Saturday, July 31, 2021

Old Bridges, Dams and POW's

 Location: Fisherman's Corner Campground (Corps of Engineers); near Davenport, Iowa

Another great COE campground. Ten dollars a night for electric only. It is a smaller campground with lots of local group campers. The average age of the campers is probably late 60's to early 70's.

Nice campsite with concrete slab which is a little off level by one block. It's quiet and secure. No worries about leaving Liberty alone while I'm out exploring. 

LeClaire is just a little up river from here. It is the home of a TV show. If you've watched it before, you may recognize the car in the front of their business. If you don't it isn't a big deal. I watch it occasionally and since I was in the area, I took the picture.

This area is composed of many towns on each side of the Mississippi River. Davenport, Iowa is the largest and better developed of them all so that's why I listed it in the location. I came here to see a few things and a couple things jumped up and surprised me. I guess I didn't do enough research. There will be a lot of pictures with this post and the captions will tell most of the story. 

The main attraction for me was the Rock Island Arsenal. I have heard about this place since I was in the Navy back in the 70's, so I wanted to see it. It is a military base with tight security. To get on base you have to submit your ID at the "Visitor Control Center" and if you pass their background check, which includes facial recognition, they will issue you a pass that is valid for one year. I've been striking out with museums that are closed. The one on base was closed the day I was there. Everything happens for a reason, so I must not have been meant to be there. The strange thing is the Mississippi River Visitor Center is located on base. It's a nice little visitor center overlooking Lock and Dam #15.

This is from the observation deck looking upstream through the lock.

This is looking downstream through the lock. The bridge has a swing span that rotates to allow boats to enter/exit the locks. It is said that when first built, that swing span could be opened by a single hand pushing it because it was so well balanced. It still rotates today or else the locks would be blocked. 

This is Dam #15. It is the WORLD's largest Roller Dam. It was built in 1931 during the same time frame that Hoover Dam was built. You don't see dams like this very often and never this size. The red tubes you see between the towers act as gates by being raised or lower. The water goes under the roller along the floor of the river thereby helping to keep it from silting up. The black roller on the left is where trash and other things that float down to the dam can pass through. Very, very impressive. 

 One of the nice surprises for me was the double-decker bridge shown in the picture of the lock. I didn't know about it and just stumbled on it. It's equally impressive as the dam. The bridge was built in 1895. It's name is Government Bridge because it is owned and maintained by the Federal Government. A 125 year old bridge that is still standing and functioning like the day it was opened. Wow. It was the third bridge that spanned the river from Rock Island. The first was famous too. It was opened to traffic in 1856 and was the first Railroad bridge to span the Mississippi River. That was just one of the things that made it famous. The other was it was hit by a steamboat not long after its opening. Of course, the steamboat organization sued the railroad organization for damages since they built a bridge over their river. One of the lawyers representing the railroads was a young Abraham Lincoln. The law suit when all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled the railroads and steamboats had equal rights to the river but must accommodate each other. Sort of "split the baby" kind of ruling. Other interesting things about the Rock Island area back then. The Secretary of War during the law suit tried to kick the railroad off government property because he wanted the railroad to cross the Mississippi River in the southern part of the country. His name was Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederate States of America. Politics are always in play. Twenty years before the bridge was built, the young Army officer in charge of surveying the Rock Island Rapids and looking for a safe way for steamboats to pass them was none other than Robert E. Lee. It seems everyone of importance during that era were somehow in the Davenport/Rock Island area. 

This is approaching the Government Bridge from the Illinois side. The top deck has two Railroad tracks and the bottom deck is two-way vehicular traffic. Just like the Roller Dam, this is something not seen very often. The grassy area to the right is the railroad embankment.

This is making the turn onto the bridge.

Remember, this is a swing span bridge and two railroad track are above us. I'm not sure how comfortable I would be driving across with a railroad train above me. 

 As I was driving across the Rock Island Arsenal base I stopped and payed my respects to the people buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery. I knew about this cemetery and was on my list to see.  

The words to a song is appropriate here. I think of them at each National Cemetery I visit. 
"And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property,
I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company,,,,,,,"

After leaving the National Cemetery, I saw a group of headstones located in a separate part of the island. I went back to see why they were separated from the rest of the graves. The reason? They were confederate graves. That didn't make any sense though because I was pretty sure there weren't any Civil War battles fought in northern Illinois and Iowa. And there were a lot of headstones. After doing some research it made sense. These were the graves of POW's. In the summer of 1863, the North and South decided not to exchange prisoners anymore. Well, that created a problem for the North because they didn't have enough prisons to hold all the Southern prisoners. So the Army created a POW camp on Rock Island. The first prisoners reported to the base in December of 1863. During the first three months, hundreds and hundreds died from exposure to the winter, pneumonia and smallpox. When the North built the POW camp, they didn't build a hospital. Remember, there was a smallpox vaccine even back then but it wasn't available to the prisoners. Over the next two years, before the war ended, 1900 Confederates died in the camp. Some remains were relocated by family members later on, but 1,100 were left behind.

The only flag flying was the American Flag, and that was just fine by me.

The words on the monument. Definition of "asperse": attack or criticize the reputation or integrity of.....

Confederate headstones. For those who don't know, Confederate headstones have a pointed top while Union headstones are rounded. 

I took a riverboat ride to see the area from the river point of view. For $16.00, it was worth it. These are some of the pictures from that trip.

The Celebration Belle. There were about 50 aboard with a max capacity of 700. Comfortable.

Navigation marker. The number 486.3 is the number of river miles this point is above Cairo, Illinois which begins the Northern Part of the Mississippi River. I passed Cairo when I was exploring Thebes and Cape Girardeau.

Construction of the bridges to carry Interstate 74 across the Mississippi River. Notice the two tower cranes. You don't usually see those on bridge projects but were apparently needed on this one. 

The old bridges on I-74 to be removed after the new bridge is finished. They were opened to traffic in 1935 and are a pair of really pretty bridges. Just like the dam, and double-deck bridge,,,, a draped cable suspension bridge over the Mississippi is rare if ever. I'm glad I was able to see them before they are removed. 

The old steamboat cut that allowed the boats to avoid the Rock Island Rapids. Remember, this is part of what Robert E. Lee surveyed. 

A large full fledged old style steamboat headed upstream. 

From the old style steamboat to the new tow boat and barges being pushed into the lock to go downstream.

How about a house on a hill with a view of the river. Here's three to choose from.

This is on the return trip. It is a better view of the old suspension bridges that will be demolished. 

This is why strangers need to be careful on this part of the river. The middle part of the picture show a line of shallows. We were heading up stream so that means the left part is the modern channel (deeper) and the right side is the old steamboat channel (shallower). 

I visited a very large farmers market at the riverfront in downtown Davenport. There was a lot of stuff there. I picked up some banana nut bread and zucchini bread. I started to get a pint of cherries but opted instead to get the cherries in the form of a pie. I bought the pie from woman who was part of the Amish-like group. I didn't ask what group she was part of because that may have been offensive. Along with the pie she included a copy of a page from her journal. It talked about what work was done on the farm and a family fishing trip, etc. It was nice. The pie was so-so. I didn't like the crust but the inside was good. I didn't take a single picture because I was too busy looking at all the products and of course, people watching. 

Just a nice bench with a view of the river. Notice, no levees like down south. Up here, you can park and sit right on the bank of the river. 

   This stop has been a good one and I'm not sure I saw everything I needed to see. But, that is what draws me back to some places. Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed to another Corps of Engineer campground near Des Moines, Iowa. I've stayed there before and know the campground is super nice. The weather has made a dramatic change for the better. The highs for the last two days has been upper 70's. The lows, in the mid to upper 60's. I hope it continues but know it probably won't. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

I&M Canal and Lincoln/Douglas Debate

Location: Starved Rock State Park Campground; Utica, Illinois

I'm in sort of internet la-la land. My connection comes and goes like waves approaching the beach. Since this campground is about half way between Chicago and St. Louis, I figure Verizon hasn't put a tower in the middle. So, my internet comes from the east then the west, then repeats. It's frustrating, but it's OK. I started this post yesterday but gave up do to the internet problem. This morning, the internet seems more stable. I wonder if the severe thunderstorms blowing through the area has anything to do with it? There will be a lot of pictures with this post so the captions will say what the post doesn't.

My campsite at Starved Rock State Park. The name of the park comes from a legend that says Pontiac, war-chief of the Ottawa Indians was killed by a brave from the Illinois Indians. In revenge, the Ottawas and their allies, trapped a lot of Illinois Indians on an outcropping overlooking the Illinois River. The Ottawas laid siege and starved the trapped indians, thus the name Starved Rock. This is legend of course. One part of the legend is known to be false. Although Pontiac was indeed killed by an Illinois Indian, the location was not here but in Cahokia. One of life's little circles since I was as Cahokia a few days ago. The campground is electric only and is in need of more lawn mowers. I've been told, they have the mowers, but like so many other places, they are having problems hiring people to do the mowing. The Illinois governor has not eliminated the extra unemployment provided by the federal government so employees are staying home and drawing unemployment.  

The reason I came here was to see what is left of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The construction of this canal changed a large part of our country in the late 1800's. It's not as famous as the Erie Canal back east, but still very important. Before the canal, the main shipping/transportation routes in the country were the Great Lakes which flowed east, the Mississippi River which went north/south and the Ohio River which went from the Mississippi River to the northeast but ended in the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania. None of these systems connected with each other except the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. A farmer in the mid-west wanting to ship his corn to market, had very few choices back in the mid-1800's before the railroad came along. He could ship his crop by wagon to the nearest river, and if navigable, may connect to the Mississippi River which could take it to New Orleans where it could be put on an ocean freighter up the east coast to the large population centers around New York City. This network worked in reverse for the things manufactured in the northeast part of the country to be shipped out west. Something needed to be done.

A 96 mile long canal changed all of that and helped create our third most populated city. The canal was the Illinois & Michigan Canal (I&M Canal). It began in Chicago and went west to LaSalle, Illinois. It connected Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes to the Illinois River which drained into the Mississippi River. It was dug my hand and needed 17 locks to lift/lower the barges on the canal. Work began in 1836 and traffic was opened on the canal by 1848. Everything on this new transportation network went through the small town of Chicago which grew and grew until it was the largest and most important inland port in the country. Today it is number 3 in terms of population. Once the canal was completed, a person could board a boat in New York Harbor and by way of the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, the Great Lakes, the I&M Canal, the Illinois River, the Mississippi River get to New Orleans. A complete water route. Besides passengers, barges carried freight in both direction. The canal did its job well for 50 years until it was replaced by the railroads and highways. It was virtually abandoned in 1900 and officially closed in 1933. This 96 mile canal did so much for the expansion of this country and you can still see parts of it today. 

There is a passenger canal boat that takes tours of a one mile stretch of the old canal, but not on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Of course those are the days I'm here. I'm not sure if I would have taken the tour or not. I did take a ride on the Erie Canal several years ago which was great. You can read about it here >>> I'll post the link in an edit once I get to a better internet connection. One other feature I really wanted to see was the Fox River Aqueduct. What happens when a canal intersects with a river? You have to build an aqueduct so the canal can to span the river. One of those is still around too. 

This is the last hand-operated lock in the system and is looking upstream. The remnants of the old canal is on the left and the tourist boat is on the right. 

This is looking into the lock. Notice the width. The width of all boats that traveled on the canal were controlled by this width. In the background is the "waiting basin" of the Illinois River. Steamboats would wait there to transfer goods and passengers to and from canal boats. 

The perspective of this picture is standing under the modern bridge you can see in the first picture. The canal is on the left and the trail on the right is for the mules to walk. All canal boats were powered by mules.

This where the mules hang out on their days off. There are suppose to be two so I guess one is in the barn. They earn their keep by pulling the tourist boat a mile upstream and back.

That is the Fox River Aqueduct on the left. I'm standing on the part where the mules walked. (no jokes about that). It doesn't take much imagination to see the aqueduct full of water and boats floating on it. 

To help with the imagination, there is an old picture of the aqueduct on an informational panel near the site. 

This is from down below looking up at the aqueduct. The massive piers were made from limestone blocks. Remember, with an aqueduct, you just have to design the structure to handle the bridge itself and the water. It doesn't matter if the boat is carrying one pound or a million pounds, it's all the same. 

This nice thinking bench with plenty of shade is located near the aqueduct. It is looking out on the Fox River. 

A couple of nice houses with a view. To my back is the Illinois River and I'm standing in nice city park.

A modern lock and dam with hydro-electric powerhouse on the Illinois River. The lock is in the foreground with the dam in the back. The square building along the dam is the powerhouse where the electricity is made. I didn't recognize it at first since there were the usual high number of electrical transmission lines. But one of the information panels pointed it out to me. I'm standing in an observational area where the public can watch river traffic pass through the locks. It reminded me of the Soo Locks in upper Michigan that passes traffic between Lakes Superior and Huron.

Dang, another thinking bench to try out. How can a man finish his exploring with so many benches. Hmmmm.

When I was in Ottawa exploring the old aqueduct, I noticed a really nice park in the middle of town. Two statues were in the center. Of course I had to stop and see since it was a really nice looking park. Wow, to my surprise it was statues of Abraham Lincoln and Stephan A. Douglas. Surprise, surprise. Ottawa was the location of the first of seven debates between the two men back in 1858 when Lincoln was running for the U.S. Senate. Douglas was the Democrat incumbent and Lincoln was the upstart from the newly created Republican party. They agreed to debate each other across the state of Illinois. The debates were 3 hours long and in Ottawa, it attracted over 14,000 people. Of course, Lincoln lost that Senatorial election but ended up winning the Presidency two years later in 1860. Extra points if you know who Lincoln ran against for President in 1860. Yep, Stephen A. Douglas. And you can bet those debate from the Senate race were published throughout the country. Those debate highlighted the split in the country over slavery. A quick summary would be Douglas was for States Rights so the new states to the union could decide for themselves as to slavery or not in their state. There was a poison pill to this which was if a state chose slavery and a slave escaped from that state, there would be no law to help capture that slave and bring him back. Lincoln on the other hand, was more inclined to having a large federal government that would dictate to the states about slavery or not. Although both men knew slavery was going to end on its own eventually, neither man wanted to outlaw it and free the existing slaves. These debates, while essentially for only a Senate seat, had nationally implications for decades afterwards. That is why we were taught about them in High School history class. I wonder if they are still taught today? And here I was, stumbling across the location while just wandering around. 

Very nice city park. The statues are of Lincoln and Douglas. It is hard to imagine the two men debating for 3 hours. Asking each other questions and having to speak loud enough for 14,000 people to hear the questions and answers. The press had to quickly write down what was said so they could publish it since there weren't any recording devices. By the way, the older couple in the background on the bench had stopped for a rest. I talked with them for a little while. It seems they walk just about every day and this is one of their rest stops. Yep, that is a walker he has next to him. Nice couple. 

Irony of ironies. That is a Civil War memorial in the background. In the same location that as Lincoln-Douglas. When it was constructed, people understood about statues and memorials, unlike some of the knuckleheads today.

 Today is moving day but I won't be pulling out until around noon because I only have a 90 mile tow to the next campground. The check-in time there is 4:00. I don't remember campgrounds having such late check-in times from my previous travels. Maybe I just didn't pay attention. I'll probably call the campground before leaving to see if I can check-in early. If they are nice camp hosts and the campsite is empty I hope to get set up by 2:00 or so. Bad storms are passing just to the north of me. I'm getting some rain and can hear the thunder. It should pass through by 9:00 so I can empty my tanks on the way out of this campground. About half of the campers here are in tents, so I hope the storm passes without doing any damage. Of course, that goes for Liberty too since she's parked under some trees. Oh well, we will see. 

Another one of those things I stumbled across while exploring the city of Ottawa. Some artist great talent to create this illusion on a brick wall.

Very cool uh?

For those who were worried. 
Liberty's right tail light/blinker is now working.
It was just a burned out bulb.

I'm going to quickly post this before my internet goes down again. My next stop will be a Corps of Engineers campground on the Mississippi River near Davenport, Iowa.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Valve Stems and Cahokia

Location: Dam West Campground (Corps of Engineers); Carlyle, Illinois

 As I mentioned in the last post, this campground has a late check-in time of 5:00 pm. I had time to kill, so after hitching up, I went to the local truck tire shop to see about getting a new valve stem on one of Liberty's tires. As I pulled into their almost empty parking lot, it struck me up side the head, "why in the heck are you only replacing one valve stem?" That was one of those "duh" moments. So I told them I needed four new valve stems. Now it gets a little complicated. When I got the existing tires that are on Liberty, the Goodyear dealer said metal valve stems weren't necessary so I stayed with the rubber stems. After doing a little online research and talking to these tire specialists, we all decided to go with metal stems. To do so, they needed to remove each tire, break the seal, remove the old stem, install the new one and air it back up to 70 psi. They started work at 9:00 and were finished at 10:30. I watched every move they made, primarily to make sure they didn't place the jack on Liberty's axles. She has torsion axles which means no springs or shocks. It also means no jacking on the axle. They went out of their way to find a convenient place to jack on the frame. It all went better than expected. It was good that we replaced all of the stems. While removing them two had cracks and were in danger of failing dramatically. It wouldn't have been a pretty thing had they have cracked while going down the road. The cracks were mainly caused by the TPMS sensor on the valve stems. When going down the road, the weight of the sensor will bend the stem, thereby prematurely wearing it out. Hopefully, the metal stems will help eliminate or reduce this threat. So, after 1 1/2 hours of work and $80.00 (includes a $20.00 tip), we were back in business. But it was still too early to head to this 5:00 pm check-in. To kill more time, plan B was to do laundry at the local laundromat that had a vacant lot to park Freedom and Liberty. That killed another 1 1/2 hours, so we left Charleston with new valve stems and clean clothes around noon. Driving slow, we got here at about 3:00. Lucky us, the campsite was empty so we were able to check in and set up early. As I started backing into the site, I heard, "You're clear on this side,,,,, turn this way,,,, looking good,,,,, now straight back,,,etc". It was a friendly guy from across the street helping me back into my site. I was nice and let him direct me, but several times I "accidently" turned the opposite way he said,,,,, but by golly that accident worked out. In the nearly 300+ campgrounds I've stayed in, there have only been 3 "helpers", which is pretty good.

This is my campsite. It has pretty good evening shade with the lake in the background. It's a nice one.

This is the typical countryside. I figure this will be the landscape for the next couple of week through Illinois and Iowa. It reminds me of the Travis Tritt song,,, "Where Corn Don't Grow".

Two of the four new "metal" valve stems on Liberty. Yeah, I know, there are bolted on metal ones too, but that would have been going too far.

That's the guys crawling under Liberty to make sure the jack wasn't on her axels. They did fast and good work. 

I've been to this campground a few years ago. A storm hit when I was camped here before and that prevented me from exploring. So, I came back to complete that previously planned exploration. This campground is a great Corps of Engineers campground and every site is occupied this weekend. I guess I was lucky I reserved a site when I did. Just about every camper here, except me, are families that are camping for the weekend. The reason I can tell they are families is because they will place rugs by their RV's with a dozen chairs and tables. They will all have a BBQ pit going with children running everywhere or riding their bikes. I think it is great. These people are lucky to have a place like this to escape on weekends. As long as I plan far enough in the future, it doesn't really affect me getting a campsite, although usually, the good sites are reserved long into the future. 

Now, the exploration I came back for was to check out Cahokia. I had heard about this place for years before I started traveling and had it on my list of place to see. Cahokia is an old Indian community. In fact, it is the largest prehistoric Indian community in America that is north of Mexico. During its heyday, it was larger and had more people than London did at the same time. Around 700 AD, groups of Indians in this area came together and formed what became Cahokia. It was a great area to grow corn, which they did. They grew so much of it, they were able to trade it with other Indian groups as far away as the Gulf Coast area, Great Lakes area and Atlantic Coast area. This abundance of corn meant hunger was a thing of the past for these people. It also meant they had a lot of time on their hands since they were not having to work so hard for food. Someone came up with the bright idea of building mounds, so the people built over 170 of them just in this area. This mound building idea was not confined just to these people. Mounds were being built up and down the Mississippi River. That is one of the reasons these people were called the Mississippian Indians. The population continued to grow as more and more people moved to this community. The population topped out between 10,000 and 20,000 people around 1100 AD. By the late 1300's, the area had been abandoned. Many of these mounds, including the big one, are still around. You can visit them as well as the very nice museum built to explain it all to visitors. That is what my exploration was today and it was good. It was about a hundred mile round trip, but well worth it. 

A picture of a drawing on the wall of the museum. Notice the size of the wooden palisade. They also found evidence of structures like watchtowers along the wall. This picture also shows the "wooden hinge" on the left. It is like stone hinge excpect out of wood. It was used like a calendar and astronomic recordings. 

This another layout of the community. They found evidence of the houses and palisade. The big mound in the background is still here. 

They have this village inside the museum. A lot of work went into making it. Not as much as hand-building the mounds, but still a lot.

This is the front view of what is left of the large mound. You can walk to it and climb a bunch of steps if you want. I judged the distance, number of steps, low 90 degree temperatures, 80 something percent humidity and decide to pass of that exploration. 

I instead found a nice bench to sit on and look at the big mound while thinking about what they said happened and some of the questions left unanswered. 

This is the side view of the big mound so you can get a true appreciation of the amount of work that went into building it. It was built by hand with dirt hauled in baskets. This is the big mounds, but there were over 170 other mounds just in this area.

 This modern contraption was located in the the museum parking log. Bird houses make to look like gourds. Each one had a number on it,,,,like an address??

I asked a few questions at the museum and wasn't completely satisfied with their answers. 

Why did they abandon Cahokia? Their answer was either depleted resources or internal unrest or warfare with neighboring tribes or soil exhaustion from not rotating crops and the catch all now a days, climate change. I can believe most of them. The warfare reason would explain the large wooden palisade around the main city. It resembed the typical western fort for the 1800's except it was much, much larger. It had been rebuilt many times over the city's existence. It was large and took a lot of work to build. It must have kept something out.

Why did they spend so much time and effort building mounds? Remember they didn't have horses or mules during that time. They didn't show up in the America's until the Spanish brought them over later on. The dirt used to make the mounds were carried in baskets by hand. I could only think of two reason for people to do that,,,,, either Love or Fear. The museum people leaned more towards love of the chief, etc. I'm not sure I buy that 100%. 

Did they find a lot of skeletons during excavation? I ran a few numbers in my head before asking them this question. I figured with a population of 10,000 people and a life expectancy of 50 years (probably high) there should have been 20,000 dead bodies every 100 years. Since Cahokia existed, at the high population, for a couple hundred years, there should have been 40,000 to 50,000 remains, somewhere. When I asked, they said they had found about 300. The numbers didn't add up and I didn't push the question. 

Oh well, there are always questions. Someday, we will know all the answers, but not today.

Went I got back to the town where the campground is located, I found an old meat market. They sell products from the local farmers. It was a nice place. I picked up a freshly cut steak and some breakfast sausage they called loose sausage. The woman working behind the counter had just made the sausage that morning. Nice place but they sure are getting harder to find. Over my travels, I've only found a few of them.

Old style meat market. I sure hope it stays in business and more make a come back around the country.

Moving day is Monday and I'll being headed almost due north for about 200 miles. I may do another post tomorrow with pictures from around the campground and lake, but no promises.

I'm too tired to proof read this post, so I'm just going to publish it as is. Maybe I'll proof it in the future.  

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.