Illinois 2017 – Day 1 & Day 2 – Dirty Driving

02 Jul 2017
Author: Joel The Great  |  Category: Story Time  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

Due to circumstances I wish not to fully explain, the idea to make a journey up to Illinois to visit family this year was hatched many months ago.  I could have posted all this on Facebook, but decided to throw this on here for the entire world to see (And mock me relentlessly about later).

Being a person who likes to not be normal, instead of driving 2-3 days straight to where we were going, and to skip driving through my most hated state OKLAHOMA, I decided to swing wide right and hit up some sites more easterly from us.  This is also because flying with 2 kids didn’t sound as much fun as doing a road trip where we could see more things, and we bought a new-ish mini-van last year and I wanted to road trip the thing really bad for the past like 9 months.

Note:  Us, We, etc. include my lovely wife, almost 14 year old son, and 5.5 year old daughter.

Day 1

For those of you who don’t know, I live near/around San Antonio Texas.  If you look on a map of Texas it’s damn near in the middle (just south a bit).  This means to go on any road trip by car requires driving at least 6+ hours just to leave the state (That’s if I were to go out the Houston side, going north though? 8+).  (Another note: My times are not 100%, but I travel with kids and drive very close to the speed limit, so what Google Maps says takes 5 hours and 14 minutes, will take me more than 6 hours.)

This made the first day mostly driving.  The end goal was Texarkana, just shy of the Arkansas border.

Nothing neat/cool/interesting happened during this day.  Just driving.  Lots of driving.

  • Drove through Austin.
  • Stopped at the Czech Stop in West Texas for some lunch goodies (They have great kolaches, and I recommend stopping by if you have time).
  • Drove through Dallas.
  • Checked in at Texarkana
  • Had dinner at a place called “MOOYAH Burgers” (Not bad, the fries were delicious).
  • Discovered our Minivan can get somewhere over 27MPG on highway and was able to make the entire drive on one tank of gas!

Day 2

The second day had a lot of driving, but a planned stop at the Crater of Diamonds State park in Arkansas.

One of the things I liked a lot about this planned stop is it required quite a bit of driving on back roads instead of a busy interstate/highway.  Less billboards, more nature.  Turns/bends/hills that meant there was something new and unknown around every corner unlike a straight boring highway where you can see everything off in the distance get closer and closer.

There are also a lot more tree’s in Arkansas than in Texas/Oklahoma.  Driving on winding roads through forests on back roads had me reminiscing back to when I was younger living in Northern California among the Redwoods.  And as the person driving, when you can enjoy it, it makes it so much better (Unlike day 1 where it was all mostly straight flat boring Texas highways).

Arkansas back roads

DIAMONDS!  We make it to the Diamond park around 10am.  Load up a fold-able wagon we brought with our digging tools, sieve’s, strainers, mini-cooler of water, and off we went.

Digging in Diamond Crater

Found an area, and started digging/sifting/searching.  It was a fun unique experience! Digging for diamonds and other stones/gems!

20 minutes later:  It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s dirty. It’s tedious.  It’s not really much fun.  Our daughter is bored and doesn’t want to dig anymore.  But she is pretending to be a dinosaur/kangaroo/tiger/whatever and goes off and finds some pine cones (Whatever makes her happy).

My wife, my son, and I keep at it trying some different spots and stuff for a few hours before we decide it’s too hot with little fun, and decide to pack it in.  This means accepting we won’t be one of the lucky people who find a huge diamond that’ll pay off all our debts and set us up for financial freedom.  (Which is a silly thought when they’ve had less than 10 HUGE diamonds found within the past like 30 years, and for this year are only averaging 2 diamonds per day.  That’s a multi acre area, with at least a hundred or more people digging in the dirt for hours upon hours to find maybe a few hundred bucks of a diamond if they’re lucky.  Not great odds.)

Now a little after 1pm, we were tired, hot, sweaty, dirty, and HUNGRY.  Which leads me to a potential problem with where this park is.  It’s far from a town (Well, I mean about 10 minutes, but that’s not including the time it takes to get kids into the car and all that).  They do have one restaurant (Kimberlite Cafe) at the park.

Luckily for us, the food there was pretty good, and not horribly priced.

The only other interesting thing from the day was a small diversion we got off the main highways due to an accident.  A semi truck rear ended another semi truck what may have been at full speed.  I doubt the driver walked away from that one, the front end of his truck was basically gone.  Remember to pay attention to the road and drive safe.

After the disappointment at the diamond park, we drove to our next hotel which was in northern Mississippi, along the way we got some Krystal burgers (They’re like White Castle).

Another interesting bit of useless information, we woke up on the Texas side of Texarkana on this day, drove through Arkansas, crossed the Mississippi River into Tennessee (you’re the only Ten I See!), and then south into the northern part of Mississippi State.  That’s four states in one day!  Considering It takes basically an entire day for me to drive out of Texas I thought that was neat.

That’s it for Day 1 and Day 2.

Onto Day 3!

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