Illinois 2017 – Day 5 – Adventure! (And Failure!)

05 Jul 2017
Author: Joel The Great  |  Category: Site News  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

(The start of this series can be found here: DAY 1)

Day 5

I’ll admit it, I fucked up. But that doesn’t happen until later…

This day of the trip wasn’t really ‘planned’ as the other days were.  We woke up near St. Louis, and only had about a 3 hour drive to get to our next stop for the night.  This gave us plenty of time to either go back to St. Louis, go on other adventures, or just get to our next hotel early so we could relax or punch kittens or something.

Over breakfast we discussed options, I googled some things on my phone but nothing was really grabbing us.

We could go up into the St. Louis Gateway Arch, but we’ve done that before.  Also there is construction going on that requires you to buy your tickets about 7 blocks away from the site, and only one of the two elevators to the top was running, and they only allowed a limited number of people (again due to the construction).  This didn’t help that when looking up the cost for tickets that morning (a Monday morning), I discovered the earliest available time was bout 2:30PM.  Which was a good 4-5 hours in the future…we decided not to try that.

Another option was a PaddleBoat/RiverBoat tour.  There was one we could sort of rush to get at around 10:30AM, but still had the issue of it was based from at the Gateway Arch so we’d have to park a bit away, and then we’d be on someone else’s schedule, and it just wasn’t sounding that appeasing to us.

Then, as luck would have it, my brain worked.

I recalled that one of the neat things about the Mississippi river is that it, and rivers that feed into it in the Illinois area contain GEODES!  If you do not know what geode is, the most shortest uninformed definition I can provide is: “It’s a rock with pretty on the inside…hopefully.”  (Dictionary says: “a nodule of stone having a cavity lined with crystals or mineral matter.”)

Considering how well our diamond expedition went, I thought this would be great.  We already had some digging tools in the car, and I knew we should have better luck finding geodes than finding diamonds.  Also it would be a unique experience the wife and kids haven’t experienced and isn’t some place that is filled with dozens of tourists and lines and crowds and overcharged food (like Graceland, The Gateway Arch, etc.).

Being longer than I care to admit since I was a kid, and not actually knowing the best place to partake in this adventure, I hit up google for the best area to find them in Illinois, did some calculations on directions, time, distance, etc. and came up with a plan.

Turns out around the Hamilton Illinois (near Keokuk Iowa) area is in the best area for Geode hunting.  It was roughly 3 hours northwestish, but put us closer (maybe 1.5 hours away) to where our next hotel was (Galesburg).  We loaded up, and drove toward the town of Hamilton.

The best route there required us to hop the Mississippi River toward St. Louis again, and through the town of Hannibal Missouri.  The odd thing about this, is this was a completely unplanned trip, and here we were now driving through the town that contained the boyhood home of Mark Twain.  If you don’t know who that is I feel sorry for you.

We swung by Mark Twains boyhood home to have a look upon my wife’s request.  I wish we would have more time to stop and visit, but as we were on a geode mission and only had a finite amount of time, we didn’t stop to get the full tour.  But it is now on the list of places to visit next time we are in that neck of the woods.

After a bit more driving through Illinois cornfields we arrived in Hamilton Illinois.  We stop at a gas station for a stretch and relief break, and I ask the local the obvious question:  “So, where is the best place to find Geodes around here?”

The nice lady gave me some information of there is some place with a J back the way we came just before the railroad tracks, or this park (Wildcat Springs) that’s further down the way we were headed that possibly has some.  Neato I thought as we piled back in the car.  Figure I would head toward the park thing and see what we see.

Then it happened.


The summary is I fucked up and hit a stationary object with our newish minivan.

The longer more “I swear it wasn’t my fault” story is this:

The gas pump I pulled up next to at the station was on our right.  The store part (with the restroom) was on our left.  When we parked, I got out of the driver side (on the left of the car cause we ain’t British), used the bathroom, talked to the lady at the counter, got back in on the driver side, and then started driving.  Never once was I actually on the right side of the car.

To the very right of the car was this:

2 foot barrier.

A metal bent/U-shaped pole that was about 2-3 feet from the beam holding the roof over the gas pumps.  Standing maybe 2 feet tall, and painted mostly black.

I could not see it from the drivers seat.  I didn’t know it was there.  This was added with the fact that I was excited to go hunt geodes, and many days of driving maybe had me not as focused as I am (kids in the back seat can drain your energy easily enough).

The other factor I blame (even though it is still my fault) is there was a van parked in front of us that I wanted to make sure I didn’t hit.  I had plenty of room (I thought), and didn’t want to get to close as most people like a little personal space with their vehicles.  Here is that van:

The Van

So I swung a bit tight right, thinking I had plenty of space and wouldn’t get near that van, not knowing a 2 foot pole would impede my travel.

There was much cursing and loud volume discussion (ie yelling) between the wife and I, me hating myself, the kids being confused and slightly upset.  All-in-all a great time.

After a small calming down we headed down the road toward Wildcat Springs.  We drove right through it.  It didn’t look like the sort of place geodes would be located, so a bit up the road I pulled off next to the Mississippi river.  Mainly to re-evaluate/think about where to go look, but also to continue the calming/cooling down from the damage I caused to the van.  It was a really pretty spot as well:

The mighty Miss.

More phone google-fu realized the place the lady was taking about with a J was called “Jacobs Geode Shop and mine.”  I decided that it has the potential to be a bit touristy, but would probably be the best place to start.

This was another fun thing as it isn’t really a shop.  Or a tourist location.  It’s a guys private property.  The GPS in my car had trouble getting me there.  The sign out front could only be seen from one direction, and it was lightly painted on a scrap piece of plywood, and obviously faded from the sun since the many years ago it was painted on the wood.

The place it self looked like a quarter junk yard.  Not enough stuff to be a full junk yard, but equipment and some cars just laying around with weeds/grass overgrowing a lot of things.  On the door was a hand drawn map down to the ‘dig sites’ with a note stating that Jacob wasn’t there, just go down and dig, and leave $20 per 5-gallon bucket you take out in a busted pickup across the driveway.  To be honest, the sound of banjo’s could be heard in the distance…or so I claim.

I took a picture of the hand drawn map, grabbed one of the 5-gallon buckets scattered near this…house(? I mean it was like a mobile home, but not…structure I guess?)  and we drove on these janky little dirt/rock path (basically offroad) down to what looked like just piles of dirt bulldozed up into hills around an area.

We got out and started looking and sure enough, GEODES everywhere.  Not very large ones (I think the largest we found was about softball sized), but lots of them.  We started climbing on these mounds, looking for geodes, and got almost a full 5 gallon bucket within a few hours.  We even grabbed up pieces of broken geodes.  Yes the whole ones are generally cooler, but my wife and kids (and family back home in Texas) haven’t really experienced geodes besides what they have seen in fancy gift shops, so any bits that looked pretty went in the bucket.

My son ripped his jeans.  My daughter found caught and held captive no less than 2 frogs and a dead baby snake. My wife found the largest of the geodes in our bucket.  The weather was nice, the geodes were plentiful.

After finally convincing my wife that we still had a few hours of driving to do, and dinner to be had, we finally packed it all in, drove back up the dirt road out, and stopped at Jacob’s structure.  He was there!  I went in, thanked him and handed him $20 for the bucket of Geodes and he didn’t seem to give one flying fuck and was kind of surprised I was interacting with him.  It was very country/redneck.

The GPS plotted what it thinks was the best/fastest route to our next hotel and we began driving.  And over the Mississippi we had to go again.  This time stopping on the bridge as it was a swinging drawbridge type to allow ships to go past.

Once we got across the bridge I informed my wife and kids of something neat.  “Just so you know, we’re now in Iowa.”

No where in our original planned trip were we ever going to be in or near Iowa, but here we were.

At a point in Iowa we needed to stop for another bathroom/stretch break.  At the gas station we stopped at we also decided it was time for dinner.  So we did what any red blooded american would do.  We ordered the $9.99 special of the day from the Gas Station’s pizza kitchen.  A large pepperoni gas station pizza!  The gas station was a Casey’s General Store, and they have lots of gas stations up in the midwest.

I will tell you this:  It was some very damned good pizza.  Very cheesy, very delicious.  I honestly wish there was a Casey’s General Store in Texas so I could have some more.  It was that good.  Gas Station Pizza in Iowa!  Who would have thought it’d be great?

We ate and drove and drove and ate the rest of the way to Galesburg where we met up at my Grandma’s house.  We hung out with family for quite a bit until it was time to go check in at our hotel.

I have a stand alone GPS for my car that we bought used a few year back for a huge 3.5 week road trip we took out to California.  I forgot to update it’s map before we left, so we were still rolling 2015 when I plugged in the “Which way to the hotel” route.  Unfortunately, it turns out a LOT of main streets in Galesburg were closed completely due to construction.  This lead to a quick scenic trip through Galesburg near train tracks, a train museum (more on that on Day 8), and didn’t help with our tiredness level.  Luckily you can drive across Galesburg, even on side streets, in about 10 minutes, so it didn’t take long for my phones map program to point us to the right direction.

Day 5 ended…and thus began day 6 and the pizza with fries on it…

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