It's a real shame that the whole state of Illinois is so often tarred with the thick, noxious, dripping brush of Chicago and tainted politics, (Crap! I shouldn't say things like that. It might piss off some of my readers. Oh, wait. None of my three readers is from Chicago so I'm alright. Whew!) because there are actually a lot of beautiful and interesting places to be found in this state. (Though in my book, along with Chicago and area, Peoria is not one of them, river cruises or not.)
Prior to setting out on this trip I was perusing the Roadside America site and spotted a pin in their map along one of my potential routes marking The One and Only Hippie Memorial.
Now technically I was never actually a hippie, I never did make it to a love-in or travel by thumb while wearing rubber-tire flip-flops to San Fransisco, probably because Boy Scout meeting and homework kept me busy and my parents were pretty strict about curfew, even on weekends, but given slightly different circumstances I might have been one, you know, a real, bonafide hippie. (I did have long hair for many years there, you know, just in case the opportunity ever came along!) Regardless, I figured the One and Only Hippie Memorial was worth a look-see.
Turns out the creator, one Bob Moomaw was never really a hippie either, but he was a free spirit that believed freedom was something that had to be earned. You ever have one of those guys in town that was always putting up signs with incendiary slogans such as "America you're turning into a nation of minimum-wage hamburger flippers. Rebel. Think for yourself. It works!" or "Oh wretched world, more rank each day, and ruled by lunatics, the heroes have all gone away!"? Well in Arcola that was Bob Moomaw. And though he never officially was one, he said Hippies gave America room to breath.
It was still pretty early when I dropped off the highway and eased my way into the tiny town of Arcola. School's out for the summer and the few vehicles actually moving around at this hour trended heavily towards pickups and the occasional tractor.
The memorial was easy to find, right where the directions said it would be, and there is plenty of free parking.
The memorial is 62 feet long, one foot for every year of Bob's life. In his words "The idea is that as my life passed through time, other people's junk stuck to me and made me what I am - the product of leftovers from a previous existence,"
The memorial reads from left to right and the first part, there on the left, takes us from his birth up to the Kennedy years.
The taller section in the middle is what he considers the hey-day of America, including the actual hippie years, and the lower section on the right starts with the election of Regan which, to him, was the return of small mindedness. He probably never intended for the near symmetry of the memorial, but rather it was dedicated by a heart attack at 62 that terminated the project as well as him.
Surprisingly, Arcola with it's classic, and rather pretty, small-town-ness, seems to be pretty progressive in just what it's willing to embrace,
including this bottle-top art piece mounted on an exterior wall of the visitor's center, which is adjacent to the Hippie Memorial.
Unfortunately I was way too early to actually get in the information center and find out about the worlds largest broom collection, but I didn't have to go inside in order to sample another quirky side of Arcola, it's Walldog Murals.
Scattered around on the buildings of the classic downtown are 17 murals created, at the town's invitation, by the Walldogs, a loose association of sign painters, graphic artists and other enthusiastic artisans from around the world. (Yeah, I never heard of them before either, but they sound like an interesting bunch.)
As a bonus, while wandering around to view the murals, easily done on foot, you get to see the town too.
|Some of the original brick paving has been left exposed in one of the three downtown intersections.|
|There was virtually nobody on the streets, but then again, it was breakfast time and no doubt the Dutch Kitchen serves a mean Kwinkslag en Hagel!|
Considering my background I couldn't resist this shot of an abandoned iron pole and crossbars that once carried the early electrical and telephone lines in town, with it's modern replacement lurking there in the background.
Even the backside of downtown was neat as a pin.
Another claim to fame for little Arcola, other than the town father's once hiring college ringers in order to win a football game, is native son, and creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, Johnny Gruelle.
All in all a very worthwhile and pleasant interlude from the road.