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. 



  1. I was in the SW looking at the various cliff dwellings that were abandoned around that time frame (~1200). That's about when the Little Ice Age started.
    Thanks for the review! I've added Cahokia to my list.

    1. Yeah, I had the same questions when I was at Mesa Verde several years ago. Have you updated your blog yet?

    2. No... I have one ready but...