May has been a VERY relaxing, lazy month for us, to say the least! Those of you who follow our blog regularly are probably wondering why almost the whole month has gone by and no new posts!? Well, because of the rising gas prices and still trying to recover financially from our California trip in March-April, we decided to find a nice campground and just chill for a while. After our most recent leg of Route 66 through Springfield and Pontiac, Illinois (the rest of the Route to Chicago will have to wait) we found this GREAT place in northern Illinois – Woodhaven Lakes. Covering more than 1700 acres it is the largest campground in the US, and functions much like a little city. It is a delightful combination of forest, grassland, and lakes. We stayed a week, then added a week, then decided to stay through Memorial weekend. So, as time permits, between our bike rides, hikes, daily walks, working out in the gym, lounging on our patio, people-watching, etc, etc, Roberta promises to get the blog up to date…
After leaving Peoria (2 days after the Riverboat Cruise) we headed for Springfield, Illinois to visit some friends who had re-located there from California a few years ago and to “Look for Lincoln”. We have discovered during our time in Illinois that there is a HUGE movement in the state to stimulate tourism by associating every possible location with some aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life. So almost everywhere you go in the state you’ll see a “Looking for Lincoln” sign with some cute little fact about him such as “Lincoln walked over this bridge on his way to blah, blah, blah.”
Roberta discovered some interesting facts about the city of Lincoln – like, it is the only city in Illinois named after Abe – so we stopped there to see the famous “watermelon statue”. When the first lots were sold there in August 1853 Abe was asked to “christen” the town and he had used a watermelon to do so, hence the statue. When learning that the town was to be named after him he ( supposedly) also quipped “Nothing with the name of Lincoln ever amounted to much.” As it turned out, he returned to speak here on his way to Chicago in November 1853 as president-elect and his funeral train stopped here on May 3, 1865 before completing the trip to Springfield.
The Watermelon Statue
(See the “Looking for Lincoln” logo on the sign?)
We arrived in Springfield and our friends let us park in their driveway the whole week, and loaned us one of their cars to do some site-seeing, too. Thanks Alan & Shelly!!
Alan took us first to see Lincoln’s Tomb, but it was pouring rain when we got there so it was a quick trip out of the car and back. In front of the tomb is a bust of Lincoln. It is supposed to be good luck to rub his nose, so the nose has been rubbed to a shiny gold!
We decided the next attraction we visited would be the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It is not an “official” presidential library/museum like the others we have visited, but it was great, nevertheless. The only picture-taking allowed is in the rotunda of the museum, but the pics we got there are great!
After leaving the museum we walked around the downtown area for awhile.
One of the highlights we were anxious to see in Springfield was the Dana-Thomas home that was designed and built by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Unfortunately the house was being renovated, so we could only see the outside!
Springfield residents like to say that their state capitol took “second place” because the dome on the Wisconsin state capitol is gold and the Indiana capitol dome is bronze!
Next we made a trip to Lincoln’s Home. The entire neighborhood where Lincoln owned a home has been preserved just as it was (almost) in Lincoln’s day and is now a National Park. We took the tour given by the park rangers then walked around on our own for several hours.
The house was remodeled once and the back portion was added.
Abe and his wife each had their own bedroom. The children shared Mary’s room with her (in a trundle bed that pulled out from beneath her bed) until they were older and each moved into his own room.
Although Mary had several servants she loved cooking and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Some say that she was a bit “too” involved in the household duties (as in very OCD & not very polite) and “drove off” much off the help! Once, when Abe had just returned from a trip, the neighbor complained to him about his wife’s behavior while Abe was away and Abe’s response was, “Now you know what I live with every day.”
(Below) Another view of the neighborhood street
Even the wooden sidewalks were restored to the way they looked when the Lincolns lived on the street.
This was a neighborhood of middle class professionals – mostly doctors, lawyers and statesmen. At the time Lincoln bought this house he was a successful lawyer, well-respected in the community and clearly doing well financially, as were his neighbors.
One of our other stops was the Illinois State Museum. On the second floor was an exhibit about how anything in life can be seen as art. Such as…
Roberta – “Yeah, right. I’m not falling for that AGAIN!”
Not far from the State Museum is the (current) State Capitol building.
On our last evening in Springfield our friends took us to a nearby park at the edge of the river, where we skipped rocks along the water and watched the sun set.
On our drive out of Springfield we stopped at this power plant so Dave could take pictures of it for his website. Roberta thought this sign was placed in a rather amusing location.
Ya think?? Of course if your “vehicle” can float maybe it’d be ok to proceed…
From Springfield we made a very special trip to Champaign, Illinois. Roberta’s mother graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign in the 1940’s and we wanted to get a picture of us on the campus for her Mother’s Day gift.
This is the only building Roberta remembers seeing when she last traveled to the University campus (with her family in 1964!) Although it looks a lot like a spaceship just landed it is actually the Performing Arts Center.
While waiting for the Mother’s Day photo to be printed, we made a quick stop at the Beer Nuts Company Store in Bloomington, IL and tasted some yummy free samples.
Since we are still trying to finish our Route 66 journey we decided we shouldn’t miss Funk’s Grove – home of real maple sirup. No, that is not a misspelling of the word “sirup”. One of the facts we learned there is that “sirup” spelled with an “i” is the REAL stuff made by boiling the sap of the maple tree, while “syrup” is the end product of adding sugar to fruit juice.
Pontiac, IL was definitely on our list of Route 66 places to see, but once we got there we were surprised how much there was to see! We ended up staying two full days. First we went to see the swinging bridges on the Vermillion River, then to see the historic courthouse. Along the way we found a Route 66 museum that we spent a lot of time in, mostly because of the “bus” (see pics that follow). We were also fascinated by the murals that were scattered all over the city and the mini-car theme throughout.
This one we got going pretty good!
We tried to take a video to show how much the bridge actually swings (a lot!) – but it looks more like the camera is just shaking. Oh well, see what you think…
One of the most interesting parts of Pontiac is the numerous murals that have been painted on walls all over the city. Each one depicts some history of the area or some Route 66 memorabilia.
This mural was designed by Bob Waldemire but left unfinished at the time of his death. Volunteers are now in the process of finishing it. The mural shows the entire Route 66 map with various attractions highlighted along the way, and is exactly 66 feet long. More about the artist below…
One of the things we discovered along Route 66 is that there is no shortage of Route 66 museums! And every museum seems to have its own “claim to fame” as the only museum with ________ (fill in the blank). Pontiac was no different. However, their display of the Bob Waldemire bus WAS most definitely unique!!
Bob Waldemire was born in Springfield, IL in 1945. In 1962 his family took a trip along Route 66 to California. Bob fell in love with Route 66 and spent the rest of his life traveling the Mother Road, first in a 1964 Mustang, then a 1972 VW van, and finally in this used 1966 60-passenger school bus which he purchased in 1987 from the Gallup, NM school district. He supported himself by selling his paintings and drawings. In May of 1988 he returned to the family farm in Springfield, parked the bus and converted it into stationary living space where he resided until his death in December 2009. The moving of the bus to the Pontiac Route 66 Museum was completed in December 2010 and had just been opened for public tours about a month before we came to Pontiac. The bus was equipped with solar panels, a rain water collection system, a back porch, storage loft, and working toilet and shower, and as you can see in the photos, much more! We were fascinated by it, to say the least!!
View of the entire bus as it has been preserved outside the Museum
And inside the bus –
(The upper level of the Museum is in the old jailhouse.)
Another interesting “quirk” about Pontiac – there was a “car theme” throughout the city (maybe because of the name??). Everywhere we went we saw mini-cars painted in a variety of ways. Here are some samples –
Leaving Pontiac we drove along as many parts of the original Route 66 that were still drivable. First we entered the town of Odell, followed soon after by the town of Dwight.
Apparently Dwight did not want to be outdone by Pontiac, so started its own street corner collection of painted dogs (instead of mini-cars). We saw these dogs on several street corners in Dwight. Except for the odd paint jobs, they actually looked rather realistic!
Our last stop for the month of May was at Woodhaven Lakes Resort in north central Illinois. We had not planned to stay as long as we did, but liked it so much we stayed through Memorial Day. The weather during our stay ranged from lower 50’s to upper 80’s, dry and sunny some days, humid and sunny other days, occasionally cloudy but dry, and thunder & lightening storms about every third day. We had several tornado WATCHES, but no WARNINGS or events that forced us to seek shelter – thank goodness! There certainly was enough damage from such storms around & nearby us, we lucked out again, we think. One of the great parts about our stay was all the bike-riding we were able to do. One day Roberta took her camera on a ride and took these photos. We hope it makes ALL of you in the city JEALOUS 😉 !!
The first campsite we stayed in. It was a great location just across from the store, laundromat, and main entertainment pavilion. As luck would have it, someone else had reserved this spot for the Memorial weekend so we had to move to a different campsite!
The closest town (6 miles from the resort) was Amboy. We rode into town on our bikes once to do grocery shopping (carrying home 50 lbs. of groceries in a backpack on a bike is quite an experience!). When we saw this house in town we just had to take a picture – we thought it looked like it was made up of puzzle pieces!