The weather was nearly perfect. Sunny throughtout the day, with some thunderstorms in the late evening. But the rain swept look just seemed to add to the dewy freshness all around.
We drove the two hours and got to Bill's place, expecting to find a very basic guest house to shack up in for the weekend. We were astounded to find a lovely three bedroom, two bath house with colorful, eclectic furniture, a well stocked kitchen (food, spices and vessels to cook in), fresh towels, sheets and even a TV, fridge and a microwave. It was such a surprise and here we had carted everything from sugar and salt to pepper!
Obviously Bill meant it in all seriousness, when he said he had a "guesthouse" - for it was all that and much more. Five stars for all the thoughtfulness and hospitality. We were blown away.
Now let’s get to the property. Have you ever been to someone's place that is over a hundred acres? It was so crazy and surreal to think one man owned this chunk of paradise - it was like a little Kingdom in its own right.
A long driveway, leading to two separate houses, a beautiful five acre pond in the vicinity, gently rolling hills and natural forests all around and a gurgling brook behind the house - oh, it was a sight for sore eyes indeed.
Then we met Bill's neighbor, who had come with a gun (yes, I swear!) to "shoot them damn beavers". Mr. L, was easily in his 60's, dressed in denim overalls and sunglasses. He came in an all-terrain bike and apparently owns a food trailer that he takes to fairs and sells funnel cakes and the like from.
He introduced himself to us and then proceeded to take out a gun from his pickup truck. Nanu and I watched in horrified fascination. For we have never seen a real live gun or anyone using one, other than in the movies!
"I keep an eye on Bill's place when he's not around, y'know," he said. "I just saw a couple of them beavers in Bill's pond. Now that’s bad news. Gotta shoot ‘em".
He was a typical country boy and for him it was the normal, obvious thing to do. Of course I really put my foot in it by asking, "But why do you need to kill the poor beavers?"
Mr. L looked at me like I was retarded. "Becoz they build dams of course! And we dont want Bill's pond to be dammed up now, do we?" he said. Luckily for the beavers and me, Mr. L couldnt spot any through his view finder and gave up pretty soon.
Nanu asked him, “So do you use your gun very often?”
“Oh all the time!” replied Mr. L. “If any stray dog or other animal wanders into my property and I don’t need ‘em, I just shoot ‘em”.
The next morning Nanu and I drove around the Ohio River Scenic Byway in Hardin County. We passed by Elizabethtown - a quaint little town, by which the Ohio River flows. The early morning mist rising from the river, bordered by bare branched trees stopped us in our tracks and we feasted in awe.
At this historic town called Cave-in-Rock (now that’s a unique name for a town) we drove onto this free ferry that takes people and vehicles across the Ohio river and into another state - Kentucky! Its also Amish country and we got to see a lot of the ol' horse drawn wagon and friendly Amish folk.
But to backtrack just a little bit, we were driving on this road and suddenly there was this STOP sign. Nanu stopped of course and guess what? The road had just ended at the River!
We met this sweet old couple on the ferry and we got talking. We told them we were just exploring and the next thing we know they've invited us to their house for tea. Behaving quite out of character, Nanu actually accepted the invitation and so we ended up at their colorful house on the other side of the Ohio River.
We found out that Mr. K is an Englishman and an artist who works with all mediums and Mrs. K is very into organic farming and teaching special children. The house used to be a Church before they bought it. So it had a steeple and a massive brass bell - very charming of course. We go to see two huge, primitive but fantastic looking log cabins that Mr. K had apparently built with his own bare hands. I've never seen anything quite like it and was beyond impressed.
Over cups of "English Tea" we sat in a high ceiling-ed room staring at Mr K's unique art displayed on amber and red hand painted walls. Petting his German Shepherd, Mr. K said, "He's a smart dog. Been with us for years and years. All the other dogs we've had in-between just keep getting squished by cars".
I tried not to look too shocked. The matter of fact acceptance of life that only a person living in the country can summon up. It sure gave us quite an insight.
That evening we went to 'The Garden of the Gods'.
Words are simply inadequate to describe the beauty and uniqueness of this place. The name is so apt, for it does feel like if God ever came down to earth, it would be here.
Fantastic rock formations amidst breathtaking greenery, winding, uphill paths, flying eagles, fresh, clean air. It was Heaven.
Beyond exhausted by the end of that day, we slept like dead dogs that night.
We woke up this morning and spent some time cleaning up Bill’s place and saying our farewells to his beautiful place. Had some hot breakfast at ‘Granny’s Kitchen’ a local restaurant in Harrisburg, IL – a town we passed on the way back home.
If any of you ever come to visit, you have to see ‘The Garden of the Gods’. I’ll take you there personally.
I feel refreshed and alive. It’s hard to believe that such beauty lies but two hours away from where I live in Carbondale.