capitol DomeSteve w IN Capitol Dome

The legislative chambers in Illinois were august and dramatic...

IL Senate Chambers

...and Indiana's was decidedly not.

IN House chambers, 2

 One state takes good care of even its restrooms. The other doesn't care.

Ornate Ladies' Room at IL CapitolPaint cracking at IN Capitol

  The entryway for Illinois is grand and imposing, Indiana less so.

Lincoln before Springfield CapitolOne public entrance to IN Capitol

The artwork and sculpture throughout in Springfield was first-rate, relevant and historic. This is how Indianapolis has left Christopher Columbus' bust desecrated by pigeons:
No offense to the fine folks of Indiana, but you Capitol is s... on Twitpic

Gross! Lord only knows what Columbus' relevance to Indiana was to merit him as a major piece of art, but if they do have it they kinda owe it to him not to look like he just participated in a gay gang bang.

I also have never seen an informational marker that ran out of space as this one did:

Dead Lincoln Stopped Here, 1

You may also wonder who the hell else does this hobby. Actually, loads of folks:

Other sign-ins at Springfield Capitol

And here's the page I signed for, perhaps, the last time as a Las Vegan:

Signing in From Vegas, for now

On the drive, Amy and I debated the proper spelling of "capital" v "capitol." So you know, the city is a capital, the building is a capitol. Google Maps didn't know that, either, though:


There's much more, including more terrific puppy pix, in this Flickr slideshow of this segment of the trip, which did conclude in Ann Arbor. I'll get into that in another post. In the meantime, here's the fourth slideshow, which begins in the cornfields of Springfield, takes us to the capitol, then on the Indianapolis before one last car shot of we road warriors. Enjoy!


LinFromNJ said...

thanks for sharing!