This past weekend I had the opportunity to go shooting with a coworker of mine, out in Ottawa, IL, which is near Starved Rock State Park, a great place to hike. We headed out bright and early and were the first ones there. Plenty of range officers meant we were scrutinized at all times and, since they don't allow phones or cameras, I couldn't get any pictures of us shooting. The layout is pretty basic, spartan accommodations (i.e., none), with a rifle range crossing a shotgun range (kind of dangerous, I thought), a handgun area, and then a pit, where pretty much anything is thrown in and then shot at.
We started at the shotgun range (covered) and shot a bunch of clays using my buddy's Remington 870 Police Magnum. It was something I really enjoyed and would do again and, for a beginner, I felt like I did pretty well.
Wandering over to the pit, we tossed in some plastic bottles and shot a Colt AR 15 rifle and a Colt .45 handgun, as well as the Remington shotgun again. I really enjoyed shooting the AR 15, but was really surprised at how heavy it was - hard to believe our soldiers hump these around. Next up was the Colt .45, somewhat familiar to me in its resemblance to the Glock .40 I shot at the police academy. Of course familiarity breeds laxness, so I suffered my only injury, catching the tip of my index finger in the slide. Lots of blood but not too much pain, beyond the embarrassment. The Remington's barrel was switched out for a shorter one and we used slugs rather than shot - I didn't enjoy this nearly as much, as the recoil was pretty powerful and my shoulder quickly got sore.
Tiring of shooting down into a hole in the ground, we returned yet again to the clays, both agreeing that it was by far the most pleasant type of shooting. I can't imagine actually shooting birds, but tracking the clays and actually hitting them was a great experience. Announcing my last shoot, I went 4 for 4, ending the day on a high note.
Apparently, in the past, they were less strict about cameras at the shooting park, as I found multiple videos over at YouTube. Here's a short one that gives you an idea of the pit area:
After shooting we headed over to Buffalo Rock State Park, hoping to hike over to the Effigy Tumuli. The Effigy Tumuli earthwork consists of five geometrically abstracted animal forms, created on old mining land along the Illinois River. Now a state park, the sculpture is in flux, parts eroding, parts overgrown, others nearly bare. It is one of the largest artworks in the country, and the shapes are so large that they can only be discerned from the air. On the ground, one experiences mounded earth, paths, interpretive signs, drainage control gullies, and patches of grass, shrubbery and exposed earth. Michael Heizer was commissioned to make the sculpture in 1983, by the president of the Ottawa Silica Company, who had an interest in art and whose company owned the site. The property had been strip-mined for coal, and was a polluted and eroded barren landscape, with highly acidic soil. For this "reclamation art" project, instead of drawing on his vocabulary of abstract forms, Heizer used figurative forms, creating mounds shaped like animals native to the region. There is a snake, catfish, turtle, frog, and a water strider (the legs of which can be seen in the photograph above). He considered these figures to be evocative of the Indian mounds that can be found throughout the Midwest, and intended his sculpture to be a statement for the Native Americans. A trail wanders through the 1.5 mile long site, and interpretive signs, each with a map of the site, help to give visitors a sense of what they might be looking at. Heizer seemed pleased that the forms were imperceptible from the ground, saying the piece "requires a chronological development of perception." Unfortunately, the trails were closed, so we'll go back next time if they reopen.
For lunch we headed over to Ottawa, to try Tracy's Rowhouse, a slightly upscale martini bar that also serves lunch. Walking in, we were the first customers (theme for the day) and I noticed a slightly sour smell. Laima (who used to work in Public Health) says that it means their mops are not being cleaned properly between uses. It doesn't necessarily mean it's dirty, just not as clean as it could be. We waited a few minutes, sitting at the bar, before the bartender/waitress appeared. I already knew that I wanted to try the Mr. Big Stuff Chicken Pot Pie, as I'm sure it's what ChrisK would order and he's somewhat of an idol to me on alternating weekends. My buddy had the Pulled Porker. The food was pretty good, though we both had to laugh at the serving size of the pot pie - in a small ramekin, it belied its Mr. Big Stuff moniker; the taste, however, was really good. When paying the bill, the till did not have change for a $10, kind of strange, especially in a bar. Happily we had some smaller bills, else our server would not have gotten a tip. I thought that this was a decent restaurant, moderately priced, with good enough food to return again. Now if only they could start cleaning their mops correctly...