As the car zoomed down Route 66, I again had the train tracks on my left – and the Interstate on my right. It was truly beautiful to have the whole open road to yourself, while cars on I-55 are stressing out with traffic (and probably not getting there much faster than me.) When I got to Bloomington, which seemed like a cool college town but not very distinct, I deviated from Route 66 and headed towards Champaign. But because my friend Phil wasn’t gonna be home for a few hours, I said: “hey, forget the Interstate. Why not explore more of this area?” So I took U.S. Route 105 all the way to Champaign – as it sped through the Illinois cornfields with remarkable efficiency.
Champaign-Urbana, of course, is home to the University of Illinois. And it’s crazy that despite growing up my whole childhood in Chicago and knowing countless people who went there, I had never been until tonight. I met up with Phil Reese, a gay blogger who writes for Bilerico Project – who plays tour-guide for me that evening. After a wonderful meal at a Spanish Restaurant, he takes me to Emerald City – which he says is the only “out” gay bar in Champaign. While there are other gay bars, Phil explains, the others claim to be “mixed.”
At Emerald City, all the drinks have a Wizard of Oz theme – with apparently the most popular drinks being the Good Witch and the Yellow Brick Road. The Tin Man drink has a cucumber theme (which doesn’t sit well for me), so I go with the Yellow Brick Road for its tasty mango flavor. All in all, a fun mellow night at Emerald City – and Phil seems to know every gay person in Champaign-Urbana. A bartender even calls him one of those “Administrative Gays.”
Phil’s about to graduate from U of I with his Masters Degree – and has a job interview in DC this week for the Washington Blade, the oldest LGBT paper in the country. So of course, we are all keeping our fingers crossed for his success!! Champaign is a fun town, but tomorrow morning I head back towards Route 66.