July 4, 2016, Francesville, IN- I headed out of Rolla, MO, in the early morning drizzle. The hapless man who had been asking for sustenance, last night, was sitting outside his room, looking puzzled that I should be heading out so soon. I had one main destination for the day: The new Welcome Center of the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, IL- just north of Chicago. It would take most of the day to get there, so I was on the road by 8 A.M.
The Missouri countryside is always a pleasure, though while I rolled along I-44, towards St. Louis, it was striking how little traffic there was, headed eastward. It was also fairly easy to head northward, bypassing the downtown area. Determined to have my main meal in midday, I stopped around 11, at a Hibachi Grill, in Florissant, near the area that was so much in turmoil, in 2014. Florissant itself, though, is well-manicured and has a prosperous outer countenance. I hope the same for the surrounding communities, like Ferguson, while being well aware that a lot of hard work lies ahead, yet. There were only a few of us in Hibachi Grill, at that hour, while the food was plentiful and varied- with almost as many “American” dishes as Chinese.
Crossing the Mississippi, I knew it would be unlikely that I would see many, if any, of my Midwestern friends, today or tomorrow. One friend, whom I called, was ill. Others, I knew, had their holiday plans, so I did not contact them.
Chicagoland always has its traffic challenges, and today’s inbound traffic did not disappoint. As I expected, it took an hour to get from Bolingbrook, on the southern edge of the region, to Skokie, where I turned off the Kennedy Freeway. It was easy getting to a gas station, filling up the Nissan, and emptying myself, though there was a line for the latter- not surprising, considering that many of us had been on the freeway for, in some cases, three hours.
The Baha’i House of Worship always rises majestically through the trees, once one gets to the community of Wilmette, and close to Lake Michigan. I’m always comforted by the sight, and by being in the House. A particular bonus today, though, was the new Visitor Center. Here are some views of this fine addition to the complex.
I knew it would be way over budget, for me to stay in the Chicago area tonight, and the traffic in the morning would be horrific, besides, so after a serene and uplifting hour in the House of Worship, I headed eastward. Traffic going out of the city was minimal, but I saw an astounding scene unfolding, across the median, on I-94: Traffic coming from Indiana was at a standstill, for fifteen miles- clear to the Valparaiso turnoff. It was too late to even think of calling a young friend in Portage, IN, so I headed south on county and state roads, into the rolling farmland and self-sufficient small towns that lie between Chicago and Indianapolis.
Fireworks programs, in many parts of the country, are organized by cities and towns. Here in the heartland, as we saw yesterday in Missouri, families set off their own, with the adults carefully monitoring their younger charges. In Francesville, where I stopped and got a sandwich and some pretzels, for supper, the display was just starting. I sat and watched, as a few fathers were giving their families and neighbours a visual treat, in a field on the south end of town.
In all the years that I have experienced Independence Day celebrations, none have been more hearfelt, or more enjoyable, than this time of nibbling chicken salad, whilst watching competing displays from adjoining farm fields, in this solid little town, in central Indiana.
I would go on to Logansport, and spend the night in Manor Motel. I did get the feeling, though, that I would always be welcome in Francesville, and other little towns along the way. The heartland is a very warm place.