Champaign County Roadtrip! (Part 3 of 3)
(Part 3 of 3) Welcome back to Flat Lincoln and Fido’s adventures in Champaign County. We’ve discovered the museums and joys of Mahomet, the small-town charms and Lincoln history of Urbana, and the big-city feel of Champaign. In this installment, they make their way onto the campus of one of the largest universities in the United States - the University of Illinois! Fido was still searching for a mysterious woman named Alma, and the rumored never-melting snowdrifts of Illinois.
First stop was the University of Illinois central quad - famous for a perpetual undergraduate Frisbee game that’s been going on since 1963, plus lackadaisical squirrels that Fido eyed suspiciously. The U of I is a ‘Land Grant College’ who’s funding process was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. Educational institutions were funded by granting federally controlled land to the states for them to sell, which raised funds for the schools. The focus was on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science, and engineering. Thanks Abe!
Flat Lincoln was quickly recognized by the Frisbee playing students who were gushingly grateful for his participation in establishing Land Grant colleges. They wouldn’t shut up about it! Flat Lincoln wanted to find a quiet corner to get away from his adoring land-grant fans, and ended up in ... ... a cornfield!??! In the middle of campus? In the middle of a city?
It’s was the historic Morrow Plots. Established in 1876, it’s America’s oldest experimental field. Lots of discoveries were made here, helping make Illinois the breadbasket for the world that it is today. (Yummmm.... bread! And baskets aren’t too shabby either.)
The adoring students quickly found Flat Lincoln again, asking for selfies and autographs. Fido ditched Flat Lincoln, and headed out on an architecture hunt. His first stop was a giant bell tower in the middle of campus. So tall! It reminded Fido of the Sauron Tower in Lord of the Rings, but this one had a much more pleasant sound and demeanor. Quick question: Do the bells ring when it gets hit by lightning? Boom! Ding-dong!
This impressive building is the Student Union. It has restaurants, an art gallery, a hotel, and lots of students wandering around looking for a quiet corner to study. To Fido’s relief, it was (mostly) squirrel-free.
A passing student said this tiny building is the Undergraduate Library, but Fido thought it looked really small for a library. Then he discovered....
... the library was all underground! Next door was the Morrow Plots, and they couldn’t build a tall building that would throw shade on the corn. So, they built down rather than up. Very, very clever!
Fido noticed the urn situation on campus was definitely on point - Carle Park also had an elaborate Urn game going. This urn had lion heads, reminding Fido of the Lovejoy monument in Alton on his last road trip. Revisit the Alton trip at https://www.lookingforlincoln.org/explore/flat-lincoln-gallery/4/looking-for-lincoln-roadtrip-alton
This urn was also pretty good. It was close to the quad, so it had a good view of Frisbee games and those nutty quad squirrels. If you learn nothing else from these road trips, remember that the Heritage Area has really good urns!
This urn was more modern - low and swoopy - and the flowers were a good compliment to Fido’s yellow fur.
Fido did NOT like this urn at all! It was sticky, and smelled like stale beer and ramen noodles. Bad dog! Get off of there!
The campus not only has urns & architecture, but lots of great art. Plus, Fido still hadn’t found Alma, nor the ‘giant perpetual snow-drift’ that he’d heard so much about. The Krannert Art Museum was a great place to see some art, plus you can get a peek at a Lorado Taft sculpture right inside the front door. Lorado was a busy guy! There are lots of other great museums on campus too. Learn more at https://classics.illinois.edu/resources/campus-museums
Surrounding the museum are lots of crazy sculptures. Alma? Is that you? No? Looks more like a Lorado than an Alma.
How about you guys? Have you seen Alma? Or a giant snowdrift? No?
Fido wasn’t sure about this sculpture. It appeared to be a student in despair, who just saw the cost of their Math 101 textbook that they’ll reference only twice all semester. Ouch.
Fido sat down near the Football stadium to rest. He’d been exploring all day, and still hadn’t found Alma, nor the giant snowdrift. But what was he leaning against?
Looking up, it was a giant football player! Fido asked if he was aware of the giant snowdrift, as this guy seemed to understand giant things. The football player told Fido, “Follow your heart and go south, and you will find what you seek.” That was profound-sounding words for a football statue. Fido decided the giant chief from Mahomet and the football player must employ the same PR firm to write their sayings.
Fido went south, passed by the football stadium, and ended up at a spaceship-looking basketball arena. But wait... what’s that... ?? ...on the roof?
It was the giant year-round snowdrifts! Fido decided they must keep the AC on low to keep that snowdrift icy all year long. There didn't appear to be a ski lift to explore more, so he decided to move on with only one thing left to find: the elusive Alma.
He needed to rendezvous with Flat Lincoln to ferret out Alma. They met back at Lincoln Hall, (named after you-know-who), and asked the nearby quad Frisbee players if they knew Alma’s whereabouts. A junior, who’s major was BreadBasket making, told them to ‘Follow your Heart to the corner of Green and Wright, or take an Uber.” Everyone here speaks so profoundly!
They rounded the corner near Altgeld Hall, and what was this? Was this her? There appeared to be a clandestine handshake deal happening. Fido said it was probably a backroom agreement to keep annoying Quad squirrels on campus for their profitable nut-smuggling business. Flat Lincoln quickly corrected him, and said it represented Labor and Learning coming together. But directly in front of this agreeable duo was....
...Alma! They found her! Well, more properly, it was the Alma Mater statue, welcoming visitors and students to Champaign County since 1929. Plus, it was made by the same sculptor from the earlier Lincoln statue, their old buddy Lorado. What a great day it had been - history, art, architecture, learning, and a smattering of squirrels, all wrapped up in an easy trip to one of Central Illinois’ most iconic areas. More information about Champaign County travel information can be found at https://www.visitchampaigncounty.org/ Where will they go next? Any suggestions?