Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Heading toward Chicago Area the Long Way

Monday morning and Mike was in my driveway ready to roll by 6:15 AM. The first day's ride would see us covering 640 miles to Blytheville for our first night's stop. We had to fight our way across Houston in rush hour traffic, but once north of the city it was smooth and easy riding.

The Quality Inn in Blytheville was clean and comfortable with those rare exterior entrances that let us park right next to our door. While there were plenty of choices within walking distance, dinner that night was at a Subway. I must remember this hotel for future trips that take me north on I-55.


I was excited to get on the road the next morning, a day that would take us to Springfield IL and the Lincoln home. My routes in past years had brought me tantalizingly close to this national park but this time the route would go right through Springfield IL. No excuses this time!!

Before getting to Springfield, though, I routed us to the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center in the Lewis & Clark State Memorial Park in IL, across the river from St. Louis MO. As we rode up I-255 along the east side of the Mississippi River, we could catch the occasional glimpse of downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch glinting in the sun.

This park destination marks the start of the Lewis & Clark expedition, at the point where the Missouri River meets up with the Mississippi River. It's where men and supplies were assembled and routes discussed. We watched the video and browsed the exhibits and I got the Lewis & Clark trail stamp.

Next stop would be Springfield IL, 90 miles up the road. But first we gassed up and ate lunch at the Hen House restaurant nearby.

Springfield is a lovely little city with a well-preserved downtown area filled with beautiful churches and municipal buildings. The GPS brought us to the parking lot next to the visitor center. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth and there have been special events and presentations in the park all year. Today a Teddy Roosevelt re-enactor was strolling the park and would be giving a presentation later that afternoon.

The grounds were gorgeous and faithfully restored with boardwalks, dirt and brick paver roads. The trees are mature, throwing abundant shade across the park property. It was easy to imagine horse-drawn carriages gracefully moving down the street and couples strolling on the boardwalks. Some really great old photographs from Lincoln's era show that very little has changed in this preserved neighborhood. Lincoln was a successful lawyer and his neighborhood was filled with other successful men - business owners and professionals.

Mike and I walked the well-preserved 4-block area looking at the homes and talking to the park rangers. Just for fun, Mike asked them if any had ever been to Big Bend National Park. It was during this conversation that I noticed the giant acorns on the ground. I've never seen such large acorns! I picked up a few, including a sporty fringed acorn "cap."

As we departed Springfield, our route took us through the rest of the downtown area and then past a gorgeously restored red brick train depot. We headed north to Moline IL where we stopped for the night. It was a good second day on the road.

Tomorrow: Silos & Smokestacks stamp in Davenport and Hoover birthplace in West Branch IA.

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