What happens in Springfield, stays in Springfield. Okay, not really…it’s not that exciting but I’m just trying to be funny.
So today my great but sometimes odd family all came together in Springfield, Illinois as I told you was going to happen yesterday. And what a wonderful reunion it was. Everyone, that includes my two sisters, Emily and Liz, and their significant others, Connor and Shaun, mom, dad, uncle, and I, and the son, Jace, of Liz’s boyfriend Shaun. We all had a very fun and exciting day filled with happiness, laughter, and a lot of conversation coming from one overexcited video game expert.
A highway asphalt rolling machine I saw on the way to Springfield. The only reason I took this picture is because we were in a traffic jam and stopped on the highway. Emily, my youngest sister and her boyfriend Connor, the very conversational video game junkie, at Bob Evans. Matt Thornton – the greatest thing to come to convenience stores everywhere, that they even had to erect a giant sign of him.
And a gas pump at Thornton’s. My meal at Bob Evans. Floor arrow. How exactly do you make free happen? Oh, rob the place. So the arrow message is promoting shoplifting? Neon lighted sign. Soda as they say in any state except Michigan, home to the word “pop”. Scenery on the highway. The Coca-Cola truck. Overexposed picture of a frog on the outdoor patio table at the place we are staying, the home of an elderly lady with two grandsons. Hickory River Smokehouse, where we ate dinner tonight. I had a pulled pork sandwich and couldn’t finish it because I was so stuffed. Not so fabulous menu at Hickory River Smokehouse, a not so fabulous restaurant but the whole family was together for the first time. Sharkie! I met this odd looking stuffed toy today in Emily and Connor’s car. To say that we didn’t have the least amount of fun waving it out the window and hitting it against heads would be wrong.
Tomorrow, our stay in Springfield continues with our visit to the Abraham Lincoln national cemetery and museum. I will be interested to be visiting my very first gravesite of a former president or any significant figure in history for that matter. There really isn’t that much to Springfield besides Lincoln but having the whole family come together in one spot is what I will really take from this trip.
I’m not one to visit a shopping mall very often but I know a winner when I see it. The overall experience of walking into a giant super plaza like The Mall of America is magical and unforgettable. Seeing all the people bustling about and all the wonderful stores and side attractions makes you feel like you’re in a wonderland of some sorts; the carousels, bungee jumping, and kiddie trains choo chooing about adds to the eye and ear pleasing scene.
I would like to say the same thing about my own mall close to home but that is not the case. The Westwood Mall in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan pales in comparison to other multi store complexes I have been to in other cities around Michigan and in other states. For one reason, it seems like it is so dead there most of the time; no wonder certain stores can’t stay in business. Compared to other shopping malls, I would say Westwood is pretty bland and boring. Kansas’ Great Mall in Olathe had a lot of cool stores to choose from and the entertainment value there was endless. Plus, it had a lively atmosphere that Westwood is lacking right now. Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor is, in my short opinion of malls, probably one of the best in Michigan, you couldn’t possibly walk out of that place disappointed, especially if you drove a ways to get there. The mall in Novi, Michigan has two floors and lots of picture worthy tourist attractions. The food court, another thing Westwood lacks, is amazing and it includes some well-known restaurant brands and others that are more local to the area; this also provides an area to chill, eat, and chat it up with friends and family. Westwood has two floors but the second is for staff only and probably storage as well. Hmm…I wonder what the employees do up there while on their breaks?
I recently went to the mall in Rockford, Illinois. It was called the Cherryvale and sported two floors, escalators, a glass elevator, and many store outlets that are popular among people today. There also were video screens around the food plaza that showed up to date news on movies and sweepstakes being held throughout the mall. These screens had a recurring section of featured YouTube videos being played, most of them involving cats and goats in trees. The ethnic diversity in Rockford made this mall an interesting place to hang about. I found it neat to order a frozen yogurt from a man that I was sure had roots in India and thought resembled Raj’s dad on The Big Bang Theory from the way he spoke; I was a little intimidated by him. Another neat thing about this Cherryvale was the free samples being given out around the place by employees. They seemed so nice and I tried every one of the samples that I came into contact with, even the little cups of yogurt from Mr. Kootherpali. The Chinese restaurant actually had people of that heritage working behind the counter and giving out samples. A Spanish person spoke Spanish to a cashier who also spoke Spanish and I was like “this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at home”. That same thing happened at a McDonald’s in Rockford; it was the first time I heard a real conversation all in Spanish, besides in TV and movies.
It is no quick trip through the gigantic plaza of Cherryvale and unlike Westwood or even the Jackson Crossing you feel like the outside is far away and you are in the “belly of a beast”; at Westwood, it is only a short walk before you see the doors again making it seem less intimate and appealing. That’s what I like about malls, feeling like you could never go home because there is always something new to see everywhere you look.