Peoria and the Illinois River Road

Road Trip! We had an excuse to head west to Kansas City, so we made it a Road Trip! As I looked for things to see and do I found the Illinois River Road Scenic Drive. Peoria is well situated at a wide spot in the river known as Lake Peoria. We shared our hotel with 3 different wedding parties, so it was a very positive vibe as we waited for our “historic” (read small and slow) elevators.

A cool piece of art along the Riverfront Park in Peoria.
Dan Fogelberg, crooner of songs from my tween and teen years, was born in Peoria. This lovely view is a fitting Memorial.
Peoria is one of many communities that has a “solar system walk” where you can get a sense of how big our solar system is, and learn about the planets. The final lines of the description of Earth made us giggle. “Speculation abounds concerning the possibility of intelligent life on Earth. The Planet hasn’t always been hospitable for humans, and isn’t guaranteed to remain so.”

Caterpillar is headquartered in Peoria, and they have a Visitors Center. It is a Cat Museum! Lots of information about the history of the company, how the huge machines are made and used, and hands on ways to see what the innards of machines look like. So, you can see a lot of the equipment with way less mud and dust than you might expect. Plus, they have simulators! You might think the simulators would fairly straight forward, but Lisa can tell you it is easier to wreck the bulldozer (and, remarkably, even the backhoe) than you would think.

This truck, used for mining, is 2 stories high with the truck bed down and a whopping 5 stories high when fully extended. They put a theater for the introductory movie in the truck bed. The seats rumble as you watch the movie so you can experience the power of the engine.
The tires of that beast are 14 feet high!
Why is it called Caterpillar? Because a photographer brought out to document one of the first pieces of equipment made a comment. So, pretty much how many nicknames are assigned.
For our loyal readers, the random building with copper that has achieved that beautiful green patina.
It is the City Hall, so maybe less of a random building.

We did spend some time on the scenic drive. The road itself

The road itself is mostly a two lane highway with access roads to the wetlands and river area. We turned down one access road and came across a whole herd of river pelicans. There were also a lot of swans, but they were on the other side of the car.

One place of interest listed with the scenic drive is the Dickson Mounds State Museum. The museum is on land formerly owned by the Dickson family. When a family member noticed what appeared to be burial mounds and did some shovel based exploration, they discovered a burial site for the Native Americans who originally inhabited the land. in the early 1900s, he turned it in to a private museum by putting a tent over the remains and charging admission. The one “good” thing was that the remains and artifacts were left in place. Over the years archeologists, historians and others studied the site, it was sold to the state for a museum and a building and interpretive center were built. In the early 1990s the state agreed with the descendants of those buried that the display was not appropriate and updated the museum to focus on the natural history, the human history and the culture of the area. The grounds offer some hiking trails as well, so it is a good stop.

One bit of weirdness though – the area showing how the Native Americans would have lived seemed a bit “off” at first. Well, by the time I got to the second display showing the activities usually done by women I realized that they had added really bad shirts to cover the breasts. They also added coverings for some of the two dimensional displays. It was very off putting and so distracting that anything I learned in the museum is lost behind this fact. Later in the day we came across some signage by the conservation area that included some photos from the museum that included the display – minus the weird togashirts – that were dated about 2011, so the shirts are a recent addition. A quick internet search netted zero results, so apparently the dressing was done stealthily enough to avoid any commentary that would show up for those of us curious as to who thought this was a good idea.
Apparently, the excess of culturally inappropriate modesty only extended to the displays of women’s activities.
Lovely flowers.
A fungus, it was about the size of a football.
If you look closely, you can see two cranes in this photo. The estuaries and wetlands along the river were drained in the last century or so and used for farmland. The river went from being one of the most lucrative fisheries in the United States to being overfished and impacted by farm runoff. In the last twenty years or so conservation groups have obtained the land and restored it to a more natural state. Part of the recovery is seeing the return of many native species, plants and migratory birds. We also saw kayakers, campers and lots of people fishing.

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