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Toluca

Spending Labour Day weekend in Northern Illinois in the wonderful company of the Foerster family and John, Judy and Malouin. We took part in the biggest bocce ball tournament in the world and saw the first screening of a documentary made at last years tournament by our good friend Stephanie Foerster.

We had the marvellous fortune to meet with Pete Debuque just as we were heading out to hitch up to Illinois for Labour Day. Pete gave us a lift a good part of the way there and on our return to Madison we met up with him again leading to some of my favourite days of the trip so far.In failing light on an interstate slip road we abjectly failed to make any progress North. We retreated to a gas station to use the power of Englishness on the patrons. Zeke and Jordan came to our rescue and dropped us at a suitable camping spot.Waking up in strip mall territory the Interstate 65 camping within trans-fat wafting distance of both a Taco Bell and a KFC. We had spent a surprisingly enjoyable evening under the glow of the billboard, brought to sleep by a large bottle of wine and the soporiphic hum of the Interstate traffic.Despite an intensive advertising campaign our efforts to get a lift North failed again the next morning. We turned instead to the tried and tested hang round a gas station with large bags looking lost, sounding English approach. It worked - many thanks Emma and Ella.John gives Toluca its dues. We met our friends John, Judy and the Malouin in Indianapolis to drive the rest of the way to Toluca. The drive up was our first real taste of the Mid-West proper - endless fields of corn, pancake flat, straight roads and huge skies.Sunday morning, straight down to business. The beauty of Bocce, Toluca-style, is that the game can be played anywhere at all in the town. We lost the toss so our opponents, Tim and Jason, got to choose the theatre of their destruction - down in the gravel by the railroad tracks.Displaying a textbook follow-through. We proceded to the 2nd round where we again lost the toss. This time our opponents took us to the lawns. We soon discovered that this was a surface that depended more on skill than luck. This compromised our gameplan somewhat; we lost 12-0.Playing down by the railroad tracks with John and Malouin.The tournament attracts over 300 teams. It was a real pleasure to leave Stuart and the others in the beer tent and stroll round town watching the games in progress throughout the town, on lawns, roads, gravel and in the empty lots behind the fairground.Team Toluca on top of the Jumbo. The Jumbo was a huge slag heap from the long-abandoned coal mine at the town. It was the highest point for miles around and the view from the top showed how flat this area of the Mid-West was. We could see for tens of miles in any direction. The only things that resembled hills were other slag heaps in neighbouring towns.
Heading down from the Jumbo as evening comes in to enjoy some of the festivities in town. For this brief moment I was the highest person in Marshall Couty.Steph and Judy enjoying the evening.On Sunday evening the rains came and teams and townsfolk disappeared to the bars and the beer tent.We made home for the evening under the striped awning of the main stage to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon ....and watch a full 6 feet and 9 inches of John get fully funkyJohn and The Malouin, who are both film-makers, have been helping us with our project to film the trip and interviewed us both on our way back to Indiana.We had a stunning sky for our return to camping as Team Toluca dropped us off. It felt strangely good to be back in a tent.With the Malouin, one of the finest Washington DC-based film-makers of French descent that you could possibly hope to meet.Once the guys had gone we settled down to enjoy the evening. Our new favourite place to camp is under large billboards - who needs torches?A billboard and a picnic table is as close as you can get to the perfect backpackers office.
         

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