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Day 3: ‘Cross the Heartland October 24, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Extreme Farewell Tour, Oglesby.
3 comments

October 23, 2006

Evansville, IN, 11 PM

First of all, Happy Mole Day.

Dawn came early to the prairie, as the XFT crew prepared to traverse the length of Illinois.  LaTrease got in from DC and picked us up in a Chevy Equinox, which is something between a van and an SUV.  After a half hour search for the cupholders,  we had the car under control and off we went.

We were the tiniest bit late, but since LaTrease was driving we comfortably made up time.  I was amazed at how as I watched the cars we passed recede into the distance, they looked redder than I thought they were when they were right next to us.

Our first stop was at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby, IL.  Their Chemistry Club is a perennial student affiliate award winner and thought leader for 2-year-college ACS involvement.  We were met by Professors Matt Johll and Jeffrey Carver, who introduced us to about 20 of their students.  In many ways, IVCC is typical of two-years.  Lots of non-traditional students and many young students who see community college as an affordable start of an education.  Specifically, in this group, there were lots of nursing majors.

You can’t help but be impressed by the focus of these students, many of whom have a very clear view of what they want to accomplish.  I spoke to one serious student, who was managing a life, motherhood and a job and was torn by the fact that she was becoming interested enough in the chemistry of drug design to consider an 8 or 9 year path to a PhD.  I told her if she loved chemistry to go for it.  She will be a success in whatever she chooses.

The Root Beer StandThen it was off to lunch.  Near the college was the Root Beer Stand Drive-In.  We could have had curb service, but opted for the dining room since it was cold.  The root beer was outstanding–frosty mug, some of the root beer frozen on the inside.  I looked at the menu and really wanted the jumbo chili cheese dog, but realized it would be followed by a trip to the hospital to have my stomach pumped.  I can’t eat that stuff any more, so I had a hamburger and it hit the spot.  So did Dennis.  Oh—he also had the fried mushrooms.  No matter how long you let them cool, the first one always burns a layer of skin off the roof of  your mouth.

LaTrease ordered the Bar-B-Que, expecting thinly sliced, vinegary sauced brisket on a crusty baguette.  I should have told her that in this part of the Midwest, “Bar-B-Que” means “Sloppy Joe.”  I think the root beer would have made her feel better but she had lemonade.  We won’t discuss the lettuce salad.

Then we were off to Holy Family Elementary School for an NCW demo show.  At school we were met by Principal Jyll Jasiek.  The science program is overseen by Lynn Quick.

Employees of Carus Chemical conducted the show, and Lynn Solario facilitated our appearance.  The show was good and the kids were better.  Audience participation included a hands-on experiment of pushing the kabob skewer through the balloon.  They called up four kids and me to give it a try.  No pressure—even considering that while I’ve seen it done, this is my first first-person attempt at balloon skewering.  It worked out.  Did you hear the sigh of relief?

They had some great twists on old demos, including pulling numerous balloons out of a liquid nitrogen cooler and letting them expand (instead of pouring liquid N2 on them and watching them contract).

Carus is a family operation that has been in business for nearly a century.  Their main business is KMnO4, especially for water treatment, but another passion of the Carus family is education, which is an outlet for their philanthropy and their personal service.  Carus also has a publishing arm that produces Cricket magazine and other educational publications for children.

Bill at the Carus Chemical CompanyAfter a quick plant tour we were on the road for Evansville, five hours away.  We made a refreshment stop on the road, and food choices of the group were informative.  LaTrease had her usual of Doritos and a Mr. Goodbar, washed down by healthy, all-natural water.  Dennis also got a candy bar on the 2 for $2 program, coffee and savory peppered beef jerky.  I typically don’t eat something that smells like that.  Same issue as the jumbo chili cheese dog.  I was driving and had a sensible cup of coffee and Cinnamon Toast Crunch bar; by definition, a manly snack with fiber and vitamins.  OK, at least a boyish snack with some fiber and vitamins, if you eat the coffee cup too.
 
Bill and Ronnie McDWe’re making progress on the McDonalds game and used our final stop three hours later to obtain a couple more game pieces.  We are now three to the railroads, and have two instant winner breakfast sandwiches and a small drink.  I live for this.

There were two scary moments on the way to Evansville.  A dog ran across the highway, which Dennis swerved to miss.  It was a small white dog, about 10 inches at the shoulder.  Dennis claimed he first thought it was a small deer.  Clearly, we’ve been driving too long.  Dogs should not have antlers like that.

Second, we had carefully downloaded directions to our hotel and the road went through some country areas.  One of the final directions was to make a right on St. Josephs Road and look for the expressway up ahead.  Dennis was driving and LaTrease was in the co-pilot’s seat.  Five hundred yards ahead, LaTrease spotted a street sign with St. Josephs written in four-point type and insisted that Dennis turn.  He made a U to go back to the road he missed.

As we drove down roads that went from four lanes to two lanes to virtually nothing at all, I realized that if there was an expressway up ahead it would be one shared lane for both directions.  In addition, it was flippin’ dark and getting darker.  I expected to see a guy with a hockey mask and an axe charge the car.  When it came to a T we decided to turn around to go back to the main road.

Who would have thought that there was another St. Joseph’s Road, with a big electric sign, not three miles down the road?  Eventually we made our way into Evansville and the Casino Aztar Hotel.  Scientists at a Casino.  Brilliant!  We’ll see how everyone acts tomorrow.

What’s in the player:  Lots of stuff in seven hours, but of note is Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir, 20/85: the Experience.  LaTrease brought this cd which commemorates his twenty years in Gospel music and it is amazing.  Mostly uptempo, up-register and infectious.

More students tomorrow, and the Indiana-Kentucky Border section meeting.  Then we see whether any of us remembers our statistics courses.