Originally posted Aug. 8, 2009
Monday morning my family embarked on a quintessential Illinois
road trip, our first visit to Springfield, but we almost didn't
make it out of the driveway.
"You got any change?" my husband Todd asked.
"A little, I guess, why?"
"For the tolls," he replied.
"Tolls? We don't have any tolls, I don't think…" I
wondered, consulting the MapQuest printout in my lap.
But he'd been poring over his atlas before I got in the car and
had his own ideas. "Yeah we do, for a few miles on 88,"
"Alright," Todd said, through clenched teeth, "Let's see your
directions." He was indulging me, but he wasn't happy.
I wanted him to be happy.
"Hey, let's let her decide," I quipped, gesturing toward the
Garmin Gps on the dashboard, which dispenses directions with that
trademark persnickety female voice. My gift to Todd for
Father's Day, it would be her first test on a real road trip.
He conceded and I had to suppress a smile when it became clear
that the Garmin lady agreed with me.
Isn't it amazing that such a classic marital trouble spot, the
vexing issue of directions, can be arbitrated by a simple
electronic device? If only we could get the Garmin lady to
pipe up during our other debates. She could issue that testy
"recalibrating" comment whenever one of us gets cranky, but I
The Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield was our first
stop. Noah was particularly moved by the diorama of wax
figurines depicting a slave auction, especially the heavily muscled
and scarred back of a shirtless man in shackles. Todd
appreciated the balanced view that was presented regarding the
politics of Lincoln's time and I was amazed to see Lincoln's
blood-stained gloves from the night of his assassination. We
all got a kick out of the holographic special effects during the
'Ghosts of the Library' show.
We also visited the Lincoln - Herndon Law Office, the only one
of Lincoln's offices which still stands today. We learned
that visitors from around the world still make teary pilgrimages to
Lincoln's law office to pay homage to the 'great emancipator' and
to take off their shoes and 'walk where Lincoln walked.' This
prompted little Holly to kick off her - flip flops and do the
The highlight of our trip, as far as the kids were concerned,
was the hotel. We were guests of the Springfield Hilton, a
cylindrical skyscraper and easily the tallest building outside
Chicago at 30 stories, located in the heart of the historic
district. We really appreciated being able to leave our car
in the hotel garage while we explored on foot. With its
comfortably appointed rooms and modern amenities (the kids couldn't
believe there was even a Starbuck's in the hotel lobby), the Hilton
provided a nice complement to all of the 19th century
sites we visited. Another plus? Whenever we looked up
we could spot our hotel. It was like a beacon for my
tour-weary troupe. There was no need to consult a map.
Hence, no debates about directions once we finished touring
Lincoln's home and neighborhood. Bliss.
The kids had been clamoring for the hotel pool for hours that
first day, so Todd indulged them after we had dinner at Saputo's
Italian restaurant (a lucky find which we stumbled upon during our
walk back to the Hilton) - but not before they took a gander at the
view from our room on the 24th floor. After the
kids stopped jousting with the bolster pillows on the beds they
pressed their noses against the huge window.
"I have tingly toes," Holly giggled, as we spotted Lincoln's
neighborhood far below, but it was the stunning view of the new
capitol building that really wowed us, particularly after dark when
it was all lit up.
The next morning, after a fabulous buffet breakfast at our
hotel, we braved the rain to visit Lincoln's tomb at the beautiful
Oak Ridge Cemetery three miles away where we inquired about
"Yeah. Lincoln and I play chess every night," the tomb
guard said gamely, as he pulled up a stool on his side of the
velvet rope inside Lincoln's burial chamber and sat down.
After he had his fun with us he reported that tomb staff
actually does report hearing a strange knocking sound every now and
then, but that's about it.
The drizzly rain and curious story didn't deter Noah and me from
exploring the temporary tomb at the bottom of the hill which first
housed Lincoln's remains, but it wasn't long before a clap of
thunder sent us scrambling back up the hill and back to our car
like the scaredy cats from the Scooby-Doo gang.
Later we strolled through New Salem, a living history museum
located 20 miles northwest of Springfield, which depicts life in
the simple settlement where Lincoln's passion for a career in law
blossomed before he moved to Springfield. Other things
blossomed there too, including his feelings for Ann Rutledge; his
reportedly unrequited first love who died of 'fever,' about whom
historians remain conflicted. I couldn't get enough Lincoln
lore, but by then the kids and Todd had, so as I continued 'looking
for Lincoln' they ditched me in favor of ice cream cones and
souvenirs at the gift shop.
It was time to power-up the Garmin lady and go home.
The morning after our trip I awoke with a cramp in my
calf. Too much walking 'where Lincoln walked,' but I don't
What I do regret is that we only spent one night in
Springfield. We never made it to Lincoln's Presidential
Library, the old and new Capitol buildings or even to the legendary
Cozy Dog Drive-In, reputed to be the home of the first corn-dog and
a popular stop on the famed Route 66, so we'll just have to make
another trip someday.
But not without better walking shoes - and the Garmin
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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