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  The observation walk at Shawnee National Forest's Garden of the Gods is a quarter mile loop. I knew that because I'd Googled it that morning and thought, "oh, that's nothing." That's less than what I'd walk to get groceries. That's probably less than I'd walk around a Super Target. Before I'd left on my Illinois road trip my friend Heather told me about Shawnee and said I had to go to Garden of the Gods. "Go to Garden of the Gods," she texted me daily. "You have to go to Garden of the Gods." And so, I added it to my...

I didn't sell my car before I left to travel the world. I kept it in my mom's garage with strict orders to run it every once in a while and to have my sister drive it whenever she came by. Of course, when I came home, 15 months later, it was completely dead. I suppose I could have sold it before I left, but my original plan involved coming home after nine months to road trip around the US. That was before I fell in love with Asia and stayed months longer than planned....

Two green and white signs at the fork in the road pointed in two directions: straight and left. Both were marked "Illinois Great River Road." I pressed my foot against the brake, slowing the car to a 15-mile-per-hour crawl and tried to determine which arrow to follow. I had no paper map of Illinois, I had neglected to pull up the route on my iPhone, and I had no written direction. I didn't think ahead. Typical me. As I approached the crossroad, two cars waited impatiently to turn left behind me so I impulsively accelerated, pressed on, and kept moving forward....

I feel like I've been saying this every month lately: Where did last month go? But now I have an addition: where did the summer go? Seriously, how is it September? How has the summer ended? How have I made it through May and June and July and August and not gotten so little accomplished? Possibly, because I have too many things I want to accomplish. ...

Many of my friends and I found ourselves in the Champaign-Urbana area on what happened to be homecoming weekend. But we weren't there for the game. We were there for a wedding. And so, while most visitors were in town watching football, Heather and Julie and I explored Allerton Park. I haven't been there in probably almost 10 years....

Friday morning I woke up at 5am and was out the door around 5:45 on my way to Urbana to pick up Brian. I couldn't tell if the Starbucks on the corner was open and the second one a few blocks away was but I couldn't find easy enough parking. I need to buy coffee. I picked up Brian around 7 and we hit the road to more dangerous trying to fimn stuff while I drive driving! Our first and only stop in Illinois was the World's Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville. I'd seen it before, but as ketchup is...