• The Decatur Navigator

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  • The Decatur Navigator

    The Decatur Navigator

  • The Decatur Navigator

    The Decatur Navigator

I’m back from my trip to Oregon and California for my commencement at Oregon State University.  The graduation ceremony was a whirlwind experience.  I graduated along with 7,000+ other students in Corvallis and even though I had never been on the campus before as an e-Campus student from Illinois, I felt right at home.  Everyone was welcoming, friendly, and helpful.  I’m so glad.  I would have hated to to have gone there and found out my university was full of snobs. Ha.  Really everyone I interacted with in Oregon was very friendly.

The weather was perfect and I got to meet some of my fellow School of Forestry classmates and I might be biased but I think we were the coolest bunch.  We were the smallest group represented, as waves and waves of business and engineering grads swept passed us but we were way cooler, smarter and better looking.  Just ask any tree and they would agree.

Walking into the stadium

As far as the rest of the trip went, I was expecting Oregon to be scenic here and there but nearly every single sight I saw in Oregon was postcard quality.  It was gorgeous…everywhere!  I was not expecting such a green, lush landscape and neither was Oprah who was in the audience.  I got to see Oprah!  If only she paid off all our student loans.

All of the towns I visited were so clean and landscaped beautifully.  Above is a view of Corvallis’ courthouse.  Jeesh, could Illinois take lessons from Oregon.  I wish I had taken more photos of the towns I visited  because the streetscaping was spectacular with beautiful flowering shrubs and grasses.  I know Decatur is trying to improve its image but the powers that be really need to visit Oregon if they want to know how good a city can look.  Lots of great ideas – most inexpensive.

One thing that kept crossing my mind is that Illinois is the prairie state but nobody would know it if they were driving through Illinois.  Decatur is the “Pride of the Prairie”.  Shouldn’t we look like it?   We should incorporate our native plants along Decatur’s main corridors.  Let’s really be the pride of the prairie!

Anyway, off my soapbox.  Whenever I visit other cities I always look for ideas for Decatur.  I can’t help myself.  Oh, and another thing: I think we should add lighting beneath our main bridges crossing Lake Decatur.  Others have suggested this as well but just some simple colored lighting reflecting the bridge on the water at night would leave a remarkable impression on visitors and residents.  So much for being off my soapbox.

The Redwoods

After a very short stay in Oregon, we traveled to Crescent City, California to see the Redwoods.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  The road pics are from southern Oregon but the rest are from California.

All of these photos were taken using my Samsung Galaxy S7.  It has pretty much replaced my Nikon because I think it takes better photos and it’s so much easier to carry with me.  I purchased a Samsung lens kit for it before the trip and used them for the wide format photos and they did a great job.  The pics are compressed to limit file size on the blog but the original non-compressed photos are spectacular.

Southwestern Oregon

 

Southwestern Oregon. After looking at the photo I think the rock formation look like a lion’s head!

 

Crescent City Lighthouse

 

Michael with the Pacific Ocean in the background. I wasn’t expecting the water to be so blue.

 

My first time seeing the Pacific Ocean in person.

 

Those pink flowers.

 

The Redwoods – awe inspiring.

The light coming through the trees in the foggy morning light was almost a religious experience.

If only I could have stuffed this driftwood in my carry-on bag it would have looked great in my backyard.

 

The Pacific Ocean is not to be messed with. Rugged and powerful.

 

My son is standing next to Paul Bunyan at the Trees of Mystery gift store and museum. No trip to the Redwoods would be complete without a photo next to Paul Bunyan!

Oh, I almost forgot the most important thing I brought back with me on my 4,000 mile round-trip to Oregon.  It’s pictured below.  And even though last quarter was overwhelming in so many ways, I still pulled off straight A’s.  I’m so thrilled with that.  In about 12 weeks the official diploma will be here after I finish my remaining summer classes and then the next chapter of my life will begin.

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One more final to finish and I’ll be done with another ridiculously stressful and overwhelming quarter at school.  After all the mental pressure I’ve endured thus far this school year I think I could qualify for a position with the CIA.  If this didn’t crack me mentally beyond repair, nothing will.

When I finish tomorrow, I’ll be getting ready to head out to Oregon.  I’m both excited and nervous about attending my commencement.  It’s going to be a long day on a campus, in a city, and in a state I’ve never stepped foot in.  I’ll also be wearing a black robe and a black cardboard hat in the sun on AstroTurf in a football stadium for about 3 hours. I really hope I don’t pass out in front of 30,000 spectators and amongst the 6,000+ graduates.  Not only would that be embarrassing, it would also probably disqualify me for that CIA job.

The graduation thing is exciting and all but what I’m really looking forward to is seeing the state I’ve been learning about for the past 2 1/2 years.  I almost feel like I’ve been preparing for a mission to Mars for years and years and now I’m finally going to see the red planet in person for the first time.  There’s so many things I want to see.  Salmon, Ponderosa Pine, Salmon, Douglas-Fir, Salmon.  Really, I don’t think I’ve taken a class at Oregon State, of any subject, in which salmon wasn’t mentioned.  I think Oregon cherishes and reveres their salmon as much as Central Illinois reveres Abraham Lincoln.

I’ve read the experiences of my fellow forestry students with the vast natural areas that are within driving distance of Corvallis – the mountains and volcanoes, the desert, the valley, the rocky coast and the  Pacific Ocean.  And they know all about Garman Park and Rock Springs.  Hey, Garman Park is pretty cool.  Crater Lake?  Mt. Hood? Overrated in comparison if you ask me.  Okay, sometimes I felt a little inadequate.  When I described Illinois to Oregonians, at times it felt like I was describing a vast paved parking lot with a couple lonely potted plants representing our remaining natural wonders.

Actually, I love Illinois. I love the gentle landscape. There’s beauty here but it’s quiet and unpretentious.

Well, I better get prepared for that last final and get the house ready for the house/cat/fish/bearded dragon/dogsitter.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m finally over the worst of that horrible class.  I’m down to just my usual workload which feels like a vacation on a beach compared to what I had been going through.  It finally all caught up to me though and I’ve been sick as a dog the last week so I’m taking it easy again today.  Yesterday was Memorial Day and I didn’t touch my computer.  It felt so wonderful!  I know I sound psychotic but I probably am after everything I’ve been though since January.  School has been pure torture.

So, while I’m taking a break I thought I’d write about Decatur since that’s what this blog is supposed to be about with a few interrupting moments of my occasional mental breakdowns here and there.  Over the past several weeks I haven’t had time to think about Decatur really.  I guess it’s still out there.  Let me check through my blinds…Well the neighborhood is still here but it’s going to look different very soon.

I saw the piles of pipes and rock with big earthmoving equipment parked nearby on one of my rare excursions out of the house.  I got a notice last week hanging on my door that the city is replacing the water mains in my neighborhood.  I have a feeling my neighborhood is going to look like the after effects of the aerial bombings on Berlin in WWII for much of the summer.

Well, at least now I don’t feel so ripped off from our property taxes doubling this year.  Our tax exemption from our home addition is over.  The thing is, the house didn’t double in value.  It might have gone up 30-35% in value not 100%.  So why did the tax bill double?  The house isn’t worth twice as much.  I wish.  I’d sell it and buy a house with enough land for a pet goat – the ultimate status symbol that you’ve made it in America.  It used to be a Buick but now it’s a goat.  Times have changed.

If I’m going to be paying big bucks in property taxes, I better have sewer lines that don’t blow up in my basement (this really happened), water mains that don’t burst, and a street that doesn’t require military grade all-terrain vehicles to navigate.  I’m a little more demanding now that I’m paying steak prices for a Swiss cheese sandwich.  At least my street is still better than 51 between Garfield and Eldorado.  It might have served as a road in the past but now it belongs beneath an archeological tent for a future Ancient Aliens episode.

Well, I’m going to take a nap now and dream of my future goat on the prairie!

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I am absolutely overwhelmed by college at this moment.  I doubt many college studens avoid the feeling.  Moments like this make me wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea to begin with.  I’m about to the point where I’m ready to buy a used VW van and travel the country and make an income creating YouTube videos.  I hear the circus is no longer in business so that option is out.

Yesterday, I took a longer drive than usual to the grocery store but not that long because I had to be back to finish a zillion assignments.  It felt miserable enjoying my time away from the ball and chain college has become.  There is no relief anywhere, ever!  Well, when I’m asleep I forgot how miserable I am and those first few moments awake. Ah….Then I remember and I want to cry.  It’s horrible.

What makes it worse is that I’m on a different college schedule than most people.  I’m watching others graduate and begin their summer and here I am, still struggling and  the worst is yet to come.  There’s term papers, projects, group projects (oh shoot me now), and godawful final exams.  Does college really need to be so stressful?  No.

It’s really just one class that is causing all my misery.  The workload is insane.  I’m devoting 80% of my time to that one stupid class and risking blowing up my hard-earned 3.9 GPA on the other classes that I can barely devote 10 seconds a week to.  If I didn’t need that other class to graduate on time I would have dropped it but I didn’t have that option.

It’s been so bad that I forgot to even register for my last classes and almost didn’t get into them.  I was the last seat and if I didn’t get in, I wouldn’t be graduating this year.  I would have flown out to Oregon for a miserable vacation when I should have been attending my commencement.  Thank God I got into those classes.  Normally, I’m counting the seconds down to to be the first to register each quarter but it didn’t even cross my mind.  I talked about taking this classes with people and I knew I needed them but it didn’t occur to me to actually register for them.

Today, I forgot how to count money.  I was at the dentist office and my balance was $87 dollars.  I’d count up to $80 and then I’d forget how to count beyond that.  My mind went totally blank because I knew I had to rush home to do more stupid homework.

And now I have to finish this blog post and get back to slaving away.  And I a signed up for this voluntarily. I want to cry.

 

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Downtown Decatur Clock

The Election Results

I wasn’t terribly surprised by any of the election results for city council, except the large number of votes Chuck Kuhle received.  He seemed like a low-key candidate but I guess he must have made a good impression somehow.  He was the only candidate to visit my neighborhood and that did influence my support of him.  It makes a difference.

I didn’t endorse a mayoral candidate but the one that won was the one I voted for.  It was a close race but I expected it to be.

Congratulations to all the winners and best wishes to those who threw their hat in the ring.  I think we’ll have a good mix on the council.

As for the other races, I wasn’t surprised at all by the school board results.  Lots of new faces.  It was disappointing to see that there were no challengers to the one park board seat up for election.  It would be very difficult to beat a long time incumbent but the park district is doing some of the most  important work in the city right now.  I would have thought more people would be interested but again it’s a tough seat to win.

Forsyth’s TIF District?

Forsyth is pursuing creating a TIF district to attract new commercial and residential development.  Personally, I find it a misuse of what TIF districts were designed for.  I don’t think anyone would look at Forsyth and categorize it as blighted or impoverished.  Basically, it’s just an incentive for developers that will get to pocket a lot of money at taxpayer expense over a couple decades.  Yeah, I’d like more restaurant choices in Forsyth but not at the expense of improving areas that truly need help in Decatur.

The Mall

On the topic of Forsyth, the mall is in the headlines nearly every week for another store closing.  It isn’t the fault of the mall but national spending and shopping habits that have changed.  Online shopping is killing big retail but the bright spot, at least for Decatur, is that downtown areas are beginning to thrive again.  People love to shop online but they’re also returning to the heart of their city for social and cultural reasons.  Every city’s downtown is distinct and unique.  There’s no replicating it and a lot of people have realized that.

As for Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx moving to Forsyth.  I hope they realize the mall is essentially the kiss of death for retail in this area.  Both stores should have stayed in Decatur.  I don’t know who is in charge of their business decisions but they sure don’t know Decatur well.  We want stores closer to home.  That’s another shopping habit that has changed and I think it’s a very good change.

 

 

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