Saturday, August 15, 2015

Positives of Peoria, IL

In late December of 2014, I happily accepted a summer internship at Caterpillar, the heavy machinery company. Although CAT has had a terrible 2015, by all accounts, it is a great company to work for/have on your resume. But there's a caveat: it is headquartered in Peoria and at some point, employees can expect to be based there.

So what's the bad?
  • Poor neighborhoods greatly outnumber good ones. In fact, I couldn't find a middle class neighborhood within Peoria: they were either affluent in Peoria Heights or really low-income everywhere else. I was told that most CAT professionals lived in nicer villages such as Dunlap, Morton and Chillicothe.
  • Roads. As a road cyclist.. aka own a road bike, I found myself dodging large potholes regularly or be jarred so hard I'd lose my grip on the handlebars.
  • Pekin - I was warned this adjoining burb was "backwards." A pocket of rural Alabama up North.
  • Flooding - for a couple of weeks, rains made the Illinois river swell and rendered the waterfront inaccessible. As a result, the riverboat tour and recreational activities were paused.
  • Dead downtown - Even downtown Knoxville is vibrant on evenings and weekends. Bar the waterfront, Peoria's downtown is mostly CAT offices.
  • General sense of "meh." Peoria to me felt like one of those post-industrial rust belt cities that had seen better days.
The good?
  • No traffic. Despite numerous construction zones, Peoria traffic never came close to Knoxville's Kingston Pike and Charlotte's I-77 even at peak hours.
  • Greenways. Peoria's greenways are connected to the expansive Rock Island Trail and supposedly extends 30-40 miles. The furthest I ever ventured was 12.5 miles from intern housing - it was interrupted by construction. In addition, they are far less crowded than Knoxville's and I didn't have to constantly dodge little children on my bike
  • Weather. this only applies to summertime where I only recollect a handful of days over 90 degrees and with reasonable humidity. So for a summer, I was spared from the southeast's oppressive humidity. Furthermore, the temperatures would significantly cool off at night and was rather pleasant.
  • Central location. CAT established their business in the area because of location. On a smaller scale, Peoria is between St. Louis and Chicago, about 2.5 hours from either. I took advantage of this by flying out of Chicago twice because of relatively lower rates in comparison with the east coast.
  • Blue. Despite only frequenting this quirky local dive 3 times, I was deeply impressed by it. Their Wednesday night trivia is challenging and facilitated by an extremely witty gentleman. They make innovative drinks, serving them in beakers and cartoony glasses. Best of all, no fellow CAT interns! 

I spent a lot of time bashing Peoria with another intern, because it has potential. My hope was an Asheville or Chattanooga but at this time, it won't be the case. Perhaps they'll get a boost by CAT's commitment to keeping HQ there and from federal funding as a designated manufacturing region.

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