Day three: No, seriously. Where the #@%$ is the– Oh, there it is.

All right. Day three. We were serious now. We’d had it confirmed that the maps were useless. We’d been told that the pioneer cemetery up by the Sunsinger was off the path behind the statue – the one we’d looked down but hadn’t chosen because it hadn’t had a map – and that the pioneer cemetery at the south end of the park couldn’t actually be reached from within the park, it had to be driven to from one of the country roads that borders the park there.

We were sure this was going to be a quick trip. We’d head out to the Sunsinger, duck down the correct path (finally!), see the cemetery, and drive around to the other one. And luck seemed to be with us – the road to the Sunsinger was open the whole way, saving us the time of walking from the Centaur to the Sunsinger to start our path. It’d be quick – an hour tops, right?

Wrong! We walked down the path to the point where it split into two directions. The guy Dad talked to hadn’t said anything about choosing a direction, so we went to the left for a little bit. It seemed to be heading back into the park after a while so we turned back and went back to the Sunsinger path and then took the right trail. That ended at a house. So we decided to go back the other way and follow the left path further on. We figured we’d covered every trail that was anywhere near where the map showed the cemetery to be except for this one and therefore, through sheer process of elimination, we were bound to find it this time.

It met up with the path that goes off to the right from the Sunsinger, the one we’d taken on day two, so we turned right and went on to the next fork in the road and then headed left again. Unfortunately, there was still no cemetery. We’d found a path that met up with the river, followed it for a bit, and then headed back to the Centaur. And this time we weren’t parked at the Centaur, so we’d have to walk all the way back to the Sunsinger to the car.

But there was a little old man sitting by the Centaur and as we passed Dad asked him if he knew where the pioneer cemetery was. His reply? “Up towards the Sunsinger. Walk along the road and look east and you’ll see the headstones.” We sort of scoffed to ourselves – how could the cemetery been there? We’d walked circles around the area and seen nothing – but we had to walk that way anyway to get back to the car, so we’d keep our eyes open.

We found what seemed to be a trail head with four concrete trail markers so we started down that and it turned out to be the little ravine we’d seen from the bottom on the path we’d been on during day 2, so we headed back to the road, walked a little bit further and there, clear as day, right where the map said it should be (that was the most galling part), was the pioneer cemetery.

This one is the smaller of the two, with only about 8 graves or so, and the stones are harder to read. This one, for an infant son who died in 1850, is the easiest to read of the group. So after a look around there, it was back to the car to see if we could get to the other one – the one that couldn’t be reached from inside the park.

We did. This one was a bit bigger, with maybe 20 graves that seem to have weathered the years a bit more successfully though they’re only about 30 years younger than the stones at the other cemetery. It seemed to be three or four families all buried in rows here complete with headstones and footstones. I think the most interesting set was that of John West who lived to be in his 70s and outlived his entire family, including a daughter (aged 30, I think), a son (aged 20), and three wives, two of whom were named Hannah.

So it took us three days and god knows how much walking and I’m definitely embarrassed by how easily the terrible map and useless trailer markers confused us, but we finally achieved our goal (and managed to get a bit of exercise along the way, too, which always helps, especially this time of year). And, of course, hopefully now we’ll remember where they both are if we ever want to go back again.


Day two: Where the HELL is the pioneer cemetery?!

On our second day out, we decided to go searching for the cemetery that was up by the Sunsinger. Our adventure started out by hitting a roadblock. Literally. The road that goes out to the Sunsinger is notoriously terrible and they had closed it off with a sign that said we were welcome to walk on past that point but that the quality of the road was too bad to allow cars through. So we parked at the Centaur and walked on down the road out to the Sunsinger because we both had it in our heads that the pioneer cemetery there was off a path to the right of the Sunsinger.

As you can see from the map, there is no path to the right of the Sunsinger. The path behind him didn’t have a map, so although we looked down it for a few minutes, we decided to head on to the path to the left. Fortunately, there was a map there and we’d lucked out! All we had to do was follow the path away from the statue, make a left and then it looked like we should run into a smaller path that led to the cemetery. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong! We walked and walked and scared some deer and walked some more and thought we saw a fox and walked and walked and walked.

About halfway down the trail, where the path to the cemetery should have been, we did see a small path-ish thing leading off to the left of the trail, but it was more of a ravine than anything and we decided that it wasn’t really a path. At any rate, we were sure we were too close to the road at that point – we figured we should be able to see the headstones if it really had been nearby and it was a pretty steep bluff above us, not very prime real estate for a cemetery, so we continued on. And eventually ended up back at the Centaur.

We were both a little stiff still from all the walking we’d done the previous day – it was muddy both days (when is Allerton not muddy, though) and were were getting frustrated by the extraordinarily unhelpful maps and baffling trailmarkers that seemed to be using leagues or furlongs as far as we could tell – so we decided to pack it in and call it a day instead of walking down the road a bit to see if there was a path off of that that might lead to the cemetery. Dad had Rotary the next day and said he knew a few people he could ask about the cemetery’s location – frankly, we were starting to think maybe they’d let the paths grow over them (the maps in the park haven’t been updated since 2003).

Tired but determined, we headed back home to rest up for the following day’s hike and gather information so we could triumph over our adversaries. Here’s what we had walked by the end of day two looking for a cemetery.

Day one: Where is the pioneer cemetery?

The weather here was really nice the day after Christmas, so my dad and I wandered out to Allerton park to walk around a bit. So we bundled up, packed up Dad’s camera, and headed out! We ended up at the parking lot near the bridge that’s out and, after a look at the map at the trailhead, decided we’d see if we could find the pioneer cemetery that was located near the southern edge of the park. I’d been there once years and years ago during a school field trip and hadn’t ever been able to stumble across it since then. But with the location marked on the map, we were sure we’d be there in no time.

We started out kind of slowly because we kept stopping to take pictures. Dad does pottery and likes to include grasses, leaves, and other miscellaneous plants on his pieces so he was looking for some inspiration. I was just fiddling around.

We kept coming across turnoffs that didn’t seem to be on the map – Allerton borders private property at certain places and we kept having to backtrack when we’d come across a house or take a path that was actually a driveway. At least it wasn’t too chilly of a day! We kept shedding hats and gloves as we walked further and further and the clouds got darker and darker. Eventually we hit the parking lot at the south end of the park (toward the bottom of the map that may or may not be cut off in the photo up there) and, after taking a look at the map again, decided we must be nearly on top of the pioneer cemetery at last. All we had to do was follow the trail and take every left we came to – we should be there in no time! Right?

Wrong. Eventually we knew we were heading in completely the wrong direction for the elusive pioneer cemetery, but it was starting to get late and we’d been out for about an hour and a half already so we decided to head back to the car. The problem was that we were about as far from our starting point as was possible to be. Dad suggested that we go back the way we came, but I wanted to at least finish the day having seen the river since it was clear we had missed the pioneer cemetery somewhere along the way.

You’ll notice that, despite the fact that I wanted to see the river, there are no pictures of the river. By the time we reached the point where our path met the river, we were exhausted and mostly focused on not dying before we got back to the car. Which we managed to do, three hours after we had started walking. We’d only meant to be out for an hour so we hadn’t brought any water or snacks or anything and we ended up being out over the lunch hour, so by the time we got back, we were starving! I’m always worried I’ll die in a situation like that because I’d be so embarrassed! I’m a Girl Scout, I really should know better.

So at the end of day 1, here’s what we had walked in our search for one of the pioneer cemeteries in the park (there’s another one over by the Sunsinger. Allegedly.).

Jim Henson’s Fantasic World is fantastic, indeed!

A few weekends ago, Heather, Liz, Alicia, and I went to Peoria to see Jim Henson’s Fantastic World at the Lakeview Museum.

It was really interesting to get a look at Jim Henson’s background and see the progression from his beginning in commercials (which featured many Muppet ancestors) to the Muppets to Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock and the more experimental movies (Labyrinth and Dark Crystal).

They had some Muppets there (notably Rowlf, a Kermit, and Bert and Ernie), but most of the visuals were his sketches and storyboards for characters and commercials and a lot of his early work in graphic design and some of his experimental works in film that didn’t necessarily feature puppetry.

It’s amazing to get these glimpses into such an amazing mind – one which was not only so creative, but also so ambitious and determined that the world would see his ideas (he wrote many proposals and scripts that never went anywhere before he finally pitched The Muppet Show).

And I really, really want to know why puppets and the Muppets in particular are so endearing and enduring.  Why are we so eager to forget about the people that we know are there, that we know are moving their mouths and their arms, and accept the Muppets as creatures? Their eyes don’t move, their mouths only open and close, and their faces have very limited ranges of visible emotion and yet, somehow, he was able to create characters that have souls and personalities! WHY?!?!?!

The exhibition itself (and this may have been a limitation of the space it was occupying) was somewhat difficult to follow – the flow wasn’t quite clear. As you can see above, I’m a bit confused about the timeline of his creations and am trying to be a bit vague about it all because the flow of the exhibit, which was sectioned into his life, early work, Muppets, Sesame Street, his non-puppet films and interests, the Fraggles, and the films, was not easy to follow. I mean, we saw everything, but it wasn’t very clear which section followed which.

I think this exhibit is on tour from the Smithsonian and has been since 2007, so I’m not sure how much longer it has to go, but if it comes near you, I’d really recommend going to see it.

What an amazing guy.

How could I forget the most exciting part of Chicago?!


No, seriously. While I was waiting in the car for Claire to bring our bags out of the first hotel so we could repark and move into the second hotel, a blonde woman wearing big sunglasses and, literally, a garbage bag gown, walked past the car with two security guys, a photographer, and a couple of people carrying a variety of photography equipment.

‘Huh. I wonder if that was Lady GaGa,’ I thought.

Then little clusters of people with their phones out started hurrying past and I heard one guy on his phone say that it WAS Lady GaGa!

So, yeah, I may have kind of actually seen Lady GaGa randomly on the streets of Chicago on her way to a photo shoot.

It was pretty awesome.

I’m still recovering from this weekend!

Friday we headed up to Chicago for Claire’s last weekend in the States (for now! She has to come back next year because we were supposed to see U2 earlier in July but Bono had to go and have back surgery so they postponed). We were seeing a concert at Soldier Field. And guess who was opening for the main act?

I know! I didn’t even think he was still a person either. And he totally charmed me! He was WAY more talented than I ever gave him credit for – he played an awesome piano and was really quite engaging! And then it was time for the main act.


Now, I’d been sort of explaining the Bon Jovi concert to everybody by telling them that I owed Claire a concert since she’d gone to see Kylie with me in Sydney – usually accompanied with a bit of an eyeroll – but they were awesome! I went in determined to at least look like I was having a good time for Claire’s sake, but I ended up having a TON of fun – they put on an amazing show. And they played the six Bon Jovi songs I know, so I was a very satisfied customer – I’ve always wanted to do a sing along of Livin’ on a Prayer with 50,000 people! The experience did not disappoint.

The next day we hopped on a hop-on/hop-off bus tour (because I’m terrible at showing visitors around Chicago – I find the city very stressful) and hopped off for an architectural boat tour which I’ve always wanted to do!

It was very fun and very informative – apparently Chicago was basically built by an architural firm called SOM and…oh, my god, I’ve already forgotten his name. The dude who was a proponent of minimalism in the 70s and designed all the buildings with black windows and recessed lobbies. That guy. It was a little overcast, so the buildings weren’t quiet as shiny and sparkly as they could have been, but it was nice to not be baking in the sun.

I'm kind of messing with you - I took this photo from the bus, not the boat. But I thought it was cool.

Then we hopped back on the bus and rode to the Art Institute. It’s really hard to take in any of the city’s museums in only a couple of hours, but we did our best, heading straight for the Impressionists and Van Gogh, then American Gothic and the Hopper one of the diner. I have to say, though, I don’t remember the AI being quite so confusing to navigate – we kept getting lost! Okay, I kept getting us lost – but the map makes no sense and you can’t get to any of the floors or galleries from any of the other floors or galleries – you have to keep going back down to the main floor and choosing the correct stairway!

This is my favorite thing at the Institute. It’s the iPhone of the 16th century! ‘Oh, you need a compass? Let me get out my compendium.’ ‘Oh, you need a world map? You need a sundial? A calendar? Let me get out my compendium.’ ‘Oh, you need a device for telling time at night by using stellar positions? I have an app for that.’

After finishing up at the Art Institute, we hopped back on the bus one more time, finished the tour, and then headed back to our hotel to move everything over for the night (there was a very frustrating kerfuffle with the hotel on Friday night) – this activity resulted in something I don’t want to talk about because it makes me look really stupid. But it ended up with Claire having a bruise on her shoulder and me with a bruised lump on my knee.

But we recovered and went for deep dish pizza before our ghost tour! I ended up not being super impressed with our guide, though I’m entirely ready to admit that it might have been because I was distracted by all the SPIDERS THAT COME OUT AT NIGHT IN CHICAGO. Just another reason to not be a fan of the city. D:

Alas, we didn’t see any ghosts, though Claire got a suitably spooky photo on her camera at Hull House!

The next day, we were up bright and early and on our way to the Museum of Science and Industry (They’re running a contest where the prize is to live for a month in the museum – how awesome is that?!)! We saw the U-Boat – I remember it from the days when it was free and outside and rusty – now you have to pay to go inside it. We did, though. We saw some baby chicks and learned all about inventions of the future including a coffee table/musical instrument which I LONG for now, food that you can print out, clothes that let you text a hug, and this awesome computer that you control with your shadow – to get butterflies to land on you for now, I guess.

I was intrigued by the Smart Home, but…you have to pay extra to see it (the Museum of Science and Industry seems full of hidden expenses!), so we took a pass and went to learn about weather phenomena instead. Claire finally got to see her tornado!

We tried to go visit iCream – a super cool ice cream shop we’d seen a feature on on the Food Network while we were in St. Louis, but there was some sort of music festival on and the block the shop was on was closed off and we had to pay to get through. So we decided to just call it a day and head off to O’Hare so as not to risk the traffic.

Claire’s safe and sound in Melbourne again and even back to work now – it was so much fun having a visitor here, it’s very lonely now! And the cats are totally confused about where she is and why no one is giving them massages anymore (I guess I don’t do it right).


So while Claire was still here, we went to Indianapolis for a day. Which was really fun! Indianapolis is a very pretty city – they have canals there! Although their peddle boats are way too expensive. But still! We started off at the Indiana Museum which was very interesting – we learned all about how Indiana was settled and their involvement in the Civil War (they’re very into the Civil War, apparently) and famous Indian…ians? We also saw an IMAX movie about the Hubble which was actually pretty cool!

Then, despite it being super, SUPER hot, we walked to the capital building and took a self tour – it’s actually a very pretty capital building – they were clever and put a stained glass window underneath their dome. Why has no one else thought of doing this?

Then we walked even further, despite the heat, to see the Civil War monument. We walked through the museum which outlines Indiana’s involvement in the war in great detail and Claire pretended to be a Civil War wife.

Then we realized that we could climb the tower of the monument. They charge you $2 to take the elevator up, though, so consoling ourselves with the fact that we’d both climbed many a tall European monument (e.g., St. Paul’s [numerous times], the monument of the great fire of London [Claire has a certificate to prove it!], Notre Dame, and St. Peter’s), we figured this would be no sweat. We…were a little bit wrong.

We made it, but we would like to testify that it’s much taller than it looks!