Since I moved to the US, having a week-long road trip on Thanksgiving holidays became my family ritual: 2021 was in the Grand Canyon, and 2022 was on the great Canyon Loops. This year, we wanted to have a more "American" Thanksgiving. My wife had her 8th grade year in Urbana, IL, and we have relatives in IL and KY. So we decided to have a family reunion at my wife's cousin (Ken)'s home in Belleville, IL, who recently retired from the US Air Force.
The nearest airport would be from St. Louis. However, we learned that there was no direct flight from SFO or SJC. It was Thanksgiving, and we did not dare to take any possibility of notorious air traffic affairs. So, we flew to Chicago (ORD), rented a car, and had another holiday road trip.
We dropped by Urbana-Champaign for my wife's memory. It was famous for UIUC, and yes, it was a typical US college town, though the police lines at my wife's old middle school were a bit scary. However, we had a happening in the city. Our final destination of the first day was Hannibal, MO, which is famous for Mark Twain's home. It was a little more than a two-hour driving distance, but for some reason, I mistook the name of the hotel, and I mistakenly input the name of the hotel in Chicago, which is our final night destination. As we all might know, the roads in the rural area are so desolate; I couldn't realize we were on the opposite way until I saw the great skylines of Chicago. As a consequence, I had to drive down again for almost five hours to get to Hannibal. My cruising distance this year should have been way less than in previous years, but inadvertently, I had to add more than 200 miles.
Hannibal was a cozy and friendly town. During our visit, it seemed that there were only a limited number of visitors, possibly due to it being winter. Nonetheless, we cherished this aspect of our trip, as the lack of crowds allowed us to enjoy the town's most renowned attractions. Most of the time, we found ourselves either alone or sharing these famous spots with just one other party, creating an intimate and memorable experience.
The Mark Twain Cave was undoubtedly my best pick for this trip. It stood out as the most remarkable cave tour I've ever experienced, surpassing even the renowned Antelope Canyon. Perhaps the magic lay in the feeling that we had stepped right into the pages of Tom Sawyer's Adventures. I must also give credit to Max, our guide, whose commentary was nothing short of spectacular.
We also visited the Great Arch in St. Louis. The parking lot was next to Bush Stadium, and we walked for about 10 minutes. Usually, I don't find tall structures all that impressive. However, the Arch was an exception. It wasn't just tall; it was monumentally gigantic, and its architectural design was nothing short of awe-inspiring. What truly amazed me was the fact that this marvel was constructed in the 1960s. Inside the accompanying museum, I discovered that the space was more than just a superficial addition; it served as a captivating narrative in itself, seamlessly weaving history into its very structure: the space was the story by itself.
And Thanksgiving. It was my first time to have the typical US Thanksgiving: having turkeys and watching Footballs. I couldn't believe that the Turkey ham was so delicious - the cold Turkey sandwiches in WWDC might give me a wrongful prejudice.
We spent the last night of the trip in Chicago; this time, I could precisely give my Apple Map the correct hotel name. We could briefly navigate Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. Unfortunately, the way to "The Bean" was blocked due to construction. But thanks to that, we could picture the Cloud Gate without human reflection on it.
This Thanksgiving marked another beautiful family excursion of the year. Above all, the moments spent with my family were truly unforgettable and filled with warmth, making it a cherished experience.