Illinois is flat, like a duck's instep.
That's my takeaway from having spent five hours driving through it Tuesday afternoon.
The ride to St. Louis was easy, once I figured out how to get on to I-39 near Beloit (I always miss the on-ramp for some reason--is it me, or isn't it properly marked?). Head south and follow the signs. Hope to spot a Steak 'n Shake.
St. Louis is a neat town. I've been here before with my kid on a previous baseball trip or two. Always loved driving into town, seeing a huge city perched on the edge of the Mississippi, right in the middle of nowhere. Great restaurants abound, both downtown and in the Italian enclave known as "The Hill". The new Busch Stadium is gorgeous and the people, by and large, are friendly and willing to help.
Then there are the baseball fans.
I heard plenty of baseball as I walked the streets, took pictures of the ballpark and dined at Mike Shannon's steak joint but heard no trash in terms of the Brewers. To a person, though, it seems the Cardinals fans think they should be up 2-0 if it weren't for that big Milwaukee fifth inning in game one. And, they like the way the pitching stacks up the rest of the way, especially since Yovanni Gallardo seems to be so vulnerable on this side of the Mississippi.
I'd heard the locals were starting to turn on manager Tony LaRussa but I heard no discouraging words--there seems to be a grudging admission that the dude knows his stuff, even if his gamesmanship is growing old.
Even the local radio stations are cordial--my old buddy, Mark Reardon, hosts afternoons on KMOX and was gracious enough to engage with me on the air Monday afternoon. He talked no smack but wanted to give me one of their squirrel t-shirts (the rat with a bushy tail is a popular Busch Stadium denizen), which I took a pass on. His FM counterparts had me on their show Wednesday morning and couldn't have been more cordial if they were family. And, even THEY admitted that Cardinal fans can be a bit much.
There seems to be a mutual respect between the two towns, perhaps because we're so much a like--similar in size and ethnic makeup if not food selections (you know you're further south when biscuits and gravy pop up on the breakfast menu). We're great baseball towns still playing meaningful games in October. It's a good place to be, even on the road.