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23rd March 2014 - Back to Chicago

Tonight we are in River Grove a suburb of Chicago. Tomorrow we aim to pcik up Ryan at 3am at his downtown hotel and then get to Midway Airport nice and early for our 6:15am flight to Los Angeles.

We started the day in Springfield, drove to Normal to pick up Rayls iPhone andd then onto a Dennys for breakfast. Disappointing food, this was our first Dennys on the trip.

As we closed in on Chicago we called into the Prairie Quilt Shop in Batavia and then Fabrics Etc in Bensenville. I booked a Super 8 in River Grove for the location (and cost) and although the premises itslef is just average, thes service from Elena was far and away the best we have ever received from a hotel check in.

Dinner at a nearby Ruby Tuesday, served by Jasmine, excellent food and service.

Into the room at 7pm, as ready to go as we can be - alarm is set for 2:20am.

22nd March 2014 - Jerry Mathers Day

Gary and Jerry Mathers
Gary and Jerry Mathers

Today I got to meet one of my all time favourite people, Jerry Mathers. As a youngster in the early 1960's I watched Leave It To Beaver each week. It was always a dream to meet the Beav and today it happened.

He was very polite and thanked me for my kind words. We shook hands and as there was a lot more people in line to meet him that was it. It would have been nice to chat longer but something is so much better than nothing.

The day started in our hotel room in Festus, we had a nice breakfast and headed out around 9:20am. On the way to De Soto we called into a quilt shop, Cobblestone Quilts.

Then onto De Soto, which is just a small town, populaton around 6000. Very pleasnat place where all the people are friendly and say hello. 

On May 4, 2003 around 3:45pm, a tornado outbreak broke in Kansas, Missouri & Tennessee. At 5:14pm, a tornado touched-down 2 miles northwest of De Soto. 14 minutes later, the tornado hit De Soto as an EF-3, causing $12,800,000 in damage. The tornado destroyed the Middle School, High School, 58 Houses & a local Grocery Store. It injured 23 and killed 9 inside De Soto.

We drove around a bit and checked out a Wal-Mart. The Jerry Mathers event was a Leave It To Beaver marathon, 3 epiosdes that featured Frank Wilcox. The event was held in the Melba Theatre, a historic old place. Just like the old movie places us oldies use to go to.

Jerry was introduced before the event, he said a few words and then went into the foyer area to sign autographs and pose for photos. We watched all three shows and then lined up for the autograph. Took us a while but we got there. I gave Jerry a big G'day and told him I had come all the way from Australia to see him. He said he got that from the 'G'day". I told him that he was an important part of my youth and he was very gracious. He posed for some photos, I wanted one from the iPhone so I could send it out straight away and then 2 from the camera so I had better quality. Then the photographer from the local paper asked Rayls to join in and she took a couple of photos as well. I did ask Jerry if he had even been to Australia and he said he had not. It was all over in a minute, I would have liked to have taken more time but there were people waiting in line so off we went.

We chatted with the locals, the people who run the theatre were very nice. They love their work keeping this old theatre going - it must be tough but they love their work. Jim Thomas was the festival organiser and very helpful in getting us there. Everybody was so nice and we came away very much in love with De Soto and its wonderful people. Hopefully we will get there again some day.

The good thing about going to quilt shops and festivals such as the one in De Soto is that it takes you to places that tourists that normally go to - we meet interesting people and see some great things.

We mulled over what to do next, it was 4pm and we considered staying in De Soto for a bit - Eileen invited us back to West Alton for the night, that was tempting but then we would have to go through the sad goodbyes all over again. We decided to start back to Chicago. We have a very early flight on Monday morning so best to get started in daylight.

We made it back to Springfield in Illinois and have spent the night at the Route 66 Hotel. Lots of Route 66 memorabilia but a very average hotel.

21st March 2014 - Frank Wilcox Day

Frank Wilcox
Frank Wilcox

Firstly a big thank you to Eileen. A good friend, one of the few people I am comfortable enough to open up with. That is a big compliment Eileen.

We left West Alton at 10am and had three quilt shops to visit on the 100K drive to Festus! We got to two, the other we will do on Saturday. Rayls also managed a Thrift Shop, not sure why you would want to visit one of those, and a Hobby Lobby which she enjoyed. 

In the meantime I went to a sports store, no cricket gear. In fact when I jokingly asked the server for where the cricket gear was she said "we don't have any cricket stuff but we do have pickle ball items". OK, I guess I see the similarity between the two sports, they have a ball! I also went to a Shake and Steak, which was a bust!

Our plan is to get to De Soto for the Frank Wilcox Film Festival and in particular the special guest Jerry Mathers. De Soto is not a big town so we stayed the night in a Comfort Inn in the nearby town of Festus.

Frank Wilcox (March 13, 1907 – March 3, 1974) was an American character actor who made appearances in more than 150 films and nearly 200 episodes of television programs. He was born in De Soto and each year the town honours him with a film festival.

When I did the research for this film festival I saw there was a movie on the Friday night which had Frank Wilcox in it. The movie was They Died With Their Boots On. The movie was made in 1941 and stars Aussie Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The movie is 73 years old and amazingly de Havilland is still with us, she is 97. The info I had was that Jerry Mathers would introduce the show but alas he did not. So we have to wait till tomorrow to meet the Beav!

The movie was shown in a church hall, Rayls guessed there would be 100 there, I thought 80 and it turned out there was 30. However, it was a good night, the movie was about George Armstong Custer and there was some funny bits in it, I am not sure they were suppose to be funny but it made for an enjoyable movie. The movie was introduced by Elizabeth von Gremp who is a daughter of Frank Wilcox. She is quite an old lady, 7 years younger than me!

After the movie we were interviewed by Kevin Carberry of the local newspaper, Leader. I guess they don't get too many Aussies coming to De Soto.

It was another good day, tomorrow (Saturday) I hope to meet the Beav!

20th March 2014 - West Alton

Bicycle Garden
Outside Hendel's

Today was a pleasant enough day with Eileen in the St Louis area.

We planned out 4 quilt shops we could visit and got to all 4. Sadly 2 were no longer open so Rayls and Eileen got to just 2 shops and they seemed to enjoy them.

For lunch we went to one of Eileen’s favourite places, Hendel’s Market Café. It’s a lovely old place with much history.  The building was originally built in 1873 as a general store and in more recent years has been developed into a restaurant.

After lunch we returned to the house where I was left to do some computer work whilst the ladies went off to a flea market.

We had another nice dinner and chatted. Rayls managed a much needed load of washing.

Tomorrow we move on, we never stay long with Eileen, which is a pity as she is a lovely person and the perfect host.

Ryan seems to be having a good time in Chicago.

19th March 2014 - onto Missouri

Quilt Shop Number 1
Quilt Shop Number 1 - Rochester IL

Nice breakfast at the hotel to start the day and then along I55 to Rochester, which is just out of Springfield, the Illinois State Capital.

In Rochester Rayls visited her first quilt shop for the trip, Peace and Applique – she seemed to enjoy it.

Then it was on to downtown Springfield where we visited the Abraham Lincoln Museum. It is a fascinating place, very interesting with some very informative guides along the way.

Across the road they had a display of props used for the movie Lincoln.

We managed one more Quilt Shop, Sew Unique before at aroun 3pm we started out on I55 further south towards St Louis and our friends house in West Alton.

It was cold and windy all the way down from Bloomington, a very dreary day. The drive was through very rural areas, lots of freshly ploughed fields..

Our friend Eileen was waiting for us in her West Alton home. Hubby Phil is away on a golfing week with some friends.

Eileen lives on a lovely rural property just a half hour or so out of St Louis. She and Phil are great people we met through their daughter Nicole when she was a student in Perth back in 2002..

We had a lovely roast dinner and a chat. Alas I went to bed early, not much later than 7:30pm. Just so tired.

Ryan spent the day wandering the streets of Chicago before going to the Blackhawks game at the United Center

18th March 2014 - Los Angeles to Chicago

I had hoped to report that everything is Normal but alas it is not!

We all got up at 4am and hit the road by 4:30am. I thought this was plenty of time for a 6.25am flight.

Dropped the car off at Alamo, 105 miles we did in that car - cost us just under $14 in gas. The shuttle bus got us to the airport. Sadly there was a line to check into our flight, not like the line we had on the 2012 Quilt Bash but a fair line all the same. However, things went OK even if our bags were tagged with 'late check in' indicating it was not guaranteed that they would make our flight. The late check in was due to South West's inept check in system.

Security was interesting; I was told I didn't have to take off my shoes so I assumed that went for the other two as well. That was not to be and poor Ryan in particular got put through the third degree. The TSA people know their routine and therefore assume the public does as well - this is not the case and yet they get very grumpy with people who don't know what they are doing - sounds like a bus driver I know.

The flight took off on time - only two thirds full so we were all able to sit together. We took off at 6:35 am and landed in Las Vegas at 7:19am, the same time it akes to drive a 212!

In Vegas. half the passenger got off and others who were just doing the Vegas to Chicago leg of the flight joined us. We took off at 8:29am and landed in Chicago Midway Airport just a few minutes short of 3 hours later at 11:23am although it was now 1:23pm Chicago time. Bags came OK, still with their late check in tags on!

We got another Alamo rental. We have a small SUV and had a choice of a Chevrolet or a Mazda 5. Ryan thought the Mazda (pronounced Marzda in the USA) was better and so we took that. Getting to downtown Chicago took some time, a lot of traffic and it is not a nice drive, very derelict looking way to approach the city. The weather was around 10C so we had to dig out jackets for the first time in many months.

No real problem finding Ryan's hotel, the Godfrey in downtown Chicago. He will be there for 6 days spending time with mates and going to three Blackhawks games.

Rayls and I then hit the road, very slowly, as we headed back the way we came in, onto I55 and past Midway Airport again as we headed towards St Louis. It was suppose to be a two hour drive but took a lot longer due to the traffic.

We had aimed to make Normal, Illinois to spend the night and we thought we had made it there but the hotel is in the neighbouring town of Bloomington! We had dinner at a Cracker Barrel and took in a Normal Wal-Mart, before using my nifty iPhone App to find a good hotel, the La Quinta right next door to the Cracker Barrel.

A very long day - tomorrow onto Springfield, the capital Of Illinois and then St Louis, just over the Mississippi River in Missouri.