1. Share movie reviewing duties with Roger Ebert.
Some self-important artist once said, "Nobody ever erected a statue to a critic." Well, here it is:
Yes, Champaign-Urbana was Ebert's home town, and in front of the old theater in downtown Champaign where he would hold his annual movie festival, there's now a statue of him, with extra seats. Of course, you don't have to agree with Roger in rating a movie:
2. Eat with the Amish.
Did you know there was an Amish country in Illinois? I hadn't. But when I found it, about 40 minutes drive south of town, I knew I would also find what they have in all the other Amish countries in PA, OH, IN, etc., which is one of those enormous Amish businesses, spreading over vast acres, incorporating gift shops and bakeries as well as a restaurant with rooms upon rooms of seating and endless delicious American country cooking. This one, out on a country highway west of I-57, features broasted chicken: lightly fried, tender; and I also stocked up on fish of the same kind. Plenty of starch but not much on the veggies here, but I was content. And so were the snickerdoodles I took home from the bakery.
3. Visit a peaceful Catholic women's college.
Actually St. Mary of the Woods, outside Terre Haute just over the Indiana line, has been co-ed for a few years now. But it was a women's college when B's mother attended, class of 1944. B. has always wanted to visit, and having Mythcon within two hours' drive was our chance. Campus is spread out over lawns and woods, and the admissions office arranged for a golf cart for us to ride around in and a couple knowledgeable and interested student guides to take us there.
Since we were doing that, we flew into Indianapolis instead of Chicago: no further away from Champaign, and easier to deal with, and the college was along the way. Also along the way, I found, was an opportunity to:
4. Pose with the tigers.
Out in the deep woods of Clay County in western Indiana is the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, which as a zoo appealed perfectly to our tastes: out where we could see them were a dozen tigers, half a dozen lions, cervals, pumas, and so on. A folksy volunteer gave us a tour with stories about how the animals came to the center, and they'd come up and rub their heads against the fences. And sometimes they'd pose: