Monday morning we headed out about 8 AM with plans for a couple of stops along the way. Our route took us through Dickeyville to Cuba City, where we stopped at Nick’s Cafe for breakfast. That seemed to be “the place” in Cuba City. It was pretty full and our waitress was running her legs off. We later found out she commuted to Dubuque for 35 years, then finally gave that up to work at Nick’s and LOVES it. (There is something to be said for liking your job.) Breakfast was delicious! MW (Mr. Wonderful) had a breakfast bowl that was enough food for at least two people. Mine was Eggs Benedict, which I haven’t had in quite a while. One neat thing about Cuba City; their lamp posts have shields with the President’s names and silhouettes.
Full and happy, we continued east to Shullsburg, stopping first at the Visitor’s Center. This town is the third oldest in Wisconsin, and the entire downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the homes are very old and well kept, and the school, which still houses K-12 in one location, was built in 1900. When in Wisconsin, checking out cheese stores is mandatory. The Shullsburg Creamery has been making cheese since 1934, so we figured they must know what they are doing. We picked up some Farmer’s Cheese, Smoked Gouda, and crackers to take with us. Shullsburg also has another point of interest that we were not able to take in: the hand-dug, 60′ deep, lead mine. Unfortunately, they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. This area of Wisconsin was the site of a lead mining boom in the mid-1800s. The miners were nicknamed “Badgers” because some spent the winters in caves or dug-outs. All in all, Shullsburg is a beautiful town, and definitely worth a stop.
We headed on down the road to our next stop. It was really a gorgeous day to drive, and the scenery was awesome. Tampico, Illinois is a tiny town with a larger-than-life former resident. Ronald W. Reagan was born in the apartment above a bakery, which later became the First National Bank. Reagan has said that, upon his birth, his father said “For such a little bit of a fat Dutchman he makes a lot of noise doesn’t he?” Mrs. Reagan replied “I think he’s perfectly wonderful.” From then on, he would be known as Dutch. When he was about 3 months old, they moved to a single-family house in town. There would be a couple more moves before they ended up in Dixon, Illinois, where Dutch grew up. Tampico has a museum full of Reagan memorabilia run by a terrific lady named Joan Johnson. She was a wealth of information about the town and Reagan. Another interesting story she told was about the bank. At some point, the building was bought and all of the bank stuff was removed. Later the couple who set up the museum bought it. When they started the restoration, they found all of the bank stuff in the basement, including ledgers (you could see where Mrs. Reagan withdrew $2 on December 24), checks, the cancelling machine, and fixtures. The setup looked great, but the ledgers were the real find. The apartment upstairs had an odd feature. The building next door was built first, so when they built the bakery building, they shared the side wall of the building next door. Problem was, there was an apartment upstairs that had three floor-to-ceiling windows down the side. They didn’t fill in the windows. You could look from one apartment into the other one through the windows. That’s just a little creepy! We thanked Joan for all of the great information and headed on down the road.
We arrived at Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area around 2 PM, and it took a little maneuvering to get Petunia into her spot. I’m certain whoever designed the sites had never pulled a trailer before. Ours was fairly narrow and short and was cut perpendicular to the road. With no shoulder, it was impossible not to go off on the grass somewhere. Well, at least for us. We got it all set up, though and were ready to relax for a bit. Alas, it was not to be. Ugh! We had a perplexing water issue. First, we stopped on the way into the park to fill up the fresh water tank. Several months ago MW added a shutoff valve to the overflow pipe, because we were losing about 1/3 of the water rolling down the road if we had to fill before we left. It worked like a charm, and all we have to do is remember to open it when we fill and when we get to the site. We, or should I say he, did all of that. Normally when you open it at the site, a little water drains out if there is excess in the tube. This time, however, water gushed out. I mean, like a faucet was turned on. The tank was full, and all of the setup stuff was correct. We didn’t understand it, but assumed it would quit in a minute. (When we filled the tank we are on a bit of a hill, so we thought maybe there was just more water than is typically in the tank.) We finished setup and had just sat down to cool off, when MW noticed the sound of water running. What?!?!? He checked the fresh water tank (which has the only tank sensor that works all the time), and guess what…no water! The entire tank had siphoned out through the overflow!! I’m not exaggerating here!!! He checked everything again, and it was all correct. Could it have been some type of back pressure buildup? If so, how do we avoid that in the future? And why hasn’t it happened before? We’ve used our tanks a lot in the past 19 months. The new issue at hand was replacing the water. Thankfully, there was a faucet right across from our site, so MW went to check it out. Wouldn’t you know…that farm faucet had no threads to connect a hose. Ugh! You can imagine MW’s frustration. Thankfully we have a plan B…the 5 gallon plastic container, which he filled several times and dumped into the tank. Problem solved, for now. With the changes to tax deadlines due to Covid, I had a lot of work to catch up on. I focused on that for most of the afternoon, then wrote a little in the evening. When we turned in, it was so nice not to hear a train rumble and horn blow every 30 minutes. With only a few people in the park and no one on our circle, the quiet was blissful!
Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area is beautiful. Except for the tough angles for backing in, the 30-amp, electric-only spaces were nicely graveled and the facilities well maintained. Some of the sites are in a beautiful pine grove, others are in a more open area with a large field and playground in the middle, and ours was on a loop where we were mostly alone. They also had a lot of tent sites. There was one, centrally-located bathhouse, but there were also vault toilets scattered around. In addition to the cool barn mentioned later, there are picnic areas, an archery range, cross country skiing, a 58-acre lake for fishing/boating, and hiking trails. We would definitely return.
Tuesday was dedicated to tax work all morning. The water situation seemed to be fine, so we were still a bit perplexed about that. After several hours of numbers and forms, It was time to take a break. We headed out to find the McCune Sand Prairie. Dear Thor took us all over the place, but it wasn’t really his fault. The coordinates on the first website I went to did not lead us to the correct location. After driving around in a big circle, we decided the limit in patience had been reached, and headed on down to Kewanee, Illinois to scope out laundromats for tomorrow and pick up some supplies at Walgreens. Then it was back to the park. On the way in we stopped to take a look at the Ryan Round Barn. It’s really too bad it is closed (thanks again, Covid), because it looks really cool. Doctor Lawrence Ryan, a noted brain surgeon (in the late 1800s…don’t think I would’ve wanted brain surgery back then!), built the barn in the early 1900s. The structure stands over four stories tall. It includes a central silo, as well as a waste disposal system and granaries. After we finished up there, we headed back to Petunia where I jumped back into taxes. Dinner was leftovers, and I followed that up with a little writing. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was on TV, so there was a little singing, too!
Wednesday was…say it with me…LAUNDRY DAY! First, though, I did a little cleaning at Petunia (and MW vacuumed when I left). Mid-morning I headed into town to spend a couple of hours taking care of business. Kewanee, Illinois is the hometown of Neville Brand, decorated WWII veteran and actor. If you’ve ever watched old western movies, you’ve probably seen him. He played a great cowboy. The laundromat, Midtown Laundry Center, was pretty nice. Plenty of machines and folding tables, and actual booths to sit in while you wait. I was alone for a while and was able to get some more tax work done. Bonus! That ended before my drying was done, though. Several groups came in almost simultaneously. A washing machine (right next to me) ate one woman’s quarter, and she was beating on it and yelling. A guy came over to help, and beat on the machine harder. It got a little noisy, but thankfully, I was almost done. By the time I stopped for gas and made it back to Petunia, the rain had settled in pretty good, so we did, too.
Thursday I woke up while MW was at the bathhouse. Yes, he prefers the big, roomy bathhouse shower over the she shower, and that’s okay by me. Usually he is done and back before I get up. Since I entered the ‘pause that DOES NOT refresh, I miss out on sleep sometimes. So MW, being, well, wonderful, is always quiet in the mornings. This morning, though, I was up and sitting on the couch. He opened the door, sat his stuff gently inside, tip-toed up the steps, ever so quietly closed the door, then turned around to find me. For a brief second, he looked like a kid with his hand caught in the candy jar. I cracked up. He said I’m not a nice person. What?! Okay, I’ll admit it’s probably true sometimes. After sitting around for a little bit, we got ourselves together, packed up, and hit the road.
We headed south, and just outside of Kewanee I was finally able to get a pic of an Ag Cat. What a cool pilot job! We saw quite a few on this drive. We continued towards Canton (beautiful downtown), then east to Pekin, where we stopped at Riverside Park to walk around a bit. It was created quite a while ago and had some nice, shady sitting areas, a picnic pavilion, playground, and observation platforms. Except for the noise from the road above, it was a nice location, but seemed to be maintained at the minimum level. The Illinois River was very muddy, and there was evidence of flooding all the way up to the sidewalks. The headwaters of the Illinois river are near Chicago. Way back, the powers that be built a connector between Lake Michigan and the Illinois, which then gave them a waterway to the Mississippi, and therefore, the Gulf of Mexico. That action was the main reason for Chicago’s rapid growth and importance. After looking around a bit, we continued south. Along the way we passed “Just a Mere Farm”. What a creative name.
We made it to Mount Pulaski in time for lunch. MW was in the mood for a burger, so we stopped in at The Old Brickyard Grill & Pub. The service was a little slow, but the burgers did not disappoint. The most interesting thing about the place, though was the hours posted on their website. Monday thru Saturday the kitchen is open from 11 AM to 10 PM. The BAR, however, is open from 8 AM to Midnight. What happens in a bar with no food from 8 AM to 11 AM? We asked our waiter who said that the owner and a few of his friends come in every morning, have a beer, and bat the trash. Wow! From 1848 to 1853 Mount Pulaski served as the county seat. The courthouse was built for $2,700 raised by local citizens, and as they go, isn’t really anything special…a very plain, brick cube. What makes this one special is the folks who attended its court…attorneys Abraham Lincoln (I’m assuming everyone knows who that was), Stephen Douglas (one of two Democratic nominees for president in 1860 and the Douglas of the Lincoln-Douglas debate when he defeated Lincoln for a Senate seat), Lyman Trumbull (Senator and co-author of the 13th Amendment), and David Davis (Senator, Lincoln’s campaign manager, and Supreme Court associate justice). Quite a few interesting folks for a short-lived, tiny courthouse, huh?!
Back on the road, we headed east. Clouds were building, which kept the temperatures down a bit. Yay! We saw several more crop-dusters. One was soaring around in a wind farm, which I’m sure added a layer of complexity to his job. Near Bement, Illinois, we passed a silo that had a huge dent in the top side. I only caught part of it on the picture, but you get the gist. What the heck happened?? At Monticello we began a zig-zag on narrow farm roads, some just one lane. It’s pretty darned cool to be driving down a long, straight road with nothing but corn and soybeans, and the occasional farmhouse, barn, or silo, as far as you can see. We finally made it to our destination, Walnut Point State Park. Before setup, we had to take on water and empty the tanks. The woods around the dump station were very dense, and one of the trees (we couldn’t tell which one) was releasing these little, cotton-looking seed pods. It looked like snow coming down in July! Water aboard, we got Petunia all settled into her spot, had leftovers for dinner, and relaxed for the evening. BTW…the water problem did not repeat itself. We filled the tank, then switched on the pump. Worked like a charm.
Friday we got up early and took a walk around the park. After I cleaned up, there was work to be done. Unfortunately, the cell signal at the park was slow, which meant finding somewhere to bogart some wifi. MW and I headed into Charleston, Illinois, about 30 minutes away, to go to the local coffee shop, have some breakfast, and (me) do some taxes. Unfortunately, the coffee shop had a sign on the door saying we had to wear a mask…in a place where we eat…food. Sorry, but I just thought that was ridiculous. What do you do? Lift the mask to get your fork into your mouth? We backed up to punt and went to Subway where we did not wear a mask, ate our lunch, and I worked for a while, all the time well-distanced from any other human being. With the most urgent stuff complete, we ran into the grocery store. Interesting side note: they were selling Uncle Lou’s Chitlins. I really didn’t expect that this far north. In fact, you don’t often see them in city grocery stores in the south. (My Papa used to LOVE chitlins, and even loved how they smelled when cooking, which is awful!) Errands complete, we headed back to Petunia. Along the way we passed J.J. Collins Printers, whose sign said they had been printing since 1878. Wow! It was HOT, HOT, HOT (but not as hot as the coming weekend), so we hung out indoors for the most part. This was the second campground where we had a lot of small bugs gathering on the sides of Petunia under the awning. It makes coming in and going out a challenge, trying to keep the bugs out of your mouth and out of the RV. Thankfully the awning was finally dry from all of the rain we had Wednesday, so we just pulled it in for the duration. (The last time it happened, they completely went away when we pulled it in.) Oh, almost forgot the lovely surprise. The day before when we set up, I cleaned all of the counters with Clorox wipes before we put the normal stuff out. When we got home from town, there was liiiiittle, tiiiiiiny poop in four places on the counter. We have a STOWAWAY! I cleaned the counters again, and we planned to check the next morning to see if he was a short-term visitor, or was on board for the long haul. The latter would require another trip to Charleston for traps from Rural King. (MW will be happy about that…Rural King, not the mouse…as it’s his favorite store.)
Saturday we got up and headed to Paris for breakfast. Chartering a jet out of central Illinois is not easy! Just kidding…Paris, Illinois. We found our way to the Main Street Cafe, which had high ratings. We were seated quickly, but that is where the speed ended. Our waitress walked by several times while taking care of the large group beside us, and seemed to be purposely avoiding eye contact. Just about the time we were deciding to walk out, the hostess came and took our drink orders. After several more minutes, another woman, who appeared to be the manager, came by to ask if we had been helped yet. We were honest about the situation, and she apologized and went to get the waitress. When the girl finally came over, she said she was sorry that she hadn’t seen us there. Seriously?! She walked within a foot of us repeatedly. She just really needed to be in a different line of work. When we finally did receive the food, though, it was terrific. MW had a chili omelet, that looked pretty darned good, despite hot sauce and chili first thing. Ewwww! I had the basic eggs, bacon, and toast with a twist. They took a cinnamon roll, cut it into three slices horizontally, then used a French toast batter on it before throwing it on the griddle. I packed that up to take home for later (and it was awesome). After breakfast, we went to Rural King to look for solutions to our little visitor, who left more evidence overnight. Then we walked around the courthouse square. Paris has one of the most amazing courthouses we’ve seen…definitely makes the book of bests. After dropping off a letter at the post office and making a quick stop at CVS, we headed back to the park. One thing we have noticed on this trip, and we saw one in Paris, is the Family Video stores. These are video and game sales and rental stores, like Blockbuster. We have wondered, with all of the streaming services available, how this business model has survived. Blockbuster didn’t last long at all after Netflix showed up. The afternoon was HOT, HOT, HOT, so walking around was out of the question. On the way in, we did take a little driving tour, though. I did my best to get some work done when we got back, but the connection was not cooperating. Later we cooked dinner (roasted chicken, broccoli rice, and corn) and settled in for the evening.
Walnut Point State Park definitely makes our favorites list. It was fairly quiet and peaceful, even on the weekend when almost full. The campground has 30-amp electric sites and plenty of tent/primitive sites, as well. Ours (#2) was plenty long and mostly level. There is no beach, but you can canoe, kayak, or paddle board on the lake, and rentals are available at the camp store. You can also fish from a boat with an electric motor or one of several fishing docks. The only bathhouse was older, but clean, and there were vault toilets scattered around the campground. There were also two playgrounds, several picnic areas, a couple of trails and some long park roads to ride bikes on. We loved all of the shade trees. Absolutely two thumbs up!
Sunday started out with a little relaxing. We considered finding a church to go to, but were not sure the locals would be comfortable with strangers showing up during these crazy times. It might be like a couple of zombies walking in and taking a seat! I’ve been keeping up with the Facebook page for our little town in Tennessee, and some of the churches there remain closed, while others have a variety of creative solutions. Before we left, we were going to drive-in church, which was pretty cool. Just before lunch time, I headed back to Charleston to do a little work at Subway, pop into the grocery store, and gas up Brutus for the coming move. On the return trip as I passed through Oakland, Illinois, I saw a cabin that said it was the oldest house in town, built in 1836. Wow. It is actually someone’s home and looks beautiful. The trip back to camp was very grey, and it looked like I was heading into a horrible storm. Thankfully, I made it back to Petunia between waves.
Another interesting thing we saw this week was another wind farm, although I can’t remember the exact location. There were lots of turbines, and a crew working on adding a new one to the mix. The weird thing was that all of the ones we could see, and there were probably close to 50, were feathered. (It was windy at ground level, so we assumed it was at the higher altitude.) Someone once told me that those things cost about $500,000 each, so it seemed odd to us to have upwards of $25 million in equipment sitting idle. Since that industry is subsidized so much by the government, as a taxpayer, I was a little miffed. To be fair, though, we have passed several wind farms on this trip, and most had everything running except a handful (probably feathered for maintenance).
Finally, somewhere along our route we passed a set of signs, laid out in Burma Shave fashion, that said: “He broke in” “and took a stance.” “I aimed my gun,” “He soiled his pants.” There are apparently multiple sayings scattered around by GunsSaveLives.com.
Next up…circling back to Indiana and Ohio. See you on the road!
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