Smile Politely

A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine: Long Haul

A painting of a dachshund on a skateboard with the words Dachshund Longboards hangs on a beige wall.
Tom Ackerman

Well, I messed up and didn’t have a Valentine’s column this year, alas. Instead I’ve got this extra long column for February! I don’t mean this B/F/L itself is long, but it is about long things. Not in a dirty way. Geez, get your mind outta the gutter you children!

The Viking Twins (1713 South State & 1711 South Neil, Champaign)

At the intersection of Fox Drive and State Street, there are these two buildings, identical except for a coat of paint on one of them. They’re just space for businesses, but they sure don’t look like your average office complex or strip mall. 

A long grayish two story building with a sloped dark gray roof. The second floor is lined with rectangular windows. It runs alongside a road, with a grassy terrace in between.
Tom Ackerman

You know what these look like? Viking Longhouses! Look, I just went to Wikipedia and this pic of a reconstructed longhouse which is now a legit VIKING MUSEUM looks just like these buildings.

A viking long house: A long wooden structure with a sloped roof. It's in pasture with horses grazing nearby.
A long, brick, two story building with a sloped gray roof. There is a row of windows recessed into the roof. There is a road in the foreground.
Tom Ackerman
The corner of a white brick building with a gray sloped roof. There is a red State Farm sign on the end, and windows run along the side. There is a green hedge alongside the building.
Tom Ackerman

Well, not exactly like, but close enough that I’ve dubbed these two The Viking Twins

Each one has a few local businesses inside. Unfortunately, none of the businesses seem to be viking-themed restaurants where I can get a turkey leg and mead by the gallon. Probably for the best though as real longhouses are single-room buildings where you can fit an extra long table with seats for 100 rowdy vikings, while the space inside The Viking Twins has been broken up into multiple reasonably sized office suites. 

VERDICT: At least they’re something different. All hail The Viking Twins! May they stand here for many more decades, keeping watch over um… this intersection, and the nearby Steak ‘n Shake. 

Driving down U.S. Route 45

I was trying to think of a looong feeling for this looong column, but couldn’t come up with anything. So, as a last resort, I googled “champaign longest,” not sure what I’d find. Turns out the longest numbered highway in Illinois goes right through Champaign-Urbana. You might even drive down this highway every day and not realize it!

I’m talking about U.S. Route 45 which runs from Brookport in far northern Illinois all the way down to Antioch in the far south. A distance of 428.99 miles! (I don’t know how the road builders couldn’t find another 0.01 miles to add in there and make it an even number. That’s only 52.8 feet. I’ve had CVS receipts longer than that.) 

A map of Illinois that shows county lines and major roads. One road that stretches from the top to the bottom is outlined in red.
Wikimedia Maps

Of course, U.S. Route 45 doesn’t just exist in Illinois. The whole highway runs all the way from Lake Superior down to Mobile, Alabama.

Here in C-U, Route 45 is most of Neil St. in Champaign, Cunningham Ave in Urbana, plus small bits of Springfield, Wright, and University where it jukes east to west. If you pay attention you’ll see the signs. 

A view looking down a road with interstate signs across the top. In the distance is a white, cylindrical building and traffic lights.
Tom Ackerman

VERDICT: I just think it’s cool that if you’re driving south on Neil St. and you accidentally space out for like 14 hours, you’ll end up at the Gulf of Mexico. 

The men’s room at Nando Milano Trattoria

A few weeks ago I went to Nando Milano for dinner to celebrate a special occasion. (It also turned out to be Restaurant Week, huzzah!) Nando is one of the fanciest restaurants in Chambana, so of course I checked out the restroom to review.

Not a ton to say here really, just a clean, modern restroom. Hardware all works well. 

A marble sink with a white basin. It's attached to a beige wall and there's a mirror over it. A piece of artwork in a black frame hangs on the adjacent wall.
Tom Ackerman
A white toilet with the seat lifted up. It's surrounded by beige walls, and it's on a dark gray ceramic tiled floor. There are guardrails on each wall.
Tom Ackerman

Earlier in the evening, my dinner companion had gone to the women’s restroom and complained that 90s pop music was absolutely BLASTING through the speakers in there. The men’s room had no such feature, though I could actually hear the music from the women’s room through the walls. 

Wait, why did I put this bathroom in my looong column? 

Oh yes, this art:

A urinal hangs on a beige wall. Above it is a painting of a dachshund on a skateboard with the words Dachshund Longboards.
Tom Ackerman

VERDICT: Honestly if you dropped me in this bathroom with no context, there’s a zero percent chance that I’d guess it’s inside a high quality Italian eatery. C’mon business owners, I say this shit all the time: make sure your ambiance extends to the restrooms! (within reason)

Huh, actually turned out to be a pretty short column about long things. Oh well, see you next month!

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