410. Cairo, Alexander County (IL001)

Oh, Illinois!

Wait. That should be “Oh, God…” For the love of God and all that is holy, make the pain stop. This courthouse hurts me. I know that Cairo is not exactly Venice on the Riviera, so it’s not like I expect the Doge’s Palace or some kind of crap like that. But come on?

This is not my first time in Cairo. I passed through here many years ago on a bus trip to Wisconsin, and back then it looked like someone had taken a 1950’s town and placed it under glass, but forgot to seal it airtight because all the dust got in. This time, though? Oof. And it’s crazy because there are some gorgeous buildings here (check out the post office if you care that much) sitting besides wrecks. This photo pretty much summed up the place for me, with the partially demolished buildings in the background speaking volumes to the “historic” nature of the town. Cairo used to be a real thing, but its population has been dropping since the 1940’s from 14,000 to the current 2,000, usually with double digit percentage falls every decade. That is painful and it must be a sad thing to watch a town dying, much less having to watch it die around you. How do you raise children in a place that seems to have no hope? What is there to aspire to other than the dream of leaving? And it’s not like I even have the illusion that they’re in a hard place but they’re giving it a good fight. Double digit drops. I had to intentionally refrain from taking photos here. I didn’t want to memorialize it as some shrine to ruin porn. As John Patrick Leary so aptly pointed out, “[s]o much ruin photography and ruin film aestheticizes poverty without inquiring of its origins, dramatizes spaces but never seeks out the people that inhabit and transform them, and romanticizes isolated acts of resistance without acknowledging the massive political and social forces aligned against the real transformation, and not just stubborn survival, of the city.” This might be true here, but I most certainly cannot see those forces. I can only see the rotting carcass that remains of a once living town.

Alexander County is pretty cache poor. There are certainly none in town. There were a couple I would have liked to grab if I had time, a virtual and a couple of earthcaches at Fort Defiance, which stands at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. But I couldn’t justify it, primarily because the Illinois All County Challenge requires physical caches as so many others do. But there weren’t that many so I ended up having to go for a ride towards the airport. Hey Google! I’m sure you’re going to read this! I’ve got a map complaint! If I’m sitting in Cairo IL, and I ask for directions to the Cairo airport, don’t give me directions to flippin’ Egypt! I made it to and past the airport on the road to another (larger) town in the county. I ended up pulling off to the side of the road and walking about 150 feet into the light forest lining the road. I came to the edge of a small nature refuge that I had no clue about because I don’t live in the area. At the foot of one of the warning signs there was a pill bottle containing a drenched, unsignable mess of a log. A cache is a cache is a cache. I did what I could and then got back on the road. The one upside of this giant detour is that on the way back to Cairo I would reach the road leading to…

3 thoughts on “410. Cairo, Alexander County (IL001)

  1. I have seen the same decaying towns throughout New England, particularly as you get away from the major cities. They used to be mill towns that thrived being next to water as a power source. The industry up and moved away to China where they can make it cheaper and the towns just die with nothing to replace it. Sad.

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  2. Love you tale. We have driven through Cairo IL, However, we did not stop for a cache, no time on that trip. Hope to get back one day to pick up a cache or two.

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